I love a good horror movie, but I must admit to a particular affinity for zombie movies. I am drawn into the subplot about human behavior, the existential questions (what constitutes life?) and the dystopian critiques of our cultural trends. The ridiculous and absurd extreme situations put into question basic beliefs.
Zombie movies are the perfect spiritual magnifying lens. So, you believe human life is only about neural activity? Well, what if the nervous system continued to function in limited form without the personality and unique set of traits that make an individual human being? So you believe interconnectedness is a good thing? Well, what if our highly connected networks facilitate faster viral transmission? So you believe we each have worth and dignity? Well, what would you do for survival at the cost of other human beings?
In the movie World War Z with Brad Pitt, the world is taken over by a zombie plague. In approximately twelve seconds after exposure from a zombie bite, a human undergoes a radical change because of a viral infection. In the film, Brad Pitt is bitten as he dashes to the rooftop of a building where a helicopter awaits to take him and his family to safety. Knowing he could change within the twelve-second window, he runs away from the helicopter where his family waits to the ledge of the building. He stands on the ledge teetering over the edge of a New Jersey apartment building as he counts slowly to twelve. He then looks around and makes a dash for the helicopter. He and his family are flown to safety.
As I watched the film, it took a moment to sink in what Pitt’s character did. He teetered at the edge of a building so that if he changed into a ravenous, murdering zombie he would quickly fall to his death and save his family. Aware of his love for them and without more than the thought of their safety, he went right to the edge to protect them.
I know zombies aren’t real. I know these movies are far-fetched.
But how many times in your life have you teetered on the edge in order to protect the ones you love? How many times have you gone to the place that terrifies you, looked over the abyss as you waited to see what was next? And moreover, have you known the self-less act to do anything to protect the ones you love?
A good many of us do not live in the extremes. Yet, we have lights, moments of clarity, which focus what we value the most.
There are surely limits of love, but I do not know a human I have met with a limit for love. That is, our capacity to hold love, to be love and to transit love seems to me to be infinite. What keeps us back is the analysis. What keeps us from the spaces of zero gravity is not the fear, in my opinion, but the analysis of the fear as immobilizing.
Put another way, as one mentor once advised me, your feelings need not dictate how you act. They are good informants but they are not in charge.
As Pitt teetered on the ledge, he surely felt fear. Yet, in the midst of this fear he slowly counted to twelve.
I used to believe you chose love or fear. I was wrong. I used to believe you were courageous or anxious. I was wrong. We are both. We are all of it. And living in both takes us to the edge and brings us back to what we love most and fight for with all of our beings.
We can count to twelve in the direst circumstances. We can feel it all and hold steady. We can teeter on the edge deeply connected to what we love.
August is a time for many of us to ready a return to routine. From vacation and the chaos of unorganized life, we return to the scheduled. In the transition, I invite you to count to twelve. Remember what and whom you live for. Who calls you back from the ledge? Count to twelve. Are you ready to return?
Count to twelve.
Come back. Come together. Return again.
In faith and love,