Here is a track to accompany your reading: Faux Tales – Beacon, released on The Arcadium


“My mother said to me, ‘If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.’ Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.”

A parade of shadows approaches the seat of my consciousness. As the years go by, I am faced with one misty figure after another, each one seeking judgement. Will I pull the shadow into the light, for its features to be revealed? I could keep it in twilight, postponing my decision. Or I may have to destroy that mysterious figure, its murky mists turning into blood on hands already blackened from the decisions of the past. These shadows are not so alien to me, for each one is a conceivable version of myself. A possible future. The future I am currently living in is not simply the result of those shadows I’ve pulled into the light; it is just as much a product of the candles I have snuffed out.

This isn’t abstract conjecture, I have quite the list of victims already. A juvenile politician never made it out of high school because of me, neither did an impassioned young preacher. A child who enjoyed LEGO never got the chance to go work for them, a creative architect never got to hold his own blueprints. My first year of college I killed off a fantastic band director before he even learned to play clarinet.

In the last year my hands have been dirtier than ever. I proposed to my now wife, killing off a million futures of relationship drama (and an extremely handsome bachelor) and opening myself up to a million better ones. Then I slaughtered a host of graduate school applicants, opting to forge my own way as a freelancer.

Despite that body count, I am not always the killer. Sometimes the shadows that approach me are snatched away by some other force before I am able to judge them. Occasionally I will look for those possibilities I have left in twilight to find them gone, swept off by the sands of time.

There was a basketball player who practiced constantly, it was completely his passion. He unsuccessfully tried out for his middle school team in 6th grade so he joined band for a year. 7th grade yielded the same result, and by next year he was so involved with marching band that he never thought to try out again.

Someone suffocated that little athlete, it wasn’t me. But if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t be the person writing this.

At times I find myself actually hoping for a future to be similarly taken care of, because I don’t have the strength to do it myself. A graduate assistantship at Michigan would be the only way I could pay for that school, but the only opening was for marching band. Although it didn’t align with my goals it was my only option financially, so I took the interviews. They all went really well, unfortunately, and I was terrified that I was going to be offered the position. I knew I didn’t have the strength to refuse such an opportunity, even though accepting it would come at a heavy cost.

Then the email came—“we are unable to offer you…”

No disappointment, just relief. Like basketball, something else destroyed that future, only this time I was in fact grateful.

Months later, I watched a Michigan football game and the camera panned straight to their drumline and staff, right to where I would have been standing. I stared a possible future of mine directly in the face, a specter of what could have been.

If I am a soldier, I will become a general. If I am a monk, I will become the Pope. I am a _______, and so I will become _______.

What could have been. Not an uncommon thought, it’s simply the road not traveled, the path not taken, etc. So why this grand and macabre analogy? Why killing, destruction, murder?

 I choose to kill because of the intentionality.

I will not fall backwards into my future; I will have control over what paths even have the chance to lead me onward. The shadows that approach me are not benign: Like weeding a garden, if I do not cull these other possibilities, the mere energy it takes for me to keep them alive will slowly choke out what I am truly striving for. I therefore must not let my green thumb overrule my bloody hands, I must kill the futures of an imposter before they entrap me in a life that is no longer my own.

The key to true self-determination in life is choice. Decisions that have consequences are the only ones that really matter, choices that you cannot go back on are the key to sculpting your existence. If you do not want to be a by-product of circumstances, the predetermined answer to a math problem written out before you were born, then you MUST kill. Kill all other possible futures, leave them behind you, for you cannot sustain them all. Kill them in service of what you choose to make real. You cannot be everything you have the potential to be, but you can choose which potential to realize.

Kill the soldier before he becomes a general, kill the monk before he is the Pope. Kill the future before it becomes the present.

Killing is the work, saying no to countless opportunities is not an easy task. Yet, the mindset of killing is necessary to protect yourself from a life of regret. Regret has no place here. You are who you are because of what you have done, be that for good or for ill, and there is only forward. Do not go gently into the future, blaze with conviction at every fork in the road, choosing one and destroying all others. Do not go gently into the dark, do not let your future close around you like a shroud. Go forward with the strength gained from past trials, and never look back.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas – 1914-1953