Fitting Apocalyptic Preparation Into My To-Do List

I’m fascinated with the apocalypse, both the Biblical version and the Hollywood one. My obsession with what will happen if and when we get to the End Time (or the end of time) is well-known to my family and friends, even if they don’t quite get why someone my age acts like a teenage groupie whenever a new apocalyptic book or movie comes out.  To give you an idea of my interest in the subject, last week I read one book about an apocalypse caused by a government experiment gone wrong leading to the creation of a bunch of super vampires called virals; one book about an apocalypse caused by the genetic engineering of food resulting in the creation of a hybrid zombies; and watched a movie where angels descended from heaven to wipe out humanity because of God‘s bitter disappointment in mankind. Nightmares? Yeah, I have a few.



Apocalypse? (Photo credit: mikelehen)


Even so, I get caught up in the whole apocalyptic speculation. If I’m the last one at work at night, I imagine what it would be like to walk outside and find a Stephen King “The Mist” situation or even a “Night of the Comet” scenario where everyone except me has turned to dust.


LA NIEBLA (the mist)

LA NIEBLA (the mist) (Photo credit: besos y flores)


Or perhaps I will step outside and hear hoofbeats as the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse gallop past (hidden by the mist, of course).


Four Horsemen of the Millennial Apocalypse

Four Horsemen of the Millennial Apocalypse (Photo credit: Batai)


Bottom line, in all of the scenarios my overworked (and overwrought) mind creates, it is stunningly obstinate in the belief that I will survive. Survive in spite of my lack of ninja skills, firearms, food cache, and available lumber to cover my windows. And candles. I should mention I don’t have enough candles to survive a three-hour blackout let alone the end of the world.



Candles (Photo credit: magnuscanis)

Do any of these shortcomings compel me to act like a Mormon and start stockpiling food or act like a Doomsday Prepper and amass a gun collection? No. It doesn’t. I don’t prepare because, deep down, I don’t believe I can prepare. I’m too busy with the business of day-to-day life to prepare for the possibility of a to-be-determined catastrophe.

The world will end one day. There are any number of possible causes for life as we know it to be permanently derailed: floods, fires, famine, disease, to name a few.  Without the reassurance of knowing how it will end, I’m not sold on the idea I can plan.

Think about it. If the world goes into an Ice Age, one set of survival skills and gear would be necessary. If the world entered a superheated Hot Age, one would need a different skill set and gear. A world devoured by zombies would pose different challenges than a world decimated by vampires. If Gabriel blows his trumpet and God lets all hell break loose, well, no amount of stockpiled guns or food is going to help me with that.

Do you understand my angst?

In the meantime there are so many other things that need preparing for, and many of them are more likely to happen. I need to prepare for my eventual retirement. I need to prepare for work. I need to prepare dinner.  Sometimes just getting through each day is all I have the energy for. Much as I’d like to be more like a Boy or Girl Scout, so much of life springs upon me and I deal with it, unprepared, and it works out okay.


I trust the apocalypse will be the same.

Zombies Wanted, But Are They Dead or Alive?

One of my favorite lines in the Wizard of Oz goes like this:  “As Coroner I must aver, I thoroughly examined her, and she’s not only merely dead, she’s really most sincerely dead.”  It has a measure of decisiveness and finality. If someone is dead, we’d like assurances that they’re really and truly dead.
In order to determine the relative deadness of a person, there are two different criteria that may be used.  There’s the always popular clinically dead, the medical term for when the heart stops pumping and the lungs stop breathing. Then there’s brain dead, based on neurological criteria, that allows for a beating heart and working lungs (many times artificially maintained by a ventilator or respirator), but a nonfunctioning brain. Brain death determination looks at cessation of cerebral and brainstem functions and demonstration that the changes are irreversible.
Some definitions of death include all three markers, meaning death is defined as the cessation of all vital functions of the body including the heartbeat, brain activity (including the brain stem) and breathing.
And that makes me think of zombies.
Unfortunately, most definitions of zombies include some reference to the supernatural or witchcraft. The Centers for Disease Control Preparedness 101 Zombie Apocalypse home page states: “Although its meaning has changed slightly over the years, it refers to a human corpse mysteriously reanimated to serve the undead.” New theories support the notion that zombies are merely humans infected with a parasite that spreads through saliva. No matter what definition is chosen, a zombie is a human form that has lost the ability to reason and is no longer reliant on a heartbeat or breathing to survive. He or she retains the ability to move, but their movements are slow and awkward (unless one believes in zoombies).  Zombies have brain function, and that is the trait that causes most of us to fear the Zombocalypse.  Luckily their brain function is very limited. Enough for them to stagger around. Enough for them to capture people. Enough to remember that brains are their choice of food. Mobility, lack of brain function, and a hunger for brains is a terrifying combination.
But traditionally zombies are not considered alive or undead.  They are categorized as dead, and though they fit the criteria because of their lack of breathing and circulation, what about their brain function?
Dr. Steven C. Schlozman, an assistant profession of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, postulates that zombies suffer from Ataxic Neurodegenerative Satiety Deficiency Syndrome or ANSD. He contends that zombie brains have some function, as well as dysfunction, in their cerebellar and basal ganglia. He likens the amount of brain function in zombies to that of a crocodile. Their unpleasant behaviors, including their insatiable appetites, derive from the lack of activity in the parts of the brain that modulate behavior.  But does this make them dead?
Since, at this point in time, medical technology has not created a need for zombie organ donation, devising new definitions of dead are not at the forefront of medical science. If, in the future, a method to safely use zombie organs is developed, I have no doubt that a new definition will arise and it will include the presence of limited brain function in the absence of respiration and circulation. The process will follow the same path to definition and acceptable use that occurred when human organ transplantation became viable. Prior to the need of organs, one definition of death, absence of heart beat and breathing, sufficed. After organ transplantation, a new definition of death, brain death, arose. When the need for zombie organs is great enough, medical science will become interested in ensuring that the answer to the question, are zombies dead or alive,  will become “really most sincerely dead.”
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