When I watched The Walking Dead I jokingly and obnoxiously told my friends that if a zombie apocalypse were to happen, I would probably shoot myself first just so I would not have to deal with the anxiety and terror of getting bitten, seeing my family die and not knowing who would betray me for the sake of food or shelter. Living in constant fear would be too much for me and I would much rather not take a part in it.
But all jokes aside, if we were pushed to live in a world where everything had ultimately turned against us, what would be stopping us and what would be that fire that kept us going? We don’t have to fight the living dead to understand that type of fear.
What exactly brings us to overcome adversity and choose the path of survival over suicide?
I didn’t find the answers in The Road by Cormac McCarthy, but I did find something quite peculiar. It was then that I was struck by this idea of endurance, but not the silly type where you just use it as a theme in a standard English class. The book is centered around two unnamed characters. A father and his son are trekking across America in hopes of reaching California in post-apocalyptic America. Cannibalism is a means of survival, law no longer exists and societal organization is an idea of the past.
Obviously we’re not facing an apocalyptic threat (I hope we never do), but the question still remains the same. Each of us face something in our lives that make us sing out, “if it doesn’t kill us, it’ll make us stronger.” If not now, we will all face an event, a personal struggle in the future, that makes us question if everything is still worth it. When something does shake us to the point where we reconsider trying again or fighting…what is it that makes us continue? We have a choice and we can end our lives if we want to, but we stop because of fear, of consequences, of guilt, shame etc.
Some people say God, others say hope, but I say its something that each and every one of us is instilled with: irrational faith.
And I’m not necessarily talking about religion and some spiritual meditation (although that works as well); I’m talking about the irrational faith that everyone (religious and non-religious alike) use to cope with the daily struggles of life.
The type of illogical mindset I’m focusing on is when you study and you work every single day for 21 years of your life to get a degree so that you can find a suitable job, a wonderful spouse and a safe home. We’re told that each of us are given the tools needed to succeed academically and we are given the opportunities that can give us that push to live the dream.
But that’s not the truth.
The truth is that no matter how hard we yearn, endure and agonize for those hard earned exam scores, those letters of recommendation that gets you the foot in the door, we may not succeed. And yet, we work hard and pull all nighters because we think there might just be a chance for us to succeed.
Not all of us will, but we continue because we believe that maybe, just maybe…
we can be the lucky few.
This same irrational faith is what pulls us out of bed in the morning, makes us try again and again to perfect that one tennis shot, gives us the ability to give someone a second chance and ultimately it’s what pulls us through the depths of Hell when we feel drowned by the flames.
Am I promoting suicide? No, I don’t believe we should quit and end our lives because something awful hit us when we least expected it. I do believe we are incredibly strong to choose life even when suicide becomes a viable option.
We pride ourselves in being rational thinkers and logical beings but we have a stamina that is beyond description and a hope that extends all reasonable thought. When we learn about the struggles others face in this life and all the people you know that have been downtrodden by unfortunate events, I cannot believe the resilience we show as a race, as a community and as individuals.
I could be wrong. Maybe the reason why people strive to live despite the circumstances held against them is because they are afraid of death. But when life has nothing left to promise you, I would argue that death may be the better option or an indifferent thought.
Whatever the case may be, we allow ourselves to go through Hell and endure the pain that comes with it rather than pushing the gun to our temple and shooting ourselves first.