Zeitgeist: Vampires

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Ah, the zeitgeist! A fancy German word that means the “spirit of the time” or “spirit of the age” meaning, of course, the popular trend in a culture. We are all affected by such spirits in our age. Some more than others. It’s what resonates inside of as a culture, a people and as individuals.

I have chosen the ultimate zeitgeist creature for this discussion: vampire. Also, vampyre, vampyr, strigoi and other things. Essentially an Eastern European legend that, forgive me, never seems to die.

Years ago, when I first delved into the lore, I remember turning to my friend Keith and saying, “Now, Keith, I want you to answer me totally honestly. If you–if they were real, would you become a v–”

“Yes!”

We all know what vampires are and what they do, and are mostly familiar with the basic mythos surrounding them from Vlad the Impaler to Dracula to Edward Cullen. But the question in this blog is not what they are or what they do, but why they stick with us like they do. I mean, come on! Do we ever tire of vampire tales. No, we don’t. I mean, we just don’t.

So why do they resonate so well? Why do they represent this spirit of the age for all ages?

Big Lance had a theory. It went like this. Vampirism is really a metaphor for sexually transmitted disease. After all, the “infection” is transmitted through the blood, through bites and exchange of bodily fluid and the swoon from drinking the blood compares with the sex act itself.

I believe he had a point.

I never got into vampires before Anne Rice‘s “Interview” and outside of enjoying Bram Stoker’s original, never cared much for other renditions. I did like how China Mieville portrayed them in The Scar, but then, I like how China Mieville portrays everything.

I read Twilight and was disappointed with them in that book, not that that is such a surprise, but I admit, I liked the first Twilight movie. I thought the movie was better than the book. But, that leads me to my theory of why they resonate.

They are the perfect creature for eternal love and by that token, eternal loss.

They are wonderfully romantic, even when–or especially when–they are drinking from a woman.

I think most people would agree with that, but why? How is that even remotely romantic? I dare say, if I were to take a woman out and attempt to drink her blood, most women would shut me down, quick. They wouldn’t even think twice about it and afterwards, after I left and she was safely tucked away in her apartment, she would not remember it with anything but disgust and fear and perhaps, a little pity. And this would be despite her bookshelf that is FILLED with vampire romance novels!

So…that leads me to this: they are the perfect creature to explore our own human nature.

Now, the vampire has the unique ability to defy death and sickness, two things humans cannot overcome. Even if you NEVER get sick, you will die. Eventually.

Or will you?

For certain, the body will die. That much we can say without question. I would, however, venture to say that most people believe in some kind of life after death scenario. Some kind of soul, human spirit, ghost. Medical science is familiar with OOB’s or Out of Body Experiences. More than one person has “been standing there watching” when they lay him out and do the operation. Most people believe in such a thing, not all. But assuming that the human organism possesses a non-material aspect, one could postulate that when you die, some part of you survives.

Then in comes speculative fiction. What if that part of you, was all of you? What if your body survived its own death? What would that look like? And what if in order to maintain that state, you had to drink human blood? To what lengths would you go? How would you feel about that and how long before you tired of living, and yet, lived on anyway?

Anne Rice’s vampires go “into the ground” every seventy or so years. In other words, they simulate death. They need a rest, a release. Some go insane, others jump on a funeral pyre and commit suicide and beg the survivor to spread the ash so they won’t come back. Some slump into apathy and otherwise resign to their fate.

And some, find ways and means to keep it interesting and create reasons to celebrate, to carry on.

I don’t know about you, but that all sounds eerily familiar to me.

In this light we see ourselves without all the societal props. Through the eyes of the vampire, we begin to see beyond the immediate need to work, to make money, to collect possessions. We get a break from the hectic live-live-live pace of raising a family and doing everything we can before it’s too late. Suddenly, we see, its never too late and then we glimpse eternity.

We glimpse just how long eternity can be. And that scares us more than death ever could. Only then do we see what horror really is. An eternity trapped in this earthly existence feeding on the life of our friends and watching all those we love die and die and die again, while yet, forced to live on. Forever.

Eternal love. Eternal damnation. The perfect creature to see ourselves and the universe that has us.

That is how, I believe, vampires form the zeitgeist.

The Way James Brown Sings

They just don’t make ’em like they used to. One is hard pressed to compare the old music legends with today’s studio-made superstars. The vapid and empty performances of Britney Spears leave much to be desired when you put her next to say…Michael Jackson.

Okay, maybe that’s not fair. Or maybe it is. Both were/are major label music stars. And they performed together so you kind of can’t help but compare. You don’t have to be partial to any music genre to realize there’s something special about that kind of heart and soul. And of course actually singing! For the record, I actually enjoy some of Britney’s studio music. And for that matter I listen to a lot of pop.

Anyway, this talk about heart and soul seems to leap out of some nostalgic antiquity when bands actually wrote their own songs and being “hot” had NOTHING to do with it.

Freddie

Freddie

Tom Petty

Tom Petty

Way back in the mists of time it is said that the music industry was about the music.

I won’t even call all this digital pop an illusion because illusion implies magic. Mirage because a mirage leads you astray to your doom.

Well, I hope those days of music lore and legend find their way back. We felt a kind of connection to the music and it’s progenitors that we don’t find very often today.

I liken it to writing. To any art. And you could stretch it to living too. Connecting emotionally. It’s been called melodrama. It’s what makes us care about the people involved and what happens to them. It’s what connects us to the universe.

I discovered that once something becomes a chore, I lose all interest. I’m really bad at “doing chores.” I just hate that word. “Do yer chores before dessert!” and “Mamma says I cainte go no place till I do ma chores,” well that’s what I think of that word, drudgery and restriction.

It’s all about interest. If you can only find a way to put interest into things. To not “do”, but “create.” Strike “going to work” from your vocabulary. Is it “painting a wall?” Or protecting your home from the ravages of elemental decay?

Is it “taking out the garbage?” Or perhaps “conquering the discarded chaos of the material universe?” A bit cheesy, but I’d rather conquer discarded chaos than take out the garbage, any day.

If we can put purpose in place of job titles, we’ve got it made. If I sit down to “crank out a word quota,” I just bomb. Even just shooting for the next chapter is leagues better. I’m always going for getting the book done, because I use that to drive me through to the end, but if ever I get bored, I just stop and go back and find where I started writing that stupid paper for Mr. Harris in grade school. Yes, you Mr. Harris!

Anything can be made into drudgery. And any drudgery can be revived into purposeful activity again, unless it totally doesn’t need to be done and someone is just making you do busy-work, in which case you can free yourself from the yoke of slavery.

So here’s my idea. Try to live the way James Brown sings.

Necronomicon

At the end of August we make pilgrimage to a fictitious New England and pay homage to the Old Ones, to their great prophet himself and to a lot of other cool shit!

http://necronomicon-providence.com/

 

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I can’t wait actually. It’s going to be three hazy days of endless inundation. I’ll be so exhausted when I come home I will swear I’ll never do another and then after a good night’s sleep miss it like hell. 

I don’t think it get’s any geekier than a Lovecraft Con in Rhode Island. I mean…well, I take it back, Twilight in Forks. But I would only show up there if I were a real blood-drinking vampire and then only for a feast. Anyway, join us if you’re not too freaked out about cosmic horror outside the ken of man. Image

On a steal squid I ride…

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Yeah see, I’m ready…( i actually didn’t buy the hat, but still…I should have)