January 10, 2013

5 Things I Learned from Zombies.

In that in-between place, just before we act or make a decision, there is a deep sense of vulnerability. When we lose these moments, we lose humanity.

This holiday season, I managed to get myself addicted to the TV show The Walking Dead.

I realize this show has been on for some time. I don’t often watch TV and in fact, I don’t even have cable. So I normally get left behind in friendly conversations of trendy topics when it comes to TV shows.

Now and then, I hear about these shows that people say you have to watch. Well, The Walking Dead was one of them. And frankly, I thought it might be a waste of time.

However, I now admit I’ve spent more than a few hours in the last week—while driving, walking, showering and even in my sleep—scheming how I could survive a zombie ambush on farmland, what weapons would be best, and how ethical scientific research would be to study these zombies and find a cure.

And I started to think maybe, just maybe, there are some things that are quite important in an age when we speak of the end of the world, a new beginning, a new comet or a newer concept of human evolution.

See, zombies were humans before they became zombies, just like Gollum was more like a hobbit before he became Gollum.

What if zombies are just a really wacky, twisted version of us? What are the differences between those who became zombies and those who “survived?”

Consider the following:

1. Humankind has always survived epidemics. And when we do, we always say, “This one is different.”

Yes, our good ol’ days of peace seem to have disappeared in the last few decades. There seems to be more war, murder, famine and disease than ever. Yet the truth of the matter is, there are more humans now than in any other period on earth. There have been losses for sure, and painful ones, but as a species, we have adapted and survived incredibly well for a very vulnerable mammal— one who lives in an insulated shelter and relies on limited resources to survive.

It is clear to me that humans can survive a lot of things, and I believe that the biggest threat to the human race is ourselves. Whether it’s global warming, the alarming use of limited and dangerous resources, wars between countries or conflicts with friends, it is we who bring the greatest dangers.

All other things that happen to us are just simply circumstances. Whether we survive those circumstances or not depends on how we treat every being, including ourselves.

We may feel like the current circumstances are something totally different than past circumstances, but cancer, war, poverty, or a really bad breakup are actually all the same. They are just circumstances. The way we react will be something totally different, and that’s what makes a difference in our survival.

When we can’t see our paths clearly, we often feel totally hopeless. And we forget that hopeless is for people who are completely without hope. Since we don’t know the future, and the only thing certain is death and change, there is absolutely no way we know that anyone is without hope.

Those who keep busy worrying and feeling hopeless are those who get bitten and become zombies first. Those who keep their faith and stick to what they already know for sure, which is the fact that they are still human, are the ones who prevail.

2. It pays to be fit.

It’s so simple. I’m not talking about skinnying down.

That doesn’t help either. But simply being healthy for your body type totally pays off. After all, when it comes down to it, if you are not healthy in the early days of zombie attacks, epidemics or famine, you have less of a chance of surviving.

Even if you are not the fastest runner in the crowd, if you are not healthy enough to be of benefit to the surviving group, you get left behind, voted off or isolated.

If Mayans really did predict the end of the world, a warning that much ahead of time would have been kind of nice. But when something huge really does happen, I don’t think that we will have an advance warning. Most things happen without notice. You never know when you will have to swing a machete at a zombie or run for the gate at Chicago O’Hare when they call your name for the last time.

3. Learn basic survival skills.

Do you know how to make a fire without a match? Do you know which way is north? Do you know where to build a shelter?

We can easily Google the answers now. When the crucial time comes though, we may not be able to rely on our phones. If it’s really apocalyptic, chances are your phone won’t have reception, you’ll be somewhere without reception or your phone will be dead.

A friend of mine was in New York City during Hurricane Sandy. The first thing she communicated to me was that her phone was dead and she had to walk a few blocks to find a cafe that would share electricity. Well, imagine if you had to walk a few blocks just so you could ask Siri to find a way out while flesh-eating zombies are roaming around. Perhaps it’s time to take that Wilderness First Aid course…

4. Don’t get caught up in mind tricks. “Look to your front.”

As long as we are human, we will always have differences in our perceptions, ideas and moral codes, whether it’s with your best friend or a foreign neighbor who just moved into your neighborhood.

Sometimes, a little seed is planted when we listen to “he said, she said” stories. Then before you know it, there is a whole drama either created by you or whispered to you. Like your own personal Gollum, you feel threatened and need to act right away before they get you. And we know what happens in the end. The story gets twisted, your mind gets twisted and we fall into the endless rabbit hole. Fatal mistakes are made and we end up suffering to the ruin of all.

Photo: Bruce Berrien

“Look to your front” works not just when you’re running from a zombie herd but in your mental war zones as well. If you keep looking back, you get lost in your stories. If you keep looking sideways to see what others are doing, you forget where your feet stand. Keep your eyes to your front so that your aim in life stays clear.

5. Don’t lose humanity.

What makes us human is all the crying, all the loving, all the confusion and all the suffering we share. Even if the world were overrun by zombies and there were only a few of us left, there would always be a little love story, an unexpected birth, a little moral confusion, deep friendship and the pain of lost loved ones.

We can lose sight of humanity any day. We see it all the time.

For company profit, we lay off hundreds of employees who have families to feed. We send armed forces to countries because we feel threatened, and end up killing civilians in order to have a sense of security.

We jump to conclusions all too often before we even know what we really need in this moment, so that we don’t have to cry/suffer/fall in love and get confused about who is right and wrong. In that in-between place, just before we act or make a decision, there is a deep sense of vulnerability. When we lose these moments, we lose humanity.

We are truly the same and very different. We are the same because we can connect and empathize with the ones that have fallen. We are totally different because of the choices we make.

What choices are you making in 2013?

I am considering signing up for cross bow training myself.




Assistant Ed: Stephanie V.

Image: Scott Speegle at Deviant Art 


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