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October 30, 2011

Happy Entropy

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Last week at the Dillsburg Farmers Fair, Luke pointed to a series of dilapidated houses lining Main Street. "Look dad, they made their whole house a Halloween decoration." I flashed a hearty smile and nodded my head in agreement.

Looking down to the porch, their rotten granny faced Jack-o-lantern gave me pause. I felt tangential rays of the sun battle a crisp breeze on my face. Second-hand cigar smoke socked my nose, overwhelmed the appealing smell of decaying leaves.

One way or another, Halloween seems to be all about entropy. About systems winding down to the end of their cycle. It is about dark, rot, rust, cold, death, and decay. Do we deny these things that are not good or bad, but simply are? Should we fear that God is anti-autumn?

I've chosen to see Halloween as a time to recognize, deal with, and even celebrate the reality of entropy. I see the (literal) dark and creepy crawlies as humbling reminders of our brevity, our limitations, and the ultimate fate of our corporeal being. This is reality, not dabbling in the occult. There is too much evil during all season among the living to worry about the October undead.

Must we deconstruct the heebie jeebies? The demons that we think of, you can simply tell that their physical form and function would never work anatomically, at least not in this world. Why should ghosts ever be seen in clothing? Did they take it with them? If they are able to reflect or omit light (and therefore be seen) then they cannot be exempt from the basic laws of action-reaction. If they can switch lights on and knock books off shelves, then they should have to use windows and doors, just like the rest of us.

The cultural side of Halloween? From what I witnessed last Thursday, it's as if Trick-or-Treat is the new Christmas. There's simple family tradition and togetherness without all the pressure and obligation. There's a fraction of the materialism and politically correct controversy. In our small development, neighbors that have their porch light off and drive by our house without so much as a nod all year are suddenly welcoming and generous with their time.

I don't mean to say that evil is a cultural construct to be taken lightly. Or that the pagan holiday in October is more important and prominent than the day we celebrate the coming and birth of Jesus (a day which was, ironically, specifically retrofit over another pagan holiday). Or that scaring the piss out of people doesn't have the potential for some serious pitfalls.

Our ability to sit here and think about mortality and wonder what's next - this I take seriously. A world where entropy eternal, cold, and black is the bottom line - this is hideous and frightening. This I can deconstruct only by asking why and from where the light came.

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Matt said...

Great post man!! I'm reminded of all the old portraits of esteemed people that also feature a skull on a table or somewhere as a symbol of their mortality. We live in a weird world. Sometimes separation is called for but other times a simple reframe can redeem our participation and open up missional possibilities.

Sam Van Eman said...

Love this line: "There is too much evil during all season among the living to worry about the October undead."

Good food for thought here, Bob. We didn't grow up with Halloween. Off-limits. Now we take the kids to the parade in M-burg, which is a pretty good parade if you ask me and the kids went to exactly four houses this year. Not sure why four, but that's what happened when I was out of town.

Like you said, I can't make Halloween my new Christmas, but all the good stuff going on and the mindfulness of death and what comes from it shouldn't be lost by discounting the whole thing on religious grounds.