The Attack on Beauty: Halloween And Humanity’s Inner Dissonace

This particular year, my daughter has been rather vocal about the impact of Halloween decoration she sees all around us.

She’s young and understandably narrates most of her day, what she’s seen, what she’s done. But the manner in which she carries on about witches, glowing red eyes, and all the particularly dark ornamentation comes across as being grossly perturbed. Even at a fall festival kids costume party my family saw a child, not even a teenager, dressed in a some pop culture killer costume that neither of us could identify but nonetheless unmistakably knew belonged to the slasher genre. My wife and I reassure her that the decoration is just that and not real, that these things cannot harm her. Nonetheless, it’s given me pause this year to wonder about American fascination for everything gruesome and evil.

Why the devils? Why the witches? Why the serial killers?

The temptation to call all these figures and manifestations as meaningless is unsatisfactory. These fascinations are remarkable and noteworthy, and beg for some analysis much as a dream or pathological behavior would require analysis from psychotherapy.

Another temptation would write off our celebration of Halloween as humanity’s outlet for death. Still, I think this is inadequate. While the Latin American celebration of Day of the Dead, as far as I can see, provides some cultural merit and de-sterilizes a culture on the stigma of death while reminding families to pray for their loved ones. It may be in part true that America attempts to get over its hang up on the uncomfortable idea of death through our morbid scenes and costumes–such cases have been made why the zombie genre was so popular in our country for so long. Still, it doesn’t account for the aforementioned costumes and figures of Halloween that are deeply satanic.

We don’t seem to be portraying monsters and demons in a cautionary or benign manner. We seem to be glorifying them, out terrifying one another by conceiving of more horrific figures. Halloween is not some lived out ritual wherein a repulsive krampus is brought out to scare the population just before St. Nicholas comes in to defeat the evil. No. Rather, it is a procession of evil without good, a long minor chord without any resolve. It’s the terrible horror movie where all the main characters die, the monster wins, and somehow we are ok with this.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have dark taste. I see value in books and movies that capture humanity’s capacity for evil. I listen to music that speaks about pain and sorrow. I am not one to sterilize all media and myth to be only bright and happy fairy tales. Ancient cultures, including those from our own Western myths, have not relented to speak about abusive gods and horrific monsters. Even Holy Scripture does not withhold painful details of humanity’s dark heart and the gore that we can conceive of. Dark media–just like all media–has its place so long as it is purposeful.

But glorifying the dark or the evil just for the sake of it isn’t purposeful. That’s just patronage.

What I have gathered about this glorification of evil is an unaligned attempt to convey one’s own inner dissonance. We prop up these figures beyond the margin of society, perhaps, because some of us feel ourselves on the margin of society. Perhaps we have a personal disconnection from our own family. Perhaps we couldn’t find our healthy niche in school. An inner exile occurs while still living within our communities. With that, we convey our own inner dissonance through an acting out, through the portrayal of the figures cast off into he margins: expelled demons, witches left to live in the wilderness, etc.

I believe most of this to be attention seeking behavior, an acting out as an attempt to address the unacknowledged pain of disenfranchisement and loneliness.

It is perhaps equally true–or even more true–that none of us have been shown or conveyed true beauty by our closest confidants and therefore we reach for the low-hanging fruit of shock, ugliness, and darkness. Let’s be honest, walking through America’s oldest and greatest cities is nothing like walking through the oldest and greatest cities of Europe. Our architecture is bland and sterile, and our iconoclastic roots of puritanism meant that America’s inception came without a great deal of beauty or art. While our country did have the foundations of Scripture as its rudder and moral compass, I believe we are seeing centuries later the consequence of the sterility that comes from a solo-Scriptura tradition that endeavors little to create, to convey beauty in new and wholesome ways. As a side note, perhaps it is only too ironic that the celebrated Reformation Day should fall on a day that has ached for art and beauty.

This is not a call to action to stop dressing up for Halloween, and stopping all together–even sheltering–I don’t think addresses our country’s real need.

Instead, I believe the answer to this malady comes from noticing those of us who are on the margins and showing them something beautiful. This could be literal in sharing with them a truly beautiful composition of music or piece of art or story. But the beauty could be just as simple as one’s own kindness and curiosity of their life. Perhaps the easiest answer of this is–in borrowing from Fr Josiah Trenham–the adopting of the beautiful life, the transformed life of truly lived and imitated Christianity that is unmistakably beautiful and bright. And within that Christianity, we ourselves have to understand what is beautiful, what we can adore and share. Yes Scripture is beautiful, and God gives us more than Scripture to rejoice about, to celebrate as beautiful: iconography, architecture, hymnography, the lies of saints, and so much more.

Let us take a moment this Halloween to recognize the catalysts of this mania, to analyze this sick hunger for the darkness. Let us stare in the face of our own sterility and mediocrity, and let us be intentional in both prayer and compassion for those around us who are on the margins that they do not adopt monsters on the margins as their heroes to celebrate.

Let us behold beauty. Let us adopt beauty. Let us be changed by it. Let us infuse it in all we do and recreate it in our works and in our living.

Happy Eve of All Saints.

The Attack On Beauty: Aristotle vs Gen Z

Perhaps the greatest contribution Aristotle left behind for Western Civilization was the idea and hierarchy of the three trancedentals: beauty, goodness, and truth.

These three transcendental ALL have to do with ethics and how an individual and society ought to conduct themselves even though it may seem only one of the transcendental (goodness) has anything to do with ethics. We often overemphasize goodness over the other two, when goodness is only the 2nd-step in these three principles and exists poorly in isolation from the other two transcendentals.

Our very legally based and now justice-oriented Western Society concerns itself almost solely on the transcendental of goodness. Worse yet, post modern thinking has diminished the value and even existence of the other transcendental, claiming everything is subjective to the observer. No longer is it widely accepted that there are objective standards of beauty or truth, but rather the proper standard is defined by the perspective and narrative of the individual.

But for now, let us focus on goodness and beauty and the need their necessary relationship to one another.

But seriously. Why soup?

Recently, two climate change activists vandalized Van Gogh’s painting.

The motivation for their actions was clearly out of their own perception of the transcendental of goodness, perceiving this act of iconoclasm as a step towards justice, specifically, to raise awareness of the injustice upon the environment. The act runs along the same vein as the tearing down of statues of unseemly historical figures, the vandalism of corrupt institutional buildings, etc.

Lenin, we are coming for you next!

