The Seven Lives of Men

David Barringer

The Go Man feels obligated to be competitive. He may say, "Coming through," or "What can you do?" He complains even as he accomplishes great things. The Go Man is difficult to be around.

The Angry Man has a decent life, but little things prevent him from attaining a perfect life, and he is often furious. The Go Man says to him, "Coming through." The Sick Man says to him, "The little thing that prevents you from attaining a perfect life is you."

The Happy Man has a pretty good life but is overly pleased at his minor accomplishments and overly grateful to Fate for every allowance. The Spite Man spits at him and says, "You are deluded." The God Man says to him, "Recognize in your life the will of a higher authority."

The God Man allocates all responsibility for his good life to a "higher authority." It is because of this "higher authority" that he obtains a favorable mortgage, that he invests in a profitable company, that his wife persists in loving him, despite the evidence. The Go Man believes the God Man's humility is disingenuous and ignores him. The Angry Man occasionally challenges the God Man but quickly comes to regard the God Man as yet another irritant blocking his way to perfection.

The Spite Man does not know himself well. He can't scratch his own itch, so to speak, and so lashes out at others for conspiring against him. He humiliates friends and relatives. He believes this is fair because of what has been done to him. He is an average man unable to get more out of life, but he uses his limited power to make miserable the lives of others. The Spite Man may also invoke a "higher authority" to justify his behavior. The Spite Man knows not to provoke the Go Man or the Sick Man.

The Sick Man creates for himself a miserable life. He courts misery to its worst expressions. He wants to disgust and embarrass others and to prove his superiority by enduring what others can't bear to even imagine. His strength is to survive his own self-degradations. No other man understands him, and no other man can meet him and remain the same man. After meeting the Sick Man or witnessing one of his degrading acts, men begin to take on shades and gradients of other men. They drift into one or more of the other six lives and then drift back. The Sick Man is unjustly blamed, which is yet another satisfying misery he tallies upon his skin.

The Hunchback Man has for his unwelcome lot a miserable life but makes use of it in flattery. He denigrates himself to flatter others by comparison. He doesn't solicit favor. At his best, he reflects the natures of those he flatters back at them. He is their vanity incarnate, a pretty tongue in a lousy body. All he earns is contempt because he makes others feel awkward and dirty and forces them to refuse to acknowledge their banality.

The God Man refuses to acknowledge his own banality and continues to advertise his success as the work of a "higher authority." The Go Man says to the Hunchback Man, "Coming through," and to the God Man, "Coming through," because the Go Man has decided that he must compete against this "higher authority." The Sick Man knows he will never win.

David Barringer's latest fiction collection, We Were Ugly So We Made Beautiful Things, was just published by Word Riot Press. View his website at