Category Archives: Art

The FB Unfollow Experiment: Is Anyone Out There?

My  FB feed is almost completely empty.

I am in my own echo chamber.

Things are awkward.

I am thinking even more about my previous posts than before  (Thanks FB Memories On This Day) … I re-read them and listen.

(I really did think about them a lot before I posted, but some were quite slapdash. )

Things that I would think before posting:

“Who isn’t going to like this and do I care?”

“Who is going to troll me or beat me down because of what I posted and why?  Are they on my friend list?”

“I’m tired, I know my grammar sucks and my message is messy; we all do it,  who is going to beat me down about that?”

“Do I really believe what I am posting right now, or am I just looking for reactions and interactions?”  ( These are posts without any preface in commentary.  Posts that I know will be catalytic, they are usually highly commented on, or left as silent posts no one seems to see. In this case I always wonder, “What are my ‘friends’ capable of?”)

“Am I just lonely right now, looking for conversation?” ( I like thought provoking, mind expanding and controversial conversations… can I create a breeding ground of bias or honest offerings?)

“Who is willing to be raw in public?”

“Is this a feisty post meant to ruffle feathers because I feel like stirring the proverbial pot right now? ” ( I have nothing to physically hit in my frustration.  Is this a universal feeling in the moment or is it me, being the ultimate weirdo?)

“Am I proud of what I wrote?”

“What happens when someone gets fierce and I don’t expect it?”

“Can I keep my integrity in my responses?”

“Will I allow myself to look at responses and respond?”

“Is someone going to have me committed to an asylum for just being myself online?”

Yeah… I’m not really a “write unabashedly with no thoughts and post” kind of person.

I have at least 30 things sitting in a draft bank because it hasn’t felt like the “right time, place or articulation” to post and the ideas are just that…  ideas.  It doesn’t always pour forth as clear and  thought out thoughts, commentary or observation.

The ideas are not always fleshed out in an edited way.  Sometimes it’s bare bones;  basically notes, with some cohesive sentences lacking  the obvious mechanics of language  people need to be able to read English.  They are sloppier than my normal lackadaisical writing style.

( I still write for myself… if you like it, or if it helps you; BONUS!)

I, much like every other human, are worried about being brutally disseminated by people who either honestly disagree, or are inspired by playing devils advocate.  I get the same reaction most people do when they are confronted about their offerings… upper lip sweat, under arm sweat and heart palpitations.   It’s not  a great look but it hasn’t killed me yet.

Sometimes I will write something, and I go to bed, my body coursing with the stress hormone cortisol (which assists in weight gain) silently worrying about what responses I am going to wake up to.

You wanna know nuts?  That shit is NUTS.  My entire sleep cycle, and body hormone production is being influenced by my fear of “who might hate me tomorrow, because I was somehow controversial  in their opinion, and how they will let me know about it.”

The people I have met in real life, and have had the wonder of calling “friend”, is priceless to me… and I always fear losing it, because I was often the “third wheel” growing up.  Treated as a prop for jealousy or bullying.

When I did make friends in adult hood, it really filled an empty space in my heart and I wanted to hold on as hard as I could… but sometimes it feels like those friendships are slowly draining out because that is the harsh reality of maintaining friendships in adulthood, through changes.  It’s a hard two way street.

So often I feel like I have nothing to offer but my mind; imagination, creativity, kindness and experience; and even that feels somehow worthless.  (This is by no means a pity party… just the personal and internal interpretation of experience by the author.)

At the end of  the day, I just really want to talk to people that I enjoy and love, while also  inquiring about how they see the world and interact with it.  The cyber interaction reality is a bit different than real life connection.  I set myself up for a huge potential disaster with this tactic, online.

I wake up. I feel fine, sometimes even great… and then I think… “Oh yeah, I wrote or posted a provocative thing… I guess I am going to have to deal with that later.”

Eventually, I would hesitantly approach my feed and notifications and expect to see bombs, but instead, mostly, I found an echo chamber.

I justified this as ” I have really respectable friends.”  I assumed those that didn’t agree, just didn’t respond.  I didn’t take into account “unfollowing.”

This whole experiment was provoked in me, because one of my longest running female friends, (who I put in the category of my first REAL female friend in adulthood, and therefore was admitted to Best Friend Territory)  admitted that she unfollowed me ” a long time ago” after a recent and controversial post that I had made somehow popped up on her regulated feed.

Of course I didn’t know that she had unfollowed me.  Facebook doesn’t tell you that.

I mean, she still honored our relationship because she still calls me on the phone, and she didn’t FB unfriend me; however my posts were so disturbing to her, that  it was enough to make her question my mental state.  She chose to unfollow, as to not engage in topics that I posted that cause her to feel cognitive dissonance .

Before the recent post came up on her feed, she didn’t tell me that she was worried about my mental health or well being and I she rarely commented on anything that wasn’t commented on by a mutual friend.

This begs the question of how much we actually care about each other, and how much we use each other as entertainment and distraction, or as a fulcrum for  disagreement; as well as how far we will go to create our own self perpetuated echo chambers.

To me, this seems like a great reason to experiment.  I feel like I am super honest about my mental health in my posts, and my blog writing.  How much of that you choose to read, as a reader or friend, is up to you.

If  anyone needs  me to spell it out,  “I am lonely as fuck and I crave insightful, creative and thought provoking conversations.  I love thought experiments and imagination.  I crave human contact.  Most of all, I want sincere and deep connections.” Few people in my real life offer this, so I find it where I can and in my spare time, I provoke it online.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am hoping that over a week or so, I start getting posts on my feed again, especially from people that I really care about.  Honest posts, raw posts, thought provoking posts.  Simply, “Engaging Posts.”

When I engage online, I do it with an open heart, an open mind and a strong desire to CONNECT.  (Hey, I want hits of Oxytocin, too and I am in a huge hug drought!)

I am not holding my breathe.

Right now, my feed exists of  me; the pages I admin (if they have activity), ads,suggestions of new  friends and FB direct posts on how to properly use FB.

My feed is the biggest  self echo chamber in the cyber world right now… to be honest, it feels pretty fucking lonely, awkward and weird; but somehow appropriate because that sums up my real life.

