When I watch the news and they’re talking about Covid-19, I notice they often put up a large picture of the virus. When I check on Google-Images I see that these pictures are indeed from photos of Covid-19 molecules taken under a microscope. The molecules come in many shapes and colors—some almost as perfectly structured as snowflakes, others random and unbalanced. A lot of them look like the floating mines I’ve seen in military history book illustrations and World War two movies, placed in harbors to prevent ships from entering or leaving; Some of the molecules look like old representations of alien space ships.
One thing they all have in common, though, is the fact that they can all kill you.
But despite their deadliness, they are, in the end, just mindless microscopic creatures; they may be “programmed” to destroy human bodies but they don’t do it maliciously—they have no evil intent, no animus. Still, no matter the scientific reality that they’re only brainless molecules, when you see them, you feel there’s something evil about them, that their one driving purpose is the deliberate destruction of human beings. They hover there, perched over the shoulder of the newsman/woman, pulsing with pure, unrelenting, murderous intent.
I think it’s an almost universal reaction that when we’re confronted with something like Covid-19—something that is overwhelmingly destructive (even if it’s completely incapable of thought or emotion), that we assign human desires to it, credit it with malice aforethought; we anthropomorphize it. We call the virus “vicious”, “a killer”; we talk about defeating it as if it were an opposing army.
I think this attribution of human thought and emotion where there is none is one of the fundamental expressions of the human mind. It’s something all children do, and something you see in every ancient (and some “modern”) cultures—it’s the same need humans have always had to see animating spirits in all places and things; tree-sprites, leprechauns, water demons, dust-devils, djins, imps, fairies, spider-women, wolf-men…
I’m not sure why people have this need to anthropomorphize natural objects and animals—to detect a controlling spirit (either good or evil) in all things. But I suspect it has something to do with the way children (and we were all children once) see the world. And though a significant proportion of people reach at least the appearance of adult-hood, I think this childish need to locate intense emotions (desire and rage, for instance) outside themselves is way of protecting themselves from the seemingly destructive forces of their own powerful urges and feelings. Maybe the need to disavow owning these emotions is partially due to the strictures of societal custom and “morality”. It’s “filthy”, “disgusting”, “unnatural”, “evil” to feel or act a certain way. And even if you have the most accepting and understanding parents and you aren’t exposed to the “sins” laid down by various religions (or even secular custom), it’s only natural for a child to feel unacceptably “bad” if they experience anger toward a parent. With this introduction, I’m sending along a piece I wrote in 2003. It’s very long and maybe too personal, but I think it describes things that are universal and, also frighteningly current…
Confessions (and Digressions) of a Would-be Vampire
This past Friday (Halloween) around noon (so call it Hallowoon), I was down in Lower Manhattan at Chambers Street, having lunch with a friend. This is one block from City Hall—thousands of people jamming the streets, rushing around; talking, yelling, buying, selling… And the courts are all around that area too. So, added to the usual tumult of a major downtown cross-street, there was the unavoidable look of fear and doubt on many faces; people not knowing how large their fine would be, if they might make bail, if their husband would get probation or jail, if their kid would be taken away… And In the midst of all this urgency and busy-ness were dozens of little kids parading around on the sidewalks (led, of course by their day-care-teacher/baby-sitter/mother) dressed up as witches, ghosts, vampires…
They look ridiculous and incredibly cute, so small and innocent, wearing their rubber, fanged masks and tiny capes; carrying miniature plastic brooms and pitchforks. All they know is that it’s a day to dress in “scary” costumes, walk around and get candy from people… Right there on Chambers Street, right next to frantic, worn-out people going to and coming from court; hard-eyed cops; overweight, hack lawyers; food-cart vendors and gesticulating junk-jewelry merchants—walking between and around them all is some half-dazed little witch holding onto her ghost-buddy’s hand and sticking her head into a restaurant to say “trick or treat.”
