Grasping at Death
Freud showed we had a will to die…so — Will we survive? Will we wake up from global apathy to save our planet? Will we resist cowardly denial or die out like the dinosaurs?
For the author’s reading, with elaboration, of this part, click on the link to the audio site above or click the audio player here:
Will We Survive?
This post discusses an age-old question which has currently become of immense, literally vital, importance: Will our species survive or die out like the dinosaurs? is the most crucial issue of our time. It is related to the fundamental fact of our existence for it is about the struggle between the forces of Life and those of Death. The consequences as to the winner of that inner struggle have to do with no less than the continued survival of life on this planet or total planetary collapse.
Eros vs. Thanatos
In the struggle between the current powers of life versus death, it is helpful to remember Freud’s paradigm-shifting observations about the human psyche on Eros and Thanatos. Freud showed how all human lives are drawn out against the background of each person’s inner struggle between the opposing forces of life and death…Eros and Thanatos. Specifically, for our purposes here, Freud advanced an understanding that made his insights paradigm-shifting, specifically, that each of us carry within us a Will to Die, which he referred to as Thanatos.
Freud established that we act out a will to live and to be in the sun and to have fun and to love and to like goodness and health and truth.
“Other times I can barely see.”
Freud also saw that we have at other times an opposite feeling that causes us to want to live in the dark; to not be around people; to shy away from life and the light and being seen and recognized and even to wanting to be lonely. This feeling causes us to not care about fun, to hate and be angry, indeed to hate everyone and even to want to lash out at them for no reason other than what might be self-labeled as spite. It makes us jealous of those who find happiness or pleasure in their lives and impels us to lash out at them and make them suffer the way we, on the inside, know we do. Because of this self-defeating tendency we irrationally beat up on our own bodies as well and abuse them with all kinds of substances and behaviors.
Thanatos is why there are always Republicans or something like them — Pharisees, Inquisitors…
And times in which they hold sway—stifling, life- and creativity-averse, stagnant and little changing times: the Middle Ages, for example…
This downward pull makes us want to hate goodness, calling things “kumbaya moments.” This part of our nature causes us to be jealous of others who are more giving and to hate them for that, to call people “goody two-shoes” or say something is “schmaltzy,” or to be saying that all that good stuff is just “drama.” It has us putting out terms like “bleeding heart” liberals. It causes us to not care about the truth, but rather to say things instead to hurt, get revenge, to get back at. Or it has us say untruths to get advantage, to disable our competitors, to hide from the evils we commit which enslave us further in the hiding of them, and so much more.
Struggle Will Out
But Freud took it beyond our inner struggles and talked about how the events of the world, the actions and movements of history, and the dramas of all the ages are in fact the products of this inner struggle.
At this very moment, our lesser selves are taking us on a path that leads inevitably, one way or another, to total species extinction. But not just that, being the “overachieving” species we are, we are bringing total life extinction to this planet and possibly even planetary annihilation–the death of virtually all life on this Earth.
Well, Ain’t We Special?
Freud pointed out we have a Will to Live, too–nothing earth-shattering there. In fact, so far he is stating nothing more than the common-sensical beliefs of the masses. Indeed, it is the universally held mainstream near-definition of humans…one of those “obvious truths” about us we like to bless ourselves with. Freud’s first point, taken by itself, encapsulates the cliched view of What We Are—that what distinguishes our species above all others revolves around a superior Will to Life.
While common-sensical that our Will to Life is part of a species superiority of ours, it is wrong…going too far. For would anyone say that other species don’t also have an incredible Will To Live?
Not So Much
But this hyperbole or over-reaching in stating humans are unique in the degree of their Will to Life reinforces my point about Freud’s ideas being zeitgeist-shattering. For in this common, frequent, pervasive even universal, and nauseatingly repeated promulgation of supposedly the obvious, by any and all who speak before an audience—large or small, from a principal speaking in front of a gathering of high schoolers or a preacher before his gathering of church-goers to the TV media pundit before a world-wide audience, and even to a US President’s audience of even greater global reach–it is shown that our special Will to Life is not as true as is assumed. For if we had such a superior drive in us, would it need to be constantly reinforced and upheld, as if against some attack, or attacker? And if so, what is the feared attack or attacker?
And here we get a clue into Freud’s discovery and its utter undermining of all that which is normally said regarding our humanness. For regarding our being special in our Will to Live, this kind of “protesting too much” and its flip side of repeating it ad nauseum, as Shakespeare obviously saw points to a hidden agenda. Truths do not have to be repeated endlessly, mantram-like, even ritualistically. For they are self-evident and need as much propping up as the belief that the sky appears to be the color blue to us–and you don’t hear much about that, do you?
