“Mardi Gras is the love of life. It is the harmonic convergence of our food, our music, our creativity, our eccentricity, our neighborhoods, and our joy of living. All at once.”
Chris Rose (1 Dead in Attic: Post Katrina Stories)
I have a confession to make—I have never been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. There, I've said it. Practically blasphemy for a true-blooded Southerner to admit. Mardi Gras, New Orleans style, has always been a spectacle of giant proportions that I could not wrap my head around. Why on earth would perfectly healthy men and women dress up in outrageous garbs and parade around drunk as skunks, flashing their parts, and flinging beads and candy into the air? What is that all about?
My decision as an outsider is that Mardi Gras is the Dionysus-moment in a country otherwise caught in the vice grip of social appropriateness. For that one night, the Big Easy demonstrates the out of control Id that hides in all of us. In Jungian terms, the Shadow comes out to play. On Fat Tues you can be every skanky, nasty thing you've ever secretly dreamed of being; you can eat as much as you can stuff in, and drink until you drop. You can paint your body red, and dance naked in the street. And you can do all that without judgment, because the very next day, you will go back to your ordinary life, fit yourself back into the socially appropriate box, and go have ashes swiped on your forehead to atone.
Of course, there are less debauched ways of letting the Id out to play, but New Orleans does not mess around with NICE ideas. They just blow it all out at once. Our Shadow does need to be brought into life, however, or it wreaks havoc at inconvenient and inappropriate times. It gets us into affairs, addictions, and other behaviors difficult to extract ourselves from, and can be excessively destructive to an orderly life. Think about the god Pan here—that hairy, randy, half-man, half goat, from Greek mythology, who went about the countryside grunting and rutting with nymphs and humans alike. He disgusts us, and yet we all recognize that somewhere inside us there's a Pan. He represents the robust, lusty side of our Shadow, the part we do everything in our power to keep contained. Pan has his day on Fat Tuesday.
Here's the moral of this story: It's a good idea now and then to allow our Dionysian side to hold forth with party and celebration. After all, he is the god of the joy of life. Somehow, a pancake supper at church just doesn't get to that deep and juicy place, but for some of us it has to suffice. I hope your Fat Tuesday celebration is a joyous one with no long-term consequences.
In the Spirit,