-- Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
It's hip these days to be prepared for The Zombie Apocalypse. But at times it feels as if it's already here. So many of us spend our days powering through life, racing from one thing to another, unable or unwilling to slow down or to stop, uninterested in being awake and alert to what's happening right in front of us. We're dead to the world, but still lurching forward like extras in The Walking Dead.
If you haven't noticed people like that, you just might be one of them. I know I am. You'll often find me slogging along, staring at my various screens, speeding along the freeway, filling up my in-boxes, glued to the internet, buried in my work. At this rate, I'll probably be nibbling on someone's noggin any day now. And if I'm snacking on someone's cranium, it's time to stop.
That's why Campbell calls inadvertence--the state of inattention--an unpardonable sin. That's strong language. He says we must be alert, awake.
So what does it mean to be awake?
It means slowing down. Paying attention. Being alert to our environment, and not getting stuck in the mind/heart suck of this hyper-paced vortex we call modern society. It means taking the time to be where we are and really experience what's going on, whether it's fireworks, holidays, and kittens or ditch digging, illness, and cleaning toilets. Being awake suggests a certain consciousness to--and awareness of--our own existence.
It means interacting with what's in front of us--whether it's seeing the red barn in the middle of the emerald meadow, smelling the soft rain in November, tasting the purple onion on the bar-b-qued hamburger, or listening to "Hey Jude" by Wilson Pickett just to hear Duane Allman's guitar solo.
It means really listening to your loved ones, feeling the dog's fur in between your fingers as you pet him, and stopping to watch the yellow, orange, and lavender sunset no matter how many other millions of things are left unchecked on the daily "To-Do List." Being awake means: Noticing, observing, feeling, watching, caring, breathing, and enjoying.
Experiencing life involves being deliberate with our attention and intentional with our focus. It's all about choices; it's all about deciding for ourselves every moment where our time and attentions will be spent, attentions that are all, ultimately and sadly, quite finite.
Not being awake in the only life we're currently conscious of is bad.
That's why Campbell calls it a sin.
So don't do that.
Because sinning is bad.
So are Zombies. TZT