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Playing Possum

Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. [2Pet 5:8-10].

When in fear for our very lives, we have limited choices. Everything becomes binary. Adrenaline pumps into our brains, flooding our senses. We have to either fight or flee. If we run, we accept that we are prey. Granted, the predator does not always win. I am pretty sure that the giselle is more likely to lie down at night with a full belly of grass than the lioness who must stalk and capture her dinner. The lion’s belly is most often empty until the feast of murder is achieved. In the killing, she can gorge herself; she must be the gluttoness to survive. She never knows when the next chase will be successful.

We all have choices. Do we run and pray we are agile and quick, able to beat the stalking predator? Sometimes the foe is an equal match and we thin slice that decision and stand our ground. We have to be prepared for a brutal confrontation. Compared to flight, fighting requires a different type of stamina. And when fighting for your life, the rules are not equitable. Gird your loins because all is fair. Sometimes it is foolish to stand the ground and enter the fray. The beating can be brutal and it can call from deep within us a power that allows us to survive, but at what cost? We risk becoming that which we fear or loathe.

There is a third option. We can play possum. The possum feigns death in the hope that the predator is beyond eating that which is already dead. I wonder if I have the capacity to pretend I am dead. I think I am either too proud or too stupid to use this tactic. There are people who can snuff out so much of themselves that vitality is no longer perceptible. These people have possum as an viable survival choice. I am just not sure I have the capacity to diminish myself to the brink of invisibility. How much can one divest in order to just stay alive? And is that living….. simply waiting for when the predator no longer prowls close by. To live a life suspended is not a life. And I likely judge the possum unfairly. There is survival for a possum, but is there dignity?

I must have the spirit of kamikaze. I must have the pack mentality, to run with a herd. I do not have the lack of pride necessary to feign my own death in order to survive. I stand squarely and face the storm. Foolish? Often. To die with dignity is better than to feign my own death but get eaten anyways. I would only play possum if I have the shell of a tortoise or the spines of a porcupine. Otherwise, this is Sparta!

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