31 October 2005

Ghost of Halloween past

It has never been easy for me to embrace this annual celebration of all things supernatural. Even we skeptics and secular humanists are expected to disguise ourselves as specters from the afterlife or some such ridiculous thing, and if we happen to be living in a sufficiently densely populated neighborhood, say goodbye to a perfectly good hour or two distributing nutrition-free snacks to children similarly attired. To devote an entire day, and in the case of the shopping displays an entire month, to the bizarre notion of an “All Hallow’s Eve,” when instead we should all be marking a much more auspicious event –- my birth -– always seemed grossly unfair to me a child, and even today I have trouble with much of the associated nonsense that revolves around what North America has done with the last day of October.

But I have recently reconciled myself with essence of Halloween. Not because I am getting older and therefore more tolerant of others’ points of view. Not because the kids (at least those not cursed by the demands of sharing their birthday with the event) seem to love it. And not because the day seems to drive fundamentalist Christians nuts (although it most certainly does, as this fact-deprived screed, a version of which appeared a few days ago on the bulletin board at the Saluda Post Office, attests).

No, I have grown to accept, even treasure, this day because it serves to remind even the most rational and cynical among us of the power and necessity of imagination.

Before I go any further, I must include one caveat. My definition of Halloween tends toward the traditional. Its origin in the shortening days of the harvest season, when the forces of decay and death brought broader swathes of the visible spectrum to the forest and fields, inspired the ancient mystics to describe a weakening of the walls between this world and that of the dead. Dressing up as clowns, film stars and superheroes, on the other hand, represents a modern, commercial corruption of the day, and I will make no concessions to such rot.

The true Halloween spirit embodies the power to imagine the disembodied. To step away from the here and now and consider the possibilities, however remote they may be, of the hereafter. In the context of psychological counseling (séances), medical diagnoses (evil spirits) or attempts to understand the troubles of the less fortunate (reincarnation), such musings can be dangerous in the extreme. But without at least some appreciation of flights of fancy, I doubt that life would be quite as interesting.

Imagination is not just a luxury. It is what powers science. It is what allows us to transcend the seemingly intractable, and find alternatives to the unacceptably grim status quo. Without imagination, we would not have powered flight, or powered anything for that matter. Without imagination, men and women of state would not have the ability to see beyond military solutions. Without imagination that dares to stray from the familiar, our literature would be as dry as a technical manual.

And you can’t put fence around imagination. You can’t restrict dreams to the tried and true. Because you can never know just how far-fetched an idea really is. While I am almost 100 percent certain that the universe of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter (or even better, Philip Pullman’s Lyra) does not now and never will exist, I suspect millions of children would be spiritually poorer without it. Who would really chose to visit a library that doesn’t include Mary Shelley’s reanimated monsters, Edgar Allan Poe’s prematurely buried or Ray Bradbury’s long-dead Martians?

The trick to surviving as an individual or a species, as 3.5 billion years of biological evolution have shown us, is the ability to distinguish between fact and fantasy. Those that can better analyze sensory data and extrapolate the future from the present, thereby acquiring food and avoiding becoming food, are more likely to pass on their genes. Anticipating the future requires an accurate model of reality, not one hobbled by wistful notions of the occasional violation of the laws of thermodynamics.

But that’s only part of the story of the success of Homo sapiens. When it comes to explaining who we are and why we have come to dominate the planet -– just as important is our ability to imagine possibilities that other species cannot. If the price of that success is an annual festival honoring that which is not natural, I say, “Rise up, ye demons of the dark.”

By the way, I’m 41.


Blogger Regan said...



10:57 AM  
Anonymous Mark said...


Happy Birthday!

That is, if you beleive that birthday wishes, actually mean anything...

9:54 AM  
Blogger sexy said...








1:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...







6:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

看房子,買房子,建商自售,自售,台北新成屋,台北豪宅,新成屋,豪宅,美髮儀器,美髮,儀器,髮型,EMBA,MBA,學位,EMBA,專業認證,認證課程,博士學位,DBA,PHD,在職進修,碩士學位,推廣教育,DBA,進修課程,碩士學位,網路廣告,關鍵字廣告,關鍵字,課程介紹,學分班,文憑,牛樟芝,段木,牛樟菇,日式料理, 台北居酒屋,日本料理,結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,台北結婚,場地,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,造型系列,學位,SEO,婚宴,捷運,學區,美髮,儀器,髮型,看房子,買房子,建商自售,自售,房子,捷運,學區,台北新成屋,台北豪宅,新成屋,豪宅,學位,碩士學位,進修,在職進修, 課程,教育,學位,證照,mba,文憑,學分班,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,婚宴,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,婚宴,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,婚宴,結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北結婚,場地,結婚,場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北結婚,婚宴場地,結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北結婚,場地,居酒屋,燒烤,美髮,儀器,髮型,美髮,儀器,髮型,美髮,儀器,髮型,美髮,儀器,髮型,小套房,小套房,進修,在職進修,留學,證照,MBA,EMBA,留學,MBA,EMBA,留學,進修,在職進修,牛樟芝,段木,牛樟菇,關鍵字排名,網路行銷,PMP,在職專班,研究所在職專班,碩士在職專班,PMP,證照,在職專班,研究所在職專班,碩士在職專班,SEO,廣告,關鍵字,關鍵字排名,網路行銷,網頁設計,網站設計,網站排名,搜尋引擎,網路廣告,SEO,廣告,關鍵字,關鍵字排名,網路行銷,網頁設計,網站設計,網站排名,搜尋引擎,網路廣告,SEO,廣告,關鍵字,關鍵字排名,網路行銷,網頁設計,網站設計,網站排名,搜尋引擎,網路廣告,SEO,廣告,關鍵字,關鍵字排名,網路行銷,網頁設計,網站設計,網站排名,搜尋引擎,網路廣告,EMBA,MBA,PMP,在職進修,專案管理,出國留學,EMBA,MBA,PMP,在職進修,專案管理,出國留學,EMBA,MBA,PMP,在職進修,專案管理,出國留學,婚宴,婚宴,婚宴,婚宴,漢高資訊,漢高資訊,比利時,比利時聯合商學院,宜蘭民宿,台東民宿,澎湖民宿,墾丁民宿,花蓮民宿,SEO,找工作,汽車旅館,阿里山,日月潭,阿里山民宿,東森購物,momo購物台,pc home購物,購物,手機,手機王,數位像機,衛星導行,GPS,小筆電,機油漢高資訊,漢高資訊,在職進修,漢高資訊,在職進修,住宿,住宿,整形,造型,室內設計,室內設計,漢高資訊,在職進修,漢高資訊,在職進修,住宿,美容,室內設計,在職進修,羅志祥,周杰倫,五月天,住宿,住宿,整形,整形,室內設計,室內設計,比利時聯合商學院,在職進修,比利時聯合商學院,在職進修,漢高資訊,找工作,找工作,找工作,找工作,找工作,蔡依林,林志玲

3:52 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home