|Posted by DGS on October 30, 2012 at 10:10 AM|
If we look at Haloween through Dharma eyes, what might we see?
Of course the whole thing is a fascinating display of trust and generosity on the part of the society which participates in it. (Did anyone ever REALLY find one of those razorblades? I'm skeptical.)
But beyond that, and beyond simply acknowledging our dark side, and beyond any kind of hokey history of "Samhain" and end-of-harvest rituals, It seems to me that the mere existence of halloween and its many traditions, along with the way we pass it on to our kids, is at the very least a living example of how much we crave ritual in our lives, and the setting aside of sacred time. "Time out of Time" as Lama Marut says.
I remember running through the neighborhood in my cheap plastic mask and rayon cape, in search of unimaginable treasures, certain that there was magic around every corner, feeling so free I nearly burst with excitement. As if normal time and (most of) the normal rules of reality had been suspended, at least until I got home.
But the whole enterprise seems more to me than mere hedonism. We generally live our lives in a self gratifying way anyway. What makes this one specific time so special? What is the energy of it? What are we trying to create or destroy? What truth are we trying to ritually reinforce and remind ourselves of.
Well it's probably not a stretch to say that Death Awareness is pretty high on the list.
At halloween we are hardly able to avoid the many images of skulls and ghosts and grim reapers and such. And when we do encounter what we consider a good or true or scarily effective instance of these macabre realities, we don't cower (for long). We actually laud it with compliments. Think about that. Some grisly image which at any other time would seem ridiculously out of place or unsettling, becomes a cause celebre.
"Oh, that's awesome!" we say.
What is that kind of reaction saying about us during this special time? The time when tradition holds that the "veil between this world and the next is the thinnest". Are we recognizing that we live in a space between various realms of existence. A "bardo" between the ghosts of the past and the mysteries of the future.
Isn't it interesting that we crave at least once per year to ritually look at the truth and fact of death, and to not only find beauty and humor in it, but to make offerings to it, in the form of sugary treats.
Of course many other cultures have similar kinds of rituals. The "Dia de los Muertos" in some Latin communities for instance. Or the fantastically celebratory Jazz Funerals in New Orleans.
It seems to me that besides the otherwise morbid imagery, these precious ritualized times are an effort by us to recall at least two very important truths about our lives.
First, as we've been saying, these special times certainly allow us a safe way to haul the honesty of death out of the closet.
Not so long ago (and still in some communities) death was not hidden from us so much as it is today. It was a much more expected and commonly experienced part of life. In fact a recently passed on relative would often be taken care of by the family themselves, and even dressed and respectfully displayed in the living room, before being buried in the back forty.
Perhaps our modern antiseptic view of death is part of the reason why today there exist extreme death defying sports and extreme slasher type movies. Because for all their craziness, there is at least something true in them which they are reminding us of. There wasn't any need for X-Games or "Saw" movies during the dark ages I'd guess.
Some part of us longs to remember the truth of our limited time here. Why?
I suggest that the purpose of us compulsively making this highly ritualized observance of death is not to be depressed or morbid, but rather to rejoice in the impermanence of life, and thereby to remember to DEEPLY appreciate its preciousness.
This is something we far too often overlook, and I think we all crave not to do so.
I think the other vital part of this holiday which we seem to want very badly to remember is that if this time is rare and precious, and our form is temporary and changing, then... what do we WANT to be in this moment. What MIGHT we be capable of being?
I think the recognition of this special "in-between time" is a not too subtle understanding that each moment is a time of infinite possibility.
Have you ever seen an otherwise mild mannered co-worker dressed in an extravagant or hilarious Halloween costume? Does even your genteel mom or your quiet uncle go bananas at this time of year with a fake knife through the head or a full sized gorilla suit?
Looking past the sometimes inappropriate costumes, who as a child didn't enthusiastically don some kind of superhero or princess outfit, or something very much like it?
Why is that? Where did that character come from? Did we REALLY need permission to do that? Do we still?
Perhaps some deep part of us actually does recognize that there is no part of us which is NOT potentially a superhero or royalty.
Perhaps that is what we crave to recognize most of all at special times like this.
That we hold within ourselves INFINITE possibility. That the common temporary form we identify ourselves with most every other day of the year is not our TRUE self.
That there is a special ineffable part in all of us which deserves to be recognized, and that THIS self, is something which is not afraid of death. In fact it laughs in its face.
Perhaps it is in these moments when we bravely face our deepest horrors and voluntarily scare ourselves silly, that we finally recall not only what truly matters, but even, what might be possible.
That seems like something worth offering a snickers bar to. Doesn't it? Or maybe Reese's or Jolly Ranchers are more your thing.
So look around yourself this Halloween and imagine yourself in a rare and sacred world surrounded by magical beings.
And then look within yourself and find that most precious part of you which is longing to be set free. Ask yourself "What are you gonna BE for halloween."
And then BE that, and open the door for it, fill its bag full of candy, and send it running through the streets in wild ecstatic joy.
Categories: Thoughts to Ponder