We like to ignore our problems. Glitches go on overlooked. There is disorder and chaos everywhere, right down to the core of our being. Something needs to be terminated—a bad habit, a relationship, a job, a friendship. We have problems like you wouldn’t believe. It’s an unpleasant task. There will be tears, so we distract ourselves. The inner turmoil gets projected outward and becomes everyone else’s problem. It’s not easy to fess up to yourself. If you open up enough, you may find that tumor within you—a nasty part of yourself shackling the rest of your life to the depths. In order to properly negotiate them, you must be both architect and destroyer—an executioner.
Nobody loves the executioner, but historically, he was a vital part of life—no matter how the modern mind may shudder the thought. I got on the idea of executioners as metaphor after reading a memoir of the Sanson Dynasty, a family of French executioners stretching from 1688-1847. The executioners were always shunned, yet well-compensated and comfortable, bordering somewhere between accomplished tradesman and untouchables. The memoirs are embellished, but there is no doubt there were seven generations of them, two serving during the French Revolution and the subsequent Terror. They executed royalty and nobility. None apparently took any joy in their occupation. They merely did what was asked of them. There are important lessons to learn from these guys: suck it up, take on responsibility, make it as painless as possible, don’t be sadistic, do your job and get it over with.
There is an executioner in you. The executioner snaps you out of it after a long bout of depression. The executioner throws out all the stuff your ex gave you. The executioner finally ends the relationship, moves out of the apartment, quits the job, sells the car, leaves a place that’s creating misery in your life. It’s that part of you who does what you don’t want to do, because it needs to be done. It severs the heads off the hydra. If the executioner doesn’t do their job, everything else in your life suffers, the way a society suffers when a killer is permitted to wander freely without trepidation.
I wrote about getting rid of my record collection a while back. That was me exercising the executioner. I often comb myself over for items that I no longer use, stuff I’ll ascribe sentimental value to. After a short trial, I put on my black mask, swing the axe and terminate what should not be. It’s a workout, in preparation for harder choices. For years, I battled to live in Los Angeles. I love a good war. I first arrived here seventeen years ago from the other side of the continent, fresh out of high school. I lived in a hostel in Venice Beach and eventually a small apartment before the slithering wretchedness of the place overwhelmed me and I found myself back home. I took that as a personal catastrophe, a total failure. I never forgave myself for it. I spent the next seven years plotting my return. The city became a dragon that needed to be slain. Within a year of my reappearance, the recession occurred and residing in Los Angeles became as easy as ascending an escalator the wrong way.
I acquired more skills, got pretty good at dog training and personal training. I worked all the time and became addicted to it. The only time I said no to a job was when I was physically unable to work it. Surviving in town became a game of sorts, but upon looking outside, I become occupied with that same creeping gloom that made me leave the first time. I don’t enjoy life in Los Angeles, I never have and I never will. I’ve merely been testing myself this entire time, playing a game—challenging myself in an inexplicable effort to make up for my failure. It was a dreadful realization, something I don’t take lightly. It took years of painstaking self-examination to realize that. It’s been ten years in the city. I can live out the rest of them here if I want to, but I’d rather not. Time to summon the executioner.
Now, the executioner is a symbol of death and destruction. You can’t just go around ordering him to sever heads willy-nilly. We’ve visited what happened during the Terror in France, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Mao’s China, the Soviet Union, etc. That’s what gets tempted into your life when you overburden the executioner. He needs to be used in a methodical, complete and humane fashion. I find myself putting features of my life on trial to see if they are worthy of execution. I’ve reached a verdict and I’m currently taking steps to see it through with great care and a lengthy trial.
I’ve struggled with this throughout my life. I’m burdened by the lethal mishmash of being a fighter who despises quitting, an overt sentimentality, as well as an aversion to death and the conclusion of a story. This isn’t to say that people should just go around abandoning what they fought for and relinquishing control when they’re feeling especially calamitous in a situation. I don’t have much time for quitters. I don’t have much time for those types of people who never seem to finish anything, who never follow through with anything in their lives. They’ve invited chaos in. They speak who they are with their actions. They trip around in life and never toil to find the genuine value and importance within reality. They’re mere flickers, wandering and aimless, akin to ghosts.
Yet, there comes a stage when the black mask must be donned and the axe must be swung. I use such shadowy language because this is the nature of the task. If you don’t enjoy where you live or want a change, you ought to contemplate a blow of the axe and an end to your life in that place. This could mean quitting a job, packing your shit and saying farewell to friends. That’s a death. When we do something of that sort, it’s a manner of suicide. That part of our life dies and another is born. It’s a leap into the underworld with the anticipation of emerging restored.
You recognize your necessity for the executioner upon introspection. We all know what’s wrong with ourselves if we’re honest. You may have some bad habits. You may be sluggish and indolent. You may gorge yourself well past the threshold of satiety. You may lack the impetus or vision to do something great and you need to search it out. You may be chockfull of destructive emotions. You may be trapped in a victim mentality. You may find yourself seemingly immovable in an occupation you despise, in some filthy metropolis, with a person you’ve grown apart from—put it all on trial and if need be, expedite it to the ready hand of the executioner. You may have to spend some time in the underworld afterward, but upon resurfacing, you will remain appreciative of that gloomy character who so often receives no thanks.