The Needs of Ghosts – 122022

This is a newsletter by Christian Sager that comes out every other Tuesday. In it I attempt to make sense of the chaos I experienced in the world. I try to sort that information along the model of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. This issue I write about grief's distraction, what happens after I die, my favorite music of 2022, and an anthology I contributed to.


Kelly and I haven’t been sleeping well. One of us usually wakes up early and can’t get back to sleep. Sometimes I find myself wandering around in the middle of the night, wide awake.

We’ve noticed that our depression in the wake of Essie’s death distracts us from our other needs: cleaning, the holiday, reading, making time for friendship, even writing this newsletter. I typically start working on it the day after the previous edition goes out. But I only just started this one three days before you’re reading it. I know it will be short.


We had Essie cremated. They returned her remains to us in a box that says “If love could have saved you Essie Blue… you would have lived forever.” It’s the same box our cat Jimmy McNulty came back to us inside, four years ago. It’s just bigger. We’ve already thought about a different kind of box we’d like to transfer her into, something more fitting for her and our family.

But there’s two lines of thought I find myself traveling toward when I look at this box. The first is practical and atheist: the remains in that box are nothing but ash and bone, her spirit is either gone or somewhere else.

The second line is more of the magical thinking I’ve experienced in the weeks since her death. I imagine that her spirit is somehow anchored to these remains, capable of both observation, emotion and comprehension. It’s strange, but when I touch or hold the box I feel something inside, similar to the energy that came off her when she was alive.

I don’t know which line of thought I rationally believe in. But I’d rather experience the gift of her presence than the heartache of her absence. I recognize this could be a Ligottian trick of my human mind, deceiving me into believing the world is anything but suffering. But even if that were true, I realize that the joy she brought me was so powerful that it demands to cancel out that reality.

Whenever I’ve discussed my eventual death I’ve advocated for some type of environmental disposal of my body, either a green burial or scattered cremation. If death is option one — nothing but bones and ashes — I want them to go wherever they’ll do the most good. But if it’s option two, and my identity is somehow connected to my remains, I wonder how I’ll feel if I’m still conscious post-mortem, but unseen by the rest of the world.

Would I watch my loved ones? Probably. I can’t help but think of Brian K. Vaughn and Niko Henrichon’s current webcomic Spectators. I’m sure there’d be a temptation to wander around and spy on everyone as an intangible ghost. But if I’m capable of observation I’d mainly want to stick by those who meant the most to me until I know they’re able to move past their grief.

It won’t be a haunting because I don’t want them to suffer any further. If anything, I’d try to bring them comfort. Those who remain shouldn’t feel guilty or obsess about my living days. These past few few weeks I’ve found myself re-litigating Essie’s death over and over in my head. But then I realized that she wouldn’t want that. She’d want to bring me comfort.

Bringing it back around to the Maslow’s hierarchy format of this newsletter, if I could become some manner of ghost I'd no longer have any physiological or security needs. But, if there’s still some semblance of our psychology, wouldn't I still need the connection of belonging, the dignity of esteem, and the creativity of self-actualization? This opens up a complexity to the magical thinking that I’m not prepared to unpack. What do ghosts create? What gives them confidence? How do they express love?

Mysteries for another time.


This is the last newsletter of the year. Around this time I typically reflect on my favorite music from the last 12 months. In 2022 there are a couple of common themes that ran throughout my listening.

I gravitated toward songs that reminded me of a connection to my friends, oftentimes to those who aren’t in close proximity to me. There’s anger and confusion in this music; a general protest against the state of the world. It feels like a manifestation of my frustration; dogs barking when I cannot. I found that subculture challenges me more than it was when I posted something like this 4 years ago.  Actually, these feel like the songs I needed to hear in 2020, they just hadn’t been written yet.

Self-worth. Empathy. Getting older while still feeling young. Soundtracks to the industrial apocalypse we’ve built for ourselves. Finding fun, beauty and acceptance in this bleak environment. Ignoring false alarms. Seeing through the myriad of deceptions we’re presented with everyday.

All around the world people like me struggled with these same problems. Here is how some of them expressed it through music.

  • Soul Glo – Diaspora Problems
  • Brutus – Unison Life
  • Chat Pile – God’s Country
  • Hammered Hulls – Careening
  • Holy Fawn – Dimensional Bleed
  • Municipal Waste – Electrified Brain
  • Cloud Rat – Threshold
  • Elder – Innate Passage
  • Russian Circles – Gnosis
  • An Evening Redness – An Evening Redness
  • Helms Alee – Keep This Be the Way
  • Blut Aus Nord – Disharmonium - Undreamable Abysses
  • A Place to Bury Strangers – See Through You
  • The Smile – A Light for Attracting Attention
  • Bitter Branches – Your Neighbors Are Failures
  • Ghost – IMPERA

Self Esteem

A few days after Essie passed I received a strange mass email from the editor of a comics anthology I contributed to back in 2020. He’s been late producing the book and now, what’s left of the comics community on Twitter is turning on him.

I haven’t seen anything to indicate that this person is trying to pull a malicious scam. It’s been a difficult couple of years and it sounds like he’s had a rough go of it. After struggling to get my own anthology out during the pandemic, I feel for him.

I’m still proud of the story that Kelly Williams and I created for it and hope to share it with you someday. Ironically, it’s about the five stages of grief, seen through the eyes of a culture war between raccoons and cats who can’t stop pissing on everything.

Reading the linked article above about this anthology reminded me why I’m not engaging with Twitter anymore. What a cesspool.

Not that other platforms are much better. I’ve been getting a good chuckle at my Instagram feed lately. Half of it is artists posting anti-AI art manifestos. The other half is people posting imagery they’ve used AI art generators to produce.

Self Fulfillment

Similar to the other distractions I’ve noticed above, I haven’t been writing much fiction lately. A lot of my creative energy went into that last newsletter.

It took me about two-and-a-half weeks to start work on my book again and really I’ve just been making edits to the first act. I hope to make more progress in the new year.

Resilient Gratitude

  • Music
  • The generosity of friends
  • I was slow to get into it, but I really enjoyed the last two-thirds of Andor. If I have a type it’s clearly Dedra Meero.
Christian Sager is a writer, a friend to animals & libraries, and the founder and editor of Corridor magazine.