Wednesday, October 31, 2018

On Halloween

I woke up this morning to the news that the daughter of friends had died yesterday, much too young, much too cruelly. Crime fiction is a small and tight-knit community, and we mostly love each other a lot (with the necessary exceptions who just make the bonds among the rest of us feel even stronger). It's not true that pain shared is pain lessened, but we're grieving together today, and cherishing our friends even more.

It's a dark time of year, literally and spiritually. These three days — Halloween, All Saints' Day, All Souls' Day — originated in the pagan recognition that veils get thin around this time of year. Time starts slipping, and the mortal peril we all constantly live in becomes a little more visible and immediate. Winter is coming.  

Something exists at the edges, something we can't quite see, something our brains are too small to understand. Energy is neither created nor destroyed, merely converted from one state to another. We know this in our bones, we feel it in the crawling of our skin and the cold dread that gathers at the solar plexus when we feel ourselves sliding away.

We can lie down and let it take us, or we can fight it off with masks and jokes and human-built monsters. We can rise up behind our defenders — the saints, Michael the Archangel, the Marvel Comics Universe, whatever works. (It's hardly a coincidence that superheroes have come to dominate our popular culture as organized religion ebbs away.)

Every living creature fights for life. It's our first job, the most important job—and we pretty much have to pretend it will continue indefinitely, or how would we ever get anything done?

Once a year, from up on the tightrope, we let ourselves look down. We might have to dress up to do it, and it might require the fortification of candy. Through the veil, we wave at the things we don't understand, at the night that will eventually take us all.

Happy Halloween.