The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell (Part 3)

Affection. The feeling that you are loved helps to promote zest. A man could consider himself dreadful and that no one would love him. Or he just might be someone who nobody loves. A man could act friendly or kind in order to win friends. However, others might see through his motives. A man could seek revenge on the world if he is unloved. Such occurrences are rare as men would usually sink into timid despair. The fearless man will find life’s obstacles easier to navigate. Self-confidence is also closely linked to affection. This habit of mind is a source of zest. The affection you receive is the thing that provides a sense of security in life. A child who does not receive parental affection is likely to become timid. Not all affection encourages adventurousness. However, the care that parents give needs to support child growth and courage too. There is no need to be unduly possessive. Some men like timid women, because they can protect them. Affection and security are closed linked. If you are unable to enjoy sex love, it might deprive you of the joys that life has to offer. Men love women for their appearance, while women love men for their character. One can give two types of affection, one is a zest for life, the other is an expression of fear. You can give better love to others if you feel safe. There is also a form of insecure love. Insecure love means you tend to love someone for their services rendered, not for their intrinsic qualities. This is never wise to be in a one-way relationship. These are selfish people who tend to be very ambitious. Ambition which excludes affection does not lead to true happiness. Some people are scared to love for fear they might be made use of or hurt.

Those who face life with a feeling of security are much happier than those who face it with a feeling of insecurity, at any rate so long as their sense of security does not lead them to disaster. – Betrand Russell

Many people when they fall in love look for a little haven of refuge from the world, where they can be sure of being admired when they are not admirable, and praised when they are not praiseworthy. – Betrand Russell

To be unable to inspire sex love is a grave misfortune to any man or woman, since it deprives him or her of the greatest joys that life has to offer. – Betrand Russell

The best type of affection is reciprocally life-giving; each receives affection with joy and gives it without effort, and each finds the whole world more interesting in consequence of the existence of this reciprocal happiness. – Betrand Russell

Another form of affection is in which one person sucks the vitality of the other, one receives what the other gives, but gives almost nothing in return. – Betrand Russell

A too powerful ego is a prison from which a man must escape if he is to enjoy the world to the full. A capacity for genuine affection is one of the marks of the man who has escaped from this prison of self. – Betrand Russell

Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness. – Betrand Russell

The Family. The family is very disorganized. Interactions between parents and children tend to lead to unhappiness. Causes of family unhappiness are very diverse in nature. Women are now more career driven and there has been a decay of domestic service. In the past, it was frowned upon to be a spinster. Now, a spinster can live comfortably if she has a good education. There is a conflict between a good career and having kids. Some women hesitate on having kids as she might have to take a backseat in her career. The quality of domestic help may not be good too. Sometimes, it is not wise to entrust maids to take care of young children. There is a greater urban population in England now as compared to the rural population. Those who live in the city have to be content with a smaller house. If you raise a family, a small house is no good. If a man lives in the countryside, he will have to travel up and down to the city, which is tiring. In the past, even if the slaves hated their masters, the masters were still relatively happy. Parenthood becomes a lot more timid in modern society. If not done properly, the children’s affections can be over or under-stimulated. It is no wonder that birth rates have declined. The divines believed in having a lot of children. Very few people want to have children because they see it as a public duty. Parenthood is certainly capable of providing the greatest and most enduring happiness that life has to offer. I have found parenthood to be very rewarding and it has been able to provide one of the best forms of happiness. For those without kids, death ends all. With kids, you can have a legacy. We feel very safe when our parents love us. The parent should be pure at heart and should never desire power or control over a child. A parent must always respect a child’s personality. A parent’s respect for a child is absolutely crucial. If a woman feels she is not capable to take care of her children, she should outsource it to a domestic helper.

The change in the relation between parent and children is a particular example of the general spread of democracy. Parents are no longer sure of their rights as against their children; children no longer feel that they owe respect to their parents. – Betrand Russell

The most civilized are the most sterile; the least civilized are the most fertile; and between the two there is a continual gradation. – Betrand Russell

It is clear that a civilization which has this characteristic (of declining birth rates) is unstable; unless it can be induced to reproduce its numbers, it must sooner or later die out and give place to some other civilization in which the urge towards parenthood has retained enough strength to prevent the population from declining. – Betrand Russell

It is clear that the urge for the professional woman to have children must be very powerful, for otherwise none of them would make the sacrifices required in order to satisfy it. – Betrand Russell

To be happy in this world, especially when youth is past, it is necessary to feel oneself not merely an isolated individual whose day will soon be over, but part of the stream of life flowing on from the first germ to the remote and unknown future. – Betrand Russell

A man who is capable of some great and remarkable achievement which sets its stamp upon future ages may gratify this feeling through his work, but for men and women who have no exceptional gifts, the only way to do so is through children. – Betrand Russell

The broad fact remains that parental affection is a special kind of feeling which the normal human being experiences towards his or her own children, but not towards any other human being. – Betrand Russell

The value of parental affection to children lies largely in the fact that it is more reliable than any other affection. One’s friends like one for one’s merits, one’s lovers for one’s charms; if the merits or the charms diminish, friends and lovers may vanish. – Betrand Russell

In all human relations it is fairly easy to secure happiness for one party, but much more difficult to secure it for both. – Betrand Russell

But universal as is the need for this kind of gentleness, the respect for a child’s personality is needed most of all where children are concerned, because of their helplessness, and because their small size and feeble strength cause vulgar souls to despise them. – Betrand Russell

A woman who has acquired any kind of professional skill ought, both for her own sake and for that of the community, to be free to continue to exercise this skill in spite of motherhood. – Betrand Russell

The mother who is conventionally called self-sacrificing is, in a great majority of cases, exceptionally selfish towards her children, for, important as parenthood is as an element in life, it is not satisfying if it treated as the whole of life. – Betrand Russell

Work. Work can be irksome and painful. Whether you enjoy work, it depends on the nature of the work and the abilities of the worker. Very few people know how to use their time. People are okay with obeying, provided the orders are not too unpleasant. One could travel, but youth is past, it is harder to enjoy as much. Work helps to prevent boredom. Work makes holiday more delicious when they come. Thus, the working man is likely to find more zest in his free time. Work also gives Man a chance for success and opportunities for ambition. Higher income can also provide more security in future. People can tolerate some degree of hardships through their work. Thus, a housewife is a disadvantage because she does not work and her husband might not appreciate what she is doing at home. In general, people who work are happier than those who don’t. It is even better if a man is able to find interesting work. There are two elements to what makes work interesting: 1) the exercise of skill; 2) construction. People enjoy acquiring skill until they can no longer improve themselves. Surgeons enjoy performing surgeries on others. For politicians, they tend to get better with age. The creation of something also is important, although it may not be physical. There are both works of destruction and construction. However, construction brings more joy whereas destruction of the enemies brings less. Man can certainly be proud is his achievements at work, however small it may be. However, some artists who had produced great works can be unhappy too. Men of science tend to less unhappy than men of art. Those with literary skills often find themselves with limited opportunities to express their talents. A man needs to respect his work and see value in it. Some men have no direction in life and get blown from side to side. These men are unlikely to be able to find long term happiness.

I think, however, that, provided work is not excessive in amount, even the dullest work is to most people less painful than idleness. – Betrand Russell

To begin with, work fills a good many hours of the day without the need of deciding what one shall do. Most people, when they are left free to fill their own time according to their own choice, are at a loss to think of anything sufficiently pleasant to be worth doing. – Betrand Russell

Work, therefore, is desirable, first and foremost, as a preventive of boredom, for the boredom that a man feels when he is doing necessary though uninteresting work is as nothing in comparison with the boredom that he feels when he has nothing to do with his days. – Betrand Russell

Continuity of purpose is one of the most essential ingredients of happiness in the long run, and for most men this comes chiefly through their work. – Betrand Russell

All skilled work can be pleasurable, provided the skill required is either variable or capable of indefinite improvement. If these conditions are absent, it will cease to be interesting when a man has acquired his maximum skill. – Betrand Russell

Without self-respect, genuine happiness is scarcely possible. And the man who is ashamed of his work can hardly achieve self-respect. – Betrand Russell

Consistent purpose is not enough to make life happy, but it is an almost indispensable condition of a happy life. And consistent purpose embodies itself mainly in work. – Betrand Russell

Impersonal Interests. This chapter is about people’s hobbies. When you read something not connected to your work, you read less critically and more disinterestedly. This chapter is precisely about activities outside man’s main line of work. External interests do not have a strong call for any action. The actions you take are voluntary. External hobbies also help to prevent someone from worrying about it too much. However, a man should not pick up hobbies like gambling or those hobbies which can produce emotional fatigue. For women, most of them do not seem absorbed in any wholly irresponsible interest. Relaxation helps to give a man a sense of proportion. Sometimes, we get unduly excited or impressed over something. Understand that what we do does not matter much in the long term. Modern education does not provide much enlargement of the heart and mind. Our life on this planet is temporal. Hobbies can greatly help to boost happiness. This is because it is outside your realm of work and causes you to be less stressed. When you are anxious but realize you can do nothing about it, engage in your hobby. Man should seek distraction when he experiences sorrow. One should turn thought into new channels. We should not pin all hopes on our loved ones as they will pass on someday eventually.

One of the sources of unhappiness, fatigue, and nervous strain is inability to be interested in anything that is not of practical importance in one’s own life. – Betrand Russell

And it is very much easier to forget work at the times when it ought to be forgotten if a man has many interests other than his work than it is if he has not. – Betrand Russell

A man who has once perceived, however temporarily and however briefly, what makes greatness of soul, can no longer be happy if he allows himself to be petty, self-seeking, troubled by trivial misfortunes, dreading what fate may have in store for him. – Betrand Russell

Effort and Resignation. There is a need to find a balance between effort and resignation. Happiness requires work, which is why it is the Conquest of Happiness. Men must learn to cope with the challenges of life. If you are lucky, you may live a blissful life. However, for most people, happiness is an achievement rather than a given. We all have to work for a living and this requires effort. Resignation definitely might not lead to happiness. In modern society, income has become the measure of success. Effort is required for happiness, but resignation does have its part to play too. It is unwise to spend time and emotions on things if they interfere with the pursuit of something more important. It is not wise to be overly obsessive over anything. To resign by being defeated by unconquerable hope is alright. Some people are upset by the smallest things in life and cannot see the big picture. These people tend to sweat the small things. Worry over such trivial matters do not make sense. Learn to believe in the future of mankind and those who will carry on your trade after you’re gone.

