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We’re All Part Monsters

by Daniel Brenton on December 11, 2010

in The Meaning of Existence (and all that)

Morbius: Why’d you jumble that combination?
Adams: What ever you know and hear, your twin self out in the tunnel knows, too.
[Morbius attacks Adams.]
Morbius: I’m not a monster, you …
[Adams gains control quickly, but Morbius continues to struggle.]
Adams: We’re
all part monsters in our subconscious! So we have laws and religion!
Morbius: Let me go!
Adams: You’ve got to listen! We don’t have much time!

    — Walter Pidgeon (as Dr. Edward Morbius) and Leslie Nielsen (as Commander John J. Adams) from Forbidden Planet

Start: If you haven’t seen the 1956 science fiction film Forbidden Planet, and you’re any kind of science fiction fan, consider yourself duly reprimanded. (If you’re not a science fiction fan but willing to put up with some retro eye-candy, there are certainly worse ways to spend an hour and thirty eight minutes.)

Long before the late Leslie Nielsen became famous for his over-the-top character Detective Frank Drebin in the Naked Gun movies, I first ran across a much younger and more serious Nielsen as Commander J. J. Adams of the United Planets Cruiser C-57D.

Beyond being a classic, the film does us a service in that it dramatically reminds us of a fundamental truth of who we really are. In our Ids — the Freudian term used in the film for the primal portion of the subconscious mind — whether we’re Liberal or Conservative; Black, White, Brown, Yellow, or Red; gay or straight; or Alpha Male or part of the herd, we’re all part monsters.

The Chosen and the Damned

I was taught when I was very little — as most of us in this self-important, recklessly breeding organism called the Human Race were taught at some point — a very easy way to be a monster.

We do it by polarizing our environment.

We live in a dualistic world, a world of polarities. Up and down, right and left, hot and cold … it’s built into the framework of our physical existence. But unfortunately we have developed the ability to create polarities where none naturally exist.

  • Us and Them.
  • Mine and Yours.
  • On a global level: Communism versus Capitalism. America went toe-to-toe with the Soviet Union over this one, playing an unconscionable game of nuclear brinksmanship for decades. Today, several nations — North Korea at the forefront — want to play this one, too. (Obviously, Kim Jong-il learned nothing from our mistakes.)
  • The Divine and the Earthly. (In the European Middle Ages, untamed nature was in fact considered evil.)
  • And my personal favorite: The Chosen and the Damned.

As soon at the opposition can be identified and categorized as something beneath our worth, communication is broken, metaphorical (or actual) walls are built, then laws, “codes” of behavior, or cultural shifts follow to balkanize the “other” (even to the point of demonizing the “opposition”), and the polarization solidifies. Conflict, naturally, has to ensue.

The more time we spend demonizing the opposition, the farther we push away any possible meaningful resolution to the conflict.

Taken to its logical conclusion, the final goal of demonizing the opposition is its removal. The final form of removal would be genocide.

Consider that this is really at the heart of Fundamentalist Christianity — that if you’re not with us, you’re against us. Thus, you’re demonized. Same with radical Islam.

As someone raised in Christianity, it is clear to me that the prophecies of the Rapture and the final Judgement are based on this same desire.

Why would a Christian be comfortable with a God that’s that petty?

My answer is that this is what this Christian would want, deep inside, to see everyone but their particular chosen blotted out from the Book of Life, so to speak, and condemned to eternal torment in the ugliest Hells the human imagination can create.

No, no, no (you might counter), these are extremists.

Are they?

I will counter that any truly reflective Christian, recognizing this ugly strain of their religious tradition, will reject it and reform or leave the churches that support this kind of polarizing doctrine.

(We don’t see this happening en masse, do we?)

Garden Variety Polarization

I think this strain runs deeper than just about everyone cares to admit.

Popular entertainment is filled with stories of bad guys getting destroyed. Broadcast television stacks cop shows over the prime time hours like so much cordwood, and we love it when the bad guys “finally get theirs.” If we didn’t love it, we wouldn’t see it repeated endlessly in film, television, fiction, comic books … and the endless advertising revenue and direct profit from the entertainment forms couldn’t be supported if there wasn’t this market.

(I will confess that one of my favorite television programs is Dexter, the adventures of a serial killer we never want to see caught, because he only murders the bad guys. No, I’m not immune to this.)

We hear the stories of gang violence based on the most trivial of differences, differences that escalate into murder.

We all know what the term “going postal” means, and we all know its unhappy origins.

And, of course, there’s the violence by neglect committed by our elected leaders who have raised political gridlock to a nation-paralyzing art form.

It would be a simple (and tedious) matter to catalogue the violent things we see in everyday life that we accept. The eighty pound shepherd or pit bull that could easily tear a child apart that its owner allows to leap against the yard fence and snarl at and threaten anyone and anything it sees. The road rager that comes this close to taking off a piece of your fender and starting a chain reaction freeway pile up. The boom car music that is so loud it shakes the license plate of the car producing it, assaulting the drivers nearby with deliberately offensive decibel levels, which in turn make it impossible for the driver and occupants to hear emergency vehicles and can’t help but permanently damage their hearing.

Trivial to Earth-shattering, it’s everywhere.

Save those people who have a deep level of spiritual awakening, we’re all part monsters.

Some, yes, more than others.

What do we do about it?

Freedom starts in copping to it, and — in this curmudgeon’s opinion — it is the rare American that is actually willing to do that.

Adams: So you took the brain boost, eh?
Ostrow: You oughta see my new mind. Up there in lights. Bigger than his now.
Adams: Easy Doc.
Ostrow: Morbius … was too close the to problem. The Krell had completed their project. Big machine. No instrumentalities. True creation.
Adams: C’mon Doc. Let’s have it!
Ostrow: But the Krell forgot one thing.
Adams: Yes, what?!
Ostrow: Monsters, John! Monsters from the Id!

