Option B by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant (Part 2)

Taking Back Joy. When I listened to a happy song from childhood and started dancing, I felt happy. Survivor guilt can rob you of your joy. After his passing, I tried to have fun with my children. We took things that reminded us of Dave and made it part of our lives. Allow yourself to be happy and be kind to yourself. Joy has to come your within yourself and no one else. How you spend each day matters more than only the big moments of joy. Do the small things that make you happy. Write down the moments of joy each day. Happiness does require work. Humans are wired to focus on the negative as compared to the positive. The cool breeze could be a positive moment for gratitude too. Happiness can equate to peacefulness too. Try to engage in something challenging and engrossing that can give you that flow state. Exercise can help you to achieve that flow state quickly. Joy can give us strength too. You can find joy in the small moments that you seize and create for yourself.

Raising Resilient Kids. One way is to respond to embarrassment with humour. It is wise to just announce the sad news to your kids directly. We owe it to our children to make them as happy as possible. Early intervention is critical. The school needs to protect a safe environment for kids. Disadvantaged families should be provided with home visits and counseling. Resilience is a lifelong project. Children must develop these few beliefs: they have some control over their lives; they can bounce back from failure; they matter as human beings; they have real strength. It is important to help them understand that they are in control of their lives. Pre-school has a huge role to play in this. Allow your kids to share their dreams with others. It is important to get an education. Kids should adopt a growth instead of fixed mindset. Sometimes, complimenting too soon doesn’t work. Rather, one should comment ‘I’m glad you tried your hardest’. Adults need to tell the kids that they matter. In Denmark, children are encouraged to share their problems in class. Help your kid identify his strengths by making him pick up skills. For instance, you could encourage the kid to pick up a musical instrument. Respect your feelings and try not to suppress them. Sleep matters even during times of adversity. Learning how to forgive is also extremely important. Do not afraid to ask for help and encourage your kids to do so. Sometimes, I still talk about Dave as it helps to keep Dave’s memory alive. If your kids can have a strong understanding of your family members and their parents, they have been coping skills. Nostalgia is usually good as it reflects a pleasant state most of the time. Make the most out of Option B. Keep photos and videos of your loved ones as these help to create happiness.

Finding Strength Together. Hope is the key to resilience. It is possible to bond over hope and create a shared identity. People can pray together. It is important to change tragedy into a miracle. Keep your faith at all times. There is unity in strength. Collective resilience is also dependent on shared experiences etc. Attending support groups can also help you deeply. It might be wise to join a community after a tragedy. Asking for help is actually not a sign of weakness. Shared narratives can play a big part. It is also useful to be lifted by positive ‘stereotypes’ right at the start. Support circles help to build collect resilience. It can certainly be difficult to forgive a gunman who killed so many people. As a community, we can gather together to tackle the tough problems in life. Empowering communities can be the key sometimes. As a community, we can learn to support vulnerable groups.

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. – Martin Luther King Jr

Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. – Martin Luther King Jr

Failing and Learning at Work. I took my kids to visit SpaceX. We need to learn from our failures. Often, we are too proud to admit that we made a mistake. The majority of things that people regretted was the actions they failed to take. Move fast and break things. At Facebook, we go for teambuilding and often fail at challenges. Failure must be seen as a learning opportunity. You could ask colleagues what their biggest screw-up is and everyone could compete to see who the biggest screw-up is. Resilience is needed in all organizations of all sizes. We need to all focus on learning from failure. Ask for feedback on how you can improve. Learn to gather and act on negative feedback. We all have our own blind spots but often ignore them. Feedback is hard to take. Sports teams often learn from their mistakes. Learn to take suggestions from a coach too. Try not to treat the feedback personally. People are afraid of criticizing others. Everyone should have at least 1 hard conversation in the past.

The more times a government or company had failed, the more likely they were to put a rocket into orbit successfully on the next try. Also, their chances of success increased after a rocket exploded compared to a smaller failure. – Sheryl Sandberg

When it’s safe to talk about mistakes, people are more likely to report errors and less likely to make them. Yet typical work cultures showcase successes and hide failures. – Sheryl Sandberg

To Love and Laugh Again. Being alone can be an empowering decision indeed. Getting married increases one’s happiness just by a bit. I wanted to find love again after Dave passed on. If you date too soon, people may judge you. Men are more likely to date after their spouse has passed on. The responsibility of caring for children and aged parents seems to fall on the women more. Widows in some parts of the world are cruelly treated. Do not listen to others. When your heart feels like you should date, you should go ahead. However, dating does not erase the grief and that is perfectly fine. When we fall in love, we have a great sense of energy and euphoria. Dating helps brings back the humour. Eventually, one will even learn to joke about death. Joking about Dave now helps to break the tension. Humor makes situations less stressful. It is still very much possible to love someone even after they have died. It is crucial to pay attention to the everyday interaction with our partners. You must turn towards their bid. One way to re-ignite the spark in a relationship is to try new activities. Partners have to be able to overcome conflict. You can’t control whether you fall in love. There is always Option B and we can still find joy.

Resilience in love means finding strength from within that you can share with others. Finding a way to make love last through the highs and lows. – Sheryl Sandberg


Option B by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant (Part 1)

Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

Introduction. I met Dave Goldberg in the summer of 1996. He was very comforting and lovely. It was love at first sight. He was assuring and very understanding. However, 11 years into our wedding, one day, he suffered from a heart attack while on a treadmill and passed on. I was in utter shock and disgust and didn’t believe that this was happening to me. My kids very truly upset too. I felt like I was in a void. At times, I felt like I could hear Dave calling out to me in my sleep. Ordinary events were painful to go through. I was worried my kids would never be the same again. The songs on the radio weren’t helping too. People encouraged to let grief run its course. Adam Grant gave me advice too. The fact is that many people who have lost parents turn out to be resilient. Time will heal the wounds, or so they said. I have no choice but to get over the shock. This book is about how to build resilience. Adversity is everywhere. I am fortunate for the support I have received throughout. It is possible to find greater meaning. Life is never perfect and sometimes we have live Option B.

Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity – and we can build it. It isn’t about having a backbone. It’s about strengthening the muscles around our backbone. – Sheryl Sandberg

This book is about the capacity of the human spirit to persevere. We look at the steps people can take, both to help themselves and to help others. We explore the psychology of recovery and the challenges of regaining confidence and rediscovering joy. – Sheryl Sandberg

Breathing Again. A friend I knew was too trusting and gave a co-worker a ride home. However, he raped her in the end. I offered this lady help. If you don’t believe in all 3, you will find it easier to cope. It is never all your fault and there are things which you might not be able to do better. Learn to stop saying ‘sorry’ after a while. Not everything was terrible after all. We had access to grief counsellors. Working also helps with the pervasiveness bit. However, if you return to work too soon, grief can interfere with the performance. Employers should provide flexible arrangements and financial assistance etc. Humans tend to overestimate how long negative events will impact us. I tried to banish the words ‘never’ and ‘always’ from my vocabulary. The pain temporarily eased up after a while. Humans are also wired for grief. Deep breathing helps me to calm down. The second derivative thoughts were not pleasant at all. I learnt from Buddhism that suffering is inevitable. Over time, my kids and I learnt to respect our feelings. Sometimes, it is necessary to take cry breaks. Focusing on worst case scenarios also had me feel better. We also pray before every meal and thank God for the food. Counting the blessings in your life can make you happier and feel satisfied. We are also financially stable and that is very important to us all. Once, I went for a mammogram and I was alarmed. Thankfully, it was a false positive. Even heartache doesn’t last forever. When life kicks you under, learn to breathe again.

3 P’s can stunt recovery: (1) personalization – the belief that we are at fault; (2) pervasiveness – the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life; and (3) permanence – the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever. – Sheryl Sandberg

Part of every misery, is misery’s shadow… the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. – Sheryl Sandberg

Dealing with grief was like building physical stamina: the more you exercise, the faster your heart rate recovers after it is elevated. And sometimes during especially vigorous physical activity, you discover strength you didn’t know you had. – Sheryl Sandberg

Kicking the Elephant Out of the Room. I went for a college reunion with some of Daves’ friends. Sometimes, asking someone about their illness can comfort them and show that you care. I felt miserable when friends didn’t ask how I was doing after Dave’s passing. People avoid asking because they want to avoid difficult questions. However, the fact is that people who have endured terrible things want to talk about them. Some parents who have lost children also want others to speak about them from time to time. ‘Mum effect’ is when people avoid sharing bad news. By remaining silent in your suffering, you isolate others. It would be good to have friends who ask you difficult questions but do not judge on your answers. People who have been through adversity can connect better with others who are suffering too. Cultural pressure to conceal negative emotions is common. The fact is that most people do not know what to say, especially when it comes to personal matters. I thought that I carrying an elephant around. A month after my husband’s passing, I shared my thoughts openly on Facebook. After that post, I received a lot of love and compassion. Not everyone will be comfortable about talking about personal tragedy. Opening up can improve mental and physical health. Instead of ‘How are you?’; ask ‘How are you today?’. I acknowledged the elephant’s presence and after opening up, many colleagues did reveal that they did not dare to speak up because they were afraid of saying the wrong thing.

