What Are Death Stakes?

by Christopher Lovejoy on January 23, 2022

After doing a web search for “what are death stakes?,” I saw a lot of references made to getting burned at the stake. As you might imagine, I was quite disappointed by these results. I was looking for something far more interesting, something that could help me craft the story of my life.

A few days ago, while I was watching a series on writing fictional best-sellers, the instructor (a best-selling author himself) made reference to what I felt was a most intriguing concept, something he referred to as “death stakes.” In his course, he outlined three types of death stake, as follows:

1) a physical death stake
2) a psychological death stake
3) a reputational death stake

The use of any one or more of these stakes is critical for crafting what is known in the book publishing industry as “a page-turner.” Sounds a bit ghoulish, I know, but there it is, and yet, a compelling plot in a story require characters who have a lot at stake in “winning the objective.”

To wit: will they make it or not? Or will they be cut down to size before they do?

This got me to wondering: what are my death stakes, as applied to the story of my life?

I thought about it some, and I came up with six categories of death stake:

1) existential death stake (where I’m at risk of losing all sense of meaning)
2) physical death stake (where I’m at risk of losing this precious life I live)
3) psychological death stake (where I’m at risk of losing the heart of my soul)
4) ethical death stake (where I’m at risk of losing the core of my conscience)
5) spiritual death stake (where I’m at risk of losing my mind and my spirit)
6) reputational death stake (where I’m at risk of losing my reputation)

Wait, am I being too morbid? I don’t think so, and here’s why: in wholesome terms, death is best construed and conveyed as contrast. Death is really, simply just a shadow of life, best viewed in partnership with life, involving the beauty and wonder of love, light, and the lust for life.

It’s really that simple, and I absolutely love that it’s that simple.

Granted, the death of any sort of doing in relation to being is full of fears and tears, but I would submit, from a witness perspective, that we can still learn and grow to remain ever calm and clear about what is really and truly at stake for a life lived in love with life and the lust for life.

Having said this, what does one do with a death stake? That is to say, what does it even mean to be at risk of a certain kind of death? The key to a compelling answer, I feel, can be found in a concept known as anomie (I wrote about this notion in Self as Art : Self as One ~ a work in progress).

Anomie is a profound loss of meaning in the face of meaninglessness, one that is brought on by a condition in society where social regulation (by way of values, virtues, standards, rules, regulations, etc.) is poorly defined and/or enforced for the greater whole and/or the common good.

This is a condition where values in common change quickly, where uncertainty is rewarded, and where unpredictability is par for the course. In this condition, remaining flexible, adaptable, coherent (and resilient), energetic, and stable is key to mitigating the risk of existential death.

I placed “existential death stake” at the top of my list for a reason.

Without personal meaning, none of the other death stakes matter.


If I gave myself the means
by which to satisfy my every need,
and to fulfill my every desire,
and all of this was done on my own terms,
in my own best interests,
would I still have the gratitude,
and the generosity, to show up,
vibrating at the speed of
peace, love, joy, bliss, grace, ease?

~ yours

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