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Posts tagged "Ernest Becker"

Architects, Madmen and Ernest Becker's The Denial of Death

Architects, Madmen and Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death

Freud, Kierkegaard, and the drug lord Heisenberg…A free peek into the Love & Death Issue, which people continue to tell us is their favorite issue thus far. Here is Ethan’s piece on the classic, Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death. If you subscribe to the magazine, and add the code JESSEPINKMAN in the notes section of your order, we’ll send a free copy to a friend of your choosing.

And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone…

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Another Week Ends: Immortality, Elixirs of Life, False Prophets, Fear of Death, Sensitive Readers and Humble Corporations, and Stranger Things

Another Week Ends: Immortality, Elixirs of Life, False Prophets, Fear of Death, Sensitive Readers and Humble Corporations, and Stranger Things

1. Lots of people talking about immortality this week! Wonder why that’s happening! First off, in a pretty blatant promotion of our Food & Drink Issue, The Atlantic published a lengthy piece on the denial of death in the world of nutrition and diet. I mean, the article gets pretty close to a lot of what we’re saying throughout the issue—that food is not only a culturally and morally stratifying part of our everyday lives, it is a way for human beings to fend themselves (read: justify themselves) against the inevitable d-word. The article references the philosophy of Ernest Becker (writer…

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The Life, Death, Life Cycle

The Life, Death, Life Cycle

We are now up to our necks in Advent, two candles burning. We’ve got lights on the tree and parties dead ahead. It’s a season of waiting, as we all know, but in a lot of ways, between leafless trees and dry skin, it’s also a season of dying. Because there has to be some sort of death before there can be life, some sort of struggle before triumph. You can’t celebrate a championship unless there were teams to beat. You can’t celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary unless there was something challenging about that course of life. Christmas is a…

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The Alien Work of Dr. House

The Alien Work of Dr. House

We love to talk about Ernest Becker’s book, The Denial of Death. In it, he argues that the most fundamental drive we have—going beyond Freud—is that of our fear of death. In reaction, we invest all sorts of things with importance in order to convince (trick?) ourselves that our lives are actually meaningful. As with all fears, a consequence of its power is the impulse to worship and revere. In the “old days”—before germ theory—this fear/worship was directed towards the heavens, as a recognition that a divine power held the keys to life and death. Today, however, the increasingly common…

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Superhero Undergraduates and the Culture of Overachievement

Superhero Undergraduates and the Culture of Overachievement

From a rather frightening article in the recent Harvard Alumni Magazine entitled “Nonstop: Today’s Undergraduates Do 3,000 Things At 150 Percent”. We talk a lot on this site about the perils/realities of achievement-based identity (justification by works), yet after reading this article, one honestly wonders how much further we as Americans can take it. While the article approaches the “crackberry” phenomenon from an understandably Harvard-centric perspective, we could easily substitute “New Yorker” for “Harvard undergraduate” – or “undergraduate at any remotely competitive college” or “high school student” or “30something suburbanite” or almost anything else, for that matter. Ernest Becker would…

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Annie Hall, Normal Neuroses, and the Mainspring of Human Activity

Annie Hall, Normal Neuroses, and the Mainspring of Human Activity

The recent posts about Woody Allen and Lucian Freud reminded me of a scene in Annie Hall where, shortly after explaining that “I feel that life is divided into the horrible and the miserable,” Alvy recommends Ernest Becker’s book The Denial of Death to Annie. Written in 1973, it is Becker’s evaluation of human psychology from a Freudian and post-Freudian perspective. In it, he argues that Freud’s (in)famous argument that people are fundamentally libidinal—that is driven by sexual desire—was descriptively accurate but specifically misguided; the real motivation behind people’s subconscious maladies lies not in the hyper-sexual realm but rather in…

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