Archive for December, 2011

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The Plot of Mind Is Death, But Its Telling Is The Adornment Of Time.

December 30, 2011

"Blak Lantern" Henry Richards

What do we make of Hemingway’s observation that every story, if we take it far enough, ends in a death? I attribute this observation to Hemingway to give the idea a beginning, to start a narrative. Of course this convention of attributing ideas to named persons, is another means of fighting off death, of keeping the accounts of immortality in order, of enforcing the rule that this idea should not go in the coffers of an animal with the symbolic label “Henry Richards” but to the symbolic being, “Ernest Hemingway” who now is no longer an animal, has no bones a molderin’ in the grave. That bone pile in Ketchum Ohio belonged to the biggest game animal that Hemingway ever shot, although he authored no story about the hunt or the kill. He slew, of course, his animal self.

This essay starts by assigning a starting point to the idea the essay itself addresses, but you, dear reader, are anticipating the essay’s end, its wrapping up, at best its coda containing a codex (and it already contains a death). Hemingway is much like the idea I am treating here: the idea that all stories end in death if taken far enough. It is not a coda or codex that Hemingway “comes to”. Hemingway never arrives but carries, as in arithmetic you carry values higher than the “place” will hold,  a sum of purposes, influence, a thematic force that dips in and out of time, lifts the lid on the tenses that hold the pending additions we call life, like dry parsnips dangling from the root cellar.

In writing these sentences, I stumble over pronouns: he, his, I, my, you, your, we, those other holding places, temporary marks [Latin temporārius, from tempus, tempor-, time.] in pencil that we use to carry over the official columns of identity. Pronouns are more oblique than the usage we could adapt to hold time and identity in abeyance. We could stick to the passive voice, or refer to “one”, or in a heroic tale “the One” or referring to someone within in earshot “that one”. (One recalls the symbolic stripping McCain gave Obama during a televised debate. Suddenly it was–in McCain’s mind at least, it seems–a private conversation between McCain and millions of white listeners together considering “that one”, no longer a you or he (an addressable subject) but an object, an objection, an obstacle. The tone was a bit conspiratorial, but supported by a fine old convention carried over from slavery, Jim Crow, and the cold war of the Civil Rights era. But one believes one knows the end of that story.) Or one may leave off quotation marks altogether. Say everything fresh.

This may all seem trivial, but it all relates to the end, because with human flesh (and it is not so with any of our animal relatives), if we fall upon the blades called pronouns, we bleed. The shield of ‘you’ does not save us from the sword of ‘I’, from the pronoun’s relentless rowing through time toward death. It is only for nonliving things and non- symbolic animals (including any-man-not-thinking) that this renaming is “pro” noun, an enhancement of the nomen and favorable toward it. Or to squeeze another drop of symbolic juice, this renaming is to the symbolic animal  “pro-noun”, as venomous as Eve’s interlocutor, pushing the person back into thingship to be a named and not a namer, out of the garden of the godly pro-subject. (I exhort you, dear reader, to speak a language that is pro-subject, that dances over the shoddy illusion of self, stomp-dances, taps, on the ego, crushes those scratched contact lenses that we try to make a unitary, but are no more singular than eyes, deer, water, an air, soil, earth, destiny, death, and like these contain a million transitory worlds dissipating back into clouds of stardust.)

Dear reader, we are more than halfway through our journey. Isn’t it always that way, Dante turning on his heels, (that beatific gaze from eyes long since rotted in their sockets) before he realizes there is nowhere to go but forward, where hope must be abandoned and retrieved, no place in nature except the mocking stairwell of time to go winding through, which is for us (and no other creature) an earthly purgatory of perils, until heaven or hell gives refuge, breaks our doubleness and give us single vision? For the symbolic man, time dances like this: moves to rhythms heard or unheard of, or to symbols coherent and inaudible. Time darts like a hummingbird sucking meaning from the tenses, those linguistic petals, hanging above us like purple orchids on green or rotting boughs, whose monumental trunks (broader than the hummingbird’s perception, tasteless to wanderlust tongue craving fruit) those druid’s rockets, roots bark blasting, and pulp, sap, and mapled blood against the infinite gravity of nothingness.

