what zombies have to do with self-growth

I am not a fan of the horror genre. Except for zombies. When my son became intrigued by zombies, I explored all the movies – from the very first – with him. And the more I think about zombies, the more I realize we can learn from the genre.

Recently, I came across this older article exploring why exactly our society has developed this fascination with zombies. In a nutshell, its premise is that the zombie craze “mirrors a level of cultural dissatisfaction and economic upheaval”. According to the researcher that is quoted, Sarah Lauro, “We feel like, in one way, we are dead”. This article quotes her as saying, “We are more interested in the zombie at times when we as a culture feel disempowered.”

I don’t quite agree.

Yes, zombie stories intrigue us when we face challenges of our own, but not because we feel dead. And I’m not sure that it has to do with global disempowerment, either. Rather, I believe it is more personal. The greater attraction of the zombie genre is this: survival.

These stories show us that it is possible to survive against horrific odds. They show us people who keep fighting even when we might have wanted to give up because there just doesn’t seem to be a way out. They make us believe that yes, we are able to keep going even when nothing makes sense, to be resourceful when options are limited, to be creative when everything we used to know changes, and to remain essentially human even when surrounded by monsters. They help us remember that sometimes the only power we have and actually need is that of perseverance, because it will get us through the hopelessness. That is uplifting and encouraging! Especially when life becomes challenging or the future seems bleak.

For me, it has little to do with cultural dissatisfaction or economic upheaval. It has everything to do with fighting my personal monsters. I believe this is the attraction of all successful dystopian stories: the implicit truth that even at life’s worst, we keep fighting.

However fictional they may be, they contain true empowerment because they remind us we are indomitable. We are heroes, purely for not giving up.

And that is amazing.

From the AMC show, The Walking Dead

From the AMC show, The Walking Dead

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teacupping : oceaning

I found myself teacupping again the other day. You may not have ever heard this term – I made it up – but I know you will understand it immediately.

Teacupping: When you become so small that almost every experience causes a storm inside you.

You slosh over the edges. You rant and rave inside (or if it gets really wild: outwardly as well) over the little things that should not even cause a ripple on your surface.

  • The way your neighbours put out the wrong trash on the wrong day of the cycle
  • The way someone eats a doughnut – when you can see they need to eat healthier
  • The way someone at the office left sugar scattered over the entire kitchen counter
  • The way someone whines about their rich people problem
  • The inanities people post in social media or publish in the news
  • The way someone chews too loudly

Admit it, unless you are remarkably phlegmatic, you know how this is! And I am sure you can add many more examples here. All instances of storms in a teacup.

Why does this happen? And more importantly, how does one solve this problem? Because if you have ever teacupped before, you will also know that it is exhausting. There is nothing that can burn up your energy as quickly as this over-excitability in the world. Not to mention the strain on interpersonal relationships this can cause.

I have written before about the need to expand your container, and it is exactly for this reason. The larger the container of your spirit, the less disruptive your experiences. A drop of poison that falls into a teacup can be deadly. But into the ocean? It would not even be noticed. And quite frankly, I want to be the ocean.

Terry Pratchett wrote: “The big sea does not care which way the little fishes swim.”

I find that to be a profoundly powerful statement. If your container is as big as the ocean, the little fishes don’t bother you at all. They can swim in whichever direction they want to, they can jump out of the water (they will just fall back in) and they can even devour each other – it is not going to affect you.

So how do you change from teacupping to oceaning? How do you expand your container so that the little fishes don’t bother you anymore?

  • Meditate – For me, this is the easiest and best way to do it, because when you become mindful you find peace again. You enlarge from within. There are many guided meditations to help you achieve this. Compassion meditation works especially well, as does mindful breathing.
  • Walk – Or do something physical. Once you get your blood flowing, your mind is able to settle much easier, and your perspective is corrected.
  • Spend time in nature – We need big spaces to remind us that we are big, too, and that all is well. There is something mindful and rejuvenating about being outside; it can’t be duplicated by man-made spaces.
  • Pray – First for yourself. Then for whomever or whatever tips your cup.
  • Listen to music – It might be that you need loud, passionate music, or slow, gentle music. Find out what works for you to expand your consciousness again to a point where you are bigger than your challenges.
  • Get out among people – Especially if you are introverted or melancholy by nature, you might need that gentle reminder to place yourself among other human beings from time to time. Exposure to other people helps remind you that your challenging experience with one person is not all there is.
  • Practice gratitude – Remember the good things that fill your life.

There are more ways in which to ocean, to expand your container. Some of them may be unique to you, to what works for you. That’s the point: find out what clicks for you, what keeps your container as wide and expansive as the ocean, and as freely and abundantly giving, without any concern for which way the little fishes swim.

Art by the amazing Pascal Campion

Art by the amazing Pascal Campion

even in all this translucence

You dream childhood dreams of superpowers, never realizing that each Superman has his kryptonite. You think: if only you could fly … if only you could become invisible … the powers you would have! You grow up and you forget the superpower dreams you stitched together, scraps of wishes and castles in the air, all crudely patchworked together in childish innocence.

Until one day that patchwork cape falls onto your adult shoulders.

Superhero with superpowers. Superhero with kryptonite.

It bewilders you, because you no longer wish to be invisible. But the power is part of you now. It flows through you, and bit by bit, you disappear. You disappear from your marriage. You find a new relationship after that, and again you disappear. You fight against it, tooth and nail, turning into someone you don’t know, that you don’t want to know … and still you turn invisible. You disappear to all in your office. All in your family. And finally you blink out of awareness entirely, invisible to all.

The truth sinks in: this superpower is real. You really are invisible … you have never had any substance, never will. You are breath only. But does breath have a heart that contracts this spasmodically in pain? Yes. Yes, it does. Spirit of God, having poured out ALL His substance, feeling the same pain.

And you learn that as you become less, He becomes more. You become part of His heart, valves opening … closing. Filling up … pouring out. He sees you, even in all this translucence you’ve become. You become lighter and lighter. The pain purges you of the heaviness of you. Until finally, so invisible, so light that you can barely feel the world around you, you find your other superpower: You fly.

And all light-headed and invisible, you wonder if perhaps the superpower dreams you had as a child were merely a remembering of what you came into this world for:

To fly into Him. To disappear into Him.

You’re not alone, after all.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
– Psalm 139:16