Personal Journey, Politics

Hollow. Ween. A Zombie Tradition I Wish Would Just Die Already

GravestoneSkeletonPopsUpMore disgusting and mutilated than any front yard ornament or trick-or-treat costume I’ll see this year is the philosophy behind this “cultural tradition” we call Halloween. Yes, some of you will hate me when I’m done.

An impressionable sapling of a boy was riding in the car with his mom one day when he made this remark: What I like best about Halloween is that everyone gives away candy and you don’t  have to pay any money for it.

Wait.  What?  I nearly threw my computer across the room.  I thought I’d gotten lost in cyberland and was redirected to the democratic party platform or the Affordable Care Act website.  Everyone givesand you don’t have to pay any money for it?!?  I’m not very good at math, but even I know that if everyone is giving, someone is paying money for it.  Just not him– the recipient of the windfall.  But he’s just a kid, right?  He can’t be expected to understand that, can he?  That is the lie our culture perpetrates on young minds.  Thanks for stating it so succinctly, kid.

ZombieAttackUncleSamOf course someone is paying for it; Halloween candy doesn’t grow on trees.  But that’s precisely the problem with our culture and is laser-spotlighted by this boy’s dewy remark.  We teach, sometimes overtly and sometimes through our traditions that it’s possible there really is a free lunch out there somewhere, that it’s possible for everyone to give and for no one to pay.  Isn’t that what we were promised back in 2008 by a certain candygiver, our national SugarDaddy?  But I know many people who are paying for the candy now. And they’re not happy about it.

It gets worse.  His Mom writes:  We all agreed heartily and even as we said so it sunk in further how right he is.  Halloween may be the most givingest holiday we have in the U.S.A. Seriously. Candy is handed out to our friends’ children, our neighbors, and complete strangers all the same. And people who give out treats on Halloween expect virtually nothing in return.  Maybe just a thank you.

Then the coup de grace (again from Mom): Is there any other cultural tradition that compares when it comes to the spirit of altruism?

If Halloween is “the most givingest holiday we have in the U.S.A.” then we may as well build bunkers in the backyard because we’re doomed.  Seriously.  If our greatest act of selflessness, of altruism is to give fun-size chocolate bars to kids dressed up in disturbing costumes, we are an empty, vaporous people, valueless, clueless, and without a scaffold of truth on which to hang anything meaningful.  This is the Kool-Aid of the default culture; it’s the Common Core Curriculum of our moment-by-moment reality: the idea that there is no ultimate responsibility.  Everyone gets and no one gives.  And no one is ever wrong either. Don’t miss that. It’s the real pollution we breathe day in and day out.  It whispers to us in the sidebar ads, screams in the commercials, and lies seductively all throughout the show.  If we don’t step in front of the media tsunami that is our culture, we too will wake up and think the best thing to happen to us is hollow.  Hollow. Ween.  

The greatest act of altruism happened 2000 years ago.  Sorry.  I know it’s not popular right now. But it wasn’t then either.  It was so unpopular that it just might have killed you to sign on.  Now that’s a scary proposition.  But it didn’t deter them from signing on in droves.

jesussaves_zps03aa62fc

Other than that, I don’t hate anything about the innocuous holiday known as Halloween. Trick-or-treat until your heart’s content.  Dress up. Have fun.  Don’t forget to thank the person who did spend quite a bit of dough on your boon.  And learn as much as you can about the other altruistic days we celebrate.  Please.  Oh please do learn so you won’t think Halloween is the pinnacle of goodness on this earth.  Oh, and the word– holiday originally meant “holy day,” as in celebration of something holy, like God. Sadly, for many people, it now just denotes a hollow day.  There really was someone who didn’t stay dead.  And He didn’t look like a mutilated zombie either, which is probably why His story won’t die. Either that– or it’s true.

Advertisements
Personal Journey

We didn’t like that anyway.

Abbott w-me“We didn’t like that couch anyway,” my son said with the glazed look of a soldier recently returned from a violent front.  In our family that sentence is code.  It means:  The dog just ate x.

I was in bed reading.  I didn’t believe him at first.  Mostly because my son is joking  90% of the time, but also because I didn’t want to believe him.  Ever since we adopted Abbott we’ve had various casualties.  Initially his tastes ran toward media:  books, games, magazines,  DVD’s, and spiral notebooks (essentially, the homework).  He also likes pens and seems to strongly prefer the taste of Bibles.  At least he has good taste.  Candles, purses, socks, and the usual– shoes, are also on the menu.

Last night was his first foray into something soft and foamy– and expensive.    I lay in my bed, too cowardly even to survey the damage (but also because I thought seeing it would make sleep even less of a possibility).   To prove he wasn’t crying wolf, my son brought me a very asymmetric piece of yellow foam; he held it out to me like a gift.

Fine.  Abbott ate the couch.   But I still wasn’t going to go down there until I had a night of sleep.  There are two kinds of people when it comes to sleep:  some think they need more sleep when they’re overwhelmed, and some think an overwhelming  sortie is best faced with less rest and more prep.  I am definitely the former.  And did I mention I love sleep?   I also want to love my handsome new German Shepherd, my protection from would-be rapists and burglars, so I considered it prudent and proactive not to see him while wanting to kill him.

