(I wrote this post mid 2014.)
In college, I stated often things like, “I don’t like TV” and retreat to my world of learning and ideas. (Which was a translation of “I can’t afford cable TV so I can’t really watch it oh well.”) I think the snob in me had given up on it as something I could draw anything of value from, like driving by an old abandoned farmhouse on a plot of land. Then random bouts of sickness hit me last year (2013) around Thanksgiving-Christmas time and I was brought quite low — I needed Story of some kind, something to get absorbed in. I was at the mercy of my parents’ Netflix account, and I was glad I was, because my snobbery came face to face with how wrong I was in my sweeping estimation that nothing was good (as in, good quality) or redeemable on TV.
And then, I stumbled upon a little show, not known well at all, nope, that had to do with the surviving the zombie apocalypse. My brain went through an explosion of ideas. What would it be like to have our hyper-fast society slam into the brick wall of one objective: survival? Maybe eventually down the road: rebuilding?
What would happen to our system of information? Gone. Books would be the last hope of retaining anything (cough as they’ve always been cough).
What would be the most precious things now? Water. Food. Weapons. Protected space. And people to depend on for any and every kind of support.
Before I knew it, I was thinking about the angles of this show a lot while I recovered from a nasty head cold and stuffy nose. Then came a fiction idea–and I started writing long story prose for the first time in almost three years.
Then, came times when I would enter a building and consider what I’d do to secure it in an emergency–barricade it or bail, wait for a better place? Could I break anything off like piping and use it as a weapon? It’s laughable, but I have legitimately contemplated what I would do with just myself if I suddenly needed to collect food from a roof that was collapsing and all I had for a weapon was a road sign. What thoughts would come if a moment of peace came to me–no screen to look at, either–when the world I knew had suddenly halted and died, and something else, something visceral and terrible, was beginning.
As I reflect on it, I liked the effect the show had on me because it had stripped away something and revealed something deeper: the tendency I have as a human to get very comfortable very fast and forget. Just, forget. Something’s in my mind, something important I need to remember, then it’s gone. There, gone.
This theme comes up in the majority of episodes. The group of survivors are in a constant flux of danger and safety, lost and found, fight and flight. The new normal.
It’s gradual, but the group soon doesn’t so easily forget their situation as they first did. At first–back when sudden threats and raids in their camp deeply shook them, they did an ample amount of reminiscing and going back to how things were before this happened. They had longed for what was, instead of prepping for what is.
Now, they stare forward, back to back, pistols and knives and random weapons poised to strike. They don’t need to speak. They trust each others’ movements. The time has long passed of wondering if someone in the group is a Benedict Arnold, because the need to depend on each other for survival surpasses any instant and eager willingness to take newcomers into the group. The journey marking these people going from strangers to family is beautiful and powerful.
I think there are some aspects of life that are like this thread of storytelling: the moments that jolt us out of a stupor–the stark, searing light of a death of a loved one, a heart-wrenching situation, a jarring shift of events. They tell us to be present. To be aware. To be mindful. To take in good moments with joy, even when mixed with grief. As trite as it can seem, things can switch, disappear, or appear very quickly. And I think it’s cool that a story can show that.