I am still receiving notifications on my own posts or comments on posts… so you know, I can attend to those but if I want to know “wuzz up” with someone, I have to navigate to their page, and scroll their feed.

Do you know what happens when you scroll a feed?  It isn’t always ordered by the date of the post.. so you might scroll through 45 pictures that were taken 5 months ago (highly commented on) and somewhere in the middle of that find something that was posted recently.

When my friend told me that the post that upset her popped up on her feed… I had to wonder:

Is FB trying to break the real life friendships we have made and have been able to maintain over decades, or is it just trying to create some subtle but extra chaos in the world because now we base so much of our worth on our likes and responses? (Now every time you respond, there is an automatic audience able to respond.)

I don’t know, but it feels wack.

I don’t want the friends that I have had for years, whom I’ve  met in real life and helped or helped me and been present in some really personal  and trying times to placate me as obtuse because of my online posts.  That is really scary territory.

Yeah, I admit, I am kind of a strange and at times considered a controversial person.

Often I don’t fit into the mainstream.

What I do understand, is that the world is full of critics and trolls ready to beat someone down.  I don’t want to fall victim to that, and I don’t want my real life friends to be on the  worst end of my insecurities.

I am my own worst critic; sometimes it is really hard to be “nice” or “kind” to myself, and it is the exact reason I don’t decimate people for fun, online.  It would be easy to do but I fully understand that most people are hypercritical of themselves and need no help  in the self destructing process.

My job is to see the best in all of us, and to encourage that.   My posts,  especially those  that are  considered fringe, are just that… fringe: thought experiments for the willing. If you are unwilling, and reactive in a mad way, check yourself.  Why does this shit make you mad. I really have no invested interest other than “getting to know you better” ,  this is a way to gauge what we can and cannot talk about and it is completely based on you.

(Who ever “you” are, You could probably talk about anything with me. Unless you hurt people for fun.. Those topics make me upset.)

I feel less likely to post those random things now  because I am begininning to have some new thoughts,

“How many of my ‘friends’ have ‘unfollowed’ me because they think I should be committed for a post they didn’t like?”

“Am I going to be forced to conform for the sake of others and if I do, will I find out I have no actual friends?”

These are scary thoughts, scarier than my thought experiments about things we can’t prove because there will be an eventual out come that exists out of our control.

It reminds me of why I’ve always wanted to just run away and disappear.

These are not fun thoughts to have,and I plan on pooping them out soon because so far as I can tell, they belong in the waste bin.

Even my “crazy” posts are more positive than being okay with fading away or disappearing.  But sometimes, I want it, because I can’t seem to get the connection I want or need.

If you want a thought experiment, think about fading away or disappearing with no reason or clue, and then contemplate about who would care and why.  I’m not ready to give up on Life because of the opinions of others, and I still desire connection.

Facebook is a mind fuck.

 

 

 

 

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What Would You Pay For Survival?

Some people think I have lived a hard life.  In fact sometimes, it feels that way.  But it doesn’t feel hard like other peoples’ lives are hard.

Emotional pain has been my biggest teacher and adversary; it has showed up in many ways, for as long as I can remember.  I suppose happens when you realize you must make friends with the inevitable.  Ideally we would never suffer, however, we do and this is a periodic truth for everyone to some degree.  A period of suffering emotionally.

Now some people, they have hard lives because of physical things. Being dealt a raw deck.  Maybe their care taker(s) were mean, abusive or addicted.

Maybe they were left to the system.

Perhaps they fit the archetype of being from the wrong side of the tracks and not having money.

Maybe they grew up in a war zone.

Maybe they had everything and still felt empty, regardless.

I could think of a million situations a person could be borne into that are stylistically worse than any trauma I have ever had in my life.

Suffering is personal.  A personal misery is a strange and unique filter.

On both ends, there arel people dealt worse hands, even within my own town and county.  How and why, would I have such an amazing, yet at times absolutely mundane life, whilst feeling suffering or lack, or loss?

I can’t help but wonder…

There are certain things we realize must happen in basic survival.  Food and shelter.  That is the basic frame work of life.  If you are a pregnant mom, you basically embody that; but, to sustain that you must feed and shelter yourself.  So, that, is what we do; all through life, we survive on food and shelter.  We look for it; we work for it, we pay for it, we up grade it, we miss it when we don’t have it, crave it when it is unattainable, and customize the shit out of it.

Meanwhile, Society is programmed to accept this diatribe of;

” If you want to survive, you have to put a price on it, and you have to work like a pimp for it,and we are always going to make you crave more, bigger, better and extravagant… unless you are the type who wants, small; in which case we are going to make you feel very small, and it will reinforce your own insecurity of your own insignificance.  Yet at the end of the day, you will justify all of it by boasting about your tiny carbon footprint.  Meanwhile, you will continue to sell yourselves out; all for the ultimate feeling of security when it comes to the two things in life that shouldn’t cost you your actual life and livelihoods to maintain.”

Ouch.  Right?

Our consumption relies not only on demand, but also on curiosity.  We are in an age of curiosity, but mostly that curiosity is boiled down to “new, different, and extreme ways of making money.”

Remember when youtube was really kind of a crap shoot when it came to great, and well produced content?  Anybody can do that now.  Combine that with the ad revenue, you have several echo chambers, some real scabs, and the worlds first “In Real Time Soap Opera.”  There are youtubers who literally make their income by talking shit about other youtubers.  There are cliques and alliances, fall outs and bad moves.

Thank YOU, YouTube, for deleting me!  If I would have known then, what I know now… no way I would want to be on that platform today.  Lucky for me, I was in and out before monetization was really kicking into high gear.  Meaning, only really, really big channels had the option of ads.  Now anyone can start a channel and sell out, basically, almost immediately.

There are studies that talk about how all the “likes”, and “updates” trigger  dopamine receptors in the brain, and we are basically living like cyber drug addicts; only the drug is confirmation.  It is the confirmation that we exist.  A validation that what we have to say, is worth attention.  We live in a society that is telling us that We All have a story that we need to share… that there is some sort of urgent imperative to getting it all out there.

