What if you were deceiving yourself about the reasons why you get up for work every day like time is a guarantee? Why do you spend time with friends or care for house plants or read books or buy new clothes or vote or even care about politics at all? Why do you set goals and strive and set more goals and strive more? Stir gently and bring the existential angst to a boil over medium-high heat.
To do nothing, to lay in a field of spring grass, goal-less, possessionless, without relationships or career to tangle ourselves with, it’s tempting to imagine a hippie paradise where our repressed but natural animal state floods out of us and harmonizes us with our world. This scenario is just that though — imagination. The substance that gushes out of us in stark freedom is our natural existential anxiety; we would sit in that flowered field with no callings to entwine us and remember how painfully mortal we are — the fear of death would pour into every empty space.
All of society, all commerce, all governments, all our pursuits and connections are nothing but extravagant distractions to keep us out of that empty field where we are freed to find our own death. Society is one massive coping mechanism; it is the biggest Google Doc by which we collaborate to deny the reality of impending death. This concept is argued by Ernest Becker in his book, The Denial of Death. These orchestrations of society and our individual efforts — politics, commerce, careers, even religion — are all immortality projects. These projects do exactly what it sounds like — allow us to soften the pain of mortality by wrapping ourselves in the reassurance of seemingly immortal things that will last beyond our ever-decaying bodies like art, religious belief, or a good reputation.