My Dogma Barks Out My Specialness
But the pervasive repetition of the supposed Truth of our species Will to Life—especially the blown-up version that has it being the thing that makes us human, different from other species, “superior” to other species (there’s a clue), and even “special” (clue. Getting it?)—points to its being, not so much truth as dogma. And dogma does need to be endlessly repeated in that such things are exactly about things that are not obvious truths.
In fact, this repetition of an obvious truth points to its being not true. In the previous chapter I showed how our “sad proselytists” have to say their untruths and unrealities out loud in order to buck up or reinforce their believability. So also human societies need to endlessly repeat, in order to reinforce against onslaughts of insight, their precious untruths.
But the reasons behind the promulgation of this supposed “obvious truth” go even beyond, since we are not dealing here with any conscious or acknowledged, let alone written and standardized, set of things not obvious. For indeed, in this sad repetition of our superior life-valuing, it is put out as being something not needing institutional backing, being simply true in its obviousness.
So what then? Well, this repetitive characterization of Us, as Humans, has all the indications of something that has an intention, however unconscious, that has a calculation, however desperate our desire to not see it, about it to achieve an effect on the audience—in this case—the masses of all humans.
Humans’ Uniqueness Among Species? We Suck Up
What is that pathetically overlooked intention? Well, let us take a look at what that effect might be.
Anytime you place our species above all others (true or not), you are making as much as anything else a play to butter up your audience of fellow humans and appeal to their vanity…and thus, making them feel good, hoping that they will feel good, or, like you in return. In commonspeak, that’s called “people-pleasing.” In the vernacular, it’s called “sucking up.”
OK, so we’ve established that people in front of audiences near-universally want to say things that will make their audience feel good towards them. No, not so fast. For that overlooks the fact that somehow…and get this; for if the spoken thing were of the obvious truth category, then why would this follow…that somehow all these people speaking out to others about the unique will to life they have know—somewhere inside them—that saying such a thing will, in fact, give people a good feeling. That’s another clue.
More Socratic Dialoguing
And again, continuing this Socratic dialogue, well, wouldn’t humans just, of course, feel good hearing about their being superior? Doesn’t everyone feel good when told they are better and such? Well, now we’re getting to where Freud took us. For he knew, as we all do if we simply think about it. The answer is “no, not necessarily or even usually.”
Think about it. If the Beatles were to be told they were a good band, would that give them a good feeling? No. certainly not. For that was so true as to be overwhelming and almost scary in its near-universal belief. And we can suppose that to them having that kind of power and influence because of their talent—especially when you come out of nowhere, from humble, unassuming backgrounds—may have been distressing to think about and hardly something wanted from others. How could they not wonder about this power, its source, where it would lead, and all that? I don’t think it happenchance that this success sent all of them into drug-taking—to both block it out as well as come to terms with it—into soul-searching of the spiritual and, especially John, of the therapeutic sort. Sometimes one does not want to be reminded of how “good” (and therefore powerful…therefore responsible) one is; there’s such a thing as feeling one is scary good.
Or take the obviously accomplished anybody, Pavarotti, say. Wanna tell Pavarotti he sings good? Don’t think he’d feel a thing.
But, you say, that’s because they hear that all the time.
Ok, granted that. But think about when it would have felt good to them. Look to your own experience and you realize that you feel good when people tell you things about yourself—especially when they state them as self-evident and obvious to all–about which you are not certain, about which you often or at least sometimes have doubts, and about which you are insecure! Look to your own life. Can anyone be flattered about the things they know to be without question? Can you be flattered about the color of your skin or hair, or about…. Well, not stated as a fact, you wouldn’t. A person would be flattered only if they had some bad feeling, insecurity in that area, first; and second, if that quality of them is not usually noted though it be assumed by everyone to be a good, positive, or “superior” thing.
This pervasive, mutual stroking we do has a result which is of dire consequence currently: We scapegoat our planetmates because of this pathetically low self-esteem and those who play on it.
How to Make Someone Love You: Tell Them Something Wonderful About Themselves They Normally Doubt Is True
Skipping to the point here. People can be made to feel good about things of themselves they are not sure of. They will feel good, because the thing they would want to believe, the thing that would make them see themselves positively, the thing that would feed their slanted bias toward themselves…. Ok, I’ll finally use the word: The thing that would prop up and feed a person’s “ego” or the belief in one’s goodness, superiority, and so on, in a world of so many others, well that makes one feel good, whether it is true or not.