These kids haven’t the slightest conception (how could they?) that they’re wearing the symbols of myths and legends that are universal—stories that have fascinated and terrified people all over the earth since before recorded time.
Holidays like Halloween—and other, similar, ancient celebrations (including Christmas) have lost a lot—if not all—meaning in modern times; more often than not they’re just an opportunity for various businesses to have big sales and make a lot of money.
This disconnect from the original inspiration and meaning of these holidays reflects the long accruing (and vast) gap between the “primitive and the modern”; the absurdist Bermuda Triangle into which has disappeared the old human connection to the spirits that dwell in all things. These little kids (and the adults minding them) have no idea what powerful spirits they’re invoking and evoking, and that these symbols and the spirits represent the deepest parts of universal human psychology. What do they know (most of them) about the vicious beasts that walk the night (or the day, for that matter?)? What do they know about the creatures that rise from their graves and haunt the living till madness comes? Not a damn thing—except what they might accidentally see on a New York Post cover.
When I see these kids, I naturally begin to remember my own Halloweens; and not just the Halloweens, but a great deal more. I remember the beasts, demons and creatures of the night that haunted me the other 364 days a year…
Now here’s something which, on the face of it, may seem bizarre or just plain loony… Many times during the course of my early (and occasionally later) life I wanted to be a vampire—and I don’t mean wearing a vampire costume for a few hours one day a year; I seriously wanted to be a “real” vampire. Everybody, they say, needs a goal, a dream, something to work for—or what’s life (or being undead) all about?
Becoming a vampire wasn’t exactly one of those childhood dreams that you hear about when successful people are interviewed at the top of their game: “Yes, Barbara, I knew, even as I slopped the hogs down on that little farm in Tehachapi, that I was born to dance!” Or, “Professor Feigelbloom remembers fondly the first particle accelerator that his uncle gave him for his 11th birthday.. It was a short step from there to Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton…”
I didn’t sit around and dream of one day taking advanced Vampire Studies at Harvard or even transferring from Andrew Jackson High School to Vampire Trades and Technical. I didn’t save up money from my paper route (because I never had a paper route) so I could send away for a “Realistic Vampire Kit! Terrify your friends; fangs, cape and an actual vial of bat’s blood…”
No, no—it wasn’t like that. My wish, my desire to be a creature of the night, was never so plebian or practical, yet, none-the-less, the desire was very strong.
Wait! Just so were crawling down the same stretch of castle wall here, let’s just get our definitions straight… According to Webster’s: “Vampire: fr. German/Serbo-Croation, vampir; The re-animated body of a dead person believed to come from the grave at night and suck the blood of persons asleep; one who lives by preying on others; Also, Vamp; a woman who exploits and ruins her lover”.
A vampire is a creature of myth and legend, a creature who is not dead, and yet, not alive either—sort of like Dick Cheney. And, just like the Vice-President, the vampire inhabits dark basements and never emerges during the daytime. He comes forth at night and can take the form of any number of terrifying or loathsome creatures; a wolf, a bat, a personal injury lawyer…
The vampire, known and feared since the time of the Greeks and Romans, is often thought to sleep in a coffin or at least a box of his/her native earth. Vampires, according to legend and fiction (which I chose to believe as fact) are pale (the Caucasian ones anyhow), have dark piercing eyes and are capable of moving so quickly they can’t be tracked by the human eye. They can jump hundreds of feet in one bound, or straight up in the air—as high as ten stories, and can crawl down the sides of buildings, defying the physical laws of nature. They can hear whispers from a mile away and have the strength of ten men (or women). Vampires can also command the wills of weaker creatures, like rats, snakes, and people who think Judge Judy is presiding over a real court.
Vampires live forever, unless they are unnaturally interfered with by crusading scientists or misguided idiots with wooden stakes in their hands. But what, to me, gives them their greatest strength is that they have no fear—no fear of the living or the dead. And it is this fearlessness that gives them their ultimate power.
So now you can ask me—Mike, why did you want to be a vampire?
