Fear and hope
A pandemic sweeps through the world, driving home the fact that life is frail and it always rips at the end. We had been working hard at hiding death out of sight - sending our elders to die in the care of professionals, selling and buying odourless pre-packaged meat, pretending that there would always be a tomorrow to do what we didn't have the guts to do today.
Now death is back in town, and it's getting momentum like an ambitious rock'n'roll band.
Up until not so long ago, it would be the norm to reckon with death this time of year. Before a bonanza of technology came to succour, almost no-one would look forward to winter; it was not a time for snuggling in with cozy tea and cheesy music, for the pseudo-Scandinavian fad du jour, for chunky gloves and ruddy cheeks. It was a time of death. You knew that some of your friends (you, maybe) wouldn't make it to summer; you knew that gales would blow and not to make you feel warm inside. Hot showers would not take the edge off the day. There were pleasures in winter, for sure, joys to be had - but we had a basic understanding that winter, being winter, is a dangerous season.
I was born in 1981, and the winter ahead is the most dangerous in my memory, as far as my padded, privileged, corner of the Western world is concerned. We might hurt someone we love just by being too close, for too long. We might hop on the wrong bus and end up in a hospital bed. Death is back in town, and once again, we are afraid.
So we need Halloween.
Halloween gives us a chance to consider this fear of ours, accept it, and laugh in its face a little, not to deny its power, but to remember ours. Maybe we will celebrate on our own (parties are forbidden), maybe we will celebrate in secret (we are too grown-up, aren't we?, for plastic skulls and gummy vampires), but we need to celebrate, this year more than ever. So to reckon with fear, and not only that.
Halloween also reminds us that, frightening as it is, tragic as it is, this too is going to pass. We will come up with a vaccine, a cure, something. It won't be a stroke of genius, a sleight of hand which solves things overnight the way it happens in the wish-fulfilment stories we tell, but we will come up with something. This is going to pass, for everything is going to pass. A cosmic wheel turns, Spring always comes after winter, May after November. And the more we look after each other, the more of us will be there at the next turn.
While the winter winds blow, we could to worse than be together in whichever way we can, take whatever joy comes our way, without denying fear, without refusing hope.
Happy Halloween, folks.