Ubik (1969). My first exposure to the mind of Dick.
Essay on the novel Ubik. Word count: 5200
I heard about Dick through Robert Anton Wilson. Wilson commented that when he (Wilson) was experimenting with Crowleyan Magick techniques and passing through his Chapel Perilous, he began to receive messages from what he initially interpreted as beings from the Sirius Star System (later Wilson comments that he interpreted these messages as coming from a Great White Rabbit from County Carey, and later still he interpreted them as being the left and right hemispheres of his brain communicating with each other...). Curiously (and according to Wilson), this was around the time when Dick, also, was receiving messages from Sirius. Wilson explains that Dick’s novel V.A.L.I.S. explores this very theme and can be interpreted as Dick’s exploration of this interesting idea, or as Dick’s personal experience with the phenomena, or alternatively, as a kind of documentation of Dick losing his mind. (I later read V.A.L.I.S. and would suggest that it is a combination of all three possible interpretations).
Ubik is a science fiction novel, written in 1966, published 1969 and set in 1992. In his review for Time, critic Lev Grossman described Ubik as ‘a deeply unsettling existential horror story, a nightmare you'll never be sure you've woken up from.’
The novel takes place around twenty years into the future (at the time of writing) in the North American Confederation. Space travel has developed to the extent that even civilians can travel to the Moon (Luna). There are space colonies on Luna, and it seems, on other planets as well.
Joe Chip, the novel's protagonist, works for Prudence Organization which employs people with the ability to block psychic powers. In Dick’s future world certain individuals have developed psi ‘talents’. For example, there are ‘telepaths’ (who evidently can read others’ thoughts), ‘psi’s’ (actually I’m not sure what they do, perhaps that is just a generic term for anyone with some psychic ability...), and ‘pre-cogs’ (who are able to perceive future events). And there are people with ‘anti-talents’ who can negate the talents of the psi’s (this is where Prudence Organization fits in).
It appears that psi’s are mostly used to infiltrate corporations. There doesn’t appear to be great levels of conflict between countries in this future world, but conflict between various companies appears to be prevalent.
Glen Runciter is the Director of Prudence Organization (along with his deceased wife Ella, which I will get to shortly...). Joe Chip refers to what they do as, ‘a natural restoration of the ecological balance’ (p. 27).
In Chapter 5, Runciter tells G. G. Ashwood (a Prudence Organization ‘talent’ scout) that his agency is his, ‘contribution to contemporary society.’ Ashwood replies, ‘You’re a policeman guarding human privacy’ (p 54).
In this future world, human abilities have developed such that consistent precognition and telepathy are relatively commonplace. People like Ray Hollis (the company’s main adversary), are using this ability to access people’s thoughts: mostly with the intention of marketing products to them. Runciter has built a company that offers defense from such infiltrations. This extraordinary human development has undergone a complete commercialization in the context of Dick’s capitalist future. Though it is pessimistic, I am compelled by this vision: that humanity would evolve incredible powers of telepathy and precognition; and that it would be used predominately for the purposes of targeted viral marketing and would need to be balanced out by a kind of ‘police force’ acting through corporate espionage to preserve the privacy of various corporations and individuals. Runciter comments (to G. G. Ashwood): ‘You know what Ray Hollis says about us? ... He says we are trying to turn back the clock’ (p. 54).
Hollis considers Runciter’s ‘guarding’ of privacy to be regressive, arguing that these talents should be embraced and fully explored. This certainly parallels our current situation with technology. Rather than ‘pre-cogs’ and ‘telepaths’, though, we have technological devices that infiltrate our privacy. Government organisations collect information on our activities online (under the guise of protecting us from terrorists and whatnot), as do various social media applications (in order to more effectively market products and services to us...). We can consider our online presence to be an extension of our lives, and these lives are accessible to those who know how to reach it; just like the ‘telepaths’ can access the minds of characters in Ubik.
Who is guarding our privacy?
A second distinguishing feature of Dick’s vision of the future (in addition to the prevalence of psi talents and anti-psi talents) is the technology for keeping people alive in an ‘half-life’ state where they are able to communicate with people in the ‘living’ world.
Runciter’s deceased wife Ella, is one of these individuals kept in a form of cryonic suspension that gives her limited consciousness and the ability to communicate with the living world; namely her husband. Runciter consults with Ella in the running of Prudence Organization.