Idol smashing and iconoclasm are close cousins of which even Christianity is quite familiar with when it considers the hundreds of accounts of saints destroying pagan monuments and totems which today we might even call “art”. The destruction of “art” has been used for centuries as an act of justice, of obliterating a perceived evil item, all its affiliations, and the proving of that item’s powerlessness before good.

But Van Gogh wasn’t a petrol mogul, wasn’t a climate change denier. His sunflowers painting wasn’t at all a threat to the health of the earth…in fact it only brought out the earth’s beauty.

Was the act of these Gen Z activists meant to serve an ironic point? Did they vandalize an oil painting to make a commentary on our oil production today? Was their vandalizing of the image of the sunflower a reenactment of humanity’s assault on nature? I don’t care to know the reason, and neither should you.

At the root of this act is not true goodness, but human neuroticism. The activists’ vandalism of an innocuous painter’s harmless painting to an unrelated cause is no more sophisticated than my toddler throwing her toy up against the wall because she wants attention and is struggling to find an appropriate means of addressing such a need. The message screaming in my face at this is not of injustice or peril of a dying world, but of attention-starved youths who are living out unmet needs of their past by gaining their 5-minutes of fame on every news site. (They’ll be forgotten in no time, trust me. The rest of you have probably already moved on.)

But to the activist who sees some value in this iconoclasm (or any iconoclasm), I believe there is more work to be done. You see, one does not earn disciples in one’s own cause by raging against what must be destroyed. You all have been working out of a void, unable to tell yourselves or each other what’s actually beautiful. These actions, therefore, reflect to the rest of the world more of childhood unmet needs rather than any actually communicated utopia or transcendental to work towards.

The movement will die because it’s unmarried to truth and unconcerned with beauty.

St Blaise smashing idols in an icon

Take it from a disciple of idol smashing. Christianity has been breaking stone, wood, and even written word for centuries and has not stopped. It’s unabashed in its dismantling of pagan religion and the way that that religion has informed babylonian-esque societies. Even during times of persecution, the saints and martyrs destroyed pagan art but not out of petulance or even a social cause. It did so knowing it had a beautiful image that stood triumphant to all other art, a wisdom to shame all other wisdoms. Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word/Logos of God.

Activists, where is your beauty? Perhaps you assault art because you have nothing beautiful to celebrate, because you deep down know you’ve espoused yourselves to a subjective one. Therefore, there is nothing eternal, nothing deeply moving that you can carry in your pocket, to display on the wall of your home, to close your eyes and reflect on in your heart. You attack beauty because, like Cain, you feel insecure not having it.

There is more work to be done, activists, and I don’t mean that by more iconoclasm. You can try all you want, you can even try to attack the beauty of the most proactive idol smashers in history (the Church) but one glimpse of history will see that such unsuccessful attempts of iconoclasm will leave your movement buried in history while the Church continually elevates our beautiful images.

There’s more work to be done, specifically that each and every one of you reconciles that you are on a boat without a rudder, nothing to hold your own course. Each one of you is your own arbiter of beauty and truth, and therefore, surely, your movement will run ashore or sink suddenly. Admit the subconscious religion that you elevate, the invisible gods that you pay tribute to and kneel before. You’d have a fighting chance to look more sophisticated than a child in tantrum and leave an imprint upon the world if you actually had some aim, an image ready to replace the things you burn and vandalize.

Activists, none of you are martyrs, none of you are saints, not even in your own religion that you find it impossible to define. Your actions are not lasting, because you have no beauty to leave behind, no real truth to tell. You are amiss to both.

Go back to the drawing board, and before you have your next fuss, stop yourself and ask what you actually believe in, what you actually believe to be beautiful or true.

I’ll be waiting once you’ve come back from the drawing board, eager to hear what you come up with.

Resculpting the Heroine – Retaking Femininity

If you did a google search of “female protagonist” what do you think among the first images would be? What female characters are representing the entire scope of heroines? What are the in common traits that agree with triumphant femininity? 

Before you go searching, write down your thoughts first. Who is the first person you think of when you think female protagonist or heroine? What traits make them heroic or a great character?

Ok, now go search. What do you find? Does it match your view of heroine, of protagonist? Why or why not?

Give some serious consideration to that just for a moment before reading any further. What makes a good heroine? What separates them from other female characters or even from male characters? And where are your views on this formed?

What Seperates Heroes from Heroines?

Let’s start with the biological divide on this one. There are real physical differences between men and women that go deeper than genitalia. One you might be less familiar with is how women tend to have a better eye for color than men, while men tend to have an easier time with depth perception and distance. This is just one of many biological differences, and it’s a valuable one to bring up not only because it highlights the subtle differences in men and women, but it also harkens to the sociological narrative of hunter-gatherer societies. Men hunted in society, and they needed to have range and focus for this. Alternatively, in the hunter-gatherer society, women gathered and tended to things at home and could spot ripeness in fruit among many other feats.

While there’s bound to be exceptions to these “rules” (for example you can  find some women who shoot better than men, or men who do have a refined eye for color) the patterns we see warrant our attention of the differences between men and women.

But what difference does any of that make to our discussion of hero and heroine?

I believe there’s a reason why we separate hero and heroine into different categories, and that reason includes but also goes beyond biological sex…or at least it ought to.

Gender Swap and Sexualization

In the screenshot of my google search, you’ll see that Tomb Raider is featured at least three times. Despite your feelings on the Tomb Raider games, it’s hard to dispute that Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider franchise is heavily inspired by everyone’s favorite Trilogy: Indiana Jones. Both are action-packed protagonists with smarts and strength, battling rival archaeologists and even supernatural/esoteric foes. Uncharted is another honorable mention here as being a spiritual successor to Indiana Jones, but its story focuses on a male lead.

The problem lies not in the adaptation of Indiana Jones into a video game franchise, but the execution of this hero building. What we all know from the Tomb Raider franchise (movies and video games) is that it’s Indiana Jones premise with sex appeal. That might seem like an unfair caricature, but we all know the memes, “artistic” choices, and even promotional arts that set on this franchise early, solidifying it as a female lead meant to be oggled.

Though Lara Croft is a champion heroine of the video game world, her inception can be reduced to two mechanisms: gender swap & sex appeal. Neither of those character creation mechanisms are new to you and I, and if we think critically about each, we’ll find that these are rather lazy techniques for chracter construction.

Take gender swaps. The 2016 Ghostbusters is perhaps the best worst example of this. The movie invested solely on the premise that we’d get the same fun premise but with a female cast that loosely alluded to the original cast. But this wasn’t sufficient for the greater audience. Why? Because great films are not solely written on the “what if we switched this sole detail” instead of composing a new fresh story and premise. Perhaps the only accomplishment of modern cinema in effectually using gender-swap was in the Loki series, though I’d argue the payoff of the female Loki only came through in the romance that Loki has for himself (symbolically the pinnacle of narcissism, which this character embodies).

