In the Uncanny Valley of Life and Death

“Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?” 

~ (deceased) Emily Webb, Our Town

It’s been a rough week. I struggle to write, as my heart is heavy. Recent days marked the sixth anniversary of the passing of my mom, who died by suicide. Days before that, my friend suddenly passed away (at the very same age as my mom). Strangely enough, I do not know precisely the cause of her death; and even if I did, I would not have permission from her family to divulge the details. Suffice to say, I sense parallels to my mom’s situation, and the synchronicities feel inherently uncanny. Incidentally, many years ago, both my mom and my friend were very close, but life circumstances abruptly ended their relationship. 

While I can not convince others just how precious and crucial it is to fully breathe existence into our present and respective incarnations — persevering through the obstacles and tragedies — I can only speak for myself. My tethered spirit beckons to me to stay and persist. I recognize that I need to work harder at the living aspect of this life cycle (and frankly, to be more present), before I even venture into considering how to work on the dying part. 

I do not believe this is the only lifetime I have been gifted, as I consider life to be cyclical and eternal — in the sense that some part of me (what may be called soul or spirit) — has always been and will always be. Yes, even through my rollercoaster life of triumphs and tribulations, I still remain steadfast that my life is a genuine gift. I would not willingly choose to end it. That said, I have no judgment when others do.

My mom and my friend shared a broken-ness that reflected fragmentation of themselves amidst strained attachments — mainly with their children. In the years preceding my mom’s death, I strived to heal our fractured relationship. It never happened as she chose not to reciprocate. In addition to feeling rejected by my parent, I often pondered how this could potentially end up eating her alive; and tragically, I think it did. It is the emotional bonds among us — built, broken, and repaired — that make our lives meaningful and incredibly worthy of being lived, despite the excruciating pain that most often arises. Some of us have less time than others to attempt to resolve this rupture and imbalance, and there is no time like the present to lean into this mending and amending process. 

The biblical passage from Psalm 23:4, speaks to the valley of the shadow of death, and passing over with no fear, as God is there to provide comfort. I am not religious, and I cannot attest to this; though, I hope something resembling this is indeed true. I can also see for some, how life can actually feel darker than death, and thus, death may be perceived as an escape from their pain and suffering. It is challenging and chilling for me to imagine feeling this way. 

When I am once again centered — having regained my bearings from this current feeling of sadness and unease — I intend to write about how artificial intelligence (AI) plays into (and preys on) this fear of death, and perhaps even an increasing preponderance of its counter-aspect, the fear of life. Relatedly, one notion that repeatedly enters the AI lexicon is what is called, the “uncanny valley.” Essentially, it reflects the reaction nearly all humans experience when encountering robots, avatars, and current depictions of AI — we innately feel off-put and disoriented. Even those who are staunch proponents of AI admit to this discomfort and dissonance. Unfortunately, though, AI evangelists (and their occulted handlers) are exerting efforts to intentionally overcome this phenomenon. If and when this is accomplished — meaning, AI becomes virtually seamless in the lives of humans — that is the time when they will have achieved their coveted Singularity. Let’s hope, for humanity’s sake that the uncanny valley remains a significant problem and thorn in their side for centuries to come. 

In memorializing my friend, at the funeral, her husband referenced Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. It poignantly stuck with me, and, in closing, I would like to offer the monologue from the end of the story, which was referred to as Emily Webb’s “Goodbye”. It portrays the deceased version of Emily, who has an opportunity to return to earth to observe herself and her loved ones when she was young. She realizes that the living do not understand the importance of human existence, and that we fail to appreciate it while it lasts.

I can’t bear it. They’re so young and beautiful. Why did they ever have to get old? Mama, I’m here. I’m grown up. I love you all, everything – I can’t look at everything hard enough.

Oh, Mama, just look at me one minute as though you really saw me . . . 

Mama, twelve years have gone by. I’m dead. I married George Gibbs, Mama. Wally’s dead, too. Mama, his appendix burst on a camping trip to Crawford Notch. We felt just terrible about it – don’t you remember?

But, just for a moment now we’re all together. Mama, let’s be happy just for a moment. Let’s look at one another.

I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize. All that was going on in life, and we never noticed. Take me back – up the hill – to my grave.

But first: Wait! One more look. Good-bye, Good-bye, world. Good-bye, Grover’s Corners. Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking, my butternut tree, and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths. And sleeping and waking up. 

Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anyone to realize you.

Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? – every, every minute? I want to live, I want to live, I want to live . . . (adapted from the 1940 film, Our Town)

Goodbye, Mom. Goodbye, my friend. May you be in peace and renewed power wherever you are. I hope there are gigantic and vibrant sunflowers there. The earth realizes and remembers you, and so do those who loved and lost you. Your footprints on the earth, and your imprints in our hearts, will forever endure.