Well, the first thing I have to say is, how can you ask such a foolish question? Did you not read the list of vampire attributes above? Just look at the astounding things a vampire can do. If you had the choice, would you pass up such incredible powers? Would you give up the chance to hear and see over great distances, command the beasts of the air and earth, move so fast no one could even see you? Would you give up the virtual cessation of physical and mental fear, even the fear of death? Or, if somebody offered you those things, would you just say, “Nah, forget it, dude, I’m already late for the tailgate party,” or, “I better not, I just made assistant manager and I’m due for a raise, not to mention three extra personal days a year!” Of course not; you—assuming you’re a person with any real spirit—would go with the vampire option.
Think of how deadly boring life can be, and might continue be until you pack it in (or, more precisely, they pack you in). Wouldn’t you like to cast all that mundane dreariness to the winds? Wouldn’t you like to live the life of a supernatural being—beyond pain and fear and even death? And don’t forget, a vampire doesn’t have to pay off student loans or meet an annual deductible.
Well, Ok, I suppose it’s always possible that someone—some unimaginative plodder—might say, “Now, hold up a minute there, pardner… Maybe I don’t want all those things. Maybe I’m content just being a regular human being; somebody who walks around with their feet on the ground, works all week at a decent job; Somebody who has a nice family, and, at the end of the day—good works accomplished, loved ones provided for—curls up all snug and comfy under the covers and drifts off to sleep. Maybe you might say, “Look pal, I like garlic in my salad dressing, I like to see my image in the mirror, I like to be able to pray to Jesus on Sunday without my crucifix catching fire.”
And I could understand if you tell me, “I don’t want to sleep in a dank, smelly coffin all night and suck the blood of innocent people. I especially don’t want to live forever—it’s unnatural”, you might say… “there is something profoundly, bedrockedly inhuman with having such powers—and I think people who want things like that are just maladjusted, unhappy souls.”
So you would refuse all the afore-mentioned superhuman powers—presuming they existed—if they were offered to you. Well, I can tell you that there are people who would definitely entertain such an offer; and that whether or not you might be powerfully attracted to such things depends on just how happy you were with your life—how much you’ve accepted the natural cycles of birth and growth; the changing of the seasons; aging, loss, pain; decline, death and, possibly, rebirth…
We all exist on a continuum of acceptance and denial, of self-awareness and ignorance, of satisfaction and discontent. And this state of existence is constantly shifting and changing. Only you yourself can know where you land on this continuum on any particular day, at any given time of your life; and your perception of these things will govern the extent (if any) of your attraction (if only in fantasies) to having abnormal and extreme powers…
Take me, for instance… Why would I have wanted to be a Vampire and gain the powers of the supernatural? Why wasn’t my regular, human life good enough for me? Well, mostly because I didn’t have a regular, human life. I grew up in a house where my father was gone; far, far away, and of no use to me—certainly not when it came to protecting me from anything, either real or imaginary. My poor mother was right on the borderline of crazy (and sometimes way over the border). When she wasn’t lost in a deep, dark valley or shaking with fear or rage, she could be suddenly vicious. A couple of times (especially when I was younger) she became completely demented; screaming, yelling, cursing, walking around wild-eyed, barely dressed, her disheveled and dirty gray hair flying all over. She routinely used her fingernails to pick at her head and cuticles till blood came, her teeth were yellowish, stained by nicotine.
If I wanted to hide myself from my mother’s terrifying excesses, I had (when I couldn’t escape to the world outside) only one place to go—up to my bedroom. And that bedroom overlooked a large cemetery.
Day and night, for years, I sat or stood—sometimes for hours—at my bedroom window staring at that cemetery; at endless rows of gravestones, standing motionless like soldiers at attention; at freshly dug graves, at coffins being lowered into the earth, at (over the years) maybe thousands of people in the throes of unbearable grief. In the dark nights I watched in the moonlight as rats, snakes, bats and birds skittered, slithered and flitted around the huge black tree (seeming leafless at all times of the year) that sat square in the center of my vision, no more than fifty yards away from my window. I think that tree had died decades before but still lurked there, a kind of arboreal zombie.
