For both Darwin and Freud the idea of death saves us from the idea that there is anything to be saved from. If we are not fallen creatures, but simply creatures, we cannot be redeemed. If we are not deluded by the wish for immortality, transience doesn’t diminish us. Indeed, the traditional theological conviction that we needed to be saved — the secular equivalent being the belief that we could and should perfect ourselves, that we are in need of radical improvement — assumed that we are insufficient for this world; that without a God that could keep is in mind — a God who, in however inscrutable a sense, knew what was going on — we were bereft and impoverished (and compared with an omniscient deity, or magically potent deities, we were indeed lacking). If morality was a flaw, or a punishment, we were always verging on humiliation. Tyrannical fantasies of our own perfectibility still lurk in even our simplest ideals, Darwin and Freud intimate, so that any ideal can become another excuse for punishment. Lives dominated by impossible ideals — complete honesty, absolute knowledge, perfect happiness, eternal love — are lives experienced as continuous failures.
When transience is not merely an occasion for mourning, we will have inherited the earth.
(Adam Phillips, Darwin’s Worms)