This technology resembles what we are able to with life-support in contemporary society. We can keep people alive (albeit in a diminished state) using machines, but what is different in Dick’s novel is the ability for ‘half-lifers’ to engage in two-way communication with those from the ‘living’ world.
In Ubik, ‘half-lifers’ are not preserved indefinitely; they slowly ‘regress’ towards death. Thus, the novel becomes on one level an exploration of the after-death realm; that mysterious state of limbo between worlds.
Dick makes explicit links to the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Ella (whilst in the ‘half-life’ state) describes to Runciter a dream she had:
‘I was dreaming... I saw a smoky red light, a horrible light. And yet I kept moving toward it. I couldn’t stop.’ Runciter replies:
‘Yeah... The Bardo Thödol, the Tibetan Book of the Dead’ (p 12).
Runciter explains further:
‘Well, like they say, you’re heading for a new womb to be born out of. And that smoky red light -- that’s a bad womb; you don’t want to go that way. That’s a humiliating, low sort of womb. You’re probably anticipating your next life, or whatever it is.’ (p 13).
According to the understandings in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the ‘soul’ pr ‘spirit’, after death, passes into this limbo state (not entirely dissimilar to the conception of Purgatory, only with less focus on the serving out of punishment for sins...) before death and rebirth. The soul travels through this state, seeking out an appropriate womb (and new life) to enter. Those souls who are well prepared are not afraid of this state and can navigate towards a desirable womb and hence desirable life. Those who have lead evil lives, or who enter this state with fear, will not be able to focus enough to find an appropriate new-body, and instead will be thrust into an undesirable womb, to be tested in the next life.
The Ancient Egyptians developed their own Book of the Dead, and it seems that the Pharaohs were masters of this realm, this state between life and death. The evidence in their temples suggests that the Pharaohs practiced being in this state (likely through the use of plants to enter altered states) to ensure that when they eventually came to face their own death, they would be ready, their soul would be pure, and they would successfully enter into the next realm.
Towards the close of the novel, Ella again refers to the transition from this state of limbo into rebirth:
‘Fairly soon I’ll be reborn into another womb, I think. At least, Glen says so. I keep dreaming about a smoky red light, and that’s bad; that’s not a morally proper womb to be born into.’ (p 217).
The novel explores the idea of coming to grips with one’s own death. In Ubik, the ‘half-life’ state offers the deceased additional time (if they are ‘frozen’ quickly enough) to come to this realisation before they pass into the inevitable death state (and whatever else beyond), and it also gives the ‘living’ a chance to prepare for the death of their loved ones.
I was reminded of the film Jacob’s Ladder (1990) where the protagonist Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins), a veteran of the Vietnam War, is haunted by flashbacks and hallucinations until he eventually comes to grips with his own death. At the start of the film he appears to survive the Vietnam War and the film deals mostly with his struggles to reintegrate back into society. Over the course of the film, Singer realises that he died in the war, and it is when he comes to this understanding he can move on from this state of limbo. Jacob's friend Louis cites the 14th-century Christian mystic Meister Eckhart:
‘The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of life, your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they're not punishing you… They're freeing your soul. So, if you're frightened of dying and... you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth.’
Patricia “Pat” Conley
Business magnate Stanton Mick hires Runciter’s company to secure his facilities on Luna, which have apparently been infiltrated by telepaths (Runciter assumes that this is likely the work of Ray Hollis).
Runciter assembles a team of eleven agents, including Pat Conley, a mysterious young woman who has an unique parapsychological ability. Pat has great powers for affecting change on the environment, and Dick creates a sense of danger surrounding her; her parents work for Ray Hollis, and her tattoo reads ‘Caveat Emptor’ (Buyer Beware). Joe Chip and Pat have a distrustful relationship and a repressed sexual tension throughout the novel.
After reading Chapter 3, I tried to figure out what was going on with her...
What is Pat doing when she ‘changes’ the present? She tells Chip and Ashwood that she doesn’t go back in time:
‘I can change the past but I don’t go into the past; I don’t time travel.’ (p. 29).