Happiness is not something that drops into the mouth, like a ripe fruit, by the mere operation of fortunate circumstances. – Betrand Russell

The man of science who desires to make great discoveries himself may fail to do so, or may have to abandon his work owing to a blow on the head, but if he desires profoundly the progress of science and not merely his personal contribution to this object, he will not feel the same despair as would be felt by a man whose research had purely egoistic motives. – Betrand Russell

The Happy Man. Happiness is certainly possible without having a religion. One should avoid fear, envy, the sense of sin, self-pity and self-admiration. Self-centred passions afford little variety in life. Affection cannot be calculated and it would be foolish to try and do so. Admit painful truths to yourself every day. Only act on your genuine interests and do not force yourself to do things. There might be a slight conflict between this book and what traditional moralists think.

Certain things are indispensable to the happiness of most men, but these are simple things: food and shelter, health, love, successful work and the respect of one’s own herd. To some people parenthood also is essential. – Betrand Russell

Where outward circumstances are not definitely unfortunate, a man should be able to achieve happiness, provided that his passions and interests are directed outward, not inward. – Betrand Russell

The happy man is the man who lives objectively, who has free affections and wide interests, who secures his happiness through these interests and affections and through the fact that they, in turn, make him an object of interest and affection to many others. – Betrand Russell

To be the recipient of affection is a potent cause of happiness, but the man who demands affection is not the man upon whom it is bestowed. The man who receives affection is, speaking broadly, the man who gives it. – Betrand Russell

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The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell (Part 1)

‘I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contained. I stand and look at them long and long. They do not sweat and whine about their condition. They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins. They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God. Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things. Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago. Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole Earth.’ Walt Whitman

Preface. This book does not contain deep philosophy, but only remarks which are common sense. These are practical steps which has been proven to increase my happiness. By employing the methods suggested, one could be happy.

Part 1: Causes of Unhappiness

What Makes People Unhappy? Unlike animals, the general lot of humans aren’t happy. Look around you and observe the mood on people’s faces. You will see that unhappiness is all around you. For the working crowd, you will see anxiety, intense concentration etc. You will see people rushing by cars to work, ignoring the scenery. It seems like enjoying the scenery is illegal. Alcohol liberates the sense of sin, which reason suppresses in saner moments. All the unhappiness tends to stem from a social system. The avoidance of war is definitely important, but it won’t be covered here. What is the use of making everyone rich if the rich themselves are miserable? What can a man do to achieve happiness? I will suggest a cure for day to day unhappiness (mistaken views of the world, mistaken ethics, and mistaken habits of life). As a child, I was not born happy. The same could be said of my teenage years. However, I enjoy life now. It is largely due to a diminishing preoccupation with myself. Instead on focusing on my weaknesses and wading in self-pity, I focused on external topics that I had interest in. A man who is conscious of his sins will be in constant disapproval of himself. When he sins, he feels like the act has degraded him. The next is narcissism. It is about admiring oneself and wishing to be admired. It is only bad when it is overdone, example, when a woman feels like every man should love her. This is not love, she just wants to prove her point. Humans are never completely self-centred and hence you will never truly be happy if you are. . The megalomaniac seems to be powerful and also to be feared, rather than loved. Greed is all encompassing, but it doesn’t lead to fulfillment. The worst case is for a man to seek no form of satisfaction, but only distraction and oblivion like from intoxication.

It is held that drink and petting are the gateways to joy, so people get drunk quickly, and try not to notice how much their partners disgust them. – Betrand Russell

And every external interest inspires some activity which, so long as the interest remains alive, is a complete preventive of ennui. – Betrand Russell

External discipline is the only road to happiness for those unfortunates whose self-absorption is too profound to be cured in any other way. – Betrand Russell

The tragedy of one successful politician after another is the gradual substitution of narcissism for an interest in the community and the measures for which lib stands. – Betrand Russell

The typical unhappy man is one who, having been deprived in youth of some normal satisfaction, has come to value this one kind of satisfaction more than any other, and has therefore given to his life a one-sided direction. – Betrand Russell

Drunkenness, for example, is temporary suicide; the happiness that it brings is merely negative, a momentary cessation of unhappiness. – Betrand Russell

Byronic Unhappiness. There is no superior rationality in being unhappy. This could be because you feel you have fully understood the world and that nothing surprises you anymore. There is a difference between a mood and an intellectual expression. If life is too easy, it may rob you of happiness. Sometimes, humans forget that to be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness. It seems like things are not improving or at least there is no permanent achievement. However, mankind has invented a lot of new things since the ancient times. Some people view travel as unpleasant. It is the destination that is enjoyable, even though one has to return home after that. Mr Krutch feels that science has not done its job, has not fulfilled its promises. When people are poor, there tends to be a lot of pessimists around. I am highly critical of Mr Krutch. Often, people who are skeptical of love are not in harmony with their environment. The type of love I believe in is certainly not the type in the Victorian era, where evil is forgotten. Modern couples could have a more open outlook towards sex, unlike those in the Victorian era. Love is to be valued and this is a source of delight. Love is a source of delight, its absence is a source of pain. It is about to enhance all the best pleasures. Love is able to break down someone’s strong ego. There are only a handful of very successful solitary philosophers. I believe man work better when they co-operate. Those who are unable to find love may become skeptical. Literary men have not experienced the fullness of life, which includes the vicissitudes of life. If your life is boring, take on an interesting vocation.

Ours is a lost cause and there is no place for us in the natural Universe, but we are not, for all that, sorry to be human. We should rather die as men than live as animals. – Joseph Krutch

Man is perpetually toiling, and matter is perpetually in motion, yet nothing abides, although the new thing that comes after it is in no way different from what has gone before. – Joseph Krutch

If I lived forever, the joys of life would inevitably in the end lose their savour. – Betrand Russell

True love is a durable fire, In the mind ever burning, Never sick, never dead, never cold, From itself never turning. – Betrand Russell

To write tragedy, a man must feel tragedy. To feel tragedy, a man must be aware of the world in which he lives, not only with his mind, but with his blood and sinews. – Betrand Russell

Competition. The struggle for life does not affect the enjoyment of existence. It does happen from time to time. Modern problems are not as major as those compared to putting food on the table. This struggle for life is actually a struggle for success. Humans are creatures of comparison. It is like walking on a treadmill. It is normal for a man to want more, at the expense of contributing back to society. If you work too hard, you might neglect your family. Gradually, he is too absorbed in his work and can largely think about it only. If such a businessman wants to be happier, he needs to change his religion. If he continues to be obsessed with success, he will focus too hard and be too anxious. Some Americans are too risk seeking and want quick but risky returns. However, they have a chance to lose all their savings as a result of awry investments. Many people are concerned with their social standing in society. The more money you make, the smarter it seems that you are. Success makes it easier for people to enjoy life, but to what extent should you pursue it? Money, to a certain extent, is capable of increasing happiness. Excellence is also respected, in addition to success. Unlike in Europe, Americans are driven to make more money. The idea is that education is useful because it can help me make money in future. A successful businessman does not know what to do with leisure time. Is success the purpose of life? In modern day, men and women appear incapable of enjoying intellectual conversations. The knowledge of literature is confined within a few professors. What use can knowledge be if it doesn’t help me to make money? The problem is that many view life as a competition. Competition should not be considered the main thing in life. Leisure is also poisoned as a result of competition. The cure is to find a better balance in life.

Everybody knows that a business man who has been ruined is better off so far as material comforts are concerned than a man who has never been rich enough to have the chance of being ruined. – Betrand Russell

What I do maintain is that success can only be one ingredient in happiness, and is too dearly purchased if all the other ingredients have been sacrificed to obtain it. – Betrand Russell

As for the learned professions, no outsider can tell whether a doctor really knows much medicine, or whether a lawyer really knows much law, and it is therefore easier to judge of their merit by the income to be inferred from their standard of life. – Betrand Russell

Unless a man has been taught what to do with success after getting it, the achievement of it must inevitably leave him a prey to boredom. – Betrand Russell

Boredom and Excitement. Boredom has not received a lot of attention. However, it is a great motive power. It seems like a distinctively human emotion. I do not think animals can get bored. Running away from enemies is definitely not boring. One of the essentials is that one’s faculties must not be fully occupied. When you are bored, you crave for something interesting, which may not be a happy event. Humans have this deep desire for excitement. Chasing animals was exciting in the past, but most of us do not hunt in the modern day. Although with shorter working hours and with better technology, we should be less bored. However, we are ever more afraid of boredom. Those who are richer seem to seek more excitement and want it to be more intense. Even if you don’t work a routine job and have a lot of free time, boredom might set in. To me, some element of boredom is essential for life. Many of the sins have been formed because of boredom. However, boredom is not wholly evil. If your life is too exciting, you will crave for even greater events that can bring you that level of excitement. Therefore, there is no need to push to the extremes of excitement. Too much excitement will leave you tired. Every human life has its boring stretches and boring portions. All the best novels contain boring passages. Parents should teach their children that life is more or less monotonous. Too much stimulation when young might not be a good idea. Some good things are not possible except with some monotony. If your life is too exciting, you only crave for the next interesting event and you ignore the long term. Humans should preserve contact with nature and the ebb and flow of life. The joys that nature can being are more permanent and last longer.

A life too full of excitement is an exhausting life, in which continually stronger stimuli are needed to give the thrill that has come to be thought an essential part of pleasure. – Betrand Russell

Love is an experience in which our whole being is renewed and refreshed as is that of plants by rain after drought. – Betrand Russell

A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy can live. – Betrand Russell

Fatigue. Fatigue can affect happiness. Physical fatigue due to exercise might be a good thing. However, when excessive, is not good. For example, this could refer to child labour or employer abuse. The more common fatigue people face is nervous fatigue. The world is complex and there are many stimuli. Hence, man could feel tired and feel competition with other humans. If you performing unnatural conduct at work to please your boss, it might lead to a nervous strain. The problem with success is the stress that you might have to endure because of it. Some rich people self-inflict fatigue on themselves because they take on too much in life. Worry can be prevented with a better philosophy of life and better mental discipline. People worry even though they can’t do anything to improve the situation. Happiness and efficiency can be increased by cultivating your mind. Use all the information presented to you and make the best decision. Do not revise it unless there is new information that comes about. Indecision is futile and very worrying indeed. Sometimes, the less you care, the better it is as you will feel less nervous and you might in fact perform better. One’s ego is insignificant in this world. Learn to center your thoughts on something that can transcend yourself. The fatigue to be concerned about is emotional in nature, like intellectual fatigue. Emotional fatigue interferes with your daily life. Do not over-emphasize the importance of your work. Work is important, but do not let it consume your life. It is emotional trouble that causes the breakdown. Mental discipline is the key and this means thinking of things at the right time. However, you can’t control unconscious thought. A conscious thought can be planted into your unconscious with sufficient amount of vigor and intensity. If you have learned not to fear, your fatigue of daily life diminishes. Distracting your mind from the fear is not a good idea. The better strategy is to confront it with great concentration, until it has become completely familiar. Courage is something to be respected and that we should exhibit more of. Do not overload yourself with pleasure such that it becomes fatiguing in nature. It is crucial to be in contact with the Earth.

