Monday, February 15, 2010

Do Vampires Believe in the Supernatural?

Recently, I was writing a fiction piece for the Vampire CCG Storyline. In the story there is, naturally, a dark and twisted conspiracy of unspeakable evil that goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. And I wanted to depict a character, a vampire by the name of Angelo, as a skeptic. I wanted Angelo to be someone who didn't believe in this mythical mumbo-jumbo. But this got me thinking. If someone is essentially supernatural wouldn't that influence their views of the supernatural? Wouldn't an undead vampire have to believe in God or magic or something?

Suppose an individual possesses superhuman strength or has the ability to transform into a bat. They would be well aware the existence of forces beyond their ken. There must be something in his world that allows Angelo to merge with his fellow Blood Brothers into a coagulated entity -one monstrous heap of undead flesh. Is that force necessarily divine? What else could it be?

What about us? I can't borrow the limbs of my brothers and use them to smite my enemies. My powers are much more mundane. I can ponder vampiric epistemology while folding laundry. Still, the hows and whys of what makes this feat possible are beyond my understanding.

In his wonderful book "A Short History of Nearly Everything" Bill Bryson tries to describe a single living cell.
"The cell has been compared to many things, from "a complex chemical refinery" (by the physicist James Tefil) to "a vast, teeming metropolis" (the biochemist Guy Brown). A cell is both of those things and neither. It is a like a refinery in that it is devoted to chemical activity on a grand scale, and like a metropolis in that it is crowded and busy and filled with interactions that seem confused and random but clearly have some system to them. But it is a much more nightmarish place than any city or factory that you have ever seen. To begin with there is no up or down inside the cell (gravity doesn't meaningfully apply at the cellular scale), and not an atom's with of space is unused. There is activity everywhere and a ceaseless thrum of electrical energy."

I can't spontaneously grow limbs. But if I cut my finger, I do expect the trillions of cellular nightmare-cities that comprise me to recognize the trauma and coordinate the reconstruction effort. And I expect them to get this done while they flawlessly carry on with the pumping of my blood, the digestion of my food, moving of my limbs and every other task involved with the business of being me.

The composition and coordination of cells may be mind-blowingly complex. But at least here we have physicists and biochemists who can observe what's going on and offer explanations. We can't really understand the explanations, but we we're happy to know they are out there. If we step up to the big question of what makes us us we don't even get that. Nobody has a good explanation for human consciousness. And nobody seems to be on the verge of finding one. It just is.

I have no idea how we manage to do what we do. The more I learn about it the more absurd and impossible it all seems. And yet, we exist. Therefore there must be some set of circumstances that make this possible.

So, maybe we're not so different from dear Angelo.

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