Our son-in-law recently asked his Facebook friends for their views on why there’s such a fascination with zombies in our culture?
This is a very tantalizing question, and it apparently hooked me because I’m returning to it after some days of letting it cook or fester or irritate or whatever. I notice that several of his friends refer to zombies as “mindless” or say that they possess the quality of “mindlessness.”
I’d like to suggest a different quality as the reason for our fascination with zombies, one that I’m not particularly qualified to talk about at all, but here goes anyway: “soullessness” … the absence of soul.
In this secular age, the “soul” — whatever that means — is not a particularly fashionable or obvious or even especially credible subject for serious consideration. But I have in mind the life work of the late Jungian psychologist James Hillman, who — If I understand him right — believed that the soul is an optional “organ,” one that we may choose to make the core work of our life, or not.
In his view, the soul is a project we may undertake. Or not. But … it’s a project of deep and “archetypal” importance.
This raises the horrifying possibility that many of us may live out our entire lives failing to do our most important work: building soul.
Hillman once said “A living sense of world requires a corresponding living organ of soul by means of which a living world can be perceived.”
Here’s the reaction of a couple of Hillman fans to that statement:
“Just think of how much reality is shut off from people because they are part of the walking dead – possessing dead rather than living souls. Not only are they not alive, the world is not alive to them.”
“Zombie is the normal state of a civilized adult human being, I’m afraid. No one alive in society today can survive without the dissociation characteristic of zombies. As Whitehead put it somewhere, “Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.”
Maybe we are all in danger of remaining zombies unless we consciously and deliberately take on the important work of building soul. That’s the horror that always lurks just below the surface.
So, what does it mean for each of us to “build soul?”
No problem: Curly explains it very simply here in “City Slickers:”