I notice all these stories are leaning toward “Entertainment.”  Note even on TV, many of the stories are rehashes of the lives of people in their 30-40’s.  The 70’s ,80’s and 90’s.   Not everyone gets the opportunity to write a sitcom, but anyone can be an actor, reporter, sketch artist, or musician on Youtube.

So here we are.

Couples pulling pranks on each other to make some views, laughs, and cash.  They need to feed the need to be seen.

We have kids with severe dis-morphia, dying before our eyes, as they slowly kill themselves for comments.

We have ranters, ravers, over consumers looking for likes as they un-box merchandise they will never use, and sometimes destroy.

You have the “internet recycle teams” that take this trash, and make more trash with it, putting it into the greater place where internet trash goes…. viral or just congestive.

Our cyber world is a bigger trash heap, than it is a resource tool for usefulness.  But this is to be expected.   When you have years worth of content uploaded and downloaded every second of every day… it’s going to get nasty when trying to sift through it all.

The” Bigger Plan” must be aimed to Absolutely Bog People Down- take them so deep that they have no way of digging themselves out, EVER.

My life has been magical, because I know what it feels like to be “bogged down.”  The image for me, is like being drenched in muddy water, fully clothed, in layers so soaked that it is hard to walk.  I know what it is to want to wish myself away, but it isn’t that easy.  Sometimes the options are to walk away slowly or completely strip down and run.

I’ve felt pretty stripped down recently and I don’t have anywhere to run to.  It’s like standing naked in the wind, and letting the Wind, run it’s course.  It is freeing in some different kind of way, but I am left with a crusty layer I have to deal with.

The act of survival; eating and having a place to rest and care for yourself, should be a non-issue at this point in history.  Where have we gotten so off course to make even more extreme jumps in the gap of the “have’s” and “have not’s”, except for now how easy it is to brand oneself and reap that paycheck. To fulfill the need of being wanted or worth something.

The weird thing is, we are each priceless, and yet we will be the first to put a price upon ourselves. This saddens me, because this is the New Way.  People are sick of working for others, so they work for themselves, selling their egos.  Sometimes products come with it.  And this is the New Commerce, this is how people figure out their worth, they redirect their work energy toward themselves,  hoping to reconcile on the outside, that which they inherently know to be true but are afraid to look at directly in the eye.

In this process they monetize it, and wait for reward.  But what are these real rewards we seek?   To, “not have a normal job”?   What happens when this too, becomes saturated, (as it seems to be) suffering it’s own crash because of demonetization and disinterest?  Will Self worth plummet?  Or will the real message prevail?  It’s hard to say.

I do think that the collective path we tread, presently, is using this desire to fulfill needs and wants in a most peculiar and inappropriate way.  At this point, it looks as if people will use the tool of technology to destroy themselves, before technology will get the opportunity to turn against the people.

We can be our own worst enemy.

It takes a certain death and destruction of oneself (some times a series of many), in order to get out of ones own way.

 

In Honor of Life and Death

The whole of humanity is a series of cycles and connections.

 

 All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

– Willy Shakes  (William Shakespeare)  “As You Like It.”

wshakesp

I think William Shakespeare, (if that’s EVEN his REAL name) summed up the cycles of life very eloquently in that prose from the well known play As You Like It.  And yet, it plays the individual as an island… and we KNOW, No Man Is An Island.

 

”No Man Is an Island” by John Donne

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.  

jdonne

So, if humans, are merely actors, that must interact with other actors on the stage of life… Do we not follow scripts?  Taking on the attributes of the Archetypes, at times passing the torch off to another player… at time’s being upstaged by an understudy?

There is no step missed in the organic cycles of living… but are we living or dying?

Anne Sexton addressed this well in her book of Poems Live or Die

Live or die, but don’t poison everything…

Well, death’s been here
for a long time –
it has a hell of a lot
to do with hell
and suspicion of the eye
and the religious objects
and how I mourned them
when they were made obscene
by my dwarf-heart’s doodle.
The chief ingredient
is mutilation.
And mud, day after day,
mud like a ritual,
and the baby on the platter,
cooked but still human,
cooked also with little maggots,
sewn onto it maybe by somebody’s mother,
the damn bitch!

Even so,
I kept right on going on,
a sort of human statement,
lugging myself as if
I were a sawed-off body
in the trunk, the steamer trunk.
This became perjury of the soul.
It became an outright lie
and even though I dressed the body
it was still naked, still killed.
It was caught
in the first place at birth,
like a fish.
But I play it, dressed it up,
dressed it up like somebody’s doll.

Is life something you play?
And all the time wanting to get rid of it?
And further, everyone yelling at you
to shut up. And no wonder!
People don’t like to be told
that you’re sick
and then be forced
to watch
you
come
down with the hammer.

Today life opened inside me like an egg
and there inside
after considerable digging
I found the answer.
What a bargain!
There was the sun,
her yolk moving feverishly,
tumbling her prize –
and you realize she does this daily!
I’d known she was a purifier
but I hadn’t thought
she was solid,
hadn’t known she was an answer.
God! It’s a dream,
lovers sprouting in the yard
like celery stalks
and better,
a husband straight as a redwood,
two daughters, two sea urchings,
picking roses off my hackles.
If I’m on fire they dance around it
and cook marshmallows.
And if I’m ice
they simply skate on me
in little ballet costumes.

Here,
all along,
thinking I was a killer,
anointing myself daily
with my little poisons.
But no.
I’m an empress.
I wear an apron.
My typewriter writes.
It didn’t break the way it warned.
Even crazy, I’m as nice
as a chocolate bar.
Even with the witches’ gymnastics
they trust my incalculable city,
my corruptible bed.

O dearest three,
I make a soft reply.
The witch comes on
and you paint her pink.
I come with kisses in my hood
and the sun, the smart one,
rolling in my arms.
So I say Live
and turn my shadow three times round
to feed our puppies as they come,
the eight Dalmatians we didn’t drown,
despite the warnings: The abort! The destroy!
Despite the pails of water that waited,
to drown them, to pull them down like stones,
they came, each one headfirst, blowing bubbles the color of cataract-blue
and fumbling for the tiny tits.
Just last week, eight Dalmatians,
3/4 of a lb., lined up like cord wood
each
like a
birch tree.
I promise to love more if they come,
because in spite of cruelty
and the stuffed railroad cars for the ovens,
I am not what I expected. Not an Eichmann.
The poison just didn’t take.
So I won’t hang around in my hospital shift,
repeating The Black Mass and all of it.
I say Live, Live because of the sun,
the dream, the excitable gift.

