Sunday, October 31, 2010

Duty and Delight

If you’re reading this right now, I hope your computer is near your front door and that you’re ready to answer when the next pod of children knock for Trick or Treat. If you’re a high Anglican church-going type, forget Evensong. It’s your civic duty to hand out candy tonight. It’s your spiritual obligation, whether or not you’re going out later as the Queen of the Night in a Sally Ann wedding dress dyed black for the occasion, or staying at home with a season of True Blood DVDs.

As my friend Elaine is fond of observing, it’s the only night of the year, in a time of rampant paranoia, that children get to be anything even close to loose on the street and walk up to the houses of neighbors and strangers in the expectation that something nice will happen. It’s one of your best shots for the next twelve months at reassuring them that the world can be a place full of fun, where the joy–and the scariness–of imagination and fantasy come to good. It’s your chance to instill delight, to give them permission to dream worlds into existence, to dream secret identities for themselves, a brief glimpse into a different way of walking in their skins.

And isn’t that, after all, why it’s the queerest holiday in the calendar? This is what we share in common with the children who stomp up to our doors as dragons and Spiderwomen and jellyfish and Ninja Turtles and vampires and (blech) Disney princesses: that with them, we long for a world where playfulness and the freedom to dream a different, more spontaneous life are safe and celebrated; where we can put off identities that oppress us, or that bore us, or that we love ninety per cent of the time, to try on, just for a while, something beautiful, or hideous, or silly, or unsettling; something rich and strange, as on an enchanted island full of sweet sounds and airs that give delight, and hurt not.

No comments:

Post a Comment