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From Here to Eternity

by Margaret Gutman Klosko

To himself everyone is immortal; he may know that he is going to die, but he can never know that he is dead.—Samuel Butler

You are unhappy and you are clueless. You are what the press calls “contingent faculty.” You believe that you will survive your own contingency, and come back to the world of your dreams, which you consistently mistake for reality. The writing is on the wall, but you avoid going into the room. Perhaps you are a fatalist and do not think you can control the future. Or perhaps you just do not like bad news. You do not want to know that, like many other contingent faculty, you will never get on the tenure-track.

Because you are well read, you understand that ignoring compelling external phenomena is a psychological instrument for protecting one’s fondest sense of self against threatening reality. Freud—propitiously for all those yentas who just will not mind their own business—called this a “primitive defense mechanism” and named it “denial.”

Surprisingly, you know all about denial. Many times, you have tried to help those dear to you realize that their bad boyfriends, solitary drinking, weekly trips to Atlantic City, etc.

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