“The thing about vampires is that they mistake eternity as the endless duration of time.”
My friend, Colin, laid this profundity on me over coffee the other day. We were discussing pop culture’s infatuation with vampires in films and novels. I suggested that while we need ‘escapist’ literature, perhaps there’s too much of it these days. Stories about protagonists squaring off against good old-fashioned reality should be just as frightening, maybe more so.
“Vampire myths are a metaphor for the un-illuminated ego,” Colin said. “You only have to look at the world the vampire lives in. Dark. It can’t survive in the light.”
His point, of course, is that real people in real life are just as fearful of the light. Light = seeing = truth. Vampires, like most people, will do almost anything to avoid the light. To avoid discovering whom they really are.
“The vampire is so lacking in self-knowledge that he can’t even see himself in a mirror,” says Colin.
Knowing oneself isn’t just the consequence of a protagonist getting repeatedly hammered during Act Two, no, it is the spiritual question. And the two are often linked. The battered hero, faced with no alternative but to surrender her tired old strategies, lands in the present moment. We know this as a ‘religious experience’, characterized by timelessness. C.Y. calls it the “vibrant life”.
“But, hey, the vampire’s relationship to the vibrant life is as a parasite,” says C.Y. “He sucks as much of it as he can get, and then retreats.”
Hmmm. We mortals would appear to approach life in much the same ‘hit and run’ manner. We too mistake eternity as the endless duration of time, and grab only what we need to live another day. When fictional characters fail to stand and deliver for all time, it’s called a tragedy. Maybe vampire stories are tragic by nature.
Myself, I appreciate stories where the protagonist sees the light, if only for a second. In that moment, even dying loses its tragic sense. The hero, glimpsing some new and all-embracing organizing principle within her life, proceeds to the climax a wiser person.
Even as I say this, I’m impressed as never before by the vampire metaphor. Fear of the light cannot be overstated. It’s easier to die than change.