by Randall Allen Dunn
Defense? he often thought. For what?
All afternoon he made stakes.
He lathed them out of thick doweling, band-sawed into nin-inch lengths. These he held against the whirling emery stone until they were as sharp as daggers.
It was tiresome, monotonous work, and it filled the air with hot-smelling wood dust that settled in his pores and got into his lungs and made him cough.
Yet he never seemed to get ahead. No matter how many stakes he made, they were gone in no time at all. Doweling was getting harder to find, too. Eventually he’d have to lathe down rectangular lengths of wood. Won’t that be fun? he thought irritably.
It was all very depressing and it made him resolve to find a better method of disposal. But how could he find it when they never gave him a chance to slow down and think?
Richard Matheson’s short story, I Am Legend, finds Robert Neville struggling for survival as the last human among a world of vampires. They plague him at night, scratching at the walls of his boarded shack, calling to him to come out. He wards them off with garlic strings, then finds them in their comatose state during the day and drives stakes through their hearts. The whole time, he functions in a sort of stupor, fighting these mythical beasts with the mythical weapons that are supposed to defeat them.
And they work! The garlic keeps them away, the crosses repel them, and the stakes destroy them.
But Neville can’t understand why. Before these bizarre creatures began killing people en masse, no one believed that vampires could actually exist. Now confronted with the sad and terrifying reality that they do, Neville begins to wonder what vampires are, and why these particular objects affect them so powerfully.
He is frustrated and weary at trying to stop them, to simply survive, day after day. He wants to figure out their weaknesses and find better solutions for stopping them, but he can’t!
Driving slowly to Sears, he tried to forget by wondering why it was that only wooden stakes should work.
He frowned as he drove along the empty boulevard, the only sound the muted growling of the motor in his car. It seemed fantastic that it had taken him five months to start wondering about it.
Which brought another question to mind. How was it that he always managed to hit the heart? It had to be the heart; Dr. Busch had said so. Yet he, Neville, had no anatomical knowledge.
His brow furrowed. It irritated him that he should have gone through this hideous process so long without stopping once to question it.
He shook his head. No, I should think it over carefully, he thought, I should collect all the questions before I try to answer them. Things should be done the right way, the scientific way.
As I read this, I realized that I faced a similar dilemma. No, vampires were not clawing at the doors of my house. But I needed to figure out a better budget to manage our expenses better. Yet there never seemed to be time to do it.
Then I realized that my situation was not like Neville’s. I did have time. I could review the budget I had created the previous summer, and update it.
I simply had never made it a priority.
Recognizing this, and the fact that it did take priority over other tasks on my to-do list, I set to work. I organized a budget on paper, estimating our monthly expenses for various items. I re-arranged my previous categories and amounts to match our current income and expenses. Within half an hour, I had come up with a new, working budget.
So often, we find ourselves defeated by a problem because we refuse to take action. The consequences of failure are so severe that we feel overwhelmed. Instead of trying to solve the problem, we find other activities to fill our time, and hope the problem will go away.
But it won’t. It will still be clawing at the door the next day. Better to deal with it head on, and the sooner, the better.
Neville continues reading, researching and experimenting, testing out various theories. When he finally develops a viable hypothesis, he is stunned to have discovered the possible explanation for what has come to be called “vampires”. Having been forced into it, the last man on earth deduces what vampires are and what it will take to stop them.
Necessity remains the mother of invention. You will find a solution when you are forced to start looking.
Don’t give in to the fear that you won’t be able to solve a problem. Your first attempt might not work. But you can come up with a better idea – a workable idea – once you start seeking it.
Find more reviews of I Am Legend at amazon.com!
Thursday, October 28th, 2010