Zombies in Your Head

Zombies In Your Head

By Jane Tawel

March 2, 2019

 

Thanks to my son, Gordon, I was introduced to a profoundly spiritually wrenching song called “Zombie”.  I try to listen to this song weekly at least. This song was written and originally performed  about twenty-five years ago by Dolores O’Riordan of “The Cranberries”. Dolores was raised a Catholic in Ireland and was a great admirer of Pope John Paul II.  O’Riordan bases her song’s haunting lyrics  largely on the religious violent catastrophes that have on and off engulfed Ireland since 1917.  The second version of this same song that  I listen to as often as possible is by “Bad Wolves”. It was supposed to have included Dolores’ vocals, but she left the world before it could be recorded. The version by Bad Wolves, opens up the specific context; the singer, Tommy Vext remarks, “(Dolores’) lyrics in that song still reflect social unrest, political turmoil and humanity’s persistence in modern struggles,” Vext told Rolling Stone. “The reasons might change, but there’s still collateral damage with people’s struggle for power and freedom.” Tommy Vext  is an American heavy metal singer who had to testify against his twin brother who, while high on drugs,  tried to murder Tommy.  Tommy speaks at 12-step groups and for relapse programs across the country.

 

The refrain of “Zombies” repeats, “in your head, in your head” followed by phrases like “they are fighting” or “they are dying”.  I try to listen to this song at least once a week as an important prophetic message.  It reminds me of what humans can become if they allow violence and the worship of money or power into their heads, hearts, religions, and politics. Humans all too easily become zombies.  Today when I listened to “Zombies”, I was suddenly struck by the irony that earlier today I had been listening to Selah’s version of “O, Sacred Head Now Wounded”.  The historical attribute of the words of this song, go to Bernard of Clairvoux, a medieval lyricist and poet. Bernard grew up in Burgundy and as a young nobleman, he was stinking rich and powerful.  He gave up all his wealth and power to follow The Christ and remains one of the most revered historical followers of God; revered by people across the spectrum from John Calvin to Martin Luther and is considered to be Dante’s last guide in The Divine Comedy.  The actual lyrics and music of this hymn were composed by a man named Paul Gerhardt, a Lutheran in Germany who lived in the mid-1600’s.  He spent a lifetime composing hymns and trying to convince his church going brethren to stop attacking and fighting with other over doctrinal issues within the church. He died  primarily of a broken heart and his last words are reputed to have been “us –no death has power to kill”.

 

I guess what I am thinking with a heavy heart and spirit today, is that perhaps, as that profoundly heady writer, C.S. Lewis (an agnostic when young who later became a leading voice in Christianity) wrote, we might make it “further in and further up” into Christ’s Kingdom on earth, if at the start of every church service, we listened first and prayerfully to the lyrics and music of the world’s prophets like the Doloreses and Tommys of this world. The prophets of the ages who sing the songs of change were and are all very flawed humans, but the words of their prophetic messages survive the ages because they are true Truth, whether we call them hymns or alternative music.

All of God’s Truth in fact presents to us an alternative music of sorts.  But singing the hard words of songs that demand change; singing boldly and feelingly on the shores of Israel or Babylon or Ireland or America as the ancient souls and prophets of all times must, can be dangerous; sometimes dangerous to others and sometimes dangerous to themselves. Bernard believed in the persecution of Muslims and Dolores most probably died of a drug induced suicide. Alternative music doesn’t make us perfect; truth doesn’t keep us from sin and brokenness; and prophets are human like every one else; but at least they are trying not to be zombies.

There’s a movie I have never seen, called “The Zombie Apocalypse”.  The title is enough for me because I think this is what the end of the world will look like to the angels: a bunch of zombies who still honestly think they are human, killing each other. The human race has, since the first murder by Cain of Abel, been stupidly and fearfully at war with ourselves. We are all at war with God. We long for peace but defeat ourselves with our mutually exclusive longing for power. Maybe if we began each day by personally accepting our vulnerability as humans, we could reverse the zombie process. Maybe if  before church or synagogue or mosque members try to  perform super-human Godlike, spiritual acts, they would face their own inner zombies, then just maybe we could truly begin to create a kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven — a kingdom of peace and love and joy and hope and real boys and girls created in the image of God. Perhaps if we realized that most days we are behaving like Zombies rather than the human beings created in a God’s image that we are called to be, maybe then we would really begin to understand how to worship the Savior who is the Protagonist of Paul’s lyrics in “O, Sacred Head” but who is also the Protagonist who dies in Dolores’ wars.   Maybe to be fully in Christ’s image,  we need to hold within our own heads and hearts the contrast and paradox between these two sets of lyrics.

 

“Zombie”
(originally by The Cranberries)

Another head hangs lowly
Child is slowly taken
And the violence causes silence
Who are we mistaken?

But you see, it’s not me
It’s not my family
In your head, in your head, they are fighting
With their tanks, and their bombs
And their bombs, and their drones
In your head, in your head, they are crying

What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie
What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie-ie, oh

Another mother’s breaking
Heart is taking over
When the violence causes silence
We must be mistaken

It’s the same old theme
In two thousand eighteen
In your head, in your head, they’re still fighting
With their tanks, and their bombs
And their guns, and their drones
In your head, in your head, they are dying

What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie
What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie-ie, oh

It’s the same old theme
In two thousand eighteen
In your head, in your head, they are dying

What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie
What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie-ie, oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh yeah

 

 

“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”
by Paul Gerhardt, 1607-1676

