I jump the fence and there is a crunch as my boots make contact with blades of grass. It has been a violent couple years since the zombies first appeared. Today’s supply run has me cutting through a suburban neighborhood that looks like a David Hockney painting I studied in college.
I scan the backyard for movement. It’s clear.
As I catch my breath I notice the brown lawn in front of me. It was once thick and green. What a waste.
I see a hose coiled up by the house. I turn on the water, grab the nozzle, and start firing gentle arcs of water across the yard.
With some effort I think that I could revive the grass. Life could return here.
I thought maybe I was done writing about the zombie apocalypse. Then I had that dream last night. So dumb. What kind of an idiot am I that I would be doing lawn maintenance during the zombie apocalypse?
You could make a good argument that obsessing over green grass is one of the dumbest routines of humans in general, but in a zombie wasteland the exercise seems extra absurd.
As I woke from that dream this morning I remembered something I did last week, something possibly as dumb as post-apocalyptic lawn maintenance.
My son and I created a form that he can take to school. It is just a single sheet of paper with a couple questions that I want his teachers to sign so we can keep track of his behavior and performance in class. That’s not the dumb part. The dumb part is that I was diddling with the fonts, obsessing over the spacing, and generally over-engineering the user experience of a scrap of paper that was going to get stuffed into a locker and forgotten.
My son called me on it. He told me,
“Dad, it doesn’t matter.”
I am sitting there in front of a 27-inch iMac with a high definition Retina display. It is loaded with expensive, professional software. I have access to elite fonts that I havet to pay to license. Had I been almost any other parent I might have agreed with my son’s observation of overkill. But not me. I said,
“Son, this is important.”
I don’t think he bought it, but I was serious. I believe that every effort, every tiny decision we make should be done with care and attention to detail. I don’t always live up to this ideal, but this is what I aspire to. It is just too easy to take shortcuts, to compromise, to become an apathetic zombie. One of my favorite thoughts from Steve Jobs is his explanation of why the hidden interal parts of an Apple computer are designed to be beautiful. In his biography he said,
“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”
If you have doubts about how much life is generated by care and attention to detail, watch Michael Greenfield make a guitar. I am warning you though, pressing play below will result in an entire hour spent entranced by a documentary about a single guitar. His obsession with every thousandth of an inch is incredibly inspirational. Would you call it overkill?
Back to the zombies…
You might not care about your lawn, but I hope there is something that you are so obsessed with that you will keep doing it despite the eye rolls of crowds of confused onlookers.
Because that’s you out there, standing in your backyard watering the grass. The zombies are rattling the fence. Their grunts and moans seem to say,
“It doesn’t matter.”
“You’re wasting your time.”
Don’t stop caring. Because if you stop, if you give in to the apathy, that is when you stop living. Your work does matter and the moment you stop believing it, that is when you become one of the walking dead.
Thanks for reading. I mentioned my book earlier. You’d like it. I write stories like this each week so follow me if you don’t want to miss my next one. Stay creative.