-Anne Sexton  “Live”
anne-sexton2-18-10

 

So a human, can play a role.  Have a script, whilst still choosing to serve Life or Death.  And each day we are asked to choose; “Do you serve Life, or do you serve Death.”

Perhaps some people feel like they don’t really have a choice.

Death is inevitable.

 

What Are You Worth?

The system is designed to support what is most profitable, and to break what is least profitable.  The systems that are most profitable are propped up further by breaking the lesser profitable systems.  For instance, in the sense of profitability of people, a doctor is worth more than a gas station attendant.  We know that as humans they are equal.  The jobs themselves have different profitability based on price point of service.  But in the bigger reality the fuel industry has huge profitability, just as does the medical industry.

Worth, over all, is distorted by the middle man providing the skill or service.  Few places still hire gas attendants, but we use more gas now than ever.   Doctors are always in demand, and as society gets sicker, and automation takes over low income jobs,  they will be in even more demand.  Demand will raise the profitability for the doctor, the institution they work for, and the medical industry over all; that is until automation becomes more reliable and lucrative, and people grow further annoyed at dealing with other humans.  Meanwhile, those who need the doctor to exist for their world to continue as-is, lose their subjective worth as they accrue debt; the person becomes subjectively worthless while propping up the profitability of the medical industry.

The system has realized they can make more profit off of sickness and death, then they can promoting preventative health.  People pay for health care; health care products, medicines, elective surgeries, insurance, deductibles, etc.  Doctors pay large sums of money for their own insurance, legal representation, accounting, and promotion.  Being a doctor is going to be more profitable to the over all system, as a worker bee, than say, a disabled veteran.  In fact, that disabled veteran is more profitable as a patient than an average disabled person with no military connection.  The military industrial complex is highly profitable and it is well funded and secure in recirculating funds to itself through it’s programs.

Even our laws are are made in such a way as to continue supporting systems that are most profitable to our government which acts as a corporation.  The United States, itself is a corporate operation, and it’s supposed wealth and success pivot on that truth.

We are living in a time, where everyone is encouraged to become entrepreneurial,to build their brand and market themselves. It begs the question, “is this going to bite us in the ass, much like every system of survival that is promoted in the main stream?”   I sincerely wonder going back to the idea that the larger systems function in a way where it is always looking to co-op or kick out the little guy.

Again I will bring up Youtube.  All these people have a voice, but that voice can easily be squashed if any of the content is offensive to advertisers; so you don’t really have a platform for free speech, per se.  Even if you don’t take the AdSense route, you are still at the mercy of flags and strikes by anyone registered on the platform.  So technically, Youtube co-oped viewers and contributors, along with large companies with large budgets, to promote an agenda.  If you work against that agenda, you get kicked to the curb, loosing hours of work in the end, if they completely delete your channel, and you don’t have it backed up.

Even today, some contributors complain that videos that they uploaded were mysteriously deleted off their accounts, with no explanation.

We really need to think about our worth as more than an hourly wage, or a salary.  We need to look at what we are choosing to offer the world and what we choose to take from the world and embed ourselves with.

Worth (adj) 
Worth (n.)
Old English weorþ “value, price, price paid; worth, worthiness, merit; equivalent value amount, monetary value,” from worth (adj.). From c. 1200 as “excellence, nobility.”
Worth (v.)
“to come to be,” now chiefly, if not solely, in the archaic expression woe worth the day, present subjunctive of Old English weorðan “to become, be, to befall,” from Proto-Germanic *werthan “to become” (source also of Old Saxon, Old Dutch werthan, Old Norse verða, Old Frisian wertha, Old High German werdan, German werden, Gothic wairþan “to become”), literally “to turn into,” from PIE root *wer- (2) “to turn, bend.”
We derive our sense of self worth when we feel useful, important, vital.   We are told we must earn our worth, and we act as such in the world.
But worth is not specific when it comes to the more esoteric sense of innate worth.  That each person is worth “something” and all men are created equal.  We do not live within a system which values or supports equality,  even though we would like to believe that it does.
Take for instance, days long ago, when people wove their own fabric.  It was a tedious task that took a long time, but as one became a master of the task, it would either go slightly faster, or the designs would become more intricate.  Once large scale manufacturing of the same work was available, the worth of the craft shifted.  Handmade became more expensive to produce, and those who couldn’t afford it, left the craft behind.  It was now easier and cheaper to buy store bought clothes, than it was to take the time to make ones own clothes.   And with the rise of manufacturing, people began replacing their clothes at a higher frequency, at times buying an outfit that may only be worn once.    Once upon a time, a man may have only one suit that he would wear to weddings, funerals and Easter Dinner.   Having a stocked wardrobe was left to those people in the higher echelons who could afford such frivolity.   This has lead to the disposable nature we now exist within.
A man use to wear his jeans to work until they were filled with holes, and re-patched again and again… now people pay over a hundred dollars for purposely distressed jeans, that haven’t seen a day of hard labor.
So, what is worth, to you, and what are you worth?  Are you disposable?  Do accumulate material things to give yourself levity when feeling worthless?  What do you give back to the world that matters?  Is worth a tangible thing?
Well, I suppose that depends on your perception of life.   If you feel value in humanity, if you feel value in yourself.   If you feel you add value, and take value away; then worth of life is priceless.   And if that resonates with you, take a look at how we are treated like chattel, and how systematically we are daily drained of our inherent worth through marketing tactics, and products marketed at making you feel better about yourself.
Nothing out there, tells you that you are worthy, just the way you are.  A sad and heart breaking fact.  We need to reattain an understanding of our worth as individual living creatures.  Nothing around you will tell you this because it is an innate knowing that we subconsciously wrestle with until the day we bring it to the surface, and look at it straight in the face.
You are worthy of life.  You are worthy regardless of what you have.  Just keep yourself in check, and refrain from harming life.  Bring your best to the table, allow that vulnerability.  You, are the only You in this world. I’d say that means you are absolutely, Priceless.