    — Warren Stevens (as Lt. “Doc” Ostrow) and Leslie Nielsen (as Commander John J. Adams) from Forbidden Planet

We need to outgrow this, or we will destroy ourselves. Maybe not today, but some day.

As Commander Adams said: You’ve got to listen. We don’t have much time.

• • •

Copyright © 2010, by Daniel Brenton. All Rights Reserved.


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Daniel Brenton is the creator/author of the 5 Second Novel series, co-author of the space race thriller Red Moon (with David S. Michaels), and is the author of the satirical column The Round Files, published in Stuart Miller's short-lived Alien Worlds Magazine.

Despite being a writer, Daniel has no cats at this time, is unwilling to become an alcoholic, and has a very difficult time keeping a straight face while writing about himself in third person.

Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and StumbleUpon.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Khan N Singh December 11, 2010 at 3:20 pm

My child’s religion teacher started teaching Revelation. This is when I needed to start counter education at home. It is an appalling book and has no business in the Bible. It is a complete inversion of the message of the Gospel in my opinion.

I do believe in good and evil, in that duality. But it does not reside in being in the right “club” of us and them. As you point out they both reside within us. I believe that the good triumphs when we can fight the evil, struggle against it. As you also point out the evil in us can only be fought if it can be faced.


Daniel Brenton December 11, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Ms. “Khan” —

Having experienced my own personal hells more often, probably, than anyone really should, it is clear to me that God (or whatever you choose to call it) loves us unconditionally … which is why we have the free will to become monsters.

What has made the most sense to me is that the ability to experience what we can be is the only way we can learn from it in a meaningful way.

Then we get into the question of Justice, which is a huge open can of worms that I haven’t been able to scoop adequately back into the can. The best thought I’ve had on this is that, in creating the life we choose, we are faced with the ramifications of that life. For instance, if we create a life of thievery, we will be surrounded by thieves, etc.

Thanks for the comment. Always good to have you around.

— Daniel


Irene Dobstaff December 12, 2010 at 7:49 am

Then there’s the thought that this world was designed specifically with opposites good and evil, for instance, because we wouldn’t know or fully appreciate one without the other. And that the people or events we attract to ourselves are there specifically to be a mirror of ourselves. The ‘fun’ part is the people who most annoy us are the one’s we have the most to learn from. I try to think, before running away from folks like this, ‘what are you showing me about myself?’


Daniel Brenton December 12, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Irene —

I’ll certainly go along with the idea that we attract people or events to ourselves specifically to be mirrors of ourselves. But I think this is the same “mechanism” — we can’t help but attract (or, probably more accurate, “manifest”) what reflects us, because that’s how the universe we experience works.

As for knowing and appreciating the opposites … this is subtle. I discussed this at length in a post of mine some time ago “Reality 101-4: Truth.” It intuitively obvious (to me, at least) that Reality (with a capital “R”) is unitary in nature, and because of this possesses all the qualities we think of as positive or good, and all the qualities we think of as negative or bad are the byproducts of duality.

Because we live in a dualistic experience we have good and evil. Evil requires duality to exist. Divisiveness, separation, the discrete nature of “things” — this is what evil needs to exist. At our core we are unitary — we are actually all one consciousness. Evil cannot exist in a unitary environment, because there is no “other” to exploit or control.

As for physical duality being some kind of “construct” of consciousness … well, I do believe that the universe we experience is a product of consciousness, though I’m not about to go walking on water.

— Daniel


Angela December 13, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Duality is indeed the pervading and monstrous mindset which by its very definition creates controversy (mine and yours, “right” and “wrong”, etc), whereas in reality – we are all one. But, it can be a long journey towards that realization. Truly enlightened beings have no ‘stuff’ and never need to argue about politics or what’s ‘right’ – but, they are probably not hanging around here much either these days, and I don’t blame them.

Meanwhile….we LOVE Forbidden Planet (Dexter too actually) and after thinking about this for a bit I realized, perhaps if we had a bit more Leslie Nielson in us things wouldn’t be as monstrous. In his later years he revealed his true nature, and reveled in his silly antics – never being without his whoopie cushion in any interview, right up to the end. A little more silliness – ok let’s say, light-heartedness – and the world might be a different place. It’s so SERIOUS around here – so dire, and people get so wound up. Myself included. I definitely feel my monster, some days more than others. But, thankfully I have silly people around me to point things out – like yourself, whom I greatly enjoy for the wit and the wisdom, and my husband who (als0) still makes fart jokes at age 57.

The world in this present harmonic is monstrously dissonant, but I anticipate resonance.

And don’t call me Shirley.
Angela recently posted … Spirals- Stargates- and Suspicious Sneaky-A StrangenessMy Profile


Daniel Brenton December 13, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Bravo! Thank you for that!

And, all right … I won’t call you Shirley.

— Daniel


Lyman Reed December 21, 2010 at 6:33 am

OK, I consider myself duly reprimanded for never seeing “Forbidden Planet.” I’ll be sure to correct that ASAP.

It took a long time, but for me, accepting my own monster was the only way I could start to outgrow it. When we have a simple black and white “us vs. them” mentality, it’s just so much easier to feel good about ourselves. But that’s not really the end all be all, is it.

Of course, Dexter does rock. And I’m sticking to that.


Daniel Brenton December 21, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Lyman —

You haven’t seen Forbidden Planet? Maybe you have and don’t remember it — it seemed to crop up a lot on Saturday afternoon movies back in the ’60s and ’70s.

And I won’t call you Shirley, either.

— Daniel


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