As a child when she breaks her parents’ statue, then a month later, the statue is unbroken. What is it that she has done? Is she switching to an ‘alternative present’? This would imply a concept of parallel universes: everything that is possible, or could happen, does happen... the endless permutations of every event carry on in endless parallel universes, and Pat, in a sense, switches between what she perceives as more desirable universes or present states. That’s one option.
Alternatively, perhaps she creates an ‘alternative present’, then propels everyone and everything into that alternative present. This second explanation does not require endless parallel universes, but it does require Pat to possess the ability ‘create’ an alternative present. She mentions that she does not go back in time so (assuming that she can be trusted on this; which is not necessarily a safe assumption to make), she is doing something in or to the present.
Another possibility is that she changes (slightly) the present. In the example from her childhood, either she changes the present so that the statue doesn’t break. Or, she changes the present so that other characters simply don’t remember the past: so, her parents don’t remember that she broke the statue. Though this doesn’t explain how the statue ‘returned’ to its former (unbroken) state. For this to work, Dick would need her to ‘change’ the present (so the state is unbroken) and ‘change’ the memory of the other characters (so they don’t remember her breaking it in the first place...). I’m not sure if I am any closer to explaining what is going on…
And what is happening when she has her ‘evaluation’ with Joe (on pages 32 to 35)? In this passage, Joe doesn't remember the past where he gave her an evaluation that indicated no psi ability. Although Pat retains the evaluation that Joe made and shows it to him (after she, for some reason, removes her blouse...?) in this alternative present. Joe is convinced (and to a certain extent, bribed: both sexually and financially) to fabricate impressive test results and recommend Pat to be hired by Prudence Organization (though Chip marks her results with a code that indicates, ‘she is dangerous.’ p. 34). It is entirely possible that Pat is fucking with Chip’s head in some way (or more than one way...) and there was no alternative present where he wrote that initial evaluation and she fabricated it instead in some way.
Pat serves the role of a potential villain in the mystery of this novel for much of the plot, however, by the end it appears that Pat is kind of a red-herring, as later it is revealed that it is not she who is controlling what is happening. I assumed (as does Joe) that Pat is in some way manipulating the world around them but by the end of the novel the reader understands that Pat, too, is subject to the same forces as the other characters.
Pat’s trippy talent...
Chapter 5 contains a particularly psychedelic exploration of Pat’s ‘talent’. When Rusciter calls together his team of ‘inertials’ he invites Pat to demonstrate her talent (until this moment he had not witnessed her abilities himself):
‘ “Perhaps Miss Conley herself will describe it to us.” He nodded at Pat -- And found himself standing before a shop window on Fifth Avenue ... studying an uncirculated U.S. gold dollar and wondering if he could afford to add it to his collection.’ (p. 55).
Rusciter has some vague memory of his former job which he had to retire from the previous year. He closes his eyes and when he opens them again he is back in his office with G. G. Ashwood, Joe Chip and a, ‘dark, intensely attractive girl whose name he did not recall,’ (p. 56). Joe Chip was the one to realise that Pat had done something:
‘You must have gone back in time and put us on a different track.’ (p. 56 - 57). Joe is surprised to then discover that in the past year he and Pat had married (Pat was wearing a wrought silver and jade ring). Runciter declares that they must ask themselves, ‘why Stanton Mick took his business to a prudence organization other than ours,’ before Pat reveals of-course that she ‘did it’ with her ‘talent’ (p. 56). Joe has a vague intuition that his ‘wife’ is unique in some way but it is Runciter who remembers what happens:
‘ “We did get the Mick contract... I had a group of eleven inertials in here and then I suggested to her—" Joe said, “That she show the group what she could do. So she did. She did exactly that.” ’
Pat puts reality, ‘back the way it was’ (p. 59), the Mick contract still with Prudence Organization, and the marriage between her and Joe no longer in effect (though she decided to keep the ring, and Joe wondered if she had kept anything else from that alternative reality...).
I thoroughly enjoyed this particular passage. Dick throws the reader into this deep psychological quagmire and really, he could have dumped us in that alternative reality for the remainder of the novel. I’m sure other readers intuited that Dick would withdraw his characters from this alternative present, but for a moment, I realised that he didn’t have to, and could simply leave this reality to ‘play out’.
