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June 17, 2008

An Unexpected Discovery

The history of ideas, especially since the advent of scientific thought, reveals that our most important discoveries were almost entirely unexpected and were initially resisted, often savagely, by both the temporal and religious authorities of the time.

Anyone following this blog, even casually, must have noted that its recent emphasis has been on denial as a major element of human cognition; in fact the search function quickly reveals how much I’ve been complaining about denial and the degree to which I’ve been led to suspect it has become the modern world’s greatest problem, simply because our lack of focused response to disasters already in progress or looming in our immediate future may have painted us into a corner from which escape will be difficult, if not impossible.

Typically (as it turns out), just as I was beginning to think I might be the first one to have arrived at such a novel conclusion, I discovered that at least one other person has beaten me to it. Not only that, his ideas had been recognized with a Pulitzer prize in 1973. Tragically (and ironically), he then died of cancer the following year at the age of 49 and the attention of the denial-prone intelligentsia of our denial-prone world quickly shifted to more comfortable areas.

As is so often the case, the premature loss of promising intellectual leadership has probably had dire consequences, but we’ll never know. That was certainly true of my near contemporary named Ernest Becker, a man whose name was completely unknown to me, but who had already arrived at conclusions about denial eerily close to mine well over thirty five years ago, and from an entirely different starting point.

I discovered Becker and his ideas only hours ago by simply Googlng a pair of words: “denial & death.”

That’s all I have time for now: I’ll obviously be returning to Becker and his revolutionary ideas ASAP... all I need is a little time, and some sleep.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at June 17, 2008 01:03 PM