Halloween is big. Not as big here as in the States, but the hype around it grows year on year. It appeals to adults and children alike because it's a lot of fun. As humans, we have a weird fascination with being scared - all that screaming on the wildest roller coasters, peeking through our fingers at the scariest horror movies, indulging in extreme sports, gripping tightly to the person next to us on a tour of the Dungeons...it's like we want these pretend scenarios to teach us what we'd be like in a truly scary situation.
I find Halloween fascinating. Brought up in a Christian environment, I was never allowed to do Halloween and so I never really did it with my kids either. They felt they missed out big time - mainly for the sweets and fitting in with their friends, less so for the dressing up. But for me, the idea that this particular tradition grew out of a response to All Saints Day the next day is intriguing - it's the day all the creatures of the dark come out to wreak havoc before the Saints are celebrated the next day. It's a recognition that there is evil in the world - however we choose to personify it - but in the end, love and light are stronger than hate and darkness.
And so on Halloween, all the little witches and ghosts and spiders come out to play, and adults indulge the darker side of their artistic imagination as Harley Quinn and Cruella de Vil and Hannibal Lechter and Sweeney Todd. Tealights are lit inside carved pumpkins to scare the baddies away. It's a visual display of the battle between good and evil - and as we know from all the superhero films, good will always find a way to vanquish evil.
Because I have a tendency to overthink everything, this season of enacting scary scenarios leads me on to think about what is really scary in this world. Some people face real fear every single day - the fear of physical and emotional abuse, the fear of terminal illness, the fear of war and oppression, the fear of homelessness and poverty, the fear of being attacked on your way home from work after dark. There is a lot going on in the world that it is entirely right to be scared of.
I am fortunate enough to not have to face those kinds of fear in my life. I recognise that is an undeserved privilege. However, I do lie awake consumed by fear some nights. What terrifies me and keeps me awake at night is the future we are heading towards. For me, the scariest people in the world are the rich and powerful, who are so wrapped up in self interest that they are leading us towards an apocalyptic future.
"I am terrified for my granddaughters because of the climate crisis. I am terrified because we are getting closer and closer to the point where there will be nothing we can do to stop climate catastrophe. Crops will fail; vast areas of the earth will become uninhabitable; sea levels will rise. And then wars will break out and society as we know it will collapse. This is not a distant dystopian fiction. This is already becoming a reality for many people and other living beings across the world. It will be a reality for my granddaughters." From HELEN: WHY I AM A CLIMATE ACTIVIST
I wrote those words back in April and I have had no good reason to stop being terrified about these things. Even with COP26 on the horizon, I'm not holding out a lot of hope that the promises of world leaders will ever be any more than empty words. Promises and targets will not save us. Only immediate action can do that.
However, I do still cling to the hope that light will banish darkness, good will have the victory over evil and love will win. So I will keep shining a light on the truth of the climate emergency, whatever that looks like for me in the moment. And whatever scary situations I have to walk into.
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." ― Martin Luther King Jr.