The Ernest Becker Foundation
|Sam Keen's "The Future of Evil"|
|Thursday, 09 September 2010 11:31|
In Ernest Becker’s death bed interview with Sam Keen we have the text of Ernest’s spiritual last will and testament which, as with Socrates before him, is in the form of a living dialogue. That dialogue ended in two men sharing a sacrament, a paper cup of medicinal wine, the fruit of vine and vein, a narrowing capillary carrying the vintage of human continuity up to that point in time. The legacy of that dialogue is the challenge to go beyond Becker, to pick up any one of the many ends of thread that Becker had to drop as he entered the labyrinth’s mouth; the challenge to start our own wandering and weaving toward source and destination. If you hear the bluster of a lyrical philosophical squall blowing through this review, it’s my attempt to come alongside Keen’s little boat as it hops the whitecaps (the booklet fits easily in a jeans pocket). Like a surfer, Keen rides this poetic, prophetic little book to crest at new heights and then dive to new depths. (The image of Keen swinging and falling on the trapeze informs my reading of this book. Google his memoir Learning to Fly: Trapeze--Reflections on Fear, Trust, and the Joy of Letting Go.)
The wonders Keen trumpets are not hidden in the mists of some promised, otherworldly resurrection or postponed to an ever-receding end-time. His is the path of the secular saint mapped by Francis Ambrosio in his course Philosophy, Religion and the Meaning of Life. Keen has hope in the resurrection of the individual’s inherent capacity to give birth to a new being. And all this takes place, as poet Alan Ginsberg said, in the “now, now.” Like those other prophetic secular saints Blake, Ginsberg, and Whitman(to my ears, Sam’s poetic lineage is clear), Sam Keen grooves with the cosmic tremor, echoes the eternal Om, sings the Body Electric, and hums a lullaby to the devouring worm. (Don’t worry, if you find any whistling past the graveyard in his book it is fully aware and intentional.)
Keen’s essay was written before Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, ironically, made hope a word to be cynically bandied about by politicians and commentators, and there is no irony or reservation in Keen’s use of the word. Keen the faithful agnostic, doesn’t take the full Kierkegaardian leap of faith, but his trapeze swings far enough over the gulf to affirm St. Paul’s vision of hope as the sustaining power that points to the resurrection in the current moment, and perhaps, that is as close to eternity as we ever need to come. This is a must read for anyone interested in understanding the present context of Becker’s legacy and where a least one pivotal thinker is taking it. My advice: By hook or crook, own this book.
Sam Keen's The Future of Evil can be purchased here.
Laughing at Death
Becker “too dark?” He said laughter reflects a very advanced stage of faith and grace. See Neil’s "Laughing at Death: The evolution of humor to disarm fundamentalism.”
Download a .pdf version of Neil's essay here.