But it is quite possible to shut out the ordinary troubles of ordinary days, except while they have to be dealt with. – Betrand Russell

Our doing are not so important as we naturally suppose; our successes and failures do not after all matter very much. Even great sorrows can be survived; troubles which seem as if they must put an end to happiness for life fade with the lapse of time until it becomes almost impossible to remember their poignancy. – Betrand Russell

When you find yourself inclined to brood on anything, no matter what, the best plan always is to think about it even more than you naturally would, until at last its morbid fascination is worn off. – Betrand Russell

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The Money Game by Adam Smith (aka George Goodman)

This book is a decade old. This is an updated version of the book. The book is ‘about image and reality and identity and anxiety and money’. The stock market isn’t necessarily fully rational. The 60s were a crazy people with many greedy people. Professional money managers are over-rated. The first rule to make money is not to lose it. More information doesn’t make you smarter. Many brokerage firms were out of business in the 1970s because of reduced commission rates. The fee structure changed completely.

The first thing you have to know is yourself. A man who knows himself can step outside himself and watch his own reactions like an observer. – George Goodman

You (Identity, Anxiety, Money)

Why did the master say ‘Game’? Adam Smith thought of himself as a moral philosopher. He wrote ‘The Wealth of Nations’. I used a pseudonym for Wall Street. It was my Sunday recreation name. I called myself Adam Smith. It was a great name as not many people known the real one anyway. Keynes was very perceptive of markets. In the past, the holders of money were thought to be prudent. Keynes’ mentioned that investing is like a game. Game Theory has a huge impact on our lives. The stock market is too complex for game theoreticians. However, it has been hard to put into equations and quantify at the moment. The stock market is a great national pastime. Preferred stocks and bonds are not part of the game as they are more boring in nature. Investing has a lot to do with human psychology. You have to guess how the crowd behaves. More and more information is available in the market. The professional managers are getting more skilled by the day. You can be rich but even then you still realize you want to invest and to continue to be thrilled by it. There are people who are really addicted to it and love the stock market. Of course, the aim is to make more money. This book is not suitable if you want to rely on a professional money manager.

To what purpose is all the toil and bustle of this world? What is the end of avarice and ambition, of the pursuit of wealth, of power, and preeminence? – Adam Smith

It is very hard to get excited over a bond basis book, where your index finger traces along a column until it gets to the proper degree of safety and yield. – George Goodman

Mister Johnson’s Reading List. There are a lot of books telling you how to get rich. One good book is Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham. Security value is subjective. Fears, greed, hopes all play a part. Value is one thing. Liquidity is important too. It is important to consider that. Fidelity did very well in the past. It is a fund. They have a brilliant reputation. The market is an art, not a science. He has read many books too. He delegated responsibilities and work to the money managers. Some people do not pick stocks, but they sense market sentiments. Markets rely on emotions. You should not try to over-analyze them. It is important to know yourself. Does a market have a personality of its own? It is important to develop your own personality when investing. Why is the emotional aspect not well explored? Is it even worth exploring in the first place?

There is no such thing as a final answer to security values. A dozen experts will arrive at 12 different conclusions. It often happens that a few moments later each would alter his verdict if given a chance to reconsider because of a changed condition. – Gerald Loeb

If you don’t know who you are, the stock market is an expensive place to find out. – George Goodman

The stock market is like a beautiful woman – endlessly fascinating, endlessly complex, always changing, always mystifying. I have been absorbed and immersed since 1924 and I know this is no science. It is an art. – Mister Johnson

There are fundamentals in the marketplace, but the unexplored area is the emotional area. All the charts and breadth indicators and technical palaver are the statistician’s attempts to describe an emotional state. – George Goodman

Can Ink Blots Tell you whether you are the type who will make a lot of money in the market? There are simple tests to determine whether you are a good investor. What will you do with your free time? Analysts and aggressive portfolio managers will answer the questions differently. The accountants will get the answer right. Analysts like to use inductive reasoning. The portfolio manager just likes to win, no matter what. One must learn to operate without anxiety and stay cool. The important question is to ask how you behave when everyone is roaring the other way. Is the market really a crowd?

If you really know what’s going on, you don’t even have to know what’s going on to know what’s going on. – George Goodman

Is the Market Really a Crowd? The crowd is wrong because it behaves normally. Are all the uninformed people part of the crowd too? People in a crowd usually act differently from how they would act alone. Some people get hypnotized when they are in crowds. They often respond or react to suggestions. Crowds do not reason. Often, they only think that they reason. Crowds tend to play up emotions and intensify them. Often, it feels comfortable to be in a crowd. It is very difficult not to give in to temptation and follow the crowd.

Eighty percent of the market is psychology. Investors whose actions are dominated by their emotions are most likely to get into trouble. – Unknown

You Mean That’s What money Really Is? Money has a mystical quality. Money in itself is useless. We have to change our perception of money and see where that leads us. When you chase after money, does it just show that you are greedy? Is it a dehumanization of human nature? Why collect something so useless? Money is condensed wealth. The stock market is thrilling because you need to save up and work hard before you participate. Seasoned investors never really spend the money that they make. However, they are still compelled to continue. What is it that makes them continue to play?

It is true that you have to work long enough to acquire a surplus enough to buy some chips for the Game, but the money you make playing the Game isn’t work, it’s play – or are you making it seem like work? – George Goodman

What are they in it for? If most investors don’t make money from the Game, why are they still playing it? Some people are in because it sounds cool. There are people who are seriously irrational and won’t sell the stock simply because it might have appreciated a little in the past. To some, when the stock goes up, they get nervous. People always look back with regret on the stocks they didn’t buy and appreciated in future. Even though your portfolio might be up, you might still kick yourself because you missed out on others. There is always another stock going up more than the one you bought. Some people are weird enough to tell the broker that they only wanted to make a specific sum of money and not more. There are people who hate brokers for making so much commissions. They feel brokers like to lie. They feel brokers are touting for more business. Some just want the broker to talk to and to provide information on the stock for them. They just want to be part of what is going on.

But he didn’t feel very good about it. If the stock went up, he should have bought more, so he was stupid there, and if it went down, that proved he was stupid there. – George Goodman

Identity and Anxiety. Why are we not growing rich? Markets mean different things to different people. Greed and fear are the most common emotions. Greed occurs when others have made money on stocks which you hadn’t bought. Obviously, no one wants to buy at the top. Prices get pushed up even though the fundamentals do not support them. Some people expect their money to double in a few years. The trick is to have a firm identity which is not influenced by people speculating. One has to avoid anxiety situations. One important thing to realize is that the stock doesn’t know you own it. The stock is a piece of paper who doesn’t love you. Do not be emotionally attached to any stock. The key is to start out with no preconceived notions. Every day is a new day. The end object of investment should be serenity. Will you feel serene after earning a million? Or will you want more? Will you compare yourself with more successful people? People in society are usually measured by how much they can earn. A lot of people define themselves by how much money they make. The stock market is a zero sum game, there will be winners and losers. The trouble is that people who get burnt do not learn and want to continue playing.

If you know that the stock doesn’t know you own it, you are ahead of the game. You are ahead because you can change your mind and your actions without regard to what you did or thought yesterday. – George Goodman

What’s the difference whether you have twenty thousand dollars or sixty thousand? You can buy a few more things, but it’s not enough to buy freedom, not enough to change your life. You’re either a wage slave or you’re not. You have to go for the quantum jumps. Why are we on Wall Street? To make money. – Harry

Where the Money Is. As outside investors, it is not possible to make outrageous amounts of money. The ones making a lot of money are the inside stockholders of a company. These are the people who started a company and then IPO. Most people can’t do this unless you have a capital at the start already. The possibilities of different businesses which can go IPO are endless.

Mr. Smith Admits His Biases. How do you correct your biases? One idea is that you buy good stocks and put them away and in the long run you can’t go wrong. The problem is that nothing works all the time. Sometimes, inaction is the better option. Inaction is also considered action. Some people try to anticipate business cycles to make money. However, this will not make you very rich. Some companies’ earnings are cyclical. Some people anticipate swing in interest rates. You can also buy the turnarounds, rotten companies which have sold off unprofitable segments and have new management. The examples involved require some knowledge. However, be wary of companies where earnings shot up way too quickly. However, the problem is that past performance is no indication for future performance. Companies with earnings growth consistently must have something unique about it. They must have a competitive advantage. This thing must not be easily replicated or copied. Can you just buy good stocks in the past like IBM, Xerox, Polaroid and lock them away? The rate of growth of earnings matter too. Note that it is important to examine the P/E ratios too. A great product can be ruined by bad management. The larger you grow, the harder it is to keep the % of growth constant or increasing because of a large base. Another tip is to concentrate on a few holdings and do not diversify too much. How to find great stocks? The company should be adaptable to change and stay innovative. You can get ideas from smart people. That is one of the rules. You can use the scuttlebutt technique, which is to talk to a lot of people associated with the business. Find your own stocks and your own coloured stocks.

If playing the Stock Market game has been fun, it may be difficult to stop playing, even when that button of yours is burning your finger. Repeated shocks will give you anxiety, and anxiety is the enemy of identity, and without identity there is no serenity. – George Goodman

Part 2: Systems

Can Footprints Predict the Future? Almost every firm has a research department. It is important to know what everyone else is doing. Everyone has limited time available. Charting is looking for trends and repetitions. Charts can very well prove to the traps as well. A chart can reflect volume and price range. The four stages are 1) Accumulation; 2) Mark-up; 3) Distribution; 4) Panic Liquidation. Can charts indicate the future? The assumption is that what happens yesterday will happen again tomorrow. Can the footprints of price movements really predict the future? Is the market fully efficient?

When the stock doesn’t get anywhere after a rise, but churns around at the same price level, the chartists call it an area of resistance. When a stock drops to a point where it doesn’t drop any more, and churns around, they call this an area of support. – George Goodman

What the Hell Is a Random Walk? Charting seeks to find order in something that happens. Random walk means there is no order. Random walk theory was proposed by academics. He is Eugene Fama. It basically says ‘prices have no memory, and yesterday has nothing to do with tomorrow.’ There is no way to predict the future performance. You might as well select stocks by throwing darts. It assumes that the market is completely efficient. It also assumes that stocks have an intrinsic value. The actions of investors should cause actual price to wander randomly around its intrinsic value. However, in reality, the actual price might not be equal intrinsic value. The analysts all try to make the market more efficient. The Chartists certainly don’t believe in the random walk. The analysts also feel that their analysis is useful. The fact is that the market is reasonably efficient. The chartists can certainly be a force in the market. Can intuition be programmed? Chartists are happy that now everything can be programmed.