A Risky and Dangerous Faith

When was the last time you actually took a risk?  A semi-calculated one.   You may have spent an hour or two contemplating that risk… and then randomly stumbled on a quote by, say, Mark Twain; such as,

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

And upon reading such Truth… you may make some silent commitment to jump off some philosophical edge, into some hypothetical unknown; all the while hoping for the best, but sort of expecting the worst.

So is, Risk.  So is, Faith.

Risk and Faith are not at all mutually exclusive… and they are adaptogenic in a sense.  There are big Risks, and small risks.  Big Faiths and small faiths.

When was the last time you took a small risk?  Maybe you left the wet laundry in the washer over night; taking the risk the laundry may smell like grossness.  And perhaps that small risk was in small faith… of course it will smell like mildew tomorrow.

Maybe you have taken a Big Risk that requires Big Faith, like quitting your job with no real savings and no fall back.  Maybe it’s moving to a new town, or having a baby.  These are hypothetically Risks with Rewards.  You can focus on all the things that may not work out, but the risk is worth taking the chance; the feeling of excitement overrides the fear, and it’s “game on.”

At times it can feel as though our modern society is embedding inside of us a fear of taking risks, and that risks are strictly categorized as something negative.   Think of things like “Risk Prevention.”  The etymology of “risk” circa etymologyonline.com says;

“1660s, risque, from French risque (16c.), from Italian risco, riscio (modern rischio), from riscare “run into danger,” of uncertain origin. The Englished spelling first recorded 1728. Spanish riesgo and German Risiko are Italian loan-words. With run (v.) from 1660s. Risk aversion is recorded from 1942; risk factor from 1906; risk management from 1963; risk taker from 1892.”

So what we see here is that risk is directly attributed with “danger.”  And risky behavior is deemed dangerous.  “Dangerous” is also explained on the same site;

“early 13c., “difficult, arrogant, severe” (the opposite of affable), from Anglo-French dangerous, Old French dangeros (12c., Modern French dangereux), from danger “power, power to harm, mastery, authority, control” (see danger).

In Chaucer, it means “hard to please, reluctant to give;” sense of “full of danger, risky” is from late 15c. Other words used in this sense included dangersome (1560s), dangerful (1540s). Related: Dangerously.”

Clearly we can associate risk with “difficult people or situations” and yet “danger” is a double operative when it comes to avoiding  strict binary.  “power, power to harm, mastery, authority, control” .  It appears that danger is neither positive or negative, it exists in its autonomy, truly only influenced by our perceptions of outcomes.

These are not words we would directly associate with danger as we know the word in the modern world.  But if one takes Risks which could be deemed Dangerous, inherently that person is taking on self power, authority or control, that will potentially lead to difficult, arrogant or severe outcomes. Perhaps that is when Faith steps in; when you believe enough in yourself or your actions to project positive outcomes.

Let us look at the etymology of Faith;

“mid-13c., faithfeithfeifai “faithfulness to a trust or promise; loyalty to a person; honesty, truthfulness,” from Anglo-French and Old French feidfoi “faith, belief, trust, confidence; pledge” (11c.), from Latin fides “trust, faith, confidence, reliance, credence, belief,” from root of fidere “to trust,”from PIE root *bheidh- “to trust, confide, persuade.” For sense evolution, see belief. Accommodated to other English abstract nouns in -th (truthhealth, etc.).

From early 14c. as “assent of the mind to the truth of a statement for which there is incomplete evidence,” especially “belief in religious matters” (matched with hope and charity). Since mid-14c. in reference to the Christian church or religion; from late 14c. in reference to any religious persuasion.

And faith is neither the submission of the reason, nor is it the acceptance, simply and absolutely upon testimony, of what reason cannot reach. Faith is: the being able to cleave to a power of goodness appealing to our higher and real self, not to our lower and apparent self. [Matthew Arnold, “Literature & Dogma,” 1873]

From late 14c. as “confidence in a person or thing with reference to truthfulness or reliability,” also “fidelity of one spouse to another.” Also in Middle English “a sworn oath,” hence its frequent use in Middle English oaths and asseverations (par ma fay, mid-13c.; bi my fay, c. 1300).

“To Trust.” is the basics of Faith.  One must trust in themselves in order to engage in Risky actions which could or could not be Dangerous.

People do this to small degrees every day.  Like, blowing through a red light at an intersection.  That is risky, and dangerous, but perhaps you go because you have faith there isn’t a police officer around, and there doesn’t appear to be anyone in or near the intersection.  You use the judgement that you’ve never had a problem doing this before, why would today be different?

Sometimes we engage in miscalculated risks, and rely fully on unfounded trusts.  Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but usually it does.

In this world of fear porn, and crime rates, it can be hard to think of taking risks;  like I said, a risk doesn’t have to be a negative thing, and trusting can be really hard to do, when it seems like very little is trustworthy in the world.

Our bodies are amazing creations that give us a heads up when it is okay to take a risk and when it is probably not a good idea.  We are constantly told what we “shouldn’t” do or be doing, it’s easy to feel like  any little mis-step will land you in jail, or on some watch list.  So, people forget that feeling that the body gets when a good opportunity comes up, because the fear of the unknown arises and squashes the positive potentials.    We tuck ourselves back into our safe little boxes, ignoring the call of the heart to break free into that unknown, and see what good may be there.

I’ve always been a risk taker.  I’ve taken the long and hard route.  I’ve loved it, even at it’s worst… I have loved the flutter in my chest, the expansiveness it catalyzes in my brain, and the invincible freedom of faith that swells in times of uncertainty.  I don’t take many risks these days.  I feel like caring for my grandma, makes risk taking harder to do; still that hasn’t stopped me.

My most recent forays in risk, were applying to TedX Cheyenne, and being chosen as a speaker; for when I applied, it was on a lark after having a couple of whiskeys.

Nextly, I applied to Coding and Design School.  This decision was made from a panicked feeling.  A fear feeling.  It was borne of the insecurities brewing beneath surface, when asked by family members “what are you going to do, after your grandma dies?”  Or flippant statements like “These are your best money making years.”