I was somewhat confused by Runciter’s return to his office simply by closing his eyes. Is this testament to his mental facilities? Was this part of Pat’s abilities? Is she able to physically move individuals through space as well as time?
And what exactly did Pat do?
It appears as though she shifted the whole team onto a different reality plane, and then propelled them forward in time. Though, does she necessarily have to shift them through time? Perhaps she places them in an alternative reality, and then each character progresses through time as normal, but only realises what has happened around a year later. Perhaps they are jolted by a trigger or a lost memory. This would mean that Pat lived out an entire year of her life, knowing that she would blast back to a previous reality when the moment seemed right... And quite possibly this is a pattern that she has undergone numerous times in her life.
The possibility that Pat is just clouding the characters memories is foiled by her possession of artefacts from the alternative realities, such as the ring. Having said that, though, it’s possible that the ring is meaningless, just something she had in her pocket, and her ‘talent’ just consisted of changing the memory of each character (rather than actually changing reality). This explanation of-course does not adequately account for what happened with the statue and her parents (though one could take the view that the ‘statue story’ was a fabrication on her part... ‘buyer beware!’).
On page 60, after Pat had returned all to the ‘original present’, Miss Spanish says:
‘Someone... just now moved us, all of us, into another world. We inhabited it, lived in it, as citizens of it, and then a vast, all-encompassing spiritual agency restored us to this, our rightful universe.’
Miss Spanish’s comments imply that there is some ‘rightful universe’, a true path, and that when Pat shifts from this path, all is not right in the world.
I detected an air of psychedelia in the passage above and so I was not surprised when later, on page 67, Miss Spanish enquires about, ‘hallucinogens?’, mentioning that when she is at work she, ‘function[s] better if [she] can get an ergot-base psychedelic drug,’ which is, of-course, an allusion to LSD.
Dick thus comments on the ‘psychic’ properties of psychedelic drugs such as LSD. I was reminded at this point of The Psychedelic Experience, written by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner and Richard Alpert, published in 1964, a text that reinterprets the Tibetan Book of the Dead in the context of drug-induced psychedelic voyaging. See also the 2009 film Enter the Void, directed by Gaspar Noé, a ‘psychedelic melodrama’ that explores DMT and the after-death-state.
In addition to the psychedelic allusions in Ubik, characters throughout the novel pop amphetamines and tranquillisers regularly and nonchalantly. For example, on page 60, Runciter, ‘opened a drawer of his desk, got out one of his amphetamine tablets, took it without water.’ When Runciter, Chip, and the team of anti-psi inertials land on Luna (prior to the bomb blast) Mrs Wirt assures the inertials that they will:
‘find in the game room of this suite a tranquilizer-dispensing machine. And, if you wish, we can probably have one of the stimulant-dispensing machines moved in from the adjoining instillations,’ (p. 67).
Amphetamines were scheduled (II) in 1971 (two years after publication). I’m not sure about the legal status of tranquillisers, so Dick obviously did not predict the ferocity of the War on Drugs. He did however predict the commonality of ingestion of mind-altering (and State-supported) substances: consider Prozac and other antidepressants, Valium and other tranquillisers, and dexamphetamines and other legally obtainable stimulants.
Rusciter and his team soon discover that they have been led into a trap, presumably set by Ray Hollis. A bomb explosion appears to result in the death of Runciter, without significantly harming the others. They escape the moon base (rather easily, as Chip observes), place Rusciter into a cryogenic half-life container on their ship and rush back to Earth to place him in a more secure half-life moratorium in Zurich.
From this point onwards, Joe Chip and the group begin to experience strange shifts in reality. The group begin to see Runciter's face on coins and they also begin receiving strange messages from him.
And the world around them begins to decay.
In a coffee shop in Zurich, Joe’s milk and coffee rapidly deteriorate. In an amusing scene, the coffee dispensing machine asks Joe for payment; when he is denied the ability to charge his coffee to, ‘the account of Glen Runciter of Runciter Associates’ the machine tells him, ‘we can do without your kind,’ (presumably, though not necessarily, the machine is referring to those who have bad credit... rather than humans in general), to which Joe replies:
‘One of these days... people like me will rise up and overthrow you, and the end of tyranny by the homeostatic machine will have arrived. The day of human values and compassion and simple warmth will return.’ (p 86).
He then discovers his milk to be sour and his coffee to be mouldy...
