Halloween is the perfect time to reflect on the strange new popularity of zombies and vampires. The early vampire movies depicted creepy old men sucking the blood of young women while they slept. They were a form of undead that had to sleep during the day to avoid the killing power of sunlight. But the new vampires are young and hip. Buffy used to slay them; Angel was one. In Underworld and now Twilight, vampires have become heroes. They walk among us in broad daylight, dressed in the latest fashions and wooing the hearts of women. Quite a makeover. What’s next, Vampire Eye for the Human Guy – where vampires show ordinary guys how to catch their style?
Then there’s the Zombie. Partly rotten, dripping blood, and stumbling slowly through a city street seems to do little for their public image. How much more can you do with a zombie? Yet they are now popping up everywhere. The Zombie Reporting Center listed 24 new zombie movies in 2007 and the trend has continued strong. Now there are zombie angels, zombie strippers, Zombie Diaries, and no shortage of zombie comedies. What’s next, a zombie family show? The cartoon Zits recently ran a series called "6 Reasons why Zombies would make cool Parents."
Why are such strange things suddenly so popular? This author speculates that zombies are how we see our world, and vampires are how we see ourselves. Let me elaborate and see if it makes sense to you.
Zombies – they trail blood as they stumble around, but if they get their hands on you, they will eat you. Very many of our neighbors and fellow citizens stumble through life like zombies. They wander from thing to thing doing one thing after another without a lot of thought or concern. They rarely sing, often groan, and never take time to sit and think about what they are doing. How often do we engage in real conversation with the people around us? And when we do, we are always afraid that the person in front of us might take advantage of us, monopolize our time, or worse. I think the new self-checkout kiosks are so that we can avoid even the minimum of contact with others because it is so painful. We thoughtlessly consume food, drink, and whatever else is put in front of us, regardless of its quality. Watch kids walking through the hallway in a high school, then watch a zombie film. The similarities are remarkable. Perhaps the popularity of zombie films finds its roots in a simple fear: we are afraid that the strangers all around us who have to chug coffee and energy drinks just to put on the appearance of being alive, will soon look up, notice us, and come after us.
My Secret Vampire Life
So how about the vampires? They look like ordinary people, but deep down they are different. As long as they can control their desire to drink blood, they can live ordinary, productive, almost-human lives. This is how we see ourselves. Each of us believes we are different from the others and special. Our "real self" is something that we hide when we put on masks at work and at home. So often the people around us are completely uninterested in us, and they go about their daily life oblivious to the fact that we are someone special. We are afraid that if we show who we really are, those around us will be repulsed by it. At the same time we secretly dream that we can find someone who will discover who we really are and love us for it. Until then, we keep our sunglasses on.
So life is a struggle between zombies and vampires. Not a pleasant place to live. Fortunately, the answer to this dilemma is closer than we realize. It consists very simply in recognizing our own humanity, and doing the same for others. Being human is more than just producing and consuming. Imagine if the time spent beating levels in guitar hero were actually spent learning to play the guitar? Our own lives and those of our friends would be so much more enriched. But you can’t quantify that, so unless it can be packaged and marketed, we aren’t interested. We have a yearning for love, beauty, goodness, community, and authentic interactions. Yet while we feed our bodies (and how!), we starve our souls. We rarely touch people, afraid of spreading germs or being accused of something. We spend little time and money on music, art, or dance. We fail to appreciate what we are eating and we miss most of the sunsets and the goodness of people all around us. Slowly we become zombies. Fight the undead! Take time out to pray and meditate. Think about what you are doing and what it means. Are you learning to appreciate your own humanity? Are you taking time to recognize the humanity of others and rejoice it in? A good reminder every week is to take time to come to church. It reminds us of all the important things that can’t be quantified, like friendships, love, beauty, joy, and flowers. Most of all, time "wasted" being human is time spent the best way possible.
Have you hugged your zombie parents today?