There is something strange about Halloween — – a want to be scared. Or even a delight in being scared. I am a gentle, sensitive, easily-troubled soul and have never enjoyed the fright of the season. When I was younger, when friends wanted to go on a scary graveyard walk, I passed. And scary movies! I have never liked them. The empathy and trepidation I felt for the victims in these movies far outweighed the thrill of the exhilaration of a scare.
Overtime, I have become desensitized. I watch horrible things on TV now. But they still make me sad. I feel a resistance anytime the TV offers up some sordid scenario. This reminds me of how powerful empathy is and how it can also be something that can be easily passed over. We can imagine the worst or can witness through fiction or the news the far stretches of how hard life can be. We might say, “That is horrible. I am so glad that is not me.” A true and strange take on the Golden Rule. But empathy is at the heart of our religious life.
There is a big divide between seeing oppression or hardship and working to help those to whom the trial is happening. As religious people, we are called to respond to the experience of the marginalized and downtrodden. The work is ours to bridge the gap between “that is horrible, I am so glad that is not me, and I wish that were not how things are” to “that is horrible, I wish that would never happen to anyone, and I am going to dedicate to that work.”
I can get scared. I know evil exists. Very real evil. My defense is not to deny this but rather to remember where it is that I religiously ground myself – love is real and we can make love manifest in the world. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
I just watched a Halloween Curious George special with my kids. The spooky stuff was all in fun so that neither I nor my kids needed to worry about being scared. All is well. Kid shows always end well. In our world, I do not have faith that all will be well. To simply believe this would be to believe in pre-ordained magic. I do have faith in the power of love. And I do believe that we have the possibility to bring about the world we dream of. There is something about Curious George that gives me hope. George is imperfect and messes up a lot, but George’s heart is true and loving. He is learning. He is always going forward. Sounds like a Unitarian Universalist to me. Let us be some of the people to bring that light and love into the world that MLK spoke of.