Don’t Look Up “We’re All Gonna Die”: The Key Seven Inner Knowings of Immortality That Are Essential in Responding to Existential Risk
This short introduction is taken from a spontaneous live talk given on the weekly broadcast of One Mountain, Many Paths. These are unedited and unplugged excerpts of Dr. Gafni’s talk created by his students.
This is part of a series reading the movie Don’t Look Up as a text of culture. Read Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3 here.
Is There a Welcome Home Sign in Kosmos?
At the core of everything is to know that we’re welcome. The core question that we have to ask in our lives is: Is there a Welcome Home sign in Kosmos?
Einstein intuited it for a moment when he says that the universe is friendly. He kind of off the cuff said: “Well, is the universe friendly?” But what he meant, or he should have meant, and what we mean is: are we welcome in the Universe? That’s the ultimate question.
Our knowing here is that in fact, the answer to that question is a resounding Yes! That Yes is the intrinsic radical positivity of Kosmos.
At this moment, as we literally stand poised between utopia and dystopia, we need to actually take responsibility for the knowing of that Yes. Because that Yes says there’s intrinsic value in Kosmos. It says that value is not merely a fiction, as our friend Yuval Harari says. It’s not merely a figment of our imagination. It’s not really a social construction of Reality. No, value is innate to Kosmos, and we are part of Kosmos’ expression of its own innate value.
We’re at this place between utopia and dystopia, facing existential risk in so many ways because we’re not “looking up,” because we’re actually operating under the assumption in our bodies that we’re not welcome in Kosmos, and that we don’t have intrinsic value.
But all moments of intrinsic value are priceless; all moments of intrinsic value can’t be measured; they can’t be bought. Money can buy you marriage, but money can’t buy you love. The Beatles weren’t wrong. It’s always the priceless moment. It’s immeasurable, it can’t be commodified. It can’t be won through rivalrous conflict governed by Win-Lose metrics.
So if I don’t know that I’m welcome in the Kosmos — if I don’t experience the Eros of my own innate gorgeous value, my irreducible beauty and dignity — then I feel this emptiness. So I’ve got to cover over this emptiness, this failure of Eros, with pseudo-eros, which always means a false story about who I am. It means I’ll place you outside the circle. You’re the loser, I’m the winner. And by placing you outside the circle, I have an illusion of being inside the circle.
The reason we are excited about the movie Don’t Look Up, is not that they are telling the New Story.
With a New Story we mean, a story that integrates the leading-edge insights of premodern, modern, and postmodern culture and the leading-edge validated insights in all the wisdom streams, woven together synergistically into a new whole, greater than the sum of the parts, that actually becomes a universal grammar of value.
They didn’t actually tell a New Story; they avoided the New Story, and they avoided any statements of value. But they focused the lens on this not looking up, and that was important. The Force, if you will, She, Eros, meaning, speaks through a movie when the intention is good, even if the moviemakers weren’t thinking of it.
We’re using the movie as a foil to actually hear the unconscious hidden voices; we’re engaged in cultural hermeneutics. Meaning, we’re reading the texts of life, we’re reading the texts of culture, and we’re unpacking much larger issues, much more critical understandings, through stepping into these sacred texts of popular culture.
The topic of the movie clips of Don’t Look Up in this episode is death, and death is critical. There are two kinds of death. The death of the individual human being and the death of humanity. The first shock of existence is the realization of the death of the human being. The second shock of existence is the realization of the potential death of humanity. How we understand death changes everything about life. How we understand death completely redefines how we understand life.
The psychologist Jung wasn’t wrong when he said, “I can’t establish mental health in my patients, unless they have some access to the experience of life beyond death, to the experience of immortality.” The dividing issue today in culture is actually precisely that. How do we actually understand our relationship to death?
We have a fundamentalist view, which has this image of God in the sky having nothing to do with the world. It denies the evolutionary process. It says that the human being is an inert piece of dead matter that God happened to put a soul in. If you obey God, you get rewarded and you go to Heaven — and Heaven happens to have harps playing-. So that’s the fundamentalist vision, and what we would call creationism.
Then there is a materialist vision, which we would call scientism. Scientism says it’s all material. It’s all just material. There’s nothing here other than atoms. When your material body disintegrates or collapses, it’s the end of the story. Because whatever consciousness means, it emerges as an emergent from your material body, but it’s not fundamental. So when your material body disappears, everything disappears. That’s scientism.
This is the great battle, and there’s different versions of each. My colleague, Sam Harris, is a great expresser of scientism, as is Derek Parfit, as is Nick Bostrom, as is Sean Carroll, as is Brian Cox who’s a physicist in England. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett. It’s part of a very influential school that has entered into the source code of culture, and they say, it’s all materialism. Of course, this notion that it’s over when you die is old. It’s not new, it started with Epicurus, who was one of the famous expressions of it in ancient Greece. They’re in rebellion against creationism.
Both views are true, but partial. Both don’t actually exhaust the evidence available. The deeper understanding is what we’re going to call CosmoErotic Humanism. That’s the deepest understanding that integrates the best insight on both sides of the aisle. From scientism and creationism, into a deeper and wider view. A deeper understanding of our relationship to death. A deeper understanding that it’s not over when it’s over. That actually, when you marshal all of the evidence, the conclusion is shocking beyond imagination.
[Read this paper on CosmoErotic Humanism: On a Time Between Worlds by Dr. Marc Gafni and Dr. Zachary Stein. ]
We’re going to unpack this conclusion. We’re going to try and demonstrate that we’re not telling you anything you don’t already know. If you actually do a deep interior meditation, there are 12 distinct reasons that live inside of you, that you have access to but have perhaps not accessed yet, that tell you irrevocably that life goes on beyond death. That’s a big deal! That’s one of the hidden themes of the movie Don’t Look Up.
