For many kids, today (Halloween) is the most wonderful time of the year.
And for many people of faith, it’s a day that they struggle with how to honor their faith in the midst of aspects of Halloween that they are uncomfortable with.
Some pundits, Muslim and Christian, Jewish and Hindu, etc., issue annual statements about the pagan origins of Halloween, and why their community should not participate in it.
This is not one of those columns.
I love the excitement of the children. Yes, even the candy part. Especially the looks on their faces when they’re allowed to take two pieces of candy instead of one. I love them so carefully look the bowl over before picking up their favorite piece.
I love the fact that this is the one day of the year in many neighborhoods where people open their doors and receive one another as what we are all along: neighbors. And how I wish we would live like this every day, like a real community. And I wonder what it says about us when we feel comfortable going up to our neighbors only when we are wearing masks. How did so many of us get so alienated from our neighbors?
I am not interested in demarcating a beloved community away from “America”, because beautiful and ugly, commercialized and ethically responsible, this—all of it—is us. All of it is America.
Yes, I struggle with certain parts of Halloween. I struggle to see 10 year old girls dressed up in ways that project a type of precious sexuality. It breaks my heart to see the girls’ costume aisle look like something out of a perverted male fantasy.
I struggle with the 365 day monster, the Market, conquering yet another corner of our lives.
I struggle with seeing overburdened working poor families who no longer have the time to make costumes, and succumb to yet another extension of the privatized Market into our lives.
I struggle with seeing parents—by which I mean my own family as well—walk into these seasonal stores and put down 30-40-50 dollars per child to purchase something that the kids will wear for two hours. For families with multiple children, the burden is considerable.
Just as much, I marvel at seeing the kids dressed up like demons and ghouls and monsters. I understand the “Carnival” aspect, the inversion of conventional social norms, children’s fascination with power, even as I remain mindful of the subtle traces that our outward attires leaves on our heart.
I struggle with the resurgence in the “blackface” costumes this year, among children and college kids alike.
I struggle with why we are so offended with seeing human beings dressed up like monsters for two hours, when for the other 364 days of the year we see monsters dressed up like human beings, killing and raping and stealing and occupying and pillaging.
And ultimately I know that this, all of this, is us.
We are the monster.
We are the angelic.
We are the human where the monstrous and the divine mingle.
We are the good.
We are the evil.
We are the meeting place of light and darkness.
Each one of us, my own self included, is always a struggle, a tension, a dance, between inner monstrous desires of selfishness, evil, greed, violence, and the sublime truly human, truly divine qualities of love, service, compassion, and kindness.
As Rumi says:
I am tired of demons and monsters.
I seek to find one real human being.
That one that I seek,
I have to become.
Happy Halloween y’all.