I had failed to ask him directly about his health not because I didn’t care, but because I was worried about upsetting him. – Sheryl Sandberg

When life gives you lemons, I won’t tell you a story about my cousin’s friends who died of lemons. – Postcard

When someone is struck ill with cancer, you can ask ‘I know you don’t know yet what will happen – and neither do I. But you won’t go through this alone. I will be there with you every step of the way.’ Or ‘I acknowledge your pain. I’m here with you. – Sheryl Sandberg

The Platinum Rule of Friendship. Adam encountered a kid, named Owen. He had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and later took his own life. When you are feeling stressed, you need an outlet. For instance, you can call a counsellor at any time of the day. Sometimes when we feel like reaching out to help, we might suddenly hold back because we fear saying the wrong thing or offending the person. This is like choosing escape over empathy. The trick is just to show up, showing up can make a huge difference in a friend’s life. It’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes when you are not the one suffering. Instead of saying ‘I will do anything to help you’, you could say ‘let me get you a burger, let me know what you not take’. Specific acts are more useful for someone in need. Even holding someone’s hand can be a big help too. One can offer comfort to those closest to the tragedy and gain support for those further away from the tragedy. We all grieve differently. It is very rude to suggest that someone should be over their grieving period.

Growing up, I was taught to follow the Golden Rule: treat others as you want to be treated. But when someone is suffering, instead of following the Golden Rule, we need to follow the Platinum Rule: treat others as they want to be treated. Take a cue from the person in distress and respond with understanding – or better yet, action. – Sheryl Sandberg

Self-Compassion and Self-Confidence. Coming to grips with ourselves. Self-compassion is rarely talked about in our society. Everyone makes mistakes. These imperfections make us human. Self-compassion is the key to a faster recovery from trauma. Focus on the mistake and not the person’s character. Guilt and shame are completely 2 different feelings. Learn from your mistakes and own up to them. Writing down your thoughts in a journal might be useful and has much therapeutic effects. The more you acknowledge the negative emotions that you are feeling, the better you can tackle them. Talking into a voice recorder can have a similar effect to writing. Learn to understand that your worth is not tied to your actions. Self-confidence is the key. I am grateful to have a compassionate boss, Mark Zuckerberg. I start journaling and realized that it helped me tremendously. Even when you are really down, you can focus on 3 small wins and write them down daily. Just reminding that something had gone well that day can improve your day instantly. Learn to count your contributions too. Take one extra step even though you are afraid. Learn to treat those who are undergoing a tough time as regular team members and praise their work occasionally. The number of single mums are rising and a lot of them are having a tough time too. Over time, I journaled less. I want to move on and start living again. I am not alone.

Psychologist Kristin Neff describes self-compassion as offering the same kindness to ourselves that we would give it to a friend. It allows us to respond to our own errors with concern and understanding rather than criticism and shame. – Sheryl Sandberg

This loss of confidence is another symptom of pervasiveness: we are struggling in one area and suddenly we stop believing in our capabilities in other areas. Primary loss triggers secondary losses. – Sheryl Sandberg

Bouncing Forward. The one I become will catch me. When you can’t change a situation, you will have to change yourself. Some people can experience post-traumatic growth. This means bouncing forward. It can take 5 forms: forming deep relationships; discovering meaning in life; gaining appreciation; finding personal strength and seeing possibilities. One can walk away with greater resolve. The little things do not bother you so much anymore. If you can find your why to live, you can find meaning to live. I appreciate my close ones more. If you visit poorer communities, you might start to appreciate life more. Gratitude is the key to happiness. Now, I celebrate birthdays every year. You do not need to wait for special occasions to show your gratitude. One could write thank you notes. Every day is precious and should be lived to the fullest. Going through difficult times together can cause one to forge stronger bonds together. It is also important to find meaning in suffering. One could do so via spirituality and religious beliefs. It is important to stay hopeful in your darkest hours too. Trauma can help to build resilience. Work can provide a source of meaning. You can energize yourself with meaningful work. A brush with death can lead to a new life. Some believe in co-destiny, where bereaved parents view their child’s life in a larger framework. Parents can do good, which becomes part of their child’s impact on the world.

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. – Albert Camus

In prosperity our friends know us. In adversity we know our friends. – Old Saying


When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Foreword. I only knew Paul after his death. After he was diagnosed with cancer, he had a desire to write a book. We become aware of our own mortality after reading his book as well. Paul had a flair of writing, however, had a calling of being a physician. He would eventually be a neurosurgeon. Paul writes occasionally and was an excellent writer. Paul has been very vulnerable and revealed a lot about himself.

Prologue. The cancer had spread and was widely disseminated. I was the patient this time. Lucy was my wife and she was by my side. When I had back pain, I went for an MRI scan. X-rays aren’t good for detection of cancer. Weight loss became more common as the days went by. I was an outstanding surgeon and had a bright career ahead of me. A few weeks later, I had strong bouts of chest pain. My work and the demanding schedule had put a toll on our marriage. My wife wanted to leave me. The pain was getting more severe and I was in trouble. I also started to tell friends about my cancer. My wife learnt about it and promised not to leave me.

Part 1: In Perfect Health I Begin

I never thought that I would be a doctor. I didn’t know much about medicine when I was young. We had two dogs. Once, we went to the desert and found the insects there to be fascinating. My younger brother was Jeevan. My dad was the one who brought our family to the desert town of Kingman, in Arizona. The issue with Kingman was that the education system was bad and there were many dropouts. My mum instilled in us, a love of reading. I eventually got into Stanford University. I liked a girl named Abigail in school. In school, I was driven to understand what makes human life meaningful? One of my favorite authors, was T.S. Eliot. Literature was a form of moral reflection for me. Was the unlived life worth examining? I did an internship at Sierra Camp, which was very eye opening indeed. I studied both neuroscience and literature in school. Many of the caregivers will not even show up to pay the patients of severe brain problems. Some parents even abandon their kids. Brains indeed play a crucial role in our ability to form relationships. Language of life was a passion, hunger and a love. I studied the work of Walt Whitman. I wanted to find out how biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersected. I was contemplating medical school now. After I enrolled myself into the HPS program at Cambridge, I started to realize that only by practicing medicine, I could pursue a serious biological philosophy. I cut my first dead body and it felt alright. These were cadavers or donor corpses. I hardly ever felt like vomiting. The book by Shep Nuland on ‘How we die’ was very popular. It addressed the fact of existence. Although I read about the particularities of death, being a surgeon allowed me to understand them better. I was asked to deliver a child. I was educated on how to read the fetal heart rates etc. The twins were in distress and their only hope was a C-section. However, they didn’t survive as they were premature. On my next case, the baby was successfully delivered and I was very relieved indeed. Next on my rotation was surgical oncology. Many of the medical students chose to specialize in things like radiology or dermatology, which were deemed easier. Eventually, I chose neurosurgery as my specialty. Part of a doctor’s job is about to be emotionally attached to the patient and to calm them down. Brain surgery has a huge impact on the patient’s life. Would you trade your ability to talk for a few extra months of mute life? What makes life meaningful enough to go on living? Neurosurgeons have a huge responsibility. During the first year of residency, the workload was tremendous. The papers I file are narratives of risks and triumph. I finally lost my first patient. I saw a few people die in the course of my work. Sometimes, death has a suffocating weight on me too. In the second year of training, I was the first to arrive in an emergency. I was doing a lot of overtime work, which was very tiring indeed. It was so stressful that some left the profession. Some cases were beyond hope, where even surgery would not do much good. I did not think I was a doctor who missed the larger human significance. My dad was an inspiration to me and he even when to buy meals for his patients when they requested for them. I once persuaded a girl’s family that surgery was the best option for her. Announcing the bad news to a patient is very difficult indeed. Brain surgery for cases for cancer that metastases from other parts of body, can help to prolong life. In medical statistics, there is the Kaplan-Meier curve. This measures the number of patients surviving over time for any particular disease. It is a metric where doctors understand the ferocity of a disease. Instead of saying ‘You have a 95% chance of being dead in two years’, doctors can say ‘Most patients live many months to a couple of years.’. It is useful to hold a patient’s hand when announcing bad news. Sometimes, there can be an emotional cost as well. However, it can have its rewards too. For a neurosurgeon, it is also important to keep up to date on the latest technologies available in the market too. I loved talking to other scientists. Pancreatic cancer has a low survival rate. A patient can only be under anesthesia for that long. It is like finding the middle ground between the hare and the tortoise. Time flies in the OR. Technical excellence, was a moral requirement for me. For brain surgery, it is extremely important to be precise, up to the exact millimeter. The worst part of the brain damage is the cortex, the Wenicke and Broca area. These control one’s language abilities. I was excellent at my job and rewards and awards were coming naturally. My scientist friend committed suicide one day after he had a difficult complication. This made me contemplate the meaning of life even more.

The secret is to know that the deck is stacked, that you will lose, that your hands or judgment will slip, and yet still struggle to win for your patients. You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving. – Paul Kalanithi

Books become my closest confidants, finely ground lenses providing new views of the world. – Paul Kalanithi

Indeed, this is how 99% of people select their jobs: pay, work environment, hours. But that’s the point. Putting lifestyle first is how you find a job – not a calling. – Paul Kalanithi

Rushing a patient to the OR to save only enough brain that his heart beats but he can never speak, he eats through a tube, and he is condemned to an existence he would never want…I came to see this as a more egregious failure than the patient dying. – Paul Kalanithi

Amid the tragedies and failures, I feared I was losing sight of the singular importance of human relationships, not between patients and their families but between doctor and patient. Technical excellence was not enough. As a resident, my highest ideal was not saving lives – everyone dies eventually – but guiding a patient or family to an understanding of death or illness. – Paul Kalanithi

The call to protect life – and not merely life but another’s identity; it is perhaps not too much to say another’s soul – was obvious in its sacredness. – Paul Kalanithi

A resident’s surgical skill is judged by his technique and his speed. You can’t be sloppy, and you can’t be slow. – Paul Kalanithi

Neurosurgery requires a commitment to one’s own excellence and a commitment to another’s identity. The decision to operate at all involves an appraisal of one’s own abilities, as well as a deep sense of who the patient is and what she holds dear. – Paul Kalanithi

