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.— Ernest Becker
The most genuine Ernest Becker quotes that are life-changing and eye-opening
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
What man really fears is not so much extinction, but extinction with insignificance.
War is a sociological safety valve that cleverly diverts popular hatred for the ruling classes into a happy occasion to mutilate or kill foreign enemies.
The road to creativity passes so close to the madhouse and often detours or ends there.
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.
Man's natural and inevitable urge to deny mortality and achieve a heroic self-image are the root causes of human evil.
...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¢.
Horror alone brings peace of mind.
Ecological devastation is the excrement, so to speak, of man's power worship.
It is fateful and ironic how the lie we need in order to live dooms us to a life that is never really ours.
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.
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.
Modern man is drinking and drugging himself out of awareness, or he spends his time shopping, which is the same thing.
Man cannot endure his own littleness unless he can translate it into meaningfulness on the largest possible level.
Men use one another to assure their personal victory over death.
For man, maximum excitement is the confrontation of death and the skillful defiance of it by watching others fed to it as he survives transfixed with rapture.
The irony of man's condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.
When you confuse personal love and cosmic heroism you are bound to fail in both spheres. The impossibility of the heroism undermines the love, even if it is real. This double failure is what produces the sense of utter despair that we see in modern man... Love, then, is seen a religious problem
Genuine heroism for man is still the power to support contradictions, no matter how glaring or hopeless they may seem.
The creativity of people on the schizophrenic end of the human continuum is a creativity that springs from the inability to accept the standardized cultural denials of the real nature of experience. And the price of this kind of almost "extra human" creativity is to live on the brink of madness, as men have long known.
The key to the creative type is that he is separated out of the common pool of shared meanings. There is something in his life experience that makes him take in the world as a problem; as a result he has to make personal sense out of it.
The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why - Warren Bennis, Leadership Guru It is not so much that man is a herd animal, said Freud, but that he is a horde animal led by a chief
The man of knowledge in our time is bowed down under a burden he never imagined he would ever have: the overproduction of truth that cannot be consumed.
To live is to play at the meaning of life.
..The upshot of this . . . is that it teaches us once and for all that childlike foolishness is the calling of mature men.
All power is in essence power to deny mortality.
Better guilt than the terrible burden of freedom and responsibility.
the best existential analysis of the human condition leads directly into the problems of God and faith
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.
Love is the problem of an animal.
In seeking to avoid evil, humanity is responsible for bringing more evil into the world than organisms could ever do merely by exercising their digestive tracts. It is our ingenuity, rather than our animal nature, that has given our fellow creatures such a bitter earthly fate.
People create the reality they need in order to discover themselves
If the love object is divine perfection, then one's own self is elevated by joining one's destiny to it... All our guilt, fear, and even our mortality itself can be purged in a perfect consummation with perfection itself.
To live fully is to live with an awareness of the rumble of terror that underlies everything.
Once you base your whole life striving on a desperate lie, and try to implement that lie, you instrument your own undoing.
Each society is a hero system which promises victory over evil and death.
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.
Obviously, all religions fall far short of their own ideals.
Relationship is thus always slavery of a kind, which leaves a residue of guilt.
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.
Guilt results from unused life, from the unlived in us.
Love is the problem of an animal who must find life, create a dialogue with nature in order to experience his own being.
What is the ideal for mental health, then? A lived, compelling illusion that does not lie about life, death, and reality; one honest enough to follow its own commandments: I mean, not to kill, not to take the lives of others to justify itself.
The artist takes in the world, but instead of being oppressed by it, he reworks it in his own personality and recreates it in the work of art.
We are gods with anuses.
One of the main reasons that it is so easy to march men off to war is that each of them feels sorry for the man next to him who will die.
We might say that psychoanalysis revealed to us the complex penalties of denying the truth of man's condition, what we might call the costs of pretending not to be mad.