Computers and Computers. Railroad Bill is a computer. Computers revolutionized investments. Computers can screen too. The good thing was that it could perform many calculations simultaneously. Analysts pore through all these data and try to pick out trends. The computer can pick out stocks which are behaving out of pattern. Computers now do the buying and selling themselves. With the prevalence of computers, do individual investors still stand a chance? This result is kind of disturbing for the individual investor.

But What do the Numbers Mean? Earnings must be assessed using proper accounting standards. There are certain items which must or must not be included. It allows for comparisons between different companies too. Useful lives might be applied differently between different companies. Some companies use declining balances. There are different accounting policies that can be adopted and all these are permitted. Earnings management is often practiced. Accounting firms can get sued if they present inaccurate figures. Free-form companies are those which acquire others. Companies’ management is really important. Some management like to juice up the accounting or practice creative accounting. Wall Street loves constantly growing and stable earnings.

Why are the little people always wrong? Find out what the average investor is doing. Once you know, just do the opposite. They are not little people. It just refers to the ordinary investor who doesn’t have a lot of money. Will do the opposite theory work? Some people trade on inside information. There are those who like to participate in the market because they feel it makes them intelligent.

Part 3: The Pros

The Cult of Performance. These are the powerful people with enough information and money to move prices. Now, there is a lot of regulation. Is it even possible? There are many institutions, like mutual funds, pension funds and insurance companies. Stocks crashed in 1929. There was massive panic selling. There was a point where fund managers wanted huge growth and started buying growth stocks. Concentration and turnover seem to matter a lot. The higher the turnover, the higher the volume and the happier the brokers are. However, in the market, many are only concerned with short term performance and speculative behavior. Institutional investors tend to hoard shares and when it is time to exit, it might be difficult to find buyers. Sometimes, trading might be suspended as well. Remember that liquidity is the cornerstone of every market. Performance managers want a quick buck.

Lunch at Scarsdale Fats’. These are institutional investors. They get treated well. These bankers are treated to fat dinners. It is a networking event. Scarsdale wants to know more information from others. These are essentially lunch with commissions and many funds get invited.

Losers and Winners: Poor Grenville, Charley, and the Kids. Chartists tend to trade short term and very aggressively. Many investors want immediate results. Wall Street love firms who can meet earnings projections. When the market crashes through resistance levels, sometimes you will yourself, where is the bottom? Markets can be very irrational. Computer leasing stocks were damn hot in the past and could generate super-normal returns.

We live in an age of charts and computers, and the thing about charts and computer studies is that they show what is moving, and if everybody plays this game, then what moves is what is already moving. – George Goodman

But the market does not follow logic, it follows some mysterious tides of mass psychology. Thus earnings projections get marked up and down as the prices go up and down, just because Wall Streeters hate the insecurity of anarchy. – George Goodman

Timing, and a Diversion: The Cocoa Game. Timing is crucial, not just the financials of the company. You have get the stock ahead of others. Those who play the Game will know it is very difficult even when the markets are not favourable. At that time, the Cocoa Exchange was leveraged and unregulated. People could be involved in that when the stock market was bad. The price depends on demand and supply. This was the birth of forwards.

If you are in the right stocks at the wrong time, you may be right but have a long wait; at least you are better off than coming late to the party. You don’t want to be on the dance floor when the music stops. – George Goodman

Part 4: Visions of the Apocalypse – Can It All Come Tumbling Down?

My Friend The Gnome of Zurich Says a Major Money Crisis is on its Way. They are miners who work near gold and can be informants. He can predict when gold prices will rise. Some currencies are pegged to gold prices. However, governments and central banks might choose to unpeg as well. He is basically a cynic who believes governments can’t manage debt well and enter deficits and eventually crash.

If All The Half Dollars Have Disappeared, is Something Sinister Gaining on Us? Will there ever be an international currency? The issue is that governments are expected to care for their people in order to win votes, resulting in them over-spending. People have to believe in what their governments are doing and how they are spending. If not, the market will simply crash. Luckily, the apocalypse has never arrived.

Part 5: Visions of the Millennium

Do You Really Want to Be Rich? Should you ought to be rich? Do you want to be evaluated by your wealth? Has capitalism gone too far? What did Keynes think of the Money Game? Why do men continue to want to make money? That is because they have a purpose. They think long term and want to grow and forward their interests. He believed that future generations will strive more for virtue and sane wisdom than pure money. If you know the Game is not your thing, then jolly well stay away from it completely.

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Great Thinkers by the School of Life (Part 3)

Art and Architecture

Andrea Palladio. A lot of people spend time indoors. We admire great buildings. Venice has one of the best architecture. Andrea designed buildings when he was 30. He designed many villas. Finally, he emerged as top architect of Venice. To me, architecture has to have a clear purpose. There are rules for great buildings too. We should build in order to encourage good states of mind in ourselves. It helps us with calm, harmony and dignity. Symmetrical shapes help bring calm. Buildings should be well fitted and aligned well. These are powerful coherent buildings. Buildings should gave dignity to aspects of life which are seen as unworthy. Buildings should compensate us for our weaknesses. We need serene, harmonious and confident buildings. They are rules for architecture as well. One could follow mathematical ratios. Buildings should be made symmetrical.

Johannes Vermeer (1632 to 1675). Many things are glamorous. Artists can capture scenes of beauty which are commonly overlooked by many. These are deep moments of contemplation. Even bread and butter can be satisfying. Simple homely pleasures are important as well. He did a lot of painting in his free time. His famous work was ‘The Girl with the Pearl Earring’. Thoughts for the non-renowned are important and should be considered too. Artists have the power to make the ordinary look special. Sometimes, in life, doing modest things are sufficient.

Most of life is taken up dealing with things which are routine, ordinary, humble, modest and (to be honest) a touch dull. Our culture should focus on getting us to appreciate the average, the everyday and the ordinary. – Johannes Vermeer

Caspar David Friedrich. Art can teach us how to suffer. His distinctive style emerged slowly. He depicted sufferings in his paintings. Tragedy and grief could also express emotions and solemn moods around. Solitude brings with it our deepest possibilities. His works make us aware of our insignificance. We appreciate how small we are and that some things don’t matter. Learn to be conscious of our space and time in the grand scheme of things. Now, his works are deeply admired.

Henri Matisse. Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves of the bad things that happen in life. We are aware of the problems and injustice in the world. We feel small in the face of problems. Hope is to be celebrated and is a necessary part for success. The problem with the world was that there was too much darkness and misery, hence, we need to remind ourselves of happy things in life.

Edward Hopper. He is a painter of gloomy-looking paintings. The paintings help to accept loneliness. His paintings are gloomy, however can seem charming too. His works didn’t sell well. Even those he loved his wife, some part of him realized that he was still alone. Art can be therapeutic when addressing loneliness. When travelling, Hopper loved the introspective mood.

Oscar Niemeyer. Buildings looks the same everywhere. His buildings had motifs from the floor to ceiling. He practised Brazilian-infused modernism. One should use techniques like reinforced concrete in creative ways. He liked sensual curves of rivers, of a female body etc. The church he built had tiles across it. He created a building where you could work and relax and have a conversation that expands your mind. You could be sexually adventurous in your house as well. His architecture was also a future dream for Brazil. He created new buildings to reflect nationalism. To him, it was important for buildings to be culturally specific.

Louis Kahn. Kahn got inspired by the buildings in Rome due to their ancient designs. Yet, he managed to marry that concept with innovation and clarity. Kahn used symmetry, which was an old idea. Symmetry helps to provide a sense of balance and focus. He often used new materials for his office, like ceramic, copper etc. Wood can give warmth while concrete gives strength and stability. He was also a monumental architect. He could combine the old and the new and thus was very famous.

Coco Chanel. Fashion is a part of life. However, fashion nowadays is eccentric and foolish in nature. She started off as a designer of hats. In the past, clothes are complicated and very expensive. However, her clothes were inspiring in their design. She invented a better destination. She introduced a little black dress. The wearer looked energetic etc. The dress was designed to be long-lasting. She re-invented the black dress. The fashion sense would also be appropriate for 10 years later. She limited colour options to those that were essential and elegant. Elegance and grace was the big focus of her dresses and that was very important. She also designed jewellery and handbags. Her clothes are revolutionary because they were embodiments of good ideas.

Jane Jacobs. There is something compelling about cities. They are full of possibilities. Cities can be really complex on their own. She loved to explore the own city she lived in. She worked as a writer for a magazine. She married an architect later on in life. The problem with modern architecture was that it wasn’t want real people wanted. Architects should learn to respect urban order. These were usually the result of bad thinking. She realized that to know what people wanted, you have to walk around and explore the city. To her, diversity was very important. Cities should be like eco-systems. There needs to be a diversity of businesses. City blocks should be small so as to encourage more interactions between people. There should be a mix of old and new buildings. Cities should be dense in population. Cities should be compact.

Cy Twombly. Abstract art can seem meaningless to us. The key to abstract art is to appeal to people’s emotions. It represents inner rather than the outer world. What does the work feel like? Cy was an abstract artist. His work suggests a reflective life and ambition and confusion. He loved figurative and representational art. We should really think more about the slogans that we are exposed to in everyday life.

Andy Warhol. He was a glamorous figure of 20th century art. He was famous for making brightly coloured prints. Andy was largely an eccentric character. He was a celebrity, but also concentrated on his business. Throughout his lesson, he thought us the 4 important life lessons. They are 1) Appreciating everyday life. For instance, he loved the soup can. However, humans need to take a step back to appreciate them. Everything we do in life is interesting and note-worthy. The things we do all the time have their own merits. He groomed some countercultural eccentrics as ‘Superstars’. To him, people worked because they wanted a glamorous outlook in life. The choice of the right celebrities were important. He was good at both business and art and felt that they could go well together. To him, art should be accessible and not just restricted to a select rich few. We need the branding power of business to drive the power of art. Andy Warhol mastered many different genres of art. He died at the age of 58.

Dieter Rams. He was a great designer of everyday objects. He made the company ‘Braun’ famous. Design and functionality are closely linked. Dieter saw the beauty of simplicity. The radios he designed were simplistic and even the modern iPod took inspiration from it. The fact is that our lives are too cluttered and having simplicity is very beautiful indeed. Being simple is truly an achievement to be celebrated. There is value in modesty. The products had to improve other people’s lives. One needs to build empathy with the customer. An object should be easy to live with. Rams was classic too. His goal was to make enduring products, those which we didn’t need to throw away. Art and product design is very important.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude. They didn’t like producing art on a small scale and produced large-scale art. They wanted their art to fill up public spaces. Their art was produced on a massive scale. Their aim is just to make things beautiful and inspiring for all. The job of an artist is not just to dream of a better world, but to make it happen. To create large work, they needed the support of the government, of many users etc. Profit certainly wasn’t their main goal. This is the central plank of good commerce.

