A Forgotten Holiday

Life is the matrix of reality

Many aspects of Halloween as we know it were likely borrowed from ancient pagan beliefs and rites, but the name itself has its roots in early Christianity. It is a contraction of 'All Hallows Evening' - the evening before All Hallows Day, or, All Saints Day.

'Hallows' is a word meaning 'saints'. The word 'saint' has several definitions in various dictionaries, but the broadest and most recent ones simply refer to people who are kind, good, patient or otherwise virtuous. All Saints Day is a commemoration of good people who have passed on; or perhaps more reasonably, of the good memories of ordinary people who have passed on. None of us is virtuous all of the time, but most of us are at least some of the time.

Just as there cannot be a Christmas Eve without a Christmas Day to base it on, so there cannot be an All Hallows Eve without an All Hallows Day. But hardly anyone ever notices it, perhaps because there are no gifts or candy to be had, or profits to be made from it.

One aspect of our modern, materialist worldview is that those who die, and all their dreams and accomplishments, are too soon forgotten, as we "move forward" into the future. A preoccupation with youthfulness and a disrespect and even contempt for our senior citizens can sometimes result from that. Maybe we should borrow a theme from Indigenous cultures, and re-develop a healthy respect for our elders and our ancestors.

Many people today believe that reality consists of nothing more than physical matter and energy . This view does not account for life, or consciousness, except to call it an 'epiphenomenon'. That's an ultimately meaningless word that scientists sometimes use to explain  things they don't fully understand. The assumption is that all reality can be explained in terms of particles and waves, and that the universe exists purely by chance - even though the odds of that are far more astronomical than your chance of winning two or three sequential lottery jackpots, or of being struck by lightning on numerous occasions.

Biologists long ago made the mistake of abdicating the study of life in favour of the study of mechanical cause-and-effect in the realm of biology. Physicists are a step away from reclaiming the non-materialist worldview. Quantum physics makes references to observers. The important step not yet taken will be to realize the obvious fact that any observer is, by definition, conscious.

Many physicists argue that a conscious observer is not required; that a gauge or meter or similar device serves the function. But such devices are consciously designed to take measurements, ultimately meant to inform conscious observers (beginning with said physicists). A gauge without anyone to read it is just scraps of metal, plastic, or glass. Information that is not being transmitted from one node to another, or to others, is just data.

The materialist view is one of just two basic worldviews. The other, which has prevailed throughout all of human history except perhaps for the last few generations, is that the world itself is a different 'thing' from the awareness and experience of the world. Life itself (or consciousness, or spirit) is the ground of all being, the matrix of physical reality.

Neither view can be proven or disproved by science, but over the ages, many people have claimed that with proper techniques of self-discipline and meditation, they can somehow connect with those who have passed on to other dimensions. I can't say that they're right, but who am I to say that they're wrong?

Whether or not life continues in some form after physical death, there's something appealing, something that feels right, about having a day to reflect upon what our ancestors went through to make it possible for us to be here. Certainly they made mistakes, and most often learned from them.  Now we are here to build upon what they learned and to learn what they didn't, so we can make fewer mistakes of our own.

The name 'Ancestors Day' would seem more to the point and less dogmatically contrived than 'All Saints Day'.

It's fun to spend Halloween indulging in fright and fantasy, but perhaps we should continue to observe the next day as well, as a remembrance of the hopes, dreams and good deeds, not only of our own loved ones who have passed, but of all those who came before us.

Reflecting on your connection to the ancestors, or saints, might balance your perspective on life today. It could make you feel at least a little happier, and more confident about the task of being alive.

After you're done with your Halloween fun, why not follow it up with a day of commemorating family and friends who are no longer with us? On November 1st, why not take a few moments to bring back to mind your most precious memories of your dearly departed; those whom you loved, and who had loved you? Then, think farther back. Think of all our ancestors - yours, mine and everyone's - all those (mostly) good people who built the foundations of our families and civilizations (even if some of those foundations are crooked and cracked in places.)

We wouldn't exist without them.

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