Monday, November 3, 2008

I guess I like Halloween after all

Reasons to like Halloween, despite the reasons not to:

1. Its celebration fosters actual creativity in yer average American. While I will admit that shopping (such as for Christmas) has its own level of creativity, there is nothing like Halloween for actually getting people involved in the nitty-gritty of creating. I refer here to both pumpkin-carving and costume creation. My sister's children nearly mutinied on the Monday night before Halloween when Family Night ran out of time before the kids actually got to carve (said sister was saved by her homeschooling group, which had sent a link to a virtual pumpkin-carving site). Also, I still remember how my parents rallied and came together in a remarkable way on Halloween morning of my Junior year of High School, to help me make a "forties woman" costume. My dad hand-sewed a veil on to a hat that I already owned. My mom pointed out that nylons back then had seams, and offered suggestions on how to get the effect, as well as offering the use of her aunt's genuine 1940's suede coat. Both at the time and since, I have felt a sense of almost unreal wonder about the uniting power of getting to do something creative together. Plus, (at least if you are as disorganized as my family, meaning that the holiday is always upon you before you realize it) Halloween is short enough and low-stakes enough that there is no time for the petty rivalries and huge fights which so often develop over larger/longer collaborative creative projects.

2. Halloween is, at least in my neck of the woods, still a great chance to unite neighborhoods and catch up on old friends. I met at least five neighbors whom I had not known before this last Halloween, as I was trick-or-treating with my neeflings, and exchanged happy greetings with several others. I have noticed that many cultures seem to have some sort of tradition centered around children going around and asking for candy, money, or other treats. Since giving people things, and being given things, tends to increase our feelings of kindness and love towards both the recipient and the giver, I feel that anything which encourages the practice of giving stuff to any one who asks-- even on one day a year, even tooth-rotting, meltdown-inducing sweets-- is itself worth encouraging. On the visiting-friends front, I pointed out to my sister that just as in some churches, the less-active tend to show up on Christmas and Easter, we sometimes see certain of our friends on Halloween and Christmas, because we visit for candy and caroling. She pointed out that these are the two occasions in our society when you can legitimately show up unannounced.

3. Ok, ok, but what about the fact that this holiday is CENTERED around darkness, scariness, is a pagan tradition to boot?

On the pagan tradition thing: it doesn't bother me about Christmas, and it doesn't bother me about Halloween. I know I'm preaching to the choir here, as far as my family is concerned, but I just felt the need to say it.

I have been thinking about the darkness and scariness thing. I hate, hate, hate, absolutely anything to do with deliberately attracting actual powers of evil. But. I like the movie of A Series of Unfortunate events. A lot. I enjoyed watching The Corpse Bride. It appears that I don't mind dark things-- just scary ones. I'm trying to think of how to express this.

This I believe: we have to both mourn and rejoice, all the time. I've been to so many funerals in the last year that when I got an insight in to how sacrament is like a funeral, I was immediately able to become much more reverent and respectful during that meeting. You can't spend your entire life mourning, but I think that if you can cry for the dead, no matter why-- because they were children; because they were the same age and had the same health problems as one of your loved ones, and it seemed so random that they went and not your person; because you love and have loved the widow, or widower, or parents, or children-- if you can cry for any of these reasons, you should. It shows respect. It shows that you have a clue about what is going on. If you are unable to mourn, you somehow show yourself to be a certain amount of soulless (which we all are at one time or another).

And at the same time, you have to rejoice, often, because there are so many things to grieve over that we would literally go crazy if we focused on them all the time. I learned that from The Secret Life of Bees. I learned that hoping, even rejoicing, in the good things, is a moral requirement from watching/listening to General Conference, among other official LDS sources. I do believe in the resurrection. I believe that Jesus Christ was resurrected, and I believe that each human being who has ever walked the planet will be resurrected, that their limbs will come together again and their faces, hands, legs, feet, hairs, and every single thing needed to make a physically perfect human will be in place, just as all these things came together for the first time on this planet on the resurrection morning of Jesus Christ. When I look at a dead body, I am reminded, at the same time that I feel the sadness, that the resurrection is real. I cannot not believe that. I can't find it in me to disbelieve, and I can't really explain why that is other than that the Spirit of the Lord has told my mind and my heart that it is true.

Getting back to the movies: some movies seem to deny the existence of the dark side of life, the sad side. In a lot of American movies, especially, there is no pain which is not quickly ameliorated in the lives of our practically-perfect heroes and heroines. I don't need to rehash this; other people have said it better elsewhere. The point is, when a movie refuses to acknowledge that bad things happen and that good people take time to grieve over them, that movie disenfranchizes the grief of anyone who feels like they fit in that mold. Grief which is still present but unacknowledged becomes a weird, bad thing, difficult to dig out and difficult to even identify after a certain point. Let's not go there.

On the other end of the spectrum are movies (e.g. every single Arabic-language movie I have ever seen) which dwell only on darkness, death, and destruction, which as I mentioned earlier is also, literally, crazy-making.

I feel that the path to sanity lies in the path of serious hope. Like is found, to a certain degree at least, in A Series of Unfortunate Events. Nasty, horrid things happen to the children in this story. Things so bad they're funny happen, which is art imitating life. And yet, the children maintain that which so many others have lost (or never had) in so many "better" circumstances-- unity as a family, kindness, joy in creativity, the ability to look at problems as just problems to be solved and not as everlasting despair generators (so why even try), the ability to tell the truth in the face of danger for telling it. That is what I want. That is the kind of family I want.

And that's why I like (at least some parts of) Halloween.


1 comment:

N said...

E.M. hear. i agree Halloween is the one day of the year in witch no one looks at you funny if you dress odd.