The hummingbird’s story (the mini-series of time on the boob tube of nature) started there in the last paragraph. Will the end be abrupt, from a net or a storm, an owl’s last chance for a meal before cloaking from the sun? Does winter carry the humming bird along–arboreal romance suspended for this episode-until the snow heavy winds engulf the story, like the white page engulfs the sentence never written, but is never permanently absent or fully present (our hummingbird, a sentence, time)? The clouds could be clearing, the blizzard buzzing from an avalanche of wings shedding the morning dew, the seasons themselves coming out of hibernation? The year yawns, the plot thickening toward death like sap to amber, a maple wound to cloying syrup?

The author may choose to start here as well. Yes, even this close to the end. The hummingbird makes no choice, but then the hummingbird has no character, no soul, does not stand on the occasion of a proper noun, raises no memorials, except a nest with eggs as bright with potential and ever moving as your own eyeballs, each of which could be a coda, the sign so much like null and also evoking the infinite crosshairs of life and death, the sign that directs the music and the dance to the tail of the tale, the mortifying cacophony of silence. But as St. Paul says, we must redeem the time because the days are evil. So I leave Hemmingway graveless, immortal in symbolic being, and you and I in our imperishable sarcophagi of pronouns and tenses.

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The Psychic Bartender: Hangman’s Lunch

December 27, 2011

"k1f" Kirby Farrell

Nobody likes to think that innocent people might be put to death in a nation whose leaders are getting comfortable with the legitimacy of torture and military tribunals.  Even hardcore advocates of the death penalty strongly prefer to see guilty people die.  Troubled observers rightly grumble about procedural faults in death penalty cases.  But rarely does the public think out loud about the amazing susceptibility of death-penalty jurisprudence to the irrational depths of so-called normal life.  We see pretty clearly the incongruities and lunacy in some other legal systems – Saudi religious courts, or politically warped Soviet justice, say.  But it’s not so easy to recognize the pressure of absurdity in our own “natural” rightness.

Consider this:

The execution of Troy Davis in Georgia for shooting an off-duty policeman defied international appeals for clemency.  It also discounted evidence that the original prosecution was faulty, with seven of nine witnesses to the shooting later recanting their testimony.  There are ample procedural grounds for mistrusting capital punishment.  And cognitive studies have shown that the testimony of witnesses under stress is often unreliable.  To make matters worse, the historical record shows a highly suspect disproportion of death sentences pronounced on black defendants.

But there are deeply pernicious yet unaccountable psychological distortions that bear on the process too.   The religious convictions of judges and juries are bound to color their judgment yet they’re usually unaccountable.  Religious beliefs are euphemized or ignored in public discussions, and are in any case likely to be complex, nebulous, and to some extent unconscious.

At the last minute Troy Davis appealed for a stay of execution to the Supreme Court, which declined to intervene.  The present court is well known for its political appointments and historically novel decisions.  In 2009, Supreme Court Justice Scalia declared that “this Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent.”  Yet beyond this peculiar, if not tortured reasoning, there are other, no less problematical forces at work.

Justice Scalia, for example, uses morally charged and unaccountable beliefs to justify capital punishment. Though ostensibly a “strict constructionist” in constitutional law, the Catholic Scalia maintains that for the believing Christian, “death is no big deal. Intentionally killing an innocent person is a big deal: it is a grave sin, which causes one to lose his soul. But losing this life, in exchange for the next? The Christian attitude is reflected in the words Robert Bolt’s play has Thomas More saying to the headsman: ‘Friend, be not afraid of your office. You send me to God. . . .’ For the nonbeliever, on the other hand, to deprive a man of his life is to end his existence. What a horrible act!  Besides being less likely to regard death as an utterly cataclysmic punishment, the Christian is also more likely to regard punishment in general as deserved. The doctrine of free will–the ability of man to resist temptations to evil, which God will not permit beyond man’s capacity to resist–is central to the Christian doctrine of salvation and damnation, heaven and hell. The post–Freudian secularist, on the other hand, is more inclined to think that people are what their history and circumstances have made them, and there is little sense in assigning blame.”

“Death is no big deal” unless of course you happen to be wrongly put to death. The justice reduces the bewildering variety of religious experience to “the Christian” and attacks a straw man, the “post-Freudian secularist.”  In this rhetoric Christian theology shrinks to a historically shadowy anecdote used by a dramatist in a popular hagiography.  Murder is terrifying–“a horrible act!”–yet in theory Christian murder victims achieve bliss with God, so the rhetoric boxes in deep ambivalence.  Scalia’s Gospel sees no incoherence here and has no room for Christian mercy.

