There’s a wonderful meditation on the
circle of life circle of plastic by Mark Morford. He had an epiphany in a discount store while shopping for Halloween party decorations.
Who makes the plastic eyeballs full of bubble stuff that never actually work? What happens when we throw them away? Whence all these screaming skulls for $1.99?
Now I’m not going to do a Bill Donohue and get all aggrieved about the War on Samhain. ‘Put the ‘Sam’ back in Samhain’ doesn’t make sense in any language. And as much as I love my Celtic heritage, my passport doesn’t say ‘Irish’, even though I have relatives there. I’m made in America, where citizens– wherever born and of whatever religion, are citizens. Despite much grief and injustice in our founding. Despite the many ways and times we failed to live up to the ideals of justice and equality. Our aspirations exceed our reality, but we never codified a second class or a state religion.
If any Pagans are reading this, you will understand where I’m coming from. The following are Pagan ‘dog whistle’ phrases. We practice an Earth-based spirituality. Watch out for these subversive ideas–
When you put out the trash, it doesn’t just disappear.
Every manufactured thing you encounter was made by someone.
They needed materials to make it.
Don’t buy junk you don’t need at the super-cheap store. It was probably made in a factory where low-wage workers are hungry and tired and worried about what tomorrow will bring.
At this time of year the veils between the worlds are thin. Do you feel the fingerprints of someone a half a world away? She made this cheap ornament.
And speaking of disappearing trash– diamonds get stolen, plastic is forever.
I envision some sort of massive, teeming, low-rise slab of a Chinese factory that was, not a month or two prior to my visit to this particular store, stamping out a zillion plastic skulls, shiny tinsel and all sorts of junk, then shipping it to the nearly 1,000 Targets in the United States. It is simultaneously a dazzling testament to the power of capitalism and human ingenuity, as well a thoroughly depressing statement of holy crap we are so screwed.
It’s also just another reminder that we are, as voracious consumers, still famously detached from the true source of our beloved stuff in nearly all we devour, from iPods to meatballs, T-shirts to coffee cups. The Green movement aside, we still give little thought to where those truckloads of goods come from and just what resources were used/abused in the making of it all, not to mention how our actions, purchases, decisions fit into a larger schema, how these tiny plastic spiders essentially connect me with the world. Amazing.
Well yeah, and don’t think that the people who labor on the assembly lines just disappear when the season is over. What goes around, comes around. America is a nation of workers who searched for an opportunity in the global market. All of us who are not Native American are descendants of immigrants, or descendants of those who were kidnapped from Africa to supply cheap labor. And, incredibly, Halloween is made in America. A minor Celtic custom that meets a need for a little misrule in a Puritan culture.
The best thing that Halloween can do is to slip though the noose of commercialization that strangles everything that is original in American culture and be its anarchic self.
Halloween was brought here by Irish workers who just needed to vent after a year of scrubbing floors and walking the beat. And the Irish do know how to party till dawn and still make it to Mass on time.
The Celtic wheel of the year is based on astronomy, (not to be confused with astrology). For skeptics, (you Unitarians know who you are) it can be a set of guideposts along the way, so that our time does not get past us. The Narragansetts, who can make a fair claim to being the Real Americans, observed the change of seasons. There’s something to be said for deities who can be depended on to bring the light and the dark on schedule.
The Christian calendar is not indifferent to the cycles of nature. The ‘prosperity gospel’ may preach that you can get something from nothing, but our ancestors lived closer to the land. They had to sweat for everything they ate. So after the harvest, they were careful. A feast on the cross-quarter day of November 1st, and then Advent– a time of moderation. A glorious celebration at Christmas/Solstice. Then the food is running short. It’s Lent. Bless the sacrifice we must make past the Equinox until Easter/Eostre marks the time that you can get some green sprouts from the Earth again.
November 1st is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic calendar. All Saints Day. A fine time to remember all those who have passed sainted by none but the One who knows all. And wouldn’t it be funny if–
Some of the saints were people who spent twelve hours a day, seven days a week making plastic eyeballs for Halloween? Some of those who were certain that they had title to a condo in the gated community of the Elect– find themselves in the slammer. With an ankle bracelet and a parole officer whose first language is not English. But Officer Heraclito is not a bad guy if you can just get past his voice mail. Meanwhile, you spend eight hours a day stamping out plastic eyeballs for the amusement of the heavenly host, who will recycle them back to you– and if Heraclito doesn’t call you back the fiends will send you to the level where the recycling is sorted.
Is that a scary Halloween story or what? So thanks to Mark Morford for opening the crypt of mindless consumption. And here’s a public option for Halloween fun. Drive out to a local farm and buy some local cornstalks. This is Rhode Island. Stop whining. You could walk there. Or just pile up your yard waste. Or hang a sheet over your porch rail. Bill Donohue will not give you an Imprimatur, so it’s okay to be messy.
Buy a pumpkin and decorate it. If you’re too tired to carve– there’s cake icing. Put together a really weird home-made costume. It’s your chance to be creative.
Enjoy. If October 31st is clement, it’s a certainty that following days will be colder. The veil between the worlds is thin. Look across and wave.