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The Denial of Death

Ernest Becker

Free Press Paperbacks, Published by Simon & Schuster, New York 1973
discussing Kierkegaard, The Concept of Dread, 1844, Princeton: University Press edition, 1957, translated by Walter Lowrie.

Love Your Anxiety

"The flood of anxiety is not the end for man. It is, rather, a "school" that provides man with the ultimate education, the final maturity. It is a better teacher than reality, says Kierkegaard, because reality can be lied about, twisted, and tamed by the tricks of cultural perception and repression. But anxiety cannot be lied about. Once you face up to it, it reveals the truth of your situation; and only by seeing that truth can you open a new possibility for yourself.

'He who is educated by dread [anxiety] is educated by possibility. ... When such a person, therefore, goes out from the school of possibility, and knows more thoroughly than a child knows the alphabet that he demands of life absolutely nothing, and that terror, perdition, annihilation, dwell next door to every man, and has learned the profitable lesson that every dread which alarms may the next instant become a fact, he will then interpret reality differently. ...'"

The Denial of Death

I cannot recommend this book, (nor Kierkegaard's either). On page 90 he concludes that dropping the programmed personality and facing the terror of the loneliness of a life bound up in chaos can only avoid madness through the individual placing faith that an Ultimate Creator God has some reasonable design in back of it all.

At this point the Buddhist educated mind just shuts down.

Facing 'the terror', is of course Pajapati's problem, but what Becker and Kierkegaard fail to see is that this faith is just another sort of social conditioning the results of which are as stale, unsatisfactory and impermanent as any other and that there is another solution, namely the abandoning of any idea of self there. By realizing through examination at the time of perception of the chaos of the world that there is nothing in that that is the self, one actually experiences the dropping off of attachment to this world and by that the subjective experience of terror that results from being helpless within it.

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