Cease Not till Death

The CT images were not good. My identity no longer mattered. It was life shattering and it hurt me. My potential would never be fulfilled. I was diagnosed with lung cancer. Emma Hayward was my oncologist. Emma was one of the best lung cancer specialist out there. She was also compassionate in nature. I felt weaker as the cancer spread. I couldn’t know my spot on the Kaplan-Meier curve. One option for me was chemotherapy and the other was therapy targeting at molecular defects. I had a PI3K mutation. Emma suggest carboplatin as chemotherapy for me. She refused to discuss the Kaplan-Meier curves. Lucy and I went to the sperm bank to preserve gametes. There is no point in depending or reading too much into statistics. I felt a drop of hope. After a drug, my appetite returned and I was happier. I had to figure out what is the most important for me. Cancer had helped to save my marriage with Lucy. I was also in physical therapy now. I was lifting my legs, but it was so exhausting and humiliating. I kept pushing myself. Finally, my condition improved. I could ride a bike for 6 miles and that was a massive achievement. Emma was a friend to me as well. I wanted a child, but the decision would ultimately lie with Lucy, because she would take care of the child. Life wasn’t about avoiding suffering. Life was about striving. We all need to carry on living. Only the best embryos would have a chance of survival. The tumor was reduced after a CT scan. It was good news. Life was looking up now. I started reading more about mortality. I pushed myself to return to the OR. Some patients could live for at least 10 years on the drug. I felt it was a moral responsibility to continue being a surgeon. Suddenly, halfway through the surgery, I felt faint and couldn’t continue. My junior resident took over. It was disappointing. Over time, my skills started to improve and I was getting better. However, it felt joyless as sometimes I would still be in pain. I wanted to be a doctor-scientist, but there were no vacancies. I overcame my pain and continued to see patients. I wanted to run a cancer lab as it would less demanding. I had to figure out what was the most important to me. God and meaning were linked, but it was also possible to believe in one and not the other. The problem is that science cannot reach some permanent truth. Hence, it might be incompatible with human life, which is more unpredictable. Science is cold, unlike the warmth of humans. I returned to Christianity as I found it to be compelling. Humans do not like blind determinism. A new tumour emerged in my latest CT scan. I was neither angry nor scared. I felt really tired after a grueling surgery. My last surgery was a big success and I could end on a high. Chemotherapy was the only way as localized treatment was out of the question. It would start on Monday. I felt very tired and the food was tasteless. I wanted to go for graduation but I started puking and it was horrible. I had to be placed on IV drip. My condition worsened. My kidneys were starting to fail now. I was placed in ICU now. Many specialists were now attending to me. Lucy was now 38 weeks pregnant. The problem was that the specialists could not come to a common consensus. No 1 party was willing to take responsibility. Some of them suggested ill-advised tests. I struggled to listen to them. Emma was now the captain of the ship. I was discharged from the hospital finally. I was very tired again, after the chemotherapy doses. Emma finally revealed that I could live for 5 more years. Lucy was in labour. My baby was finally born and it was a complete joy. Time began to feel static. The days of the week no longer to mean anything to me as I wasn’t working.

If I were a writer of books, I would compile a register, with a comment, of the various deaths of men: he would should teach men to die would at the same time teach them to live. – Michel de Montaigne (That to study philosophy is to learn to die)

The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live. – Paul Kalanithi

Only 0.0012% of 36 year olds get lung cancer. Yes, all cancer patients are unlucky, but there’s cancer and then there’s CANCER, and you have to be really unlucky to have the latter. – Paul Kalanithi

It’s easier when the patient is 94, in the last stages of dementia, with a severe brain bleed. But for someone like me – a 36 year old given a diagnosis of terminal cancer – there aren’t really words. – Paul Kalanithi

Many people, once diagnosed with cancer, quit work entirely. Others focus on it heavily. Either way is okay. – Emma Hayward, an oncologist

If the weight of mortality does not grow lighter, does it at least get more familiar? – Paul Kalanithi

If human relationality formed the bedrock of meaning, it seemed to us that rearing children added another dimension to that meaning. – Paul Kalanithi

I would push myself to return to the Operating Room. Why? Because I could. Because that’s who I was. Because I would have to learn to live in a different way, seeing death as an imposing itinerant visitor but knowing that even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living. – Paul Kalanithi

The tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing. You try to figure out what matters to you, and then you keep figuring it out. – Paul Kalanithi

The way forward would seem obvious, if only I knew how many months or years I had left. Tell me 3 months, I’d spend time with family. Tell me 1 year, I’d write a book. Give me 10 years, I’d get back to treating diseases. – Paul Kalanithi

Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world. – Paul Kalanithi

But at my back in a cold blast I hear the rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear. – T.S. Eilot

Part of the cruelty of cancer, though, is not only that it limits your time; it also limits your energy, vastly reducing the amount you can squeeze into a day. It is a tired hare who now races. – Paul Kalanithi

Epilogue by Lucy Kalanithi

Paul died on March 9, 2015. Chemotherapy stopped working a few months before his death. We still had our family dinners etc. Paul was focused on completing his book. At his late stages, he lost his appetite completely. At times, he would suffer from a really serious fever. Paul chose the do not resuscitate status at the very end. We chose comfort care at home as he didn’t want to die in hospital. His carbon dioxide levels were too high, indicating lung failure. Paul wanted to hold Cady, his daughter. Paul was really to remove the breathing support and die. His wish was for us to publish his manuscript. I hope that he would be resting in peace now. Our family continued to sing to him and look at his facial expressions. Soon, his breaths became more faltering and irregular. During his last years, Paul wrote furiously and wanted to complete the book. He was very determined to write. He was brave throughout his most difficult days. He did not avert his eyes from death and was strong. Our love stood strong and firm throughout his difficult days. Paul suggested that I remarry after my marriage. I was definitely very blessed to have known a man like him. He was an unwavering source of support to our daughter. Throughout his illness, he faced it with grace and authenticity and acceptance. He was fully alive and his life was full of meaning even in his darkest days. This book is his culmination of his life and love for literature. Paul had made great contributions in the area of neuroscience. Paul managed to face death with integrity, and I was as his wife, his witness.

Conversely, we knew that one trick to managing a terminal illness is to be deeply in love – to be vulnerable, kind, generous, grateful. – Lucy Kalanithi

Bereavement (of a partner) is not the truncation of married love, but one of its regular phases – like the honeymoon. What we want is to live our marriage well and faithfully through that phase too. – C.S. Lewis



The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker (Part 2)

The Failures of Heroism

The Spell Cast by Persons – The Nexus of Unfreedom. Men must hide from the truth. Men have followed leaders who seemed larger than life. Men worship power. There seems to be some fascination over those who have power. Do famous people have a halo around them? Some men respect their doctors so much that they think they are larger than life. Hypnosis is certainly possible. We all fear not being in full control of ourselves. Ferenczi admitted that we in our innermost soul, we are still children and we remain so throughout life. We all still feel the need to be subject to someone, just like how we were subject to our parents when we were younger. Freud performed a lot of research on group psychology. He tried to understand why men were so sheeplike when they functioned in groups. They fell under the sheep of their leader. He has an extreme passion for authority and wants to govern by unrestricted force. People like being in groups because it makes them feel safe. They feel safe in the group, but all this is an illusion. Every man feels like an omnipotent hero. Erich Fromm believed in narcissism. There were problems with Freud’s theory too. The leader had some traits which enabled him to hold the group together. He allowed the followers to express forbidden impulses and secret wishes. He wipes out fear in people. People think they engage in illegal activities as a group. Men likes to crave illusion. People use the leader to fulfil their own needs and urges. People use the leaders as almost as an excuse. Being in a group helps man take on individual responsibility. The leader takes the responsibility for all evil acts committed. To Freud, humans have a sexual instinct. Transference is a problem of courage. Transference could be seen as a fetish control. It literally means the need for man to exert complete control over external circumstances. Man will project all of his human qualities on an object. However, if he loses the object, he fears that he might lose himself. You can even make your own body that object. Transference is a form of narrow control that anchors our own problems. Some see transference as a fear of life. The Universe has overwhelming power but we can endow certain persons with it. The transference object becomes an obsession for the person. The more you fear death, the more you see the need for transference objects. Some people see transference as the fear of death. Now, you need the transference figure to assure your immortality and carry on you causa-sui project. It will provide shelter on your life. People want heroes for their own immortalization. When the object dies, people start to panic. Men always strives to be good. All organisms strive to feel good about themselves. The feeling is even stronger in Man. However, what is ‘right’ is not straightforward. Man feels tremblingly small and impotent in the face of transcendent nature. Rank understood the human condition really well. Transference is almost a universal passion. To Rank, Man worshipped God because of an outgrowth of life-longing and the need for meaning. This is the duality of man. Men want to be associated with values that endure. There is a school of thought where people use transference as an urge to higher heroism.

