A repository for musings and inquiries.
Pax Christi everybody!
I’m a Christian, but I’m into a lot of stuff with dark or crass material in it, such as Lovecraft, Bloodborne, Liquid Television shorts, and Doom. I also research the occult for inspiration for my graphic novel and listen to heavier music (preferably without cursing) for leisure. Is this okay?
It’s a distraction. I just finished Ian Banks’ Song of Stone. I love his work. With and without the M. Hated it. The literary critics loved it. The nastiest book I’ve read since King’s Revival. All they do is explore hopelessness.
Where is your heart and attention?
Does your thinking focus on the relationships with God and other people or something else, such as the dark things you watch, listen and read?
This kind of questions can often tell whether watching, listening and reading the stuff is harmful for you and your relationship with God.
Sometimes even ‘hobbies’ that are basically ok can be harmful by stealing so much time, energy and thinking that the most important matters in your life suffer. You reap what you sow.
I guess you are the best expert of your life so you can think yourself what effect this stuff has in your thinking and life, including your relationships with your dear ones, neighbours and God.
What is your own conscience informing you about it?
And I’m not asking that as a rhetorically edged criticism, or a leading question that is already laced with judgment. I’m asking it for real. Because I don’t take it as automatic that “dark stuff” is always off limits (or even necessarily bad) as a pursuit - for anyone Christian or otherwise. I think it can be dangerous, and one is always right to ask as you have done.
But if you are a Christ follower who already is orienting you life around priorities of Christ’s love for all (including yourself), then in one sense - whatever it is that you are “in to” is going to be what Christ is “in to”. So if that is a jarring thought for you, then it is good to evaluate critically whether or not this thing that attracts your time and energies can be harmonious with the best things that Christ wants for you. There are such things as passions that cannot be baptized or “brought within Christ’s blessing”, and may just need to be crucified and done away with in the end. Many Christians happily come up with a very long and detailed list on Christ’s behalf of such things that they then insist must be universally rejected by anyone wanting to be “in the fold”. And surely there are things we are all compelled to agree on by the Spirit working on our own consciences, but I’m pretty certain it is a much shorter list than most want you to believe.
I think it is part of what Scott Peck called our “love affair with death” and part of how we work things out in our head. But I have observed even with non-believers that people lose their ability to indulge in such things as they get older – it bothers them more and more.
As I read that some scientists and philosophers believe that consciousness is a co-basic aspect of the cosmos alongside matter, it makes me wonder if indeed as I believe God arises in consciousness if God could not then be part of everything? If so then perhaps there is an aspect of God for which every creature and substance is an image bearer. I have to doubt that God looks a whole lot like we do or that in His being is exclusively like ourselves. The image of God in which we find our own may be only one of many images He includes. The unrelenting effort to place not our God but only that part which bears our image at the apex of creation seems motivated more by ego, which is another of our aspects.
I think this might be true of me. I have never had any appreciation for anything in the horror genre - whether of print or film; and I would have even less patience with it now if I spent any time with it at all - mainly not even because it’s scary or evil (though it might indeed be both of those things), but just because it seems so stupid to me. I would spend more time being angry at the idiocy of all the characters than I would enjoying any plot that might be there. I know that doesn’t seem to be true of some others, so I guess I may just be a hopeless Philistine as far as some genre are concerned.
“Light and fluffy” - with Disney ‘happy forever after’ endings might be bad enough, but to me, pointlessly dark is even more idiotic yet. If it’s going to have lots of gratuitous violence or darkness in it, then there had better be some serious educational value or positive moral challenge somewhere in there to redeem all the crud. Sorta like … I’m not gonna eat really unpleasant food unless there is some serious nutritious value packed in to make it worth it. Otherwise, what’s the point?
But … junk food that I’m better off without - well … if I really like it, I might eat it anyway just because I really like it. And I probably even consider my life better and more enjoyable that I can munch on decadent sweets or whatever, as long as I don’t indulge to bring on too much later regret (a really fuzzy and dangerous evaluation that!) For some I don’t doubt that they derive serious pleasure from stuff that others find objectionable. I try not to hold their pleasure against them if they don’t bug me about mine.
I guess the same could apply to alcohol: there isn’t anything inherently wrong with drinking it; it only becomes a problem if you drink to become drunk and forget about life.
That’s very fascinating!
It kind of reminds me of what N T Wright said, how some Christians may reject anything having to do with Darwin because he “encourages” an “inherently misanthropic worldview,” and yet the poor and the orphan are held with disdain for their weakness and are tread underfoot because they didn’t get up in time; survival of the fittest attitudes are definitely present.
On a side note, would you consider yourself sympathetic to panpsychism, or are you more Integrated Information?
I don’t think I’m a fanboy for panpsychism or pan-en-theism, nor can I tell you off hand what the difference is. (I have no idea what Integrated Information is about.)
