Friday, November 1, 2013

Back to normal?

     Last evening, I repeatedly answered the door of my home, only to be greeted by children, variously garbed as monsters, skeletons, princesses, historical figures, and cartoon characters. Sometimes parents joined them at the door (also variously garbed -- mostly as pirates); other times, they remained on the sidewalk, supervising from afar, dressed more for the weather than the holiday. Yes, it was Halloween, and my job, answering the door, was to mollify the visitors with a treat (in our case it was glow-in-the-dark bags of crunchy cheetos). [On a side note, I DO wonder what would happen if I asked for a "trick"?]
      I actually enjoy answering the door this one evening of the year!  I enjoy seeing the elaborate, imaginative costumes.  And, I have to admit, I really love the littlest kids:  princesses or animals mostly.  But I do take comfort knowing that the evening will come to an end.  The kids will head home, ready to check out their "take" (while parents wonder how they'll get the kids asleep).  The candles in the jack-o-lanterns will eventually burn out of their own accord. Porch lights will be extinguished around the neighborhood, and November 1 will dawn with the world back to "normal".
      On Halloween, I also recall the other times (current and historical) when costume-donning is--or has been--practiced.  Mardi Gras springs to mind, especially in some cities, as a contemporary example.  In other places and times, the practice of costume-donning was related to the reversal of cultural/societal norms; for example, peasants assumed the role of lords/ladies/clergy/magistrates, and vice-versa.  One day a year, the exalted were humbled, and the humble exalted. And then, on the morrow, the status quo returned for another 364 days. A vacation into fantasyland. The practice was "officially" sanctioned, by those in charge, of course. THEY knew that they would return to their privileged positions.  What was "normal" would resume its "rightful" place.
      I'm not so sure that our contemporary cultural fascination with costumes has the same root, or rationale. There are a lot of other, perhaps commercial, interests at play.  But I have to wonder what it is we hope we will find as we "become" someone/something else for a few hours or a day. Do we harbor some deeper desire or hope than simply "escape-from-normalcy"? Do we long for a society where "difference" is less threatening?  Or, where "outrageous play" is a greater part of our work-oriented life? 
      I suppose I'm over-thinking this.  But I every so often I find myself wondering if "back to normal" is where we really want to be?  


Chaplain Gary

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