The Reaper's Strange Gift

The Reaper’s Strange Gift: A Perspective From The Edge

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What do you do when the Reaper comes for tea?

We are proud to present this powerful guest post by Joseph Katzman. Consider well his experience in this extreme incident, and grasp the grave reality that the dark world does not reward inhabitants with pity.


If you faint in the day of adversity,

your strength is small.

Rescue those who are being taken away to death;

hold back those who are stumbling to slaughter.

If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”

does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?

Proverbs 24: 10-12


“Quiet. Quiet! Medical Emergency!”

I look to my right, where my neighbor is collapsing on the floor at the end of a local meeting. And what goes through my mind is:


“Oh. Crap.”


I’m trained if first aid, including CPR. I trained when I was a SCUBA instructor. I trained during a neighborhood CERT course. But I trained years ago. Now I’m balanced on a split-second, asking whether I trust “years ago” training to save my neighbor’s life.

I had read Hunter’s excellent article just days before, and “that day” has come. Come? Hell, it just kicked down the door. The feeling in my heart, as I face it, is not confidence.

It can happen to you. Oh, yes it can.


“The difference between being a hero and being a zero is having a plan.”

The Family Alpha: Are You Prepared?


I didn’t have a plan. That was terrifying.

What I did have, was a mindset. A mindset that starts with one bedrock principle:


Being a zero is not an option.


That is not who I am. I am going to do something. I may lose, and I have. I may curse myself later for being unprepared. Doesn’t matter right now. I am going to do something. Lead!

Hesitation over. Older man down on his back, eyes rolled, looks like very little breathing, not dilated (instant mental flash: “heart attack”). Ok, then. Leaders assemble the right people. Command voice time:

“CPR! We need CPR! Does anyone know CPR?”

I would be that guy if I had to be, but I wanted someone better than I was.


The Reaper’s lessons, part one.

1.   Relevant items from Ivan’s 100 Dark World Lessons: #1, 3, 6, 21, 36, 41, 91.

2.  A paper certificate is not the measure of skill. Practice is. The world is a dark place, and getting darker. If you aren’t off your butt already, get off. It can happen to you.

a)  Imagine three situations where you could be called on in a crisis. What skills would you need? Pick at least one of those skills, and make serious progress in learning and practice within the next thirty days. At the end of thirty days, imagine the relevant situation with your new skill. How does it feel?

3.  You can’t practice everything, but you’re going to have to live with your choices. Choose wisely. You really, really don’t want to face The Reaper with less than your best.

4.   If you don’t have a plan, or even if you do, mindset matters. Poor tools may do – if  you will do.

a)  The foundation of mindset is identity. Who are you deciding to be, right now? Because who you will be on The Day is really a decision you made long beforehand.

b)   Ivan’s The Nine Laws offer a fundamental mental OS that makes you likely to do. Hunter’s Men of March offers a kick-ass daily program connecting men to their masculine selves. Cernovich is the Gorilla Mindset in the room. Myriad levels of mindset are the Manosphere’s great gift to men. Get yourself some!

Don’t play the Harvard MBA B.S. that teaches the importance of stepping up confidently even if you have no clue. When they play mock survival situations, their teams often die – even though members had survival expertise. Step up, sure. Project confidence, sure. Those things are a service to others. Ditto leading with ego if you genuinely know. But deployment of ego should be a conscious tool. It’s often best to keep your ego shadowed, so the work at hand can manifest into completion without its interference.


Others answered my call. And so it began.

The volunteers set to work, while I kept the count in command voice. 911 listened to that count over the speaker phone, and told us we were right on tempo. Another volunteer was giving mouth to mouth.

“I thought they didn’t train to do that anymore,” said one member.

“Yeah, well, that’s for strangers on the street. Not for neighbors.” And back he went to his work.

Our patient was fogging my glasses when we stopped, which was a good sign. Facial color still good. But I still wasn’t getting much of a pulse. Check that; I wasn’t really getting any.

Damn. Damn. Damn.


The Meeting from Hell wasn’t going to let go of us just yet.


Nothing to do now but endure. Keep the count, call encouragement. I keep reading about “unconscious” people who could hear what was going on around them. And this one was a guy who would tell The Reaper himself to get off his lawn. I may have reminded him once or twice.

But mostly, I reminded him in between counts that his neighbors and friends were here, and we weren’t going to let go or quit.

An ex-Marine stepped in, pushed me aside to listen when we paused, and gave a few quick directions. Still getting air movement. Still not getting a pulse.

I cannot remember who suggested that we just ditch the pauses and keep going until the medics came – but then, my memory gets a bit fuzzy. Suffice to say that it happened. The CPR Crew organized shifts, because it’s a damn tiring thing to do at a sixty-per-minute pace. It was going to take the paramedics a little while.