As for sex appeal, I imagine a minority disagrees with me that dressing a character by way of sex appeal is a lazy and crass means of attracting an audience. That same minority either is begging like a hungry dog for the softcore pornography that Hollywood delivers to us, or lives in a twisted reality where sex appeal equals power. Let’s look at Emilia Clarke’s character, Daenerys, from the screenshot. While Daenerys has this very dramatic reversal of power–literally being used as a sex pawn before becoming a powerful mother of dragons–I ask the audience to consider if some of what is loved about Daenerys is the explicit content that was used to sell her character. We are bombarded with nudity of this character from season one, and while some might argue that this was to sell her humble and powerless state (after all, she’s used by everyone in the beginning), I would also argue the audience has been sold to see her as a sex object through and through (not unlike the other characters in the story).

A caveat I’ll make here is that writing a sexualized character in order to provoke an appetite of the audience has a subtle difference than writing a character that is sexualized by others or uses sex appeal. Sexualizing a character (without loaded, explicit, or pornographic means) has less to do about illiciting a base response from the audience, and more to do with telling a story of the character. If a character does use their appearance or seduction to get what they want, then this is storytelling. If a director/author takes off a character’s clothes for the audiences’ pleasure, they’re trying to seduce the audience with little finesse and dignity.

Prudish as some of this criticism may begin sounding, my intention is to shake us all and keep hammering a question I think we’ve grown indifferent towards: what makes a heroine different than a hero?

A Different Fitting Spandex

Wonder Woman is a commonly championed heroine of womanhood represented in the realm of comic crime fighters, and for good reason. Wonder Woman is not easily made into a male counterpart, nor was her inception a knock-off of another character. For starters, she is Amazonian, belonging to a real Greek myth of a sole female warrior society (a myth that is worth its own lengthy discourse).

She is also the first woman of the Justice League, though her roster within the team never seems like a compelled insertion, but more of an intentional addition that adds to the story and inter-character dynamic. At times she takes the role of a “queen” in the Justice League or fits a romantic storyline (based on which storyline you follow with whichever justice league member falls in love with her). But more than that, her contribution as the heroine to the team often comes across as a gentle confidant, a caretaker, a sort of matronly role of a nursing mother figure. While she fights with just as much ferocity as her male counterparts she is distinct in her femininity, not merely a gender swap or soley an insertion for sex appeal. She provides something unique as a heroine.

Compare that to Captain Marvel from the Marvel universe. This heroine is unabashedly Marvel’s brainchild of the ideal heroine. The music selection, the cast, all the elements of the Captain Marvel film underscore that this is Marvel’s chief feminine protagonist, a symbol of triumphant womanhood. Though Captain Marvel’s characterization doesn’t seem to provide something unique to the Avengers films or even in her standalone film. She is a superman like figure with a spunky and even flippant attitude. Perhaps her character is meant to portray the possibility of, “what if Superman was a woman” which is a prompt that has potentiality. But what we see in her story is spunk and arrogance without a message. Tony Stark’s insolence is comical and gets him in trouble, and Gamora’s head-strong personality also gets her into trouble while also being a personality that pairs very well with the rest of her cast. 

When Captain Marvel arrives to the “Justice Leage” of Marvel, the Avengers, she doesn’t provide anything unique as a heroine. Even if we were to say, “well, she’s the superman that has arrived to the Avengers” we still see a lot missing in her own narrative and personality that made Superman interesting (ie, being invincible and realizing his vulnerability through emotion, his struggle as an orphan and identity as a Kryptonian-Earthling, his struggle with rage, vengeance, and power, the list goes on…)

Even Black Widow provides more to the Avengers in terms of femininity, while also possessing the same spunk and attitude (although subdued by comparison to Captain Marvel). But Black Widow is interesting because she knows she is underestimated. Her sex appeal makes her seem powerless at first to Tony Stark and then to the Russian mob in Avengers, and then we see a reversal when she shows her finesse. Even her lacking of a superpower runs parallel to the trope that women are typically seen without strength; this underestimation provides her with an advantage as we see not only does her finesse make up for this lack of superpower, but she is able to extract information even from the trickster god Loki when she is thought of as weak.

Again, we sometimes think of heroines as beefy, muscular feminine counterparts without giving much thought to what femininity provides to a story or even a broader cast. These typified Amazonian females can work in a narrative and in a cast, but too often these stories and characters attempt to celebrate femininity without giving serious thought to what that femininity brings to the table and becomes integral with the plot and character dynamics.


The last point I’d like to close on with heroines is motherhood.

To continue on from Black Widow, we see a character robbed of motherhood. This is mentioned more than once in the Marvel universe of the Black Widow indoctrination, and it’s not an insignificant detail. The sterilization of these young women says a lot to the audience and provides a lot of narrative potentiality for the creators. For one, the sterilization of these young women speaks to a universal problem of abuse, of treating women like tools instead of as people. Instead of mothers, they become killers. Robbing them too of their motherhood also robs them a little of their womanhood, and this is typified with how little empathy we sometimes we see from the Black Widows. And we can’t forget about the component of grief and sense of trauma that Natasha faces, both of which compel her to remain in the life of “superhero” when she has a wish to get out and be normal; she feels she is a damaged good and without the potential to start a family shies away from settling down with the Hulk, perhaps even feeding into her desire to sacrifice herself for the soul stone.

Motherhood is a compelling force to create memorable and inspiring heroines as the distinct and unique experience of bearing, giving birth, and nurturing a child is a universal plight with its own obstacles to overcome. To look at the popular movie Encanto, Luisa is a compelling character who has an infinitely memorable song that has become a rally cry of all mothers; mothers know the struggle of bearing a great deal of burdens and pressures. But Luisa actually is emblematic of the strength of femininity, of the skill of multi-tasking typically attributed to feminine characteristics, as well as to an untapped strength when a mother feels threatened or distressed (ie, the all too famous image of the mother lifting a car off her child, supposedly the inception of the character Hulk).

Femininity and motherhood also showcase the heroine’s capacity of creativity and tenacity. I think this is especially well done in the new movie, “Shut-In”, which features a single mother who is locked in a closet and faced with the struggle of caring for her two children against this barrier, all the while attempting to protect her children from a predator. The mother from shut-in is a rich heroine who shows her flaws of impatience and even cynicism but overcomes her external obstacles through innovation while also conquering her inner demon of addiction through sheer determination. 