  1. O sacred Head, now wounded,
    With grief and shame weighed down,
    Now scornfully surrounded
    With thorns, Thine only crown.
    O sacred Head, what glory,
    What bliss, till now was Thine!
    Yet, though despised and gory,
    I joy to call Thee mine.
  2. Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee,
    Thou noble countenance,
    Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee
    And flee before Thy glance.
    How art thou pale with anguish,
    With sore abuse and scorn!
    How doth Thy visage languish
    That once was bright as morn!
  3. Now from Thy cheeks has vanished
    Their color, once so fair;
    From Thy red lips is banished
    The splendor that was there.
    Grim Death, with cruel rigor,
    Hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
    Thus Thou has lost Thy vigor,
    Thy strength, in this sad strife.
  4. My burden in Thy Passion,
    Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
    For it was my transgression
    Which brought this woe on thee.
    I cast me down before Thee,
    Wrath were my rightful lot;
    Have mercy, I implore Thee;
    Redeemer, spurn me not!
  5. My Shepherd, now receive me;
    My Guardian, own me Thine.
    Great blessings Thou didst give me,
    O Source of gifts divine!
    Thy lips have often fed me
    With words of truth and love,
    Thy Spirit oft hath led me
    To heavenly joys above.
  6. Here I will stand beside Thee,
    From Thee I will not part;
    O Savior, do not chide me!
    When breaks Thy loving heart,
    When soul and body languish
    In death’s cold, cruel grasp,
    Then, in Thy deepest anguish,
    Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.
  7. The joy can ne’er be spoken,
    Above all joys beside,
    When in Thy body broken
    I thus with safety hide.
    O Lord of life, desiring
    Thy glory now to see,
    Beside Thy cross expiring,
    I’d breathe my soul to Thee.
  8. What language shall I borrow
    To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
    For this, Thy dying sorrow,
    Thy pity without end?
    Oh, make me thine forever!
    And should I fainting be,
    Lord, let me never, never,
    Outlive my love for Thee.
  9. My Savior, be Thou near me
    When death is at my door;
    Then let Thy presence cheer me,
    Forsake me nevermore!
    When soul and body languish,
    Oh, leave me not alone,
    But take away mine anguish
    By virtue of Thine own!
  10. Be Thou my Consolation,
    My Shield when I must die;
    Remind me of Thy Passion
    When my last hour draws nigh.
    Mine eyes shall then behold Thee,
    Upon Thy cross shall dwell,
    My heart by faith enfold Thee.
    Who dieth thus dies well!

 

In Lewis’ end to the Narnia books, it is the unicorn, that almost angelic and mystical creature of lore and myth, who says on reaching the Promised Land, “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that is sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!” I like to imagine that today while I listened to their music, Dolores and Paul and Clive were all singing together, “I Belong Here”. Someday we will all wake up to a new world the prophets of the ages have passed through to, and we will suddenly realize that either we spent our lives on earth as zombies and didn’t know it; or we thought we spent our lives as  mere humans, but were really fantastic and myth-like creatures of angelic stature.

All of us humans, just like Dolores, Tommy, Bernard, Paul, and yes, even Clive, spend our whole lifetimes looking for the answers to “that same old theme”, even in 2019. We long to see what this world is really like, could really be like and there are moments when the planet, the soldiers, the immigrants, the mothers, the fields all look a little bit like what we imagine they all could be — should be –but never fully are.  Some of us spend lifetimes singing against and fighting against the zombies of hatred, racism, prejudice, greed, lies,  violence, and self-idolization that surround us. Some of us spend lifetimes fighting those zombies who sidetrack us into theological quagmires and even try to convince us they are not zombies but Godly.  Some, like Dolores and Paul, just keep crying out truth in the streets until they die of broken hearts.  Some of us like Tommy and Bernard and Clive spend  lifetimes trying to fight the zombies of false idolatry masquerading as religion, and fighting the demons of greed and self-pride masquerading as guardian angels. Some of us may only have enough alternative music within us to give someone a jug of water at the border or our extra coat in the winter or a hug across the aisle, just trying to help other humans not become zombies. Some of us only have enough strength to try for just one more hour, to fight the zombies within our own heads.

Some of us look to The Christ; who layed down His sovereign God-head, and took us his creatures, “in to his head, in his head”. And took us into His heart. In His heart.  And then He layed down that Sacred Head,  despised, wounded and killed, so that we might never again be alone; so that we might have the ability to fight the zombie within; so that we might have the ability to destroy the zombies without. So that we might know how to survive the temptations and powers of the zombies, both without us and within us.  So that we might live as the humans Christ’s God created us to be.

Unless daily, His Sacred Head wounded and bleeding, bleeds from my own thoughts; unless daily His Sacred Heart beats within my own chest; until and unless His God-like humanity is revived and reborn in me, a zombie in need of a human Savior; unless all this and daily this, then I will be just another zombie pretending that I know what it means to be human and pretending that I know and am known by a God who loves all humanity. Pretending, not being; zombie, not human.  “For that Being who is neither human nor anything humans can truly understand, loves His creaturely humans so much, that He begot a human son and gave Him a life on our planet; and whosoever turns from his or her sinful and broken zombie-ways and follows the human life and death Way of God’s Son, shall not die a zombie, but live forever, more human, and more God-ly than we could ever imagine.” (John 3:16 paraphrased)

For safety and hope today, and for worship of a God who made me in Imago Dei, I pray these words  and sing with the saints of alternative music:

“My Savior be Thou near me. My Guardian,  own me thine. Another head hangs lowly. Heart is taking over. We must be mistaken. Zombie, zombie, zombie. Oh, Sacred Head, now wound me.  Remind me of Thine Passion. My Savior be Thou near me. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah…. Further up and Further in. Amen.”

 

 

The Cranberries: Zombie

https://youtu.be/6Ejga4kJUts

Bad Wolves:  Zombie

 

 

Selah:  O, Sacred Head Now Wounded