“The future’s uncertain, and the end is always near…”

So sang Jim Morrison in the Doors’ song, Roadhouse Blues.

Prescient? Perhaps, but in the same song, he also sang “Save our city, save our city
Right now”. While some of the sturm and drang of the Doors’ music could be over the top, (disclaimer: I’m a fan), it reflected the zeitgeist of the time. It’s also pertinent today with so much uncertainty about our future.

Each day brings a new revelation or speculation about the future, short and long term. Truth is no one really knows. And in A Coward’s Guide to Living, neither does the middle-aged protagonist Jacob Will. His future is uncertain, and the end? Well… that’s to be discovered.

But, as with Jacob, we’ll all have to plow on through this to find out what happens.

In the meantime, in the closing words of Roadhouse Blues, Morrison wails “Well, I woke up this morning, I got myself a beer.”

Why not?

A set of unmatched bags…

When people talk about someone having baggage, they’re usually referring to those issues that need to be dealt with. It’s not unusual, when drilling down into them, to discover they’re all related. Some of that is true for the middle-aged protagonist of A Coward’s Guide to Living, one Jacob Will.

But in his case, it’s a grand set of unmatched luggage, different sizes, colors, and of no good to anyone, including Jacob, and more of it than he might care to admit. In fact, that is the problem – acknowledging that which he’s been uselessly carrying around his entire life.

In his case, the lost and found is and isn’t the answer. He’s got to find out what his issues are before he can finally lose them, and that’s easier said than done. It’ll take at least eleven little deaths for him to overcome the crap holding him back.  And how he does it, well, let’s just say it will take him places he’s never dreamed of.

“Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.” Ernest Hemingway

Truer words have never been spoken. They’re especially poignant as the trip middle-aged Jacob Will was embarking upon was a solo endeavor. And it would be safe to say, Jacob did not love himself.

This journey was also laced with no small amount of irony as what precipitated it was the suicide of Jacob’s best friend. Just like Hemingway, who he was to encounter later on. While Jacob was not intent on his own suicide, he did have to commit eleven little deaths of his own. What would Ernest have said about that?

Not a hero – not by any standard measurement.

A hero was not how Jacob Will would ever describe himself. Growing up, he didn’t have the heroes young boys normally had. Since sports were not a thing he was interested in, it didn’t matter what records were set by athletes, they held no attraction. Likewise movie stars, though he did, as most boys at a certain age, fantasize about the unattainable females he saw on the screen.

Though, embarking on his journey of middle-aged, self-discovery, he was in one way a hero – though not in the mythic realm. But more in the sense of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey, that of an adventure: enduring, maybe prevailing, but coming back changed – transformed.

Unlike Homer’s Odyssey, there were no Sirens nor Scylla and Charybdis to contend with. But he would have to experience life, his own rocks and hard places, as he hadn’t yet. Would he survive? Only his Eleven Little Deaths will determine that.