Thursday, March 15, 2018

Beyond Money, Power, and Death-Anxiety

Beyond Money, Power, and Death-Anxiety

Death is invincible and defeats us all, but we devise ways to compensate.  Some are natural such as biological reproduction; some are cultural, as when we contribute  to the greater good. But not every reaction to our mortality is benign.  Many people repress the very idea of being mortal.   According to Pulitzer prize-winning sociologist, Ernest Becker, the denial of death can lead to dangerous distortions of the human personality.  (See Becker’s Denial of Death, 1973.)

One way to compensate for feeling puny before death is to amass great personal power.  Wealth spread wide, fame that makes you known everywhere, influence and control—like talismans, these can buoy up one’s cowed spirit.  The ability to create fear or love in underlings at will, being fawned upon and laved with admiration, wallowing in privilege and feeling superior—all this might alleviate the angst that haunts our imagination.       

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Human Survival in the Balance

Albert Einstein wrote: “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything
except our ways of thinking. Thus we are drifting toward a catastrophe
beyond comparison. We shall require a substantially new manner of
thinking, if mankind is to survive.”

A substantially new manner of thinking—we should underscore Einstein’s
words. They suggest that any approach that relies on old formulas
for solving the world predicament probably need to be scrapped. A substantially
new manner of thinking? Einstein has remarked on the importance of
imagination in solving the great problems by stepping outside
the box of our usual assumptions.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Guns and Near-Death Experience

When I watched high school students Emma Gonzalez and John Hogg speak out against guns in America, truth was spoken in a manner I never heard before, not from one politician or president (except maybe Eisenhower on the military-industrial complex). 

These young prophets—lucky to have survived the latest murderous rampage in Parkland, Florida—have asked the crucial question.  Addressing Trump and Congress, they want to know:  What do you value more?  Our lives or the money and political support you gain from the N.R.A.? Our lives or a chauvinistic abstraction called the “Second Amendment?”

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Synchronicity With A Stinkbug

It’s Sunday afternoon, the eve of the new year, 2018, and I’m at my computer mucking about. I glance down at the floor.  A stinkbug is reposing on top of a book called The Man Who Could Fly, the strange life of a man with a genius for bending reality out of shape.   

I bend over and peer at the hated creature, officially classified a pest.  Here in America only since 1998, they come from China.  But they’re amazingly clever at making a living, and the females are superb replicators.  As a result, this insect is thriving all over the USA.  No sign of them going back to China.   

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