The Walking Well Read


This water-bloated, rotting zombie sat at the bottom of their well.  It moaned and knocked up against the bricks that lined the rough circle.  The zombie apacolypse survivors realized they couldn’t shoot the thing.  It would poison their water supply, so they encircled it with a rope, and they all worked together, and they pulled the unspeakable thing up and out of the well.

They work together and appear that they are going to be successful in their task.  But it’s prodigious, pale, yucky belly gets stuck.  It sits their kicking and wailing like a toddler built in hell.  They pull and they pull.  And they succeed only in tearing it in half.  Innards of every sort and color poke out of the lower half, as it falls back in.  Worse, all these fluids, stews, smoothies leak out of the thing, defiling the water beyond question.

Have you watched “The Walking Dead?”  The scene above stands out in my head, for some reason.  It’s amazing.

In addition to all the things that might be said about the amazing writing, acting, production, etc… I think there’s a lot to be said about subtext.  What’s going on beneath the surface? 

There is a wide question here: why do zombie captivate us?  And a narrower question: How has ‘The Walking Dead’ tweaked these ideas?

I think today, I am just going to take on the broad question: Why do zombies captivate us?

They are a staple of the horror genre.  There are centuries old roots to the lore.  But looking at these doesn’t much answer the question why they frighten us in the first place… Plenty of folk lore is essentially forgotten.  What about zombies causes them to seem fresh, relevant, and scary?

On a very literal level, zombies stories are virtually all survival stories.  The role of the heroes is to avoid becoming zombies.  On the surface, that seems pretty far-fetched; irrelevant to our every day lives.

But zombies are purely and only physical beings.  They have only hungers, no mind, no soul, no compassion.   A part of the mythos is that it is very easy to become one and impossible to go back. 

Zombie stories, I think, speak to our fears about growing up.  What will we have to sell off to survive?  Will we keep our soul, our mind, our compassion?  Beneath those questions is an even scarier one:

What if those things don’t exist at all?  What if it doesn’t matter that we have dreams and hopes for the future?  What if their is no soul? 

This pair of questions carries a pair of fears with it.  The first fear is that we are powerless to fight off our zombie-sides.  The process of becoming an adult is irresistible and it will turn us into a creatures that just want to propogate more soulless cannibals.  The deeper fear is that we are zombies already, just too stupid to realize it.  All the things we hold on to as separating ourselves from the zombies are just delusions that will fall away.

If I am close to right, the grossness, the oozing, the putrification, is a smoke screen.  Despite R-ratings and general yuckiness, zombie stories are very much morality tales.   It is easy, at first to see who is right and who is wrong.  But there is an opportunity for much more nuanced questions about what is right and wrong.  Lurking only half a step behind those questions are questions about reality and God himself.  And I think those are important questions very much worth asking. 


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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