Man is a trembling animal who pulls the world down around his shoulders as he clutches for protection and support and tries to affirm in a cowardly way his feeble powers. – Ernest Becker

Transference heroics gives man precisely what he needs: a certain degree of sharply defined individuality, a definite point of reference for his practice of goodness, and all within a certain secure level of safety and control. – Ernest Becker

If all people are more or less alike, why do we burn with such all-consuming passions for some of them? – Ernest Becker

If Man gives in to his natural feeling of cosmic dependence, the desire to be part of something bigger, it puts him at peace and at oneness, gives him a sense of self-expansion in a larger beyond, and so heightens his being, giving him truly a feeling of transcendent value. – Ernest Becker

How do I realize my distinctive gifts, make my own contribution to the world through my own self-expansion? – Ernest Becker

Individuation means that the human creature has to oppose itself to the rest of nature. It crates precisely the isolation that one can’t stand – and yet needs in order to develop distinctively. It creates the difference that becomes such a burden; it accents the smallness of oneself and the sticking-outness at the same time. – Ernest Becker

Otto Rank and the Closure of Psychoanalysis on Kierkegaard. Creature consciousness is absorbed in culture. Back in the day, men was happy to serve God. Christianity made heroes of everyone. Christianity took creature consciousness and made it the condition for his cosmic heroism. For men without religion, they had to find a love object. Salvation is transference beatification. Love is the highest form of striving. Modern man is dependent on the love partner. In a relationship, we accept the other person’s body and things can joined in unity. Death is seen as the twin brother of sex. Sex ensures that the creature created will eventually die. Resistance to sex seems like a resistance to fatality. A child, will reach a stage where he will be curious about how he got his body. The body is something to triumph over. Personality is ultimately destroyed by sex. Is it good to lose yourself in another person? How can a human be a god-like thing to everything else? We expect perfection from our loved ones, but sometimes they disappoint. We feel diminished by their weaknesses. We elevate our love partner to God status because we want redemption. We need to admit our creatureliness and helplessness. Having guilt free sex might not be good too. It is defeating to want too little from your partner. Cosmic heroism must transcend human relationships. However, doing so might affect one’s quality of life and one’s individuality. Most people live based on societal norms. Women often get married, but are not happy because she sacrifices her individual personality. However, there is an aspect of self-surrender in it too. The problem with individuation is that one separates from the herd. This is the creative guy. The creative person must fashion his own idea of existence. His work is his form of ‘heroism’. However, how can one justify his own heroism? No one has a right to play God. However, the artist knows that how he is judged by others still matters and still needs to obtain meaning from outside. No matter how great his work is, he knows he pales in comparison to the transcending majesty of nature. The only way out of this is that one has to give one’s life as a gift to the powers out there. Your creative work on its own cannot provide a source of salvation. Rank wanted man to live beyond the limits set for himself. One should reach for religion. Rank thought that Man needed a religious ideology.

The idea of himself as a special cosmic hero with special gifts for the Universe. He doesn’t want to be a mere fornicating animal like any other – this is not a truly human meaning, a truly distinctive contribution to world life. – Ernest Becker

The Present Outcome of Psychoanalysis. Rank wrote about neurosis. It sums out the problems of human life. Freud could reduce insights to a few fundamental theories. The first aspect of neurosis is the trouble of the truth of existence. Everyone has their own stylistic reaction to life. It is also historical in nature. As a human, to protect ourselves, we have to shut off outside experience. This is known was ‘partialization’. Men are built more like creatures than Gods. Men thinks about the small problems instead of the big ones like life and death. Hence, men sort of refuses reality, or the ‘refusal of reality’. When the world is too much for people, neurosis sets in. Neurosis is universal in nature. Some people make their loved one their all. His ‘safe’ environment has failed him. Guilt often results due to an unused life. This is when we have potential, but failed to live according to our potential. Do not narrow-down the world too much. Some people get stuck in the narrowness. If you feel vulnerable, it is because you are not big enough to face the fears of the Universe. Some people’s fears are hysterical and have no explanation. However, they don’t know what the problem is. In order to avoid death, the person narrows down on his world. This results in isolation. Another type of neurosis, is when a person has too vivid imagination. This is a total problem. If you cannot narrow down the world, the world might seem too confusing. Some individuals cannot separate and some cannot unite. One needs to find a balance between the two. One reason for such behaviour is when one has poor social skills. When this happens, you will feel your life is a total problem. This person withdraws from the world and becomes a narcissist. A neurotic lives symbolically, not biologically. The artist is the most neurotic of all. Everyone is neurotic to some extent. The artist is better than the neurotic because he can produce works that represent his symbolic view of the world. Some level of objective creativity is a must. The neurotic tends to criticize himself too much. The artist glorifies himself because he has the talent to do so. Talent is circumstantial. The author can understand why people like to work hard at their jobs as the alternative to that is natural desperation and madness. What can keep Man from going mad? In reality, people have all sorts of personalities. Is the average man one to be emulated? It seems like our Creator has no grand plans for Mankind. People are living an illusion. On what level of illusion does one live? Man needs a new reality. Cultural heroism is important for men. Cultural play tends to vary with society and history. Men needs other acts to find heroism and not just simply raising kids. He needs revolutions and wars. Modern man is left to his own resources. He has to justify himself. Science still can’t explain the soul. To Rank, psychology was a negative sort of ideology. Psychology tries to identify what’s wrong with a person when he is unhappy. However, sometimes the cause of happiness is because of one’s relationship with the world. Hence, psychology has limited understanding of humans. Psychology tends to focus on circumstantial guilt. Psychologists in the modern age now represent the new God. The Merger of Sin and Neurosis. Both Kierkegaard and Rank reached similar conclusions on psychoanalysis. They both had the ‘theology’ world-view. Man must translate his meaningfulness on a larger level. However, justifying your own heroism is bound to fail. Neurosis is a strive for self-achieved immortality. The cure for neurosis is to change your world-view. One needs to plunge into world experiences and then try to attain meaning from it. To Goethe, men didn’t know what proper experiences were. Religion needs to be supported by external and compelling activities, not just a belief in God. What is the best foolishness to live under? The best one is the one that provides the most dignity and freedom. Religion removes our responsibilities. We can make free decisions. We can rely on powers that support and do not oppose us. Religion also allows one to explore their individual heroic personality. Also, it gives hope because it is largely unknown. It relieves the absurdity of earthly life. To Rank, Christianity ranks as an ideal. Is there a cost for failure to reach transcendence? Can an individual affirm and accept himself from himself? A creative person is too full of himself and of the world. One needs to ask important questions like what world view? What powers? For what heroism?

Generally speaking, we call neurotic any life style that beings to constrict too much, that prevents free forward momentum, new choices, and growth that a person may want and need. – Ernest Becker

To live is to engage in experience at least partly on the terms of the experience itself. One has to stick his neck out in the action without any guarantees about satisfaction or safety. – Ernest Becker

In sin and neurosis man fetishizes himself on something narrow at hand and pretends that the whole meaning and miraculousness of creation is limited to that, that he can get his beatification from that. – Ernest Becker

A General View of Mental Illness. Humans fear isolated forms of human existence. Mental illness is very complex and varied. I will try to simplify the concepts for the layman. Is there even a general theory of mental illness? Mental illness is essentially denial of creatureliness. People who have depression are afraid of life. Fear of life leads to excessive fear of death. Depressed people fear to move and do anything. Do not live simply to meet the demands of others. Men do not have the power to rely on. People hunger for immortality in their own small family circle. Transference is the use of an object for self-perpetuation. If you cannot fight or flee from your problems, you will enter a state of depression. People who are depressed want others to care for him and take care of him. There is a sense of guilt in this. Failure to have a useful social role can lead to depression. Menopause reawakens the horrors of our body. Nature is the real ‘castrator’. Once both the bodily and the cultural projects fail, one is a failure. Some form of heroism is needed. One cannot simply rely on object-embeddedness. One has to be a hero in some way. Schizophrenia is another sort of mental illness. He is a realist. He fears life and its demands and lives in mistrust of himself. We have a good theory of what schizophrenia is about. The symbolic and bodily self are completely disintegrated. He is not securely rooted in his body. As a result, he needs to hyper-magnify his world to achieve transcendence. Hence, he seems very contrived. He is open to his own anxieties. His body, to him, is a mass of stench and decay and will betray him. A normal person will use his body with confidence. He doesn’t have an ego response. Perversions are not marginal. Freud was interested in studying about perversions. To him, the fetish is a substitute of a woman. Man can find dualism strange and cannot accept impermanence of the body. Children are shamed of their bodies when they soil themselves. Death and decay are themes of obsession. Children are indeed bothered by their bodies. This is especially so if he has seen traumatic things. Their kids will grow up weaker in their body confidence. Low-esteem is a serious problem too. Wanting to sexualize is an expression of individualism. This also explains fetishism. Our body is standard, but the self is personalized. How can one reconcile this? Perversions are in essence a striving for freedom. Freud thought that the fetish object represented the mother’s ‘penis’. People with fetishism treat their bodies with a halo, like a personal thing. Some people have fetishes with shoes. Feet are ugly while shoes are beautiful. Fetishes can be charms too. Clothing has massive impact on people. Perversions are a form of private religion. Sadism and masochism might seem natural. When you rape someone, you show you can manipulate and dominate another person. It provides intensity in the place of emptiness. Masochism is a way of taking pain and transmuting them into pleasure. Rank thought that Mankind could not get rid of thoughts of masochism and sadism. Mental illness are seen as failed heroics. They all have the power of courage.

All living organisms are condemned to perversity, to the narrowness of being mere fragments of a larger totality that overwhelms them, which they cannot understand or truly cope with – yet must still live and struggle in. – Ernest Becker

The more you shrink back from the difficulties and the darings of life, the more you naturally come to feel inept, the lower is your self-evaluation. It is ineluctable. – Ernest Becker

One must pay with life and consent daily to die, to give oneself up to the risks and dangers of the world, allow oneself to be engulfed and used up. Otherwise, one ends up as though dead in trying to avoid life and death. – Ernest Becker

If you can’t be a hero within a communal ideology, then you must be a nagging, whining failure in your family. – Ernest Becker

The body is definitely the hurdle for man, the decaying drag of the species on the inner freedom and purity of his self. – Ernest Becker

Retrospect and Conclusion: The Dilemmas of Heroism

Psychology and Religion: What is the Heroic Individual? We tend to follow other person’s ideas. We find idols in our lives. We try to convert our people to our idea. The artist tries to create his meaning and he must be sustained by them. Kierkegaard thought man had to live in faith and give meaning of life to his Creator. This is the knight of faith. One needs to find what is needed to live. Man cannot get rid of his nature. The enemy is repression, the denial of death. Men sets limits for himself because this a truly human existence. Therefore, our culture or superego sets such limits. Even if you can postpone death, people might still fear dying prematurely. What kind of Gods would people in a Utopia worship? There are certainly limits to psychotherapy. One cannot have it all his own way. One must draw back in some areas and pay the penalty in some form or another. Psychotherapy does have its uses. Psychology is useless, because it helps to cure weaknesses, but it does not promise immortality. Hence, that is why psychotherapy does have use. Psychology is not a new belief system. The author believes that the fusion of psychology and religion is logical. There are also limits to human nature. There is no way to transcend the human condition. Social movements are mere fancy. Is therapeutic revolution a viable concept? Utopian societies tend to deaden human sensitivity and deny humans of heroism. There are a lot of things about creation and life which we do not understand. All we can do is speak to the life force.

