So how is it possible to face the unbearable paradox of existence, the very tragedy of humanity: That you are alive, but you know that you are going to die? The book “Denial of Death” by Ernest Becker suggests that by denying the fact and giving your life symbolical meaning.
You become immortal in your mind by becoming a hero and living on forever in the memories of mankind. He states that different cultures created different kinds of hero-systems in which the members of society can feel that they are heroes who live a meaningful life.
I feel he was fundamentally correct but missed to see the larger picture. This is why he could not offer any resolution to the dilemma of the human situation. I feel that the real cause of heroism is not the denial of death, but an effort to prove your own existence. Proving to yourself that you are really alive is the core, and the denial of death is only a layer. But why would you need to convince yourself that you are alive?
Because in this moment you are living as a personality, and the personality is not real. Something that is not even alive cannot really die. You are afraid to die only because you are living as the ego, and only the ego is afraid of death. But deeper down the ego is afraid that it is not even real.
The ego knows it is nothing but an illusion. When this illusion is seen as the illusion it is, the ego dies. So the ego is trying to make everything in its power to keep the illusion – itself – alive.
Deep down you feel that you are not real, but you want to convince yourself of the opposite. Personality is a lie, but you want to believe in it because it is the only idea you have about yourself. Without this idea, you would feel lost, you would feel that you are a nobody.
A positive ego can give you a very good feeling about yourself. It is easy to identify with it, and you see it as your biggest gift. It is much easier to throw away a negative ego. When you think you are bad, you are worthless, you see yourself as a burden. When this feeling becomes unbearable, you can suddenly snap out of the illusion of the ego. So I suggest you commit suicide of your ego, and not your body.
The book of Becker introduces the idea of immortality projects. These are the different kinds of cultural and personal projects that we create to feel immortal, to transcend ourselves. The problem is when immortality projects clash. If there is only one truth, then your version of it has to be the real one.
Otherwise, the fear of death arises again. So religious wars are really clashes of different immortality projects. This is why heroism is the source of human aggression.
But I see the cause of aggression only partly in the clash of immortality projects. Fight is inherent in heroism and not occasional or accidental. You can only be a hero by fighting and winning over an enemy. And a hero is only as good as his enemy. The bigger enemy you choose, the bigger your fight is.
That is why some people cannot be cured of their illnesses. They become heroes by fighting with the disease. Illness becomes part of their personalities. Exactly this fight is that makes the ego going, that is continuously creating and recreating the illusion. If the ego stops fighting, it disappears.
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