It is a question our culture demands. How would you survive a zombie apocalypse? Lugosi asked us in the 1930's, Romero echoed it throughout the second half of the century, and now Kirkman's franchise drives it home. If the world came crashing down and the dead came back to life, what would you do? How would you survive?
It's a question I've asked myself. As a disabled person, how would I stay alive in a world full of crazed undead cannibals? My intrigue with that hypothetical began in high school and followed me on up through my 20's. I watched the movies, read the books, and even wrote a few of the books myself. As I delved further into this apocalyptic concept, the question dug deeper into my gut. It came through my writings, albeit subconsciously at the time, as my protagonists were feeble underdogs taking on a diseased world.
In one book, I wrote of an 85 year old mailman who travels across Florida. At every corner, he meets zombies, slow but ravenous, and his strength is tested. He faces sickness, injury, and frustration, only succeeding with the help of other survivors along the way. Another book tells of a wheelchair basketball team living in a fallen Anacortes. Titans of the disabled community, these guys band together to survive as best they can in circumstances fatal to even the most able-bodied heroes.
Without meaning to, I asked the question but also provided the answer.
I have Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which weakens my limbs and leaves me highly dependent on others. I have my wheelchair and I do fine on sidewalks. But batteries die, stairs show up, and I do get hungry from time to time. Now, throw zombies into that mix!
Of course, this is extreme. Zombies are fictional disasters, like alien invasions or chicken pox, designed to present the bigger question. What's in your heart? Often times, in these narratives, man turns on man; people lose hope; people go crazy; bad gets worse until someone steps in to save the day. But let's set it next to every day "real life."
Sure, we may not be cutting off heads in Georgia. Things aren't that bad, but what about a roommate with the flu or a care giver who's having a bad day? I can speak from thirty years of experience. People get tired, sick, annoyed, busy. Friends, family, care givers. Everyone I depend on, no matter how much they love me or like me, they've all had moments of wavering.
It would be easier for my roommate to keep sleeping when I call him to use the restroom at 4:00 AM. And when another friend works a graveyard shift, he would much rather go home to his wife and baby instead of stopping by to give me a shower. But they push through, they place my needs before their own, and do so with immense love.
And then I check my own heart. I have to ask. If I was in their place, if they needed my help that way. What would be my breaking point? When would my selfishness override my compassion? And though I may not be much physical help in my present state, I hope I am pouring into their lives, encouraging them. And just as in their decisions every day to care for me, I have to be intentional about my care for them. These decisions don't go away when the world crumbles to ruin. They may get harder to make, but they still get made and my experience thus far in life gives me hope for the outcome.
It is a matter of the heart. Who are we putting first? We fight a natural instinct to self-preserve, and fight we must, for the sake of something deeper, something greater than ourselves.
In Dawn of the Dead, who makes it to the helicopter? A group, working together to get there. How have the Walking Dead folks survived this long? The answer is in the question - they are more than one, they don't each go it alone. They're primary focus is taking care of one another and making it through together.
This is the key, the answer to survival in a zombie epidemic and in everyday life. It's a difficult life we live in a rough world, and survival is not an over-reactant term to use. But putting each other first will see us to the end, serving one another and making it through this life together.