I was just thinking about what I wanted to write about today. I was thinking about this weekend, which I spent out in the woods leading groups of audience members through the scenes of “Dracula,” children nipping at my heels like puppies. I thought about the marked contrast between the children present on Sunday and on Monday–the former insisted that vampires do not exist and spent the entire hike trying to get me to admit that it was the year 2013 and we were not on the grounds of a mental asylum, while the latter were willing to concede the possible existence of vampires and agreed wholeheartedly that whatever the status of the blood-suckers, werewolves certainly do exist.
Then I sat down and looked at my TV, which has a scene from Season 1 of “The X-Files” frozen upon it, and I sensed a theme.
Halloween-time is the season of the suspension of disbelief as much as Christmas-time (Saint Patrick’s Day and Easter are to be debated). It’s always been one of my favorite times of year. I remember sitting at the kitchen table poring over the catalogue of Halloween decorations and costumes that would come in every fall around back-to-school time. I was able to feel a palpable change to the air, a chill caused by more than the weather that confirmed that soon it would be the night when ghosts and goblins would walk among us, perhaps even answer the door of the peculiar neighbor whose lights are always off. I devoured movies like “Hocus-Pocus” and “Casper.” All year round I would read ghost stories and search the library for more information about Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and psychic phenomena, but October was the month I was practically positive that it was all real–that it had to be real.
I’ve always been fairly credulous when it comes to the fantastic. It’s a chicken-and-egg debate as to whether or not that predisposed me to read fantasy or vice versa. I had no doubt in the existence of Santa Claus until I was probably about nine, at which point I cried myself to sleep finding out (I believe at the same time as my younger brother) that it wasn’t true. I left cookies in the woods for leprechauns and one time came back to find the Oreos cut precisely in half, one part missing–not twisted apart, but cut down the diameter. I was sure that was proof that other beings had come for them, since animals don’t use knives. Human beings or, God forbid, my parents, never occurred to me (Note: M & D, I don’t actually want to know if you’re the ones who did this).
I’ll tell you, of the kids who came to “The Passion of Dracula” this weekend, the ones willing to admit the possibility of vampires among us seemed to have a better time than the ones who didn’t.
(That’s not really fair–for all their cajoling and insisting, the agnostic kids were genuinely sad when I told them that there was only one scene left in the play, except for the one boy who said aloud, “This is stupid,” from the front row as Dracula died.)
I’m in a place in life right now where I’m trying with renewed vigor to figure out what I believe about the world. There’s an inner struggle here between the little girl who wanted to be a scientist and the one who had no trouble believing that a cruise ship could contain to this day the spirits of crew members and guests who had perished aboard (true story, we went on the Haunted Queen Mary(?) with my Girl Scout troop once in high school and I absolutely could not stand not having another person within two feet of me in case something ghastly grabbed me, This was during the day time, although to my credit there are no windows below-decks on a ship).
The thing is that, in order for me to truly reconcile the two, they shouldn’t be incompatible. I have to find it feasible that a belief in Something More can co-exist with the scientific world. This was the genesis of my college-aged inquiry into the physics and psychology of consciousness. This is why I’m currently reading a primer on the works of Carl Jung. The gist of it is that I need to believe in something. I’m working on some personal stuff that essentially won’t be successful if I don’t have something to put my faith in. It would be easiest if I could accept a pre-packaged belief system, but I’ve never really found one I was able to dive into hook, line, and sinker. Instead, I have this hodge-podge, ad hoc exploration, trying things out and seeing if they work for me, then waiting to see if I find them tenable long-term. I worry, or at least I wonder, about never really landing on anything solid. At the same time, I’m not so sure I need to, as long as what I have in the moment helps me live the life I want to live.
There are some things I know for sure exist, no matter what the explanation for our existence here turns out to be. Real, selfless love between people. Friendship. Kindness. Joy. Innocent laughter and the exhilaration of a really good scare. If the worst-case scenario turns out to be that we’ve got that and nothing else, that we make our own meaning in our own brief time, I can live with that. I’d love to become enlightened or to discover some incontrovertible proof of a higher power, but even if I never do, there are some wonderful things in the world, and I can be grateful that somehow, out of all the chaos, they came to be.
And even if I know it’s silly, even if I know I’m imagining things, if every so often I can scare myself enough with a creepy novel to feel like it might be a good idea to sleep with the light on, I’ll count myself lucky.