When I was a kid, I really liked Godzilla and his kaiju pantheon. Godzilla, originally, was a monster spawned, and a story told, out of the terror and devastation of the nuclear bombs that were dropped on Japan. The horror of the devastating technology we had created was unrestricted by any higher meaning, or system of value and honor. The Allies, faced with fighting against the honor system of Japan, which was more real to them than to anything and was considered more important than death, bowed themselves to the god of death and created a monster in its service.
Film artists in Japan found a way to depict–powerfully and immediately–the monster we had created.
The monsters we create, of and within ourselves, through our consciousness and subsequent actions, are often things that look very much like vampires, zombies, and impersonal, merciless, destructive forces. Maybe that is what is so freaky about zombies–they are impersonal. They “personify”–or not–the destructive impersonalism that wracks our world to its roots, shaking down into despair, terror, crime, violence, suicide. How we deal with the monsters that have been created in the world may help us to rediscover what being human means. To be human is to be a person, which essentially is to be personal. What does it mean to be personal?
It is the personal aspect that gives what we do meaning and opens the door for transformation. Results achieved in mind, body, and spirit are always personal in every situation, and the more we recognize this and allow personal connection to handle problems and uphold values, the greater success we will have. Great discoveries, transformations, and changes are wrought–in persons–through means that while including a mechanical process, can never be observed to be dependent on it. This is the quality of spirit acting through matter.
You can study gross matter, of course–as empirical science does–and be able to get some impersonal result of mechanical process, but even this level of impersonalism has ramifications.
Because it is not dead matter or any mechanical process that gives meaning to human life. It is personal connection–the thing of Spirit–the relationships and values we show and address in the stories we tell, against the backdrop of monsters, impersonal forces, the problems of a world, and various mechanical successes or failures. These values and relationships are made real and potent by the personal impact they have on human beings. More than that, this personal potency is contagious. That is why stories impact our lives and transform us.
And nothing can show us quite as quickly the importance of those things beyond the mechanical or material–than when we try to destroy it with the introduction of an impersonal monster, in whatever form. A nuclear bomb, a zombie apocalypse. Wrongly handled, horrors such as this have the power to degrade us, powerfully.
But if allowed to shine through, with faith and conviction, the human spirit has more power than any horror to adhere to real values, and can rise up within us in contrast to the destructive forces around us.
In stories, this is why such monsters transform our consciousness so powerfully when we see characters standing up to them–standing up for the very values that the monster’s very existence seeks to ridicule and destroy–instead of giving in.
I remember, as a child, asking, “why was it necessary to drop those bombs on Japan and kill so many people?” and being given the answer: “Because the Japanese would never surrender to us, because of honor, and if we had not dropped the bombs, many many more people on both sides would have died.”
As a child, I accepted this answer without understanding it.
But now I understand it a little better, and cannot accept it. Because it is, in its way, making an idol of death, or perhaps an idol of life. The idea that avoiding death and suffering (even suffering such as the loss of resources, security, or a nation) is more important than the values of honor–duty–and maintaining proper relationship and integrity, is an insane idea at best. Why? Because we will HAVE death and suffering in this world–all of us will.
Could not the Japanese unbending (even in the face of death and suffering) allegiance to honor perhaps give us some glimmer, some possibility, that there is something more important than avoiding death and pain? “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
Instead, in ignorance of the thing beyond that the Japanese adhered to, however terrifying or wrong their adherence and actions seemed, the West did a thing unspeakable.
It created a monster.