We're already talking about Dia de los Muertos at work, kicking around the idea of setting up a display with all our cool celebratory skulls and paper cutouts and masks and all. I think it's great to bring our patrons into that very sacred and yet very public celebration. It's important not only for cross cultural purposes, but to help those that are afraid of, for whatever reason, the Halloween/All Souls/All Saints Day festivals to live alittle, celebrate life for the moment and celebrate the lives of those people that came before them.
I still remember the night being alive with the scent of five foot josh sticks when I was day tripping in Singapore years ago. My ship pulled in during the Hungry Ghost Festival and the world was alive with the spirits of the dead. I know that when I put up an altar in my home for All Souls Day that I feel the house become alittle bit more alive with the ghosts of my parents and abuelos and all the wild Mexicans and border crossing Indians and Southern fools out of my past. The house becomes damn near crowded with the drunkenwhoops and etheral nortenos and wails of remorse. But I like it that way. Fill my life with meaning, show me the way through your mistakes, your joys, your discontents, your pleasures. Let me show you a good time, don't let that enchilada plate go cold, don't let that Budwieser get too warm. Eat, while I spin big band and CCR and mariachi and burn incense and candles and the midnight hour in your memory.
So I read with interest the last chapter of The Things They Carried. It was a paean the dead, a remembrance, a love letter. It was a moment of celebration, celebrating love and life and loss. Unless those who came before us were monsters and without a shread of redemptive qualities about them, how can it not be a bittersweet moment when we set up those photos and candles and momentos? Those things are as important, but not as important as the stories we tell about our people, for without the stories, without having someone to pass the stories down to, those photographs become as meaningless as tombstones in an abandoned graveyard. Someone stumbling on those photographs someday might ask "Who those people? What ever became of them? What kinds of lives did they lead? Were they good? Kind? Wicked? Or were they alittle bit of all of that?"
Tim O'Brien put stories about the dead this way:
"But this too is true: stories can save us....in a story, which is a kind of dreaming, the dead sometimes smile and sit up and return to the world....The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way the memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head. There is the illusion of aliveness" from The Things They Carried
I am ready once again for October to come, to celebrate my people. In the meantime I want to do something even more important, and that is I want to celebrate life.
As Tim O'Brien and his comrades would say, there it is.