Ernest Becker, the Pulitzer Prize winning author, wrote, “In order to turn out a piece of work the author has to exaggerate the emphasis of it, to oppose it in a forcefully competitive way to other versions of the truth…the problem is to find the truth underneath the exaggeration.” When it comes to the variations of meaning within conflict and tragedy one is confronted with the limitations of covering such a broad subject when it is so complex in nature. The will to meaning within the human experience has had important consequences for the world. It is hard to exaggerate the influential aspects of the pursuit for purpose when the will to meaning in human experience has given so many the strength to deal with the blows of fate. But there is a dark side to the will to meaning and the denial of death.
The human ability to give meaning to colors, flags, stories, and symbols has often led to two or more movements to battle in a bloody conflict for hegemony. Becker wrote, “The last thing man can admit to himself is that his life-ways are arbitrary: this is one of the reasons that people often show derisive glee and scorn over the ‘strange’ customs of other lands—it is a defense against the awareness that his own way of life may be just as fundamentally contrived as any other. One culture is always a potential menace to another because it is a living example that life can go on heroically without a value framework totally alien to one’s own.” The transference of life and meaning to objects and symbols is a human trait that makes conflict more probable. It is no longer a piece of land, cloth, stone or building…but my very life and existence. Two heroic systems that are born from this escape from oblivion and this will to significance, cannot stand to co-exist with one another because their mere existence points to the fallacy of their absolute superiority. Thus genocide is even justified…kill the people to keep the ideology alive. Humans have often sacrificed real life for imaginary life.
I do not want to discredit humanity as a hopeless endeavor. A few years ago a friend and I went on a road trip. We came across a car that was stopped at the side of the road. I will never forget what I saw. I saw a woman sitting on the side of the road holding a dying deer. She gently stroked the creature’s head as it lay in her lap. My faith in humanity sparked again by its ability to give a damn. That woman made a horrible act of chance into a beautiful image of hope. Despite the indifference of the universe we humans still have the choice to care about the universe.
The universe is not built towards human happiness or fulfillment. Human happiness must be manufactured by human beings. The human ability to create through art, words, or other symbols is also the human ability to destroy. If a creature can create it can also destroy. The good and the bad of humanity is one. The complexity of it makes it less of dichotomy and more of a fusion. Nature is not cruel or beautiful rather it is both cruel and beautiful. The lion that takes the life of a baby gazelle does so under the beauty of the African landscape. A viciousness backed with the scenery of a lost paradise.
Policy makers who do not study humans on a micro level are “like a blind man in a dark basement searching for a black cat—that is not even there!” It is like an auto mechanic who only knows the outward workings of a car but has not grasp of the engine, the inward driving force. He can tell you how to drive it but not help you fix it. The study of human psyche and emotions should be a requirement to the world of policy makers if it hopes to really face the human challenges in the 21st century. When it comes to global politics human feelings and emotions can be as dominant and relevant as any empirical data that is produced. As Patricia Crone noted, “The very purpose of ideal types is to simplify a complex reality.”
"Our lives begin to end the day we are silent about things that matter" Dr. Martin Luther King
Author of Blog
Born in the United States of America. Spent my Childhood in Kenya, East Africa. Graduate of George Mason University in Global Affairs with a concentration in Africa and the Middle East. What I desire is not total agreement but thoughtful people. To share ideas and expand knowledge in the era of globalization.