Debate of the Week: Do monsters keep us sane?
THE NEWS: This month, volunteers from across the world will flock to Loch Ness to try to spot an ancient beast. Some think they might just be on to something.
In 565 AD, a monk named Saint Columba, travelling through Scotland, came across some locals burying a man by the River Ness.The man, they explained, had been swimming when he was attacked by a giant beast.
Columba ended up driving off the creature, but it would not stay below the surface for long. Supposed sightings of the Loch Ness Monster would continue for centuries, and we still long to find it.
This month, the Loch Ness Centre will hold the biggest hunt for the monster in more than 50 years, calling volunteers from around the world.
The monster has never been proved to exist. But believers point out Loch Ness is the biggest body of water in the UK, 36km long and more than 130m deep.2 There is no way of knowing what might be in there.
Whether or not Nessie really exists, it is clear she still has a pull on our imaginations. So why are we so obsessed with monsters?
In the past, monsters could be used to hold those in power to a good standard of behaviour. For example, in Chinese mythology, an animal called the qilin was thought to appear only if the ruling emperor was truly benevolent.
We have also used monsters to make sense of the world. In the ancient world, the water between Sicily and Italy was very dangerous, and many ships were wrecked there.
The Greeks invented two monsters, Scylla and Charibdis, to explain this. Scylla was a huge beast that ate sailors, and Charibdis created perilous whirlpools by sucking in and spewing out huge quantities of water.
And monsters can help us think about what it means to be human. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the monster is actually a good person, but is rejected by others because of his looks.
Eventually the monster turns to evil. The story shows how if people are treated like monsters, they become them.
Do monsters keep us sane?
Monsters point out problems and help us vent the worries about our lives. They tell us when times are good and when they are not so good, and they make life more exciting.
Monsters might have done all of this once, but now we have more rational ways of doing them. Hunting for monsters is just a way for bored rich people to waste money.
Monsters probably do keep us sane, but for the wrong reasons. We dream of monsters because our actual lives seem too humdrum and uneventful. We hunt for them because we can no longer find joy in what actually exists.
Monk-Monks are groups of religious men who live together and withdraw from the rest of the world. Loch Ness-A long and narrow lake in Scotland. Qilin-A hooved creature from Chinese mythology. Benevolent-Well-meaning and kind. Mary Shelley-She wrote Frankenstein as part of a contest to write a ghost story.