I think a lot of people are very uncertain about the future. This is not merely a thing of today; it’s an outlook from many times in history. But everyone finds their own way of addressing this uncertainty, and I’ve come to title this expected disaster as “The Zombie Apocalypse.” If you want to get specific, things quickly degrade into name calling; if you leave it vague, everyone can assume that of course The Zombie Apocalypse refers to whichever things they think will cause this disaster. Everyone can agree on Zombies.
More and more people are believing in the Zombie Apocalypse everyday. For some people, it just leads to questions like, “Yeah, but how practical will this degree be for me when the Zombie Apocalypse comes?” Some amuse themselves with lighthearted lists of things to stockpile (toilet paper! Remember Argentina!). For others, it means making bigger gardens, learning to put up food, and, in general, “becoming more self-reliant.”
I was talking with one of these ladies who is really getting into the Zombie Apocalypse thing. She was getting frustrated that she really didn’t think their gardening efforts were leading to a monetary savings; I was pointing out that the education (School of Hard Knocks) itself would be very useful come Zombie Apocalypse. She explained that what they really needed to get ready would be the ideal piece of real estate. I suggested that it was very hard to know what would really be needed during the Zombie Apocalypse, and maybe what she really needed most was just good neighbors. She stated unequivocally that what was most needed was food, water and shelter, and then it hit me.
She was wrong.
I had been trying for some time to be able to put in words what bothered me about Zombie Apocalypse preparations, and I suddenly held it so clearly I could barely continue the conversations. What matters most is not food, water and shelter. What matters most is being a good neighbor.
I’ve read stories of hard times and holocausts, and the tales that have been impressed on me–the people who have made the strongest mark in my memory and inspired me as to how I would wish to behave–are not the ones with the stockpiles. Not the ones with the clever preparations. Not the ones who held off the scavengers with a shotgun. It’s the ones who have given the shirts off their backs, the food from their mouths, and risked their very life time and time again to help others. Those are the ones who leave me in awe, not the ones who managed to survive under the mantra of “I got mine!”
The point isn’t to survive. Maybe stock-piling and cleverness is the best way to ride it out, but what’s the point of surviving that way? The tales of those survivors are dark indeed. The secrets they hid of what horrible things they did to others to get by, the depression, the unrelenting fear, the self-absorption and the paranoia. But some survive who didn’t claw their way to the top of the pile, and they tell a different story. They have still seen horrible things, but theirs is a lighter burden because the life they lived was worth living, even as horrifying as it was.
Maybe giving the shirt off your back will mean that you don’t survive the Zombie Apocalypse. I think I am more than okay with that. I think I would rather live the shortened life, knowing each minute was worth it, than to survive it surrounded by shotgun shells and having had brought the darkness inside of me. The way to prepare is not to stockpile food or ammo or toilet paper (okay, maybe toilet paper), and it’s not to find a way to successfully isolate yourself from anyone who might do you damage. The only real way to prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse is to practice loving; to practice giving to those in greater need than you, especially when you don’t have anything left to give; and to practice being full of light and joy through every hard and frightening thing. Those are things that no looter can steal away from you, and those are the things that will be of great use no matter what form the Zombies take.