A similar movie that showcases motherhood–albeit not directly through a protagonist who is a mother–is the movie Run, Hide, Fight. A young teenage girl finds herself at school when a mass shooting begins to take place. In this movie, she not only is tasked to survive this harrowing circumstance through her father’s skills of survival (an ex-military hunter). This character endeavors to rally her fellow students to survive and even change the heart of one of these shooters. The elements of prophetess or console that are seen in the heroine and motherly archetype are exemplified in this character as she does not show her prowess in external combat, but shows her capacity of helping others with their inner combat as she compels those who cower to take up courage and those who callously oppress to also take courage against evil.

Give Us Our Mothers, Give us Our Heroines

I’m aware that highlighting the traits and heroines we have mentioned above leaves room for criticism of, “is your definition of femininity and heroine merely narrow?” 

To which I would respond, yes, thankfully it is.

Although we shirk from the word “categories” we must concede that our fields of study (both hard sciences and humanities) are filled with categories. Although dogs and cats share a lot in common, the two provide different things in the animal kingdom, with different traits, each within themselves a narrow definition that excludes the rest of the animal kingdom. This is not to say that man and woman are different species, but as soon as we speak of “masculinity and femininity” we must realize we are speaking in categories. The categories might seem confining, but they actually clarify and can even encourage.

This distinction of heroine versus hero is meant to provide some precision to this itch that society has for more female protagonists. With the gender-swap of many comic book heroes should come a deep reflection on what it means when we create these counterparts, what parts of femininity we are celebrating when we insert these female protagonists. If the motivation is to achieve a quota of feminine heroes, the outcome will most certainly be shallow. If it is meant for sex appeal, then I’d argue we haven’t created a heroine but rather have drawn a sex tool.

99% of male heroes exemplify muscle and confidence. I believe what this can positively provide a male population is to endeavor towards adopting a discipline that leads to strength and a wrestling of inner demons that gives way to a clear mind of leadership and certainty. We typically lose sight of what virtues the hulking trope of hero is attempting to show us, but with a bit of scrutiny we can discern what the externals of these heroes are teaching us in terms of worthy virtues to be pursued.

Likewise, our heroines should be conceived of with a similar intention. Any external or behavior we seen in our heroine ought to show something virtuous and worthy of pursuit. While it’s fair for women to set out on a pursuit of discipline and confidence, I would argue we shouldn’t stop there as we take into consideration of what opportunities and traits are unique to femininity. Heroines need not only be literal mothers, but the spiritual motherhood of counselor, confidant, and prophetess (a speaker of truth) I think is unique to the heroine archetype that we could endeavor to see more of.

Ultimately, let’s give some careful consideration to what our heroes and heroines are attempting to provide us. Throughout history, these protagonists have served to be cautionary tales of tragedy or emblematic figures of triumph. Let’s pay attention to where these heroes and heroines of our present-day lead each of us, what they inspire and celebrate, and how we can create fresh and unique heroines and heroes for today’s media.

What’s Your Why-Mission Statement, Vision Statement, Core Values of K. TRÄUMER

Painting from Jan Porcellis, Ships In A Storm

“What’s your why?”

A good business, a good church, any good organization or individual ought to put some thought into this question. And yet it’s not a question we are asked frequent enough. Subconsciously, we may have embedded in our minds and souls principles and some guide towards meaning. Yet, when asked, we may find ourselves inarticulate or perhaps even begin to question our own intention in what we do. Even worse, we may feel dread, feeling a purposelessness about our actions, our aim, our very being. A boat is built with purpose and the captain sets forth a destination, but for that it needs to know how to steer and also anchor at points.

When we think about our daily routine, we rarely confront the topic of purpose. By and large, we can go on without it on a daily basis. We don’t need to be told or reminded of the purpose or principle behind brushing our teeth, eating, going to work, doing recreational activities or hobbies, or fostering meaningful relationships. Even important milestones of our lives don’t seem to require an explanation of the purpose. Do we really need to ask why we go to school, why we settle down and get married, get a job, have children? The principle or goodness of these things seems obvious or at the very least assumed, and yet even each of these require a particular aim. 

We typically don’t engage with the question “why” on a daily basis or even on milestones that will totally shape our lives.

We need a “why”

Having worked with more than a handful of individuals who suffer from depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation, I’ve seen how purpose and meaning are particularly tender points of hurt in many of our lives. Some of us attribute no value to their life because there seems to be no intrinsic purpose to life itself. Some of us misplace value in a particular job or relationship, and when either of those things goes away then our entire life crumbles. After such traumas and losses such as death, sickness, divorce, unemployment, etc, we find ourselves in a place where we might be open to reevaluate ourselves, our aim, our perception of the world and of others.

That being said, it doesn’t require loss or some life altering phenomena to bring us to existential dread or feelings of aimlessness. We may feel a kind of listlessness or emptiness in what we do, a lack of satisfaction in our work, a feeling of discontent in our relationships. Ultimately we may wonder “where is my life going” or “what am I doing that is significant?” There is a hunger or thirst we feel for something that is more than checkboxes of basic human needs, and too often we ignore those feelings that crave for purpose.

These feelings–like any physical sensation–inform something of our condition: there is an unmet need. We all have a need for meaning, for significance, for purpose, for a proper “why”; I would argue this need goes deeper than hunger or even safety. Unfortunately, too often, we ignore that feeling, satiating it with a distraction rather than doing some hard but necessary contemplation. We can numb the feeling for only so long, because the constant distractions we chase will not abate the storms that we will inevitably face and need to brave. When we experience sickness, loss, societal unrest, or even smaller aggravants such as irksome leadership in our work, badgering peers in school or in the office, or the mundane bad day that we all inevitably encounter, we will experience a kind of fall or stumbling in our minds and our hearts. Only purpose, only a proper “why” will endure these things.

And so, the good news is that we can lay a foundation for ourselves that will cushion these blows.

We can find our why

There’s a lot of excitement about this process. In beginning to ask this question, we can start to tease out what is most important to us, and thereby uncover a part of our souls and identities. We can live with an invisible coat of arms, a banner that we can look up to for inspiration, reminding us that whatever temporary grievance we encounter can be overcome by the everlasting power of purpose. We can accomplish incredible things with an aim to live by, enkindling a flame to burn us towards contributing something to ourselves, to our neighbors, to reality itself. The list goes on…

And we shall find that not only will we have bettered our lives through this consideration and contemplation, but  we may compel others when they see us buy into our own why to also seek out purpose and perhaps borrow from our own.