The justice is weighing the power to kill accused individuals, but his argument refuses to contemplate actual behavior. Its stereotypes foster psychic impunity by polarizing categories and ignoring the quality of evidence.  At no point does Scalia acknowledge that he is talking about faith in immortality that by definition is beyond any rational standard: and that such faith could be used to legitimize judicial murder or a genocidal crusade.  At the same time he imagines that all murders are deliberate acts, ignoring the roles of panic and accident, not to mention organic dysfunction.  Operating in an anti-psychological intellectual zone, the man never considers that the terror of annihilation might be driving his take-no-prisoners convictions about immortality, or that a judge’s magisterial courage might be at bottom tragic denial.

Rage for order is both a behavior and an idea about behavior. Justice Scalia, for instance, is attracted to the idea of punishment: “the Christian is also more likely to regard punishment in general as deserved.” He imagines a world cleanly divided between the righteous and the damned; believers and nonbelievers, Christians and “Post-Freudian secularists,” and so on.  In this mindset the deep structure is melodrama.  Differing imaginations don’t overlap, wonder at the infinite varieties of creation, agonize over how to get at the truth, or rue our tragic inadequacy (“God will not permit [temptation] beyond man’s capacity to resist”). Social life is not a matter of trade, negotiation, mutation, and adaptation, but rather an adrenalized struggle to identify and punish, empowered by a conviction of godlike invulnerability.

The issue is not whether judgment will exist, but what form will it take?  How much is enough?  Who gets to judge?  On what evidence? And who will police the system? History groans with mass movements and cults that have thrived on predatory righteousness.  The self-intoxicating effects of moral aggression stand out in Philip G. Zimbardo’s famous Stanford Prison Experiment, which had to be halted early when student volunteers in the roles of prison guards began slipping into sadism and the inmates’ depression became self-confirming.  But this was only an experiment, not the living horror of a false conviction and judicial murder–the likely fate of people such as Cameron Todd Willingham, whom Texas officials put to death in 2004 despite demonstrably faulty evidence, a feckless appeals process, and now a brazenly manipulated coverup by a governor who has become a national candidate for president..

In his retirement, with moving humility, Justice John Paul Stevens abjured his support for the death penalty decades before.  Reviewing reasons that capital punishment is “unwise and unjustified,” Stevens called attention to the creaturely motives underlying American cultural practices that make the law perverse, quoting the argument of David Garland’s Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition (2010).  Not only is the death penalty not a deterrent to crime, it actually promotes “gratifications,” of “professional and political users, of the mass media, and of its public audience.” With its demonstrable racial biases and its role in the Republican party’s “southern strategy” as well as in the post-Vietnam “culture wars,” capital punishment has served political ends.  But beyond these motives, even beyond revenge, Stevens and Garland see at work “the American fascination with death”–specifically, the “emotional power of imagining killing and death. [Garland] concludes that “the American death penalty has been transformed from a penal instrument that puts persons to death to a peculiar institution that puts death into discourse for political and cultural purposes.”

From Clarence Darrow to the Justice Project, many have challenged the death penalty, and for good reason.  But a thorough reexamination of the death penalty is long overdue.  It needs to bring into the light, for all to see, not only the difficulties that compromise capital punishment in action, but also its profoundly fallible roots in mental life.

Here in the bar, on the mirror behind the glittering bottles, you can still make out the worn gilt letters of the old advertising slogan, “Primum Non Nocere.”

Bottoms up, pal.

(This argument draws on Kirby Farrell’s Berserk Style in American Culture : <<http://people.umass.edu/kfarrell/Berserk_Style_in_American_Culture.html)

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“Occupy!” Get the Pendulum Moving Again!

December 21, 2011

"Normal Dan" Dan Liechty

In response to a recent blog, one reader commented:

There has been recent discussion of underlying similarities between the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movements, and a ‘compare and contrast’ piece on Beckerian lines would be most helpful.

