Ernest Becker 7: Broncos are Diminished: Give Life to the Seahawks!
This is my seventh post in this series and I’m only on page 12 of Becker’s Escape from Evil. Better pick up the pace or I’ll still be at this in October!
So, poor Broncos. Diminished. Humiliated. Oh well, there’s always next season. That’s the beauty of organized sport in our day. It’s never finished. There is only symbolic death…but, boy, do people take these things seriously. Because we are symbol-creating beings we tend to take our symbols seriously. We attach ourselves to a particular cause, team, political ideology or habit and we hang on for dear life. And then, we fight. We need others because we can’t impart life to ourselves. We need others to compete against to prove how worthy we are of immortality. But competition isn’t always and only about defeating our opponents and our opponents would not benefit from our complete annihilation. No, we have mechanisms to hold up, to protect our enemies from complete deflation. We need them and they need us. We help each other. But we do this daily too in countless ways and not against any perceived enemy. We help each other save face.
I think here of the work of Erving Goffman, in which he showed with such consummate art how people impart to one another the daily sense of importance that each needs, not with rivalry and boasting, but rather with elaborate rules for protecting their insides against social damage and deflation. People do this in their own interpersonal encounters by using verbal formulas that express proper curtesies, permit gentle handling, save the other’s ‘face’ with the proper subtleties when self-esteem is in danger, and so on.
…It is only in modern society that the mutual imparting of self-importance has trickled down to the simple maneuvering of face-work; there is hardly any way to get a sense of value except from the boss, the company dinner, or the random social encounters in the elevator on the way to the executive toilet. It is pretty demeaning – but that’s not Goffman’s fault – it is the playing out of the historical decadence of ritual. Primitive society was a formal organization for the apotheosis [the ascent of man to god like status] of man. Our own everyday rituals seem shallow precisely because they lack the cosmic connection.
The moieties stood for these opposing yet complementary principles. The world was divided not only into sky and earth but also into right and wrong, light and darkness, power and weakness – and even life and death.
…Modern man has long since abandoned the ritual renewal theory of nature, and reality for us is simply refusing to acknowledge that evil and death are constantly with us. With medical science we want to banish death, and so we deny it a place in our consciousness. We are shocked by the vulgarity of symbols of death and the devil and sexual intercourse in primitive ruins.
We don’t want to be reminded of death and if we are, we deny it any real significance via an immorality project.
The Egyptians hoped that when they died they would ascend to heaven and become stars and thus enjoy eternal significance in the scheme of things. This is already a comedown from what primitive social groupings enjoyed: the daily living of divine significance, the constant meddling into the realm of cosmic power. I said that primitive society was organized for contests and games…but these were not games as we now think of them. They were games as children play them: they were actually aimed to control nature, to make things come out as they wanted them. Ritual contests between moieties were a play of life against death, forces of light against forces of darkness…If death and disease were overtaking a people, then a ritual enacted reversal of death by triumph of the life faction would hopefully set things straight.
Not sure if this has anything to do with the Super Bowl. But enough for today.