One of my major discoveries during the production of Hellbound? was the work of existential psychologist Ernest Becker. Tragically, he succumbed to lung cancer when he was just 50 years old. But thankfully he was afforded enough time on earth to write The Denial of Death, in which the following quote appears. Becker ranks as one of my top five meta-theorists, the others being Rene Girard, Charles Darwin, Joseph Campbell and Marshall McLuhan.
When we are young we are often puzzled by the fact that each person we admire seems to have a different version of what life ought to be, what a good man is, how to live, and so on. If we are especially sensitive it seems more than puzzling, it is disheartening. What most people usually do is to follow one person’s ideas and then another’s depending on who looms largest on one’s horizon at the time. The one with the deepest voice, the strongest appearance, the most authority and success, is usually the one who gets our momentary allegiance; and we try to pattern our ideals after him. But as life goes on we get a perspective on this and all these different versions of truth become a little pathetic. Each person thinks that he has the formula for triumphing over life’s limitations and knows with authority what it means to be a man, and he usually tries to win a following for his particular patent. Today we know that people try so hard to win converts for their point of view because it is more than merely an outlook on life: it is an immortality formula.