Extinction and the Dread of Insignificance


Active Member
May 23, 2007
Extinction and the Dread of Insignificance

Becker compares three great thinkers Otto Rank, Wilhelm Reich, and Carl Jung to conclude that the three provide us nothing with which to connect their conclusions except that they dissented from Freud. However, there is agreement on the answer to the fundamental question, “What causes evil in human affairs?”

This agreement is also the agreement in all of the human sciences; “man wants above all to endure and prosper, to achieve immortality in some way”.

Wo/man wants, above all, to reject the knowledge of mortality; s/he does so by seeking to assure immortality in some way. Mortality is connected to our animal nature and thereby wo/man reaches for some way of being transcendent of that nature. As our mental capacity increased we rejected other animals with a vengeance because these other animals “embodied what man feared most, a nameless and faceless death.

Our fears are buried deeply within our unconsciousness by repression, that great discovery of the science of psychoanalysis. This repression “is achieved by the symbolic engineering of culture, which everywhere serves men as an antidote to terror by giving them a new and durable life beyond that of the body”.

I have recently finished reading “The Art of War” an article in the March 12, 2007 edition of “Time” by Lev Grossman. The article is about a, largely computer generated, movie regarding a war in ancient Greece. The movie’s title is “The 300 Spartans” and Zack Snyder is the director. The movie is, except for the human actors, a virtual world created by digital movie techniques. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1595241-2,00.html

“Snyder is one of a small, hypertechnical fringe of directors who are exploring a new way to make movies by discarding props, sets, extras and real-life locations and replacing them with their computer-generated equivalents.”

“With so much computer-generated make-believe going on, the actor’s physicality is the movie’s only link to the real world…every frame was manipulated and color-shifted to create an intense, thunderstorm palette…The result is a gorgeous, dreamlike movie that’s almost perfect. Every frame is neat and composed, like an oil painting, not a hair or a grain of sand out of place. All noise and dissonance have been digitally eliminated. Maybe that’s the only way to make a war movie right now, or at least, the only way to make a war movie that’s not an antiwar movie…That’s why it’s a piece of mythology. It’s what we would hope for. “300” is a vision of war as ennobling and morally unambiguous and spectacularly good-looking.”

That’s one hell of a special effect. And this movie is, I find, an insight into the meaning of “evil in human affairs”. We are all directors of our individual and our community’s virtual reality.

I suspect we have repressed such conscious thoughts about mortality that we are inclined to dispatch with a shrug any talk of such matters; do you ever consciously seek to “achieve immortality in some way”?

Quotes from “Escape from Evil”—Ernest Becker