February 15, 2024

The last stake

Posted on February 15, 2024  •  7 minutes  • 1450 words
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The Last Steak

I assure you, my dear, that my decision is thoughtful and sensible. I fully understand the consequences it will entail. I’ve done this so many times, all for naught: perhaps you’re familiar with the feeling when the love of all men on our fleeting planet seems so trivial compared to the appetizing sight of a cold cutlet from the fridge. Yes, it’s been lying there for several days, and for several days I’ve made every effort not to touch it.

Everything is so trivial compared to it…

But I look at myself in the mirror and think I’ve lost weight. Yes, indeed, I’ve lost weight. I look in the mirror and see a cutlet… Sorry, I misspoke. A thousand reasons why I need to stop right this moment. A thousand circumstances that make this all a meaningless and utterly unnecessary torment.

I’ve lost weight so many times for myself, within my four walls, for all those cracks on the ceiling, for the awkwardly pasted wrinkles of wallpaper, for the draft from the window. I go to my job, I’ve lost two kilograms, and I don’t know who needs it or who notices. Does it make any difference, huh? Two or twenty, what’s the difference?

Do they care?

They’re bound to notice that I’ve grown thinner, that I’m pale, that there are circles under my eyes. Who can appreciate all the torments that nobody needs? And I eat this cutlet, waking up at three in the morning, eating it greedily, giving up on everything around me, and then I cry: with this cutlet, once again, my life falls apart, over and over, all my hopes, all my illusions.

But now, everything will change. I am completely certain of it. Because, when 50 million people are watching me, when millions of eyes follow every move I make, then I won’t just be unable to approach the refrigerator—I won’t even be able to think about it! When people place their bets on you, when they cheer for you, when the entire meaning of your existence is focused solely on one single task—to win! And not just to beat yourself, but others as well.

My jump will be a victory, under million eyes watching me

And whatever result I achieve, it will still be a phenomenal outcome compared to all the desperate efforts I’ve made so far. Thirty, forty, or however many kilograms. I have no doubt that it’s possible. I am absolutely certain.

I’ve spent my entire life fighting only with myself. With bad habits. With the false sense of hunger. With excess weight. With my weak will. With a sedentary lifestyle. Or with excess calories. With the wrong way of living. With the wrong diet. What haven’t I fought with, and all for nothing! I argued with friends, but do they really care whether you succeed or fail, whether you managed or not? Who cares about this, who is interested, for whom—I would bite into a pillow, exhaust myself on exercise machines?

Now, I know: millions of television viewers are concerned. And I would like to drink this cup to the dregs. Let the directors and scriptwriters provoke us all. Let fruits and sweets stand on our tables. Let them remind us of food every day. I don’t want money. I don’t want anything. I only want one thing: to beat everyone else.

I want only one thing: to beat everyone else

And not just those who will participate in this marathon with me. I want much more. I will devour all your fifty million souls. I will consume all their attention and wash it down with orange juice.

And it will be a good show. Yes, for some time, you will live well, making people cook pancakes and solve contrived problems. But the real game will begin when all games are over and everything becomes real. And I want a big scoreboard, like in football, where the score on our kilograms will be shown. And let your viewers always see these numbers. I strike at the goal of the scales and score a goal with the ball of my kilogram. The kilogram that I will lose once and for all. And never again will I let a counter strike into my goal.

Remember Vasiliy Lohankin? Do you know what I always had in common with him? That very sneakiness, when at three o’clock in the morning you go to the kitchen and fish out cabbage and pieces of meat from the cold borscht. It’s like you’re hiding from yourself, stealing, and then your hands just drop, and you lose faith in yourself. Your TV show protects me from the main danger; it deprives me of any opportunity to deceive myself, giving in to weakness and momentary feelings.

Once I read Klimov, who wrote that the early Christians, when offered to renounce Christianity or be immediately killed, would renounce. But as soon as they were offered a public execution, when they were led into the arena and fed to the lions, they chose death but did not renounce. The arena and the spectators are the best foundation for will and greatness, even at the cost of death. It’s so hard to be the victim, the executioner, and the spectator all at once.

The arena and the spectators are the best foundation for will and greatness

I have executed myself year after year, and each time I renounced all my dogmas and beliefs at the first sign of pain. Now I am in the arena, and I am absolutely sure that I can withstand any test.

Now, my sneaky barefoot tiptoeing across the cold floor towards the kitchen seems so funny to me: whom was I hiding from, why, and for what purpose? Who was I trying to deceive?

Decieving myself

Now, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t, I wouldn’t find the strength within me to overcome the mesmerizing gaze of millions of eyes watching my every move. Every second. Day and night. And I accept this challenge. To all of you. To everyone who waits in front of the TV and computer screens for my defeat, my failure, my weakness. In a month, I will step out onto the stage for you, and you will see what comes of it. Turn on your scoreboard. Count the points and penalties. There will be many. Very many.

Tell me, wouldn’t you like to make a different show? Don’t you just love on TV to loudly talk about the problems of drug addiction among youth, dramatically waving your hands and citing alarming numbers? Who are you scaring with that? My neighbor, who has been shooting up for years and who long ago sold his TV? Maybe, put him in a box? And maybe twenty more like him: withdrawal, rehabilitation, the whole program? Isn’t that real television, as real as it gets? A 24-hour marathon, 24 hours a day of interactive broadcasting. How many people would that thoroughly clear the minds of, huh? Don’t want to? You say the ratings would be too low? Wouldn’t gather enough advertising?

Make arrangements with Marshak and his clinic, install cameras everywhere, even in the toilets, and especially in the rehabilitation cycle rooms—physical exercises, meditations, and therapy. Let the people on the other side of the screen watch and see how it all happens. What those who have fallen into this abyss have to go through. And what needs to be done to get out of it.

Alright, these are just thoughts out loud, thank you, at least, for listening to me. I don’t know if you will take me for your show or not. I don’t know if you will make it or not. But you should know that I accept the challenge and I am ready to go all the way. I will make every crack on the ceiling, every drop of water from the faucet, every rustle, and every phone call my viewer. I will draw a caricature of my foolish hunger, hang it on the wall, and shoot at it with a water pistol. I will throw out the scales and no longer go insane over every gram I haven’t yet lost. Because now I will lose as much as it takes to feel light and comfortable. And I don’t care whether your show happens or not. I will do it.

by Irma Muller

Irma Muller is a professional psychologist and practicing clinician, holding a Ph.D. in Psychology. She is a valued member of the team of authors at . We express our gratitude to Dr. Muller for this insightful article and for her significant contributions to the field of psychology.




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