This flashback post is inspired by the fact that I found the whole first season of The Vampire Diaries for $5 at a thrift store in Kansas City. Holla! I wrote this post last summer (2012) when I was obsessing over the show for the first time. Someone who isn’t into all those vampire shows asked me why I thought people were suddenly into them. The reality is that I think people have been for a long time. I read The Vampire Diaries book series when I was in fifth or sixth grade, and Ann Rice made a killing on vampires in the 90s. The following post, originally on I Still Hate Pickles, explains my thoughts on the deeper reasons we might all be a little interested in vampires or the quest for eternal life.
Am I the only one that sometimes thinks about being a vampire?
I’ve pretty much been into weird supernatural stuff since I was a kid–I might have believed I was a werewolf for a brief period. (Yup, I just admitted that.) I loved the original Vampire Diaries book series in middle school and still read it every year or so. For the past week or so, I’ve been racing to the end of the Vampire Diaries on Netflix, mostly by myself, but with a little Rob and Lauren (and PETER!) thrown in there. (All while sending texts back and forth to Feisty, who is my TV texting partner.) Though mostly my brain has been a mush of vampire activity and doomed love triangle, I heard something in Sunday School this week that went a little deeper than vampire TV show.
During Sunday school Rob has the youth read from a book of mind-blowing puritan prayers called The Valley of Vision. Some of the words from Sunday really hit me, especially in light of all the blood and death I’ve been watching in my free time. These lines are from a prayer entitled “Sleep”:
May my frequent lying down make me familiar with death,
the bed I approach remind me of the grave,
the eyes I now close picture to me their final closing.
Keep me always ready, waiting for admittance to thy presence.
Weaken my attachment to earthly things.
May I hold life loosely in my hand,
Knowing that I receive it on condition of its surrender;
As pain and suffering betoken transitory health,
May I not shrink from a death
That introduces me to the freshness of eternal youth.
A little dark, unless you believe that death is when real life really starts. There are some pretty obvious words and ideas there that make an easy connection to a show like The Vampire Diaries: it’s definitely a show familiar with death, the freshness of eternal youth, and even the struggle to have a weakened attachment to earthly things (I’m talking to YOU, vampires in love with humans). But on a deeper level, the prayer reminded me of the reality that I need to weaken MY attachment to earthly things (like TV over-obsessions, maybe?) and it made me really think about why people get interested in things vampire and supernatural.
Whether it’s from drinking from human blood or the mythical Fountain of Youth OR just getting botox and other forms of plastic surgery, it’s very human to chase the idea eternal life. There is something in us that longs for life and more of it. And we don’t just want eternal life–we want eternal youth. Health and beauty and all that goes with it. Think about the most popular vampire-type shows or books: everyone is young(ish) and beautiful. That’s the dream.
I believe the reason we long for this is found in Ecclesiastes 3:11, which says, “He has set eternity in the hearts of men.” This verse tells us that God created us with a sense of eternity in our hearts, but as it goes on to say, we cannot quite fathom it on our own. We all have a longing, for life and for something more than the here and now–there is a sense of eternity, and a yearning for it. The eternity of the Bible is way different than the eternal life of vampires, but that sense of longing makes this theme resonate with us.
Love–Sacrificial and Otherwise
I have to say that I got a little sick of everyone trying to die for everyone else in season 2 of The Vampire Diaries. It simply got out of hand. At the same time, this is an idea we love: the person who will lay it all on the line for love, even at the cost of life. This is not a new storyline (is there any really new storyline?) but one that, again, resonates with us. It’s the purest kind of love, one that also plays out in the pages of the Bible. Romans 5:7-8 says that it’s rare that anyone would die, even for a good man, but that Jesus died for us even while we were enemies.
A good love story also appeals to the masses. I don’t mean that every person likes chick flicks or movies solely about love. I, for one, don’t. But I love when the love story is a part of the story. Think how many television shows and movies and novels and songs have been carried by the tension of a love that you know is meant to be? I remember in seventh grade barely being able to wait each week to find out if Dwayne Wayne and Whitley would FINALLY get together on A Different World. Angela and Jordan Catalano. Joey and Dawson (or Pacey). Ross and Rachel. Elena and Stefan (or Damon). Ratings soar as viewers wait for that couple to share their first kiss or be reunited after troubles pulled them apart.
Again–I think this is part of our inner workings. God saw that it was not good for man to be alone. We long for true love, in our own lives and in our stories. Though the love God has for us is described as that of a father for his children, it is also compared to a marriage. And like those stories with the great tension, we are living in the tension now, a bride waiting for her bridegroom to return and sweep her away. This love story is written in our very DNA.
Good v Evil
If the men weren’t quite on board with the idea that we long to see requited love, they will let it all hang out when it comes to some epic battle movie. Guys reading this (you know who you are): how many of you cried during Gladiator? Braveheart? I actually prefer this type of movie–though it’s better if a love story is embedded in there, and just not the main story. (Side note: I can’t handle Braveheart because William Wallace ended up with that queen lady. Ruined the whole thing for me, freedom be hanged.)
I think sometimes we get lost in the minutiae of life and really desire a great adventure, something with consequence. What’s an office job when you could be a superhero, saving the world? It’s the same draw with comic book heroes, I think, where the story is often some average person being transformed to live a life of magnitude.
The story of Scripture is the story of good versus evil–though the two are not equal, opposing forces, and the Bible reveals that good WILL win out in the end. Again–we have eternity in our hearts, and I think that gives us a longing for eternal life, and a life of significance. Jesus promises that very thing, saying that he came so we could have life to the full (John 10:10).
I’m not sure that most Christians really live that life to the full or know what that looks like. I know that often I’m not grappling enough with what Jesus meant there, or living that full life he promised. Most especially not when I’m spending 80 hours watching a TV show. I’m not trying to spiritualize it or even justify my colossal waste of time, but simply want to point out that I think there is a reason that we can get drawn into this type of story.
We were meant to live for so much more.
That’s a line from a Switchfoot song and it resonates. We were meant to live for more than just earthly love and our day-to-day jobs and television shows. The fact that we can become caught up in stories of other people living these lives with eternity, significance, and love demonstrates that very fact. With this in mind, I have a third season to finish, but also I have this prayer ringing in my ears:
Weaken my attachment to earthly things.
May I hold life loosely in my hand,
Knowing that I receive it on the condition of my surrender.