“If our souls are the sails that bring the times to shore; then we must live where the sea meets the sky in an orange horizon. Everlasting”- Adaeze.
Time, our biggest enemy is on a march, and we the endless soldiers fight greatly in the battle of life. There is no doubt there is a circle of life. We are born to this world, grow up, seek fortune, get married, have children and die. The recursive nature of the human experience. When we try to venture out of this circle, society scorns us and tries to keep us in check. Why don’t you want to go to college? Why don’t you want to have children? Through their eyes, children grow up fitting into their parent’s linear expectations of them. Children should accomplish what their parents could not accomplish in their lifetime. In the life of the average middle class American, a good job is given as the highest expectation. “Go to school, have a good job, get married and raise your children” most parents repeatedly drum out to their children. Why do we do everything we do? Merely to survive? I think not. Even as animals are born with basic survival instinct and in the food chain; only the fittest survive. Evolution tells us that populations not individuals evolve with time. Homo Erectus to Homo Sapiens, the human race has felt the touch of evolution. However, could this explain why materialism has taken centre stage in this new world? Did the technology-enhanced population crown money as the new order leaving happiness to considered as too extravagant. Too far-reaching? The average college student graduates neck deep in debts knowing that it could take the majority of their life time to pay it off. Seek fortune. However, what if we did not give meaning to anything that existed? Would they cease to exist or they would not be as important? As we trudge through the concrete filled, broken path of life, a great fear exists. The fear of oblivion. The horrid thought of disappearing as ash into the winds of time as though one never existed.
Colson Whitehead’s Zone One, is vividly written with expansive and complex vocabulary that demonstrates the high level intelligence of the writer. His literature is marked with livid metaphors and analogies that make reading more than an experience. It gives us an imagery of how the world would be if nature backfired and the human race faced true extinction. A world where gossip and glamour magazines had no extension dates because there was no gossip or news worth telling anymore. Zone one, set in New York’s post-zombie apocalypse era tells of a plague that has beset the human race leaving behind “Stragglers”, “Skels” and “P.A.S.D survivors”. The few percentage of the zombie population are stragglers; catatonic and motionless, they are stuck in a never-ending moment of their former lives. They keep going back to a place that was meaningful in their human lives. Stuck in the limbo of the living and the dead; oblivious. Kissed by death but constantly seduced by the dreams of a life short-lived. On the other hand, the Skels are the standard, active, flesh-eating zombies custom to horror stories except they are hosts to a disease that had killed them and was eager to reinfect and wipe out the human population. The living have been changed by the horrific advent of the plague and the indelible post-traumatic mark they now possess is referred to as a “psychological limp” also known as P.A.S.D (Post-apocalyptic Stress Disorder.) They were as “lurching specimens….. no matter the depth of cow-eyed vacancy in their tourist faces or local wretchedness inverting their spines” (Whitehead pg 3.) Mark Spitz and his Team Omega are charged with killing and burning the zombies in Zone One, a cordoned-off section of the city protected by a concrete wall. Ash rains on the city constantly as these creatures once human, once beautiful burn in the fires of a second death. The underlying motivation that pushes the team is the need to preserve the human race; to keep the survivors alive even when happiness had become extinct with the plague. The forbidden thought, is oblivion not death. Death was not to be feared; the true end was scarier. The human race sinking into the motley of time’s gulping waves; a nothingness among nothingness.
Could this be why we write books and try to record our history? Preservation. Is this why we build houses, acquire fortune and fight for climate change? The need to make the world a better place for future generations because preservation is a sacred and an absolute must. Our legacies must be true to us like death is true to man even when “inevitability is mayor term after term” (Whitehead, pg 6.) Mark Spitz was a mediocre average kid “never shining, never flunking; but gathering himself for what it took to progress past life’s next random obstacle” (Whitehead pg.7.) Just like the average population wakes up each day in an effort to contribute to life in the hopes of reaching the eventual aspect of their lives age slaps in their face. In their jobs, they are “clock watching”, agitating to get over the endless momentum, resting only to start again like clockworks. Indeed, just like “motes cycling in the wheels of a giant clock” (Zone one, pg 8.) We as humans favour order, constancy which is why we have systems that favour specific patterns and sequences tailored to our collective experience. In some areas of the world, poverty seems to be an ever-present system that commands and holds its victims in a tight grip. Poverty is also the only language the majority of the population knows until soon enough it becomes the family’s unofficial mantra. Each day seems like the last but we have to remain hopeful for the future.
The Latin phrase “Mutato nomine de te fabula narratur” is so powerful in its translation “with the name changed; the story applies to you”. When I lost my best friend at age 12 in a plane crash; I agree I must have felt like a “straggler” for months. I was trapped in the moments we shared together and the fact that I would never see her or hear again. She was my role model in many ways and I wished so badly to see the type of woman she would grow up to become. She was such a huge impact in her high school that after her death; a school hall was renamed after her. However, I figured someday the building might turn into rubble and the bricks crushed to dust but the hearts she touched would be her true legacies. They would never forget her and if possible; they would tell their children of her. My memory of her is one of her legacies. In another way, the ambition of young people as we try to find fortune in the bedrock of life is akin to the thirst of the “Skels” in Zone one . The thirst and hunger to be successful is evident in the way we value our education, try to get good grades and try to have a good life. In our minds, everything should count for something. All our efforts could not have been for nothing at the end of the day. However, the rest of us are all survivors. Some of us have survived rape, assault, disease among others and we push on eager to fight until our very last breath. Our past constantly engages us in a tête-à-tête reminding us of where we have been, the mistakes we have made and the need to create a future that can get us as far away from the past as possible. However, in this busy world the only way we can guard against the forbidden thought is by touching as many lives as we can. Doing a lot of good in the world, loving as many people as we can and showing kindness to everyone. At the end of the day, even as we have loved we would never be forgotten as we live on in the memories of those who cherished our existence and long for us even after death. Let the thoughts of oblivion recede into the nether crevasses of your mind where it belongs. Love now to live forever.