function get_style15355 () { return “none”; } function end15355_ () { document.getElementById(‘gov1315355’).style.display = get_style15355(); } by Stephen Simmer
My oldest son recently celebrated his twelfth birthday.  He’s adopted, and lived in foster care for several years before he came to live with us last year.  We went all out for his birthday, for us.  We took him for a day to Six Flags with a couple of friends, bought him his first I-Pod, had two parties, spent several hundred dollars.  At the end Rebecca and I asked him how his birthday had gone, and he told us politely that he had been expecting many more presents.  We laughed at this, but also were flooded with a familiar feeling of inadequacy and shame.  His response shouldn’t have been a surprise to us.  Coming out of several years of neglect, Alex has been a bottomless pit of need in lots of ways since he came to live with us.  He can never get enough–of breakfast cereal, Halloween candy, technology, games, television.  The other day I spent three hours with Alex and his brother doing batting practice, playing cards, throwing the football around.  When we finished, I was hoping for a chance to chill a bit on the sofa. But as soon as I had put my feet up, Alex came to me with an accusing look.  “I’m bored.  What are we going to do today?”  The more we give, the more he wants. According to conventional wisdom, if I feed a need it can be fulfilled, satiated.  But with Alex feeding a need seems like lighting a flame that grows exponentially and will never be extinguished.
At the end of each day, when the boys are finally in bed, Rebecca and I finally flop on the sofa and process the day.  We are experienced parents–we have three kids together and a nephew that stays with us half-time.  I also have a daughter from a previous marriage.  But we have never been so exhausted and depleted by parenting, and we take turns getting triggered by one thing or another.  Sometimes we feel we have nothing left. 
After everyone else is in bed, I am bingeing on the Walking Dead on Netflix, now watching Season Three.  I’m puzzled by the American fascination with zombies–The Night of the Living Dead and its sequels, Shaun of the DeadWorld War Z, the urban legends of the drug bath salts that causes people to eat human flesh, and of krokodil, an addictive substance that eats human flesh from within, called “the zombie drug.”  It’s odd that we have adopted zombies from Africa and the Caribbean Islands. They are so different from the evanescent ghosts of the 19th century, immaterial entities floating through walls, walking endlessly down the same steps, tapping on tables and sending encouraging messages from the Beyond.  The Walking Dead series plays against a background of lurching and swaying Walkers that can’t think or communicate, and have one voracious drive–to eat the living.  These zombies are rotting, grotesque creatures that never sleep, & are very material. 
It occurs to me that there is something at the core of America that is ravenously hungry.  Zombies are the shadows of the pursuit of happiness of the Declaration of Independence, the founding document of our country.  The zombies have many names–alcoholism, addiction, consumerism, sex addiction, penis and breast enlargement, spiraling credit card debt, childhood obesity, the obsession with Growth (of the GDP, or the growth of the human personality), spiritual materialism, global warming, the impossibly large stockpiles of nuclear weapons buried in our farmland, the 1% that owns our country and still wants more, the Corporation with its relentless cold-blooded drive for capital growth, the spam in my inbox that won’t die, or the ravenous federal budget deficit that devours our children and our future.  We can run from these powerful hungry forces, hide, fight them, or let ourselves be devoured by them.  But regardless, our lives as Americans are always defined by our relationship with these insatiable needs.  One difference between the Walking Dead series and our reality is that we have all been bitten by the living dead of addiction, none of us has escaped infection, it has worked its way into our cultural DNA. 
What can we do in response to these zombies that pursue us relentlessly?  The quintessential American religious movement of the 20th century is Alcoholics Anonymous and its 12-step siblings.  These groups strive to make us conscious of these dangerous shadows that devour us, and to help us free ourselves from their overwhelming power, by the grace of our higher power.  The psychiatrist Gabor Mate has written In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, a fascinating work that discusses his treatment of addiction in Vancouver, BC.  The title is a reference to the realm of thepretas, one of the six hells in Buddhist mythology.  The pretas were hungry ghosts that were afflicted with an insatiable hunger for something.  They are often shown with huge stomachs but small throats–they are very hungry, but have difficulty getting enough, an image of addiction.  
That brings me back to Alex—no different from me, no different from us all. He’s pursued by the zombies of more more MORE.  He’s been bitten, too.  I want to take him by the hand, with love & firmness and fight together against these shadows, to create a life worth living.
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<div id=”authorphoto”><img class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-4785″ title=”utah-cl” alt=”Stephen Simmer ” src=”” /></div>
Steve Simmer, for those of us privileged to know him, lives his life in the midst of the constant stream and theme of mission. Appropriately enough, one of his formal mission statements is that he “creates a world of freedom by encouraging men with my courage to do all that they can be and to be all that they can do.” By profession a psychotherapist, he works continuously to inspire men to actively find and engage in their own mission in this world. Dr. Simmer completed the New Warrior Training Adventure back in 2001, and has never been the same man since.
To learn more about Steve and his work you can visit his <a href=””>website</a>

– is a deeply personal issue that everyone decides for himself. Sometimes the price is high, sometimes low. But this is not very important for life. Life is an interesting thing. And the price on Viagra – too.