A creature who takes more of the world into himself and develops new forms of courage and endurance. – Ernest Becker

Whatever man does on this planet has to be done in the lived truth of the terror of creation, of the grotesque, of the rumble of panic underneath everything. Otherwise it is false. – Ernest Becker

Whatever is achieved must be achieved from within the subjective energies of creatures, without deadening, with the full exercise of passion, of vision, of pain, of fear, and of sorrow. – Ernest Becker


The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker (Part 1)

Foreword. The book was first published in 1973. I interviewed him when he was dying from cancer. That moment helped to shape my views on death. Contemplation of our inevitable death adds sweetness to mortality. Another famous book of his is ‘Escape from Evil’. Human beings have a need to control basic anxiety, to deny the terror of death. Some people thought death was a taboo topic. Most people conspire to keep death unconscious. Society provides the hero system which people think can help transcend death. Some people do things because they want to have achieved something that is long-lasting. However, they might not particularly like doing such things. Humans conflict over religions etc and heroism causes much conflicts. To what extent should one pursue heroism? Mankind can hope that people channel their hatred into world problems like poverty etc. The true hero is aware of his mortality and can see impotence and vulnerability. He rejects mass culture and opts for cosmic heroism. Who knows what the future of Mankind will be? Through this book, we learn the relationship between the denial of death and the dominion of evil.

This is the terror of death: to have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consciousness of self, deep inner feelings, an excruciating inner yearning for life and self-expression – and with all this yet to die. – Ernest Becker

Preface. The fear of death haunts humans. People deny that it is the final destiny for man. Some primates celebrate death as it is an elevation to a higher form of life. The dear of death is the human condition. Humans are no closer to the truth than centuries ago. Why is so much overproduction in society nowadays? People like to overproduce but the major issues of the world remain unsolved. The world needs more love, less strife. The problem with modern writers is that there is too much exaggeration. This is my first mature work. The book contains values by philosophers like Kierkegaard, Freud and Otto Rank. Rank’s works were brilliant. His thoughts spanned several fields of knowledge. His books were difficult to read so I have ‘translated’ some of his ideas here. Freud and Rank were close friends. Rank knew his work really well. I will mention more on Rank rather than Jung because Jung was already widely covered by other writers.

Introduction: Human Nature and the Heroic. We know the importance of heroism, but it somehow got neglected along the way. People here thought that the main purpose of man was the heroic. People are narcissistic after all. We are absorbed with ourselves. No one cares about the man next to him. Narcissism is closely associated with self-esteem and self-worth. Man needs to feel comfortable in his self-esteem. Humans need to feel themselves as objects of primary value. Humans are naturally competitive creatures. It is therefore natural for man to want to be a hero. However, all these have no cosmic significance. This is the way society is. Society is a vehicle for heroism. This is the idea of cultural heroism. Are you conscious of what you are doing to earn feeling of heroism? Some men will sacrifice themselves to the good of society. However, the younger generation does not believe in that kind of sacrifice. They see the horrors of society, like wars etc. Some youth scorn religion. Religion needs to work harder to convert these youth on their side. Even the whole society is like a ‘religion’ in some way. It is time for Man to ask the deep questions.

In our culture anyway, especially in modern times, the heroic seems too big for us, or we too small for it. Tell a young man that he is entitled to be a hero and he will blush. We disguise our struggle by piling up figures in a bank book to reflect privately our sense of heroic worth. – Ernest Becker

They earn this feeling by carving out a place in nature, by building an edifice that reflects human value: a temple, a cathedral, a totem pole, a skyscraper, a family that spans three generations. – Ernest Becker

Part 1: The Depth Psychology of Heroism

The Terror of Death. Freud believed in thinking about death once in a while. Death is something that moves man. It was a psychological problem. Heroism was a reflection for the terror of death. Many ancient myths believe in reincarnation or life after death. There is a lot of work on death already. For a young child, he is not aware of what death is. Sometimes, they only realize what death is when they are 9 or 10. A young child is fully dependent on his parents. People with bad experiences might fear death more. Another school of thought is ‘morbidly minded’. This means that the fear of death is in everyone, whether you were brought up well or not. It is not possible to decide whether the fear of death is a basic anxiety. The author believes with this ‘morbidly minded’ school of thought. No one is free of the fear of death. Even William James thought the same. The fact that we strive for self-preservation means that we fear death. However, the fear is more unconscious than conscious. For most people who enjoy living, their fear of death is repressed. A child has to rely on his parents. Animals are not immune to chaos too. Gradually, a child will be exposed to the cruelty of life. Death is a complex symbol, which different societies and cultures will view differently. How does kids with childhood nightmares go on to lead optimistic lives? Humans are very good at repressing our fears. Repression is a scientific concept. It is through striving that fears get absorbed in. As you expand on life and seek better experiences, the fear of death must get ignored. A strong family upbringing amounts to inner sustainment. Men tends to follow what society expects of him and doesn’t question too much. All he needs is to go with the flow and just live. It is when you have undergone a bad experience that the fear of death emerges in pure essence. There are many ways to repress death, of which religion is one way. There are different angles where one can examine the fear of death. Is it even good to be fully aware of your mortality?

Gregory Zilboorg says that most people think death fear is absent because it rarely shows its true face; but he argues that underneath all appearances fear of death is universally present. – Ernest Becker

I don’t believe that the complex symbol of death is ever absent, no matter how much vitality and inner sustainment a person has. – Ernest Becker

The Recasting of Some Basic Psychoanalytic Ideas. We know analyze psychoanalytic theories. Does man have an essence? Can it be found? Man has a paradoxical nature as he is half animal and half symbolic. However, men is like food for worms and is made of flesh. This is a complex dilemma. However, animals are simply driven by their instincts. They live in a world without time. Animals do not think of death. Everything men does is try to deny his grotesque fate. The child cannot understand this dualism too. However, the kid sometimes might soil himself and realize that his body is not all rosy and almighty. The body and the self cannot be reconciled easily. Men tries to deny his true condition. Anality is the problem of man’s dualism between his self and body. A kid might play with his feces, but later realize it’s part of his bodily functions. Men sit only on their arse. Having bodily functions also indicate decay and death. Men like to think that they are not an animal. He doesn’t like to have his body take control over him. Our creativity in life is basically a denial of the truth of the human condition. Freud believed in the Oedipus complex. Freud thought of human motives in ‘primitive’ ways. He believed that many people had sexual tendencies since young. Childhood is indeed a crucial period for man. The Oedipus project is about the conflict between narcissism and ambivalence. When the child is very young, he can cry and get what he wants. After that, he enters the ‘anal’ stage, where he seeks to control his body and master it. The child later believes that he can shape his own life. Later on, Freud developed the ‘castration complex’. Eventually, the child must get free of the mother and become independent. Soon, the child sees her as a threat. He realizes that the female model is different from male and is shocked. The female body seems alien to him and the child is helpless. He realizes that she is vulnerable. He realizes that one could have been born anything, and of any sex. It is purely a matter of chance. One has to take on the burden of one’s meaning of life and body. Sexuality is a universal problem. The body is always casting a shadow over your personal freedom. When the child witnesses sexual intercourse between his parents, he couldn’t take it anymore. He couldn’t take part in it. As a result, he feels betrayed. Sex is so widely practiced, but it can disillusioning too. Sex is also a private thing, and in some ways an escape from society. People need to take part in social projects to achieve meaning.

He is a creator with a mind that soars out to speculate about atoms and infinity, who can place himself imaginatively at a point in space and contemplate bemusedly his own planet. This immense expansion, this dexterity, this ethereality, this self-consciousness gives to man literally the status of a small god. – Ernest Becker

Human Character as a Vital Lie. Humans use fantasy as a lie, to distract themselves from reality. Why are so few people truly courageous? Why is man so cowardly? Is it because he is an animal. Are we indebted to society? Maslow termed the fact that people dream to be great, but don’t do it, a term called ‘Jonah Syndrome’. This is because we know we are a weak organism, so have to cut back on the full intensity of life. These are defenses against grandiosity. For most adults, we have closed off our idea of miracles of creation. We live in a miraculous and incomprehensible world. Animals work based on instincts. Men cannot take his own body for granted. His memories and dreams might be foreign to him. We are simply, gods with anuses. Freud studied about human limitation and the formation of character. According to him, Man fears knowledge of oneself. We engage in repression if we fear something that could make us seem inferior or weak. We have to repress our smallness in this world. We must repress the primary awesomeness of the external world. Humans have two fears which are distinct from animals: the fear of life and the fear of death. Man wants to stay safe and not end up in danger because he understands the fragility of life. A child does not know what it is like to possess great power. A child has to learn to build up defenses. He has to generate a unique identity. We live securely and serenely. These defenses form an illusion. Anxiety is the spur of energetic activity. We get into relationships for security, however, we have to maintain them and then to further the lie. We never really live a life that is truly ours. We need to expose the fourth level, which is the fear of death in order to live authentically. This is the psychologic rebirth. One should always live with humility. What does it mean to live with ‘full humanness’? It means full fear and trembling, at least some of the waking day. Maslow talks about self-actualization. Freud had a theory that humans had innate instincts. Post-freudian theory believed that a child was malleable and instinct free. It was the environment that shaped his development more. The child had to think of defenses in the world. Life can seem overwhelming at times. A person’s character is a defense against despair. The child’s perceptions of the world are new and fresh. The world seemed all beautiful.

