Psychologist Irvin Yalom noted that the fear of death keeps people from living. By that he meant that the infantile fear of death…a necessary fear at earliest stages of development…can keep people from actually living if it is never addressed. The ego uses this death fear to tyrannize people into living an unexamined life, to prefer the security of a self-serving, sterile environment where we can plod through our lives, “like kittens given their own tails to tease.” (Goethe)
And here is how Shakespeare addressed the same concern in Sonnet 146:
Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
Thrall to these rebel powers that thee array,
Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,
Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?
Why so large cost, having so short a lease,
Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?
Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,
Eat up thy charge? Is this thy body’s end?
Then soul, live
thou upon thy servant’s loss,
And let that pine to aggravate thy store;
Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;
Within be fed, without be rich no more:
So shall thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
And Death once dead, there’s no more dying then.
Shakespeare knew the dilemma of misplaced concreteness, taking for real that which is only ephemeral. Plato explained this with his allegory of the cave. Jesus understood this also when he declared, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Jesus knew that being a slave to the “cave images,” taking them to be real, would lead one to live a life which was merely a caricature of what it is to be human. He knew that succumbing to the temptation of merely reading our script…even those that include intense versions of spirituality…would be merely to live a life of bondage, bondage to the ephemeral while excluding the soul.
Interiority is a missing dimension of modern life. This is because we take thoughts to be the “thing-in-itself,” which parallels our tendency to take social, political, and material things on a surface level and fail to look beneath the surface into the machinations of the heart…i.e. the “soul.” Shakespeare knew that making this mistake was to let our soul, “pine within” from neglect, even as we paint the exterior dimensions of our life a gaudy, “costly gay.” This is most manifest in my country’s current political situation where political leaders are mired in a horrible morass of ego and greed while we lamely avow, “Well, it will all workout” or “God is in control” rather than recognizing that the “morass of ego and greed” that our government is acting out for us right now is a projection of the hollowness of our entire way of life…including our religion.
See following link for commentary on this sonnet—https://www.nosweatshakespeare.com/sonnets/146/