Growing up scared to death by what was going on inside my house, I was, naturally, ten times more terrified of the usual boogie-men, spooks, witches, demons and so on that frighten little kids. When you’re a six, eight or twelve-year-old, watching the wind blow over the tall grass in the cemetery, seeing shadows dart and swoop, hearing the howling of the wind and seeing dead leaves swirl up into the empty dark night, you become so deeply and permanently frightened that nothing can ever seem to take the chill from the center of your bones. Even later in life, when I had my own family—career, money and responsibilities, just the sight of a hearse or a funeral parlor could freeze my heart. You know the old saying (which I just made up), “You can take the boy out of the cemetery, but you can’t take the cemetery out of the boy.”
What to do then? If I was not to literally lose my mind to the fears that reached out to clutch me with their evil cartoon claws, I had to establish a hiding place for myself; a fortress within which I would be safe from such demons. And, by a process of cancellation and the perverse gifts that God sometimes gives the helpless, that fortress was my imagination. I lived in the world of legends, fairytales and myths, and these alternative worlds had far more influence on my mind (and even my five senses) than the actual facts and circumstances of my everyday life.
I’m not claiming that my experience of witches and demons and beautiful princesses and the brave heroes who slayed them, was richer or deeper than other kids. I’m just saying that given my overflowing imagination and my overwhelming need for protection and vicarious power, these tales assumed much greater importance in my life. I lived behind a tightly-woven veil of make-believe; my very nervous system was self-fashioned to provide me with the protection I didn’t get from the outside. I surrounded my heart and mind with witch booby traps and anti-demon mines; primed to go off at the slightest motion or approach. I fed myself on fears and rescued myself (and other, imaginary, helpless victims) over and over again, just before the monster-du-jour could get me. I spent a lot of time up in my room, struggling with, and ultimately defeating monsters, witches and demons—and just when I thought I’d seen the last of them, they’d pop up again.
I was generally pretty worn out.
My mother hardly ever left her room, even her bed, though sometimes she did rise from her coffin at night to wander the house. Recall one of Webster’s definitions of Vampires; “a woman who exploits and ruins her lover…” Well, I loved my mother—as much, I’m sure, as any boy ever loved his mother. But it’s impossible to say if my mother loved anyone herself—so consumed was she by fear and rage. But if she did love anyone, and if, in fact, she was going to have a lover, it would have been me… She had no boundaries, and when in the grip of her worst demons, little control over her emotions or her actions. I was always afraid that, when she was in one of these awful trances, she would just walk uninvited into my room any time of the day or night—something she had done a several times over the years.
…A vampire, roaming the night, looking to ruin (for which, read “seduce”) and to exploit, to suck the blood and the life out of the living. Yes, Auntie Em, there’s no place like home.
Vampires and sex, sex and death… If you’ve read any of the modern vampire stories, or seen the TV shows and the movies, you know that sex runs right straight through the middle of them all. Bram Stoker’s Dracula, published in 1897, the first of the Vampire epics of the modern era—and still the most famous Vampire story of them all—would never have been written without the fuel of the overheated, suppressed sexuality that prevailed in Victorian times. The mid-to-late 1800’s in England (and other Anglo-Saxon countries) was the very height of repressed sexuality. It is the same dark, rich soil that gave birth to the theories of Freud, that explained the “hysteria” of fainting women, the uncontrollable sexual violence of men… The hidden, the dark, the unconscious—the all-consuming Id!
There weren’t enough stays, girdles, waistcoats, belts and buttons to keep the groping fingers of suppressed Victorian sex from the crotches and throats of these poor Anglo-Saxons. This was the time of underground pornography and decadent perversions; British boys’ schools with their sadistic homosexuality, caning, slapping, whipping… boots, riding crops; Kraft-Ebing, Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch, Jack The Ripper…
And towering above all the demons of hidden super-heated urges was Dracula. (Bram Stoker himself was said to have been an extremely neurotic man, once fainting at a performance of his own play).
