Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween and the Fascination With Fear

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say – “Halloween is my favorite holiday”, I would perhaps not be rich, but my student loan balances would be significantly lower. It seems to me, and this is in no way scientific, that for many people Halloween is their favorite time of year; even though most people don’t get a day off work as they do at Christmas.

True, there is candy or sweets to be collected, and children love to dress up, but most of the people I hear express their love for Halloween are adults not children. It is about more than just dressing up and eating too much bad food. Why do people like to dress up in as ghosts, goblins, and zombies?

The fascination with fear drives this celebration.  But Halloween is not about normal, everyday fears. We are not reveling in the fear of car accidents, cancer, or terrorism. It is a different kind of fear. The writer C.S. Lewis explained that this type of fear is more of a kind of dread or awe of something unknown:

“Suppose you were told there was a tiger in the next room: you would know you were in danger and would probably feel fear. But if you were told “There is a ghost in the next room”, and believed it, you would feel, indeed, what is often called fear, but of a different kind. It would not be based on the knowledge of danger, for no one is primarily afraid of what a ghost might do to him, but of the mere fact that it is a ghost. It is “uncanny” rather than dangerous, and the special kind of fear it excites may be called Dread.” (1)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Modern Pharisee

It is an insult to the conservative that he or she cannot fix themselves and an insult to the liberal that he or she cannot fix humanity. This is why many conservatives reject Jesus in every sphere except religious ceremony and why liberals reject an interventionalist God in all spheres. 

The conservative – I pulled myself up by my bootstraps model- believes he or she is responsible for his or her ultimate destiny and achievements.  I did it my way, so why can’t everyone else?  This can be used to justify a reluctance to help others, as that is not my responsibility but theirs. This ignores the fact that factors such as the family (or lack thereof) we are born into, the place in which we are born, and (even though it is not politically correct to say so these days) the varying levels of skill or talent with which each of us are born, can greatly influence our “progress” in the world.  

Conversely, the liberal worldview presents itself as altruistic and concerned with fairness and the well being of others.  The liberal fondly cherishes the notion that as a group we can redeem humanity from the various ills and squalors in which it is embroiled.  It aims to create equality through redistributing resources.  Those better off should contribute to those less fortunate.  It’s hard to argue against this proposition.  However, in my experience, most people think there are others more fortunate than them who should foot the bill.  I’ve never met anyone who likes to pay taxes – liberal or conservative.   So, the idea is not for me to sacrifice my resources to help those at the bottom, but to take the resources of others to do so.  Again, I am not responsible for the plight of those less fortunate.  It can make you feel good without paying a personal cost.

Monday, October 3, 2011


The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.  – Ecclesiastes 9:11.


We are told as children that everyone should be treated equally.  Stories of those who fought to make things equal are celebrated.  It is apparent to even the youngest school child that we don’t live in an equal world – otherwise why would Rev. Martin Luther King have struggled.  So it is not the idea that equality is the status quo but that it could be the future default mode.

We are taught that because the world is equal hard work and talent will always rise to the top.  Work hard in school, turn up on time, do your best.  So an equal world does not mean that everyone will be the same – after all there can only be one President of the United States – but that everyone has a chance of success.  It also should mean that those that do succeed deserve their status because of inherent talent and diligence. 

Therefore, according to this theory, while we may not agree with those in influential positions, we cannot say they don’t deserve to be there.  However, many of us have experienced people in power over us to be somewhat less than brilliant.  I’m not talking about jealousy, but about the smart and talented being bossed by those less so.