It’s a Must-Eat-Must World

It seems as if lately I’m running into a lot of “must”s that do nothing but make me want to head in the opposite direction. This is not a “must” world. No one knows for sure why we are here and what we are supposed to be doing, otherwise there would be no religions, no philosophies, no psychologies, no debates of any kind. We would all simply do whatever it is that we must, and that would be that. There are certain things that we take as musts, such obeying laws, paying taxes, nourishing ourselves, but even those aren’t musts. We don’t have to do them, though there are consequences if we take that risk.

Since this is a mustless world, we have to make it up as we go along, and none of us has the right to thrust our musts on anyone else.

MUST-1For example, someone I’ve done some online work for tells me I must not be negative and tell him something won’t work or that I don’t know how to make it work even if I know what I say is true. And yet, when I asked a woman who manages the management company that manages the office space of such high profile companies as Amazon and Google if she would consider such an assessment to be negative, she said no. That she valued honesty in her employees. That if she knows what doesn’t work, she can head in a different direction and find something that does work. Yes! Exactly. One person’s must not is another person’s must.

Then there is this quote I saw today from Stephen King. He wrote: “You can approach the act of writing with excitement, hopefulness, even despair. You can come to the act with fists clenched and eyes narrowed. You can come to it to change the world. Come to it any way you want but lightly. You must not come lightly to the blank page.” Must not? Must not? Who is he to say what I must or must not do? For some of us, coming lightly to the blank page is the only way we can entice those shy ideas and bashful words to come out to play.

And worst of all, I recently saw a T-shirt with a a picture of santa claus (Not a typo. I’m purposely demoting him/it to a state of non-capitalization) and the words, “You must believe.” Must believe? I don’t think so. In fact, because of this thrust to make me believe in something so patently absurd, I no longer have any affection for the creature at all.

In a recent advice column, a woman wrote “When I have kids, I don’t want to do the whole “Santa” thing. I’d rather tell them about the real St. Nicholas and what it means to give rather than to receive. Even though I’m not religious, I’ll tell them about the birth of Jesus (even though he wasn’t born in December), and tell them about the winter solstice.” Sounds admirable to me, but her friends told her she was a scrooge for taking her children’s innocence away, which is why she wrote to the columnist for another opinion. The overwhelming online response was that such a woman shouldn’t have children. Even those who agreed she had a right to her stance suggested that “just for fun” she wrap a couple of small presents and put them under the tree “from santa.”

What the hell is going on in the world? Aren’t there more important things to worry about than a must belief in santa claus? The world takes away children’s innocence by starving them, by making them old at a young age (no more dolls for preteens except hooker-like dolls), by creating fearful atmospheres in schools, by television programs that show them things no child should ever have to see, and yet, oh yes, we must make sure they believe in a mythical creature to keep what innocence is left. Cripes.

So, let’s make a pact for this coming year. I won’t must you, and you don’t must me.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.


9 Responses to “It’s a Must-Eat-Must World”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    I read that Dear Abby column as well. Wow, I had no idea that she’d gotten so much negative feedback from her letter. I thought what she was doing was actually a pretty good idea and that Abby had a pretty good response as well. And I like your comeback to their criticism, Pat. We sexualize kids and put women in these horrible double standards, and yet God forbid we don’t let them believe in Santa Claus for a few years!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I just realized, it’s because of this uninnocence that people have such a frantic need to believe in Santa Claus. People seem to have foisted all the “Godishness” of God onto Santa. We can’t engender a public belief in God, but we can promote a belief in a secular image that has the Godlike qualities of being everywhere, knowing everything, and answers prayers (for what else is a letter to santa?).

  2. leesis Says:

    great post Pat. People like ‘musts’ as it creates a sense of certainty for them in a very uncertain world/life. We love our boxes of must and right and wrong. But for us to feel really secure we ‘must’ demand others hop into our boxes too otherwise we might have to admit there are other ways just as valid. We might even have to discover we are…gasp…wrong! What funny little vegemites we are :).

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Maybe it’s my own growing acceptance of uncertainty that makes “must” chafe so much.

      I’m glad you liked the post. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve gone too far, but always you help me come to a greater understanding of people and how hard it is for us “vegemites” to navigate this very uncertain world.

  3. Carol Louise Wilde Says:

    Deal. And anyway, I agree.

  4. Constance Koch Says:

    How about “SUGGEST” instead of “MUST”?

  5. mickeyhoffman Says:

    This is why many people don’t want religion around them. It seems to breed a “must” way of thought. So do some political affiliations. Maybe people just tend toward “my way or wrong” and think that they can sugar coat this with so-called wise statements telling others what they must do in order to live better.

  6. Ree` Edwards Says:

    My dear Pat,
    As usual I’m late in my reply, and that due to the amount of work I’m still doing inside while cold, so I will be more prepared for Spring and yard work that awaits.
    This day must have been a difficult one for you — you sounded so out of character to the Pat I’ve grown to know. Hope you are better now.
    The way I choose to share my opinions, beliefs, and so on are not made on a ‘must’ do anything. As in sharing my ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and so on. I have a number of ‘friends’, better said ‘acquaintances’ as
    ‘true friends’ are few and far between and to be cherished. (In my humble opinion.) Some do not agree with me on several issues, which is their prerogative. In order to maintain any kind of relationship with them, we just ‘agree to disagree’ rather than get angry. Then too, for the most part, we just avoid what subjects that we know will cause friction. Works for me anyway.
    Hoping, since I’ve several more posts to read yet, that this finds you in a more peaceful and tranquil frame of mind.

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