Throughout the novel, just about every appliance or piece of technology (including doors) requires coins to operate (... in-app purchases?). Dick presents a world where everything will cost something or will be subject to a kind of ‘usage’ tax. He was unable to predict the decline in physical money (though he does allude to ‘Magic Credit Keys’ (p. 23) which can be used as some kind of electronic payment) but this idea that everything will charge something for its use is an interesting comment.
Where it appeared that Runciter died in the blast, as it turns out, this is in-fact reversed in reality and he is the one who survives, and all the others are in the half-life state. Hammond and Chip find graffiti (a message from Runciter) on a urinal wall stating:
‘Jump in the Urinal and Stand on Your Head. I’m the One That’s Alive. You’re All Dead.’
The characters gradually face the reality that they are not alive, but rather, are in this ‘half-life’ state, enclosed in a ‘moratorium’, and one by one they are dying.
The novel follows kind of a ‘mystery’ path as Joe investigates clues to try to figure out what is going on. Group members who separate from the rest are found dead and in an advanced stage of decomposition. While trying to figure out what is causing these strange occurrences, Joe finds a mysterious product called Ubik, which is advertised in every time period he and the others enter (short adverts also appear at the start of each chapter). Messages from Runciter indicate that this so-called ‘Ubik’ may be their only hope of survival.
Reality gradually shifts backward in time until the group finds itself in a world resembling the United States in 1939. Joe Chip eventually realises what is going on: he is almost dead, and this deterioration of the environment he and the others are experiencing is part of a natural process of regression in the ‘half-life’ state; a propulsion towards death. This regression is manifested in things like cars, planes and buildings becoming older. But there are two additional forces at work: one that is enhancing this natural progress of regression (and thus bringing on the sudden ‘death’ of many characters) and another force that appears to be helping them (predominately through helpful messages and the appearance of Ubik).
Initially, I thought this process of regression had something to do with Joe Chip himself. It seemed like he was causing the things around him to age; like a reverse ‘Midas Touch’ of sorts. I thought that perhaps he had some kind of… (curse is the wrong word but...) curse that caused him to bring death the people and things around him. This is later shown to be false.
Another curious moment, towards the close of the novel, is when Joe and Hammond experience the elevator differently: Joe sees the elevator as regular lift (from Dick’s era) whereas for Hammond it had regressed to something from the early 1900s with a man operating it. This traumatises Hammond but also implies that existence regresses at different rates for different characters.
Joe discovers that the force that is tormenting them is ‘Jory’ (a young boy in this ‘half-life’ state who keeps himself going by ‘eating’ other half-lifers. Jory appears at the start of the novel when he intrudes on Runciter’s communications with Ella, and who is also Bill and Matt from earlier in the novel. Jory enhances the regression process; he brings half-lifers closer to death and eats whatever life is left in their ‘bodies’ (mind? essence...?).
I found it curious that the money that the characters hold seems not to be subject to this regression process initially; the money is too new, it is obsolete, it appears to be fake to the other ‘entities’ in the half-life state. Why is it that the money escapes the regression process? And just on these other ‘entities’, it would appear that they are ‘half-lifers’ themselves, also in this near-death state. But they also can be inventions of Jory: some of them certainly are. Perhaps they are inventions of other half-lifers? I envisaged it to be like some kind of massive online role-playing game where some of the characters are simply part of the game (just programs), some represent characters playing the game (half-lifers) and some have been created by players of the game (not sure of the equivalent for that one...).
Joe eventually finds out that it is Ella Runciter (on her way towards reincarnation) who developed the technology (or perhaps more accurately developed a technology capable of harnessing the energy force...) called Ubik which can negate Jory’s powers. Joe uses this Ubik (which he is eventually able to call into existence -- delivered by a girl, ‘pretty and slender’ (p. 223) mind you...) to evade Jory, the bringer of death.
Initially, I thought Ubik was some kind of all-pervading company or corporation that infiltrated every aspect of society (I guess that is fairly revealing of my perception of contemporary society...). I thought this was the case because of the advertisements at the start of each chapter. This initial reading though turned out to be rather far from the mark.