In the past I would have dismissed anything pan-ish because it always seemed to me that consciousness just is a phenomenon that arises from the cognitive function of multicellular creatures with sufficient neurons. The cleverness of slime mold would have made me rethink that eventually but when I read Robert Pirsig’s Lila it really made me question whether there was a role for consciousness before there were any minds or neurons available to support it. This has pushed me more openly toward agnosticism where before my defacto inclination wouldn’t really be all that open to it.
So what about you? Are you in the God as ancient omni-person camp, in a pan-camp or something else?
For me, I hold to a more omni-person view, which one might see as somewhat panentheistic, but not to the point where the universe is inside God; I don’t think he has a body. I do think he pervades through material creation in some shape or form though, of course while allowing free will.
I don’t take a stance when it comes to the problem of consciousness, but funnily enough, I started getting especially interested in panpsychism after learning about slime molds!
My thoughts pretty much, though I am much younger than you. The only horror movies I have seen (and enjoyed) are in the “the only horrifying part is the production quality” category. The sort where there is a copy of the whole movie on Wikipedia, like Plan 9 from Outer Space.
To me, that is a true classic. I actually enjoyed that one! … yes - for how corny it is to be sure. So many good scenes … I especially liked the one where the two pilots are sitting in the “cockpit” (which appeared to consist of a couple folding chairs, some curtains, and some windows, outside of which the burning “flying saucer” eventually appeared … some metal gizmo that had probably been dipped in alcohol and had almost-candle-like flames rising off the top of it. I think one could almost see the string on which it was dangling. A whole new level of CGI. They don’t make’em like that any more. And the writing may have been at a comparable level.
I think the closest I’ve ever come to appreciating anything from, say, Steven King, might be the movie “Stand by Me.” I’m guessing that doesn’t really qualify as horror though. To be fair, it’s not like I’ve read or watched anything else by him, because I’m already as certain as I need to be that I’d have no use for it.
[Okay … I will admit I’ve enjoyed watching Mystery Science Theatre 3K - which often features horror type films. But only to make fun of them.]
I’m definitely a big fan of darker genres. It’s almost exclusively what I watch. 95% of my entertainment consumption is horror. I watch 1-2 horror films a week, am almost always listening to a few hours of horror podcasts a day and roughly 5 out of six fictional books I read is also horror. I watch all kinds from slashers, cosmic terror, body horror and even horror noir. I equally enjoy gore filled films as much as black and white films with bad monster costumes from the 50s.
I even got peacock tv premium tonight so I can watch Halloween Kills the newest film in the series and one of the last few to supposedly be released in the “‘she’s not my sister” story line. In case y’all did not know there are 3 main Halloween story lines that uses some of the same films.
Even when it comes to nonfiction work I’m often reading stories on horror tropes, special effects in horror, and horror film criticism.
I don’t feel any sort of conviction for it. After all horror tends to be the most religious of films pushing Christian subtext more than any other genre. It really highlights good versus evil and friendships versus monsters. The Bible itself is also very dark. It’s full of imagery of these multi eyed animal mutations with wings , humanoid beings with swords of fire, giants being beheaded, sea monsters, a strong man killing himself with gouged out eyes, and of course the metaphors used in the belief of hell being a dark fiery lake where the lost are given eternal life just to be tortured forever and ever. ( though obviously as a conditionalist ) I don’t believe that.
Many of my hobbies that are not horror focused still seem to tip toe around creepy crawlies and things typically considered morbid. I enjoy listening to podcasts about people coping with real death. Families talking about green burials and how they all react differently.
But there are definitely things I don’t enjoy. I am disgusted by films like “ faces of death” . I think it should be illegal. I hate true crime. I can’t stand listening to stories about people really being harmed.
I was extremely disgusted with the Canadian Mark Marek who founded and operated the now shutdown website of bestgore that showed real videos of suicides, torture and so on. It’s unbelievably gross to me. So I enjoy horror , but I do hate real evil that operates outside of fiction.
I place entertainment like horror into the came category as “it’s not what you eat or drink but what comes from your heart” type of deal.
With that said I do enjoy things on the opposite end of the spectrum. I am a big fan of the show “ The Good Witch “ and I’ve read tons of Nicholas Spark books and others by people like Emily Giffin classified as “ slice of life chic literature and I read everything basically by David Levithan which is mostly gay and transgender love stories. So I enjoy a wide range of concepts but I do mostly stick to horror and dark fantasy.
It often surprises people who meet me in person when I’m hiking with my cat , Uhyre , and I’m baby talking to him and kissing him while going on and on about leaf margins and sepals versus petals and talking about veganism and have a Bible in my pocket. They will see me there with my long sleeve brown shirt and khaki pants with a cat laying on its back in my arms while I’m looking plants and then next time I’m wearing shorts and they realize I have over a dozen tattoos and I’m on my porch with a spider and in my room horror is on and they feel as if they are meeting a new person.