Literature

Jane Austen. She was an ambitious moralist and wanted to make people nicer in terms of their characters. She was elegant, a good dancer etc. However, she didn’t marry. She believed that the lover should educate you. The purpose of marriage is to educate and improve the other. It should be the union of both. Your spouse has to be able to make you feel relaxed and comfortable and overcome our failings. We have to judge more carefully. She doesn’t care as much of outer appearance as compared to integrity and other values. Learn to treat money seriously. One will need sufficient money before one can get married. Do not be overimpressed by what money can do. It is not wise to get married without enough money. Wealth is important to happiness, but not in terms of living in luxury. We mustn’t learn to be snobbish. Do not be all high handed in dealing with your hierarchy. Few people are snobbish. Secretly, Austen wants the world to be of a certain way which is appealing. This is why she is much loved as a writer.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He was one of the big cultural heroes and excelled in many areas of his life. Many people were impressed by how he led his life. He learnt theatre in school. We can learn a lot of lessons from him. The first is ‘From Romanticism to Classicism in love’. Although romantic love is attractive and wonderful, it does have its deep problems when there is breakup etc. The movies paint romance to be fairy-tale like, but in reality, it is not very pretty. He believed more in Classicism, which is marked by pessimism. However, Romanticism felt more exciting. Later, Goethe worked for the government. There is dignity in administration and working for the government. He often sat in meetings and listened to others. He eventually created a model urban park. Travel was a form of therapy. He was inspired by Rome etc. However, when he reached Rome, he was a little disappointed. He realized he needed a guide. To him, travelling was not about relaxing, but about finding the missing ingredient of our own maturity. Later, he got back to his political and creative work. One should live life to the full: the Faustian hero. His most famous work was Faust. Faust was downtrodden until he was visited by Mephisto, a devil. The devil will offer him the ability to do whatever he wants. Faust realizes that want is wants is beauty and love, and not being a pure hedonist. You can use power and put in for noble use. To fully achieve, we have to flirt with things, but also hold on to a higher purpose. Science is for artsy people. He was known for his achievements in botany. He a hero for those with artistic and literary sense. He studied animals closely and how they interacted with one another. He was an awesome guy.

Leo Tolstoy. The novel was a form of psychological education and reform. He was born in 1828. He was not a good student in school. His marriage was difficult. He wrote War and Peace, Anna Karenina etc. The key lesson from his books are that if you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, they would seem kinder and more forgiving. We need to understand the ‘dislikeable’ characters. People are not as what they seem all the time. The thought of mortality should inspire continual kindness and sympathy in us. Tolstoy was a man of outstanding moral courage and generosity. He wrote an important essay. It was titled ‘What is Art?’ Art has the purpose of making the world kinder for all. We have to aspire to be something else.

Marcel Proust. He was a French writer who wrote the longest novel in the world. There were 7 volumes. It was deemed to be the greatest novel of all time. The title was ‘In Search of Lost Time’. It was about a guy seeking to find meaning and purpose in life. He wanted to stop wasting time and start living. There are potentially 3 sources for the meaning of life. The first is social success. The narrator worked his way up the social hierarchy. However, once you are there, you will realize that people are not extraordinary. Vices can be found throughout the population. It is normal for one to try and scale the social ladder. Love provides meaning to life. However, it is not possible to truly understand someone and conflict might arise. Loneliness is endemic. Hence, both the first 2 fail to provide meaning in life. The last is art. Human adults are too stuck in their routine and cannot get out of it. Children do not suffer this and find beauty in the world. We need to look at life with greater sensitivity. It is possible to find natural beauty everywhere, and not just in museums. There is a nice charm to everyday life. The work of artists are like long Proustian moments and they remind us that life is fascinating and lovely.

The reason why life may be judged to be trivial although at certain moments it seems to us so beautiful is that we form our judgement, ordinarily, not on the evidence of life itself but of those quite different images which preserve nothing of life – and therefore we judge it disparagingly. – Marcel Proust

Virginia Woolf. She captured a lot of emotions which she saw. She had famous parents but did not want to live a life of luxury. Later, she suffered a mental breakdown. She was a journalist and a novelist. She married Leonard. ‘To the Lighthouse’ is one of her most famous works. She committed suicide in 1941. Learn to notice everything. There was no minor situation, in her opinion. She was very aware of her surroundings. She was not ashamed of describing her illnesses. We should learn to accept the everyday. We should be a feminist. She liked to explore her sexuality. She also wanted to raise the status of women in society. Women also had the rights to education, intellectual freedom etc.

It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple; one must be woman-manly or man-womanly. – Virginia Woolf

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The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker (Part 2)

The Failures of Heroism

The Spell Cast by Persons – The Nexus of Unfreedom. Men must hide from the truth. Men have followed leaders who seemed larger than life. Men worship power. There seems to be some fascination over those who have power. Do famous people have a halo around them? Some men respect their doctors so much that they think they are larger than life. Hypnosis is certainly possible. We all fear not being in full control of ourselves. Ferenczi admitted that we in our innermost soul, we are still children and we remain so throughout life. We all still feel the need to be subject to someone, just like how we were subject to our parents when we were younger. Freud performed a lot of research on group psychology. He tried to understand why men were so sheeplike when they functioned in groups. They fell under the sheep of their leader. He has an extreme passion for authority and wants to govern by unrestricted force. People like being in groups because it makes them feel safe. They feel safe in the group, but all this is an illusion. Every man feels like an omnipotent hero. Erich Fromm believed in narcissism. There were problems with Freud’s theory too. The leader had some traits which enabled him to hold the group together. He allowed the followers to express forbidden impulses and secret wishes. He wipes out fear in people. People think they engage in illegal activities as a group. Men likes to crave illusion. People use the leader to fulfil their own needs and urges. People use the leaders as almost as an excuse. Being in a group helps man take on individual responsibility. The leader takes the responsibility for all evil acts committed. To Freud, humans have a sexual instinct. Transference is a problem of courage. Transference could be seen as a fetish control. It literally means the need for man to exert complete control over external circumstances. Man will project all of his human qualities on an object. However, if he loses the object, he fears that he might lose himself. You can even make your own body that object. Transference is a form of narrow control that anchors our own problems. Some see transference as a fear of life. The Universe has overwhelming power but we can endow certain persons with it. The transference object becomes an obsession for the person. The more you fear death, the more you see the need for transference objects. Some people see transference as the fear of death. Now, you need the transference figure to assure your immortality and carry on you causa-sui project. It will provide shelter on your life. People want heroes for their own immortalization. When the object dies, people start to panic. Men always strives to be good. All organisms strive to feel good about themselves. The feeling is even stronger in Man. However, what is ‘right’ is not straightforward. Man feels tremblingly small and impotent in the face of transcendent nature. Rank understood the human condition really well. Transference is almost a universal passion. To Rank, Man worshipped God because of an outgrowth of life-longing and the need for meaning. This is the duality of man. Men want to be associated with values that endure. There is a school of thought where people use transference as an urge to higher heroism.

Man is a trembling animal who pulls the world down around his shoulders as he clutches for protection and support and tries to affirm in a cowardly way his feeble powers. – Ernest Becker

Transference heroics gives man precisely what he needs: a certain degree of sharply defined individuality, a definite point of reference for his practice of goodness, and all within a certain secure level of safety and control. – Ernest Becker

If all people are more or less alike, why do we burn with such all-consuming passions for some of them? – Ernest Becker

If Man gives in to his natural feeling of cosmic dependence, the desire to be part of something bigger, it puts him at peace and at oneness, gives him a sense of self-expansion in a larger beyond, and so heightens his being, giving him truly a feeling of transcendent value. – Ernest Becker

How do I realize my distinctive gifts, make my own contribution to the world through my own self-expansion? – Ernest Becker

Individuation means that the human creature has to oppose itself to the rest of nature. It crates precisely the isolation that one can’t stand – and yet needs in order to develop distinctively. It creates the difference that becomes such a burden; it accents the smallness of oneself and the sticking-outness at the same time. – Ernest Becker

Otto Rank and the Closure of Psychoanalysis on Kierkegaard. Creature consciousness is absorbed in culture. Back in the day, men was happy to serve God. Christianity made heroes of everyone. Christianity took creature consciousness and made it the condition for his cosmic heroism. For men without religion, they had to find a love object. Salvation is transference beatification. Love is the highest form of striving. Modern man is dependent on the love partner. In a relationship, we accept the other person’s body and things can joined in unity. Death is seen as the twin brother of sex. Sex ensures that the creature created will eventually die. Resistance to sex seems like a resistance to fatality. A child, will reach a stage where he will be curious about how he got his body. The body is something to triumph over. Personality is ultimately destroyed by sex. Is it good to lose yourself in another person? How can a human be a god-like thing to everything else? We expect perfection from our loved ones, but sometimes they disappoint. We feel diminished by their weaknesses. We elevate our love partner to God status because we want redemption. We need to admit our creatureliness and helplessness. Having guilt free sex might not be good too. It is defeating to want too little from your partner. Cosmic heroism must transcend human relationships. However, doing so might affect one’s quality of life and one’s individuality. Most people live based on societal norms. Women often get married, but are not happy because she sacrifices her individual personality. However, there is an aspect of self-surrender in it too. The problem with individuation is that one separates from the herd. This is the creative guy. The creative person must fashion his own idea of existence. His work is his form of ‘heroism’. However, how can one justify his own heroism? No one has a right to play God. However, the artist knows that how he is judged by others still matters and still needs to obtain meaning from outside. No matter how great his work is, he knows he pales in comparison to the transcending majesty of nature. The only way out of this is that one has to give one’s life as a gift to the powers out there. Your creative work on its own cannot provide a source of salvation. Rank wanted man to live beyond the limits set for himself. One should reach for religion. Rank thought that Man needed a religious ideology.

