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Friday, October 31, 2008

The Glorious Abyss

Happy Black and Orange day!

Call me old-fashioned, but I remember growing up in a time when All Hallow's Eve was actually a time of fun and excitement - being let loose to run free in the night, to be scared silly by neighbours and strangers alike, to explore a world that was normally NOT MINE.

I was a kid and the world of 'past 9pm' outside was a stranger to me - and like any brazen young kid in a mask and plastic Freddy claws, I reveled in the exploration. Me and my friends would run through graveyards, daring the dead to eat us - screeching when the older kids would jump up from behind tombstones to try and steal our candy.

Sometimes they did too. I remember a few Halloween's coming home with next near to nothing because we'd been a little too boisterous in our tempting of the fates - or in this case, the 16 year olds. And though it sucked, we knew that this was the price of admission - not that you WOULD have your candy stolen but that you COULD. We'd all heard stories, we all knew people who'd had it happen, but we didn't care. The ADVENTURE is what called to us.

Halloween is like my Christmas. No, scratch that, Halloween IS my Christmas. The one holiday of the year where I remember being and feeling free. Free to run through the streets at 10pm, tatters of a ghost costume whipping in the wind behind me, begging for candy from strangers. No parents, no rules, no fear.

No fear.

In a time where so much could go so wrong, in a place and time where we would be the most vulnerable, we had no fear. On this one night, in this one place, this one unwritten rule was respected above all others - yes, even the candy thieves. From house to house we went, doing our best to scare our neighbours into giving us the REAL treats (the pop and chocolate!) instead of the crappy bowl by the front table. But we never felt fear. These strange people greeted us with spooks and smiles but we never knew any real cause to fear them.

Our world has changed since those days and so many of us live in fear of the people next door - at least, that's the sense I'm getting as I hear parents at work talk about sending their kids out alone for Trick or Treating. But if you look hard enough, you can see it, see it in the parent's eyes. The sadness. The remembrance of what Halloween used to be and the frustration that their kids can't know that same rush of freedom and innocence.

Then again, maybe I'm projecting.

Maybe Halloween has always just been about the candy and I found something deeper in it. Hidden in the darkness, a celebration of everything good about Humanity. A deep bond of trust for a kid growing up in an untrustworthy world; A night of acceptance and freedom and excitement free from the world of order, where screaming into the abyss was expected and encouraged above all things.

And when the night was over, when our arms ached and our pillowcases bulged, when the last light went out, we scampered across the pavement - soaking in the sweetness of rotting leaves and damp earth, following the trails of moonlit pavement to the warmth of our homes. The safety of our own front door where we returned as kings with treasures from far off lands.

No thing has ever tasted so sweet as that first victorious chocolate bar, that single wrapped caramel. And though my mom was careful to take it away from me, put it high up so that I wouldn't gorge myself to sickness (which I would've done, natch) - she was always careful to allow me to enjoy the experience, to feel that sense of success, to taste sweet victory before being ushered up the stairs and off to bed.

I see this day, the fear people share for it - and I understand it. It's the fear of the unknown, it's the fear of the darkness, the fear of each other. Yet, I believe, that now is when we must face those fears together. When we should send our kids out into the world, to learn about it, to explore it and revel in their freedoms - even if it is only for one night.

Because, deep down, that's why Halloween was created. We need that release. We need a night to buck the system, to stretch our voices and our legs, to be out there, tactile in the world and maybe - just maybe - have a chance to make up our own minds about what to be scared of.

Happy Halloween all,

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