We are all in emotional/intuitive denial. I am, in spades. My daily life is in sharp contradiction to my forecasts and clear knowledge of what I should be doing. At 80 I get further and further away from actually realizing my coming death. I can’t act as if I was mortal. We should be acting as if the volcano was going to erupt tomorrow; the flood waters are rising, beginning to rush into the first floor (contemporary disasters); the wild fire is a mile away, we are choking on the smoke and we are illuminated by the flames. BUT, where we are now, day by day, we are not threatened TODAY. And when we are materially threatened it will be too late – personal moment-by-moment survival will consume our time and minds.
In their book Denial: Self-Deception, False Beliefs, and the Origins of the Human Mind, Ajit Varki and Danny Brower propose that the successful evolution selection for self consciousness requires denial of mortality. Otherwise, those first with the mutation would avoid risk and not breed competitively. We can only break through by surrendering the individual to the team for societal decision making.
Introduction: An improbable but true story — Where did we come from, and how did we get here? — Becoming smarter shouldn’t be hard — There are no free lunches or free smarts — Many levels of awareness — The wall — Breaking though the wall — How did reality denial emerge? — Evidence for reality denial is all around us! — Too smart for our own good — A tale of two futures: are you a pessimist or an optimist? — On the positive value of human reality denial — Explaining the mysterious origin of us — Future directions — Epilogue — Coda.
Summary: Describes why humans are able to deny reality and ignore their own inevitable deaths to the detriment of the entire species and what might be done to change this mindset.
I have an additional speculation. In tribal days, the sociopath (no empathy) had a important function in times of great emergency. He could sacrifice individual members from the tribe so the tribe, itself, might survive. Unfortunately, this once useful trait enables sociopaths to climb to elite power status. In past centuries they encouraged war because they gained most by war. The sociopathic trait is probably more distributed, in weaker forms, in the general population. Persons can be influenced to deny empathy to “others”. Just at the time we really need to be coming together to face this emergency of emergencies, we are fragmenting into waring silos.
Thinking on this may be necessary for some of us. Only when we are aware of the full extent&nature of our CRISIS-OF-CRISES can we design and mobilize strategies of collaborate actions commensurate with our need. I conceptualize a viable path out of this mess and on to a bright multi-millennial future. It is my personal challenge to share it sufficiently with others so we can collectively act to start on this path. I believe that the emotional denial of the most active activists (whom I read, read about, and a few connect with) blocks their motivation to test my hypothesis (the equivalent in time commitment to a demanding graduate course) because it would open the window to our real threat, which they emotionally can’t fully face. So, activists keep busy, believing they are doing all they can do. Even being aware of a viable path, I don’t act as I should.
YET, THERE IS A PATH – MANY PATHS. ONCE WE ARE ON THAT PATH OUR LIVES WILL BRIGHTEN. THERE IS LIGHT AT THE BEGINNING OF THE PATH, NOT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL. ALL WE NEED TO DO IS START. WHAT WILL “STARTING” ENTAIL IS OUR NEW CHALLENGE.