The idea of himself as a special cosmic hero with special gifts for the Universe. He doesn’t want to be a mere fornicating animal like any other – this is not a truly human meaning, a truly distinctive contribution to world life. – Ernest Becker

The Present Outcome of Psychoanalysis. Rank wrote about neurosis. It sums out the problems of human life. Freud could reduce insights to a few fundamental theories. The first aspect of neurosis is the trouble of the truth of existence. Everyone has their own stylistic reaction to life. It is also historical in nature. As a human, to protect ourselves, we have to shut off outside experience. This is known was ‘partialization’. Men are built more like creatures than Gods. Men thinks about the small problems instead of the big ones like life and death. Hence, men sort of refuses reality, or the ‘refusal of reality’. When the world is too much for people, neurosis sets in. Neurosis is universal in nature. Some people make their loved one their all. His ‘safe’ environment has failed him. Guilt often results due to an unused life. This is when we have potential, but failed to live according to our potential. Do not narrow-down the world too much. Some people get stuck in the narrowness. If you feel vulnerable, it is because you are not big enough to face the fears of the Universe. Some people’s fears are hysterical and have no explanation. However, they don’t know what the problem is. In order to avoid death, the person narrows down on his world. This results in isolation. Another type of neurosis, is when a person has too vivid imagination. This is a total problem. If you cannot narrow down the world, the world might seem too confusing. Some individuals cannot separate and some cannot unite. One needs to find a balance between the two. One reason for such behaviour is when one has poor social skills. When this happens, you will feel your life is a total problem. This person withdraws from the world and becomes a narcissist. A neurotic lives symbolically, not biologically. The artist is the most neurotic of all. Everyone is neurotic to some extent. The artist is better than the neurotic because he can produce works that represent his symbolic view of the world. Some level of objective creativity is a must. The neurotic tends to criticize himself too much. The artist glorifies himself because he has the talent to do so. Talent is circumstantial. The author can understand why people like to work hard at their jobs as the alternative to that is natural desperation and madness. What can keep Man from going mad? In reality, people have all sorts of personalities. Is the average man one to be emulated? It seems like our Creator has no grand plans for Mankind. People are living an illusion. On what level of illusion does one live? Man needs a new reality. Cultural heroism is important for men. Cultural play tends to vary with society and history. Men needs other acts to find heroism and not just simply raising kids. He needs revolutions and wars. Modern man is left to his own resources. He has to justify himself. Science still can’t explain the soul. To Rank, psychology was a negative sort of ideology. Psychology tries to identify what’s wrong with a person when he is unhappy. However, sometimes the cause of happiness is because of one’s relationship with the world. Hence, psychology has limited understanding of humans. Psychology tends to focus on circumstantial guilt. Psychologists in the modern age now represent the new God. The Merger of Sin and Neurosis. Both Kierkegaard and Rank reached similar conclusions on psychoanalysis. They both had the ‘theology’ world-view. Man must translate his meaningfulness on a larger level. However, justifying your own heroism is bound to fail. Neurosis is a strive for self-achieved immortality. The cure for neurosis is to change your world-view. One needs to plunge into world experiences and then try to attain meaning from it. To Goethe, men didn’t know what proper experiences were. Religion needs to be supported by external and compelling activities, not just a belief in God. What is the best foolishness to live under? The best one is the one that provides the most dignity and freedom. Religion removes our responsibilities. We can make free decisions. We can rely on powers that support and do not oppose us. Religion also allows one to explore their individual heroic personality. Also, it gives hope because it is largely unknown. It relieves the absurdity of earthly life. To Rank, Christianity ranks as an ideal. Is there a cost for failure to reach transcendence? Can an individual affirm and accept himself from himself? A creative person is too full of himself and of the world. One needs to ask important questions like what world view? What powers? For what heroism?

Generally speaking, we call neurotic any life style that beings to constrict too much, that prevents free forward momentum, new choices, and growth that a person may want and need. – Ernest Becker

To live is to engage in experience at least partly on the terms of the experience itself. One has to stick his neck out in the action without any guarantees about satisfaction or safety. – Ernest Becker

In sin and neurosis man fetishizes himself on something narrow at hand and pretends that the whole meaning and miraculousness of creation is limited to that, that he can get his beatification from that. – Ernest Becker

A General View of Mental Illness. Humans fear isolated forms of human existence. Mental illness is very complex and varied. I will try to simplify the concepts for the layman. Is there even a general theory of mental illness? Mental illness is essentially denial of creatureliness. People who have depression are afraid of life. Fear of life leads to excessive fear of death. Depressed people fear to move and do anything. Do not live simply to meet the demands of others. Men do not have the power to rely on. People hunger for immortality in their own small family circle. Transference is the use of an object for self-perpetuation. If you cannot fight or flee from your problems, you will enter a state of depression. People who are depressed want others to care for him and take care of him. There is a sense of guilt in this. Failure to have a useful social role can lead to depression. Menopause reawakens the horrors of our body. Nature is the real ‘castrator’. Once both the bodily and the cultural projects fail, one is a failure. Some form of heroism is needed. One cannot simply rely on object-embeddedness. One has to be a hero in some way. Schizophrenia is another sort of mental illness. He is a realist. He fears life and its demands and lives in mistrust of himself. We have a good theory of what schizophrenia is about. The symbolic and bodily self are completely disintegrated. He is not securely rooted in his body. As a result, he needs to hyper-magnify his world to achieve transcendence. Hence, he seems very contrived. He is open to his own anxieties. His body, to him, is a mass of stench and decay and will betray him. A normal person will use his body with confidence. He doesn’t have an ego response. Perversions are not marginal. Freud was interested in studying about perversions. To him, the fetish is a substitute of a woman. Man can find dualism strange and cannot accept impermanence of the body. Children are shamed of their bodies when they soil themselves. Death and decay are themes of obsession. Children are indeed bothered by their bodies. This is especially so if he has seen traumatic things. Their kids will grow up weaker in their body confidence. Low-esteem is a serious problem too. Wanting to sexualize is an expression of individualism. This also explains fetishism. Our body is standard, but the self is personalized. How can one reconcile this? Perversions are in essence a striving for freedom. Freud thought that the fetish object represented the mother’s ‘penis’. People with fetishism treat their bodies with a halo, like a personal thing. Some people have fetishes with shoes. Feet are ugly while shoes are beautiful. Fetishes can be charms too. Clothing has massive impact on people. Perversions are a form of private religion. Sadism and masochism might seem natural. When you rape someone, you show you can manipulate and dominate another person. It provides intensity in the place of emptiness. Masochism is a way of taking pain and transmuting them into pleasure. Rank thought that Mankind could not get rid of thoughts of masochism and sadism. Mental illness are seen as failed heroics. They all have the power of courage.

All living organisms are condemned to perversity, to the narrowness of being mere fragments of a larger totality that overwhelms them, which they cannot understand or truly cope with – yet must still live and struggle in. – Ernest Becker

The more you shrink back from the difficulties and the darings of life, the more you naturally come to feel inept, the lower is your self-evaluation. It is ineluctable. – Ernest Becker

One must pay with life and consent daily to die, to give oneself up to the risks and dangers of the world, allow oneself to be engulfed and used up. Otherwise, one ends up as though dead in trying to avoid life and death. – Ernest Becker

If you can’t be a hero within a communal ideology, then you must be a nagging, whining failure in your family. – Ernest Becker

The body is definitely the hurdle for man, the decaying drag of the species on the inner freedom and purity of his self. – Ernest Becker

Retrospect and Conclusion: The Dilemmas of Heroism

Psychology and Religion: What is the Heroic Individual? We tend to follow other person’s ideas. We find idols in our lives. We try to convert our people to our idea. The artist tries to create his meaning and he must be sustained by them. Kierkegaard thought man had to live in faith and give meaning of life to his Creator. This is the knight of faith. One needs to find what is needed to live. Man cannot get rid of his nature. The enemy is repression, the denial of death. Men sets limits for himself because this a truly human existence. Therefore, our culture or superego sets such limits. Even if you can postpone death, people might still fear dying prematurely. What kind of Gods would people in a Utopia worship? There are certainly limits to psychotherapy. One cannot have it all his own way. One must draw back in some areas and pay the penalty in some form or another. Psychotherapy does have its uses. Psychology is useless, because it helps to cure weaknesses, but it does not promise immortality. Hence, that is why psychotherapy does have use. Psychology is not a new belief system. The author believes that the fusion of psychology and religion is logical. There are also limits to human nature. There is no way to transcend the human condition. Social movements are mere fancy. Is therapeutic revolution a viable concept? Utopian societies tend to deaden human sensitivity and deny humans of heroism. There are a lot of things about creation and life which we do not understand. All we can do is speak to the life force.

A creature who takes more of the world into himself and develops new forms of courage and endurance. – Ernest Becker

Whatever man does on this planet has to be done in the lived truth of the terror of creation, of the grotesque, of the rumble of panic underneath everything. Otherwise it is false. – Ernest Becker

Whatever is achieved must be achieved from within the subjective energies of creatures, without deadening, with the full exercise of passion, of vision, of pain, of fear, and of sorrow. – Ernest Becker

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The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker (Part 1)

Foreword. The book was first published in 1973. I interviewed him when he was dying from cancer. That moment helped to shape my views on death. Contemplation of our inevitable death adds sweetness to mortality. Another famous book of his is ‘Escape from Evil’. Human beings have a need to control basic anxiety, to deny the terror of death. Some people thought death was a taboo topic. Most people conspire to keep death unconscious. Society provides the hero system which people think can help transcend death. Some people do things because they want to have achieved something that is long-lasting. However, they might not particularly like doing such things. Humans conflict over religions etc and heroism causes much conflicts. To what extent should one pursue heroism? Mankind can hope that people channel their hatred into world problems like poverty etc. The true hero is aware of his mortality and can see impotence and vulnerability. He rejects mass culture and opts for cosmic heroism. Who knows what the future of Mankind will be? Through this book, we learn the relationship between the denial of death and the dominion of evil.

This is the terror of death: to have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consciousness of self, deep inner feelings, an excruciating inner yearning for life and self-expression – and with all this yet to die. – Ernest Becker

Preface. The fear of death haunts humans. People deny that it is the final destiny for man. Some primates celebrate death as it is an elevation to a higher form of life. The dear of death is the human condition. Humans are no closer to the truth than centuries ago. Why is so much overproduction in society nowadays? People like to overproduce but the major issues of the world remain unsolved. The world needs more love, less strife. The problem with modern writers is that there is too much exaggeration. This is my first mature work. The book contains values by philosophers like Kierkegaard, Freud and Otto Rank. Rank’s works were brilliant. His thoughts spanned several fields of knowledge. His books were difficult to read so I have ‘translated’ some of his ideas here. Freud and Rank were close friends. Rank knew his work really well. I will mention more on Rank rather than Jung because Jung was already widely covered by other writers.