Simon Sidek in his famous Ted Talk explores how great businesses have thrived and boomed by beginning not with their product, but by a vision, a dream for what the future could hold for themselves and for others. People buy our “why”, not our “what” or our product.

So I invite us all to this exciting endeavor, and participate with me in exploring the why…whether that why be for your own personal life, for your project, for your business, for your family, what have you.

Three Exercises in Purpose

What’s your Mission Statement–What do you aim to contribute or add to life? What can you provide that there is a known need for? What can you transform for the bettering of the world?

What’s your Vision Statement–What do you dream of yourself becoming? What does the ideal you/project look like year from no? What will things look like so that you know you met your goal and accomplished your mission? What reachable bar is set to foster growth and creativity, to deter against idleness and complacency?

What are your Core Values–What are the defining attributes that you measure yourself or your work by? What are the pillars that keep what you do in focus, like the lines and guard rails on a highway? What helps keep what you do centered and anchored? What are endeavors worth putting your 200% into?

I appreciate these guiding questions of “why” for a few reasons. The Mission Statement is a succinct “about me” so people know what you are about. The Vision Statement spurns us to growth, reminding us that a beautiful and transformed entity awaits before each of us, the finished carving of ourselves still buried within the marble! And lastly, the core values allow us to focus on a handful of important principles rather than attempting to touch on all things or reach out of our scope of practice.

Take some time and consider these questions not only for your own project or business, but for your own personal life and endeavors. Be sure to share these musings with a close confidant to see if what you’ve written makes sense to someone on the outside, to see if others will “buy into” what you are penning down.

I wish you well in this endeavor and humbly submit my own contribution to this website and my writings:

The Whys of K. Träumer:

Mission Statement: To make use of my God given talents, to enflesh fantasy and imagination with literature, and to inscribe images in my literature which provoke edifying contemplation of metaphysics, existentialism, and the human condition.

Vision Statement: To be a published name regarded for infusing creativity and faith with books spanning a variety of genres that entertain while inspiring consideration of important themes and topics.

Core Values: Faith / Imagination / Metanoia

A blessed voyage to us all as we establish and rediscover our aim.

Why Do We Wear Masks on Mardi Gras? Why Do We Wear Ash on Wednesday?

When you think of Mardi Gras, what do you think of?

A colorful parade of feathers and masks?
A decadent celebration of beads, drunkenness, and nudity?

An invitation of binging before one undergoes the rigors of Lent?

An opening ceremony to mark the holiest time of the year?

It had taken my late teenage years to realize Mardi Gras was an originally religious event. My knowledge of it was only through television and literature, of showy parades and crowded streets of anonymity and color as people wore masks, beads, feathers, and participated in a rather scant and drunken festivity, perhaps outrivaling any other secular or religious celebration.

The wearing of masks, however, was something I never really gave pause to. Just this week I had to look up its significance. The first answer that turned out as to why we wear masks in the public celebration of Mardi Gras is twofold: to liberate the wearer to feel free to a) celebrate without repercussion and b) to mingle with any member of society regardless of class, status, or renown.

Masks are barriers. The medical masks we all wear now are barriers for us against a virus. The festive masks, however, we wear are barriers to block out our identity, a protection of our character. But while barriers are used typically to prohibit and halt, it seems masks in Mardi Gras are used to tear down barriers.

Perhaps there are social and psychological barriers we face that prohibit us from doing what Mardi Gras encourages us to do. Perhaps we put up a barrier between us and our enemies–from another party, another demographic, another “social class”—because when we fail to see commonality between us and the other, fear becomes instilled by the sense of “otherness”. The barriers we put up for our own self-restraint are a bit more intuitive; we prohibit ourselves from shameful deeds to avoid the destruction of our character, to protect ourselves from gossip, from shame, from showing the vulnerability of our will and the penchants of our vices.

I think we should wear these masks…but with caution…

The world seems so much more divided than it ever was before. Differences in opinions seems to lead to violence, slander, passive aggressiveness, and character assasination. Our beliefs and our demographics seem to get in the way of co-dwelling in the same space, exchanging ideas, and finding what is common between us. Democrat or Republican, poor or rich, no matter the cultural background, we all have a mother and a father, we all bleed when injured, are created in the same image and likeness.

Perhaps the masks of Mardi Gras, for one day, attempt to remind us of those commonalities. I wager that if most of us who differ in opinions actually sat together and spoke about things that had nothing to do with ideology that we would find common interests, hobbies, even experiences. Perhaps we’ve both lost a loved one and can empathize in that pain. Perhaps we both secretly love collecting baseball cards, play board games, or have an affinity for music. There is, deep down, something that unites all of us despite our differences.

But the work is on us to find what we each have in common, and to center our views of each other on that.

Again, perhaps the masks of Mardi Gras can bring this out, to bring together two people who otherwise would never consensually share the same street or celebration together.

Conversely, we should be wise to the power of the masks we don. Mardi Gras, as mentioned before, is a license for binging, for wanton displays, for total drunkenness. There was a study once conducted of honesty/fairness and anonymity. It involved two people…someone with money, someone without. The person with money was told they did not have to but were encouraged to share the money they received at the beginning of the experiment. The other person was told they might receive something. The person with money never had to indicate how much they were given, but were encouraged to give half. But this experiment had one difference between groups: the givers of money who had their faces naked, and the givers of money who wore sunglasses. What the report found was that those who had the money and wore sunglasses felt they didn’t have to give half, that they could afford to give much less.

This experiment may only touch on how our integrity and fairness can waver when we are anonymous, though I imagine if higher principles such as these are at stake when we find ourselves only slightly masked–sunglassess–that principles such as sobriety, chastity, and being within our right minds are also at stake when we put on a mask. Such a case can be made when we look at our discourse of politics and beliefs online, how scathing we can be in the comment section of social media or online forums, whereas we find public discourse that is face-to-face either much civil or essentially non-existing. 

So these masks that we have put on and already taken off from Mardi Gras remain with us. We keep our facets of anonymity–a computer screen, an alias, or something as a pair of sunglasses–in order to protect us from our shame, no different than Adam and Eve’s crude coverings they made after coming to knowledge of good and evil. These masks are unhelpful, but perhaps we could use the proper application of the mask of Mardi Gras–as the great equalizer that fosters commonality and a humane disposition towards our neighbor–to get acquainted with the communal aspect of Mardi Gras, the collective festivity of fellow man with fellow man. Who knows, perhaps the masks we wear now in this pandemic could function to this end.

