Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Halloween- What a Wonderful Time.

In a particularly florid post earlier I commented upon how much I enjoy this time of the year. Sure, I appreciate the Fall- the changing colors, the cool but not unbearable temperatures... and blah, blah, blah. But what makes the season especially interesting is Halloween. This holiday is remarkable, for it retains its favored place in my heart without even offering a day off from work. It has nothing to do with Christianity or nationalism. In fact its roots lie clearly in the pagan harvest tradition. The idea that we would choose to celebrate the things that scare us- witches, ghosts, horror... and yes, death... is remarkable. What is it that is so particularly delicious about the ritualized observation of these creepy things? Obviously there is a countervalent stream of puritanism in the history of our culture that should preclude our enjoyment of such phenomena. Maybe the fact that it is "forbidden" is its greatest allure.

What a strange practice... to dress our children in ghoulish costumes, and send them out onto the streets in the dead of night to knock on the doors of strangers. The fact that many parents allow their kids to eat the offerings that they collect is astounding. It belies the fear and distrust that so many have of the unknown. What is the sacrifice being made, and that not taken? It never occurs to us, when we trick-or-treat in our innocence, to be wary of the extracted gifts of our neighbors. My god, how things have changed.

When I was growing up, I watched some fairly horrific movies. One in particular, called "Terror Train", frightened me and inspired a series of nightmares. The fear became personalized and internal. I swore off that type of film for years, and it was only deep in to my college life that I began watching them again. Slowly, I came to enjoy these experiences. Somehow I was no longer threatened by those depictions of horror... somehow they comforted me. Maybe it was because it wasn't me being victimized. I'd sit in the safety of my home and extract some sort of vicarious thrill. Yet I am not altogether distanced from that darkness. We never are.

Nowadays I sometimes seek out settings that are unsettling. Armed only with my camera and my aesthetics, I enter these places of dark unknown willingly. Once in awhile I discover something unwholesome that chills me for days, weeks or even months. Perhaps it is a reminder of the inescapable isolation and mortality of this existence that sustains me and prompts my return. There is this darkness inside us all, and it makes the light savory. This balance fascinates me. What hidden parts of themselves do people expose unwittingly during this time of the year? What do their masks say about what lies inside? Keep your eyes open, and perhaps you will see.

4 Comments:

Anonymous jefg said...

"Nowadays I sometimes seek out settings that are unsettling. Armed only with my camera and my aesthetics, I enter these places of dark unknown willingly. Once in awhile I discover something unwholesome that chills me for days, weeks or even months."

With that in mind, you would have loved the Vatican and it's museums, and the cathedrals in Rome. There are more than enough goulish images to go around, of death and bones, of mummified popes and huge paintings of hell and destruction. At times I just coiuldn't fathom what they must have been thinking. Then there were the Romans and the Colosseum spectacles of a prior time. Those people certainly knew how to keep the masses in line.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

"Those people certainly knew how to keep the masses in line."

I'd say this society does a pretty good job itself with video games, cable television and sports.

Anyways... sounds like you had a great trip. How much money did it cost to tour the vatican?

6:31 PM  
Anonymous jefg said...

"Those people certainly knew how to keep the masses in line."

I was talking about those in charge, not society in general. You're not going to tell me that Bush invented video games, cable television AND sports? I'd have to think Al Gore invented at least one of those. (being sarcastic...but then you already know that)

We did have a great trip. Everything about it was wonderful...the scenery, art, history lessons, hotels, foods, local guides, weather, photo ops, people.

I really don't know if it cost to tour the Vatican, as we were on an organized tour. We were lead in before the "barbarians", as our tour guide referred to the hordes of tourists everywhere (everyone but us, of course). He also told us to be bold crossing the street at crosswalks, NEVER looking into the eyes of the drivers, who see that as a sign of weakness. I would add NEVER to look into the eyes of anyone in the long lines for a museum, when you're tour group is walking right by them to get into the special (short) line. Talk about your dirty looks (yes, I peeked once).

Tha Vatican contains riches beyond imagination (at least mine)in the form of art. Everywhere you look there's a statute of another pope looking down at you, or laying in-state. It's amazing what people do in the name of...let's see..glorifying themselves.

Did you take a look at my photos online? Also, did you ever get the book and the shirt you hounded me about?

5:46 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

I think you'd have a hard time sorting out the effects of "those in charge" from "society in general", whether it be Rome or the United States. But anyway...

It sounds like you were well-connected on your trip. I'm glad you had fun. I've only gotten a chance to look at a few of the online photos (I've got to get a faster connection). And thanks for the shirt- it's pretty cool.

7:53 AM  

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