I also have the steaming service “Shudder” which is just horror films and horror shows and nothing else.
“highlights good vs. evil” … by spending nearly all its time subjecting one to an immersive experience of the evil. One can appreciate the moral tug-o-war. But I think I would generally be with Tolkien, who has his characters (was it Gandalf?) teaching that it is dangerous to dwell on or study the arts of the enemy (or something to that effect).
But you do still have a point … especially with …
Very true, to be sure. Of course, if those were the only parts of the Bible that existed … well … none of us would even be in a context like this having these conversations. There is a reason that Sunday school teachers with young kids aren’t breaking out the flannel graph on Sunday morning to do any deep dives into parts of the book of Judges (or lots of portions of many others books too). But they are part of a larger moral arc, and as such are important parts of the whole - I agree with you about that.
And I think the theme of good vs. evil is probably more important to me (or more disturbing when absent) than perhaps the violence itself even is. Would you say it’s true that more recent horror films (or films generally) have gone in “darker” directions of deliberately pushing more of a Nietzschean theme of “beyond good and evil”? That will be the kind of nihilistic messaging that I think is beyond “junkfood” status of entertainment and goes far into the realm of actual spiritual toxicity.
Why is it that Sunday School teachers make Sampson out to be like a superhero?
I don’t think horror films have necessarily went darker. Often among horror fans the 80s body horror films are considered some of the most violent. Without CGI the use of people like Tom Savini really drawn out realistic sequences. Or the first exorcist that was really getting to a bunch of people. The 1980 “ Monsieur Cannibal “ was so graphic that Deodato had to prove in court that he did not actually murder anyone.
But there is a wide range of horror films now and then. In general horror films seem to be far less graphic now. They also seem far more focused on love overcoming evil. Horror is also increasingly growing as a commentary on society such as really highlighted in Peele’s films. Candyman ( 2021 ) that just came out really got into oppressive systems. But so did the black and white trilogy of “ Creature from the Black Lagoon “.
In the same way if the Bible was just darkness it would not be the Bible. The same is true for horror. Most horror films horror happens after lots of build up and the build up is developing a hope for the core characters to survive when means emotional development within the characters is just as important as the build up. Especially in slow burn horrors like Hereditary, The Invitation and It Follows.
The recently released tv series “Midnight Mass “ is a beautiful horror story that tells the story of a congregations slow descent from a loving family oriented church into a cult. The priest in the film and the conversations he has through sermons and counseling is so good many people voiced until the end he seemed like a real pastor and was full of so much love that the dialogue had a handful decide to go to church. It’s probably one of the best cinematic horror I’ve seen in my whole life and I’ve watched 100 new horror films this year alone. It’s constantly contrasting “ faith, hope, and love “ with “ fundamentalism, fear and secrets”.
The Japanese horror series, animated especially but also the love action, “ Higurashi “ is similar and it really emphasizes the power of friendship. Not only the story but the fact that the creator in part made it to help economically boost a small , very small, Japanese mountain village.
Horror is also one of the biggest fan and community driven genres. Other than science fiction, anime , wrestling or superhero films you don’t really see conventions or merchandise outside of horror. While sports probably draw in the biggest crowds, it comes with a much bigger cost to its players often. Especially the body trauma we see in football players. You can even point towards modern Halloween as being a example of the influences horror has and it’s one of the most giving holidays. In Christmas most people only give a few big gifts to their closest friends and family. Though giving through donations tend to climb significantly in December. But on Halloween you see kids all over paying homage to chapters, often horror icons, while adults hand out candy piece after candy piece for free and often spend a decent bit of money to create a atmosphere of spookiness with yard designs.
What most horror is really good at is tropes. Horror films tip it’s hats to other unrelated horror films more than any other genre seems to spread the love towards others directors. Almost every horror contains a handful of winks at other horror films. They really go out of their way to pay homage to other movies and directors. The biggest two things I get from horror is that “love conquers all” or that our actions often come back to bite us.
My Halloween costumes tend in a different direction–I deliberately pick things that people are unlikely to recognize, (that we can reasonably make) such as:
A Luna Moth (almost 5)
Meganeura (almost 6)
A specific type of jellyfish that we can’t remember now (almost 7)
Dinosuchus (almost 8)
A giant rudist (almost 9)
Robert Bruce (almost 10)
Chernobog (almost 11)
Alexander Nevsky (almost 12)
Cuthbert Calculus (almost 13)
The Friendly Land Grab Real Estate Company spokesman (almost 14)
Donnchad mac Crinain (almost 15)
Conrad Gessner (almost 16)