Friday, September 22, 2006

Holloween Humbug

Halloween becomes a bigger event every year, it seems. And I become more of a Halloween Scrooge every year.

I loved it when the kids were young and I worked for weeks on their little costumes. Some of my favorite memories are of The Boy as Captain Hook or The Girl as Tinkerbell. They both wore the elaborate stegosaurus costume I made so painstakingly. On the appointed night, our neighborhood rang with the laughter of children and their various trailing adults. It was fun. It was sweet, in all ways.

But now it seems that this well-intentioned holiday has been taken over by things that do so much more than go bump in the night. Ghouls and soulless looking things glare at us from television commercials advertising haunted houses. Spooky looking figures hang out at the ends of the grocery store aisles, emitting ghastly shrieks. People set up "graveyards" in their yards.

My years as a hospice volunteer in Minneapolis taught me that death is not to be feared. Honestly. But they also taught me it is not to be mocked. Should we really take our children into dark rooms filled with "decaying" creatures and call it fun?

There is so much unrest in the world right now. The lives of several members of my bloggy tribe are swirling with anger and misunderstanding. The lives of several friends are being ravaged by fear and illness. Hundreds of thousands of service people and their families are facing the idea of death every day.

Is the new version of Halloween something like the proverbial "whistling past the graveyard?" Or is it inviting darkness to sit with our souls?

I wonder. I really wonder.


Mystic Wing said...

I think we share the same page on many, many issues. But this one I'm not sure about. I do agree with you that our culture seems to wallow in violence and chaos these days. and I dislike it enormously. I can't help wonder, though, if the reason for this is that our culture no longer gives us any real way of managing these things.

But the world does have goblins and demons, and some of our cultural rituals—scary movies, Halloween, etc—are are way of coming to some kind of terms with the scary aspects of life. They are attempts to articulate and manage the chaos. I think this is all pretty natural.

What seems unnatural to me is a Disney mentality that takes classic fairy tales, which as you well know can be rather dark in their original form, and create clean and nice, sugar and spice versions of them. Cinderella is a dark tale indeed, and there's not a laughing, singing mouse anywhere to be found in the real story.

Your daughter is absolutely adorable, this much I know for sure. But her costume, after all, is designed to transform the scary image of a large reptile into something we can embrace and cuddle That's the point of this aspect of culture—to embrace that which terrifies us, and thereby conquer it.

It's another aspect of the same instinct that causes some of us to ride roller coasters, and challenges others to leave friends and lighted places behind, to walk in a dark alley alone at night.

You may remember Rilke saying something to the effect that "perhaps the things that most scare us are simply creatures waiting to be loved." I believe that it's our refusal to love those creatures that causes children to shoot one another for their shoes, and guides airliners into tall buildings full of innocent people.

Forgive the wordiness. You've clearly caused me to think, and I thank you for that.

Suzy said...

Tough post. Love the line, "..Or is it inviting darkness to sit with our souls?"
Great description. Sometimes we can't escape that visit from darkness. Maybe it's best to meet it head on any way we can so we aren't afraid of everything.
(this coming from the Queen of Fear)

Carrie Wilson Link said...

I'm with you.