Many of the definitions of European “perversion” both in literature, and “scientific” writing, come from this era of buried urges and emotions. Bury this anger or fear or lust deep enough, and for a long enough time, and it will transmogrify; it will squirm, boil, and then burst to the surface in manifold outrageous ways. This then, is the psychological womb of the foul creatures (mostly, but not exclusively male) that prowl the night, sucking the life out of helpless young victims…
Talk about juices flowing… Sucking blood from someone until they’re dead has to be the all-time champ of oral fixations! Forget about thumb-sucking, smoking, drinking, slurping up an entire quart of toffee crunch ice cream. That’s nothing! We are, when we’re talking about Vampires, in the main vein. Phrases like “He’s draining me dry”, “she’s sucking the life out of me.” Where do these expressions—and, more particularly—the feelings they express, come from?
Babies suck milk from their mother’s breasts and so they grow and thrive. Nurturing a living creature by actually giving them fluid from your body; could anything be more basic than that?
And what if you were a child—naturally disposed to pure appetite and the need for sustenance—and were denied this nurturing; deprived of the milk, the comfort, the love—not necessarily in a purely physical way but emotionally?
I think this explains the greediest among us. The ones who can never stop eating, drinking, consuming; taking everything for themselves; the supreme narcissists of the world. They are ravaged with an insatiable hunger; an insensate desire to empty the life of everything within reach to keep themselves alive. The history of the world can be, I think, measured by the hungers of the greedy; those who never have enough; sex, riches, land, power; the great predators, the dictators, the robber barons, the seekers after power… They stride forth into the world, sucking the oil and gold out of the ground and money out of the bank accounts of whole populations—all for a thirst that can never be satisfied.
The greatest, most enduring myths and legends rise from the deepest wells of the psyche. Vampires, like all ghosts and witches, like Gods and Devils, must be created (supposing they don’t exist already) by human beings. Just as, out of the deepest need, we imagine the great nurturers and saviors—Jesus and Mother Mary for instance–we also imagine the great demons—the arch deprivers and despoilers. If we were completely aware and entirely responsible for ourselves—all perfectly realized Buddhas—there would be no need for gods and demons. But we are all imperfect. We all retain, to a greater or lesser extent, the minds and hearts of children; And to that extent we tend to locate the origin of our guilt and fear, our rage and hatred and desire, outside ourselves— “The Devil made me do it” “It’s God’s will that I (fill in the blank)”. “I fell under her/his spell”…
But wait—I have digressed… Let’s get back to the original question… Why did I want to be a vampire?
From the deep, dark fear that assailed me every day and night of my childhood, I wanted to protect myself; defend myself against all the foul things, real and imagined, that threatened me. Now how could I do this? I had no power at all. I was a child, and a short, skinny one at that, so I wasn’t going to scare anybody with my brute strength. I was athletic but nobody was paying particular attention to me, so I wasn’t going to get anything out of that—no local fame or glory. I was smart, but too strange and perverse to study or care about getting good grades in school—so my star wasn’t shining in that quadrant of the heavens. And girls? I wanted to be with them, but they terrified me.
Now and then I could get some solace from my tough old immigrant grandmother who lived not very far away, but she was just that: tough—and had a very low tolerance for my ceaseless, over-developed fears… I could haunt the houses of my relatively normal neighbors and friends on the block, imbibing the calmness and love that I saw there. But, really, how much could one live at someone else’s house before you wore out your welcome?
What was left? As I said before—my imagination.
I lived in my imagination… sometimes daydreaming for hours at a time. I submerged myself in books of fantasy, science fiction and historical novels. “Long ago and far away” was a far better place to live than the house into which fate had thoughtlessly dropped me. When modern make-believe became too thin, I read mythology and fairytales; Greek, Norse, Indian, Asian—anything and everything. I merged my small, pitiful existence with the lives and personalities of great heroes—slayers of dragons and witches and hags (especially witches and hags!). I sailed to the far away Islands of the Pacific, climbed the hidden mountains of the Andes; traveled the vast reaches of space, and wound up fighting twelve-foot high, six-armed, sharp-tusked green men on the planet Mars. And I was always triumphant!
