Costume Foolery

It’s nearly Halloween. Just one more day. God and I were talking about some of the traditions and we quickly moved on from trick or treating to other things. One thing that God said to me in particular was that humans like to be scared.

Let me clarify that a bit, because the English language has some truly awkward imprecisions. We don’t like the state of being scared but we like the act of being scared, the moment of being scared. We like the jolt of adrenaline or the rush of endorphins or whatever it is that the little drug dealers in all of us go pushing at the moment that fear hits us.

That’s what’s at the core of the success of horror movies and stories. But fear isn’t the only thing that can pump our chemicals. Stephen King has said that he’ll try and scare us but if he can’t work up a good scare he’ll settle for grossing us out. That’s a good observation, because grossing us out really is a sort of fear-lite. It’s fear one step removed. The things that gross us out tend to be things that can hurt us, but that do it slowly, stealthily. We’re scared by things that will rip our guts out and leave us for dead, but we’re grossed out by things that breed germs and harbor viruses, things that can infect us and make us sick.

But remember the story of the tortoise and the hare. The axe wielding murderer may make a better Halloween costume than dressing up as a virus, but the swine flu has already killed a lot more people than have been hacked apart by axes. And it’s just getting started.


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