Response to: A more knowable Other

This post is a response to Popular Christianity: Popular Culture?‘s post: “A more knowable Other“.

The concept of negotiating what makes us human through looking at representations of human beings with grotesque tendencies is brilliant.  These characters – like Hannibal Lecter – are certainly monsters in a psychological sense.

To say that they are more powerful than monsters for the purposes of negotiating our humanness, in a narrative, might be taking it too far – I would say they are a powerful example, but that they only fulfil another type of monster in the repertoire of monsters.

The intelligent, alive, and psychologically disturbed human-monster (or inhumane-human) represents the monstrous potential within a person extremely well; the Other is almost as close as it gets to us.  On an intrapersonal level, this type of monster is extremely effective, it indeed resonates deeply.

Outside of this, vampires look pretty human-like, zombies less so, and ghosts aren’t even physical [Aside: I think the black smoke monster (or The Man in Black) from LOST would prove to be an interesting artefact: ghost-like and physical (morphing), immortal and supernatural, immune to death, and longing for freedom (that ultimately leads to an unwanted death)].  But, my point is that though human-monsters are an effective example, the vampire and zombie (ghost and mummy) lead us to question our humanity in different ways.

I am now seriously addicted to this show...

Zombies, more specifically zombie apocalypses (apocali?), like in The Walking Dead, lead us to question our humanity: will we retain our humanity in a fight for survival? how will people relate to one another in dire circumstance? will we retain a sanctity of life? what is the purpose of life? etc.

The inhuman-human, human-monster, or human being with grotesque tendencies, whatever it be called, is a welcome addition to the list of monsters.

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Lazarus – the first zombie

The topic of God and Monsters (Vampires and Zombies) for this past week was entertaining – I thoroughly enjoyed watching an episode of The Walking Dead; and thought provoking – what makes us human and the drive for monsters (vampires or Frankenstein) to be human.  But on to what the title suggests.

John 11:38-44:

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44  The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Duccio, Resurrection of Lazarus, 1308-11

Take that in for a second.  You have just witnessed a guy get up from out of a tomb (that reeks) all wrapped up in linen (though that may imply mummy sooner than zombie – regardless; he’s undead).

Or, you are Lazarus.  You’ve just been dead for the past 4 days (you would beat Jesus in consecutive days dead before resurrection) and now you are up and about, and ready to keep living the rest of your life.  Weird.

Apparently though, if this were to happen to you, you’d be joining the ranks of 25 other people, since 1982, who have experienced Lazarus Syndrome: the spontaneous return of circulation after failed attempts at resuscitation.  (I find this case is particularly interesting.)

It’s rather bizarre.  These people, like Lazarus, were dead.  Unlike “real” zombies who become mindless, flesh-feasting, and soulless creatures, they come alive and can go back to being their normal selves.

I wonder what psychological toll this would have on Lazarus, or anyone else who’s experienced this.  Waking up in a morgue, found breathing by a funeral worker who’s about to pump you full of formaldehyde, or waking up and having been told you were dead is something that would mess with me.  The possibility of dying a second time…  Am I different (monstrous) in any way… Do I live my life any differently… Or is everything just the same.  I suppose there’s a lot to think about.  It is, perhaps, an interesting narrative.

In the same way that a zombie apocalypse story can force people to choose to become better people or become more human, I wonder if Lazarus-esque stories offer the same possibilities and questions.

What do you think?