Sunday, November 8, 2009

Trick or Treating, Purgatory, and the Gates of Hell

"What's it gonna be, Pops. The candy, or your front window?" Paul Stookey spoke those words in the 1960's, and they still ring true today. I've had friends on the social sites complain about the reactions that they had with children going "trick or treating" through their neighborhoods. Complaining about the amount of candy, "only one?!?," or even having the parents do the trick or treating for the children (who probably remain safe and sound in the car, away from the evil grips of all the child molesters that live in every house.) The spirit of Halloween has been completely dispersed from the holiday itself. It's been replaced, much as it has at the Yuletide season, with commercialism, greed, and a sense of "entitlement."

We are playing a CD on the overhead system this week, Sting's If On a Winter's Night, and track 2 is called "Soul Cake." That track, called "A'Soulin," is also on the Peter, Paul, and Mary album. The idea of Trick or Treating, from amongst other cultural traditions, comes from the Great Britain celebration of A'Soulin' on All Soul's Day, November 1st. On that night, the children go around, singing the song the PP&M performed, and ask for fruit, bread, candy, coins...whatever, as homage to ancestors, loved ones, that have passed on and entered Purgatory. Each eaten "Soul Cake," a bread specifically for that day, represents a loved one leaving Purgatory and entering Heaven.

So trick or treating, at least, through this cultural origin, is a religious ritual. The candy represents lost loved ones. Yet in this country, Halloween is just an excuse to get sweets. To feed hyper children and then send them to school the next day to drive the teachers nuts, or to let the blood sugar rise and drop and then they sleep the whole day. Whichever. But the problem is that children now feel that they are "supposed" to get candy on that night. That anyone who doesn't give you candy, or in enough quality, that you have someone insulted them. They have this feeling of "entitlement." And, it's the same feeling of entitlement that kids feel when they go to Walmart and feel they have to get a toy. Or later, when they grow up, the feeling of entitlement that they have to have Health Care. As for me, I would much rather get a job, go the store, and get my own bag of candy.

Book Review: John Connolly's Gates

This is a book that tries to be for young adults what The Book of Lost Things was for adults. But it doesn't quite reach the character development or the lyricism of Connolly's first fantasy work. It reminds me quite a bit of the Lemony Snicket books, in that it sounds as if an adult book writer is trying to write for kids, giving them a wink wink sarcasm while talking down to them.
Overall, the characters are agreeable, the flow works, and it was a decent read.

The plus I will give him is that he went into Quantum and String Theory quite well, and fused science (the multiverse) with religion (the idea that Hell actually exists in a Multiverse dimension.). The combination of the two will enthrall and challenge readers to think of the two in a totally different way, and will wind up being talked about in Sunday School classes, at least, I hope. It is a perfect spring board for someone to begin finding out for themselves about God and Science...etc...

I hope that, in the next book, he does the same for Heaven, since the book leaves that part out. If Connolly personifies Satan in this book, he cannot leave out the personification of his opposite. And there are plenty of characters in that world, Angels, for instance, that can make a Nurd like character, and work very palpably.

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