A decade ago, on the recommendation of a friend, I tried to read Ernest Becker, who wrote about, to quote one of his book titles, the denial of death in everyday life. It was tough going, and didn’t sink in.
Now, I have an empirically validated, extended, and entirely readable version in The Worm at the Core. It’s one of the most enlightening books I’ve ever read, making the point that we construct our way of life to hide the debilitating fact of our impending death from ourselves. I write this on a Saturday, for example, and the fact that a last Saturday and a next Saturday and so on are mapped out masks me from the uncertainty of my existence. Saturdays, no matter how certain they feel, are just a part of our invented scheme of things.
“The scheme of things is so deeply ingrained that virtually everything we think, feel, and do is shaped by it. It not only provides each of us with our knowledge and explanations of the world, it also supplies the fundamental structure of our conscious experience. Right now, your current author and professor of psychology is writing this important book on Friday, October 10, 2014, at 1:55 P.M. sitting in his office in the United States of America. What could be more meaningful than that? But if he peers in from outside his cultural worldview and the meanings it provides, he sees just a warm-blooded animal pecking at a piece of plastic in the midst of an undifferentiated flow of experiences that will, sooner or later, inevitably be interrupted by a heart attack, cancer, car accident, or the ravages of old age. What time is it now for you, the reader? What does it mean that it’s some day of the week, some month, some year? Isn’t that all an illusory structuring of your conscious experiences provided for you by your culture to help you impose order and permanence on something chaotic and fleeting? If this is a Thursday, how comforting an illusion it is that there will be another Thursday, and another one after that” (p. 36).
"the fundamental structure of our conscious experience" Wow!