To close, I’d like to point out a kind of ironic symbolism that the day of Mardi Gras–a day of masks–is followed by a different marking over our face: that of ash. Ash Wednesday is another day that ideally unites all worlds and demographics together in a common observance. The application of ash to the face, however, is not a thing of anonymity, but rather a kind of blemish that makes us stand out, that pronounces us to something holy rather than guising us to do things that are shameful.

Just as it would be shameful to see a Jesus fish on a car that cuts off people on the highway with its driver swearing in road rage, so too it would be a shame to see anyone donning ash on their forehead engaging in shameful behavior. The mask of Mardi Gras revokes any sense of accountability through anonymity…the ash on our forehead heightens our accountability through the blemish. 

Further, the ash acts like a better more perfect mask than the ivory and feathered ones we see in Mardi Gras. The theatrical masks give voice and attention to its actors and the themes portrayed by its characters, and the ash gives volume to the deeds of the person who wears them. The mask invokes a character that the human is called to portray, and the ash on our forehead calls us to a nobler personality, one of sainthood, transcended above our own naked faces. The mask is placed upon the face of the deceased or molded to imitate their face, and so too the ash reminds us of our mortality, of our eventual disintegration into ash–lest we find ourselves incorrupt.

What mask have we put on that protects and enables us to be so vile, to turn a sober attention of something beautiful and joyous into a fleeting thrill, a shameful stupor. What masks do we put on that possess us like a shaman, imprisoning us to something lower than our own flesh?

But so too, what are the common facades or markings we all wear that unite us? What mask can we imagine over our enemy, reminding us that they are little different than ourselves, our nature, our plights? 

And what marks of accountability are we ready to place upon ourselves, and how long will we let them remain upon us before we let it flake away?

Blessed Lent to you all and Happy Harrowing…

Don’t Cancel Halloween-Memento Mori

Holidays are an interesting thing.

Beneath each holiday seems to be an ancient story, a significant piece of history, that we can eternally and mystically relive despite being years, decades, centuries away from said event. Though most holidays are celebrated around such significant historic/religious events, sometimes it seems holidays either evolved or became instituted to have a mandate of recalling one important theme. Yam Kippur emphasizes the need to repent, and New Years similarly incites in us a feeling of starting anew. Thanksgiving emphasizes the importance of gratitude, and Christmas carries with its joy of the Incarnation also the importance of charity. We could spend quite some time on the list, but it seems underneath each holiday, each story and event, is an important lesson for humanity.

Now, most of us are pragmatic and realize the difficulty it is to live out these holidays THROUGHOUT our lives. Afterall, we should be starting anew, grateful, charitable EVERY DAY instead of just one day of the year. Still, to celebrate, think on, celebrate, and prepare for that one particular holiday and its humanitarian component has its merit. Hopefully the season leading up to Christmas is filled with charity, and in that time that we embody the charity we get accustom to it and grow our capacity for it.

Now that leave us to wonder if there is in fact any merit to Halloween. I hear the concern of a more fundamentalist/traditional mindset that looks upon this Halloween and deeming it as evil and dangerous to celebrate, that the ignorant indulgence of Halloween plays a part in a celebration for something monstrous or demonic. It seems that the ancient institution of the holiday MAY have pagan origins, of a superstitious acknowledgement of the spiritual activity on that particular autumn night. One might even argue that we should cancel Halloween because it is a ritual towards evil, a kind of libation to dark forces in our celebration.

I would like for a moment to acknowledge the concern voiced above, while also offering an alternative way of viewing Halloween…

Devotion to Debauchery

Let’s be honest. Halloween does embody vice into its celebration. But I would argue no more vice than Mardi Gras.

First, let’s speak to the topic of indulgence.

Like most holidays, Halloween is a “feast”, a day of partaking in more of something than what we might on any other day. Mardi Gras and Thanksgiving tend to be feasts of gluttony of meats, especially Mardi Gras that begins right before the beginning of Western Lent. And most holidays, especially New Years and St. Patrick’s day, all seem to increase the partaking of alcohol within their festivity. While Jesus does seem to highlight that there ARE in fact occasions for celebration even with wine, I would still point out that the over-consumption of such vices that we have pointed out can be “demonic” as Halloween is accused of being.

On Halloween, our consumption typically is that for sweets, especially when we think of Trick Or Treat. Still, alcoholic consumption is not uncommon among young adults who put on lewd costume parties and drunkly celebrate shamelessly in anonymity.

Which brings me to my next point…

The anonymity of the masks we wear on this day as well as the permission to dress untraditionally–such as in a lewd manner–is another distraction of this holiday. I say distraction because when one thinks on the inception and traditional celebration of this holiday the garb of bad jokes, scant outfits, and all manner of base apparel on this day doesn’t seem to fit the dark overtones that Halloween traditionally convey. A simple google search for “Halloween Costumes” reveals the absurdity of dress that we endeavor towards, dressing as genitalia, as half-naked representations of literally any role/occupation you can think of, and the assortment of cheap-laugh get ups that warrant nothing more than a single chortle and glance.

Though I tend to be more traditional in my celebration of Halloween, I would argue that the aforementioned costumes are less appropriate than some of the most gorish, ghoulish costumes I see roaming the street, that of ghosts, monsters, and slasher villains. These former, gimmicky costumes are deviations of the holiday, so far removed from anything reminiscent of death or of the spirit world. But then again, would we not say the same for the scant and glimmering costumes/masks we wear during Mardi Gras?

I suppose the last “unhelpful” component of Halloween I find is when we go overboard in the direction of Halloween’s ethos. We have a weird relationship with death in Western civilization. We dress up death, making it look tidy and sterile in our funeral homes, even encouraging loved ones to NOT see the body of their loved ones in their natural state in the hospital. And yet, we glorify the gore and macabre nature of it with our plethora of zombie movies and the devilish costumes we conceive of for Halloween. Though I think the attention we ought to have for Halloween is in the right direction here, I think the celebration and careless basking within it only further alienates us from real death. Perhaps seeing the scores of brainless zombie husks destroyed before our eyes on TV helps us cope with the ugliness of a human body, helps us take the humanity out of the corpse before us.

But it begs the question…is that helpful?

Remembrance of Death

Death happens all the time all around us, but for most of us we don’t have professions or live in environments where that exposure is so frequent. Speaking with those in careers of public service–whether it be the police department, firefighters, or medical workers–often offers a unique perspective on life and how fragile a thing it is. But while encountering such danger and tragedy is not for all of us, I do believe the aknowledgement and remembrance of death is important for every single one of us, no matter our creed or our vocation.

I believe Halloween grants the opportunity of putting a wise old saying into practice: remember your death.