So, we see that the intention of this pathetic public pronouncing of a superior human will to live is to salve the egos of the masses. Why does it feel good? Because it is universally true that the ego is in constant assault from something which makes it feel not good.
What is that thing that makes people feel not good about themselves, so that being told something that counters that would make them feel good? Well, the answers, by psychologists since Freud, have many terms attached to them. And by the way, before the psychologists there were the theologians attempting to answer this. But Freud’s analysis not only answered it, but put it in the largest context possible—one into which both psychologists and theologians would find an inroad.
We can say, to backtrack a bit, that this pandering by those in front of audiences makes people feel good because it supports the defense system that all humans have erected against the real truth—that zeitgeist-shattering one that Freud was first to fully explicate. It feels good because it supports the denial that all humans have against the real truth that they feel about themselves, one of the things that human societies universally consign to that black hole of the Unapproved and Hidden. [Footnote 1]
“Quit Hitting Yourself!”
So this repetitive obvious truth about humans having a strong Will to Live is repeated to please audiences and make them feel good—”people-pleasing”—because it is a salve to the egos of the masses, which in reality are not merely bruised. No, this goes directly toward propping up a particular defense, a particular denial that we all carry. And that denial is that, IN TRUTH, humans don’t at all feel like they have a tremendous Will to Live. How can I say that? Well, how many things do you know you do which are “not good for you”? How many things do you not do which you know would aid the cause of our supposed universal desire to Live and to Live as long as possible?
The point is that humans, along with a Will to Life that is undeniable, also have a Will to Death.
How many times have you woken up, thought about all the pressures and obligations, or complexities, responsibilities…. thought about all the seemingly insurmountable obstacles or challenges that you are facing… thought about all the things that just have to get done, yet you feel that you could not possibly have the time to do all of them…. How many times have you woken up and felt overwhelmed with what life has become and not wished to just curl up, go back to sleep, and never wake up again? How many times have you taken to drugs or intoxicants in full knowledge of their negative and even dire concomitants and simply thought to yourself, “Aw, what the hell. If I were to die, so what? What’s so great about life anyway?” Or, with less clarity, simply said, “Well nobody lives forever!”
Do they sound like the pronouncements of a species that has a tremendous will to live? No, in fact, alongside our Will to Live, we have not only a Will to Die, but even a will to self-destruction.
Right about now, it might be occurring to you how this makes sense of so much, seemingly insane, human behavior we’ve seen of late. This Will to Die explains why we continue nonchalantly our march to armageddon. It shines light on how we can suck up air in cities that gives us raging allergies, clogs our lungs as bad as chronic smoking would, and will kill off the children we raise there long before their times. It reveals how we could drink poisoned water, blithely go about our business as the globe fills up with nuclear radiation and makes its way into our food supplies and as our government refuses even to test for it, and turn our backs as the oceans die, and killer tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis chalk up thousands in the kill column. It explains why people allow themselves to be enslaved and controlled by others—allowing fascism in established democracies—unconcernedly voting for rabid folk who would take away their rights and security and bring down their freedoms, health, and even lives, while watching those living under totalitarian systems risk their lives for a such freedom and rights and democracy. So much more.
Now, the intention here is not to repeat all that Freud and psychologists have said in showing how this works. Besides, just look at the evidence around you of addiction, chronic accidentalism, unhealthy behavior habits without number, and of course the ultimate evidence: suicide.
And by the way, if we have such a strong Will to Live, superior to all other species, then explain why it is so that we are the only species that has suicide? And we’re supposed to be the conscious ones?
What Freud pointed out has tremendous explanatory power, especially now in our current worldwide financial upheaval, depression/recession, expanding global fascism, nuclear meltdowns, oil spills, near environmental collapse, wars and terrorism, nuclear armaments of planetary annihilation, and tendency to pollute body as well as environment, and even to do it thoughtlessly, in full knowledge of the consequences.
I repeat: Freud established that we act out a will to live and to be in the sun and to have fun and to love and to like goodness and health and truth.
I repeat: Freud also saw we have at other times an opposite feeling which causes us to want to live in the dark—to not be around people, to shy away from life and the light and being seen and recognized and even to wanting to be lonely—that causes us to not care about fun, to hate and be angry, indeed to hate everyone and even to want to lash out at them for no reason other than what might be self-labeled as spite; that causes us to hate goodness, calling things “kumbaya moments,” that causes us to be jealous of others who are more giving and to hate them for that, call people “goody two-shoes” or saying something is “schmaltzy”; or saying that all that good stuff is just “drama”; and putting out terms like “bleeding heart” liberals; that causes us to beat up on our bodies and abuse them with all kinds of substances and behaviors; and that causes us to not care about the truth, but rather to say things instead to hurt, get revenge, to get back at; or to say untruths to get advantage, to disable our competitors, to hide from the evils we commit which enslave us further in the hiding of them, and so much more.
