Monday, September 22, 2008

Awakenings: The Living Dead

[A reflection I did on a retreat for juniors over the weekend. I tried to type it up what I said word for word. My original was just bullet points.]

Zombies, they’re the new face of horror for our generation. But where did these horrific creatures come from? How did they enter into the American mind? In short, zombies came from West Africa and Haitian culture. In Haiti a person, usually a low life, was administered a powder that induced a coma. They were then buried, exhumed by a witchdoctor (who was a kind of ‘zombie-master), and used as a mindless slave. The word zombie comes from a west African word “zumbi’ which translates into English as “fetish”. Fetish – An inanimate object considered to be inhabited by a spirit.

Like I said, Zombies are the new face of horror. They can’t be avoided. We’ve seen them in the recent Resident Evil movies. In recent years zombies have be the main focus in Dawn of the Dead, the spin off parody of Dawn of the DeadShaun of the Dead, A South Park episode where Kenny turns half the city into Zombies, going back even further there was the Evil Dead series and finally the original Night of the Living Dead. But movies aren’t the only place we find zombies taking center stage in horror. In video games, zombies are always a favorite kill -- like in the Resident Evil games that are hugely popular. Recently in print there has been “Z Wars” and “How to Survive a Zombie Attack”.

But why are they the new horror? What is it about zombies that terrify us? Notice something interesting; even in the comedies, a zombie is something a person does not want to be. Nobody wants to be a zombie. Even Hollywood, who has the ability to make desirable and glorify all kinds of dark things, can’t find a way to glamorize these creatures. So as the clip is playing, I really want you to think. What are so terrifying and horrific about zombies?

-Play movie to 20 min. mark. Just after the dead zombie is lit on fire. Make sure you see the mob.-



Let us think about the movie for a min. Where do the zombies come from? If we watched the entire movie we would eventually learn that some kind of technology went wrong, it ran amuck, and radiation from this technology is creating these mindless creatures that have a vacant expression with an eeri uniformity. All the zombies might as well be the same. Besides what they wear, they are the same. At the sart of the movie we don’t know or learn much about the zombies. We only know that they want to attack people not like them. Think for a minute, how do you use technology? It is everywhere it can’t be avoided. Do you use it, or do we abuse it? Do you own technology, or do we let it own us? Do you let technology block our growth: spiritual, physical, mental and emotion? Have we let technology turn us into zombies to the point that our thoughts are occupied by the most simple of thought?

In our culture symbols are everywhere and at the same time are full of meaning and meaning less. In the movie we see the old-symbolism losing its power – with the lose of the old symbolism so goes the person on their way to being a zombie. In the movie we can say that the radio competes with religious ritual. John for instance seems more interested in the radio than delivering flowers to his father’s grave. John misses the importance of placing flowers on a grave and praying. “Praying is for church” is what he tells his sister. It is appropriate that John is the first victim in the movie. The veil that separates him from being a zombie (the living-dead) is pretty thins as it is. How about us? Have we amused, entertained, or stimulated ourselves to the point that we can’t see the depth of things (like John who doesn’t see the deeper meaning of visiting his father’s grave or praying. He thinks in terms of only time and money.) Do we miss the inner and spiritual dimensions? Mass? Church and family? Are we living a one dimensional existence that makes us living dead?

Even zombies are able of organization and massed frenzied activity. Like us . . . we can be driven zombies . . . assembled in numbers for no reason. Just a mindless group not thinking and not caring about what they are doing. Look even closer.

Zombies are weak. The zombie’s strength lies in numbers. Individually they can be beaten by those who are the furthest from being the living dead. Later in the movie, we discover that the only real purpose of the zombie is to make others like themselves. What if someone woke up? What if a zombie became unzombified? What if someone stays alive? The one who stays alive becomes like a fool to others. They become dangerous to the zombies: unpredictable. Lonely in a crowd. A stranger in one’s own house. A stranger among old friends.

What frightens me about zombies is that they have no will of their own. Once a person becomes a zombie their will is taken from them and they become less human. To look at it from a scientific perspective, it is like a step back in evolution. The person who becomes a zombie become more animal like. Their end it to feed and reproduce. One of the reasons I like the older version of this movie is that it is very hard to tell the difference between a zombie and a normal person. The zombie is often mistaken as a normal person. John and his sisters did this at the very beginning. If you went up to the top of the highest building in the city, how many zombies would you see? Would you be able to tell the zombies apart from the living? How many zombies have you walked next to on a daily basis?

Christ says in the Gospels to “let the dead bury the dead.” That is, let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead -- bodies with a dead soul, like the zombie who has no spirit. Though we can’t be the living dead, but are you certain that you aren’t the dead who is living? Are you certain you aren’t a zombie lumbering through life with a glazed expression looking to satisfy your stomach and to satisfy that urge to merge?

[The students then has some reflection questions and scriptures passages to spend some time in quiet prayer.]

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