Introduction: Human Nature and the Heroic. We know the importance of heroism, but it somehow got neglected along the way. People here thought that the main purpose of man was the heroic. People are narcissistic after all. We are absorbed with ourselves. No one cares about the man next to him. Narcissism is closely associated with self-esteem and self-worth. Man needs to feel comfortable in his self-esteem. Humans need to feel themselves as objects of primary value. Humans are naturally competitive creatures. It is therefore natural for man to want to be a hero. However, all these have no cosmic significance. This is the way society is. Society is a vehicle for heroism. This is the idea of cultural heroism. Are you conscious of what you are doing to earn feeling of heroism? Some men will sacrifice themselves to the good of society. However, the younger generation does not believe in that kind of sacrifice. They see the horrors of society, like wars etc. Some youth scorn religion. Religion needs to work harder to convert these youth on their side. Even the whole society is like a ‘religion’ in some way. It is time for Man to ask the deep questions.

In our culture anyway, especially in modern times, the heroic seems too big for us, or we too small for it. Tell a young man that he is entitled to be a hero and he will blush. We disguise our struggle by piling up figures in a bank book to reflect privately our sense of heroic worth. – Ernest Becker

They earn this feeling by carving out a place in nature, by building an edifice that reflects human value: a temple, a cathedral, a totem pole, a skyscraper, a family that spans three generations. – Ernest Becker

Part 1: The Depth Psychology of Heroism

The Terror of Death. Freud believed in thinking about death once in a while. Death is something that moves man. It was a psychological problem. Heroism was a reflection for the terror of death. Many ancient myths believe in reincarnation or life after death. There is a lot of work on death already. For a young child, he is not aware of what death is. Sometimes, they only realize what death is when they are 9 or 10. A young child is fully dependent on his parents. People with bad experiences might fear death more. Another school of thought is ‘morbidly minded’. This means that the fear of death is in everyone, whether you were brought up well or not. It is not possible to decide whether the fear of death is a basic anxiety. The author believes with this ‘morbidly minded’ school of thought. No one is free of the fear of death. Even William James thought the same. The fact that we strive for self-preservation means that we fear death. However, the fear is more unconscious than conscious. For most people who enjoy living, their fear of death is repressed. A child has to rely on his parents. Animals are not immune to chaos too. Gradually, a child will be exposed to the cruelty of life. Death is a complex symbol, which different societies and cultures will view differently. How does kids with childhood nightmares go on to lead optimistic lives? Humans are very good at repressing our fears. Repression is a scientific concept. It is through striving that fears get absorbed in. As you expand on life and seek better experiences, the fear of death must get ignored. A strong family upbringing amounts to inner sustainment. Men tends to follow what society expects of him and doesn’t question too much. All he needs is to go with the flow and just live. It is when you have undergone a bad experience that the fear of death emerges in pure essence. There are many ways to repress death, of which religion is one way. There are different angles where one can examine the fear of death. Is it even good to be fully aware of your mortality?

Gregory Zilboorg says that most people think death fear is absent because it rarely shows its true face; but he argues that underneath all appearances fear of death is universally present. – Ernest Becker

I don’t believe that the complex symbol of death is ever absent, no matter how much vitality and inner sustainment a person has. – Ernest Becker

The Recasting of Some Basic Psychoanalytic Ideas. We know analyze psychoanalytic theories. Does man have an essence? Can it be found? Man has a paradoxical nature as he is half animal and half symbolic. However, men is like food for worms and is made of flesh. This is a complex dilemma. However, animals are simply driven by their instincts. They live in a world without time. Animals do not think of death. Everything men does is try to deny his grotesque fate. The child cannot understand this dualism too. However, the kid sometimes might soil himself and realize that his body is not all rosy and almighty. The body and the self cannot be reconciled easily. Men tries to deny his true condition. Anality is the problem of man’s dualism between his self and body. A kid might play with his feces, but later realize it’s part of his bodily functions. Men sit only on their arse. Having bodily functions also indicate decay and death. Men like to think that they are not an animal. He doesn’t like to have his body take control over him. Our creativity in life is basically a denial of the truth of the human condition. Freud believed in the Oedipus complex. Freud thought of human motives in ‘primitive’ ways. He believed that many people had sexual tendencies since young. Childhood is indeed a crucial period for man. The Oedipus project is about the conflict between narcissism and ambivalence. When the child is very young, he can cry and get what he wants. After that, he enters the ‘anal’ stage, where he seeks to control his body and master it. The child later believes that he can shape his own life. Later on, Freud developed the ‘castration complex’. Eventually, the child must get free of the mother and become independent. Soon, the child sees her as a threat. He realizes that the female model is different from male and is shocked. The female body seems alien to him and the child is helpless. He realizes that she is vulnerable. He realizes that one could have been born anything, and of any sex. It is purely a matter of chance. One has to take on the burden of one’s meaning of life and body. Sexuality is a universal problem. The body is always casting a shadow over your personal freedom. When the child witnesses sexual intercourse between his parents, he couldn’t take it anymore. He couldn’t take part in it. As a result, he feels betrayed. Sex is so widely practiced, but it can disillusioning too. Sex is also a private thing, and in some ways an escape from society. People need to take part in social projects to achieve meaning.

He is a creator with a mind that soars out to speculate about atoms and infinity, who can place himself imaginatively at a point in space and contemplate bemusedly his own planet. This immense expansion, this dexterity, this ethereality, this self-consciousness gives to man literally the status of a small god. – Ernest Becker

Human Character as a Vital Lie. Humans use fantasy as a lie, to distract themselves from reality. Why are so few people truly courageous? Why is man so cowardly? Is it because he is an animal. Are we indebted to society? Maslow termed the fact that people dream to be great, but don’t do it, a term called ‘Jonah Syndrome’. This is because we know we are a weak organism, so have to cut back on the full intensity of life. These are defenses against grandiosity. For most adults, we have closed off our idea of miracles of creation. We live in a miraculous and incomprehensible world. Animals work based on instincts. Men cannot take his own body for granted. His memories and dreams might be foreign to him. We are simply, gods with anuses. Freud studied about human limitation and the formation of character. According to him, Man fears knowledge of oneself. We engage in repression if we fear something that could make us seem inferior or weak. We have to repress our smallness in this world. We must repress the primary awesomeness of the external world. Humans have two fears which are distinct from animals: the fear of life and the fear of death. Man wants to stay safe and not end up in danger because he understands the fragility of life. A child does not know what it is like to possess great power. A child has to learn to build up defenses. He has to generate a unique identity. We live securely and serenely. These defenses form an illusion. Anxiety is the spur of energetic activity. We get into relationships for security, however, we have to maintain them and then to further the lie. We never really live a life that is truly ours. We need to expose the fourth level, which is the fear of death in order to live authentically. This is the psychologic rebirth. One should always live with humility. What does it mean to live with ‘full humanness’? It means full fear and trembling, at least some of the waking day. Maslow talks about self-actualization. Freud had a theory that humans had innate instincts. Post-freudian theory believed that a child was malleable and instinct free. It was the environment that shaped his development more. The child had to think of defenses in the world. Life can seem overwhelming at times. A person’s character is a defense against despair. The child’s perceptions of the world are new and fresh. The world seemed all beautiful.

He doesn’t know who he is, why he was born, what he is doing on the planet, what he is supposed to do, what he can expect. His own existence is incomprehensible to him, a miracle just like the rest of creation… – Ernest Becker

It can be the power of an all-absorbing activity, a passion, a dedication to a game, a way of life, that like a comfortable web keeps a person buoyed up and ignorant of himself, of the fact that he does not rest on his center. – Ernest Becker

No matter what men pretend, they are only one accidental bite away from utter fallibility. – Ernest Becker

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. – Ernest Becker

The Psychoanalyst Kierkegaard. Psychiatric and religious perspectives are closely linked. They cannot be separated easily. Kierkegaard wrote outstanding analyses of the human mind. It is because of his ambiguity that causes him to be in dread. Man cannot suddenly be an animal. Death is man’s peculiar and greatest anxiety. Man tries to avoid anxiety. How does Man lie about himself? He mentioned Man blocked off reality and lived in half-obscurity. It is similar to the term ‘repression’ of modern day. It is important to let the child fend on his own. Although upbringing is important, at some stage, it is important to let the child wander on their own. One should always seek new possibilities and choices. He described character shut-offs as men living inauthentic lives. They simply follow automatic and uncritical living. They do not belong to anyone. Men who do not think for themselves. This is the guy who imitates others. The ‘immediate’ man does not recognize himself and needs external validation. This is the guy enslaved by culture. Men chooses to live that way because of the danger of a full horizon of experience. Freedom can be dangerous. The problem of life is too much possibility. The split of the body and the self is known as schizophrenia. However, it is important to acknowledge one’s limits. The idea of consummate health is not easy to attain. Depressive psychosis is where there too much limitation placed and not enough freedom of the inner self. This happens when an individual is bogged down by daily life. Some men live a ‘safe’ live. The extreme case of this is depressive psychosis, where a man feels literally stupid. In this case, everything becomes necessary and yet seem trivial. The depressed person feels these people are his shelter. He embeds himself in others. Both excessive and too little possibility of life are bad. One has to live safely within the probabilities of a given set of social rules. Some men try to make use of their special talents to benefit mankind. However, after a while, we get tied down by other commitments. This is better an immediate man. He does want his uniqueness to result in confrontation. The last type of man is the self-created man, the man who is the master of his own fate. He will plunge into life. This could seem demonic. He immerses in the body and experiences. Kierkegaard understood the dangers of lying to oneself. What would life be like if one did not lie? What is the true possibility of man? He didn’t like the ‘normal cultural man’. The real man is one who has ‘transcended’ himself. How does one open up to new possibilities? To him, the enemy was the Oedipus complex. The childhood defenses you built since young become your life-long trap. He must know how to throw off ‘cultural lendings’. One should not live automatically. One needs to realize the truth of one’s condition and recognize one’s creatureliness. The flood of anxiety is the educator. By understanding dread may happen every moment, one will lead to interpret reality differently. One needs to face up to his natural impotence and death. The self must be broken in order to become a self. One has to feel lost and accept it and then one can begin to find himself. The self must be destroyed for self-transcendence to begin. The child relies on power linkages, which have to be broken. This leads to faith. However, does one yearn for cosmic heroism? Kierkegaard believed in the merger of psychology and religion. The brink of oblivion can seem like the brink of infinity. One can use anxiety as an eternal spring for growth into new dimensions of thought and trust.

