Our imaginations, sense of play, and enthusiasm for make believe are things we often lose as we get older. Halloween gives us an excuse to keep these things alive. With age we lose wonder. As our lifeline shortens we are less able to try on new hats. Life leaves its little scars and we become thick skinned. We try to hold on to tenderness, like when we give affection to a pet or feel our heart warm toward another person. It’s these moments that keep us human. To feel, connect, create, express, play and communicate are the best parts of being human. Our complexity is what makes us so interesting.
Halloween, more than any holiday, allows us to play, fantasize and wear different hats.
We wear different hats in real life, but during Halloween, who we portray is solely of our choosing, and includes beings that we could never be in the real world. How do we choose our costume? What does our choice say about us? What are we expressing? By not dressing up are we expressing indifference or that we don’t want to play?
I love Halloween, especially in New York where we have a treasure trove of creative talent and exhibitionists. There is also a vast audience of voyeurs. (In nature everything is balanced.) It’s the perfect holiday for those who like to masquerade and those who like people watching. Any excuse for a costume!
Part of Halloween is our thought process when looking at people. We look for a costume. If we conclude that who we are looking at is indeed in costume as opposed to badly dressed, the next thing we do is assess the costume and judge, just like in everyday life. During Halloween the evaluation is exaggerated because it’s part of the ritual. The whole population is doing it collectively at once, judging one anther, based on appearances. It’s rare when we can stop criticizing, judging, analyzing, and playing mental games long enough to just take a person in, just as they are. Look past the disguise, or better yet understand that the disguise is also an extension of them.
There is nothing like a birthday with a moment alone at the bar of the Ritz to make one think existentially. Who are we? The best of us leave behind small contributions. Somehow I blinked and found myself midlife and alone in an overwhelming jungle of asphalt and cyber space. If we cease to insist on a meaning for our life, and just be grateful to experience living, it might be easier. To simply be in the moment without expectation might give us the breathing room to allow our life to take on its own significance.
The opportunity of Halloween: Decide who you want to be! Create the costume. Show the world who you are. Be praised for your efforts and showered with sweets! It’s the psychological thriller of celebrations!
The essence of our personality is completely formed by age five. They say the older we get, the more we become who we are. Yet still we change over time. We used to live to an average age of forty. Now we are living into our nineties, even hundreds. How many of us are the same person at forty that we were at twenty? How many of us turned out as we imagined? Is it any wonder fifty percent of marriages end in divorce? The person we marry is never the same person we divorce. We wear many hats, and many disguises, that is part of our dynamism. Spouse, lover, parent, sibling, friend, professional are just a few of the roles we play. The problems only arise when a hat we wear becomes a disguise and no longer really fits.
I wish we could just be free to be ourselves and accepted for who we choose to be. I wish that everyday could be more like Halloween in that there would always be room for freely expressing ourselves. Encouraged by our community to let our spirits have a romp. Halloween allows us to explore different facets of our identity, giving us greater personal insight. Knowing that we cannot be all things to all people, Halloween also provides a little space to love different people in different ways for different reasons. Masks and all.