I’m not much of a fan for dressing up on Halloween,
but I love to watch. I am a fan of the
psychologist Carl Jung, who spoke to the power of the myths we live by, and the
shadow selves that we bury deep inside, yet they slip out and become public
when we least expect it. So Halloween is
a field day for me to watch and wonder. I
saw a family heading to a party, mom dressed and Peter Pan and dad as Captain
Hook and a girl about five-years-old dressed as a darling Tinkerbell. I’m sure these were loving parents supporting
their daughter’s inner Tinkerbell, but I’m wondering why the parents are
dressed as characters who are perpetually in combat with one another. Downtown Northampton has been awash in the
fake blood of ghouls, and zombies for a couple of weekends. (With all this fascination with Halloween and ghouls, I’m surprised more people don’t come to communion where they can symbolically drink the blood and eat the body of Jesus.
Maybe we are really missing something here.) On Halloween I prefer to watch from the
shadows rather than projecting my own shadow out into the world. I have worked too hard to discover an authentic self to put on a costume. I’ve
played too many false roles already.
I don’t like horror movies either. Life can be grim enough. I have survived a serious car accident, been held at gun point, and nearly died in the ICU with a burst intestine. After counseling people coming out of prison,
giving last rites and holding the hand of the dying and saying “Ashes to ashes,
dust to dust” to tearful families, I don’t want to watch people fleeing
evil. Even worse, it really annoys me to
watch helpless victims shrieking in terror as death nears. For the love of God where are their survival instincts? Come on, its fight or flight
people! It’s so pathetic, I’m ready for them to get whacked. I guess even
animals get frozen in terror – the squirrel moving bobbing back and forth with
indecision in the middle of the road, the deer in the headlights.
Actually horror movies may teach us something. How often does evil and death draw near to us and we freeze up rather than chose life?
We are surrounded by life and death choices every day, and we mostly let
them float by unaware. Dante said that
Hell is truth seen too late. It is the small
daily deaths that add up; the death of conscience in a momentary moral lapse,
the failure to live fully and grasp a moment of joy, ignoring the poetic
council of Dylan Thomas:
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Oscar Wilde wrote Our Town to be performed on a
blank stage without a set, leaving the audience with the impression that this
could be anywhere, literally our town, our life. I love the
much-quoted speech in which the character Emily Webb returns to earth for a day
after dying in childbirth:
“Goodbye to clocks ticking — and my butternut tree! And Mama’s
sunflowers — and food and coffee — and new-ironed dresses and hot baths — and
sleeping and waking up! Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anyone to realize
you! Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it — every, every
The Gospel Lessons are also meant to be a set for
the stage where the drama of our lives play out. Lazarus is not merely a fable of a long time ago, in a far away galaxy, but rather a summons to live by the narrative of
life, death and resurrection. Lazurus is not a horror movie, but certainly a
good Hallaoween tale, an All Souls Day reminder to not live shrouded lives,
choosing to live in purgatory rather than the abundant life, the way, the truth
and the life.