Metaphors for Zombies:The Mystery of Existence/Conundrum of Nothingness
1. Manifestation of the Freudian war between the ID and Superego
Within the recent Cormac McCarthy book,The Road, the two main characters who still retain their very human titles, father and son, are pitted against the rest of world of surviving humans that are cannibalistic. Humanity in essence has devolved to a certain fearful degree, where all rationality has inexplicably vanished beyond the reach of a mind that we enshrine for being rational and having the very real possibility of thinking beyond primal limits. Religions have often equipped us with this imaginary hope that we can transcend the primal trappings of the ID. Freud famously depicts this psychological warfare, as being manifested in real world conflicts and part of the reason behind our savage, restless rage at the constraints that our superegos, with the aid of religious and ideological structures, have imposed.
Zombies are merely illustrative of the “ID” finally winning the unending psychological war. Basically, zombies are thought to have mentally devolved, and their only thoughts are primitive appetites. Except, zombies are also morally corrupted to the point where they hunger for human flesh or living flesh. Weirdly, they still vent and hunger for a fully rational human being with all of their desirable faculties still intact. With the zombies representing the dominant ID without any extraneous need to be subordinate to the superego (our most rational aspect of our mind), the war with the superego has moved beyond the interior and become a literal external war.
In the scheme of zombies versus human beings that are still living, where is the needed moderation of the ego that can functionally bolster the desires of either the ID or the Superego. The ego is our resilient identity, and zombies often do not have this;therefore, there is never one zombie that tries to individualize themselves. They are merely part of one brigand of mindless,ID zombies that seek minds that are still living and have all three component Freudian parts of mind still in function:the ID, ego, and Superego. As the living humans strive to survive this impending clash with these zombies, the ego, ID,and Superego work tirelessly together in a complex way to fend off the purely “ID” zombies that threaten the existence of human rationality. Essentially, zombies within this scheme are the devastating fear of the loss of material reason and of course abstract reason.
2. Crushing Fear of Nihilism or “Nothingness”
What is “nothingness?” Ever since first grade, when being introduced to the number “zero,” I have had a longstanding, mind-numbing struggle to understand a number that means “nothing.” When we are still existing, aren’t we something and the nothing represents the part of existence that cannot be conceptualized. “Nothing” does not always mean nonexistence; it can be a pure mystery. For example, the conventional response to whether or not someone saw a ghost, after believing for a minute second that they saw one, is “I saw “nothing.” Since we cannot clearly ascertain whether or not we saw the ghost, it is denoted with the ambiguous term nothing. Zero is merely a placeholder in mathematics when strung between negative and positive numbers , but it also represents a “nonentity” as opposed to infinity that could be seen as being paradoxically a whole entity ( a number that encompasses the meaning of every other digit that immeasurably precedes it).
When it comes to zombies, without rational thought, they could be seen as holding the same meaning of “zero,” they are “nonentities,” in our view. Before, they held a specific identity in a fully-functioning brain.” Since human life is so diverse, each quantifiable mind with thought represents a number. Once our brain functions are wiped out, we have no more sense of identity, thus we are relegated to being a non-being. Weirdly, zombies, just like “zero” are placeholders, they show the indescribable place of existence that is precariously placed between full existence and the seemingly impossible place of just suddenly not existing. For the rational human beings still living, these zombies might have formerly been loved ones, thus these zombies are still imaginatively seen as having that intelligent life that has now been eradicated. As long as the memory still lives, the person still exists in some form, thus a zombie that resembles the “nothingness” of death is much like the number zero that we vaguely depict as existing. Strangely, “nothingness” exists, except it is also an existent term, much like infinity and zero that are impossible to fathom all the same.
Perhaps, our fear of zombies represents the devastating, inarticulate fear of “death” and the overwhelming possibility that is means the death of conscious intelligence. Science tends to skim over many of these complications because of this existential dread that can deprive us of the ability to function and enjoy our lives. Of course, this is the role of art and philosophy to interpret the ramifications of scientific discoveries to the meaning of our lives. Our society is enamored with apocalypses,scientists are also equally obsessed with “The Great Rip,” the antithesis of “The Big Bang” that ushered in the ineffable start of existence. Basically, “the Big Rip” would cause the rapidly expanding universe to instantaneously be eradicated or wiped from the state of existence. In this doleful scheme of the fate of the accidental universe, created through dozens of anomalous circumstances, the universe has really served the role of “zero.” While it is in existence, it is a placeholder for the fleeting idea of existence, until it suddenly “vanishes” and every number loses meaning and becomes “zero.”
With this fear of our purposeless universe, it is no wonder that we tend to vehemently oppose the probability of it. Zombie films are not as horrific and depressing as we might depict them as; they are the strange phenomenon of human tenacity or a need to overcome impossible odds. Zombie films are no different from the Greek myths, where mortals are unencumbered by fear of the superior power of the unknown power of the Gods. While zombies might frightfully represent the morass of a purposeless life without conscious intelligence,they also show our unwillingness to fully commit to belief in a notion of existence that is equally as puzzling as the idea of there being a “prime mover” or a “God.” Neither the nihilistic nor the fundamentalist Christian answers to the “meaning of our lives and the cosmos,” are fulfilling. On screen, when zombies are ruthlessly killed without any remorse, the human characters are struggling against the prevailing nihilistic misconstruction of “evolution” serving as something that merely eliminates an infantile idea of an anthropomorphic God.
Orpheus, from the Greek Myths, struggles with the same terrifying notion that life holds no significant underlying meaning beyond “death”,as he carries Eurydice from the morose depths of Hades or the idea of the true face of “life” being “meaningless.” By the end of the myth, he makes peace with the mysterious fate of Eurydice, rather than trying to “play God,” and arrogantly find specific answers to certain unanswerable questions. Doesn’t the entire design of Buddhism offer us these practical answers? Even Christianity, which fundamentalists hate to admit, is filled with metaphorical stories, that all point to the importance of our admission that life itself is a vast mystery. Zombies films thus are cathartic in many ways, that are no different than the Nazgul or orcs from “Lord of the Rings” steeling themselves against our attempts to find peace with the true paradoxical state of life. Our true fate beyond death might not be the metaphor of the zombie or Nazgul that represents the encumbering fear that our lives and the cosmos itself are inherently meaningless. In mathematical terms, the number zero might not be devoid of any quantifiable meaning; it might present a “void” that we just cannot properly comprehend with our limited minds. “Zero” and “infinity,” in these regards are mutually inclusive terms.