At the start of Chapter 17, the reader is presented with a more explicit explanation of Ubik:
‘I am Ubik. Before the universe was, I am. I made the suns. I made the worlds. I created the lives and the places they inhabit; I move them here, I put them there. They go as I say, they do as I tell them. I am the word and my name is never spoken, the name which no one knows. I am called Ubik, but that is not my name. I am. Shall always be.’ (p 226).
Ubik appears to be like an universal energy, a life-force, or the life-force of the universe. In a Christian context it could be interpreted as a metaphor for God. I found that the ‘force’ from Star Wars provided a closer resemblance. That is until it dawned on me that in-fact, the ‘schwartz’, the universal energy force in Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs (a 1987 spoof of Star Wars) bared an even closer resemblance. This is especially salient in one of the closing scenes of Spaceballs where the protagonist, Lonestar, and his sidekick, Barf, are given a can of ‘liquid schwartz’ which closely resembles the spray can form of Ubik.
It seems that Ella has been able to harness the power of Ubik to maintain life in the half-life state and to counteract the damage that Jory is able to do. But why does an advertisement for Ubik appear at the start of each chapter?And what is the significance of these products? Surely, they don’t represent the eternal life force of the universe in ‘product-form’? Could it be that the marketers and advertisers are presenting a product as if it were indeed the holy grail, or an encapsulation of Ubiquity itself?
In the novel, Ubik takes the form of a spray can, but then regresses eventually into an Elixir of Ubique which is totally worthless. Does this imply then that there is some perfect ‘final state’, represented by Ubik, which regresses back through time throughout the novel?
Jory can enhance or bring on the regression of Ubik. Does he represent some kind of eternal evil or destructive force in the universe? Something that always seeks to bring down that which is in a perfect state, into a state of destruction and nothingness. Does this represent an eternal struggle between forces of perfection and destruction? Growth and decay. Life and Death. Order and Chaos? I feel that Ubik also represents humanity’s desire for an Elixir of Life. Something that has always been present in society. Always, humanity has sought this essence of life, this Holy Grail.
I read on the wikipedia page (though the original source no longer exists...) that Tessa Dick (Dick’s ex and 5th wife) interprets Ubik thusly:
‘Ubik is a metaphor for God. Ubik is all-powerful and all-knowing, and Ubik is everywhere. The spray can is only a form that Ubik takes to make it easy for people to understand it and use it. It is not the substance inside the can that helps them, but rather their faith in the promise that it will help them.’
This explanation rings true of the success of other elixirs through time: that it is the faith or belief or placebo effect that produces the success, not the product itself...
This is also paralleled in Spaceballs...
Yogurt (a parody of Yoda played by Mel Brooks) reveals to Lonestar that the ring that Lonestar believed to hold the power of the ‘schwartz’ (which could also be used as a lightsaber) was nothing more than a plastic toy ring from a cereal box. Lonestar finally understands that it was him all along that had the power of the ‘schwartz’, the ring just helped him to believe...
And so what about the ending...
In what he believes to be the world of the living, Runciter tries to use a coin but sees that the face on the coin is that of Joe Chip (just as the others experienced with Runciter’s face on coins earlier in the novel). This turn of events implies that Rusciter has died (perhaps Hollis got to him eventually) and he is now in a half-life state (just as the others were when they started seeing Rusciter’s face on coins).
However, this also implies that Joe Chip is trying to communicate with Rusciter, which could mean that Joe Chip is in the half-life state and trying to communicate with Rusciter (who has likely just been killed but preserved in a moratorium). Strangely though, this method was used by Rusciter while he was still alive -- which implies that Joe Chip might be still alive (somehow??), or that Runciter has been dead all along. Perhaps they have all been dead all along. Perhaps Pat is merely an illusion created by Jory (this would render my earlier (and laboured) interpretations obsolete, as her abilities can be reasoned away simply as illusions created by Jory.
The idea that they are all dead reconciles an earlier passage (prior to the explosion on Luna) where Tippy Jackson is visited by Bill and Matt (Jory) in a dream. It may well be that she was already dead, and this was Jory invading what appeared to her to be a dream. If they are all dead, it is necessary that they were all dead prior to the explosion on the Moon, as if they all died on the Moon, then who transported them to the moratorium?
I tend to think that the ending is intentionally ambiguous. And I like ambiguous endings because like life, there are no certainties, there are no answers.