Necessary for Survival by Christina Knowles


In anticipation of the return of The Walking Dead series on AMC this October, I decided to make my “Necessary for Survival” list, not really for a zombie apocalypse, but just to survive the banality of everyday existence. Keeping in mind Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, I decided to put basic needs first, and then move on to higher-self needs.

  1. Food and water
  2. Shelter, including an atmosphere free from danger in which to sleep
  3. Clothing
  4. Method of cleanliness/hygiene
  5. A means of protecting oneself from predators
  6. A method with which to obtain goods and services
  7. Peace
  8. Love/Social interaction
  9. Honesty
  10. Goodness
  11. Intellectual stimulation
  12. Meaningful and creative work
  13. Occasional distracting escapes
  14. Purpose (I mean on a deeper level than #12)
  15. Art (Poetry, Books, Music, Visual Arts, Film)
  16. Universal Truth

Numbers 6 and 16 are the only ones that give me any trouble. Number 6 is an unfortunate by-product of needing 1-5, 13, and 15. I am lucky enough to be gainfully employed, and it is meaningful and creative work, but it does not allow much time for numbers 8, 13, or enough of 15. Number 16 is always elusive.

Again I am reminded of The Walking Dead. I believe this show’s popularity owes its success to more than a great concept and good solid writing and characterization. The show represents our unconscious desire to abandon all but the basic necessities of life—that which is “Necessary for Survival.” Paring things down to the bare bones of living, returning to simplicity is the appeal of the show, I believe, for many people. WalkingDead

How many of us long to quit the daily, mind-numbing servitude to someone else’s dreams? To forget the house payments and credit card bills, forget that remodeling project, dump the textbooks in the trash, never ride another subway again? And I’m not even going to mention the freedom to embrace our own vision of justice as if we lived in the Old West, to handle matters as we see fit without the pesky interference of law enforcement or government agencies. We long to rid ourselves of the stress of modern convenience to which we have become enslaved.

But we are just too practical and too scared to do it. So we fantasize about a world that requires us to do it, where we have nothing to lose, no decision over which to agonize. It’s been forced upon us, but we imagine we are up to the challenge, not grown fat and lazy through civilization. We imagine that we can hold on to our humanity without the stress and complexities of civilization, so we root for those characters on The Walking Dead who refuse to completely lose their compassion, their civility, even while being free to be barbaric. It is today’s Walden. After all, we are not some hippie Transcendentalists. We want to be in control of our own lives, free to live how we want, not answer to anyone, get back to the simple things, but we are too ADHD to retire to a cabin in the woods, unless of course, there are zombies beating on the door. Maybe I should have added conflict to my “Necessary for Survival” list.—Christina Knowles

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