It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I’m Not a Zombie)


I had an interesting conversation the other day with a friend at work that later spread (rather ironically) to some fellow coworkers. It was on a topic of grave (pardon the pun) importance in this day and age: if it was the zombie apocalypse, would you want to be the first person turned into a zombie or the last person left on Earth after everyone else had been turned into a zombie? Think about that one for a second. Go watch a few episodes of The Walking Dead if you think it would be instructive.

Got your answer? Here’s the ones that came up: almost universally the decision was be the first. The reasons given ranged from the maudlin (“I would hate to watch my entire family and all of my friends die”) to the perverse (“I’ve always enjoyed an all-you-can-eat buffet…”), but there was solid agreement on this point; as usual I was the lone dissenter. I said, unequivocally, I would invest my entire fortune in canned food and shotgun shells and ride this one out. My reasoning may sound flip at first, perhaps even grotesque, but I ask you to bear with me.

To start, answer this perhaps indelicate but I promise serious and on-point question: have you made love enough in your lifetime?

No need to answer out loud; feel free to keep it to yourself. Regardless of your answer, let me take it a step further. Have you read every book you would ever want to read? Seen every film? Have you experienced every great or wonderful moment you could ever want to experience? If nothing else, have you seen every sunset or sunrise you ever need see again?

Answer me every one of those questions, and then answer this one again: would you be the first zombie, or the last?

I also pointed out that, if you remove the element of the fantastic from it, the question becomes one of the essential nature of humanity. Death, in all of its forms, is unpleasant at least and gruesome at worst. It is rarely desirable, and it is always final. Change the question even slightly: “if every person on Earth were going to die in a car crash, would you prefer to be the first or the last?” Does your answer change?

Life is for the living. It’s easy to forget that as we go through the motions of job and school, get trapped in the daily grind of wake up, commute, work, commute, sleep, rinse and repeat. There are joys to be had, great and small, victories and triumphs and losses and tears and great walloping gobs of life to live. And when the zombie apocalypse comes, I’m going to ride that sucker out in style. Feel free to stop by; I’ll have plenty of canned food and shotgun shells to go around.

I know it’s just a game, a thought experiment, and perhaps I take it a bit too seriously, but I think sometimes games are worth taking a little seriously just to see where they take us. If this game takes you to a place where you appreciate life a bit more, perhaps enjoy a sunset, kiss your spouse one more time, pet your dog, or just give an extra piece of candy to the kids who knock on your door tonight, then it was a game well played.

Happy Halloween, everyone.

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