We’re All Gonna Die!
A key theme in Don’t Look Up is — as Kate (Jennifer Lawrence) and Dr. Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) both scream at pivotal moments in the movie — “We’re all gonna die!”. They are of course referring to existential risk, the potential death of humanity. But how you approach the potential death of humanity has everything to do with how you think about the death of the human being. And in fact, Kate and Dr. Mindy are right: everyone is gonna die! But what does that mean?
The clips are not about the first shock of existence, which is the death of the individual human being. We experienced the first shock of existence at the dawn of humanity, when we realized that the individual human being is physically going to die. But the clips in the movie are about the second shock of existence, which is the realization of the potential the death of humanity.
The paradox of the statement we’re all gonna die is, of course, that they’re right. It’s absolutely true. Any life saved is only death deferred. When you save a life, you’re deferring death by a number of years. The end of the story is that we’re going to die.
We’ve got to stand for every individual life, and we’ve got to stand for the quality of every individual life. The notion that we stand for every life and for the quality of every life, that itself is a huge gain. Let’s take that as a given for now.
But we want to focus on something which is even more essential, which is that they’re telling the truth; we ARE going to die.
We’re so engaged in the denial of death that we displace death. We think we’ve got plenty of time. We can’t quite imagine our own death. So when someone screams and says you’re going to die, we reject it. But actually, the only thing that we can actually do in response to someone screaming you’re going to die is to actually face into it. If we don’t face death, we’re not alive. To face death, we need to actually know what do we know about death and why is death important? And why is death an inextricable part of our life?
Three Reasons Why We Are Afraid of Death
The first question is; why are we afraid of death at all? We’re afraid of death for four reasons.
1 The first reason is that we have a fear of nothingness. Our sense that death is oblivion. Try and find that in your body: I don’t exist. Can you find that? It’s not easy to find. That’s terrifying.
It’s terrifying; death is terrifying. It’s a horror. But we can move through it.
We can move through the terrifying nature of death to an incredible sense of joy and freedom. But we can’t do this by looking away. Not by looking down. But actually by walking through. So we’re going to walk through to freedom and joy together. But let’s start with the feeling that death is terrifying. It’s terrifying! The notion that I’m not going to be here, the notion that it all disappears. That I’m actually in oblivion and nothingness, that kind of disappears me in this moment and makes everything insignificance.
2 The second fear of death is a fear of accountability. Being held accountable. There’s a fear of what’s called judgment. Now when we say judgment, we mean fire and brimstone judgment. It means we’re accountable. All that stuff that we did that no one actually knew about — the things we got away with. The things that were out of integrity. We’ve got this sense in us that we’re held accountable.
Now notice, the second fear of death is the opposite of the first. If there’s nothingness, there’s no accountability, game over. The second fear of death is the opposite of the first.
3 The third fear is a fear of failed significance. The fear that somehow our life wasn’t significant. Failed significance could mean violations of integrity. That we already talked about. But it could also mean: I didn’t achieve, I didn’t create, I didn’t produce. So the first expression of failed significance is, I didn’t create anything. Or the second expression of failed significance is: I didn’t live deeply. I was actually invited by Reality to incredible depth, and I stayed on the surface. So either we failed to achieve, to create, to produce, to generate. Or we failed to live deeply, to live with depth. A third version of this fear of failed significance is, we somehow failed to transform. That’s part of depth, but I want to name it uniquely. I didn’t transform. I failed to grow. I failed to be more. I failed to rise above the lowest common denominator of my humanity. The fourth expression of this fear of failed significance, or this fear of not having lived my life, is the fear that I’ve actually failed my Unique Self. I haven’t been me. I haven’t showed up with the fullness and depth and radiance and goodness and splendor and truth and beauty that’s me. I actually have this intuitive understanding that accountability and judgment is real.
Let’s go to CosmoErotic Humanism. CosmoErotic Humanism means, the reason we have a fear of failed significance and a sense of accountability is because we count. It’s because our life matters. Our life matters because we have intrinsic dignity because Reality intended us.
Reality intended you and manifested you uniquely, and there’s no one who has your unique configuration of atoms, and there’s no one who has your unique cellular configuration, and there’s no one who has your unique DNA code.
There’s also no one who has your unique gifts, and your unique quality of being. The tone of your laughter. The unique quality of your intimacy. You are a gift of Kosmos to itself. You don’t live in the universe; the universe lives in you. You’re an expression of the universe. So you have a unique gift of Kosmos to itself. When you live your Unique Self, you’re an Outrageous Love Letter written by Kosmos to itself. you’re an Outrageous Love Letter intended by Reality, written to itself. That’s what your life’s about.
So our fear of death is about the question, did we write that Outrageous Love Letter? And did we write it well? What that actually tells us is that our life matters beyond death. It tells us that our life is significant beyond death. It tells us that we participate in intrinsic value beyond death.
The Key Seven Inner Knowings of Immortality
[That Are Essential in Responding to Existential Risk]
In this clip below Dr. Marc Gafni will go much deeper into this. We’re going to explore the anthro-ontological inner knowing, that it’s not over when it’s over. Discover the key seven inner knowings of immortality that live inside of you.
We’ve got to reclaim — not in a fundamentalist way and not as creationists — the eternity of life. We’ve got to reclaim the dignity of that, with all our passion and all our being.
This short introduction is taken from a spontaneous live talk given on the weekly broadcast of One Mountain, Many Paths, which Dr. Marc Gafni co-founded together with his evolutionary partner Barbara Marx Hubbard. These are unedited and unplugged excerpts of Dr. Gafni’s talk created by his students. Thus, the style of this story is the spoken word and not a formal essay. We recommend you to watch the featured clip and watch Dr. Gafni’s teaching on this topic in the replay above.