Monday, October 31, 2016

Safe on the Edge

“All this world is but a play. Be thou the joyful player.”

Halloween—San Francisco’s favorite holiday! In spite of a light rain, hundreds turned up on Belvedere St., a neighborhood famous for its Halloween spirit. Three blocks in which the street is blocked off to traffic, most every house is decorated to the max, folks sit on the front steps with buckets of candy and the streets swarm with adults and kids in mostly home-made costumes. There are garages filled with coordinated music and dancing ghosts, real people dancing in second-story windows, pumpkin carving that deserves its own gallery in the museum, a live band at the end of the street and more. So fun to show the Interns and out-of-town friends San Francisco at its best. One commented:

“It’s like Disneyland— without the long lines, expensive tickets and corporate sponsorship!”

Yes, indeed. It is homegrown fun and frivolity for no other reason than to have a rollicking good time, be a bit zany and crazy, try on someone or something else’s persona for one wild night. That’s the San Francisco way, a city built by folks discontent with the stories they were handed down, the just a bit-too-settled lives they were expected to inherit, folks who felt a wanderlust and followed Horace Greeley’s advice, “Go west.” They came to the edge of the continent and the edge of their comfortable psychic landscape and kept reaching, pushing out the borders of the imagination and willing to hang out with their demons and monsters, their fool-selves and circus acrobats, their jazz improvisations outside the chords and their poems breaking free of conventional meters. They walked the tightrope of excess, swung from the rafters of play, pushed out the forms where love might live. One ongoing Halloween night.

But in the big picture, there is safety in playing the full range of characters available to us precisely because it is play. The mask will come off the next day and we get to choose when to put it on again. It is safe because we are playing with fake light sabers instead of real assault weapons. We are roaring like demons just for fun instead of seriously ranting like demons to get elected. We are making light shows with explosive music instead of stockpiling megaton weapons and entering the theater of war. The danger comes from those who refuse the play of life, who accept the mask pushed onto their face by those who hate, who never wholly met their angel and were left with nothing but their devil. Behind their mask is the frightened or wounded or bullied or bullying little boy or girl and they hold on tight to the edges for fear that the true revelation of their character would kill them. And it would—kill their inauthentic selves, that is. I believe something truer would grow from the courageous act of being unmasked.

Like so many, each of the next eight days will find me shaking with fear that the masked bandits might win, the ones who can’t tell the difference between the mask and the true face. I will have to talk myself down from the ledge, keep faith in the true lightness of play amidst the heavy consequences of our future at stake.

But meanwhile, I sure had a helluva good time going up and down the street on a San Francisco Halloween Night.

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