He doesn’t know who he is, why he was born, what he is doing on the planet, what he is supposed to do, what he can expect. His own existence is incomprehensible to him, a miracle just like the rest of creation… – Ernest Becker

It can be the power of an all-absorbing activity, a passion, a dedication to a game, a way of life, that like a comfortable web keeps a person buoyed up and ignorant of himself, of the fact that he does not rest on his center. – Ernest Becker

No matter what men pretend, they are only one accidental bite away from utter fallibility. – Ernest Becker

The irony of man’s condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive. – Ernest Becker

The Psychoanalyst Kierkegaard. Psychiatric and religious perspectives are closely linked. They cannot be separated easily. Kierkegaard wrote outstanding analyses of the human mind. It is because of his ambiguity that causes him to be in dread. Man cannot suddenly be an animal. Death is man’s peculiar and greatest anxiety. Man tries to avoid anxiety. How does Man lie about himself? He mentioned Man blocked off reality and lived in half-obscurity. It is similar to the term ‘repression’ of modern day. It is important to let the child fend on his own. Although upbringing is important, at some stage, it is important to let the child wander on their own. One should always seek new possibilities and choices. He described character shut-offs as men living inauthentic lives. They simply follow automatic and uncritical living. They do not belong to anyone. Men who do not think for themselves. This is the guy who imitates others. The ‘immediate’ man does not recognize himself and needs external validation. This is the guy enslaved by culture. Men chooses to live that way because of the danger of a full horizon of experience. Freedom can be dangerous. The problem of life is too much possibility. The split of the body and the self is known as schizophrenia. However, it is important to acknowledge one’s limits. The idea of consummate health is not easy to attain. Depressive psychosis is where there too much limitation placed and not enough freedom of the inner self. This happens when an individual is bogged down by daily life. Some men live a ‘safe’ live. The extreme case of this is depressive psychosis, where a man feels literally stupid. In this case, everything becomes necessary and yet seem trivial. The depressed person feels these people are his shelter. He embeds himself in others. Both excessive and too little possibility of life are bad. One has to live safely within the probabilities of a given set of social rules. Some men try to make use of their special talents to benefit mankind. However, after a while, we get tied down by other commitments. This is better an immediate man. He does want his uniqueness to result in confrontation. The last type of man is the self-created man, the man who is the master of his own fate. He will plunge into life. This could seem demonic. He immerses in the body and experiences. Kierkegaard understood the dangers of lying to oneself. What would life be like if one did not lie? What is the true possibility of man? He didn’t like the ‘normal cultural man’. The real man is one who has ‘transcended’ himself. How does one open up to new possibilities? To him, the enemy was the Oedipus complex. The childhood defenses you built since young become your life-long trap. He must know how to throw off ‘cultural lendings’. One should not live automatically. One needs to realize the truth of one’s condition and recognize one’s creatureliness. The flood of anxiety is the educator. By understanding dread may happen every moment, one will lead to interpret reality differently. One needs to face up to his natural impotence and death. The self must be broken in order to become a self. One has to feel lost and accept it and then one can begin to find himself. The self must be destroyed for self-transcendence to begin. The child relies on power linkages, which have to be broken. This leads to faith. However, does one yearn for cosmic heroism? Kierkegaard believed in the merger of psychology and religion. The brink of oblivion can seem like the brink of infinity. One can use anxiety as an eternal spring for growth into new dimensions of thought and trust.

The whole order of things fills me with a sense of anguish, from the gnat to the mysteries of incarnation; all is entirely unintelligible to me, and particularly my own person. Great is my sorrow, without limits. None knows of it, except God in Heaven, and He cannot have pity. – Soren Kierkegaard

If a man were a beast or an angel, he would not be able to be in dread. Since he is a synthesis he can be in dread…man himself produces dread. – Ernest Becker

For the self is a synthesis in which the finite is the limiting factor, and the infinite is the expanding factor. Infinitude’s despair is therefore the fantastical, the limitless. – Ernest Becker

In such a bogging down, the individual does not feel or see that he has alternatives, cannot imagine any choices or alternate ways of life, cannot release himself from the network of obligations even though these obligations no longer give him a sense of self-esteem, of primary value, of being a heroic contributor to world life even by doing his daily family and job duties. – Ernest Becker

By seeing the multitude of men about it, by getting engaged in all sorts of worldly affairs, by becoming wise about how things go in this world, such a man forgets himself… does not dare to believe in himself, finds it too venturesome a thing to be himself, far easier and safer to be like the others, to become an imitation, a number, a cipher in the crowd. – Soren Kierkegaard

One chooses slavery because it is safe and meaningful; then one loses the meaning of it, but fears to move out of it. One has literally died to life but must remain physically in this world. – Ernest Becker

It would be so nice to be the self he wants to be, to realize his vocation, his authentic talent, but it is dangerous, it might upset his world completely. – Ernest Becker

One goes through it all to arrive at faith, the faith that one’s very creatureliness has some meaning to a Creator; that despite one’s true insignificance, weakness, death, one’s existence has meaning in some ultimate sense because it exists within an eternal and infinite scheme of things brought about and maintained to some kind of design by some creative force. – Kierkegaard

The Problem of Freud’s Character, Noch Einmal. Freud tried to understand faith and deepen his understanding of man. Freud spoke a truth where nobody wanted to here. He recognized man’s creatureliness. He didn’t have high opinions of religion. To him, creatureliness was instinctive behavior. Freud had bias to his sexual theory. Carl Jung didn’t agree with Freud. Freud thought that religion was repressed sexuality. Apparently, Freud was very proud of his sexual theory. Jung thought it was not proven and had no basis. Freud thought occultism was self-deluding and self-inflating. Now, we know that the sexual theory proved to be wrong. Man did not just seek sexuality, but only had a fear of death which caused repression. The issue with Freud was that he didn’t leave his sexual dogma. He never really became an existentialist. He thought men had a death instinct and overcame it by killing. Freud thought that man carried death with him unconsciously as part of his biology. He changed the ‘death problem’ to the ‘death instinct’. Freud had many health problems and hated dissent. He was cynical towards those who opposed him. Freud seemed to be narcissistic. Many people thought of Freud to have a strong character. Freud was certainly not the immediate man. To him, death was an intimate problem. He played with the date of his death all his life. He wasn’t afraid of dying, but the grief it might cause his parents after he passed on. Sometimes, he suffered panic attacks. Freud reacted to death via panic attacks and also heroic resignation. He didn’t want to disappear into oblivion. Freud tried his best to submit to others around him. He was ambivalent towards supernaturalism. He believed in some superstitions, but failed to let that affect his main character. He didn’t want to yield because that would let one’s guard down. His psychoanalytic movement was his vehicle for heroism. The problem with being a genius is that he needs his work to justify him. Freud wanted Jung to carry on psychoanalysis. Jung was Freud’s son and when Jung rejected him, it was like the father-murder complex. Jung admitted Freud was a good teacher, but he had a mind of his own. Freud hated when Jung triumphed over him. This was the guilt of victory. Freud was largely disappointed by his father. Freud wished that his younger brother would die and he eventually did. This left a lot of guilt inside him. Jung hated feelings of helplessness. Do you abandon the causa-sui project, the attempt to be father of oneself? Freud saw the man who didn’t need sexual need and activity as having a higher aspiration as compared to a common man. Human beings are fragile and ephemeral. How far does life has to secure heroic meaning? The Enlightment’s view is that immorality means being loved by many anonymous people. Freud tried to destroy some of the letters he wrote. To Freud, psychoanalysis was his form of religion. Freud didn’t need to have intellectual dependence or spiritual dependence. Freud was obsessed about his sex talk and didn’t seem to know how to stop. However, he was still a great man. Freud refused to move from his instinct theory to the blanket idea of a death fear. He never wanted to move from scientific creatureliness to religious creatureliness.

The death fear of the ego is lessened by the killing, the sacrifice, of the other; through the death of the other, one buys oneself free from the penalty of dying, of being killed. – Otto Rank

It was Freud who discovered the idea of being “wrecked by success”: that when a person achieves the truly superlative, it is often felt as an intolerable burden because it means that he has won out in competition with the father, having excelled him. – Ernest Becker


Comforting Thoughts About Death that have Nothing to do with God by Greta Christina

Death can seem appalling if you don’t believe in an after-life. In 500 years, no one will remember you. In 5 billion years, the Earth will be boiled. It can make life seem trivial and absurd. But it is certainly possible to not have religious or spiritual beliefs or be an atheist and still be okay towards death. Death allows our life to have meaning. Time passes and we are aware of it passing. With the passing of time comes loss. Without loss, we won’t get to fully experience life’s great moments. The world changes due to the passing of time and I don’t think anyone would want the Earth to be still and captured in one frozen moment. Even though you might pass on, but time still had a part to play during the years you were alive. Your segment on that timeline would have always been there. Dying does not make your time which you were on Earth disappear. We don’t know what happens when we die. However, what matters is we get to be alive and connected.

The fact that time will continue after we die does not negate the time that we were alive. We are alive now, and nothing can erase that. – Greta Christina

The Meaning of Death, Part 1 of Many. For atheist, there isn’t a meaning of death. It simply happens because it happens. This is nothing depressing. As an atheist, you get to create your own meaning in life. How can death shape your experience of life? I see death as something that connects me with the universe. You don’t have to feel guilty when someone else passes away. No one tortured them. Death is just part of the way the world works. The world can seem bleak and cold at times. However, we are part of this world.

