Contrary to popular belief, the materialist notion that all the question of what is needed to sustain biological life is all that a civilisation needs to worry itself with has been put into question by post-modernity, a cultural life form which is shot through with post-secular motifs.
It must be stated that everything in postmodernity is still collapsed into the sheer materiality of the commodity. Nevertheless, it is fascinating to see how justifications for consuming those materials changed in the short period between the end of the Cold War and the present day. With varying degrees of subtlety, there is now built into the advertising of many product lines the imperative that one transcend one’s biological life through these commodities, whether they be the consumption of music to feed the soul, or eat cheese as a means to get eternal life, as the ad below demonstrates.
This is an impulse that the culture only seems to recognise in recent years, but it is noteworthy that at the turn of the 20th century, Sigmund Freud spoke about an impulse to transcend one’s biological life, and access a remainder that is part of one’s life, yet lies beyond its biological confines. In order to transcend one’s material limitations, one may be driven to engage in behaviours that may even threaten one’s physical integrity. It is because of this willingness to risk one’s life in order to assume that Freud calls this impulse the “death drive”.
Drawing upon Lacan’s recovery of Freud, Slavoj Zizek has labelled this remainder beyond biological life as “undeadness”, a point which shall be of interest to those seeking a psychoanalytical exploration of the zombie. Moreover, in his coverage of the Gospel of John Zizek, in his book On Belief, makes much of the significance of Jesus as the exemplar of one who is successfully redeems the “death drive” by providing a means by which we can “have life, and have life in abundance”. On the cross, Jesus embraces “undeadness”, embodying in his person that fullness of life in which biological life and the remainder that transcends it come together. In other words, Christ on the Cross redeems the zombie.
Whilst Christians ought to be thankful for Zizek’s drawing of our attention to the fullness of life as something more than a spiritual nicety, it is also important to note one major point of difference between Zizek’s account of the fullness of life in Christ and that in the Christian tradition. The former finds a fullness of life in what Zizek calls “subjective destitution”, whereby the Son gives up on hoping for the Father for help. By contrast, the orthodox Christian position is that Christ bears within him the fullness of life precisely in a sacrificial giving up of himself to the Father, a gesture summarised by his last words, “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit”(Luke 23:46).