'Vampires & Werewolves' by Erik Wiegardt

 Vampires & Werewolves

Erik Wiegardt

See Video No. 16 in the above playlist for a ‘video essay’ of this piece…

I don’t often watch horror movies, but my wife was out of town visiting her sister, and I was at the public library when I saw this vampire movie starring Ethan Hawke sitting there on the shelf . . . . Isn’t Ethan Hawke a great name? I’ve always liked that name. So anyway, I checked it out and brought it home.

It was pretty good, actually, for a horror movie. This one was set in the future, all glass and chrome, and almost everybody was a vampire then. I don’t know how that happened. There were a few regular humans left. Most of them were hooked up to blood-sucking machines to feed the vampires. Some of the normal humans had escaped and were in hiding. I jumped and yelled at all the scary parts. Lots of blood, of course.

I once saw an Abbott and Costello comedy about vampires and werewolves. Now there’s an original idea: combining comedy and horror. Who would have thought horror could be funny? The movie was in black and white. I think Bela Lugosi was the vampire. I didn’t recognize the werewolf.

The vampire seemed to be enjoying himself immensely, but the werewolf was such a tortured soul. I guess that’s because being a vampire is full-time job and being a werewolf only happens when there’s a full moon. The rest of the time they feel bad about all the evil they’ve done. Most of the time werewolves have the conscience of a human being, but vampires only have the conscience of a bat.

I think scary stories are written mostly for children. Some people get a laugh out of scaring children. I’m not sure why. Some people think it’s important to scare children into being good. This has been going on for a long time in just about every culture, I guess. If you don’t behave and do what you’re told the wicked witch is going to throw you in her pot and eat you for supper. That sort of thing.

Some religious people like to scare their children with stories of Satan and his vast army of devils who have nothing better to do than to tempt nice people like you and me into being as bad as they are. If you like being bad, then you can join them in hell when you die. I guess that’s where all the really bad stuff happens. I can’t tell you about what they do in hell, because I don’t know. I’ve never been there.

There are really bad people, but they didn’t get that way because they were bitten by vampires or werewolves or talked into being bad by servants of Satan. I don’t believe there is any evil in nature; only in the choices human beings make as they go through life. People do bad things because they believe that what they are doing is in their best interest. They lie to avoid being found out—and they become a liar. They steal to get something they don’t want to work for—and they become a thief. They kill because someone really makes them mad—and they become a murderer.

That’s all that evil is. People making choices they think are in their best interest, but end up showing their ignorance and destroying their good name and noble character. They ignore the voice inside of them that encourages them to live a life of greatness because they would rather have a new car.

There is no evil in Nature, because the other animals don’t have the same choices we do. Bats that bite only do so because it’s what they do to eat and survive. Same with wolves. Same with every other carnivore on the planet, but it doesn’t make them evil. Everything on this planet takes nourishment from everything else on the planet. That’s the way things are here in a material plane of existence. It’s a little scary living here, sometimes, but life is not a horror story—unless you make it so.

This extract is an excerpt, reproduced by kind permission of the author, from Battle of Mount Whitney and Other Essays: Stoic Philosophy in Practice

About the author: Erik Wiegardt was born in Walla Walla, Washington, USA, and lived most of his life on the Pacific Rim. Education in his formative years was in Protestant parochial schools in rural towns in Oregon and California. He is a graduate of Portland State University where he received a Bachelor’s Degree with two majors in General Studies emphasizing Psychology and Literature; the Oregon Military Academy, where he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, Army Infantry; and the University of Oregon, where he received a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Sculpture with a thesis in Sound Sculpture.

Erik has worked in a number of occupations, including laboratory analyst at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and at North American Aviation in Los Angeles where he performed quality control studies on the escape rocket module of the Apollo Moon Rockets. He is a Vietnam Era War veteran and received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for participation in Operation White Coat, a biological warfare unit.

Other employment includes mortician’s assistant, insurance executive, baker, restaurant waiter, Graduate Teaching Fellow at the University of Oregon, English teacher in Japan, display designer for Macy’s and Nordstrom, advertising copy writer, and Senior Probation Officer for the County of San Diego, California.

Erik has been a Stoic for more than 50 years, and works full time for the Stoic community. He is the founder of the cybercity New Stoa, the eMagazine “Registry Report,” the College of Stoic Philosophers, the eJournal “The Stoic Philosopher,” and the Marcus Aurelius School. He lives in San Diego, California, with his wife, a practitioner of oriental medicine.

12 thoughts on “'Vampires & Werewolves' by Erik Wiegardt”

  1. Thank you for your comments. My late brother was a devout Christian. We spent many hours debating religion. My problem as I saw it was that he chose to interpret the bible and his faith in a way which meant that words ceased to mean what they usually mean in everyday discourse. Once loosed from their moorings they could mean what he chose. And his meanings happened to be different from an aunt who was also a devout Christian. And neither of them, as Protestants, always placed the same meaning on words, and interpretations, relating to religion as did the Pope.

    He saw me, an atheist, as having a closed mind, blinkered outlook and not being receptive to the truths of Christianity. Over many years I don’t think either of us had much influence on the other. He was a good man and I still miss him after six years.

    I fear I may be at risk of being a bore so I won’t comment further. But thank you for your comments. I enjoyed our exchange. I must now take my dog for a walk.

  2. Why pick on Christianity just because some who claim to follow it have no understanding of what it really teaches – love of *all* mankind for a start. As to the ‘go forth and fill the Earth’, I agree – we have filled the Earth, the instruction was not to continue beyond all reason. In many cases of faith it is not the case of ‘don’t blame the messenger’ but rather ‘seek out the true message and ignore the false messengers’.

