New Orientation, But Still Bent

I originally intended this blog to serve as a forum for discussion of gay and lesbian (or more broadly, GLBT) issues. Hence the name, “The Bent Angle.” I started a companion site as a container for discussion of secular humanist issues and called it “The Bright Angle.” The bright angle remained dim from lack of input from me, while this site lit up to a dull glow for a while.

And then it struck me that I have too many “angles” to create a separate blog container for each of them. They have a way of “triangulating” (or rectangulating, pentagulating, etc.) around events and issues that capture my interest. Since the mid-seventies, I’ve read widely in the mimetic theory of René Girard and, more recently, I’ve become interested in Richard Dawkins’s meme theory. And then there’s Ernest Becker, whose writings I came to know through friends at the Ernest Becker Foundation, which holds its annual conferences in my city. But these are just the “angles.” Then there are the events and issues themselves. Recent blog discussions with people whose views are radically different from my own have inspired me to read and think more deeply about climate change and the environment, reproductive rights, health care, human rights abuses, and the clash of cultures. These various strands of angles and issues have a way of becoming interwoven through everything that I write, and I’ve given up trying to keep them separate. Tapestries are more interesting than cloth of a single color.  

So, to abruptly switch metaphors, this site will henceforth be a salad. The ingredients will be fresh, I hope, and they will consist of whatever is in season. I intend to occasionally bring in other writers to vary the menu. Our first guest will be Cheryl Maslow, whose insightful comments I discovered on a blog site dedicated in part to discussions of mimetic theory.

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3 Responses to “New Orientation, But Still Bent”

  1. Robert Shiplett Says:

    I wonder if you have actually read what Becker wrote in “The Denial of Death” about the weakness of homosexuals, homosexual perversion, the weakness of those who choose depression, his views of “how we want out women” or a great deal of the other tripe in that book alone. The index to the book is incomplete and it is important to read the footnotes, a few of which were added after galley proofs.
    Are you aware of some of his followers being involved with ethically-dubious psychological research for the US military and military contractors?
    Becker on homosexuality as perversion was published at a time when the APA was being very actively petitioned to reclassify normal same-sex preference.
    Becker was ignorant of both demographics, practices in cultures such as Vietnam, and the simple medical facts concerning gender determination at birth. I am appalled to find the consistent praise for him on the internet.
    Do you know anything about the personal conduct of Paul Tillich? Did Becker? Tillich the man cannot be separated from Tillich the theologian unless you are willing to make a mockery of the Becker chapter on Kierkegaard ( arguably the most skewed in the D of D).
    Not a single mention of Jaspers (that would be a problem)
    Boss only – never a word of Ludwig Binswanger.
    And Heidegger? This is 1973, years after the Robinson translation that his book was published.

  2. Robert Shiplett Says:

    I placed an amended version of my comments at Paul Chen’s film page up at Amazon and at my blog.

    After all these years, on a subject as important as “denial of death” no one seems to have taken to debunk the psychoanalytic treatment in this book, not its understanding of repression, of sexuality, not its anecdotal “data” – and now I find “Terror Management Theory” with a wholly spurious connection to what is actually in the book (and some people wonder why Harry Frankfurter wrote his book “Bullsh*t” ! )

    “Character as lie” – it’s cute, unless you are on a selection committee for a post that matters.

    Faced with fundamentalism, the subject is too important not to debunk Becker. Faced with gay men and women in combat roles, it is time to debunk Becker on human “weakness”.

  3. thebentangle Says:

    Thanks for your interesting comment, Robert. Yes, I am aware of Becker’s views on homosexuality, and I realize a lot of his thinking is very dated. You probably see this much more clearly than I do, so I value your insights. When I read Becker’s chapter on the “perversions,” I just dismissed it as outmoded, but I didn’t take offense, because I know how nearly universal our ignorance about homosexuality was when Becker was writing–even in the psychoanalytic profession. I myself was deeply and painfully confused about it.

    I brought up this matter with Neil Elgee, President of the Ernest Becker Foundation. His response indicated that the passages on homosexuality are an embarassment to those promoting Becker’s work these days. I can confirm that from my own experience as well, because I know quite a few of the “regulars” at EB conferences and have discussed this with them. I don’t find that very many of these people are “true believers” in any sense of the word. They do read Becker critically and respond well to input from people like yourself.

    I have personally found many of Becker’s ideas very compelling, particularly those having to do with self-esteem, heroism, meaning, and death anxiety. And at the same time, I realize a lot of his ideas were not “ready for prime time,” so to speak. And he knew that. He did not even want his last book published, I believe, but his wife published it anyway.

    I was interested in your remark about Terror Management Theory (Sheldon Solomon’s baby) and would love to hear you expand on that. You might want to check out the Ernest Becker Forum at http://www.ernestbecker.org/forum/. I am a little out of touch with it myself, but I believe there are some lively discussions going on there.

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