Fascination with the Creepy
in Process Perspective
creepy,weird, scary, eerie, frightening,
ghastly, gruesome, macabre, grotesque
ghastly, gruesome, macabre, grotesque
Fascination with Creepy Things: "Starting my middle school years I discovered my all time favorite movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas. I was obsessed. I loved all the characters from bony Jack Skellington to creepy Doctor Finkelstein. Tim Burton wrote and produced this movie, now everything that has his name on it I must watch! He has such a unique style, dark, yet dazzling. Dark, yet dazzling, now that’s pretty." (Charlotte AKA Loty, Wordpress Website. 5/13/2016)
Fear of the Creepy: "I don't understand my daughter. She likes the dark and the dazzling, but I think it's weird. Of course, I like a good thrill ride. I'm a roller coaster kind of guy. But creepy images in a horror film? Now that's another thing. Bizarre! (Imagined parent, completely made up).
Openness to the Creepy: Openness to the weird can be an important part of growing up, whatever our age. To be fully human, fully alive, we need to experience the entire range of experience: the harmonious and the intense. All kinds of entities -- as possibilities -- are contained in the mind of God. Some are quite pleasant. They are possibilities for love and justice, tenderness and forgiveness. Some are scary in their intensity and intense in their scariness. They are not actual but they are real. We can experience them imaginatively, enjoy their intensity, and become wiser for the experience. In the language of process theologians like Patricia Adams Farmer, we become fatter souls than we would otherwise be, because we have more fully embraced the range of possibility. A few of them are very slender. (Imagined process theologian, completely made up.)
Making Space for the Creepy: Alfred North Whitehead, the philosophical inspiration for process theology, was a radical empiricist. He believed that in philosophy all kinds of experience should be taken into account: experience anxious and experience carefree, experience happy and experience grieving, experience emotional and experience intellectual, experience normal and experience abnormal, experience asleep and experience awake. He wasn't saying that we should valorize all forms of experience, but rather that we should understand them and, where possible, see how they contribute to the richness of experience in human life. To this let us add experience creepy: that is, experience of what we find weird, scary, eerie, frightening, ghastly, gruesome, macabre and grotesque.
This page is a modest attempt to think about the creepy in a Whiteheadian way and to encourage others to do the same. For more on Whiteheadian (process) theology, see What do Process Thinkers Believe? and What is Process Thought? If you are particularly interested in creepiness, you might also enjoy Slimy Wet Darkness: Theology at the Edge of Existence, Godzilla: Why We Need Monsters, and I'm Kind of a Morbid Person: Why We Need Goth Culture. I write this as a college professor who has many students interested in creepy things. Often they are my most sensitive and creative students. I believe that religiously minded people -- people like me -- need to make space for the creepy. We live in a strange and creepy universe and in some ways God is creepy, too. Look at all the spiders. Look at all the sea creatures. Look at the kinds of creatures that elude our comprehension but add to the richness of the whole. Who knows. Maybe Slender Man has his place, too. Pray for him.
-- Jay McDaniel
Sightings of Slender Man
Slender Man Videos
When Fascination Becomes Destructive:
Dr. William Tsutsui on Why We Need Monsters
“If there is one thing that Godzilla teaches us…it is how much we all need monsters. We need them for the joy of being frightened, for that thrilling rush of adrenaline that only a creature can bring.
We need them to give us a face, and perhaps a roar, for anxieties and emotions that we cannot see, whether it’s radiation, or fear of a world out of control, or just not knowing what lurks at the end of a dark hallway.
We need them to remind us of horrors, both real and imagined, that we wish to shut our eyes to, but which we cannot and should not forget.
We need them for the freedom that only the fantastical can grant us. I suspect that one reason we love monsters is because we envy them, because sometimes we want to be bigger and stronger and free from the constraints of polite society. We all have that urge to roar and let loose and take out our aggressions. Monsters, it seems to me, allow us to live vicariously a kind of ultimate, uncontrolled freedom.
And we need monsters because they allow us to dream. Creatures like Godzilla liberate our imagination; they trample on the intellectual strictures of rationality and science; they stomp on the rules of etiquette and our everyday expectations of the way things should be. Monsters free up our minds; let our creativity run wild; and allow our instincts to take over, at least for a moment, from the rigid structures of intellect.
Monsters in other words let us truly live and let us understand what it is to be human. We should not become too cynical, too wise, too mature, too sophisticated for monsters. They are companions we all can use in navigating the complexities and uncertainties of life and a world in constant flux.
And if they are terrifying in humanity, they remind us of our deeply human needs, desires, and vulnerabilities – those commonalities that transcend place and time and culture. In an age of polarization, division, and accelerated fragmentation, when we spend so much time imagining that all we hate and dread is on Fox News or on MSNBC, in the mosque or in the cathedral, in the one percent or among the other ninety-nine, we would do well to go back to looking for monsters under the bed, or beneath the bridge, or in the darkness, or on that big silver screen.”
-- William M. (Bill) Tsutsui, TEDxHendrixCollege, Feb. 22, 2015