A call for papers is a standard way of generating interest and scholarship for a given academic subject. With this post I’d like to suggest something a little different, namely, a call for songs. By this I mean a call to enlist artists of all types to engage with the insights of Ernest Becker and thereby move said insights to a broader audience. Note that this call isn’t directed to the artists themselves, but rather to each of us, whether an artist or not. I myself am not an artist. Perhaps in my next incarnation. Nevertheless, I owe my initial exposure to Becker to the film Flight From Death, most certainly a great piece of art. Imagine the possible impact of a popular song or a great piece of poetry or visual art. There is certainly plenty of room in the non-documentary film category. What about theater? Imagine a Beckerian reworking of some Shakespeare. The possibilities are endless.
Here is a great example of what I’m talking about. A couple from Australia, Adrian and Francesca Bell, have written a children’s book that is premised on the notion that mortality salience is our primary repression. It is entitled Mother Moth and acknowledges Ernest Becker in the front material of the book. The fact that this material is aimed at a relatively young audience is wonderful because learning through stories comes naturally to us all. A work like Mother Moth is the artistic spoonful of sugar that helps Becker’s medicine go down. You can get a feel for Mother Moth at the following site:
Returning to our role in calling forth the songs, how do we decide who to call? This is the easy part. The artist you should call is the one you know—the one next to you at the pub, the concert, the gallery event. This process has a very serendipitous aspect to it. A bit like the parable of the sower, we have no way of knowing where our work will find fertile soil. The novelist Tom Robbins found his literary voice when he attended and reviewed a concert by The Doors. Within two weeks of seeing them he had begun his first novel, Another Roadside Attraction. Who could have predicted that? Similarly, given the power of Becker’s work, if enough of us make a conscious effort to engage artists there is no telling what fruit it will bear. There’s an artist out there waiting for you. Happy hunting!