Although both TP and OWS spring from sources deep within the American political psyche, the easy equation of them as simply Right/Left mirrors of each other is wrongheaded and intellectually lazy. I may come back to the Tea Party again in a future piece, but for now, I want to say something about the Occupy! movement. I do think that Ernest Becker’s ideas, among others, help us get an interpretive handle on the Occupy! phenomenon. It should be noted that Becker was not very concerned with analysis of contemporary political movements and current events. Although all of his works were written in the tumultuous years between 1960 and 1974–years of civil rights actions, the Cold War, the nuclear arms race, massive war protests, the rise and fall of hippies, yippie, New Lefties and more–Becker hardly mentions in his writings what was going on in the streets or even of political protest actions in which he himself participated. He did, however, create a body of material that contains a relatively sustained and coherent political philosophy. Drawing together the strands of Becker’s political philosophy (found most clearly in his book, The Structure of Evil) we can outline an analysis of the Occupy! movement that is consistent with Becker’s ideas.

Becker mainly viewed social and political life as dynamic, pendular movement. He was steadfastly ‘anti-utopian’ in the sense that he refused to think at all in terms of models for social and political perfection. Human beings are restless. They are selfish. They get bored. Any model of utopian perfection will have short and limited appeal, and social experiments designed to implement any such model will have to rely increasingly on violent coercion to keep people in line. This was not where Becker’s interests lay.

What Becker did write about, however, was what he called an Ideal/Real vision of democratic society. This is a dynamic vision in which it is assumed that movement would occur in the society over time, between the generations, and within that society’s political groups. In this vision, we can place factors such as individual freedom, enterprise and risk on one end of a continuum, and communal good, traditions of mutuality and security on the other end of that continuum. At any given time, a working democratic society will reflect the relative balance of these factors along the continuum. The goal of political society is not to establish once and for all the ‘correct’ balance of these factors, nor even necessarily to privilege the ‘perfect middle.’ Rather, it is the goal of political society to foster institutions of change that facilitate continued pendular movement along the continuum. When (as will surely happen) the society has moved so far toward the communal end of the continuum that individual freedom, creativity and initiative are routinely quashed, the institutions of democratic society will foster movement of the political pendulum in the other direction. When (as will surely happen) the society has moved so far toward the individualist end of the continuum that traditions of trust, mutuality and protection of the common good are routinely trampled, the institutions of democratic society will foster movement of the political pendulum in the other direction. In a good society, the pendulum is always in motion. Otherwise, social stagnancy occurs.

In European democracies, at least since the 1950s, the center ‘set point’ has always been somewhat further toward the communal end of the continuum compared to the USA. European democracies were created in the aftermath of war and destruction, when communal action was absolutely necessary for social survival and political revival. The US democracy, in contrast, was created in the context of a colonial frontier, in which self-reliance and the ability to “strike out on one’s own” formed the fundamental gestalt of our democratic self image. Nevertheless, even with these differences, it can be seen that in well-functioning democracies, social and political institutions facilitate change and movement along this basic continuum.

With this principal analysis in mind, it does seem clear to me that after 30 plus years of extolling John Wayne and John Rambo, greed-is-good free market Libertarianism, Ayn Rand and ending welfare, reduction of the social safety net, privatization of the common wealth, and increasingly abject and piratic gambling with other people’s money in the financial sectors, America has hit the peak of its social and political pendulum. The extremes of the wealth gap is a strong symptom indicating that mutuality, trust and the assumptions of our basic social contract are being heavily eroded. If we are, indeed, a viable democratic society, our social institutions should be kicking in heavily to move the pendulum back in the other direction.

I suggest that much of the enthusiasm felt in 2008 sparked by Barack Obama’s rhetoric of “hope and change” stemmed directly from the sense that yes, our democratic institutions are functioning as they should in this context. Watching this administration falter and fail on so many fronts to move the pendulum has been a jarring wakeup call, a forced recognition that the ‘normal’ democratic institutions of our society have been coopted and undermined. An electric surge of awareness that something is seriously awry has charged through the populace in these recent years, that our democratic institutions are more vulnerable than had been thought and are being directly threatened by big-money interests bribing our system representative. Therefore, if we are the get the pendulum moving again, that is, if we are to come to the rescue of the cherished institutions of our democratic society, it will have to be accomplished with a very hefty element of working outside of the ‘normal’ channels. Hence, when a small, lightly organized and scraggly group of people showed up in Zuccotti Park in NYC, to “occupy Wall Street,” a blast of recognition shot through an already-prepared populace, and quickly became a clarion call to action. Occupy! groups are mushrooming across the country, and connecting with other democratic movements around the globe.

