Random Notes

​Why we make things, and why it matters

Two books about the creative process, and life itself

23 Jul 2018

23 Jul 2018

By chance, I’ve just started reading Why We Make Things, and Why It Matters, a book about the creative process, by an American furniture maker called Peter Korn.

I’m really enjoying Peter Korn’s book. But the thing that really stopped me in my tracks, was this amazing quotation, right at its beginning — that’s made me think about why my tiny, insignificant blog is still so important to me:

Who knows what form the forward momentum of life will take in the time ahead or what use it will make of our anguished searching. The most that any of us can seem to do is to fashion something — an object or ourselves — and drop it into the confusion, make an offering of it, so to speak, to the life force.

Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death

I’d never heard of Becker’s book before. But I was so affected by reading this quote, that I did a quick search on the internet, and I learned that it’s been widely acclaimed as a ‘life-changing’ work. Even the short summary on its Wikipedia page is hugely thought-provoking.

Here are a few more of Becker’s amazingly powerful ideas, extracted by me (accurately, I hope) from those few words on Wikipedia:

Civilization
…human civilization is ultimately an elaborate, symbolic defense mechanism against the knowledge of our mortality.
Our symbolic selves
…humanity has a dualistic nature consisting of a physical self and a symbolic self …we are able to transcend the dilemma of mortality …by focusing our attention mainly on our symbolic selves …our individual ‘immortality project’.
Depression
…people experiencing depression have the sense that their immortality project is failing.
Creativity
…creative individuals have talents that allow them to create and express a reality that others may appreciate, rather than simply constructing an internal, mental reality.
Human conflict
…the arbitrariness of human-invented immortality projects makes them naturally prone to conflict.
Schizophrenia
…when someone becomes so obsessed with their personal immortality project that they altogether deny the nature of all other realities.

I’ve just ordered a copy of Becker’s book from the Oxfam shop, though it looks like it might be quite a demanding read. It’s already given me a lot to think about, and I’ve not even read it yet!