You don’t have to torture yourself trying to figure out the motivations of the physical universe. It doesn’t have any. So you can accept the inevitability of death, and get on with your life. – Greta Christina

Motivation and Mid-Life Crises. I went through a mid-life crisis at 40. I realized that time was short. I was aware that I needed to work hard and start writing. Now, I do freelance writing. When you are older, your priorities become clearer. You know that you have to make sacrifices with these priorities. I am a deadline-driven person. Since death is inevitable, might as well use it to give your life meaning. Death has given me clarity on my life. Death is not so bad after all.

Fear, Grief and Actually Experiencing Your Emotions. Go through with it. Death is natural and you didn’t deny it. The fear of death is natural. Sometimes, the best way to deal with strong emotions is to avoid fixing them but just try to feel them. Things don’t have to be permanent to be meaningful. To some, they think that death is no different from not having being born yet. You can create your own meaning in life. We can give companionship and witness to others. It can be incredibly comforting. This is someone who can be by your side when you need them. It is okay to think about death once in a while. It is just human to do so.

The idea that death is a deadline: that knowing life is temporary brings focus to our lives, inspires us to treasure the people and experiences we encounter, and motivates us to do something valuable with the short time we have. – Greta Christina

Lydia’s Cancer and Atheist Philosophies of Death. How can atheist philosophies improve life? Our cat has cancer. What sort of treatment should the cat receive? These are all small and difficult decisions. All animals will eventually die. What you can do is to make the cat as it can possibly be when it is still alive. There are no simple decisions which can be made. Research has shown that those who have religions will try to delay death when it’s clearly imminent. Religion pretends that death is not permanent. For atheists, we believe that when people die, they are fucking dead forever. Ensure that you have time to think about your death. Learn to make informed decisions.

We understand that our own time here is limited. We understand that all we can do for ourselves and for one another is to make that time – however much time it is – as happy and joyful and meaningful as we possibly can. – Greta Christina

Do We Concede the Ground of Death Too Easily? Many of us assume that an having an after-life is favourable. The fear of death cause people to cling to religion. Do you really in a heaven where everyone can live happily ever after? Conflict helps to strengthen us and build our character. What will happen who those make it to Heaven? How will you feel if your loved ones are in Hell? Would our personalities change in Heaven because it is too blissful? Secular views of death are better because they can withstand scrutiny. Your understanding of death should be grounded in reality. We don’t have to be afraid of talking about death. You don’t have to continue living a lie.

Difference between Pessimism and Realism. Atheism can coffer comfort in the face of death. Comfort doesn’t mean eradication of pain and grief. It doesn’t make the grief disappear, but it can lighten the load. Religion doesn’t eradicate grief. Even people who believe in an afterlife might doubt their beliefs. The problem with believing in an afterlife is that what if you go to heaven but your loved ones go to hell? Belief in an afterlife is also not based on any strong groundings. Atheism doesn’t leave you with cognitive dissonance. One’s perspective towards death is truly personal and there is no right or wrong. One should try to frame it such that it is positive and hopeful and meaningful. You should frame reality in a way that offers meaning and hope. Atheism is a safe thing to practice in real life. One can always find new forms of comfort and meaning with atheism.

Grief Beyond Belief: How Atheists are Dealing with Death. There is an online support group called ‘Grief Beyond Belief’. Community groups like this are useful and help give strength. Many non-believers pretend to accept the concepts of the afterlife etc. Religious beliefs about death can make atheists feel alienated sometimes as well. The concept of an afterlife is not shared by everyone. Usually, a death of a close one is often a trigger for questioning or abandoning religious faith. Sometimes, religious people hijack the funeral proceedings and make it seem religious in nature. Sometimes, they do so and are not aware of it. In some cultures, ‘atheism’ might seem invisible. Many people fault atheism for being inferior to religion because it sees death as the ultimate end. The atheism community is certainly growing in numbers.

We point out that a philosophy that accepts reality is inherently more comforting than a philosophy based on wishful thinking – since it doesn’t involve cognitive dissonance and the unease of self-deception. – Greta Christina

Atheists in Foxholes. People suggest that in near moments of death, people will turn to religion. This is untrue. There are many atheists who have had near death experiences but who are still atheists. When people want to believe something, they tend to exclude or dismiss all contradictory evidence. Hence, this is a poor argument. Some spiteful religious people might say that atheists are immoral or that they don’t have meaning in their lives.

Atheism and the Argument from Comfort. Religion doesn’t universally offer comfort. Religion might expose young children with images of Hell. Some people who give up religion feel that a burden has been lifted from there. Atheists see the world as it is and understand that it operates based on physical laws. Death is simply a problem that has to be faced.

Humanism in a Shitstorm. I want to work with other humanists and learn about tiehr trials and tribulations. I had cancer, but thankfully, it was treatable. However, I didn’t turn to religion. Humanism has been a profound comfort for me. I understood that things happen because of natural causes. We have little control over what happens to us. I have the power to learn from my experiences. Being able to be born is a miracle already.

There’s no way I’m going to be the same person after this shitstorm than I was before it. But I get to decide what lessons I learn from it. I get to infuse it with meaning. And that’s the power I have. – Greta Christina


Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami (Part 2)

Dabchick. I was at the bottom of the stairway. It was just a corridor. The hallway was completely silent. I kept walking but realized I was in a T shaped intersection. I received a map and followed it, but there was no door. I was lost. My life was poor and I hated it and wanted a decent job. Finally I found a door. No one responded to my knock. A man appeared after he had a bath. I would be starting work here. There was a password which I didn’t know and he wouldn’t let me in. He didn’t seem to trust me. I asked for a hint and he said the password has something to do with water and can fit in your hand, but you can’t eat it. I had three tries. There were 8 letters. I mentioned dabchick. It was a waterbird but he mentioned that it was possible to eat it. He mentioned that it was the wrong word. I told him there was no such 8 letter word that met his criteria. He wanted me to show him dogs that would not eat dabchicks. I convinced that the bird was horrible in taste. I realized I tricked him as I haven’t seen dabchicks before. The dabchick was sick of life and wanted to kill himself. He was the boss of the company. He mentioned that I was 15 minutes late.

Man-Eating Cats. A 70 year old woman had been eaten by cats. Her body was discovered only a week later. I told this story to Izumi. She loved my voice and when I read aloud to her. She wanted to know what happened to the cats but the article didn’t say. Izumi liked to smoke. I wanted to turn the cats to vegetarians. She told me a story about being shipwrecked on an island with a cat. Would you want to share your food with the cat? Or would you eat it? We were staying on a Greek island. I had a wife and a 4 year old son. My work was ok, although I didn’t enjoy it. I met Izumi at work and she clicked right away. We had a lot in common. We were both married. Time flew by when we met. We also made love with one another. We were convinced that we could have this relationship and not get into trouble. Izumi’s husband found out about our affair. My wife demanded an explanation and was deeply upset. She moved out of my house with my son. I explained that it was a special relationship but she didn’t buy it. Izumi’s husband left her too. She wanted to go to Greece and I agreed to go. I resigned from work as we were planning a long trip. The island was boring and we didn’t have friends. She studied Greek. We kept walking around. I started to paint in my free time. She didn’t want to go back to Japan again. When I was young, a cat disappeared from me in a weird way. Cats often get over-excited over something and disappear in weird ways. I missed my child at times. Everything seemed a distant memory. Suddenly, I couldn’t find Izumi. I was desperate and tried to look for her. When I walked outside, I heard music. Suddenly, I felt myself disappearing, like stepping in quicksand. I was desperately worried and felt like a puppet. I dreamed of her voice. Dark thoughts flashed in my head. The music stopped playing. The moonlight had made Izumi and cats disappear. How could I go on living without her? I pictured the cats devouring the real me.

Newspapers are all the same, no matter where you go. They never tell you want you really want to know. – Izumi

Then, suddenly, I pictured those cats, starving to death in a locked apartment. I – the real me – was dead, and they were alive, eating my flesh, biting into my heart, sucking my blood, devouring my penis….The tips of their rough tongues licked the soft folds of my mind. And with each lick my consciousness flickered like a flame and faded away. – Narrator

Nausea 1979. He vomited from June 4, 1979 to July 14, 1979. He was a young illustrator. We both liked jazz and he liked to sleep with friends’ girlfriends and wives. This turned him on. It was just sex to him. He didn’t want to expose what he did. He claims women look forward to sleeping with him. He claims women want someone to be interested in them. One day, he told me that he just threw up 40 days straight, without any reason. On June 3rd, he drank and slept with a friend’s partner. He seemed okay after that. Although he vomited, he still felt okay after that. He laid off alcohol for a while. Someone called him every day and it seemed to coincide with his period of vomiting. Every day, the guy will say my friends’ name and then hang up. Everything he ate, he ended up throwing up. The doctors could find out what was wrong with him. After a while, he took off from work and changed his habits. It seemed to be getting better, but that night, he vomited again. He usually puked only after the call. Now, he thought that he was imagining picking up the phone and imagining hearing his voice over the phone. He felt that he had schizophrenia. The police were not concerned with prank calls too. Even when he visited my friend’s house, he received the same call too. Then, he recollected that for most of the day, he was alone. He decided to fight back to change his life. He didn’t want to install an answering machine as it would feel like running away from the problem. He decided to drink again, since he knew that he would throw up anyway after that. Interestingly, he also got new clothes to fit his new body, since he lost more weight. On July 14, things just stopped all of a sudden. During the last call, he said my friend’s name and asked ‘Do you know who I am?’, before hanging up. However, my friend didn’t find that voice familiar. Could his feelings of guilt taken the form of nausea? I encouraged him to learn from the experience, in case it might happen again.

