It never fails.
After half a century of slasher movies, teens still run out of gas on desolate roads.
They still seek refuge in the nearest Gothic mansion.
They still wander through doors that creak open by themselves and after all those sequels, they still ignore the number one rule of spooky houses, “DON’T GO DOWN THE BASEMENT!!!“.
If our species is capable of learning anything, it should have been that.
But it never fails.
Sometimes the teens don’t even wait for the opening credits to scroll off the screen before tripping down the stairs, calling “hello, hello?” over the rev of chainsaws.
They just don’t get it.
But that is not the worst of it.
The worst is how we will cough up the price of a car payment to sit in the dark as the same naive, but oh so hot, teens pull the same stunts in movie after movie. You would think we would learn – but we don’t – because it is just too much fun.
It’s so much fun that even after the fourteenth sequel, we are still willing to suspend our disbelief. We still startle at each creak of the basement stairs and we still whisper to ourselves, “Gosh, whaddya think will happen next?”
Now here we are still suffering the hangover from an economic recession caused by that same suspension of disbelief.
Ten years ago, as the opening credits scrolled across that spooky Gothic mansion, at least half the audience thought to themselves, “Gosh, what do you think I could get for flipping that old beauty?”
Like I said, scary thoughts for scary times.
Now during this dysfunctional election we have all become actors in a horror flick playing out all around us… So maybe it is time to fully explore the scary movie/scary times metaphor.
During scary times there is much we can learn from vampires, mummies, zombies and ghouls… if nothing else, at least from their pluck and determination.
Despite myriad barriers thrown in their path, the undead have always persisted and thrived. Take Dracula for instance.
Here is an economic refugee from a crumbling Old World region with more than four hundred years of work experience, yet he still cannot land a job commensurate with his skills.
Employers never seem to get past his native costume, odd hours and unconventional diet. Granted, in that, he is little different from the typical recent college grad. Yet despite centuries of unemployment, Dracula never gives up.
The same can be said for zombies (another victim of society’s unwarranted prejudice against the undead).
Deplorable people often accuse zombies of being inarticulate, dim-witted and slow… yet they fail to recognize the “never-say-die” optimism of their culture.
Zombies may be slow but their plodding is inexorable. They never dwell on the past, nor fear the future. They don’t take sick-days nor waste the afternoon surfing eBay. They just keep plodding along, placing one foot in front of the other toward their ultimate goal… your brains.
Spooky isn’t it?
But here is something even more frightening.
Just as we suspend our disbelief to enjoy actors chasing each other around with meat cleavers, so we also fail to suspend what we know to be true.
Let’s be honest, we live every day in the shadow of doom.
As you read this, in a debris belt somewhere beyond Mars, countless asteroids are playing pinball with each other and it is inevitable that one will shake loose with earth’s zip code programmed into its navigation system.
If that were not enough, there is a black hole lurking at the center of the Milky-Way, eagerly waiting to suck our entire galaxy through its gravitational straw.
This is real.
And so is the guy chatting on his cell phone as he speeds into the next intersection.
Yet we live day to day with a long list of scary possibilities:
Yet none of this stuff bothers us because we have learned to tuck the scariest things behind our faith.
That is just the way life is, we suspend disbelief to fool ourselves into fun but then when things turn sour, we suspend our belief to fake our way through it.
And therein is the trick for muddling through hard times: keep plodding along with all the persistence of a zombie and never, never lose faith in ourselves or each other.