16 thoughts on “In the Uncanny Valley of Life and Death

  1. Thank you for this piece, Stephers; very poignant and pertinent to the times we’re currently going through! Thanks again!!

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  2. Somewhere along the way we (“westerners”) have been conditioned to follow very specific beliefs in “heaven” and earth as if the two were not inextricably intertwined with no distinguishable separation. For millennia the aristocracy have refused to grant humane living conditions here on earth, so made up the idea of life after death and “heaven,” as an abstract contract/agreement imprinted in religious symbolism and administrative ritual and fancy language to keep the slave class from acting on their perpetual resentment against the ruling class. When we give up the instinctive truth of heaven being earth, sky, water, air and all that is seen and unseen, there is an artificial (spiritual, emotional, feeling, whatever the right words) wall which can seem insurmountable. Hopelessness, meaninglessness, extreme despair and the like become insurmountable in the current system of duality limiting our choices to this or that, true of false, black or white, you get the idea — when in reality, moment-by-moment change offers infinite potential and possibilities on a constant trajectory of evolution of our species and our universe. One travels with the cooperation of the other, as we are it, and it is us. No separation, no subject distinguishable from the object. We are one. It is one. There is nowhere to go, nothing to do, it just is.

    I appreciate your thoughts, Stephers. I have struggled with loss of loved ones too. I have no answers, but am on the make for a few questions that are well worth our further exploration. Enjoy the gift of life, y’all.

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  3. Nothing wrong with a good Sherry 🙂

    How many of you out there have worked your entire life…and was hoping to perform less work and more travel in your later years?

    You..and I…have been Royally Fsked!

    Want to go hiking in the Sunshine of Spain and/or Portugal??

    You are Fsked! This world is georgeous beyond compare, with a Demonic sh##stain over every square and inch.

    People to see, places to be!! Right!!

    Managed to slip out to Turkey last year to see Hagia Sophia..but now confined to open air prison called “USA”. Can’t even visit Hawaii!!

    Thank you, Steph, for another excellent writing…I very much enjoyed it.

    What an absolute rotten place this world has become.

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  4. Travel heals!

    Everything is new! No time to ponder one’s woes …

    Like being a kid again

    But of course “they” rip that from you, don’t they. Ironic coming from “aviation”..what a f’n deal..the joy of visiting new cultures , new people!!

    Your Mom still loves you 😦

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  5. Circumstances being what they are, you are still blessed.

    Imaging being born to a triggered, violent, …explosive POS?

    That’s not you…you felt some love I’m sure…else you would not try and return it with such kind words 🙂

    You are lucky 🙂

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  6. I wanted to say something briefly regarding:

    I recognize that I need to work harder at the living aspect of this life cycle ..

    I’ve been given a gift..a real gift. At times at least.

    What is it? I comes to me at times…it’s called peace. Meaning what?? Meaning there is ZERO “work” required!! 🙂

    It’s GREAT!! It’s a blessing…because it doesn’t come every day. But when it does…it says you can do NOTHING to stop “what is going on” (call it evil, or whatever)…and still maintain an inner peace / tranquility.

    I hope it blesses you or anyone who may have an uneasy time (dare I say hurt?).

    It’s a GIFT! From where I cannot say, I’m an idiot and do not know.

    But it’s real.

    You don’t HAVE to “work”. By all means, do so..
    But only if you want to. 🙂

    Not mandatory…

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  7. I went through the loss of two older brothers a month apart in 2011, spending the night with one reading scripture to him, hoping he could hear my voice. The other, his eyes flashed wide open right before he died. Don’t know what to make of that.

    I grieved, of course, but came out of it OK, as will you. What’s on the other side? I choose to believe we live on, move on, perhaps to a saner planet. My reasoning is that if I am right about that, I’ll be happy, and if I am wrong, I will never know. What’s to lose?

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  8. Uncanny valley… Though the term applies to the off-putting disorientation caused by AI, I feel something like it, all the time, in the presence of the New Normals around me. I wonder if the challenge of making AI a seamless part of their lives isn’t closer to being accomplished because of this global hoax. It never ceases to astonish me that the seemingly intelligent and even spiritual people I know and love have accepted, without question, the idea that they, and I, should trust governments and pharmaceutical companies over the natural processes and healing powers of our own bodies.

    On the plus side, this dehumanizing madness has invigorated my belief in the power and importance of imagination—something Jon Rappaport has been writing a lot about.

