Halloween is a time for fun. People dress up in costumes, mostly of cartoon or pop culture characters and eat lots of candy. Some love the really scary part of Halloween and like to decorate for the macabre—graveyards, decrepit trees and such, and, of course, scary creatures likes ghosts and monsters. Yes, Halloween has always held that attraction. While I am not very big on the Halloween culture, I do believe it has its origins in hallowing the dead. In fact, an ‘80’s rock group would host a concert near to that date (October 31) giving homage to the Mexican version of the holiday. Of course, Lake Elsinore is no different. Approaching and on that date, we will see costume parties and kids of all ages scouring their neighborhoods to participate in the Halloween tradition of going door-to-door demanding candy. Ah, such sweetness!
We love Halloween because we have a fascination with death and all its awe. See, we don’t really know what death is. It’s this mysterious whatever that we can’t even investigate. We’ve designed ships to go into space, vessels that allow us to see the depths of the ocean. We’ve created microscopes to see the world of atoms and germs, telescopes to view the farthest reaches of outer space. We’ve created radios to hear inaudible frequencies, and spectroscopes to see colors outside the visible range. We can look at the human body before, during and after life and see all the processes that go on. But death?
That bothers us. We don’t like the unknown because it’s, well, unknown. If it’s unknown, we can’t quite figure out how to deal with it, especially since we like the idea of being aware that we exist. It’s bad enough losing consciousness every night to go to sleep, but hey, we know from experience that the odds are pretty good that we’ll wake up tomorrow to start another day. But death seems to be the ultimate sleep from which there is no waking up.
So we develop theories. We believe there’s a Heaven where we go to be with our perception of our Deity and His sidekicks forever. Ahhh! That make us feel good that all this suffering is not for naught and a grand eternity awaits us. Some of us believe that life and death is a cycle, just like waking and sleep. Death is merely a slumber from which we awaken into a new birth, body and life. Either way, the fact that it isn’t a final end makes us feel a little better. And that’s really what we’re after, feeling a little better about this ultimate mystery.
Some of us (not me really but I know people) love the horror genre. They love the adrenaline rush of being scared out of their wits. Back when I was a kid, horror was a little bit different than the current slasher/killer flicks that come out every now and then. No, we had monsters. I guess monsters got a little tame as time went on. People got sort of desensitized to this whole dead creature stalking us so they had to get more gruesome. An immortal killer, there you go. If that don’t scare you, nothing will!
Seriously, though, we created this whole mythology of dead creatures coming back to life, or hanging out to bug us in or from some netherworld. Ghosts have been theorized forever, people who are dead but just haven’t left yet. And then there are vampires, werewolves, all sorts of creatures that will do nasty things to you that you can’t prevent. Isn’t it interesting, though, how such ghoulies have come mainstream? Vampires and werewolves just want to be loved, like the rest of us. Witches? Er, excuse me, wiccans (everyone wants to be politically correct!) are just seekers on a quest into Nature. More interesting is how we’ve softened the whole supernatural mythos on the one hand with our classic mosters, and raised the bar on such near-human psychopaths that will harm you a lot worse.
We seemed to have toned down a lot of the macabre. One of the purposes is that if we conquer the issue in the media, we have in a sense conquered our own fear of it. If we have monsters pursuing us to an unmerciful end, then we’ve created Van Helsing to come to our rescue and vanquish them. If we make movies about people almost dying and coming back to talk about it, or people who can somehow realistically look into the afterlife and tell about it, then at least we have some information. And some information is usually better than no information because at least now we can start to understand it.
By far, the best way to conquer our fear of something is to make fun of it. Frankenstein’s monster pursuing us leaving a path of destruction in his wake? A little kid wearing a goofy Frankenstein costume puts that in its place. How about a funny cartoon about the monster, or a cereal? Not so bad anymore, is it?
I submit, then, that Halloween is a release of sorts. Sure it’s a lot of fun dressing up and eating candy, but it’s also a psychological mechanism to allay our fears of the unknown a little bit and maybe put them in it place. This is just one more way for us to get a grip on life and not let our fears take over.
So whatever you may be doing, have a great Halloween. Pace yourself on the parties and the candy and keep the kids safe. Enjoy.