I was buying into the fear of others, being directed at me. I was having a dip in my faith in myself and the process I know to flow without my guidance or want.  I paid the fifty dollar application fee, jumped through the hoops, spent more than a month waiting on an interview; and finally the day came and went without pomp or circumstance, and three days later, I had my answer.

I had never been happier to be rejected from something before.  I was really high on the idea at first, but as the time went along, I really wondered why the hell I would want to get into that field.  Part of me justified it, because I am always at a computer, these days, anyway.

But did I really want to go?  Did I feel it in my heart as a risk that I was really faithful in? No.  Not at all.  And I wish I could articulate how relieved I was when I opened that rejection letter.  I am so very serious.

When I take a good risk, I feel it, in my heart, and my mind aligns with it.  It goes for the ride.  My brain is like “You got this, let’s go.”   And my heart is all like, ” Cool, thanks for the support, let’s do this!”  And off we go, and everything unfolds, and sometimes there is danger, but because I feel the goodness, I turn that around… BOOM, a life shifting story.  A chapter of experience, and “Look at me, I am still alive at the other end!”

Almost any risk can be turned for positive outcome, if you have the tenacity and heart for it.  I am sure I will be writing more about some of my past risks, my relationship to faith and their outcomes.  Hopefully it will inspire you to explore some of your own risky behaviors, and how they have played out for you.  Maybe you will feel like taking a good risk tomorrow.

Faith be with you.

 

What Your Parents Don’t Know

I may or may not have outwardly appeared to be a “goody-two-shoes” as a teenager.  I didn’t really party; I was involved with the church, and several after school activities. I was usually preoccupied with jumping through the necessary hoops that lead to good grades and a well rounded college application.

In reality, I was a bit of an adventurer with a keen sense of intuition when it came to whether or not my adventures would lead to real trouble.  Lucky for me, nothing too terribly bad happened.

I didn’t get caught very often, but I remember one specific case which lead me to getting grounded about a year after getting my drivers license at sixteen.

During the summer, I had been working at Sloan’s Lake, life guarding my days away.   As one might imagine, being a relatively cute girl sitting on a life guard stand, day in and day out, brought male admirers.  By this time I had been driving myself  to work for almost a year, and I was riding high on that feeling of freedom while making money doing something I enjoyed.

Early in the summer, I was approached by a tall bleach blonde fella.  He had that tanned surfer look (conch necklace and all) that didn’t really look natural for Cheyenne, Wyoming native.  He was hot.  He was way more hot than any of the guys I knew from school.

I have to be honest here, I am a sucker for a good looking man; so much so, that my brain and intuitive capabilities just fly right out the window.  The insecurity arises in me, and for some dumb reason, I need to be liked. I want to be wanted by this person.  I will be willing to do stupid things for his attention.

So the flirtation began with this guy.  Everyday he would come to the park and flirt with me, and I definitely flirted back.  I was a couple months away from seventeen.  He was twenty four and in the military.    I was familiar with flirtations of young military men…one of my friends was constantly dating them opting for what they appeared to offer in the sense of maturity in comparison to high school boys.

Military guys always had nice cars and extra money to throw around.

So, this guy (I can’t remember his name to save my life, but he seemed like he was a “Josh”) and I can’t seem to get enough of each other.

I remember one time, my parents took me and my siblings to the mall for casual “pick what you want to eat from the food options” dinner and some strolling around… and once I separated from the clan, I went to a pay phone and called the guy, and met him in the parking lot where we proceeded to make out for an hour and a half.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

When I realized how much time had passed, I freaked out, tried to get myself together and went to find my family in the mall.  I remember my dad grilling me about where I had been, and me making up some dumb excuse about running into a friend, and how we must have just missed them while walking around.

I didn’t want to lie.  I also didn’t want to get into any trouble and for some reason I don’t think my parents would be too happy about some twenty four year old surfer Airman having his tongue down my throat and his hand up my shirt.

I was intoxicated by this guy.  Which should have been a clear sign that I was making bad decisions, OH, but the RUSH!  My hormones were on FIRE!  I would do whatever I could just to get a couple of minutes with him.  He had taken a part time job working at the Hardees on Dell Range, and after church my step mom would ask where we wanted to eat; if I knew he was working, I would beg to eat there.   Sometimes I would drive over there after school, just to see him for a few minutes before going back to school for play practice.  I was completely propelled by sexual energy.

One day, I remember telling my dad that I was going to be at the library all day, studying.  That wasn’t a normal place for me to study.  I didn’t usually have a lot of home work, and what I did have I was usually able to finish during breaks in rehearsals.  I am guessing that out of place statement, tipped off my dad’s own intuition.

I left the house and drove straight to Hardees, where Dude would be getting off of work shortly.  When I got there, he told me that he wanted me to meet some other dudes that he lives with at the barracks.   My heart started to flutter, I knew that guests under the age of 18 were not allowed in the barracks.  He assured me that no one really checks ID’s or anything, and that we would be fine.  So I left my car parked at Hardees, and hopped into his car and went with him, on base.

I think it must have been a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.  The guys in the barracks were drinking, playing video games, fooling around being boys, snapping towels and rough housing.  The guy took me to his darkened bedroom.  He asked me to sit on the bed, and from there he switched on a strobe light and pulled out a stack of Hustler magazines.

He started pulling off his clothes, and asked me to show him what I liked in the magazines.  Little did he know that I was planning to save my virginity for marriage, and that these magazines were really freaking out the Prude in me.  I started to panic, I didn’t want to be in this guys room any more.  I didn’t feel safe.  I told him to shut it down, and to take me back to my car.

There was about a half hour of him trying to convince me to just “loosen up and have a good time.”   It didn’t occur to me how crazy this situation could have gotten, I just knew I needed to get out of there.   The drive back to my car was awkward at best.  He sort of half apologizing and me getting the sense of dread that comes when I know I am about to get caught for drawing outside the lines.

As I got into my car, a girl a couple of years older than me, that I recognized from elementary school, came storming out of the restaurant, and briskly walked up to the passenger side of the dudes car.  She immediately started yelling at the dude.

I quickly pulled out of the parking lot and drove home, feeling some sick humiliation.

Once I was home, my dad stood waiting for me in the kitchen.