Most of us are blessed with a clean bill of health, blessed to have family and friends who are in good shape and expected to live long lives. Not all of us are so blessed, however. Some of us have experienced loss far too early in our lives, have experienced the bitterness of death from an unexpected onset of sickness or a sudden tragedy.

We too often take our life, our vitality, our health for granted, believing that we ourselves and our loved ones will have until our 70s+ to live. Still, none of us have a single guarantee that we will wake up the next day, will have a safe drive to or from work, or suddenly suffer some life-interrupting affliction or calamity.

Fearing the possibility of our departure–or the departure of our loved ones–isn’t necessarily healthy, but the constant acknowledgement of it will help us live differently in a more meaningful way. There is a gratitude and a sobriety in this kind of lifestyle, of finding value in even bad days when nothing seems to go our way, of treading carefully in what we eat, drink, and spend time in with the consideration that our choices could affect the years of our life. Precious commodities increase in value when there is a short supply of the thing that is traded, and so if we look at the very hours of our lie as an uncertain commodity that could suddenly run out in a year, month, week, or even a day, we will then have more prudence in how we spend that precious time.

Halloween reveals to us the grim truth of life, that death is coming for all of us. If we even forget to remember our death 364 days out of the year, only to remember once out of the year that we are all going to die someday (perhaps that every day) maybe we then can make a segment of our life “hallowed”.

day of the dead

The other important component to Halloween I believe is the attention we give to not merely death but to the other aspect of our lives that we too often forget: spirit. Halloween reminds us not only of our mortality, but of those who have tasted death, and some cultures have done this in an incredible manner.

Day of the Dead and All Saints Day place particular emphasis on the importance of remembering those who we have lost, giving us occasion to grieve, mourn, and reminisce. It also should give us a comfort that nobody is truly forgotten, that we are created with the intention of being remembered, of being eternal, of living in communion no matter the divisions that separate us from one another.

I believe that Halloween and Day of the Dead also pry us out of an inherited mode of thinking, of a materialistic mindset that dominates our every day life. Too often we only consider that which is in front of us, that which his tangible, paying mind to only that which seems immediately relevant and controllable.

But there is ancient wisdom in considering the flip side to the reality we experience, the reality of spirit. We are soul and body, and although we have a better understanding of the physical part of our nature and the nature around us, we ought to give some consideration to the ramifications of having a spiritual realm around us. The ghosts and ghouls we see everyone dressing up as should be a sobering reminder that just as powerful forces exist physically before us–both wild and machine–that wild forces also exist in spirit. Conversely, we should look at the good things of nature and consider that goodness also exists in spirit.

The issue is that we fail to address this spirit, in the sense of protecting ourselves from it and engaging in it in a healthy/responsible way.

The sight of such ethereal entities we dress ourselves as ought to give us at least one day out of the year to stop and consider the existence of this invisible realm, the distractions in our life that get in the way of our recognition of it, and the ramifications it has on our souls and our lives.

Hallow your eve

Thus, this Halloween, as you look up to see if Trick-or-Treat is cancelled due to the current pandemic, as you think twice before going to that Halloween party or what you might be for it, consider how your Halloween can be “Hallowed” by which I mean literally “set apart” (the actual definition of holy/hallow).

Consider how this day can be to you and those you love set apart from the other 365 days of the year.

Even for those of you who are leery of its celebration, who still see it is a demonic day, consider how you can “baptize” or “sanctify” this particular evening. Can we not for a moment consider how God invites us to remember our death, to contemplate on our mortal being, the importance of our very souls? As though this holiday were a pagan in need of saving, fully immerse it in sobriety and holiness, christening it with a new name, that we may train for a new awareness to our souls’ betterment.

Spend some time, be it only one hour, aknowledging your mortality, considering a bucket list of things you feel you ought to do, journaling a list of things you are grateful for, contemplating what changes you can make in your life considering this fragility of life.

Spend some time remembering those you’ve lost. Engage with them safely, not through occult practices but in a prayerful way, as though they can hear you, of how you miss them. Pray for them, journal to them, visit their gravesite. Macabre as this practice seems one might find this practice of relating to the dead cathartic and eye-opening to one’s own life.

Most of all, be safe this Hallows Eve and be responsible. Take the evening not in vain for cheap laughs or as an excuse for drunkenness or sex. All such pleasures are fleeting when we consider the finite hours, minutes, and seconds we have to live, that our memories, our obituaries, our legacies, our very souls will have nothing to gain from such pursuits. Let’s not cancel the purpose of the holiday with such exploits.

I bid you all a contemplative, sober, and safe Halloween, and hope we all can responsibly wrestle with the remembrance of death.

Garments of Skin-The First Halloween Masks Ever Worn

Halloween 2020 will be a unique year.

This whole year has been nothing but masks, of half-visible faces, from the Carona Virus to the protests and riots. It seems all anyone is wearing is masks. This kind of participation in anonymity used to only come twice a year: Halloween & Mardi Gras. It seems 2020 has been more of the former rather than the latter, a year-long season of horror and death instead of merriment.

The custom of wearing masks for Halloween seems to have come from the superstition that a mask could protect a mortal from being attacked by spirits. Halloween was regarded as a bewitched evening, a wide open portal much like 3:00 a.m. wherein the spirits would come out in full force. So patrons of this holiday would don the mask, perhaps feigning as spirits themselves in the hope of scaring off or dissuading any malicious entity from harming them.

In turn it seems the feast of Halloween is coupled for a remembrance of death. This may be in part due to the spiritual activity that we are keen of for this holiday’s pagan roots, or in part due to the actual “Hallow Day”, All Saints Day, wherein we remember reposed saints. Couple this with the feast of the “Day of the Dead”, moved from the summer time to the feast of “All Saints” after Catholocism baptized the holiday of remembrance.

Not much has changed this year. An unseen malicious force creeps about our world, and we have put on masks to protect ourselves. This year’s spirit of death roaming about seems to be the Carona Virus, and so we have put on our masks to abate its wispy grasp upon us and our loved ones. Perhaps the cloth masks we are all donning also serve as a reminder, the looming threat of death that could take anyone of us. Perhaps the thing we could reflect on from this pandemic is the important reminder that we remember our own death: Memento Mori.

Thinking of the relationship between protection, the remembrance of death, and masks got me thinking of the age old creation story: Adam & Eve.

Genesis-Nakedness, Image, likeness, and “playing god”

Adam & Eve were given pretty free reign in the garden, set with only one boundary: don’t eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Eve enters into dialog with a serpent that temtps her to try the fruit, assuring her she won’t die but that she will be like God. Eve tries it and then tempts Adam, and Adam partakes. The first thing they notice about themselves and each other is their nakedness, and so they create a covering for themselves of vegetation. God acknowledges their attempt of hiding from Him, and in the end we hear that He makes for them “garments of skin” to wear, and are cast out of the garden.

