Friday, November 1, 2019

Rejecting Zombiehood

We had a quiet Halloween night, as we often do.  We are two streets over from the street that puts on a festive night so crowded that the police come to block the streets to traffic (and I suspect to keep order).  We only had 10 pieces of candy, but it still took us a few hours to give it away.  Then we came inside and watched old Halloween episodes of Roseanne.  That show always did Halloween well, although I will give special mention to the Hitchcock inspired Halloween episode of That 70's Show that we watched while eating dinner.  After a week of being out every night, we were in bed by 9.

When I was younger, Halloween made me feel weird/depressed/rejected/dejected because I didn't want to go out and drink in bars.  As Halloween darkens into true night, I almost always feel a sense of strangling dread.   My spouse thinks that those feelings are leftover from our childhoods in the 70's, when we worried about razor blades in the candy.  But it's also partly exhaustion and partly that there's always noise.

Last night I also felt a bit of sorrow in my yearning that I just had another few days to enjoy all the decorations.  It seems like most of my neighbors only just got around to putting up their displays, and now it's over.  I've enjoyed going to church and seeing all the pumpkins in the yard.  After all, these seasonal displays are the only sign of autumn that we have so far--it's still stifling hot.  At one point last night, I had to go inside to cool off.

I also felt a bit of sorrow because the day was over.  We've had a great week at work as people decorated pumpkins and then yesterday, we had lots of costumes and festivity.  Traditionalists might grumble about reduced productivity, but I do believe that festive days and weeks help with retention, which is one of the benchmarks by which we are judged as a school.

And today, the Feast of All Saints, which most Halloween lovers won't be celebrating.  These days, I am more aware than ever of Halloween's linking to All Saints Day, which we celebrate today. Traditionally, this day celebrates the saints who have gone on before us. Traditionalists would only celebrate the lives of the truly beatified and the lives of those martyred for the faith; we'd celebrate the more recently dead tomorrow, with the Feast of All Souls. Many modern churches have expanded this feast day (or collapsed the 2 feast days) to become a day when we remember our dead.

One reason why I love this trio of holidays is that it reminds us that life is short and that we'd better get on with the important work that we want to do.  Let me also expand this mission:  life is short, and we need to start seizing the joy that we often neglect to notice.

In terms of work, I want to put together a new book-length manuscript, while still continuing to make one last push to get the other manuscript published.  In terms of the mix of work and joy, I want to mail the application for the spiritual direction certificate program.  In terms of sheer joy, I want more times of close connection with friends and family.

Let us resolve that we won't be zombies*, shuffling through life as we navigate some undead space between life and death.  As the year wanes, let's think about where we want to be this time next year.  Let's look into the gloom and murk and see what we can shape.

*For more on zombies, see/hear this excellent episode of the NPR show, 1A.

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