13 April 2018

A Vaudeville of Despair

Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death (New York: Free Press, 1973), p. 149:
The uncontrolled emotional outpouring, the dazed masses standing huddled in the city squares sometimes for days on end, grown people groveling hysterically and tearing at themselves, being trampled in the surge toward the coffin or funeral pyre — how to make sense out of such a massive, neurotic "vaudeville of despair"? In one way only: it shows a profound state of shock at losing one's bulwark against death. The people apprehend, at some dumb level of their personality: "Our locus of power to control life and death can himself die; therefore our own immortality is in doubt." All the tears and all the tearing is after all for oneself, not for the passing of a great soul but for one's own imminent passing.