“Where have you been?”  He asks.

“I told you, I had stuff to do at the library.”

“Oh, really?  Because I decided I wanted to get some audio books at the library, so I went over there, and I didn’t see you.”

” I was kind of over in a dark corner by the periodicals.”

“I looked over there.”

“You probably just missed me.  My stomach has been acting up, and I went to the bathroom several times while I was there.”

“Mandie, you weren’t there.”

“Sure I was.”

“Your car wasn’t there.”

BOOM.  Back in those days, the library was pretty small, and if you were at the library it was pretty obvious by the parking situation… my ’82 blue Mustang hatchback was easily recognizable, and it had been his mothers old car, so he was really familiar with it… and no, it wasn’t at or near the library.  Something told me he had probably seen it on Dell Range, and had also stopped into Hardees to see if I was there.  Shit.

“Where were you?”  He probed again.

I couldn’t tell him the truth.  I couldn’t tell him that an adult man had taken me where I wasn’t suppose to be in an effort to try and get me naked.  I just could not tell my dad that… so again, I lied.  “I just went over to a friends house.  She’s having a hard time right now with a break up.”

He knew he wasn’t going to get the truth, and so “Lies have consequences, Mandie.  We are taking away car privileges for a week.”

“But, how will I get to school?”

“Your going to have to get up earlier, and ride the bus.”

“But State Drama auditions are this week, and there isn’t a late bus.”

” I guess you don’t get to audition for State Drama, then.”

“But, that’s not fair!”

“You probably should have thought about that before lying about where you were going.”

And that was that.  I begrudgingly rode the bus for a week, missed auditions and packed that bitterness into my heart.  Stupid boys, always messing my shit up.

The story doesn’t quite end there.  Nope, I came to find out that I was being played by a Player.  This guy was stringing along several underage girls.  His “main girl friend” happened to be nineteen, and she happened to work at the same Hardees, and she happened to be that same girl I recognized from elementary school who got into his car the day of the library fiasco.

The guy ended up telling her who I was, and where I went to school.  She knew what I drove and went to my school and waited for me.  I had speech practice or something and so I didn’t leave the building after the last bell.  She was waiting at my car to beat the shit out of me.  When I didn’t show up, she punctured one of my tires and left a threatening note that I should “watch my back.”  What had I gotten myself into?

Being somewhat confrontational, I needed to clear this mess up.  So, I drove over to Hardees, and saw his car, went in and grabbed a booth directly in front of the registers and waited for him to see me and come over.  Immediately his girl friend was hot on his heels, telling me to “get the fuck away from my man, you bitch!”

I calmly say that I am not here to fight.  And that she can have this sad excuse of a man, that is a dirt bag.  I then went on a tirade about how gross it was to take me to his dorm, and to try and get me to do stuff I didn’t want to do, and if she was okay with that then they deserved each other.  Then I slipped out of the booth and walked out the door, just as the girlfriend started to go off, full throttle on the dude.

Immediately I felt a sense of relief that I was done with those people.  I wondered if the girl had recognized me from elementary.  I recall her family seemed highly dysfunctional and poor.  She had the look of someone who had been dealt a pretty rough hand and her decisions weren’t making it any better.

About four years later, I got a part time job working in a makeshift call center for a vacuum company selling “air purification systems” out of the downtown mall near the Crown Bar.  It was more money than life guarding, and consisted of cold calling numbers out of the phone book.  Employee retention was low, and it seemed at least two people a week would leave or be replaced.

Imagine my surprise when that woman of the past comes walking through the door, fresh from jail looking even worse for the wear for her age.  I immediately hope that she doesn’t recognize me. I hope that she still isn’t with that guy.  I am immediately very friendly to her, very helpful.  She tells me some of her history; drug abuse, jail time, half way houses, parole officers, drugs testing weekly.

I remember it was July.  Frontier Days was a couple of weeks away.  This lady had no license, no car.  I drove her to a couple of appointments that she had to fulfill because of her legal troubles.  I never brought up that guy… but I did bring up the fact that I know we went to the same elementary school, and that she use to dress very “western.”

She admitted that even though she looks like a thug, that she was still a cowgirl at heart.  I had a pair of barely worn Justin boots and a couple of pairs of Wrangler jeans I never wore, and brought them to her the next day, so that she could get all Western for Frontier Days if she wanted.

I quit the job not long after that because it felt like a scam, calling numbers from pages in the phone book, and being told “Mr. So In So is dead.”  I couldn’t prey on people like that.

I’d like to think that despite everything, that I did something right by being kind to that lady.

 

Conversation With Death

I sat in the far dark corner of that nameless pub that sits along a busy road in that average town in the corner of a state some people call “Home.”  This wasn’t my usual pop in.  Today had a purpose.  This drink in my hand had meaning and I had an appointment.   Rather, an interview with none other than Death, itself.

I had called it here to have a sincere conversation about the current state of affairs in transactions and avoidance.  I wanted to probe deep, in hopes I might find out something about myself along the way.  I’m not sure why, but I assumed Death would be tardy, but as  Death would have it, he showed up right on time.   I noted my own pessimistic attitude, and a desire to wish the worst on my guest.   Immediately I knew It was just as perceptive, as it was punctual.

Like a cool breeze wrapped in a dark, but sensuous cloud, It slipped into the booth in front of me.  Admittedly, I was caught off guard; caught in the reverie of some other time and place playing chess with the present future.   I could see that Death was amused.  It enjoys a surprise entrance, and I hadn’t given It that in a long, long time… a life time ago, actually.

I could feel It’s inquisition.  And as perceptive as it is, It took a moment to realize I wasn’t calling to set appointments for It to “take me” or anyone, for that matter.  I wasn’t “wishing for It.”  I sensed that Death rarely had true “casual conversations.”   It, is aware that It exists to serve a need at times unspoken; but this wasn’t my business today.

I needed to settle a minute.  I needed to acclimate to Deaths’ temperature as It sat across from me in this two sided booth.   I’m not sure why I had any expectations as to how this would go, or how it would appear.

It heard me.  In my head, It heard me and responded.  The sense of it was… straight forward.  It was incredibly normal sounding.  Like I said, I don’t know what I subconsciously expected, but this was just so… normal feeling.  Not like demonic voices, or screeching.  It was just a normal, calm voice asking why I set this meet and greet.