Visions of my once-cozy, book-lined family room as the ground zero of a foam explosion bullied through my troubled mind.  I saw in my future  a spartan room, all my precious stuff evicted by Abbott and his pile of abandoned dog bones and chew toys.  Eventually I fell asleep.  But not before my son came to me and asked, “Aren’t you going to say it?”

“What?”  I growled (no pun intended).

“You know.  That you didn’t like that couch anyway.”

He was fishing for a sign that Abbott wouldn’t be served for lunch tomorrow or be taken to the taxidermist (a threat I often made with our cat).

“No.  I’m not going to say it.”  I was firm.  Abbott had gone too far.

Luke made a petulant little grunt and retreated to his bed.   I considered how  fragile and transitory my stuff became the instant we brought Abbott home from the pound.  Rescuing Abbott put our possessions in danger.   But it was always like that with stuff.    My winking at the kids’ use of the couch for a trampoline or my pride at their nimbleness in climbing the hallway walls underscores my lukewarm relationship with my stuff.   I just got a pop quiz from Abbott, that’s all.

I didn’t really like that couch anyway.

Abbott & his couch
Abbott & his couch

 

Screwtape Still Speaks

Giving Grief. A Guide

Hell Show
Hell Show (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Don’t think my loyalties are incongruous with previous directives because I urged you to be generous in your giving.  Gifts have been a part of our modus operandi since our Father’s first victory.     Here’s how it’s done, my fiend.  Give him innumerable little “benign” gadgets with which to fiddle, so he’ll be too busy playing and tuning and typing that awareness of his own mind or body as an apparatus for experiencing life is turned “off.”  If you’re doing your job right, you’ll feel like bloody Santa in no time.    And the hook, the point of all this benevolence, is the removal of your man from the game.   Give him lots of controllers; just don’t ever give him control.  Just because the Enemy came up with gifts in the first place doesn’t mean they can’t be exploited for our purposes.  And I’m not flattering Him with imitation.  His gifts are intangible.  Our gifts are real, and they really cost.  Just think of the destruction we can wreak on a man and his family by furnishing him with a winning lottery ticket.  It gives me goose bumps to think of the scrabbling, the scheming, the treachery a little money can procure.   And that’s where we come in.   We give these “gifts,”  these “windfalls.”  The Enemy’s gifts are “not of this world, ” so He says.    He makes presents of oxymorons  like contentment in poverty or peace in tribulation.   Has anyone ever seen these gifts?

Personal Journey

Love, Wrapped Up

Me with Grammy's afghanIt’s Christmas time.   And as Scroogie as it is to talk about this, most of what my thoughts gravitate toward is… money.  I wish it weren’t true.  I am constantly planning how I can get awesome, appropriate, and unique gifts at the best prices.  A fourth generation bargain Betty, I can’t resist a thrift store and can lose myself for hours in the behemoth Salvation Army nearby.    I liken it to hunting.   You have to get there early for the best pickings.  You must be patient and meticulous, diligent, and only rarely do you come away with a prize (like this sweater I’m wearing).  Mostly it’s just  waiting for something magical that never actually materializes.  And just like hunting, it can be a messy or dangerous endeavor.   I once had a large black spider fall out of a pair of jeans I was trying on.  Now I shake them before slipping my leg into those dark places, and I pray I don’t get lice, scabies,  or any other icky bonus as a direct result of trying on clothes.     Although I enjoy picking through junk, it’s not exactly the place to get awesome and appropriate, (although you can get unique) presents.  So once a year I’m forced to pay full price.  Am I throwing up while keying in my credit card numbers?  You bet.

My grandmother gave us kids used gifts every year.  “Thou shalt not buy anything new,” was her mantra.  Her gifts were always unique, sometimes appropriate, and once in a blue moon, awesome.    Is it because they didn’t cost her much that I didn’t feel the love?  Sometimes gifts have a time price tag, crafts whose extravagance is the many hours spent fashioning them.   The afghan my grandmother gave me was absolutely delightful for the thirty deluded seconds I thought she had crocheted it.    The problem was that I pictured my Grammy squirreling away gifts and then indiscriminately passing them out as the need arose.   I wanted a premeditated gift, one pondered upon and deemed perfect for me, not just perfect for any kid; I wanted it to cost her.

Am I mean?

Don’t answer that.  It’s a rhetorical question.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I love my Grammy and her gifts, although opening them felt somewhat like playing the lottery.  I think I wanted it to cost her because love is proportional to sacrifice.    Or maybe it would be better to say love equals sacrifice.  They are the same thing when they are true.  Take love as described in the Bible:  “Perfect love has no fear.”  How is that possible?   All human relationships are subject to betrayal and thus a possible source of fear.  Add to that the fact that people are messy and used, and sometimes full of spiders, and the odds are significantly against not feeling pain in love at one time or another.  Still, we are loved by God.  His love doesn’t depend on our worth or our response to Him.  That’s why it’s perfect… and fearless.   If I love like He loves, my love doesn’t depend upon the object; no reciprocity necessary.  That is incredibly freeing (and incidentally, incredibly useful when raising teens).

God loves us by giving the gift of Jesus to anyone who will accept him.  I can say it’s a lovely gift under the tree, but it doesn’t become mine until I act.  Act in faith this season if you haven’t already.