The Night School for Deeper Learning with Ernest Becker

Jan 24, 2023    Rick Ganz

Ernest Becker is probably best characterized as a cultural anthropologist - someone who studies the “meaning and values” of a culture as they relate to the “human project”. His book, The Denial of Death (1973), which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1974 (after his death), was written as he was actively dying of cancer. When I first read it, probably in the early 1980s, I knew that I had read one of the ten greatest non-fiction books that I had ever read (a personal assessment). In the book, among many other things, he is taking a long, loving look at what we think it means to become a (good) person. Becker explains how often that this is not at all what it means.

Becker with brilliant and accessible analysis, and with instructive passion, cracks open this “cheat” of personhood, so that we might begin to lay hold of what being a (good) human being actually is, and how a soul/a person gets open finally to not knowing what a human being is other than a relationship of profound dependence on God.