Vampires are a popular subject these days. There are a million different versions from Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Anne Rice’s angst ridden vampires. You have everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Twilight to True Blood. All of them different. There are vampires for every taste these days from sexy to scary and even sparkly if you go that way. But they all have one thing in common. Vampires are immortal.
Whether they are meant to scare or titilate, vampires don’t die. They don’t change. They are stuck in life right where they died. In most cases, this is supposed to be an ideal. But I have to wonder where the fantasy of eternal life came from. To be clear, vampires aren’t the only or even the earliest instance of the desire to live forever. There are myths of all the problems that come from such desires that come from before recorded history. In Bram Stoker’s version, the wish for eternal life was granted through evil acts and came with some pretty nasty side effects (though notably, not instant death from sunlight). In more recent iterations (such as Twilight) the evil aspects of being a vampire are reduced, replaced by the sexy parts. I will say that I think that Anne Rice did a fairly good job of blending the two. But the trend is heading toward vampirism as romance and away from unholy alliance of human and demon.
Oh there is always lip service to the evil side of vampires. After all they eat human blood and defied Death.
That’s not the point that I want to see with vampires. Vampires, for all that they are big bads that go bump in the night, are really just running scared. They’ve chosen the unholy alliance over death and change. They would rather live as they are right now for the rest of eternity than face that all terrifying force called change. Never mind that all improvement is change (though not all change is improvement).
Change is scary. Change means that all the things that you thought you knew are going to have to be re-evaluated. You are going to have to alter the way you live. Now that would be great if you could know that all change was going to result in a better life. That if you take the time to dip your toes in the self publishing world that you would come back with a stable income. If every time you took a risk, you could know in advance that it would end in a better position. But you can’t. Risks are risks because they could end in a worse position.
That is part of the thrill. You have to step out there and take the risk so that the reward will be worth it. If you can’t fail, what is the point in trying? You already know the outcome. That is why people get so upset about spoilers. Why watch the movie if you already know that the butler did it? Dare devils wouldn’t be anywhere near so exciting if there wasn’t a chance that they would end up as a grease smear or ball of fire.
In life, the biggest risk of all is that you won’t finish your life’s work before the end of your life. That you won’t say all the things that need to be said. You won’t write all the stories that are floating through your head. There is the chance, and it’s a pretty big one, that you will leave some things undone.
So we dream of become immortal so we don’t have to face that dreaded end. We will have all the time we could want to master the latest in mathematics or knitting. We’ll be able to do it all. We could even pick up the cello if we get bored. Or maybe learn to paint.
The one thing that I see in all vampire stories, whether the author intended to put it there or not, is that vampires get left behind. The very desire to avoid change makes them live in the past. They don’t update their politics or their manners. The latest technology is added to all the old technology and they get tired of learning the new ways. I mean really, after your second or third smart phone how thrilled are you to learn to use a new one?
Then there is the deadline phenomenon. You know how you have a project in mind that you really should get to, but there is always something more pressing. Then you get a deadline for it and it gets done. Amazing how that works. Well, in a mortal life we all have a deadline. A real, honest and truly dead kind of dead line. That’s what being mortal is all about. Vampires don’t. Oh sure they could be killed if they end up on the wrong side of a pointy stick, but you never know when that is going to happen. It could be tomorrow or 300 years from now. Not much use as a deadline. A mortal knows they have about 80 years or so to really live before they have to start fighting the signs of age. And 20 of those years were used to get through school. You’d better get on with it then if you want to get through even a portion of that to-do list.
Even still many people manage to procrastinate their way through life until they are facing the end with very few check marks on that to-do list. Then the idea of immortality starts to sound really good doesn’t it. Just push that deadline back a couple hundred years and I can go back to my nice comfortable little life and know that I will have plenty of time to get the important stuff done.
Have you ever noticed that the vampires of story rarely have any major accomplishments to their name? They aren’t the ones who published the great American novel or won the Nobel Peace Prize. They maybe accumulated a bit of wealth (what with saving on the grocery bills). That’s not the same thing. They just haven’t done much other than live longer than most people around them. Actually, they tend to be so worried about keeping their lives secret that they don’t even wait for the mortal around them to grow old before they disappear and start a new life with new mortals who don’t know how old they really are. Not a good way to build up a track record or finish any major projects. It’s just another way of procrastinating.
I for one don’t want to live forever. I want and need that deadline even though I know that it means I will leave some things undone. I want to change, even though it scares me too. I want to live life to the fullest and get as much done as I can. And then I want my story to end.