Beyond Money, Power, and Death-Anxiety
Death is invincible and defeats us all, but we devise ways to compensate. Some are natural such as biological reproduction; some are cultural, as when we contribute to the greater good. But not every reaction to our mortality is benign. Many people repress the very idea of being mortal. According to Pulitzer prize-winning sociologist, Ernest Becker, the denial of death can lead to dangerous distortions of the human personality. (See Becker’s Denial of Death, 1973.)
One way to compensate for feeling puny before death is to amass great personal power. Wealth spread wide, fame that makes you known everywhere, influence and control—like talismans, these can buoy up one’s cowed spirit. The ability to create fear or love in underlings at will, being fawned upon and laved with admiration, wallowing in privilege and feeling superior—all this might alleviate the angst that haunts our imagination.