The Story that Haunts Our Stories
Up front, I will simply state that I believe in the whole metanarrative bit – the overarching story that explains our past and present, that anticipates our future, and that undergirds and informs all our best stories. I believe there is a “big story” that is the story of mankind. I also believe that the various stories we tell (at least the best ones) can’t help but borrow from this big story, because that story is deeply written on our collective psyche. It’s in us in an inescapable way. We may misunderstand the metanarrative, we may try to rework it or avoid it or deny it, but we all intersect and dance with it all the time.
I’ve often been amused by the number of zombie and vampire stories that have filled up the pages of novels and the weeks of TV series and even the big screen in the last 20 years or so. What’s up with all that living dead and bloodsucking stuff anyway? This is where the darker side of the metanarrative comes in.
What we are now is not what we were originally and not what we may yet be. We were noble once and may be so again. We have been and can be monsters and we may become more nightmarish still. So, zombies and vampires are pictures of our present reality apart from God’s redeeming work. Without the true life Christ came to give us, we are living dead things (like zombies). We move, we make decisions, we interact with the world and each other, but inside we’re dead. We can’t find the fullness of life anywhere and that gnawing hunger for more is killing us. Without Christ, we are empty on the inside, sucking vacuoles (think vampires) that are always draining meaning from the next fad or fashion or “in thing” to prop up our sense of worth, to keep our identity feeling fresh and lively. See Walker Percy’s Lost in the Cosmos for a fascinating thought exercise through this understanding of our postmodern culture’s dilemma.
And how about the stories of robots with artificial intelligence that always decide mankind is the problem and seek to kill us off (I Robot, The Matrix, the Terminator franchise, Westworld, etc)? Again, it’s the darker side of the metanarrative. It haunts us and fills up our nightmares, because it really is our story. Why are we so afraid that our creation may turn and kill us, the creator? Because that is exactly what we did to our Creator. Not only did we decide He was the killjoy and not well-suited to directing our lives, but when He took on flesh and walked among us, we mercilessly beat Him and crucified Him until He was stone cold dead. Our collective psyche knows that justice should have the same treacherous murderous villainy meted out on us at the hands of the things we created.
And so it goes. The stories that inspire us are often stories of self-sacrifice or a life transformed, or a strength of life and joy and love that overcomes all darkness and all obstacles. The stories that haunt us are the stories of monstrous injustice, betrayal and murder. All of this draws on the Story of stories that is our story.
If you have followed the thread thus far, then recall how our metanarrative ends. We know who the Champion of the story is, and the fullness of life that is laid up for those that align with Him. The day will come when the zombies, vampires, and AI robots no more haunt those who have been written into the story of Christ. In the meantime, watch and listen to the stories we tell, and connect the dots to the one Story that binds them all.