I lived inside all those books, Bullfinch’s Mythology, 1001 Nights, Edgar Rice Burroughs; Having to come out of them to live in the real world was like being forced to swim up from a beautiful dream—only to look around and realize, with a terrible sinking despair, that I was still me, still in my room, still in my house—still prey to any passing bad thing that chose to come my way.
…Out to my backyard… I set up toy soldiers (the World War 2 version) in a large patch of dirt and played God with the troops…directing violent battles in which great casualties were suffered on both sides. I am happy to report, though, that I was still sufficiently in touch with reality and had a developed enough sense of right and wrong, so that I always made sure that the Americans beat the Germans. But those battles were just warm-ups to my more desperate attempts to give myself some power. When nobody was looking, which was about 98% of the time, I took matches or something we called a “punk” (a simple stick of incense) and burned ants. My method was to get one of the ants alone or away from the nest and hold the burning punk just close enough to roast it slowly to death. When I look back on this, I see, despite the extreme dysfunction and cruelty, how sadly natural it was. I needed to even the score; to provide some strength and power for myself, even if it was imaginary or confined to a tiny, almost hallucinatory universe. (I have no doubt, that when I arrive in the afterlife, I will discover that God is a giant ant. And it will serve me right.)
I believe this need for the powerless to reverse their fortunes reflects a universal experience; that this innate drive to attain some measure of dominance over your circumstances (much like the greedy trying to satisfy their bottomless hunger) is behind a lot of the extreme actions and enduring beliefs of mankind. In short (not a new idea here) I think people, in an attempt to offset their lack of power, often imitate or even become the thing they fear the most; or, lacking the ability or even the imagination to do that, they find someone fearsome and powerful to idolize (think of Hitler and his hysterical, cheering crowds).
I was afraid of being overwhelmed, swallowed up and destroyed, so I became the conqueror of Mars, the slayer of the Medusa, General Patton, the Godlike destroyer of helpless ants.
…What scared me most, there—up in my room—was the DARK NIGHT, specifically the things (real and imaginary) that came out at night. So, when I stumbled across Stoker’s Dracula, saw Dracula movies on TV, and read other stories of vampires, I was mesmerized. I experienced an exhilarating thrill on discovering that there might be something that, not only was not afraid of the night and all its dangers but was, on the contrary, MASTER of the night! I imagined flying right out into the cemetery and lording it over every creature, living and dead, that crawled or slithered there. Imagine! You couldn’t be harmed. For a change, I could be the one that caused the blood to chill, the heart to quake.
It’s tempting to wonder about the inner lives of people like Wall Street bankers, hedge fund executives, political bosses and other current Masters of the Universe. Is the old folk wisdom about bullies really true? Are these lords and would-be lords of our world, just scared children at bottom; so scared that they have to gorge themselves on all the power in the world? Maybe they are scared. Maybe they do feel small and powerless deep down inside, but while they are engaged evening the score, they sure manage to ruin a lot of the lives around them. We all pay the price for their monstrous inadequacies.
For the woman or man who grew up abused and terrified, seemingly cursed and alone, they imagine they’ve found a way to win over it, “Become the abuser and the terrifier—and suffer no longer the fate of the weak and helpless.”
I remember one time, about twelve years ago—at the end of my rope—not caring if I lived or died, boiling inside with an almost uncontrollable anger—I wandered late at night over to Riverside Park in Manhattan. For those of you who don’t live in New York, picture a park that runs for a couple of miles along the river; a place where there are stands of trees and patches of underbrush. The park is closed at night and only the hopeless, the insane, the drugged or the psychopathically vicious will venture in there once it gets late and dark. Cops won’t even walk through the place—they ride in their cars.
