Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Human Question

I can't help but notice the remarkable rebound we've been able to make in the last few weeks. It's strange to think we've come from the edge of destruction to a state of growth and strengthening. What's most surprising is that I'm surprised.

The Fall gave us all the worst possible conditions to survive in. Indeed, the initial spread of the zombie plague killed most people and left behind a struggling and devastated population. We persevered, even prospered, in the wake of the near-extinction of the human race.

Once the zombies had killed out most of humanity, what was left were people who for one reason or another had managed the impossible--survival. I ask myself every day if Darwin had a hand in this: that is to say, was it the strongest of us who survived, or the smartest? Do each of us have qualities that set us above those who perished in the terrible onslaught of the living dead? Or was it luck, plain and simple? Could that have been the major factor, just being in the right place at the right time?

I don't know. Honestly, I don't think I want to. We're here, and we have suffered, and it's enough for most of us to enjoy the new energy flowing through New Haven. I used to read that people who've had brushes with death would find a new interest and zest for life. Each of us had been there before, but clearly the same works on a larger scale. Our community came as close to annihilation as it ever has, and we made it through. Damaged and starving, but we did it.

Then this miraculous thing happened where people began to look at the long term in ways we've never really done before. Not just the basics of food, water, shelter. No, some of our number, spearheaded by Gabrielle and her work on making new medicines and items for wound treatment, have looked toward what we'll need to truly rebuild.

I haven't had the energy of late to go off on one of my philosophical tangents, but today is a good day. I have this ever-changing view of people that occasionally needs an outlet, or my brain will explode, and nobody wants that.

See, the strongest and smartest animals out there right now have managed to avoid the zombies that grow more and more hungry as time goes by. Not only that, but they've learned to avoid us. They are the best of their various breeds, no doubt about it. Evolution is getting a hard test right now, and from what we can see, many species are passing, even as they suffer tremendous losses.

I think it says something amazing about my own species that any of us managed to live. The more I ponder, the more I believe it's not a matter of being strong or smart that did it. I think the baseline human, being self-aware and capable of rational thought, has what it takes to overcome most odds.

Frankly, I think we got lucky the first time. The Fall should have been the curtain call for our species. With a bang and a whimper, we should have been consumed by ourselves, or at least the dead versions of ourselves, like an Ouroboros devouring its own tail. If the zombie plague is a thing made by us, as many believe, then The Fall should have been our suicide as a species.

I say that not because I think humanity deserved such a fate, but by looking at the sheer numbers. There were almost seven billion people alive at the time of the outbreak. By our best estimates, the plague and the violence that followed left only one in a hundred alive. Think about that. Surrounded by such overwhelming odds, how in the world did we manage survival longer than a few days? It seems crazily impossible.

So yeah, I think our initial survival borders on the miraculous. But since then, I chalk it up to good old human nature. We want to live. We have a tremendous capacity for ingenuity, creative thinking, and learning from our mistakes. We've taken the horrible shit we've been through and turned it over in our minds, extracting all the data we can from our experiences and turning it into ideas for better survival. We've become a society of experts on the subject by virtue of necessity.

All that being said, I begin to see why we've begun such an upswing in our fortunes. With the help of friends and allies, we went from the worst conditions possible to better ones in small but fast improving increments. More than a dash of luck with out hunting helped out a lot there, I won't lie, but deciding on trading with others and innovating in the creation of new products has been a huge boost as well.

Hmm. We've come so far, so fast, by doing what people have always done: pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps and putting the work in. It's so simple, yet so amazing.

People. Infinitely complex and always surprising.

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