Monday, February 4, 2013

The Care And Feeding Of Vampires And Zombies

   - Excuse me. We were making a bet. Are you a writer or an actor?
- What did you say?
- Writer. Because of the pen.
- If I have something so inefficient to write with I must be doing something more important than being useful. You win.
- What do you write? Really important things?
- Stories from my life.
- How is your life important?
- Well, you got it right from the start: because it is useless.
- Your life is useless? Nothing happens?
- No, a lot happens. For example last week I visited a law office at that high rise building over there. I'd gotten an email a month before from a L.A. video journalist saying she was writing a book on dangerous woman and wanted to make my wife its centerpiece. She proceeded to ask me if I had documents about my marriage, wedding certificate, was I still married or divorced, would I testify in court, were the stories I'd written about my wife truth or fiction? I replied she sounded more like a private detective than a journalist, and asked how she heard of me.  She knew a girl from her new age church who knew the Beverly Hills doctor who married my wife and now wanted to divorce her.
- Your wife married another man without divorcing you?
- See? Things happen in my life. I wrote the journalist a couple weeks ago that if she would like to meet I had arrived back in L.A. from Israel. The next day I received an email from the doctor, my first contact from him. And the following day his law firm wrote me, asking if I would visit them.
- What did they want?
- Help them prove my wife was not legally married to the doctor so he would not have to pay a divorce settlement.
- What did you say?
- I didn't see how I could help the doctor. I didn't like the idea of helping people who harmed me. If he was willing to do something about the disruption his arrival in my life had caused, we could talk.
- Did you mean money?
- Yes. Or something else. I like stories to continue.
- What did the lawyers say?
- They'd ask their client.
- And then?
- The doctor never answered.
- Why?
- Because I'm a useless sort of person when everyone is expected to be useful. I was writing with my inefficient pen about vampires and zombies. Want to hear?
- Everyone likes vampires and zombies.
- Of course they do. We live doing things without end, accumulating more and more things done, each for its own sake. Instead we might have been working towards finding friends, falling in love, making life beautiful and fair. Working towards being able to stop working. A vampire can't stop seducing his victims. It's his work. He doesn't want their love, their beautiful society. The union he seeks isn't mental. He physically incorporates his victims into his own body by drinking their blood, and by the death of his victims he excludes the possibility of resting even for a moment in a new society. He must go on, always go on, finding new victims, always doing without rest. That is what makes him a symbol of our times.
- But you do things too, like what you did with the lawyers.
- Useless things. Ridiculous things that don't lend themselves to infinite accumulation. Vampires and zombies both are creatures who do things without rest. Doing without rest, they might as well be dead. A life of restless activity is equivalent to death because it excludes the good of life. Zombies are flesh eating corpses animated against their will by a magician, whereas vampires are corpses animated by the blood of their deliberately sought victims.
- And what are you, vampire or zombie?
- Resisting being either. The doctor and lawyers are vampires who'd like to drink my blood.
- What about your wife?
- Vampire.
- Vampires want to make you into a vampire too.
- That was the 19th century, the new, self conscious consolidation of the murderous doers without end into a social class. Since the 20th century we have zombies. Zombies express the idea that society itself has become a machine for making masses of individuals into doers without end against their will.
- Why does society create zombies?
- Because society has come to be based on doing without end.
- Don't think me a child asking why over and over, but why is society based on doing without end?
- Once it begins, it increases. People only doing understand and cooperate better with people doing the same kind of thing. This translates into monopolies, which, disrupting society, force even more attention to doing. History draws this fatality out of human nature.
- From everyone's except yours?
- A writer wants to write beautiful stories, and when done rest in the beauty created. A mother like you wants to live in the midst of the love of her family, not accumulate children.
- If useless people, as you call us, exist the whole society is not vampires and zombies.
- No. But our flesh and blood is their food and drink.
- Will you write this down in a story?
- Sure. I don't think anyone can use it for anything.
- How do you make money?
- I don't make money.
- How do you live?
- It surprises me that I do. I'm turning into a new kind of monster, a combination zombie forced to go without sleep and vampire squeezing out stories from the lives of the useful.

"Monseigneur, you who turn everything to account, have, nevertheless, one useless plot. It would be better to grow salads there than bouquets." "Madame Magloire," retorted the Bishop, "you are mistaken. The beautiful is as useful as the useful." He added after a pause, "More so, perhaps." (Les Miserables, Victor Hugo)