WHAT EVIL LURKS?
So, I’m making the bed this morning, just like I do every morning, and of course, I have the television on because (as we all know) I’m a television junkie.
I’m not even paying attention to the movie that’s on, when a commercial cuts in. It’s a commercial for a “thriller” – something about a village where there are some kind of evil spirits or something. It is obvious from the announcer’s tone of voice that it is meant to really scare you. Then about five minutes later there is another commercial. This is for yet another “thriller”. This is a Stephen King story, and it seems like it has something to do with a roller coaster gone haywire. The announcer (same announcer, I think) intones, “Death is coming!” I almost laughed out loud.
Now, you have to understand that I am not a brave person or a thrill-seeker. I’m quite the opposite. All my life I have avoided “scary movies” like the plague. Up until very recently, I wouldn’t even watch the trailers for them because I found them too disturbing.
I must admit there was one exception. When I was a little girl (back in the olden days) I used to watch “The Twilight Zone”. Rod Serling’s stories were not just scary, they were allegories that helped us to discern right from wrong and warned us of the consequences of human weakness. They were beautifully told, concise (because they had to conform to the half-hour format), well acted, well directed, and they scared the bijeezuz out of me. I loved “The Twilight Zone”, even though it gave me many a sleepless night. Maybe even because it gave me many a sleepless night. It seemed easier to worry about monsters in the closet than about the very real monsters I encountered every day at school. Maybe that is one of the reasons that such entertainment is so popular.
The most basic premise of “thrillers” and “horror” genres is that what we think we understand about our world, the laws of nature that we take for granted, may not always hold true. They scare us for the same reason that an earthquake scares us. Something happens that shouldn’t happen. This calls into question all of our neatly organized assumptions about the world, our metaphorical terra firma, which is no longer so “firma”.
I don’t know exactly why such ideas no longer scare me as they did for so many years. I am guessing it’s because I have finally come to see that the basic assumption I cradled in my bosom for so many years – that the world is a safe place – has finally been overwhelmed by a tsunami (you should pardon the expression) of evidence to the contrary. Between man-made disasters (like 9/11) and natural disasters (like the tsunamis), it is clear that all of us have one foot on a banana peel and one foot in the abyss.
Evil spirits? Absolutely. Death coming to get me? No question. Things not what they seem? You may rely upon it. There is something liberating about finally admitting to yourself that in fact, the bogyman is out there and there is not much, if anything, you can do about it. That frees you up to enjoy life. It may be that knowing we might get wiped out by a meteor some day just makes us appreciate our lives more.
So bring on the ghosts, the goblins, the vampires, the “undead” and the truly dead. Bring on the evil spirits, the malevolent roller coasters, the gigantic ants, and the killer birds. All of it pales in comparison to what’s really out there.
Life may not be safe, but in spite of all that, it is very sweet.
© 2005, Robin Munson