Zombos Says: Very Good
"What is it about zombies?" asked Zombos. He put aside his cup.
"I'm not sure I follow you," I said. Shadows from the long day drifted lazily on the floor of the solarium. I had been trimming the corpse plants and orchids while he sipped his late afternoon coffee.
"That book, the Undead and Philosophy: Chicken Soup for the Soulless one. I was reading it last night." Zombos put his hand to his chin.
I gulped. A little philosophy can be a dangerous thing, especially when rattling around in a head like his with nothing to cushion it's impact against the inside of his thick skull. The vision of a ball-bearing cracking the side of a glass sprang uppermost in my mind. I'd rather be a poor servant to a poor master then have to listen to Zombos' philosophical ruminations.
"Who would have thought," he continued, "that zombies, rotting creatures prone to consuming mass quantities of, well, mostly living people, would provide such a large pile of compost to fertilize thought and discussion in of all things, philosophy."
I accidentally snipped the rare marifasa lumina lupina in half. I wisely put down my shears as Zombos continued. A cold chill ran down my back as clouds blocked the sun, and the complacent shadows on the solarium floor scattered to oblivion.
"Take Murray's essay, When They Aren't Eating Us, They Bring Us Together," Zombos said. My mind frantically put out a call to David Chalmers, but the line was dead, dead, deadski. "In her essay she examines which of the two is better, individualism or communitarianism, by using George Romero's films."
"Individualism does lead to higher body counts in horror films," I said.
"Let me think. That does seem to be her summation of it. Consumerism is also a main point of ridicule and admiration in Romero's works, too. The zombies consume people, who are themselves consumed by fear, which makes the living scramble for a social contract that, due to their individualism, they ineptly engineer. In the end, unable to become a living community that can defend itself against the more socially-bonded — but dead — community of the zombies, the social contract crumbles, and the living revert back to their individualistic states of actions, which leads them all to being eaten in no time. I say, Zoc, good call on that one. It does appear that communitarianism is the way to go when surrounded by zombie hordes."
"I see you've finally read that book I gave you," said Fadrus, joining us. He's an uncle on Zimba's side. He was staying with us for a spell before he continued his travels across the countryside.
"Very stimulating book it is, too," Zombos said. "The editors, Greene and Mohammad have brought together some very interesting discussions about vampires and zombies. Of course, I'm prone to zombies these days, but the vampires hold up their philosophical end of it rather well."
I poured a cup of coffee for Fadrus. I was relieved that he would now take over the philosophical dialog with Zombos. I turned my attention back to trimming the plants.
"Thank you, Zoc. What happened to that beautiful marifasa orchid? You didn't let Zombos trim it, did you?" He laughed. "Zimba is going to show me your wonderful Long Island shopping malls tonight."
"Speaking of malls," Zombos said, "that reminds me of the consumerism innuendo Romero plays with in Dawn of the Dead."
"Yes, that's quite an image, isn't it? The dead dying to get in, though they don't know why, and the living just dying to shop." Fadrus was also an ardent horror film fan. "Did you read Walker's When There's No More Room in Hell, the Dead Will Shop the Earth?"
"No, not yet."
"Well, I won't recite the essay for you, but I will mention that he uses Dawn of the Dead as a springboard to discuss hedonism and the acquirement of goods beyond reason. He posits the simple question, 'Can the ultimate goal of consumerism, to achieve happiness through the acquirement of more and more goods, actually lead to happiness?'"
Zombos thought for a very brief moment. "Why yes, of course."
Fadrus looked at me. We both laughed. We both knew that the world's treasures are not hidden in anyone's closet, no matter how big that closet might be.
"What? What did I say?" Zombos asked.
"Nevermind," Fadrus said. "Walker goes on to discuss the common elements that tie both dead and living together, aside from wanting to go to the mall and consume as much as possible. He also explores the individualist versus community aspect of it all, a strong theme that runs throughout most horror films, especially zombie ones. And it's always the living community, built on individualistic behavior and disagreements that falls to the more efficient, single-minded community of the dead."
"When you're dead, there's not much to disagree about," I added.
"Astute point. Now, moving beyond the undead per se, Noel Carroll's The Fear of Fear Itself examines the paradox of Halloween, which provides a wonderful dessert to the more involved discourses on vampires and zombies."
"What is the paradox?" Zombos asked.
"Death, my friend. The grim blackness of no return. The great question mark of life. The paradox is why we embrace death's imagery so eagerly every Halloween, seeking it out in the media, playing trick or treat costumed in the grave's finest, making fear our parodied captive while it holds us eternally captive?"
Zombos rubbed his chin. "Heidegger's angst, eh?"
"Yes, and more. Carroll looks at the psychoanalytic approach, but then goes on to explore the meta-fear of fear. Our need to control fear by experiencing it — the how-close-to-the-cliff-without-falling-off approach. It can be exhilarating and life-altering in the same breadth. This mastery could be the reason why horror films focus more on realistic horror these days, that of serial-killers and sadists, more than supernatural ones. One strives to master fears based in reality, not fancy, I suppose."
"Indeed," Zombos said. "But there are worse things than death."
"In what way? Fadrus asked.
"Hamish Thompson's, She's Not Your Mother Anymore, She's a Zombie, opens up discussions that go beyond zombies and the undead."
"I think I understand. You mean the value of personality when it no longer exists, or partially exists in another form that is more alien than familiar. Like a person suffering from Alzheimer's disease or mental disease. What of the soul, then? Is it there, where does it go? How does it survive the physical and mental battering of life? That uncertainty can be overwhelming."
The long day turned grayer. Zimba's voice called to her uncle, and soon they were off to the malls.
Zombos sat quietly in his chair, looking into the dusk, hoping to see well beyond it. I poured another cup of coffee for him, and continued to trim the orchids as long as the fading light permitted.