This is my favorite time of year, Fall…Autumn. The air is crisp, the temperatures moderate, the evenings cool, but not yet downright cold…at least not in the Mid-Atlantic region, where I’ve lived much of my life.
It’s also a Season for reflection – the leaves are turning colors, some of the early ones, already falling, Summer’s youth is fading – it’s Fall!
For kids, it’s a time to revel in the macabre. The macabre has always had a greater appeal for children, probably because the macabre doesn’t represent anything to the very young, it’s still just a feint notion to them. It doesn’t remind them of things like mortality, the fleeting finiteness of life, the “Autumn of your existence.” Those things seem so distant and isolated from youth, and they should be. That, as much as anything, is probably the reason most kids love Halloween more than any other Holiday.
The older you get, the less appealing the macabre seems, just as Halloween’s appeal fades over time. Maybe it’s that older people don’t need to be reminded that the Winter of their existence is coming on fast, they don’t have as much of a fascination with the finite and probably even less so with the macabre.
Still, it’s a great Season – a Season for reflection, a Season for atonement…and a somewhat literary season, as well.
Lately, I’ve come back to re-reading the works of some 19th Century writers, like Ambrose Bierce and George Ade.
Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary is as amusing as Ade’s fables of the common man.
Bierce’s definitions can be poignant, “ABILITY, n. The natural equipment to accomplish some small part of the meaner ambitions distinguishing able men from dead ones. In the last analysis ability is commonly found to consist mainly in a high degree of solemnity. Perhaps, however, this impressive quality is rightly appraised; it is no easy task to be solemn,” and they can be pointed, “ABORIGINIES, n. Persons of little worth found cumbering the soil of a newly discovered country. They soon cease to cumber; they fertilize” or “CLERGYMAN, n. A man who undertakes the management of our spiritual affairs as a method of bettering HIS temporal ones.” Robert Ingersoll appeared to agree with Ambrose Bierce on the mendacity of preachers, as he said, “Ministers say that they teach charity. This is natural. They live on alms. All beggars teach that others should give.”
George Ade also had a pretty humorous outlook on things, “A friend who is near and dear may in time become as useless as a relative,” or “Early to bed and early to rise is a bad rule for anyone who wishes to become acquainted with our most prominent and influential people.” And his fables had titles that pretty much told the tale; The Fable of the Visitor Who Got a Lot for Three Dollars, The Fable of the New York Person Who Gave the Stage Fright to Fostoria, Ohio and The Fable of the Martyr Who Liked the Job.
As much as I like Ade’s fables, Ambrose Bierce’s An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge was a favorite story of mine as a kid and in some ways it still is because it doesn’t have one of those soap-commercial kind of happy endings. In the end (well, actually, almost at the very start) Peyton Farquhar is hung and killed. Today, it seems an almost unwritten rule that, “the good guy can’t die and the bad guy always has to die.” Even Tony Montana had to die at the end of Scarface.
It’s living proof of just how quaint things were back when Ambrose Bierce wrote, as you could still tell a story the way such stories might generally play out. Sometimes the good guy fails.
But Autumn is a wonderful Season, moderating Summer and warning of impending Winter, it’s a tribute to the tenuousness of life in all its earthy tones. That’s probably the source of so much self-reflection…maybe.
In some rare instances, the macabre rumblings of Autumn even make their way onto the glad tidings of Christmas, as they do in Charles Dickens Christmas ghost story, A Christmas Carol.
The Seasons do a fair job of following life, or vice versa, as age tends to bring on reflection and then disposal – you might have noticed that April isn’t nearly so generous as December. That’s by design, by the way. Spring and Summer are NOT the times for disposing, they’re the times for gathering (earning) and building, reflection, like regret comes later.
And speaking of commercialization (I was, just a little bit above), it’s one of the oddities of contemporary life that so many of us feel compelled to continually deride one of the very pillars of this post-modern life – commercialism.
One of the BEST things about our existing global Corporatist economy is that virtually EVERYTHING is packaged, often re-packaged and up for sale. You can even find classic old time radio broadcasts, everything from old Superman broadcasts to some of the earliest radio talkers, people like Bob & Ray and the great Jean Shepherd.
The great commercialization of Corporatism has bequeathed post-modern man that “sensual pragmatism” most post-moderns have drifted off to, what Jean Shepherd referred to as “A Stanislavski “Method Living,” where we tend to just “go with it,” even if the “it,” isn’t working.”
The irony is that it’s often the most “emotional thinkers,” the over-emoters among us who seem to most revile the over-emotional emphasis of post-modern, hyper-commercialized living. The dictum of today might well be, “Be skeptical of your mind, always go with your emotions,” which is why we’ve become predominantly emotional people, not logical people and since we’ve negated so much of the intellect within us, we’re left having to trust to our emotions, which so often prove highly unreliable.
That’s probably the reason that so many of us are forever searching – self-help books fly off the shelves, Zen, Tai Chi, the I-Ching are so popular among western searchers, because most of us have no inherent philosophy, hell, most of us don’t even have a single, real conclusion arrived at on our own about…ANYTHING.
That’s almost certainly why even science has been turned into a cheap cult now-a-days, no doubt by well-meaning people, but it’s odd (isn’t it) that so many of the very SAME people seemingly aware enough NOT to place their faith in religious dogma they can see no proof of, are more than willing to accept (on FAITH) scientific dictums without any proof, purely on the word of those declared “scientists.”
It doesn’t matter, nor does it seem to occur to them that today’s “science” is often devoid of “free inquiry,” because it’s controlled by Corporations, even (perhaps especially) when financed by the governments that are financed by those very same Corporations…perhaps that’s the saddest thing, the “educated man without the common sense to see government IS exactly what Clarence Darrow said it was – “The tool by which the strong/rich despoil the weak/poor,” and that it CAN’T be anything else! How can it, any more than a shoe can “become” a glove?
So who knows, maybe this proves that we are surely in the Autumn of mankind’s existence?
That’s hard to figure. As usual, there are just too many variables left unaccounted for, too many “unknowns.” STILL, you’d think (perhaps “hope” is a better word) that “something’s gotta give,” as it seems inconceivable that we can keep the current Ponzi Scheme going all that much longer, though I think we can be counted on to keep on trying to do just that, making inevitable that the ONLY way we’ll ever accept a shift from the paradigm of now is through cataclysm, or at least, something closely approximating it.