And all the girls walk by
Dressed up for each other
And the boys do the boogie-woogie
On the corner of the street
And the people, passing by
Stare in wild wonder
And the inside juke-box
Roars out just like thunder
And everything looks so complete
When you walk out on the street
And the wind catches your feet
And sends you flying, crying
Wild night is calling
–Wild Night, Van Morrison
Like most of us, I have sweet memories of my childhood Halloweens. I still have photographs of my various girlie outfits, such as dressing as a princess or a fairy. But come adolescence, my peers and I were over Halloween. We saw ourselves as too grown up and cool to adorn ourselves in silly costumes. Same with college. . .as well as onward into adult years. Halloween was child’s play, a time for kids to just be kids.
Fast forward a few decades. Now Halloween is no longer a day focused on the children. The teens and the adults have gotten into the act. At some point, Halloween became a Wild Night for adults of all ages to let their primitive impulses run wild. College girls unleash their inner hookers, as do some of the boys as well. Playboy bunnies, strippers, French maids. . . nothing is off limits as Halloween becomes about pure, decadent fun.
Of course, it’s also okay nowadays to mock political and authority figures on Halloween; nothing is too mean-spirited as to be off limits. Growing up, it would have been unheard of to scorn those in authority with a contemptuous costume. But the 60′s ended all of this, with its animosity towards police, the military, and anyone else who takes on a grown-up role.
Robert Bly, in his insightful book called the Sibling Society, says that we’ve become a society of siblings, with very few people willing to step up as true men and women. I imagine that in your neck of the woods, there are many grown-ups; perhaps you are one of them. But out here, it’s perpetual adolescence, and a holiday like Halloween magnifies this. Throughout society, it has become harder and harder to find true blue adults. And those who take their places as society’s elders open themselves up to humiliation and scorn.
Why has all of this happened? Why such a drastic change from what was the norm for centuries, that is, appropriate boundaries between the young and the old? There are so many possible reasons why. Of course, the 60s unleashed a genie in the bottle of primitive impulses, most of which are not healthy for self or others. The music, media, and schools have all programmed people to believe that anything associated with the older generation is bad.
But along with the social engineering, there are, I think, other, deeper reasons for the forever Peter Pans. It has to do with un-anchoring people from the parts of life that offer meaning and hope: God, faith, family, love of country. With people left to fend for themselves without any belief system aside from their own, they are untethered, lost. Deep inside, they remain terrified about life and maybe even more than that. . about death.
For so many people this existence only means the now, pleasure, fun. Halloween personifies what we have become as a culture and a people: stunted, shallow, self-indulgent.
Halloween is no longer about children having a sweet, little holiday all of their own. On this day, many lost and lonely souls will create a different persona than their own. . a mask to hide behind, and an outfit to crawl into because this life, and feeling so alone in it, evokes the scariest of emotions. And those emotions are far far, scarier than any costume or Haunted House on Halloween.