Escape from Evil

One of my favorite books in the study of anthropology, psychology, and theology is Escape from Evil by Ernest Becker. I read in during my undergraduate studies at Georgetown and it’s one of those books that you can kind of dismiss at first, but it didn’t take me long to be enthralled by it. So what’s the basic message Becker has without spoiling too much of the book? Becker’s point on a very base level is that our escape from evil, or in other words are attempt to subvert death and our own mortality/limitations, is what causes so many other evils and negative actions. Not being able to recall a lot of the specifics of the book, there’s a tradeoff between the sort of universal evils, death, and the evils amongst ourselves.

I connect this to a fairly well known axiom which says that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. What’s the takeaway for the purpose of irrational health? I’ve witnessed that often times people can become so fixated one idea or one decision for the best in one aspect of their life that they fail to see the numerous repurcussions that this has not only on themselves, but also on the people around them. One of my favorite quotes from the movie Three Days, an ABC family, Christmas production, is said by the angel Lionel. “Life isn’t a bunch of marbles boucing around in a bag; everything is connected.” It’s simple to sort of become a horse with blinders. You become so fixated on what’s right in front of you that you fail to see the world to your right and your left, let alone behind you. After having dealth with one problem, several others have manifested themselves and these problems may or may not impact you, but they’re still of concern. We don’t act in a vacuum and yet with this focus on separation and the individual, we tend to think that our actions are directly linked to ourselves. We make decisions based on ourselves.

Now, what happens if and when these repurcussions manifest themselves to the individual who caused them? I’ve witnessed this and it typically leads to a sort of psychological fragmentation because suddenly your shocked that a decision that you seemed so deadset on may not have been the proper decision or perhaps you took to too far of an extreme. At this point, people have three basic options that I can identify. The first is to ignore the repurcussions which can be easy enough especially with separation. The second is to sort of have mental breakdown and then the third is an attempt to rectify the repurcussions. Within the third option there are further two other sub-divisions. The first being that a person is open to changing the original decision. The second being that he is not open to it, but rather looking to make himself feel whole again with the already set decision. Now which option would you deem to be the most appropriate? Well, clearly, most will gravitate to the third option and further to the openness of rectifying the already made decision, whether it be possible or not. There would seem to be a certain lack of the quality of morality for someone who makes a decision and ignores the repurcussions or someone who seeks to rectify the repurcussions without being open to a change in the original decision.

The takeaway is that we’ve developed a culture of narrow-mindness and that has lead to increasingly damaged relationships, if any at all. My favorite quote from Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson, is that, “One lapse in judgement can quickly lead to a situation in which only foolish choices are possible.” If a person keeps up this habitual nature of focusing in on one aspect of their life at a time then you end up at the end of a series of unthoughtful decisions without a clue as to how to fix the mess left behind you. To go back to Escape from Evil as an ending note, one has to think about the message. In the end, there are certain things that can’t be avoided so why attempt to escape them if it will only make the world around us a worse place. It’s a powerful idea and message. A great message for a second post.


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