His wife remained in the room with us. Other people had stayed, but moved to another part of the building. Most had simply left, not wishing to be in the way.


The minutes ticked down.

Eventually, the paramedics did arrive. They gave him several defibrillator shocks, inserted an IV, put oxygen on him, and continued CPR. I watched closely, and noticed something interesting: their positioning was a bit different than ours had been, a bit higher. I copied their hand configuration and burned the body positioning, timing, etc. into my memory.

As I did this, it occurred to me that the four people who stepped forward may not have been any more current than I was (or they might, I have no idea).


They were just willing to do it.



When the medics asked us to clear the room, I did. Inside, my conviction was growing that we had failed. As I talked to the people who remained, my perspective grew a bit.


  • Several mentioned hearing my voice as a comfort. One the one hand, great. On the other hand, I hadn’t even considered that angle. Failure to act with a plan.
  • “If anything ever happens to me, I want you guys there” was heard more than once. I still hear that one on occasion.
  • Someone pointed out that if our neighbor has stayed home, he’d just be dead with no chance of recovery. Good point.


The medics finally deemed our neighbor fit to move and took him to the hospital, where he was admitted to surgery. I went home.

We had given our neighbor a chance; indeed, the paramedics said it was one of the best responses they had seen. Apparently, they walk into quite a few scenes of “people standing around watching the blue guy” rather than taking action and playing their roles. In contrast, our neighbor had 97% blood oxygen levels after roughly twenty minutes of CPR.

But inside, I knew I had been less than fully prepared, and had not taken full control of the situation. One the one hand, I hadn’t needed to. No one had needed to, and no one did. But an honest look in the mirror said that if more had been required, I would have done okay but dropped some balls.

I’ve worked on fixing that since.

And the rrrrest of the story? How did our neighbor do? How does it end?

Well, he dies at the end.


This is the dark world.

You can do most things right, and still lose. You can do everything right, and still lose.

The universe is impersonal. Really, really impersonal.

So, he dies, then. As we all do.

Yes. And no.

He dies after a good life that included community recognition within the very meeting that constituted his last minutes on earth. He goes down surrounded by men who would not leave their brother behind, and who did everything in their power to snatch him from the Reaper’s jaws.

I should be so lucky. Except that it’s not really luck. Is it?


The Reaper’s lessons, part two.

1.  Relevant items from Ivan’s 100 Dark World Lessons: #18, 21, 54, 64, 70, 83, 84.

2.  Resolve to never be caught “watching the blue guy,” in all of its meanings. The “men do not leave their brothers behind” bit that Ivan bangs on about? Not just words. My old friend David Blue’s amazing article: Achilles’ Last Stand: the Primal Heroic Response is a must read, with some surprising and practical tips.

3.  The people around you may not be any more prepared than you are. It may just be a matter of who is willing.

a)  Think about this, and think of a couple potential stress/crisis situations.

b)  Now imagine yourself as willing and stepping forward to act. Play it out a bit in your head, and realize that this is a form of investment in your future self. Next time you’re confronted by a stress situation and feel nervous, you’ll be much more likely to remember this imaginary scene. And the positive emotions that came with it will give you extra strength to break through fear or hesitation.

4.  The people around the situation are part of the situation. I let tunnel vision get me, and lucked into addressing their needs. A real plan would factor those needs in up front, and pay closer attention to them during the event.

a)  Go back to an imaginary situation from Part I, 2(a). Pick one that corresponds to the skill you intend to practice. Think about who may be around that situation, and how that might change your plans. What does the new plan look like? Do you feel like you’re better able to cope now?

5.  You don’t have to be the guy telling everyone what to do. You do have to be the guy with a clear idea of what should be done, and the presence to make it so if it isn’t happening. Understand the distinction, and how that changes your behavior.

6.  If you can’t do that then take a lesser role, do it as best you can, and accept it. Then decide whether you want to perform better next time, and take action if so.

a)  Pick a situation from your recent past that didn’t go as well as you had hoped, and could realistically have gone better. Decide what you’d need to know and to do in order to change it. Use that as fuel to take at least one step toward a “better next time” outcome.



I’ll leave Hunter Drew, The Family Alpha, with this article’s final words.


“My mind is capable of making the decision to commit to the act. And win, lose, or draw I will have not suffered from hesitation. I am always ready for a fight. Even when I’m at home and having friends over, there’s a part of my mind which says, what would you do…”

The Family Alpha: How To Prepare Your Body And Mind For Imminent Violence





About the Author

Joseph Katzman

Joseph Katzman is editor emeritus of Defense Industry Daily. He is an extraordinarily keen observer of realities of the dark world, and his editorials have been published in the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Katzman is the foreword author for the philosophy bestseller The Nine Laws by Ivan Throne.

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