Zombies

There is much in the world that horrifies.

Many people consciously seek out those things that frighten them most. It can be cathartic to face down these fears in order to work out the wrinkles in our emotional fabric. Witness the accelerated enthusiasm of late for the horror genre.

Still the most horrifying things are those outside the realm of fiction and film.

I know that in Japan there is a reverence for the elderly. This Asian culture relies on a deep and abiding respect for the mature and the aged.  Not so much here in the west.

I know any number of older people — energetic, vital, personable people — who have told me time and again that when they walk down the street they are invisible. People look right through them as though they didn’t exist. In the busy-ness of my own day, I have been guilty of this as well.

The same is especially true of the homeless and indigent who humbly implore us for help. Or food. Or work. Even a bit of acknowledgement or recognition. We have become quite practiced at avoiding these animated walkers, shufflers and stumblers — the breathing dead.

Many years back, my daughter was being annoyed at school by a boy who simply wouldn’t leave her alone. When she asked for my advice, I told her to ignore him. She said that wouldn’t work because he never stopped. And then I told her something I probably shouldn’t have.

“Sweetheart, there’s something you need to know about boys — and men, for that matter. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more humiliating and soul-crushing than to be utterly and completely ignored. Trust me, this boy is pestering you to get a reaction. Deny him that reaction, and there’s no payoff. No payoff, he’ll go elsewhere and annoy someone else.”

She took the advice to heart and it worked. She can be a fine actress and she simply behaved as though he truly was completely invisible. She looked right through him. Cut him off mid-sentence to laugh and talk with her friends. Total and complete blackout. The kid ended up feeling so foolish he avoided her for the rest of his school life.

The problem — once we realize we actually have the ability to make people invisible, it opens the door to abuse.

The saddest part is that we all possess the power to deny another human being the precious acknowledgement that they exist. As a socially-dependent culture, this crucial connection to other human beings is a lifeline. This fearsome power we hold over others is abused all too often.

The sluggish, dispirited shuffle of a homeless person reaching out to us on the street can feel zombie-ish and may be one of the reasons zombie films have become so outrageously popular in the last 40 years. Our secret, subliminal wish to do away with this broadly expanding portion of the populace could easily have manifested itself in a fever to erase a similarly unattractive group of creatures in horror stories and film.

Have we really become so disconnected with our fellow beings that our blank stares and dismissive behavior of them has turned us into some of the walking dead as well?

As we navigate our lives in the world each day, there are heartbeats and heartbreaks moving among us. A simple and inexpensive antidote to this epidemic of apathy is a bit of a smile to a face that clearly needs it. Lest we forget that the smile we force for another originates on a face that likely needs it most.

Zombies are real enough. I see them everywhere. And the best way to end the epidemic is to kill them with kindness.

I have always found genuine humanity to be quite infectious.

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20 thoughts on “Zombies

  1. Yes we are like zombies, “kill them with kindness” is perfect words to change the “You” inside. How can we look at other’s with kindness when we hate so much about ourselves. Such simple words, but sometimes hard to find the “You” inside to be kind to.
    Michael, so nice to read this. Thank-you,
    Tara

  2. Beautiful post. I hate to admit that I too am guilty of ignoring the shufflers of the streets when really I should have been offering them a smile.

    Congrats on completing a-z.

  3. You touch on so many different angles under this one word, I think each of them could almost warrant its own post as they are all a little different. Respect for elders and the west’s uncomfortable relationship with the whole ageing process. Invisible homeless and then another on roots and implications of childhood bullies.
    A good post anyway, but my not too subtle way of saying more please 🙂

    • I thank you, Joey, for your fine observations. Much appreciated. More is definitely on the way. I’m very, very new to blogging (since April 1st) so I’ve got to iron out the logistics of how this works. But this A to Z Challenge was the confidence builder I needed to make me decide to move forward. Thank you again, and stay tuned……

    • Thank you for your considerate remark. Dearly appreciated. I’m thinking of starting a weekly or bi-weekly column as soon as I can figure out how to organize the layout of my new pages on this site. Much to learn.

