I’ve recently been watching Zombie Land Saga, which is an extremely delightful show. At the beginning of the first episode, our protagonist Sakura Minamoto gives us a standard run-down of her life goals and desire to become an idol before stepping outside and immediately getting run over by a car. It reminds me of the anecdote from Kierkegaard about the man whose plans for the day came to an abrupt end when a loose roof tile fell and struck him in the head.
But unlike in that story, Sakura gets reanimated as a zombie and forced by necromancer/manager Tatsumi to form an idol group with other zombie girls. They’ve all been plucked from various different vintages, but all share a passion for performance which Tatsumi believes can revitalize the Saga prefecture when honed into idol performance.
Sometimes it’s like that, no? In a single, unexpected moment, your life changes entirely. Now I admit it’s been a long time since I’ve read Kierk, but he has another quote somewhere out there about the infinitesimal moment being the point where the infinite and the finite intersect, where all is possibility. Paul got knocked to the ground by God and suddenly found himself an apostle. But there’s also the broader manner in which life doesn’t work out the way we expected. Circumstances we could not account for, the unexpected consequences of our actions, our own personal limitations—all things that inevitably affect us in one way or another. Try as we may, we cannot be as self-determined as we would like. We plan, God laughs, etc.
Then there’s the unsettling fear that we aren’t living the life we were meant to. “This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife!” David Byrne squawks in existential terror in the hit Talking Heads song, “Once In a Lifetime.”
My life has changed in some radical ways in the years since I first wrote for Beneath The Tangles. I assumed I would have a career in academia; everyone told me since I was young that it was such a good fit for a bookish person such as myself, and that I’d have trouble thriving elsewhere. But when the time came to produce my own academic work, I found it to be so tedious that I had to leave.
My faith wasn’t what it was any more. I left my former church and went through a protracted period where I wasn’t even sure if I could meaningfully call myself a Christian. My faith never completely deserted me in all this, but the crisis left how I live it out looking a little different today.
I also came out as a trans woman. At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to talk about this here—it’d be easy to just evasively mention that I previously wrote under a different name—but I’d rather be completely honest. It’s something which has, to put it mildly, rather dramatically changed my life. So much so that it actually feels absurd and unreal that I had spent so much of my life living as a man. Like the way dreams can seem so real and then fade away within moments of waking up.
To say nothing of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made the past couple of years to not remotely resemble what I (or anyone else) would have predicted or desired. The future feels more like an open question than it ever has.
The combination of all these experiences made it feel like life had taken him, Josh W, about as far as he could go, and that he just dissolved away, leaving only me—not quite the person others had hitherto seen, or even what I had once hoped to see. But nevertheless the real person, the real sum total of experiences underneath it all.
Perhaps all this isn’t as dramatic as dying and being brought back from the dead as a zombie, but look, I can sympathize.
Actually, this entire setup should ring a little bit true for Christians more generally. What I mean is, to get baptized and become Christian is to already have undergone a death and resurrection. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:19-20) It’s kind of a spooky notion, no? At least it involves less body decay…
In the show, the manger Tatsumi is an ambiguous character. He often just barks orders at the girls without explanation and verbally berates them to their face. And he just generally acts in weird, unpredictable ways. But at other times he shows a gentle, fatherly concern for their well being. While his ultimate intentions are mysterious, his plans do tend to bring out the best in the girls.
This often feels close to how I view my relationship with God, one which has often been very tumultuous and rocky, but nevertheless surprisingly constant. That really is the key word—surprise. It always surprises me to consider how I haven’t been able to shake my faith in God or my belief that He loves me. That my life isn’t some cosmic joke, but rather part of some providential plan that I cannot begin to fathom. I can’t account for these things, but here we are.
Maybe that passage I quoted from Galatians is the key. Perhaps even in my worst moments when I am too weighed down by my own sins or doubts, Christ still lives in me, invisibly helping me get back on my feet.
Anyway, it’s October, the spooky season. It’s sort of my season by default due to my birthday falling the day before Halloween. But I genuinely have a fondness for the gothic horror stuff, which is why something like Zombie Land Saga is such a treat, irreverently mashing all the imagery of that with idol culture. I hope my fellow zombie girls have a pleasant autumn, or a happy Halloween if you celebrate.