The Slavery of Death on Newsworthy with Norsworthy

My second time on the Newsworthy with Norsworthy podcast talking with host Luke Norsworthy about my latest book The Slavery of Death.

(If the embed code isn't working follow the link above.)

Podcast topics include:

  • Why I write such depressing books. Or what I call "The Death Trilogy."
  • How I discovered Thérèse of Lisieux.
  • Luke coins the term "Jumped the Horse."
  • How "illusions of immortality" affect us.
  • The distinction between basic and neurotic anxiety. 
  • The "shame-based fear of being ordinary" (Brene Brown).
  • If "acquisitiveness" is a word I made up for the book.
  • I play a game trying to connect lust and pride to death anxiety.
  • A weird discussion about the show "The Bachelor."
  • How our identities rest upon a "lie."
  • How death anxiety makes me check blog statistics.
  • The Orthodox view of sin.
  • The cultivation of an eccentric identity.
  • Prayer and doxological gratitude.
  • How the experience of grace helps us give our lives away.
  • Why everyone is "fine" at church. And why everyone is lying about that.
  • Why I got my hair cut and Jana's suspicion that I'm trying to dress like a homeless person.

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5 thoughts on “The Slavery of Death on Newsworthy with Norsworthy”

  1. I enjoyed the interview; I think it opened up some of your thinking to us. As to the 'predicament' in which we find our selves, and which you describe so well, I'm reminded of a prayer Meister Eckhart was fond of: "god, deliver me from God." I've added to it "god, deliver me from me."

    I would hope that when it comes to checking your blog stats, that you don't try to stop out of some work toward 'perfection'. I think it could remain as a fun and safe way to encounter our neurotic predicament-- a quirk if you will; just smile- or even chuckle- while feeling that tinge of anxiety, or what ever it is, when your urge to peek at the stats peaks.

  2. I like your over all approach towards Becker's thinking; I believe you're fleshing it out well. I'd like to address the idea of a self being a "lie".

    I think this is a bit overstated (by Becker). Indeed the self as a whole can't be said to be unconditional. But there is something about it, that is best conceived by the idea of 'Unity'; by this word I'm describing a dynamic made of a manifold population held together by a shared center. Without this underlying diversity- this manifold population- such oneness would simply be conformity. A 'unity', because it's dynamic, means that it's also in constant motion. How ever we as selves remain durable over time (we don't disintegrate) the false way of creating this durability is to create a state of "freezing". A self as unity, has to find its durability while remaining in a state that remains "liquid".

    So a self can't be said to be a definite thing in the way we say a rock is. Also, much of the self is contingent, as it begins its becoming, by being situated; this situation is part and parcel with character that can show up-- speaking French is different than speaking English and so on. And on and on.

    Yet a midst all this movement, and all this contingency, there's something real wanting to be real in the center of it all: "neurosis" couldn't happen otherwise.

    As I write this I'm wondering if I'm wrongly equating neurosis with the suffering a soul encounters when it can't be itself.

    Any thoughts?

  3. There is a certain sense, if Freud is to believed, in which we can't
    escape being neurotic. To be neurotic is to be human. To lack neurosis
    is to lack a conscience and to be, well, sociopathic.

    In a
    certain sense neurosis is a good thing. It's a form of caring about
    others and what they think about us. That social sensitivity is very
    healthy and adaptive. If we lacked that concern and sensitivity I don't
    know how we'd ever learn to navigate social life.

    So the key, it
    seems, is to keep that sensitivity but to keep it other-directed as much
    as you can, rather than keeping it focused on the self in an
    introverted kind of way. A sort of altruistic neurosis, a social concern
    and sensitivity that helps me attune to you, welcome you, make you
    comfortable, and be available to you. And I think joy is a sign of this

  4. This sense of neurosis seems to make for the 'rub' that has so much traction in my theological thinking and work; the capacity that let's me befriend god almost necessitates 'neurosis'. Our expectation, imagined in 'heaven,' is that through some sweep of "God magic", neurosis will disappear. To me, this move sounds like the plot line to "The Stepford Wives." Without this 'capacity' that is also the space for neurosis, I don't know that we could be other than pets in our relationship with god. That we get to relate on a level that can't be reduced to 'pethood', is for me, utter genius. And yet, our Kerygma is blind to this genius.

    In Plato's universe, such struggle that is neurosis/human, is easy to surmise as evidence of 'fallen-ness'. What if Darwin's universe is a more accurate depiction of it though? Instead of neurosis being a sign of lacking Ideal/Perfection/Purity, it's a sign of the Finite finally able to engage the Infinite in a truly personal way. Maybe, we're not so much as Fallen as we are in the throes of Becoming--

    I especially like your last paragraph. James Hillman (another favorite thinker for me) contemplates something similar in his book "A Hundred Years of Psychotherapy and We're Not Any Better Yet". There he thinks out loud about considering the symptom presenting itself in the "therapy room", not as something pointing to the privacy of the patient, but as something pointing to their encounter with the world, and there, experiencing a kind of illness-- not in some past moment from their childhood.

    I very much appreciate your thinking Richard, It's helping me in my own.

  5. I encountered this TED talk a while ago, focused on a group in Indonesia with some very interesting rituals surrounding death. I was reminded of the video (which you may have already seen) while reading your newest book. Here it is:

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