    As to ‘man in the image of God’ – this is not a physical image but a bit of Stoicism that Christianity picked up and added to the teachings of the Nazarene and that is often misinterpreted. We are talking of the ‘consciousness’ that mankind experiences as being ‘a spark’ of the ‘consciousness’ of the whole – the Divine Fire, God, the living conscious Cosmos, or ‘the imminent’ if that is what you want to call it.

  3. ” All of the faiths say that God is beyond description.” Do they? The Christian faith, which is the only one I know anything about, seems to describe God’s appearance (“man in God’s image”) and his opinions and requirements in detail. That is, if we read God’s inerrant word in the bible. Many Christians go beyond that and tell us how much God hates gays, contraception, abortion etc.

    I do, in some situations, have a sense of the immanent. For example I like sea kayaking and a rolling sea under a starry sky produces feelings of awe that I never feel in a city. I wonder about the extent to which our crowded lives, so often lived vicariously through television and a celebrity culture, leaves no room for these feelings.

  4. Yet again the old trick – offer a definition of God and then ridicule the idea that such a God exist. All of the faiths say that God is beyond description. Individuals of various faiths forget this fact and stray into poetic ideas (even, it would appear, Epictetus) which others take as literal. The Stoic line is that what we call God is a view of the consciousness, the ‘active principle of the Divine Fire’, that permeates the whole Cosmos and the view that our consciousness is a spark of the ‘Divine Fire’. Hence the idea of ‘in the image of God’.

    But then the Stoic view is just a framework for trying to understand that which cannot be fully understood. It is a simple way of understanding our oneness with the whole. It is also in line with the real teachings of all the world faiths.

  5. Our superiority to animals and kinship with God is found in Stoicism as well. Consider some examples from the Golden Sayings of Epictetus
    “…What then is the real nature of God? – Intelligence, Knowledge, Right Reason. Here then without more ado seek the real nature of the Good. For surely thou dost not seek it in a plant or animal that reasoneth not.” – Golden Sayings LIX
    “…Thou art thyself a fragment torn from God:-thou hast a portion of Him within thyself. How is it then that thou dost not know thy high descent..God Himself is present within thee” – Golden Sayings LX
    “…will you not be elated at knowing you are the son of God? Now however it is not so with us: but seeing that in our birth these two things are commingled-the body which we share with the animals, and the Reason and Thought which we share with the Gods” – Golden Sayings IX
    —-
    I also enjoyed the post, a very challenging concept that reminds me of another Golden Saying,
    “As a mark is not set up in order to be missed, so neither is such a thing as natural evil produced in the World” – Golden Sayings CLXII

  6. MavisSmith: I watched the stunning views recently available from NASA of our nearest galaxy, Andromeda. As the picture of these millions and millions of stars came into view it was a stunning confirmation of the insignificance of Earth and humans. And that is one galaxy of many millions of others. The idea that a God, presumably with a heart, lungs, eyes etc (we are in his image) created this and has decided we are his special and unique creation seems farcical to me.

    As the Earth chokes with people, the air becomes polluted, the water toxic religion insists that its followers must continue to breed. Many fundamentalist Americans think God gave us the earth and everything in it to use and abuse as we choose. The cruelty to and slaughter of animals is an abomination. We are in the midst of the 6th great extinction, largely caused by us, and it shows no signs of slowing.

    I agree with you.

  7. Christianity has a lot to answer for. Theworld was not made just for our species nor are we made in the image of some fictitious god.

  8. Nigel Glassborow: You write about a topic that fascinates me: the difference between humans and other animals. Humans have such an overweening sense of superiority and yet, as you say, are damaged. A topic of current interest is living in the here and now – mindfulness. A Zen master summed it up as “the time is always now; the place is always here.”

    Humans find that so difficult to achieve. We lose the satisfactions of the present by being obsessed by a past which cannot be changed and anxious about a future so uncertain it cannot be known. For my dog, I guess, reality is what happens now and nothing else is possible. My dog deals with what he can deal with as it happens and ignores what he cannot.

    His reality is also so different from mine. He inhabits a world of smells which are unknown to me. Someone described a dog sniffing along a path and “reading” what had happened there like a human reading a book. Compared to that I am a deficient and ignorant animal.

    1. My apologies, to some degree you miss the point about my dog – he did not just live in the now – he planned and foresaw the possibilities his actions might have in the future. A sign of an intellect that so many think is what puts humans above animals.

  9. We do need to get past this idea that humanity is different to animals and, conversely, that animals are different to humans.

    I have watched my dog set up a visiting dog to be blamed for his own actions – doing things he had never done when on his own. He understood right and wrong and tried to frame the other dog for his misdeeds in the hope of having him sent home. Like humans, animals can be scheming.

    There are cases of animals being plain vicious and violent beyond any cause that may be put down to territorial or any other instinct – viciousness that comes from a sick mind.

    It is just that we tend to a higher percentage of our species that are ‘sick’, both as damaged individuals and as human animals that have not been ‘tamed’ by the instilling of a suitable life philosophy.

  10. I live near some ancient forest and last week, through poor timing, had to walk through some of it in the dark with a torch and my dog. I consider myself among the least superstitious of people. However, walking through that dark and isolated woodland got me thinking about how easy it would have been for people in the past, living near vast forests, to believe in werewolves.

    When I forced myself not to let my imagination run riot I was fine. But when I heard the rustle of a branch, the hoot of an owl, or what I assumed was a fox I was very uneasy and holding fear at bay. I got to thinking about how much our brain decides for us what is reality. And also what a sliver of reason separates us from another kind of thinking. My Labrador, lacking (or perhaps benefitting from) my imagination seemed unconcerned. I was relieved to reach the edge of the forest and see the comforting lights of my house in the distance.

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