A natural response to our fragile perishability and eager struggle to live.
Posted Oct 03, 2020
Picture, if you will, a planet populated by perishable, fragile organisms, each eagerly struggling for their existence, where non-existence means just that—never again existing anymore than yesterday's popped soap bubble. The organisms live, existing while they do, and then, at death, nothing, gone, no more, nevermore, not passed on to some other realm.
Picture, then, some of these fragile, eager organisms gaining the power of language and, with it, a capacity to imagine anything, including their own existence. How would they respond?
Many would eagerly imagine an escape from their own fragile perishability and, ultimate, inescapable non-existence.
They would fetishize absolute unconstrained invincibility, total freedom, and safety—permanent invulnerability. They would become invincibility fetishists, eagerly embracing fantasies of eternal invulnerability.
They would cling to the fantasy of reincarnation and afterlives.
They would believe they have an invincible soul that will live on, eternally safe and free forever.
They would fetishize mythical persons reborn and eternal, and they would double down on that myth with the fantasy that by believing in that myth, they too would be granted eternal heavenly life.
They would fetishize fame, fortune, and power as bulwarks against their own perishability. They would dream of going down throughout history as having transcended perishability, eternal legends who live on, lionized in the minds of all the creatures who followed them.
They would claim their victories to be permanent, their insights the last ever needed. They would crusade for the eternal preservation of their sacred texts as the eternal answer to all questions.
They would likewise follow ecstatically any leader who impressed them as indomitable, unbeatable, incorrigible, invulnerable, eternally safe, and free.
They would fetishize any leader who seemed to possess a bottomless deck of wildcard trump cards—wildcards meaning they can do whatever they want, and trump cards meaning no matter what they do, it is always the best, eternally right, righteous, and mighty.
In times of greatest vulnerability, they would deny their fragility and form armies of crusaders dedicated to nothing more than their own invincibility, proud defiance of all threats to their eternal invincibility.
They would stop paying attention to the difference between reality and fantasy and declare their fantasies more real than reality. They would make any sounds, any verbal noise that successfully convinced themselves moment-to-moment that they were like their mythical Gods, eternally right, righteous, and mighty.
They would deny their fragility by denying the existence of any threats to their invincibility.
They would reject any science-like attempt at realism that expose them to any threat to their invincibility.
They would fetishize their own race as superior to other races, not just superior but somehow immortal compared to the weak and fragile members of other races. They would self-fetishize.
They would tend toward sado-narcissism and schadenfreude, the satisfaction of seeing other's perishability as evidence of their own invincibility.
They would privilege the feeling of survival over actual survival. That is, in their escapism, they would neglect reality, thereby making their own perishability more likely.
This would be the case on any planet that has life and from life, the evolution of intelligent life, organisms with language, and, therefore, imaginations.
Invincibility is a delusion, an unrealizable fantasy, a figment of ultimate satisfaction that would come naturally to any language-capable, fantasizing, fragile organism eager to sustain its own existence. Though invincibility is impossible, they would fetishize it as more real than reality, because fragile perishability is too terrifying to any organism eagerly struggling for its own existence.
Becker, Ernest (1997) The Denial of Death. NYC, NY: The Free Press.
Solomon, Sheldon (2015) The Worm at the Core: On the role of death in life. NYC, NY: Random House.