Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sacred and Profane

It's Halloween and for a superstitious being like me, it's exciting, though not exactly fun, unless reflected in retrospect, in the light of tomorrow's sun.

But it's only 11pm right now and the sun is a long way away. As I await the midnight hour that promises to transform the profane into sacred, I wonder about the nature of the sacred and the profane. It seems to be an assumption universally accepted that these two are diametric opposites, yet I wonder how that can be. Popular belief also indicates that the sacred is abstract while the profane is concrete; however, I am no closer to defining the exact nature of either than I was at 10, though I like to believe I'd recognize them and understand the difference, should the occasion ever arise.

Since I don't want to take chances with forces I don't really comprehend, I believe one must acknowledge the profane as an integral part of the universe, as deserving of celebration as the sacred.

In honor of the most profane evening of the year, I buy very good candy, and remember to set aside a budget for my child's costume. My daughter and I spend hours selecting the choicest chocolates, peanut butter cups, and tootsie rolls. My child cannot believe that I spend more money on the sweets for this holiday than I do on Christmas or even Valentine's Day, but she, being wise, asks no questions. I also encourage her to explore parts of her repressed self and tell her to choose "really original, interesting" costumes. So we set aside at least a couple of afternoons chasing pieces of a repressed self through the aisles of Party City and Micheals; this year, she is going as a Jabberwaukie (I am sure I've misspelled that, so a thousand apologies!); consequently, we aggressively hunted down a scarlet tutu, red gloves, white masks, and feathers amidst the curious glances who wondered at our shopping cart as much as they wondered if I, in my salwaar-kameez, was in some kind of a Bollywood costume.

On this most unholiest of nights, I do not like to leave home. I light a votive in my home temple before it is properly twilight; if I have to be out, I keep salt in a Ziploc in my purse and try to be unobtrusive as I throw pinches of it over my left shoulder any time someone gives me what I think is an odd look, and those are aplenty on this night. Understandably, then, my daughter prefers to spend her Halloween away from this strange self that surfaces only for a day!

I don't DARE not celebrate this day; after all, like I tell everyone who'd listen, one never knows who or what might come knocking when the veil between realities, dimensions, worlds is at its thinnest. And I really would not want any imps resorting to tricks in absence of treats.

In the face of the undefined, then, I prefer not to take chances. Profane might just be a matter of perspective; to our species, this could be that which threatens humanity's well-being, as a lot of our apocalypse stories and movie monsters would insist. However, I am willing to bet the book I am in the middle of, that a cockroach and a cat would hold really different views from those of the neighbor's grandchild dressed up like a nightmare.

So it would seem that the ideas of sacred and profane are not universal constants; and yes, I'll say it since the occasion seems to call for it: there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in philosophies!

Regardless of its cosmic relevance, though, this day should be celebrated as an important part of being human. Halloween celebrates our darkest faces and forces us to own the uncomfortable selves we deny. It forces us to stare into the heart of darkness, reflect on the ubiquitous Mistah Kurtz, for a while refrain from paying hypocritical lip service to ideals of peace our species claims to uphold, and conquer shadow selves by embracing them.

And then there is the comfort of the idea that the profane gives in to the sacred, and that's just a matter of a midnight passing; no sacrifices need to be made, no gods appeased. The light is as inevitable as the darkness and it is all a matter of time, which continues to lumber on, unaware, uncaring of its nature.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I linked to you on my blog, I liked it so much.

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