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The Zombie Apocalypse

By Mike Ruffin In an Oct. 21 story on NPR’s Weekend Edition program, I learned about a course that Professor Eric Smaw teaches at Rollins College called ‘Zombies, Serial Killers, and Madmen.’ It’s the most popular course at the college. It’s a morning class now, but Smaw used to teach it at midnight. Spooky. Toward the end of host Lulu Garcia-Navarro’s interview with Smaw, the following exchange took place. GARCIA-NAVARRO: The Miami Herald profiled you this past week, which is where we heard about your class. And you had some advice for those of us fearing the coming zombie apocalypse. And I count myself among them. So how should we survive? SMAW: (Laughter) OK. So if a zombie apocalypse hits, you’ll need food and water, shelter and, of course, ammunition to fight off the zombie attack. And the place that I can think of that would have plenty of it and a lot of space for you to move around is Walmart. So I often tell people, go to Walmart. Hunker down. And fight it out for as long as you can. I would make a joke about encountering zombies at Walmart, but I won’t. Let me be clear: of all the types of apocalypse we could be concerned about, I’d put the zombie type way down the list. Zombies, as you probably know, are the walking dead (thus the title of the series filmed just up the road). The fictional kind have died and then been reanimated. They lack personal will. They are soulless. They exist, but they are really lifeless. If we interpret the word non-literally, maybe we already have a kind of zombie apocalypse going on. It seems to me that a lot of us have given up our will. In particular, we’ve given it up to particular points of view that are put forward by particular politicians or political parties and championed by particular media outlets. We don’t think for ourselves. We let others think for us, and we just second what they say. This is understandable in a way. After all, we only have so much time, and there is so much information out there. Most of us have a basic framework within which we view the world, and it is easy to just go along with those who seem to align best with our preconceived notions. But we do ourselves a disservice if we give our will up to others. It also seems to me that too many of us have given up our souls. I’m using ‘soul’ in the sense of ‘our inmost self that makes us who we really are’ and I’m using ‘given up’ in the sense of ‘surrendering even those basic traits that make us human.’ The traits I have in mind are concern, understanding, empathy, and compassion. In the movies, zombies devour the living. In real life, soulless folks devour other people by thinking of, speaking of, and acting toward them in cruel, hurtful, or dismissive ways. I’m not worried about a literal zombie apocalypse, but I am very concerned about the figurative one that seems already to be underway. I don’t recommend hunkering down at Walmart. I do recommend prayer. I also recommend reading. I recommend thinking for ourselves and expanding our knowledge as much as possible so we can think as clearly as possible. I recommend relating to as many different kinds of people as we can. I recommend doing whatever we can do to develop more empathy and compassion. Maybe the best way to combat the zombie apocalypse is to make sure we don’t give up our own wills, minds, and souls. Mike Ruffin lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville. He is the Connections Curriculum Editor with Smyth & Helwys Publishing in Macon. His latest book, Fifty-Seven: A Memoir of Death and Life, is available through online booksellers.

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