Remembering November’s New Normal
Interesting–and rather expected–that the trappings of Hallowe’en (October 31st) are flapping in the breezes of our souls and streets so soon–and so adamantly. In some yards there are so many gossamer ghosts, skeletons, dinosaurs, bloody corpses and horror-carved pumpkins that there is no room left for even a bit of the ordinary daily grass of thanksgiving.
Theme: We can praise the horrors–but may not, as easily, recognize the gifts.
The streets around Wanda Road tend to be amazing in displaying these liturgical paeons to death.
It struck me: If you ever tried to put up some small shrine to the saints (whose collective feast day is Nov. 1) saying YES to life, the day that is the very context, in our long western religious tradition, for Oct. 31sti itself–hallowed evening (Hallowe’en)– you would be accused of pushing religion on people.
Not so with celebrating the release of the demons! The mediaeval dance of death, and our precious contemporary ‘fear’, can seem to be all we have right now in our society– given Trump and more widespread confusions.
Such a readiness to acknowledge the demons in our lives and our society! Such an unfamiliarity with truly celebrating ‘thanksgiving.’
But, let’s be fair! How can a pandemic NOT bring out a fear that is re-awakened by fresh recurrences and continuing confusions and failures. Noticeable, but too little fed and celebrated, are simple compassion, care and companionship: the ‘realities’ we bring to our ‘thanksgiving.’
It all erupted before…in 1348 very dramatically with the bubonic plague–which came back 3 to 4 times over the next 40 years. One-third to a half of Europe’s population was in graveyards—or worse. The plague (pandemic) eased off as the 1400s dawned.
The sun came out–kind of—both in the sky and in the people and Europe dove, with relief, into the thing we call the Renaissance in celebration, but also in great forgetfulness, of what had been.
And the Church, along with the secular leaders, learned very few lessons–leading inevitably to new ways of being separated, not united. And fresh hating– incarnated in new forms–including gun-powder and cannons.
Bergman’s Seventh Seal, a great film, said it well 60 years ago. So did World War One, almost 50 years before. And so did Auschwitz, the Japanese atrocities against the Chinese, and the nuclear bombs on Japan…our western atrocities—introducing a new potentially deadly plague.
The front yard displays in residential Toronto these days are hardly understatements! But they add nothing to hope, to joy, or to the kinder and deeper part of human living—celebrated in Thanksgiving..
My view–as you know, is that joy and hope and deep thanksgiving are not wrong, nor are they failing in ‘realism.’ Nor are they forced, pollyanna ‘constructions.’ They are always truer (patently so, when they are allowed to take hold of us) than any of the lies, the violence and death and consumer banalities.
But these bursts (OK, …‘streaks’) of spiritual sunlight win out decisively and with unanimous recognition only occasionally on the social level, in this earthly passage.
And when they do–as in the joy you have with the grandchildren–now growing and finding their way in the world–they require that we firmly and fervently proclaim the goodness of it all; all of it grounded in a love and truthfulness that is beyond understanding–and more real than ‘reality’, as we tend to name the tiresome world of mere ‘facts.’
I don’t buy this ‘realism’ this ‘fake humility.’ It’s true in the obvious ways—but not truth enough to live by.
So, I insist: Let us not lie to the children—in our choices and actions, our even in our words! And let’s recognize that the biggest form of lying in the liberal west is the effective, social denial of the enduring truth that love and goodness and community are what make us and ground us; and that they are stronger—and more ‘real’– than fear and death, or money and power.
And they are (and can be!) here and alive even now (not, mainly ,later), if we wish to choose them. Our society is very bewildered and lost when it is asked to face that ‘reverence’ before being, and that holiness in action in the world that grounds our ‘thanksgiving.’ But many want it, and love it.
Personally, (and following Pope Francis) I think it may be’ climate and global caring’– and lively thanksgiving put into practice in new/older forms of community and across generations–that will be saving light for our societies.
Thanksgiving–arising out of a place in the heart and in relationships beyond despair, deeper than consumer comforts and banal declarations or assumptions that ‘this is all there is’–that will show us a way into life-serving light.
Thanksgiving is, I believe, this light that can guide us, and guide us truly, beyond the allegedly innocent and premature laying out of Hallowe’en horrors on our lawns and egregiously hung up in our trees.
On that light/heavy note, I send you, beyond the-darkness, a burst of thanks to/for both of you, to your kids now parents, and to their kids—inheriting the world that we pass on to them. Sing praise!
May we find our way to a faith and hope that comes from life– and gives life; and never sells out on being ‘real’ or on claiming that title. A way of living/being that affirms and asserts without ceasing, that Reality is always more than it seems.
Much more… But it really needs our help, every day, for it to appear, take form and pitch its tent among us—and perhaps thereby be believable for others. Bypassing Thanksgiving and rushing into Hallowe’en leaves our souls behind. That doesn’t help.