The two parts of the text I’m struck by in particular is the theme of hiding, of covering.

Let us consider the first revelation: nakedness.

We take this detail for granted, but if we stop and consider this to be Adam and Eve’s first revelation after eating/acquiring “knowledge of good and evil”, what would we assume the first thing to happen to Adam and Eve? Do you consider knowledge of good and evil at first to be an understanding of nakedness? Wouldn’t the concept of death be perhaps the first musing? Or of wealth? Wrath? Pride? Consider for a second what we might think to be the first natural thought or awakening for Adam and Eve after receiving this knowledge, and then consider, why would nakedness be the first musing?

Now, there is a risk here that our minds will go from the word nakedness to an immediate possible interpretation of “naughtiness”. Nakedness makes us think of sex, and so our assumption of “nakedness” being the first awareness is that Adam and Eve are introduced to a topic that would make them “lose their innocence”, that being sex. Possible, but I think it’s deeper than that.

Consider why we wear masks. We wear masks to protect ourselves. Why do we protect ourselves? Because we know we are vulnerable. We also happen to wear masks to pretend to be someone else, because being someone else might be more fun or have some utility. Consider the ancient Greeks who wore masks in drama to play a new part…do we not relish the opportunity of playing, for one day out of the year, the part of someone else? As a super hero or villain, as a character from a book or movie, as a monster? There’s something to be mined here…

I think the nakedness that Adam and Eve felt was no different than what we feel when we put on masks. We put on masks–even simple ones such as sunglassess–as a protection, whether it be to protect our bodies/health or to protect our identity, our emotional vulnerability, our identity, etc. Consider how popular sunglasses are among poker players, concealing the “tells” of their eyes, or consider the confidence that wearing these sunglasses has on our everyday lives. Adam & Eve at that moment understood how vulnerable they themselves were, and how vulnerable the other was. The understanding of this vulnerability, the fear and temptation to be abused or to abuse the other, is there.

And then consider the snake’s temptation, the notion that Adam & Eve will be like God. Perhaps we could think of the fruit of knowledge to be a mask that Adam & Eve put on, the cowl of Batman, the face of Guy Fawkes, an invitation to feel like an all-powerful arbiter of justice. The fruit is not a mask they put on, but the endeavor to “play god” is the invitation of any mask, or rather a mask is an invitation to “play _______” (whoever that mask might depict). Adam & Eve did not get to wear the mask of God, but they realized how naked their faces are, not being God.

I find the “irony” in this is that Adam & Eve were already made in His image and likeness, and so that affinity, that resemblance was already built into their frame.

So Adam and Eve build for themselves garments out of the vegetation. We can begin to wonder why or what they were trying to “play as” or protect themselves from. Did they attempt to then create for themselves a “mask of God” out of all this, to try and play His part, to feel His majesty? Did they do this protect their bodies knowing how fragile they were, protect their identities? Did they put on these leaves feeling the same way we might feel putting on a pair of sunglasses, feeling a bit more safter, reserved, shut off from all others?

The hiding under this vegetable garment and the subsequent hiding behind the trees of the garden is their attempt for power, for safety, for retaining/acquiring status. Before partaking in the fruit, Adam and Eve seemingly had no reason to hide, to protect themselves, to pretend. They were in safe communion with one another, with creation, walking freely with God.

Perhaps we might wonder, how the story might have ended if they did not attempt to hide so helplessly. What if, in the dissonance of their awareness of their nakedness, they chose to remain as they were, without any attempt to make up for their revealed vulnerability, shamelessly presentable in what they did?

Interestingly, God does not leave Adam and Eve in the state of their vegetable attire. God creates for them new garments, “garments of skin”. This is a curious saying with many interpretations. Was this garment of skin merely a warm leather, a protection for Adam and Eve, testifying of how they would not have to defend themselves, hide themselves, from the wild and treacherous beasts, to brave the cold world distant from God’s warmth? Was this garment of skin the “corruptible nature” Adam and Eve put on, their susceptibility to corruption, sickness, and death.

Whatever the case may be, humanity henceforth has a new identity, a new “face” or mask wearing this garment, and any new type of “clothing” would not be seen until the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, wherein St. Paul speaks of “putting on the garment of Christ”, more of a disposition and an invitation back into relationship, but something transformative nonetheless.

Our New Costumes

In the span of human history, garment has evolved. Whether it be the primitive loin-cloths worn in isolated tribes, or the formal attire you and I might wear for work or for some party, we clothe ourselves. This clothing in part is a civic agreement to cover our actual nakedness. It is is a protection from the elements. But consider every piece we put on, every clothing attire we chose. I remember my first time “dressing up” out in public made me feel confident, wearing a suit, tie, slacks, and dress shoes to feel rather empowering; I could feel a difference walking through a grocery store in this, and I noticed others noticing me differently than what I might consider to be “comfortable” clothing. Consider what we wear, or what little we wear, to attract attention to ourselves. While this might appear less protective and in-fact more inviting, I would argue that any scantness in our dress is still a protection, a shielding of our vulnerability of loneliness, of feeling unacknowledged, of self-esteem.

In this year of 2020, we are only wearing one more mask to our fully clothed bodies, one extra layer of protection to resolve our subconscious awareness of our vulnerability. On Halloween, on Mari Gras, or on any day we wear a pair of sunglasses, we will put on yet another layer, a guise pretending to be someone else than our normal, corruptible, vulnerable selves. We will put on a mask of confidence, of power, of anonymity, and we will consciously or unconsciosuly break through our inhabitions with these disguises, tied not down by our real selves, but armed with an agency to act out of character.

So what’s the moral behind all this?

My invitation for us all is to examine what masks–both overt and subconscious–we put on daily. Whether its the clothes we chose to wear, the glasses we need not for our faces, or even the smile or persona that doesn’t fit our inner self. Let us be aware of whatever guises we assume and ponder on what utility they serve, what strengths they offer, and most importantly what harm they can do.

And lastly, let us consider our vulnerability. We do not freely share ourselves to each other, perhaps for some good reason. And yet our subconscious awareness of our “nakedness” of our vulnerability needs to inform us how we do “good” or “evil”. How have we harmed one another out of our own vulnerability? How have we exploited each other’s vulnerabilities? How has our knowledge of our vulnerability inclined us towards goodness, and how does our knowledge of each other’s vulnerability incline us towards doing good?