Were he a young person today, would Ernest Becker be grabbing a sleeping bag and heading for the nearest Occupy! location. I somewhat doubt it. He understood himself as less an activist than an intellectual. But I am quite sure he would admire the Occupy! activists and, in the current political moment, would see them as generally on the right side of history. My view is that that view is the correct view!

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Choose Your Illusions with Care

December 16, 2011

"Svaardvaard" Bill Bornschein

“Choose your illusions with care, tend them with wisdom, and may The Farce be with you.”  With this blessing (curse?) I end my classes each semester. It encapsulates the approximate takeaway I wish for the students. The first clause references the vital lie of culture and also alludes to our freedom in managing it. The second clause echoes the theme of freedom and points to the ongoing nature of the task. The final clause is a tongue-in-cheek nod to The Force in Star Wars and, for us, an intuition of benevolence. Sometimes the class is psychology and we’ve watched Flight From Death. Sometimes it is comparative religion and Becker has been viewed in light of the Buddhist teaching on impermanence. Sometimes it is philosophy and we’ve explored “the psychologist Kierkegaard.”  Exposing students to such powerful messages gives a teacher pause. To what end?  What is the ultimate point and value of presenting these ideas?  This concern is one that we all engage.  It was brought home to me recently by a video on the parody website The Onion. The video featured an imaginary group of scientists who had taught a lowland gorilla awareness of its mortality. “When we began, Quigley was a normal happy ape.” Over the course of his education he is brought to the point of a panic attack as the scientists rejoice. While incredibly funny, for someone teaching Becker, the video is somewhat unnerving.  Socrates taught that the unexamined life is not worth living, but any number of Woody Allen characters have taught us that the same holds true of the over-examined life.

As I’ve ruminated on this question for a few days I find myself dividing my answer into two categories, the personal and the collective. On the personal level, I’m less sure of the answer, less inclined to mess with Quigley the normal happy ape. Since we will never get to a state of complete unrepression and will forever live with a tacit, qualified acceptance of our illusions, might it not be better to leave well enough alone? I go back and forth on this side of the question. It is when I turn to the collective side that I see the indisputable value of teaching Becker. Awareness of his “science of evil” is not a luxury. Quigley the normal happy ape in The Onion video does not have the capacity for environmental devastation or thermonuclear warfare. We do. Becker’s insights provide us with the tools of self-awareness that we need to harness the better angels of our nature.

The current generation of Millennials provides some hope that we may be able to deal with our self-destructive tendencies. As a generation, they follow the much maligned Generation X whose nihilistic persona alarmed their elders. In response, the Millennials have been nurtured much like the GI Generation that followed the Lost Generation eighty years ago. They have been raised as a protected generation. Endless rounds of sports and school activities have kept them busy and engaged. School uniforms, curfews, and “baby on board” bumper stickers have kept them safe. “Helicopter parents” have hovered over their academic progress. They have engaged in an unprecedented amount of service activity through their schools and religious institutions. As a result, these Millennials have a great capacity to cooperate and work together, to engage the big projects that face humanity. At the same time they excel at the everyday grunt work necessary to see a job through. They recognize the heroic nature of the mundane, something that often escapes my own Baby Boomer cohort.

A shadow side of the cooperative personality of the Millennials is a key reason for presenting Becker’s insights on symbolic immortality. The dark side of cooperation is sheepish conformity. It is a conformity that was described by Erich Fromm during the 1950s as the GI Generation came of age. Consumer and entertainment culture certainly functions to keep all of us unconscious. This is an environment where symbol systems can work as an emotional shorthand that bypasses reason. Further, symbolic shorthand is the currency of manipulators and demagogues. This is all the more reason for today’s youth to be well versed in the seductiveness of symbolic immortality and the possibilities for constructive heroism. Regarding my teaching dilemma, a “confusion about heroism” is the price that must be paid for an awakening humanity. The role of the educator in all this is daunting. Best to trust in The Farce.

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Death

December 7, 2011

TDF Guest Sheldon Solomon

September 11, 2001, was all about death.