The 7th Man. A huge wave nearly swept him away when he was 10 years ago. There was a group of people telling a story each. The wave was the most powerful ever. No one knew much about this man. He had a friend called K and his father was a doctor. He was very close to his friend K, who was very frail. He took good care of him. However, K was great at painting and drawing seascapes. Back then, before the typhoon, everyone started preparing for it. We were advised not to leave the house. The wind was uprooting things. Suddenly, everything felt silent and I realized I was in the eye of the storm. I wanted to explore outside and dad allowed. I walked to the beach and everything was destroyed. K followed me too. The waves seemed hushed at that moment. The waves started receding, nothing like I have seen before. Something seemed ominous. I sensed trouble and fled. However, K didn’t hear me. K missed the earth-shaking sound as well before the wave. However, he heard my shouting too late. The wave was at 3 story tall and the wave swallowed him. K and his dog disappeared. Thankfully, I hid behind the brickwall even after numerous strong waves hit the shore. I seemed to see K appear in the crest of the next wave, which lost power miraculously when it hit the shore. It was no illusion. K was smiling at me and his arm was outstretched, wanting to grab me. The next moment, I found myself in hospital and my dad said I was asleep for 3 days. No one found K or the dog again. K’s parents never blamed me. I was pained with guilt knowing that I could have saved him. I was in a state of emotional shock and didn’t go to school for weeks. I had another dream where I am swimming and someone grabbed my ankle and K’s face appeared. I wanted to move to another town and my parents granted me that wish. After leaving town, things were better. Sometimes, I still get nightmares. I have a phobia of water now. Last spring, I visited the same beach again. I also re-examined his pictures on landscapes. Everything was coming back to me with intensity. I started studying his paintings. I realized that he might not have hated me, but wanted me to join him in another world. My old town was now an industrial city. Everything seemed different now. The beach seemed the same and was peaceful. Probably no one could remember the tragic typhoon 40 years ago. Now, the deep darkness in me vanished. I achieved a form of salvation which I am very grateful for.

Fear comes to us in many different forms, at different times, and overwhelms us. But the most frightening thing we can do at such times is to turn our backs on it, to close our eyes. For then we take the most precious thing inside us and surrender it to something else. In my case, that something was the wave. – The 7th man

A ‘Poor Aunty’ Story. It was a Sunday. The sunlight was brilliant. My companion and I stared at 2 bronze unicorns. Summer was here. A poor aunt entered my heart and left me feeling empty after that. I wanted to write about the poor aunt. She didn’t think anyone would read it. She had a poor aunt, but didn’t want to write about her. It was hard for her to form words to describe the aunt. She doubted whether I could write about a poor aunt as I didn’t have a real poor aunt. However, it is likely that you might have come across a poor aunt in your life. The poor aunt’s name fades before she dies, because she is no outstanding woman. Some people’s names fade only after they have died. What happens to the forgotten people? I tried to recall the poor aunt I had. I had one on my back suddenly. She was about to change form based on how each observer perceived her. It took the form of a dog, or an old elementary school teacher etc. Friends were starting to ignore me. Reporters kept taking photos of me and the aunt and this left me exhausted. One of them interviewed me and I explained that it was not a chore at all. I explained that people’s reaction to words will be different. My response to poor aunt was an independent existence. The poor aunt had no meaning, no form. However, I couldn’t get it out. I could turn a word into a conceptual sign. If you keep repeating a word, it will appear at the back of you. Soon, the hype I enjoyed died as no one was interested in poor aunts. I wondered who became a poor aunt. There are usually explanations for things. However, for the poor aunt, there wasn’t any explanation why she was there. She didn’t see anything on my back. The core of the poor aunt is perfection. In late autumn, the poor aunt finally left my back. When I was in a train once, I saw a young boy pulling and pawing on her sisters’ hat. But the boy kept playing with it. The mother didn’t do anything to stop him as she felt that the boy would be bored eventually. Later, the girl slapped him on the cheek. The boy started crying and the mother hit the girl. The mother said to the girl ‘You don’t belong to me anymore’. She had to leave. I wanted to comfort the girl, but I didn’t. After I left the train, the poor aunt vanished. I felt lost. I called my companion to make sure she was okay. I wondered where did the poor aunt go? In future, if there was a world of poor aunts, would they welcome me? If I ever lived till them, I would certainly write well of them.

Once something has come into being, it continues to exist independent of my will. It’s like a memory. You know how a memory can be – especially a memory you wish you could forget but you can’t. It’s just like that.’ Haruki Murakami

She exists. That’s all. You have to recognize that fact and accept it. Reasons, causes: these just don’t matter. The poor aunt is there. She exists. And that’s what a poor aunt is.’ Haruki Murakami

The Year of Spaghetti. 1971 was the year of spaghetti. I learned how to cook and went shopping. I always felt spaghetti was meant to be enjoyed alone. Every day, I ate it. Every day, a different stranger visited me. However, they hovered at my door, and disappeared soon after. Cooking was like an act of revenge. One day, I heard the phone ring. It was the ex-girlfriend of a friend of mine. She was looking for my friend. I said that I didn’t know. I lied to her and said that I was cooking spaghetti. Now, I imagined myself cooking it. She was pissed at me for wanting to end the call and declared that she was in trouble. I felt guilty for not telling her where her ex was. However, yet, I knew that by cooking spaghetti, I wanted to be lonely and all by myself. The spaghetti represented loneliness.

Tony Takitani. His father was Shozaburo Takitani and was a jazz trombonist. He went to China to perform and had no qualms about leaving Japan. He loved Shanghai. He was successful in the trombone and had women around him. Often, he slept with different women too. However, one day, the Chinese army locked him up. However, he didn’t fear death and thought that he could not change his fate. Thankfully, he was released at the end. Now, his brother disappeared and his parents died. However, he did not feel sad or miserable and expected it. In his free time, he jammed with his friends. In 1947, he got married. 3 days after his wife gave birth, she died. It upset Shozaburo for a while. His army friend named his son Tony for him. Eventually, the name got stuck. Tony wasn’t treated well by his friends, who thought he was American. He was also comfortable being alone. Tony was excellent in drawing and won prizes. Naturally, he became an illustrator. He made good money because of his talents. Tony, at that time, didn’t consider marriage. As he had a pleasant character, many liked Tony for who he was. One day, he fell in love with a 22 year old girl. She wore her clothing with a natural grace that was akin to a bird. She admitted that most of her income when towards clothes. Tony became sad when the girl wasn’t ready to commit to him. However, later, they got married. One day, Tony went to watch his father play jazz. Strangely, he felt that the music his dad played was different from the past. Tony’s wife had the tendency to buy too many clothes. Tony was upset and spoke to her about this. His wife admitted that she was addicted to buying dresses. One day, she got involved in an accident and passed away

. Tony had to get rid of the clothes. He advertised for an admin assistant to work for him, but on condition that she had to wear a different of his wife’s dresses every day. He wanted to get used to the idea that his wife was gone. She was mesmerized by the sheer collection of outfits. Soon, she starting crying as she had never seen so many beautiful dresses in her life. Tony stared at the clothes and they seem meaningless to him not that his wife was not wearing them. Deep down, he hated the dresses and he felt lonely again .Now, he wanted to give some of the dresses to the assistant, whose services he didn’t require now. In the end, Tony got a dealer to take away all his late wife’s dresses. Once in a while, he would stare at the empty room and realize his memory of his wife was fading fast. Two years later, Shozaburo died of cancer and left behind many jazz records. Similarly, he got a dealer to clear them. Tony Takitani was truly alone now.

The Rise and Fall of Sharpie Cakes. Sharpie Cakes was having a competition, where users could design a cake. They were sweet in texture and didn’t taste good. When I said the cakes were not good, many people around me criticized me. A girl I spoke to mentioned about Sharpie crows. The president of the company gave a boring speech. There was prize money for the winner of the Sharpie Cake contest. I decided to participate. The Sharpie Crows would decide whether the cake was nice. The managing director was surprised that I didn’t know about the Crows. They are special birds who ate nothing but Sharpie Crows. However, they had no eyes and their bodies were swollen. They were horrible creatures and they screamed ‘Sharpies’. Some of the crows pecked at one another to eat the Cakes. The crows realized that my cakes were not true Sharpies and started squawking. Some of the birds liked my cakes. There was blood everywhere. I left the building and I was glad I didn’t win the prize.

The Ice Man. My husband is an Ice Man. From afar, you could tell he was one. I decided to approach him even though he was reading. He was definitely a man of a few words. He was a very shy guy who liked to ask me questions but he didn’t talk about himself at all. Soon, he knew a lot about me while I knew nothing of him. However, he couldn’t see the future. I was desperate and curious to know more about him. He was like an iceberg floating in the darkness. I loved him for who he is now, apart from any past or future. My family opposed the marriage and no one celebrated our wedding. The Ice Man works at a refrigerated meat warehouse. Deep down, many people didn’t accept him and his weird character. We failed to have a baby. I was the black sheep of the family. One day, I wanted to go see the world. Although he didn’t like to travel, he reluctantly agreed. I suggested the South Pole as I thought I could see the aurora and penguins. The ice man was becoming more ice-like. Sometimes, the ice man would not want to eat as well. Suddenly, I was afraid of going to the South Pole. I should have nothing to fear as dreams come from the past, not from the future. The South Pole turned out to be an extremely lonely place, with no penguins and auroras. There was nothing except ice and frozen wasteland. My husband started talking to the locals and seemed to enjoy it, which I absolutely hated. The Ice Man seemed to be the same person as the guy in the lobby when I first met him. Seemingly, I felt we were drifting apart.