I could hear my own panicked response.  I didn’t want to sound panicked, in my own head, telepathically talking to Death; but I did.  I didn’t know my mind could stutter or sound so nervous.  Death caught wind of my insecurities and quickly stepped in.

“This is a casual appointment.  No need to be nervous.”

I immediately imagined a black t-shirt with a Grim Reaper silhouette saying those words in a cartoon bubble… I wonder if …

I cut myself off, because of course Death can hear this and see this image in my mind, and I don’t want It making any money off of my ideas…. I know It has a large market share, and I know It doesn’t need my help.

“I keep wanting to anthropomorphize you into a ‘him’ “ I think, “And I don’t want to do that because you seem to be so much more than that, but modern conversation has us all hung up on gender, and sometimes, even I get dragged down that nasty alleyway.”

I physically feel the entity that Death is, nod.  Do you even know what that feels like?  It’s like some one kicked on the AC really quick, turned it off and then turned it on again for slightly longer, and then turned it off.  Death, as a physical manifestation is like gusts of air, shifting of drafts, faint and sometimes pungent whiffs… and thoughts, some really rational sounding thoughts.

I get the smell of a cigarette.  Like a freshly lit cigarette.  In my minds eye, I see this shadowy entity settle back, and light one, waiting to see why it’s presence was summoned.  I sense amusement at my attempt to mentally articulate gestures of relation, and the attempt to anthropomorphize.

” I don’t want to die right now.  I’m sure you know that…. and I really don’t want to be here right now… I mean I don’t want to be in this world as is, not specifically this meeting.  You seem to have your hand in a lot of pots right now…. just casually stirring and occasionally straining off the debris on top…. all the while maintaining your ordinary routine.  Your routine since the beginning of time…”

Geez, why am I here again.  Surely It can hear all of this mental chatter, It’s probably use to sifting through all of that…. how can I articulate and inquire Death? How can I get to the point and move on?

The smell of cigarettes get’s stronger, as if Death knows that I wish I had a pack of smokes right now.  As if Death is taunting me with the most accessible of vices as an easy escape route… I take another drink of my seltzer water with lemon.  I contemplate whether or not the bartender thinks I am a waste of space in this near vacant hole-in-the-wall.  I can’t help but inhale deeply as I take in the last dregs of my water and suckle a piece of lemon flavored ice as I attempt to settle my nerves.

“I need to know why you whisper to me.”

I know it isn’t a question or a statement.  I know it may not be answered, but it is the only thing I can think of under this unseen pressure.

“I need to know why you visit me, and motion to me in regard to yourself.  I need to know why… I am worth your time and knowledge.”

The air shifts again.  It feels less like a draft, and more like a warm breeze blowing through an open window on a spring day… It smells, of… lilacs.  Not a threatening thing upon this breeze.  I feel a sudden sense of comfort in all of my senses.  I no longer feel edgy or insecure.   This breeze, this scent is so familiar.

Not long after this realization, I again sense smoke, but more the smoke of a large fire… a structure ablaze; the muscles that had relaxed, immediately tense back up.  I feel “on call”, some one has a need to be filled.  I have a sense I can meet that need, but I feel an overwhelming confusion.

“How can I fight a fire, when I am not a fire fighter?”

My mind becomes immediately obsessed.

“Where is the fire?”

“Who needs me?”

“How can I help?”

My mind races, I imagine scenarios.  I recall all of my rescue skills…

I dig deeper into that smell, and feeling…. The fire is close, it also smells of lilac.

I realize that I am the fire, sitting in the dark corner, of that nameless bar on that busy street in that average town in the corner of a state, some call “Home”, and I panic.

“Am I on fire?  Is there a fire around me?”

I somehow steady my unsteady breath, and realize, I am still in this saturated booth, water glass with dying ice and a filmy specter across from me.  It knows what I am feeling and experiencing, and it’s laughter smells like a cross between buttered popcorn and Lucky Charms cereal.   Sort of earthy, but sinfully delectable.

This interview isn’t going at all, as planned; but then again I didn’t plan.  I didn’t think Death would show up, and I definitely didn’t think that Death had so many smells.

“What is this even about?”  I ask this with a mentally forthright force.  “I feel like you are playing with me. I admit to being slightly amused, but most of this just feels like a circus show.  You know, I want to know, what you know.”

Ahh! Finally I was finding a point of reference.  Death is just so illusive and intimidating.   Maybe he is like my tattooed cousin; if you don’t know him, he is perhaps a scary person… but once you know him, he is a jolly teddy bear.

I was satisfied in that thought…  telling Death it was just a misunderstood Teddy Bear, but Death wasn’t here to make me feel better; It knew I wanted some truth, so the air became a mixture of swift and still, hot and cold.  The ozone was permeated with the smell of burning garbage and perfect baked cinnamon rolls.  My heart rate went up as my body temperature went down.  I was perfectly uncomfortable, a uncomfortably perfect.  I wanted to throw up while feeling perfect ecstasy. I wanted to escape as well as sit still… I felt on the edge of ready and run.  My body, mind and heart were over taken with a simultaneous pain and pleasure that I have never known.

It was a whirlwind that seemed to last forever, until It stopped. And when It stopped, It was gone.

In that moment I knew death.  I had taken It in, full force, in every possible way.  And it seemed unjust and totally right, all at the same time.

We didn’t have a long conversation.   Death rarely needs words to get It’s point across… It is so poignant with it’s delivery.  It never acts in vein, at least of It’s own accord.  It’s with us from the moment we start living, and wonders why we treat It like a stranger when It does show up.  We know all the signs It is there, if we choose to knowledge It.

It, isn’t impressed that Stephen King demonized It.

Death in and of itself isn’t bad, and It’s always punctual even if we think It is too late or too early.  Your perception of It, depends on your relationship to It and your observation of It… but It, is malleable, and what It is for you, is not always what It is to someone else.

It is, what It is.  An end to a new beginning.  Sometimes new chapters are scary, but they are necessary for the story to continue, until the story is done.  Either way, Death will meet you wherever you are, unless you opt out.  But that is another story.