A collection of quotes by Ernest Becker on life, awareness, creativity, animals, guilt, lying, mortality, terror, death, birth etc.
47 Insightful Quotes By Ernest Becker
Ernest Becker was a celebrated Jewish-American writer, famous for his work ‘The Denial of Death’. His writing and books were influenced by the impact of social psychology and psychology of religion. His highly successful ‘Terror Management Theory’ has led to creation of over 200 published studies. He transformed his agenda of cultural affects of death anxiety into a proven scientific axiom. His other notable works include ‘The Lost Science of Man’, ‘The Structure of Evil’ and ‘Angel in Armor: A Post-Freudian Perspective on the Nature of Man’. After his death, the Ernst Becker Foundation was established which monitors study of human behavior based on Becker’s research and theories. A documentary film titled ‘Flight from Death’, based on Becker’s inference on the reduction of violence in human society, was released in 2009. Here are few quotes and sayings from this famous anthropologist.
If everyone lives roughly the same lies about the same thing, there is no one to call them liars. They jointly establish their own sanity and themselves normal.
What man really fears is not so much extinction, but extinction with insignificance.
Man's natural and inevitable urge to deny mortality and achieve a heroic self-image are the root causes of human evil.
We might say that both the artist and theneurotic bite off more than they can chew, but the artist spews it back out again and chews it over in an objectified way, as an external, active, work project...
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, consiousness 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 crate such a complex and fancy worm food?
I think that taking life seriously means something such as this: that whatever man does on this planet has to be done in the lived truth of the terror of creation, of the grotesque, of the rumble of panic underneath everything. Otherwise it is false. Whatever is achieved must be achieved with the full exercise of passion, of vision, of pain, of fear, and of sorrow. How do we know, that our part of the meaning of the universe might not be a rhythm in sorrow?
When we understand that man is the only animal who must create meaning, who must open a wedge into neutral nature, we already understand the essence of love. Love is the problem of an animal who must find life, create a dialogue with nature in order to experience his own being.
We consult astrology charts like the Babylonians, try to make our children into our own image with a firm hand like the Romans, elbow others to get a breath-quickening glimpse of the queen in her ritual procession, and confess to the priests and attend church. And we wonder why, with all this power capital drawn from so many sources, we are deeply anxious about the meaning of our lives. The reason is plain enough: none of these, nor all of them taken together, represents an integrated world conception into which we fit ourselves with pure belief and trust.
The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else; it is a mainspring of human activity - designed largely to avoid the fatality of death, to overcome it by denying in some way that it is the final destiny of man.
The real world is simply too terrible to admit. it tells man that he is a small trembling animal who will someday decay and die. Culture changes all of this,makes man seem important,vital to the universe. immortal in some ways
...Erich Fromm wondered why most people did not become insane in the face of the existential contradiction between a symbolic self, that seems to give man infinite worth in a timeless scheme of things, and a body that is worth about 98¢.
Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with a towering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order blindly and dumbly to rot and disappear forever.
The greatest cause of evil included all human motives in one giant paradox. Good and bad were so inextricably mixed that we couldn't make them out; bad seemed to lead to good, and good motives led to bad. The paradox is that evil comes from man's urge to heroic victory over evil.