2006-10-26 / Editorial


By Robert Morton-Ranney

I confess that for a long time I regarded Halloween as the

dumbest holiday on the books.

All the pressure to come up with a perennially dreadful costume seemed woefully displaced. Only the candy at the end of the evening provided relief (although, truthfully, I would have been better off if I'd stayed home and eaten my own).

And yet, at the moment, Halloween may actually be the holiday we need the most.

You probably already know that its history in our culture is actually religious. The full name is All Hallow's Eve. 'All Hallows' referred to the next day, when the saints would take over, and the night before was the last chance for the bad guys to have some fun.

The point was clear. You don't have to be afraid of anything you might see on Halloween, because come the morning, it would all be gone.

We are invited to be afraid of so much these days. It seems politicians, some at least, would like us to be afraid.

Be afraid of what might happen if we vote for a casino in West Warwick. Be afraid of the opportunities lost if we don't.

Be afraid of what will happen if we give up the fight in Iraq. Be afraid of what will happen if we don't.

But, of course, it's not just the poor seekers of public office. The media offers you the chance to be afraid your children will meet up with the latest sociopathic firearm hobbyist.

Automakers want you to be afraid you'll have an accident every time you slide behind the wheel. Financial advisers want you to be afraid you won't be able to afford a second home in retirement.

And on and on goes the list of available fears: hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, droughts, floods, blizzards, heat waves, company pensions, HMOs, cancer, heart disease, flatulence and halitosis.

Halloween would like to remind us that fear is not all it's cracked up to be.

We let the bad guys run around because we know that at midnight they'll all go straight to jail without collecting two hundred dollars.

Sure, we're still careful. We'll all check the apples for razor blades, and make sure the candy bars are remain factory-sealed and without benefit of anthrax.

But, at its heart, Halloween allows us the chance to poke fun at what scares us.

Indeed, it goes even deeper. Because, we dress up as the bad guys. And in our own way, we acknowledge it's not black and white. Even without knowing it, we acknowledge that maybe there's a little bit of bad guy in all of us.

Anne Lamott, in a wonderful little book called "Bird By Bird," says a priest told her once that when God hates the same people you do you can be confident you've made God in your own image.

Halloween is an equal opportunity costumer. Remember the days when you could count on two or three Richard Nixon masks at every party? I wonder if anybody will be looking for mini KitKats this year wearing nomadic desert headdress.

But, it doesn't really matter, does it?

See, the genius of Halloween is that it's not about who's really, really, the bad guys and how we're really, really the good guys. It's about dressing ourselves up in the hope that the good everywhere will finally come out.

If we knew the absolute location of everything that keeps us up at night, we'd blow it to smithereens and live happily ever after. But we know better than that.

It's not 20-something men who look different and talk funny. It's not famous monsters who refuse to die.

It's the knowledge that there are pieces of life we can't control, can't count on to turn out the way we want. And, to make matters worse, somewhere deep down we know even if we could control them, we can't always count on ourselves.

Halloween puts all that uncertainty on parade, right where we can see it, and we smile at it, and nourish ourselves in the face of it.

The morning is coming.

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