Tuesday, October 31, 2006
As folklore would have it, the story unfolds like this...
There once was a farmer named Jack who was both very lazy and very quick-witted.
Now one day, the Devil came to Jack to tempt him, but Jack tricked the Devil into climbing a tree. The Devil was not able to climb down from the tree, and had to ask Jack for help. "On one condition," Jack replied, "That you not allow me into Hell upon my death." The Devil could not very well refuse, so he grudgingly agreed and Jack helped him down.
As folklore has it, eventually Jack died. Because of his lazy and bitter life, he went straight to hell, but the Devil kept his word, and would not let him in. Jack then traveled to Heaven, but he had been so bad during his life, he was not let in to Heaven either.
From that day forward, Jack was sentenced to wandering between Heaven and Hell. He proceeded to hollow out one of the turnips grown on his farm and made a lantern out of it. And to this day, he wanders the face of the earth trying to find somewhere he will be given refuge.
And most likely, he has found that place on your doorstep this season... for the long-standing tradition based on Jack's plight, is known as the Jack O' Lantern.
What an unfortunate soul this farmer Jack was. He secured his own personal loophole to stay out of the demise of Hell but did nothing substantial in his life to allow him even a chance at the treasures of Heaven. To a lesser extent, we may know an acquaintance or friend with a similar perspective of poor unfortunate farmer Jack. In fact, if we look at our own life - at least some period of it - we might find ourselves staring out at the world through pumpkin eyes.
To live a life where we spend the majority of our energy and day with the simple goal of avoiding any wrongdoing is likened to going out to a restaurant for the purpose of enjoying an "okay" meal. There must come a point when we proactively choose to cross over that invisible line; that line that divides a life of avoiding wrongdoing and a life of seeking justice and right-doing.
Halloween is a fun, creative and fantastical holiday, but it also stands as a poignant reminder of the choice that lies in front of us each day: to retreat to a life that simply follows the right-wrong tenets of a moral doctrine or to run headlong beyond those tenets, into a life that risks to love and to speak out and to support from a heart of compassion and justice. It calls for that continued step from the darkness into the light.
It is not much of a life if the goal is simply to avoid the demise of Hell. Rather than allowing that Light to shine within us and guide our pathway, we choose to pluck it out and haphazardly use to light our way in the form of a weakened lantern. Let us choose to live much more of a life actively seeking out and pursuing the treasures of Heaven. Run the Good race and use that Light inside to guide your way through a life of great and noble works. Down that pathway you will never need to spend your life searching for a warm refuge. There will always be one waiting for you.