Of Gods and Monsters ~ Saturday Nightmirrors
Humanity is a tenacious creature. All that he sees he ultimately masters. Cities rise and fall only to be replaced by more magnificent skylines, the mysteries of nature are unraveled through technology and mathematics, and even the constraints of gravity have not held Him earthbound. The height of our intellect is bound only by the depths of our imaginations.
We create and destroy in equal measure, love and hate with equal passion, and our history records the greatest acts of kindness and the darkest deeds of evil.
Even the orderly turn of the sun to the moon is rendered convenient by Man’s artificial light. For humanity has a weary relationship with the darkness. Those lightless places where he may remain hidden and where is He is ultimately revealed. A place where he believes that only he whom the darkness blinds as other things quietly observe his vulnerability.
And this is the most telling of all of Man’s attributes. That even within his steel mansions, under his electric candles, and behind his fortresses of science he cannot eliminate his ancient fear of the monsters that dwell in the dark.
He has good reason to believe for he has heard them in the night and seen them in his dreams.
Humankind had monsters before he had gods.
There in the cave’s darkness, he could do little more than to imagine the grotesque forms and evil intent of the beasts that made the sounds—those first bumps in the night. But early Man heard other sounds. Sounds that existed only inside his head, sometimes a calming noise and sometimes an awful chatter.
For imagine a primitive mind still without language. A voice without words emanating those alien, yet familiar sounds. What might an inner voice be and how might it speak without words?
Man’s earliest gods were but more benevolent versions of his monsters. And that provides perhaps the greatest insight into Man--That his monsters have aways been as important as his faiths, that his fear is often stronger than his hope, and that his monsters say as much about him as any of his deities.
It is here that we discover the source of his discomfort with the night. Because there, in the darkness, Man is not as sightless as he believes. For he possesses a different kind of vision. One that doesn’t observe the outside world, but the inside. And in that introspective sight, we find that these monsters, in all their strange and horrible versions, reveal his deepest fear—his own darkness.
I have my favorite monsters. What I consider to be the best of them. It matters not to me whether they are grotesque or beautiful, of or not of this world, or with hooked claw or ice cold hand. My selections are chosen not by form, but through the things these creatures say about Man.
So if you care, follow me down this dark, unlit path. Let's visit with some old friends. The ones who are but childhood amusement in the light of day, but who by night, give even the non-believers reason to pause …and listen.
The Vampire - that creature of the night who lusts for the warm blood of life. Although the form has changed over the centuries, there exist no beast more feared and more envied than this soulless predator. That the vampire legend is tied so closely to sex should be no surprise. What force is more destructive, more creative, and more tempting than Man’s cold lust for warm flesh? What great motive, no matter how noble, cannot be reduced to the power of attraction over another?
The Vampire is everything we fear about the world - death without transcendence, coldness in our hearts, and the possibility that a soul is just something we believe in, but that does not exist. The vampire, however, is also all that we covet in the private darkness of our own thoughts. Everlasting life, power, lust, and freedom from guilt. I love the vampire because in our own hearts we so often wage an internal battle against its seductive whispers.
The Werewolf- if the vampire is a cold and calculating soulless-ness, then the werewolf is passion unhindered by rational thought. The killer in the night, driven to passionate murder by the moon, the werewolf is the world’s first serial killer. A reason to explain our meek neighbor’s transformation into a murderous beast—“ he was so quiet, kept to himself, seemed kind enough.”
Like the vampire, it speaks to man’s capabilities when reason and morality no longer confine behavior. The werewolf is any man, and it can be every man. Who hasn’t experienced anger or rage? Who’s rage filled words or actions haven’t crossed the line? Who hasn’t been tempted to let fury silence reason? The werewolf is such a terrible creature because it demonstrates the power of pure emotion left unchecked. The werewolf reminds us of how thin the threads which hold together our civil society.
Zombies- What is humankind without either reason or passion? While the werewolf and vampire address these issues separately, zombies show us who we might be without either. Mindless wanderers with the sole purpose of consumption. Without mind or emotion, mankind is but a decaying meat suit devouring all the living. Zombies also reflect the power of humankind’s numbers. A single, slow and mindless zombie is easily avoided, but in large numbers their sheer mass becomes inescapable. They are so haunting and horrifying because somewhere in our own powers of reason, we recognize that our species often comes close to unfettered consumption of our world.
The Homunculus- if you’re not familiar with this particular monster of legend it appeared in the movie Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. These “little” humans are small, but what makes them so frightful is that they represent the fearful tenacity of the collective. Humankind has often grouped together to commit insane, irrational, and unmerciful acts for the good of the whole. The Inquisition, witch burnings, Nazi’s are all examples of “little” thinkers doing horrific things. For me, the homunculus represents how little, spiteful, and fearful minds can join to become a force of destruction. These little creatures, of course, live in the dark, whispering their insane agendas and making plans to drag others into their darkness. They are humankind’s dichotomy; together we can do unbelievable good or create horrific terror.
Martin Lomax- the “star” of The Human Centipede 2, Martin Lomax is perhaps the scariest of all monsters, because he doesn’t need to be of monstrous form or strength. He is just a man, but one who’s purpose is of greater importance than kindness or mercy. Martin Lomax wants to create, and other humans are but the pesky, squirming pieces of his art. That Martin cannot see the horror of his acts or recognize the abomination of his creation makes him all the more terrifying to us. Martin represents the horror that can reside in creativity without empathy.
He is horrible because while his acts are extreme, they are not unprecedented in their horror or nature. History proves that such monsters as Mr. Lomax exist beyond the silver screen. Scarier still because while the other monsters possess desires we can understand—lust, rage, consumption, power—this form of quiet, violent insanity is so devoid of emotion that it could belong to anyone. And how are we to protect ourselves when the monster can be anyone?
It is no accident that I turned from a degree in English Literature to one in psychology. I found it a far better place to study the monsters and to understand fear.
Because the monsters exist in all of us. The potential is always there…waiting in the darkness for us.
Monsters may just be a portrait of Man hung in a dim room. Or they may be a black mirror that reflects the darkness of our own soul.
Are you brave enough to look for yourself?