Friday, September 27, 2013

Ghosts, the Living Dead, and Craving the Taste of Death Pt. II

Pt. II...Setting the Stage

Assuming the folks on television are correct, which is a pretty tough assumption to make, but assuming they are correct, how tough must it be to convince a ghost that they are dead and that they must move on?  I mean, how do you make that case?  Obviously, all the evidence is in your favor, but how do you convince someone or some “thing” of something that they are unwilling to see, believe, or to otherwise acknowledge?

You are dead.”

“Boo.”

As the lore, television, and the movies go, to attempt to convince a spectral interloper of their deceased nature is to invite their wrath and all sorts of shenanigans.

No, seriously, you are dead.”

BOO!”  A light bulb shatters in the background.

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Zombies, as fun as they are, suffer from numerous logical breakdowns.  I mean there is the big metaphysical question, how are they animated?  Obviously there is some base form of drive or intelligence because they are able to walk, to moan, in some cases even to cry out “Brains!”, they know to devour the living, and they display rudimentary pack behaviors.  So there’s something going on in there, but they’re dead.  It is one of the great mysteries of pop culture and zombies will drive you flat nuts if you think about it too long.  There’s just so many questions that are never adequately addressed.

Why are they so bent on eating the living?  In 1985’s “Return of the Living Dead” an explanation is given by a talking zombie (I would’ve included the clip, but there is some salty language) that they eat not people per se, but rather brains, because by implication (though it is never explained) something about living brains soothes the pain of being dead.

With the primary motivation of consuming the living, one also has to wonder, “Do zombies poop?”  I mean, all that flesh has to go somewhere and if they are truly dead, then there is no need for nourishment and therefore no need for digestion, which is good because dead tissue cannot digest anything.  Does what they consume just sit in the gut until they explode?  Does it just slide right on out since all the plumbing ought to go slack since they’re dead, which in turn causes one to have to question again, “Why are you eating the living?”  While fun, it’s all pretty illogical.

However, without getting too deep in “dissecting” zombies, what is standard is that they have an insatiable, irrational hunger for the living.  The animated, living dead have a one track mind and a singular purpose, to eat living flesh thereby destroying life.  Zombies don’t eat other zombies, but they will eat the recently dead.  Aside from the relatively intelligent zombies of “Return of the Living Dead”, they know not why; they only know that they must eat the living.

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The dead (living, apparitional, and otherwise) are irrational.

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One of the most perplexing, heartbreaking, and maddening things I’ve run into as a pastor/chaplain are those that simply want to die even when help is available.  I feel I must clarify at this point, that I am not talking about the suicidal, but rather the interesting phenomenon of significantly ill patients who should have a reasonable hope of some sort of recovery, with a decent quality of life, who refuse treatment or life saving measures.

I’ve seen this on a handful of occasions; people become so resolved to the idea of death, that they reject the possibility of life.  However, they not only reject the possibility of life, but they cling desperately to death.  And not only do they cling desperately to death, it often times seems that they want to pull everyone around them along for the ride.  Death for all of its darkness, fear, and unknown becomes a security blanket.  It’s almost as if they crave the taste of death.  Folks in this situation will kick, claw, bite and lash out should you attempt to come between them and death.  Sometimes death is safer than life.

Obviously in most of these cases there are deeper issues at play; depression, no basis of hope, and frankly, sometimes we just get tired of hurting or suffering.  Through my own experience, I can relate.  I mean after a decade of feeling like my arms were quite literally on a fire twenty four hours a day, I was ready to be done and was exhausted from suffering.  But in the majority of the cases that I’m thinking of as I am writing this, there was a reasonable expectation of the extension of life with an increase of quality.  I can remember thinking in all of these situations, with no shortage of empathy, “Getting better is sometimes scary and even painful; coming back to life can be terrifying.  Sometimes, it’s just easier to die.

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I know death well in its many guises.  I know how it craves and fears the living all at once.  I know death; I know there are fates far worse and far more terrifying than ghosts and shambling zombies…the living dead already amongst us.  Stay tuned for Pt. 3.


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