Fright Night

One of the perks of running my own blog is I get to choose the topics I want to cover. This post is a prime example of punting to the short and sweet. I am knee deep in a client assignment and want to reserve time to watch the original “Halloween” with my son. And so, dear reader, you’ll have to take whatever treat I’m handing out.

That treat is the origin story of the Jack O’Lantern. Old Irish legend tells the story of an unpleasant old man named Stingy Jack, so named because he was always trying to play people to his own advantage. He invited the Devil into a bar one day for drinks, subsequently tricking Beelzebub into turning himself into a coin to avoid paying. Jack took the coin and put it in his pocket, leaving the tab unpaid. He eventually freed the Devil but only once he promised not to take his soul for one year. Each year, Jack and the Devil repeated this ruse until Jack’s eventual death. When Jack died, the Devil lived up to his promise. God, however, was not about to open Heaven to Jack, instead forcing him to wander eternity with a burning lump of coal to light his way. Jack placed the coal in a hollowed out turnip to use as a makeshift lamp. Jack’s Lantern, or the Jack O’Lantern, was born.

People all through Great Britain would carve scary faces into turnips, beets or rutabagas to keep the ghost of Stingy Jack at bay. The transition from root vegetable to pumpkin occurred when Irish and English immigrants made their way to the New World, taking advantage of North America’s abundant gourds.

But this story is not intended to be a history of Celtic traditions. It’s meant to impart a lesson. Stingy Jack’s dilemma was that he was too clever by half. His desire to play tricks brought him up against an enticing target, but one that ultimately did him in. That’s the thing about leaning into tricks instead of doing the diligence. At some point you’ll come up against someone, or something, you cannot fool.

In the modern world, we embrace the bold and the clever. We are easily impressed by what can trick us into doing or seeing things we didn’t think possible. But is being clever enough to manipulate really admirable? Or is it merely a precursor to having neither God nor the Devil want you in his home? If you can’t find one of them to take you in, where are you? You’ll be traveling the unenviable path of Stingy Jack, with nothing more than a lump of burning coal to illuminate what lies ahead.

Happy Halloween!



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