      Cheers.

  4. Thank you for this insightful post! It made me look at the Zombie craze and popularity of shows like “The Walking Dead” in a new way. My take has been that technology is turning people into zombies. They are stagging around looking down at their phones vs. looking at other people and engaging. This leads to the ignoring you wrote about. It is easy to pretend to be on the phone vs. noticing those in need. Thank you for writing this and showing that each person deserves to be seen.

    • Thank you, Sara. I have so enjoyed your fine and thoughtful remarks about these posts. You clearly have a very human heart and are using it wisely. I dearly appreciate your insights and am gratified I could offer you another perspective. Cheers.

    • Maggie, I thank you dearly. You are the third person who has nominated me for a Liebster Award and I’ve attempted to meet the requirements left on the other two nominators’ pages. But I keep running into difficulties — for example, how do I determine the blogs that have less than 200 followers? I’m so new to this, I’m having a bit of trouble sorting it all out.

      Help, please………………….?

  5. Once again, Michael, an excellent inspiring piece of writing. Great advice to your daughter. Always good to ignore the pests and just go on with your life. I wish mosquitos would take the hint and get lost too, but at least we can make strides at not letting the pests of life annoy us even if they don’t readily leave.

    You are so right about the zombies around us. I always feel bad for them. Killing that condition with kindness sure makes for a better life all around. Thanks again. Look forward to seeing what is on your slate after the challenge is over and congratulations on successfully reaching Z. God bless, Maria at Delight Directed Living

    • I reiterate my assertion that you are officially a sweetheart. Thank you so very much for your kind and generous compliment. I truly enjoy your fine writing as well. So happy to know good people like yourself.

  6. Totally agree. Even if I’m not going to give to a street person, i ALWAYS smile, look them in the eyes, talk if there’s time. And I live in a village, it’s easy here to chat to elderly people in the village – i know they are there as much for company and contact as food or posting letters. So lonely to be old! And of course, on a buses, in queues – anywhere an elderly person reaches out with words, I respond as fulsomely and in as friendly a way as possible. It costs nothing but the time I would have been thinking about things that don’t matter.

    Liz http://www.lizbrownleepoet.com

    • It’s good to hear tales of those who still embrace the entirety of their community and not just a small segregated segment. Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. Dearly appreciated.

  7. First let me say that you took a worn out word of today and Michael J. Cahilled it. PERFECT.
    Zombies, indeed. It has been said that one of the worst forms of abuse a man can give his wife his to ignore her. I think this is true in any relationship, any gender, and I agree–from the place of experience.
    Might I add you made me tear up a little. Right after I read your comment that I made you smile. Nice. What is wrong with this picture? 🙂
    Ok, well smile again because you completed the challenge. I congratulate you, and hope you keep writing. I’ll be checking. 🙂

    • Thank you again, Rhonda, for your effervescent response to my post. It’s always a joy to have a reader express such enthusiasm but doubly so when it touches home for them. That your comment about coming from “a place of experience” makes me want to wish you well in whatever manner might be appropriate.

      Since I’m new to blogging of any kind as of April 1st and this challenge, I’ve much to learn — especially about how to add another page and start writing a regular column on the human condition. I think I’ll aim for a posting of once or twice a week. Still trying to figure this whole thing out. But I enjoy it and will definitely continue to contribute.

      Now I just need to learn how to gather followers and readers.

      Thank you for your kind wishes. Cheers.

      • I’m pretty new to all of this myself, although I started in October. My posts were pretty infrequent until I took on the A to Z Challenge. Otherwise I’d give you all kinds of advice for gathering followers. 🙂
        You’ve got one guaranteed follower.
        That didn’t sound creepy AT ALL, did it? Lol

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