    Most of my life, though I’ve been naturally inclined toward the artistic and creative, I’ve questioned the importance and value of it. I’ve been unable to separate this instinct from the various ways it is cheapened by our society’s values. I have talent and training as an actor, but in order to make a living at it, I would have to perform in productions backed by people with money, telling stories that appeal to a popular mentality. The more clearly I see these stories as toxic propaganda, the more impossible it becomes. James Caan once said, “You can’t be good in a bad movie.” I don’t think you can be good in a bad industry. Film, TV and theater are all beholden to the propaganda industry.

    So I’m looking for, and opening myself up to, possibilities. This monstrous hoax has at least helped me understand that my instinctive resistance to subjugating my imagination to moneyed interests was valid. Where do I go from here? I find the question and the possible answers are far too interesting and compelling to surrender to the choice of death. Like you, Stephers, I don’t judge people who make that choice, but it’s not an option for me.

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    1. I think that art and creativity are part of our spiritual essence, as important to us as food and human companionship. Paul Simon was asked by Dick Cavett how a song like Bridge Over Troubled Water did not exist, and then came to exist. Simon gave credit to the work of others, which helped in the germination process, but ultimately it was his deep spiritual nature that made the song. People who are dead inside are not creative. (Aside: Simon’s original song was only two verses, short enough for radio play. He was asked during recording to provide a third verse, allowing Artie to nail the vocal. Thus we had “Sail on Silver Girl”, which I believe is a reference to his first wife and a nice allusion to a jet aircraft. Creative juices were flowing. He thought the result was a song too long for the radio, but an executive who was witness to the recording session said not to worry, that he would back them all the way.)

      I digress.

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    2. We all have that creative/imaginative power to co-create the kind of universe in which we choose to live. If we as individual sovereigns cannot break the spell cast upon us, a process only we can unlock and reject, as “not who I am,” we will be eaten alive by the evil bastards who have brainwashed us into believing their abstract/AI version of reality. Our self-imprisonment can easily be broken by self-reflection and getting to the bottom of who we actually are, and what kind of world we want to create for ourselves, our families and outward to the vastness of the whole universe. It is we, ourselves, as individual observers/creators, who determine the future. Why would we give up that incredible sovereign power and responsibility to a bunch of psychopaths with the intention of killing us for their psychotic pursuit of power and financial gain? Easier said than done, but infinitely possible to accomplish. Be the 100th “monkey” (Primate 2.0) who learns to wash the banana before eating it.

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  9. Stephers, a wonderful piece, resonant, as the comments demonstrate; I have had experiences with the suicide scene, and echo your thoughts. A deeply personal decision, but not one for me. Some did it directly, others slowly over decades with drugs or alcohol. The quotes are perfect, and your title, hauntingly apt. The ads for the (insert expletive here) fake-verse are repellent to true human nature on many levels. Who but a lost soul could want such a thing?

    As Steve notes, it is a deep pain of separation (one aspect of maya = the illusion of separateness) which has been programmed in for centuries, if not longer. Many, now more than ever, are living in mental cages, ignoring/fearful/derisory of the spiritual key that allows escape. Sherry’s essay was excellent, good on Lorenzo; how can the basic realities she outlines be denied by a human whose mind functions as designed? “Babies don’t remember”…??? That is the usual line. So shameful.

    Scott, your thoughts on the arts and disorientation of the new normals are spot-on. I see only local and personal art as authentic, in most cases. We have all been encouraged to accept/worship the famous, deluded in the notion that anyone with talent can succeed. Take note of the majority of the famous, and then show me the talent. Show me the talent! 🙂 Examples are endless. Yet, as Mark writes, art can be transcendental, even when produced for the masses.

    Constant filtering, strength of mind and moral courage are the tools needed to live fully in the wonder of creation. This wonder is now becoming literally masked, and its face is horror. I turn away, smiling in the “secret” knowledge.

    (Triple R: Hawaii? Florida, bro, Florida. You can even drive there!)

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    1. I’ve driven to Key West, yes!!

      100 miles off shore …over ocean bridges…hopping from 1 island to the next.

      Ocean is as warm as a jacuzzi…I shit you not. And iguanas 3 feel long scurrying about the island and trees!!

      Are you in? I sure am !! Haha..

      🙂

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    1. You get your 454 Camaro, Stephens her 289 ( :).
      .and my 2.3 liter (140 cubic inch 4 banger)..

      And beer is on me…but only if youake the destination 🙂

      Hell, I’m now motivated to go regardless…as cold winds are a brewing here in Utah.

      Warmth is a gift! Just have to chase it sometimes!! 🙂

      Mark can take his kickass Tacoma (with a chain) too!

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