Pandavas versus Kauravas
Freud said we struggled between these two opposite feelings throughout our lives. It is because of this contradiction we carry inside that we can never be truly sure of who we are and even that we can question our motives and intentions (those more self-analytical of us). It is because of this contradiction that we can always feel we could have done better, that people don’t know everything about us, even when they say they do, and that sometimes we fear, especially when we are younger, that if people knew what we had inside they would shy away, not like us, think us to be bad, even monstrous.
By the way, about that inner monster of yours…
It is because of this contradiction that people are so terrified of revealing themselves, lest some of that not socially appropriate, not socially sanctioned, not socially approved part of themselves slip out. And the fear there is that then we will be seen to have been found out; and that then we will be confirmed in our worst fears that indeed that “other” part of ourselves is—the horror that cannot even be spoken in one’s mind—that dark part of ourselves is the real us…which carries with it the view that any of the “good” in us is just a cover up so that other people will not know.
Mask on a monster, lipstick on a pig
But Freud took it beyond our inner struggles and talked about how the events of the world, the actions and movements of history, the dramas of all the ages, are in fact the products of this inner struggle. Desperate between these poles, we join together with others of the same feeling—whether of lightness or of negativity—in multiple relations and groups on both sides of that struggle. More than that, while driven unwittingly from sources on one side, we expend ourselves in complex ways, in concert with these other, to represent these groups as well as ourselves as acting out from sources on the other side; we mask ourselves as the other.
Babel’s inner blueprint
Ultimately, these groups magnify our powers. And the cumulative acts of many individuals, along with the actions of groups and their leaders, all within complex and contradictory motives at all levels and in every matter, create the complex events of all times. All these happenings are at base the story of inner conflicts—complex outer conflicts notwithstanding. In a cumulative manner and over time, things are ever more convoluted and twisted and complicated through the actions of the myriad characters—all of whom conflicted inside, act inconsistently, and out of their own unique struggles which have all of us perceiving and interpreting things in ways totally unique to ourselves.
Again, The Question
These huge world events, then, Freud laid at the feet of the individual struggle. Basically the world becomes an arena of the acting of the Will to Life against the Will to Death, of Eros versus Thanatos.
That is why I say what we are discussing is an age-old question. Although to our detriment…or fortune?…it is now more than any other time crucially relevant, and it is the most immense importance and consequence as to the winner of that inner struggle.
For while we watched with paralyzed hand on one side, on the other our lesser selves are presently taking us on a path that leads inevitably, one way or another, to total species extinction. And not just that alone, but in fact total life extinction on this planet, and possibly even to planetary annihilation—the destruction of this planet itself.
That is why in upcoming sections I focus on this question of dire importance. I talk more about this Will to Death manifesting currently as planetary suicide. But unlike Freud I do not address this Will to Death in a general sense. I deal specifically with its existence as an element of the current struggle between those of us who would live and those opposing that.
I deal with the question of the sway of the the “dark side” as over against the Power of Truth, Love, Higher Power; God…if you will; Sathya Sai, that is, Truth Love…if you will; the Universe; or simply the Better Angels of Our Nature manifesting in increasing numbers of lives….
The questions we need to ask are about which side will win in the end. For certainly it will be decided one way or the other, and soon, of that we can be sure. And that is what makes this time and this question different from any other time. Because this question is not an academic one, now. It is one whose answer will become known far sooner than we would ever wish.
So, we will continue to live, and we will become good citizens of this planet and our species will continue on?
This discussion is only now beginning.
Strange Days, Indeed. “Most Peculiar, Mama!”
Beginning in the next chapter, “Strange Days,” we begin discussing this question of life-death, eros-thanatos, survival-extinction.
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Apocalypse – No! Chapter Six:
“Thanatos Walking” is also known as, “Will We Live, Or Die Out Like the Dinosaurs?” – audio by SillyMickel. For the author’s reading, with elaboration, of this part, click on the link to the audio site above or click the audio player here:
1. The “Unapproved and Hidden” is discussed in the chapter, “The First Prasad,” in my book, The Great Reveal by SillyMickel and the Planetmates. The planetmates describe the origins of this tendency of ours to need to speak out our supposed specialness, tying it to our creation of the Unapproved and Hidden in societies. I write about this more generally on one of my blogs in particular, “Sillymickel’s Blog of the Obvious Unspoken Things.” [return to text]
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Apocalypse – No! Chapter Six:
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