Monday, December 02, 2013

Thanksgiving; Walking Dead and The State of Nature

Hey!  Hope you guys enjoyed your Thanksgiving.  Amy and I were fortunate enough to have a very nice one.

On the Friday before Thanksgiving, Amy flew out for Arizona.  Her family recently acquired a cabin in Munds Park, about two hours north of Phoenix, so she spent a day or two hiking around with her family and enjoying the snow.  She and her mother also hiked down into and back out of the Grand Canyon after driving up there.  She and Jean took some really nice pictures.  The place looked beautiful.

As I guess I mentioned, I went and saw some movies while she was gone and hung out with some friends and family.

On Tuesday evening I flew out for Arizona. 
I had a really pleasant visit with Amy's family, and we had a really nice Thanksgiving holiday.  Thanksgiving dinner was really good.  Jean and Amy and Greg put together an excellent meal.  We got to visit with Jerry and Carol (including a visit to their house) and Heidi and Matt (including a couple of visits to their house).  We got to spend some really fun time with the nephews, Scott and Nathan.

We went for walks and looked at some Mexican pottery and saw some pretty serious model trains and watched a little football.  Mostly we just hung out and talked and relaxed, which was good.  Sometimes you don't really realize how busy your day to day life has been keeping you until you get a chance to unwind for a minute.

(it's hard not to smile when confronted with very elaborate
model trains, constructed in painstaking detail by jolly,
retired men)

(cranberry margaritas and a picture in
front of the Tree of Life.  These things will
make you thankful!)

So we had a good Thanksgiving out in Arizona.
I'm thankful for an awful lot of things this year.  A humbling number of things, really.  I'm extremely thankful to be married to Amy (amazing!), I'm thankful to be in good health and to have a good job, I'm thankful for my family, I'm thankful to have some great friends, and I'm extremely thankful to have married into a family that's as warm hearted, generous, and gracious as the Davis-Sinex-Koffel family.  I've been out Arizona about five times now, and they've been very welcoming and made me feel very comfortable each time.  I know that this isn't always the case when someone gets married, and I feel extremely fortunate to have such great group of people as part of my extended family.  

(a healthy helping of thankfulness from the Davis, Koffel,
Sinex, Steans clan) 
We got home Saturday night.  Unpacked.
Sunday we ran errands.  We did a couple of shopping trips, put up the tree, hung Christmas lights, and exercised.  Amy made a buttermilk baked chicken dish with bread crumbs for dinner and a side of some sort of slaw.  It was great.   
Afterward we watched an episode of Austin City Limits featuring Delta Spirit.  It was pretty cool.  We'd been at the taping for that one, and it had been a fun show the first time around as well.
After Amy went to bed I watched the mid season finale of The Walking Dead.

We had a really nice Thanksgiving!  I hope everyone else had a good one, too! 

(Okay- here ends the warm, fuzzy part of the Thanksgiving post.  Those of you who are interested in reading about quality zombie television programming may proceed).

Walking Dead is just relentlessly brutal.  I've never watched a show before that's been so consistently dark.  You keep thinking that the characters are going to turn a corner and that things will start to get better for them, but it never really happens.  At best, any happiness that the characters find is just a reprieve from the relentless tragedy that they continually face.
But the audience wants to see what will become of these people, and the show remains compelling because, but for perhaps one main character, you truly never know who is going to survive and who is going to die. 
Those who haven't seen the show might dismiss it as simple zombie fiction, but fans know that it's probably more about people than it is about zombies.  Zombies just happen to be the plot device that reduces humanity to- and keeps humanity in- what philosophers would call a "state of nature".  The philosopher Thomas Hobbes imagined the state of nature as the condition that humanity would find itself in without civilized society.  Apparently having a fairly cynical view of human nature, Hobbes imagined that humans would instantly fall into vicious combat over limited resources in a world without society's rules, and accordingly, he famously described the state of nature as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short"- adjectives which sound like a fairly apt description for life in America following the The Walking Dead's zombie apocalypse.
John Rawls, however, posited a slightly more positive view of human nature.  According to Rawls, inherent human behavior would naturally lead people, or those found in a sort of nature scenario, to work out rational, equitable agreements that would allow people to exist in a relatively harmonious fashion.  Sensing that widespread combat and violent, pervasive competition would create an environment that would be detrimental to a much greater number of people than the number who would benefit from it, Rawls believed that humans would naturally rely upon their innate sense of logic to create social structures in which people could peacefully coexist.
The Walking Dead uses its zombie-filled setting to dramatically illustrate the tensions between these sorts of competing philosophies.  One group of humans, primarily the group led on the show by Rick, try to reestablish society by way of cooperative labor, a system of rights-based justice, and democratic leadership.  Team Rick seems more in keeping with the Rawls school of thought.  Other groups, including those led by The Governor, struggle to survive by simply attempting to defeat other groups and individuals.  For this second type of group, competition trumps cooperation, victory trumps respect for individual rights, and leadership is won by way of force and/or deception.  The Governor and his ilk seem to represent a more Hobbesian worldview.

(There's nothing more festive than a gun battle in a zombie wasteland.
We can all agree to be thankful for the death of The Governor...)

Annnnyway, all of this to say that The Walking Dead is a good show.  It portrays people in life or death situations with their back to the wall, and it shows such circumstances bringing out the absolute best and the absolute worst in people.
I guess that I was oversimplifying things to say that the Walking Dead tunes in each week to see who lives and who dies.  We don't just want to see who survives.  We're just as interested in seeing how the characters survive.  We want to see the lengths to which they're willing to go, the lines which they aren't willing to cross, and the way that they live with themselves after they've suffered incredible loss and made impossible choices.
Given that it all stems from a zombie survival fantasy, it feels incredibly real.



Jean said...

We're so happy you are a part of our family! It was a fun visit -- next time we're heading up north!

J.S. said...

Thanks for having me! It was fun!