While humans share with all forms of life a basic biological predisposition toward self-preservation, we are exceptional in our capacity for symbolic thought, for pondering the past, planning the future, and transforming the products of our imagination into reality. We are also uniquely aware that death is inevitable and can occur at any time, for reasons that cannot be anticipated or controlled. That gives rise to potentially debilitating terror, managed through the creation of culture: humanly constructed beliefs about reality that deny death by affording the sense that we are valuable members of a meaningful universe, eligible for immortality.

September 11 tore a gaping hole in the collectively woven American cultural tapestry, stripping us of our shield against terror, exposing us naked to the nightmare of death; a nightmare (to adapt a phrase from James Joyce) from which we have yet to awaken. On that otherwise eerily beautiful day, horrified Americans witnessed the World Trade Center collapse, the Pentagon ablaze, and a plane crash in Pennsylvania. Thousands suffered painful and horrendous deaths. And beyond the literal carnage, the twin towers, tangible manifestations of American economic power, and the Pentagon, emblematic of U.S. military dominance, were destroyed or damaged in extraordinarily short order. Thereafter innumerable images of planes crashing into the towers, people jumping from burning buildings, and rubble-coated survivors reminded us vividly of our own vulnerability and mortality.

Americans initially responded with extraordinary compassion and efficiency. Police and firefighters worked tirelessly. Thousands of private citizens joined them. Blood and food banks overflowed. At public gatherings, we mourned the victims, comforted our families and friends, and reaffirmed our identity as Americans and our affinity with people of good will everywhere.

However, lingering fears of death also stoked hatred, righteous indignation, and demands for lethal vengeance. George Bernard Shaw once wrote that “when the angel of death sounds his trumpet the pretenses of civilization are blown from men’s heads into the mud like hats in a gust of wind.”

In the days after 9/11, the late Lawrence Eagleburger, a former secretary of state, echoed that sentiment when referring to terrorists and those who aided them: “You have to kill some of these people; even if they were not directly involved, they need to be hit.” Gun sales soared. So did President George W. Bush’s popularity after he declared a “crusade” to “rid the world of the evildoers” and pledged to capture Osama bin Laden “dead or alive.” In 2004, experiments by a research group I was part of demonstrated that Americans’ support for President Bush, the war in Iraq, and pre-emptive nuclear attacks on Iran and North Korea increased substantially after they had pondered their own mortality, or the events of 9/11.

September 11 became, psychologically, synonymous with death; and death-laced, 9/11-tinged rhetoric—”death panels,” “job killing,” “death taxes”—became a pervasive feature of political discourse. Tsunamis and earthquakes that wreaked real havoc and death in places afar seemed inconsequential, albeit regrettable: misfortunes in comparison with existential threats to death-denying cultural beliefs closer to home.

Americans also sought psychological refuge from anxiety about death in what the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard called “tranquilization by the trivial.” We gambled profusely, consumed huge quantities of drugs and alcohol, shopped with patriotic fervor, invested with irrational exuberance, and viewed endless television. The traumatic aftershocks of 9/11 made life so painful and difficult that we spent countless hours watching other people living for us. Who will get kicked off the island next on Survivor, drink the most yak urine on Fear Factor, or become the newest American idol? What’s going to happen to the Osbournes or the denizens of Jersey Shore? Let’s see other people make over their houses, clothes, and bodies.

And while military and intelligence personnel got bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan in reality—Mission (not) Accomplished—we took solace in the forces of good “kicking ass” in our dreams. Things always ended well in Rambo and in Die Hard movies;  in 24, the federal agent Jack Bauer stopped bombs, viruses, and assassination attempts every week. Osama bin Laden’s death was somewhat surreally anticlimactic, with many Americans still clamoring for the operation to be posted on YouTube.

September 11, 2001, was, literally and figuratively, a deadly day that skewed our conception of death and life. For almost a decade, we have vacillated between vengeful agitation, preoccupied with killing our enemies (real and imagined) to restore faith in our culture, and staying “comfortably numb,” stupefied by television, supersized fast food, and Facebook.

There’s been too much denial of death and not enough affirmation of life. It’s time to recalibrate our collective psychological gyroscopes: to embrace and embody Sherwood Anderson’s tombstone adage that “Life, Not Death, Is the Great Adventure.”

Sheldon Solomon is a professor of psychology at Skidmore College and author, with Tom Pyszczynski and Jeff Greenberg, of In the Wake of 9/11: The Psychology of Terror (American Psychological Association, 2003)