Jess and I are headed out on a scout run, this time just the two of us. She's driving to give me a chance to blog. We're doing a long-distance trip this time, looking farther away than we've gone from Jack's before to look for more chain link fencing and other supplies. The vibe around Jack's is weird right now, but not for the reason you might think; rather than being quiet, reserved, or outright upset, Jack's people seem remarkably undisturbed by their leader's passing.
Death is a bigger part of our lives than it ever was before The Fall. We've gotten used to the possibility of seeing our friends die, and it was a necessary adaptation. It might seem cold or heartless to you, but I've said it before: if we broke down and grieved as the dead deserved, we would never have time for anything else.
Think of it this way--we're surrounded by walking tragedies all the time. The zombies that caused the world to come apart at the seams were people once, the good and bad alike. Early on we saw folks we knew coming to kill and eat us, and at the time the shock was so great that all we could do was roll with it and defend ourselves. We joked and made light, but over time the faces of the living dead start to leave an impression on you. Brief glimpses of expressions on them, as if they were remembering a dream. Seeing a child shambling toward you with a look of anguish from the hunger that drives her twists something inside you, and it should.
The biggest reason why we are able to harden our hearts against them, against death in general, is because those of us who have survived push all that pent up emotion onto the living. It's damn hard to feel regret for lopping off the head of your old pastor when he's missing an arm and covered in the blood of some poor soul, trying to eat someone whose heart still beats, whose infinite potential hasn't been reduced to stumbling around trying to eat people.
We, the living, are the only chance humanity has to survive and once again become the dominant species on earth. Anyone who's reading this who doesn't think that I'm right, that mankind is still number one? I suggest you fire a gun and wait for the crowds of zombies to roll in. They aren't us anymore, and they outnumber us thousands to one at the least. We've been reduced to a race that must struggle to get by every day, the evolution that took our natural protections from the elements in exchange for intelligence and creative thinking. Yeah, we can make complex machinery, but without fur we're hard pressed to survive in temperatures below the fifties.
Until and unless we can rebuild enough infrastructure to make living comfortable (or at least tolerable) rather than just survivable, each other is all we've got. Jack's people are different, and that makes sense. Each group of survivors should be. After all, every pocket of the living around the country share characteristics--too many people stuck together in too small a space for way too long. Almost always hungry and lacking creature comforts, constantly fighting to stay alive against mother nature, the living dead, and other human beings. When you apply that kind of pressure to one person and let it simmer, history shows us that the person will change. You put a few dozen or a few hundred of them together, and the group tends toward similar trends in reaction, attitude, logic, you name it.
The key to making society one day work again is making sure that no matter how different the groups of us (or the individuals for that matter) end up being, we all work toward the same goals. That was the major failing of civilization as it was--too many people ignored or hated others or their ideas, and agreement on anything of civilization-wide importance was usually false when reached, and most often not reached at all.
So, while I personally think the display Jack's people put on when one of them dies is over-the-top and unnecessary, I'm not about to let it get between us. If they want a grand display to accompany their dead into the afterlife, more power to them. It's just not the way I think things should be done. It doesn't risk lives or safety, which is the gauge I measure most things by, as do most others. As long as it meets that criteria, it isn't a problem for me.
The real challenge will be seeing if we can keep that mindset if and when things get easier down the road. Into the far future we're working toward, where electricity warms our homes and ovens (oh dear god, how I miss you, ovens) heat our food. When taking a jog doesn't include bringing a weapon, and having a picnic can be...well, anywhere outside of a walled fortress. Will we be able to continue to work together then? Can we act in unison as a species when the threat of consumption by our dead isn't the overwhelmingly huge problem it is right now?
I don't know, but I have a lot of hope that we can manage it.
Wow, I kind of went on for a but there, didn't I? I've been meaning to try and keep things a little more down to earth here lately, keep you guys informed about what's going on with everybody and try to give updates on the situation we face with the Richmond soldiers. The truth is, things haven't changed all that much over the last eleven months: life is still life. I'm not in a gripping struggle against an enemy every day, and I don't get updates from people unless they have something to tell me. When I know, you'll know.
Although I do want to tell everyone out there about Mason and the lessons he's giving a lot of people (including me) back at Jack's. Learning from someone like him is a whole education in Things I Don't Know. His skillset is immense, and he makes my ten years of martial arts look like nothing. I'm looking forward to telling you all about it.
Just not today. We're getting into some rural-ish areas, and my bars are fluctuating as I peck away at my phone to write this. I'll leave off here, and save Mason for another day, maybe tomorrow.
Be safe, and remember that the person you disagree with may be the man or woman in the trenches with you tomorrow. Remember what's important, and as my mom used to say, "Don't sweat the small stuff. And it's all small stuff."
Her favorite quote, and especially apt now.