The Denial of Death

A quote from The Denial of Death, by Ernest Becker:

“Anxiety is the result of the perception of the truth of one’s condition. What does it mean to be a self-conscious animal? The idea is ludicrous, if it is not monstrous. It means to know that one is food for worms. This is the terror: to have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consciousness of self, deep inner feelings, an excruciating inner yearning for life and self expression – and with all this yet to die. It seems like a hoax, which is why one type of cultural man rebels openly against the idea of God. What kind of deity would create such complex and fancy worm food? Cynical deities, said the Greeks, who use man’s torments for their own amusement.”

This book is a fascinating read. The writer posits that it is this insoluble problem, the fact of man’s own mortality, that causes us to develop character traits that permit us to go into denial about the existentialist dilemma. These character traits of the so-called healthy man are, he says, secret neuroses that shield us from the psychosis that would exist in a world where we were ever in the presence of the terror of death.

In other words in other for man to be mentally “healthy”, he must permit himself to be taken in by the “benevolent lie”, the idea that there exists for us some action, some value, some achievement that causes us to overcome this animal limitation that every god-like (in consciousness) man will ultimately end in the same fate as barnyard animals.

These endeavors that man immerses himself in can take the form of business achiements, focus on the family, sports exploits, or any other number of conquests, but the bottom line is that each of these watchacalls are used to help create a value that we can hold up like a crucifix against the Eternal in protestation of our own cosmic insignificance. Within each of us lies a little online gamer who, when we die will protest “F*ck you, admin. I am not teh suck and I shall not be ever pwn3d, while I was here I had significance and I will continue to have such after my demise. I am the 1337.”

One of the ways in which man seeks to transcend his own mortality is to continue to exist through his progeny. That is why I say the love of one’s own children is, at root, a selfish love and love of self is a healthy expression of the will towards life, which all human being possess innately before we are inundated with with all the “social hero” ideological bastardizations of wisdom love (philo-sophy) during our formative years. I’m not sure where I’m going with this because I’ve only gotten halfway through my re-reading of this book. Just pretend I said something sagacious here. Revel in my all-knowery!!!

4 Responses to “The Denial of Death”

  1. R says:

    Good points all around.

  2. L says:

    The great philosopher Stewart Griffin said, “We only die because… we accept it… as… an inevitability! Whaaaa!” This was shortly before he realized that the world he wanted to live in was a sham.

  3. […] Last week I posted an excerpt from The  Denial of Death that talked about how man’s death terror leads him to try to find a higher value by which he can transcend death.  This week I’m on to the part where he is discussing how man, in the absence of a belief in a supernatural deity on which to project this image, often turns to projecting the qualities of the god-like onto the love partner.  I paraphrase because the books is at home. […]

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