What a chilling and sinister warning from Ray Bradbury…and a fitting one as we head into Halloween week. No matter how old I get, and perhaps this is true for some of you as well, as Halloween night approaches, the wind seems to whisper just a bit more, the clouds and tree branches take on strange shapes at sunset and as darkness falls, and the moon, regardless of the phase it’s in might glow just a bit more brightly. All too soon, the jack o lanterns will disappear from windows and doorsteps, replaced by the warm, welcoming glow of Christmas lights but for the next six days—the beauty of the outdoors takes on an orange tinted, spectral glow as we draw closer to All Hallow’s Eve.
Bradbury’s beautiful prose is taken from one of his most celebrated novels and the “Autumn People” he refers to are a band of supernatural traveling carnival workers, bent on collecting the souls of townspeople in one of those Any town, U.S. A. settings some American authors are so famous for. His Autumn People, led by Mr. Dark are physical presences within the town and for those who have read the novel, you know we wait until almost the final pages to see if good will triumph over the evil that has settled onto the town.
Sadly, while Bradbury can banish his creations at the end of his novel, the intangible hand of the these “autumn people” hovers over lives in many different ways. Not live, menacing monsters who lurk in quiet doorways, ready to provide a jump scare to children and adults, but rather the presence of all that we’d like to removed from our society- inequality, injustice, hatred, intolerance, discrimination, violence, disease, war and havoc—these are the autumn people that haunt our news headlines, our social media feeds, and at times may even touch our personal lives. Sowers of disharmony and discord, intent on causing chaos and calamity, we cannot always identify these specters when we are within their presence. And yet, as Bradbury says “they frenzy forth”, spilling their hate the world over and we well should “beware of them”.
Both in the novel and in our lives, the only way to overcome the dreaded presence of the Autumn People is with unity, happiness, peace and love. Perhaps it is no wonder that as our Halloween season comes to an end, it is followed by the season of thanks and giving, and the season of goodwill toward man. For we can, as a school community, as a state, as a country and as a world, rise against the tide of hatred and intolerance, whenever it washes ashore as long as we remember always two essential things:
There is more that unites us than divides us.
We are all created in the image and likeness of God.
Happy Halloween, 2020!