One midnight, I went into the park. I walked the dirt paths, through the trees, heard odd noises, growls, sounds that didn’t sound even remotely human. I saw large shadows move. I heard thumps, grunts… a distant scream. But I didn’t care. I crashed through the woods, my eyes lit up, looking for something, someone, anyone, to confront. It was nothing less than mania, but I felt a wild kind of joy—a feeling that I was invincible.
After about a half hour of this I calmed down enough to retreat back to a normal human state of fright and I retreated back out of the park. But I have always, somewhere in my bones, retained the primitive wild thrill of that moment.
And now, having described the tremendous (if only in my fantasies) thrills of having such fearsome powers, I think it’s necessary to point out that the classic Vampire of myth and literature is almost always alone—lonely. This loneliness is an essential part of the mythos, and its psychological foundation. The one who feels this deep need for revenge, this insatiable, raging thirst, feels, at the same time, that he or she was, is, and always will be, unloved. This is the engine that drives all these monster tales: “I will never be loved and so I will wreak my vengeance on the world. I will kill love itself.” (Like Shakespeare’s Richard the Third—ridiculed and unloved because of his twisted form, so he is “determined to prove a villain”).
And—sublime to ridiculous—consider Godzilla, knocking down buildings, short-circuiting power plants, squashing great heaps of humans under his feet. They kept trying to destroy him with all sorts of modern weapons—when all he needed was a warm bottle and a blanket.
Well, back to earth—and not a moment too soon, for the sun is sinking… So, some closing remarks before I rise and walk the night…
Clearly, the sense of wanting to have great, even supernatural powers (even if that yearning is unconscious) is universal; look at the astounding popularity of superhero movies, not just in this country but wherever anyone makes movies. China and India have been making these kinds of mythic fantasy films for decades… But universal, too, is the realization (again, unconscious though it might be for some) most of us have that it is unnatural to have such powers. To be superhuman, to fly, to remain young always—to live forever—these arouse in us, not just a primitive fascination but also a fundamental sense of discordance, even pity.
Think of Wilde’s great story, The Picture of Dorian Gray, where a young man, beautiful, popular, rich, retains his youth and beauty way past its natural span. But hidden away, up in his attic, is a portrait of him, painted at the glorious apogee of his youth. As Dorian ages, the portrait ages. As the “young” man, whose face and body never changes, indulges himself (in order to surmount his increasing boredom and world-weariness) in ever more extreme forms of decadence, his portrait becomes more gross, twisted and evil looking.
Peter Pan is another wonderful, and, obviously more benevolent, variation on the same theme: Peter remains young—a boy forever, but Wendy must grow, age, know the joys of love and the pain of loss. She must be, in short, human. The story is written with great compassion for Peter, but, in the end, he remains, as all immortal beings must, (just like our beastly friend, Dracula) alone. And though he gets to live forever, and enjoys superhuman powers, he must give up the one thing that seems to rescue us poor, earth-bound humans from the pains and trials of this world: Love.
This theme has been repeated a thousand times in stories and myths since the beginning of time—and right up to the present. Look at Superman. He only retains his powers when he abjures love. And you can see the same wrenching theme in The Lord of The Rings: Love and immortality do not mix.
Love. The one word, says Oedipus, “that frees us of all the weight and pain of this world.” As long as our lives are framed by death, by nothingness, the only thing that seems to provide (even if it’s an illusion) a connection to God (or eternity), is love. In the end, the great raging beasts of myth and literature, of stage and screen, like the vampire—like the Devil himself—are projections of our fear and rage; phantasms given birth in the absence of real love, and the peace and security that comes with it.
Do Vampire’s really exist? Who knows? And besides, with a world full of the likes of Charles Koch, Dick Cheney, Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, and all the other, greedy, power-mad or murderous men in the world, what difference does it make? There are enough monsters in the here and now to concern ourselves with. In the end, we remain human and must struggle to make the best of this world as it is.