The whole order of things fills me with a sense of anguish, from the gnat to the mysteries of incarnation; all is entirely unintelligible to me, and particularly my own person. Great is my sorrow, without limits. None knows of it, except God in Heaven, and He cannot have pity. – Soren Kierkegaard

If a man were a beast or an angel, he would not be able to be in dread. Since he is a synthesis he can be in dread…man himself produces dread. – Ernest Becker

For the self is a synthesis in which the finite is the limiting factor, and the infinite is the expanding factor. Infinitude’s despair is therefore the fantastical, the limitless. – Ernest Becker

In such a bogging down, the individual does not feel or see that he has alternatives, cannot imagine any choices or alternate ways of life, cannot release himself from the network of obligations even though these obligations no longer give him a sense of self-esteem, of primary value, of being a heroic contributor to world life even by doing his daily family and job duties. – Ernest Becker

By seeing the multitude of men about it, by getting engaged in all sorts of worldly affairs, by becoming wise about how things go in this world, such a man forgets himself… does not dare to believe in himself, finds it too venturesome a thing to be himself, far easier and safer to be like the others, to become an imitation, a number, a cipher in the crowd. – Soren Kierkegaard

One chooses slavery because it is safe and meaningful; then one loses the meaning of it, but fears to move out of it. One has literally died to life but must remain physically in this world. – Ernest Becker

It would be so nice to be the self he wants to be, to realize his vocation, his authentic talent, but it is dangerous, it might upset his world completely. – Ernest Becker

One goes through it all to arrive at faith, the faith that one’s very creatureliness has some meaning to a Creator; that despite one’s true insignificance, weakness, death, one’s existence has meaning in some ultimate sense because it exists within an eternal and infinite scheme of things brought about and maintained to some kind of design by some creative force. – Kierkegaard

The Problem of Freud’s Character, Noch Einmal. Freud tried to understand faith and deepen his understanding of man. Freud spoke a truth where nobody wanted to here. He recognized man’s creatureliness. He didn’t have high opinions of religion. To him, creatureliness was instinctive behavior. Freud had bias to his sexual theory. Carl Jung didn’t agree with Freud. Freud thought that religion was repressed sexuality. Apparently, Freud was very proud of his sexual theory. Jung thought it was not proven and had no basis. Freud thought occultism was self-deluding and self-inflating. Now, we know that the sexual theory proved to be wrong. Man did not just seek sexuality, but only had a fear of death which caused repression. The issue with Freud was that he didn’t leave his sexual dogma. He never really became an existentialist. He thought men had a death instinct and overcame it by killing. Freud thought that man carried death with him unconsciously as part of his biology. He changed the ‘death problem’ to the ‘death instinct’. Freud had many health problems and hated dissent. He was cynical towards those who opposed him. Freud seemed to be narcissistic. Many people thought of Freud to have a strong character. Freud was certainly not the immediate man. To him, death was an intimate problem. He played with the date of his death all his life. He wasn’t afraid of dying, but the grief it might cause his parents after he passed on. Sometimes, he suffered panic attacks. Freud reacted to death via panic attacks and also heroic resignation. He didn’t want to disappear into oblivion. Freud tried his best to submit to others around him. He was ambivalent towards supernaturalism. He believed in some superstitions, but failed to let that affect his main character. He didn’t want to yield because that would let one’s guard down. His psychoanalytic movement was his vehicle for heroism. The problem with being a genius is that he needs his work to justify him. Freud wanted Jung to carry on psychoanalysis. Jung was Freud’s son and when Jung rejected him, it was like the father-murder complex. Jung admitted Freud was a good teacher, but he had a mind of his own. Freud hated when Jung triumphed over him. This was the guilt of victory. Freud was largely disappointed by his father. Freud wished that his younger brother would die and he eventually did. This left a lot of guilt inside him. Jung hated feelings of helplessness. Do you abandon the causa-sui project, the attempt to be father of oneself? Freud saw the man who didn’t need sexual need and activity as having a higher aspiration as compared to a common man. Human beings are fragile and ephemeral. How far does life has to secure heroic meaning? The Enlightment’s view is that immorality means being loved by many anonymous people. Freud tried to destroy some of the letters he wrote. To Freud, psychoanalysis was his form of religion. Freud didn’t need to have intellectual dependence or spiritual dependence. Freud was obsessed about his sex talk and didn’t seem to know how to stop. However, he was still a great man. Freud refused to move from his instinct theory to the blanket idea of a death fear. He never wanted to move from scientific creatureliness to religious creatureliness.

The death fear of the ego is lessened by the killing, the sacrifice, of the other; through the death of the other, one buys oneself free from the penalty of dying, of being killed. – Otto Rank

It was Freud who discovered the idea of being “wrecked by success”: that when a person achieves the truly superlative, it is often felt as an intolerable burden because it means that he has won out in competition with the father, having excelled him. – Ernest Becker

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Comforting Thoughts About Death that have Nothing to do with God by Greta Christina

Death can seem appalling if you don’t believe in an after-life. In 500 years, no one will remember you. In 5 billion years, the Earth will be boiled. It can make life seem trivial and absurd. But it is certainly possible to not have religious or spiritual beliefs or be an atheist and still be okay towards death. Death allows our life to have meaning. Time passes and we are aware of it passing. With the passing of time comes loss. Without loss, we won’t get to fully experience life’s great moments. The world changes due to the passing of time and I don’t think anyone would want the Earth to be still and captured in one frozen moment. Even though you might pass on, but time still had a part to play during the years you were alive. Your segment on that timeline would have always been there. Dying does not make your time which you were on Earth disappear. We don’t know what happens when we die. However, what matters is we get to be alive and connected.

The fact that time will continue after we die does not negate the time that we were alive. We are alive now, and nothing can erase that. – Greta Christina

The Meaning of Death, Part 1 of Many. For atheist, there isn’t a meaning of death. It simply happens because it happens. This is nothing depressing. As an atheist, you get to create your own meaning in life. How can death shape your experience of life? I see death as something that connects me with the universe. You don’t have to feel guilty when someone else passes away. No one tortured them. Death is just part of the way the world works. The world can seem bleak and cold at times. However, we are part of this world.

You don’t have to torture yourself trying to figure out the motivations of the physical universe. It doesn’t have any. So you can accept the inevitability of death, and get on with your life. – Greta Christina

Motivation and Mid-Life Crises. I went through a mid-life crisis at 40. I realized that time was short. I was aware that I needed to work hard and start writing. Now, I do freelance writing. When you are older, your priorities become clearer. You know that you have to make sacrifices with these priorities. I am a deadline-driven person. Since death is inevitable, might as well use it to give your life meaning. Death has given me clarity on my life. Death is not so bad after all.

Fear, Grief and Actually Experiencing Your Emotions. Go through with it. Death is natural and you didn’t deny it. The fear of death is natural. Sometimes, the best way to deal with strong emotions is to avoid fixing them but just try to feel them. Things don’t have to be permanent to be meaningful. To some, they think that death is no different from not having being born yet. You can create your own meaning in life. We can give companionship and witness to others. It can be incredibly comforting. This is someone who can be by your side when you need them. It is okay to think about death once in a while. It is just human to do so.

The idea that death is a deadline: that knowing life is temporary brings focus to our lives, inspires us to treasure the people and experiences we encounter, and motivates us to do something valuable with the short time we have. – Greta Christina

Lydia’s Cancer and Atheist Philosophies of Death. How can atheist philosophies improve life? Our cat has cancer. What sort of treatment should the cat receive? These are all small and difficult decisions. All animals will eventually die. What you can do is to make the cat as it can possibly be when it is still alive. There are no simple decisions which can be made. Research has shown that those who have religions will try to delay death when it’s clearly imminent. Religion pretends that death is not permanent. For atheists, we believe that when people die, they are fucking dead forever. Ensure that you have time to think about your death. Learn to make informed decisions.

We understand that our own time here is limited. We understand that all we can do for ourselves and for one another is to make that time – however much time it is – as happy and joyful and meaningful as we possibly can. – Greta Christina

Do We Concede the Ground of Death Too Easily? Many of us assume that an having an after-life is favourable. The fear of death cause people to cling to religion. Do you really in a heaven where everyone can live happily ever after? Conflict helps to strengthen us and build our character. What will happen who those make it to Heaven? How will you feel if your loved ones are in Hell? Would our personalities change in Heaven because it is too blissful? Secular views of death are better because they can withstand scrutiny. Your understanding of death should be grounded in reality. We don’t have to be afraid of talking about death. You don’t have to continue living a lie.

Difference between Pessimism and Realism. Atheism can coffer comfort in the face of death. Comfort doesn’t mean eradication of pain and grief. It doesn’t make the grief disappear, but it can lighten the load. Religion doesn’t eradicate grief. Even people who believe in an afterlife might doubt their beliefs. The problem with believing in an afterlife is that what if you go to heaven but your loved ones go to hell? Belief in an afterlife is also not based on any strong groundings. Atheism doesn’t leave you with cognitive dissonance. One’s perspective towards death is truly personal and there is no right or wrong. One should try to frame it such that it is positive and hopeful and meaningful. You should frame reality in a way that offers meaning and hope. Atheism is a safe thing to practice in real life. One can always find new forms of comfort and meaning with atheism.

Grief Beyond Belief: How Atheists are Dealing with Death. There is an online support group called ‘Grief Beyond Belief’. Community groups like this are useful and help give strength. Many non-believers pretend to accept the concepts of the afterlife etc. Religious beliefs about death can make atheists feel alienated sometimes as well. The concept of an afterlife is not shared by everyone. Usually, a death of a close one is often a trigger for questioning or abandoning religious faith. Sometimes, religious people hijack the funeral proceedings and make it seem religious in nature. Sometimes, they do so and are not aware of it. In some cultures, ‘atheism’ might seem invisible. Many people fault atheism for being inferior to religion because it sees death as the ultimate end. The atheism community is certainly growing in numbers.

We point out that a philosophy that accepts reality is inherently more comforting than a philosophy based on wishful thinking – since it doesn’t involve cognitive dissonance and the unease of self-deception. – Greta Christina

Atheists in Foxholes. People suggest that in near moments of death, people will turn to religion. This is untrue. There are many atheists who have had near death experiences but who are still atheists. When people want to believe something, they tend to exclude or dismiss all contradictory evidence. Hence, this is a poor argument. Some spiteful religious people might say that atheists are immoral or that they don’t have meaning in their lives.

Atheism and the Argument from Comfort. Religion doesn’t universally offer comfort. Religion might expose young children with images of Hell. Some people who give up religion feel that a burden has been lifted from there. Atheists see the world as it is and understand that it operates based on physical laws. Death is simply a problem that has to be faced.

Humanism in a Shitstorm. I want to work with other humanists and learn about tiehr trials and tribulations. I had cancer, but thankfully, it was treatable. However, I didn’t turn to religion. Humanism has been a profound comfort for me. I understood that things happen because of natural causes. We have little control over what happens to us. I have the power to learn from my experiences. Being able to be born is a miracle already.

There’s no way I’m going to be the same person after this shitstorm than I was before it. But I get to decide what lessons I learn from it. I get to infuse it with meaning. And that’s the power I have. – Greta Christina

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