The origins of zombies notwithstanding, they are the autumnal monster of choice in a post-modern society. They are the symbol of secular resurrection—no faith commitment is required, no pristine, moral lifestyle. Resurrection happens to you by accident, a chemical, a disease, cosmic radiation—whatever the cause it is not divine. And the zombie is fair game for the release of violent aggression; already dead, there is no moral imperative to keep them alive and well. Each year the mass of zombie walks increases where children and adults alike become the living dead for a day. Macabre? Indeed. It seems that the very word “macabre” may have come into English from Hebrew. Hebrew words are based (mostly) on triliteral roots, words with three unchanging consonants. The Classical Hebrew word for “grave” is based on the root q-b-r. The prefixed m is often the preposition “from.” Macabre, morphed through Latin and French, could go back to the root meaning “from the grave.” Literally, the source of zombies.
Resurrection is among the most poignant of human hopes. Religions often assure us that death is not final, but we can never know that this side of the veil. Those we love go away, we hope, to a better place than this. It is no surprise that the largest zombie walk in the country is in Asbury Park. We can imagine better. Why can’t God?
According to Wade Davis, there is a powder that vodoun priests use to zombify a person. This involuntary treatment does not actually prolong life, nor does it really resurrect the dead. It is, like many religious treatments, a show of faith. In The Serpent and the Rainbow Davis describes how psychosomatic attacks span the globe. All they require is belief. If a person believes in curses or the evil eye, the results can be physical and fatal. We create our own reality. Over the weekend I watched What the Bleep Do We Know? again. I sometimes showed this movie to my classes. Here physicists and gurus together affirm that we create our own reality moment by moment.
Zombies have migrated from the realm of religion to secular society. It is hard to imagine our modern world without them. They are cut from the same cloth as All Souls Day, reminding us of our mortality and suggesting that there might be something more. It is a reality we create ourselves.