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Friday, June 15

How we learned to stop having fun

I came across this article in the Guardian Unlimited Health and Wellbeing section a few months ago.

"We used to know how to get together and really let our hair down. Then, in the early 1600s, a mass epidemic of depression broke out - and we've been living with it ever since. Something went wrong, but what?"

Barbara Ehrenreich provides some well founded reasons for the causes of our unhappiness IN THIS EDITED EXTRACT from Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy by Barbara Ehrenreich.

First, let's set the mood with a video of one of my favorite songs, performed by two artists, who year after year continue to amaze me because, well... for all intents and purposes, should be dead!!

Here's Jagger and Bowie DANCING IN THE STREETS

I'm pretty sure they both live by this motto:

"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body,but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming.... Wow, what a ride!"

This is also MY mantra and I am convinced it is what keeps me from being in a depressive state. It's hard work, but "you have to fight for your right to party!!"

From the article:

According to the World Health Organization, depression is now the fifth leading cause of death and disability in the world.

But to my knowledge, no one has suggested that the epidemic may have begun in a particular historical time, and started as a result of cultural circumstances that arose at that time and have persisted or intensified since.

if there was, in fact, a beginning to the epidemic of depression, sometime in the 16th or 17th century, it confronts us with this question: could this apparent decline in the ability to experience pleasure be in any way connected with the decline in opportunities for pleasure, such as carnival and other traditional festivities?

There is reason to think that something like an epidemic of depression in fact began around 1600, or the time when the Anglican minister Robert Burton undertook his "anatomy" of the disease, published as The Anatomy of Melancholy in 1621

And very likely the phenomena of this early "epidemic of depression" and the suppression of communal rituals and festivities are entangled in various ways. It could be, for example, that, as a result of their illness, depressed individuals lost their taste for communal festivities and even came to view them with revulsion. But there are other possibilities. First, that both the rise of depression and the decline of festivities are symptomatic of some deeper, underlying psychological change, which began about 400 years ago and persists, in some form, in our own time. The second, more intriguing possibility is that the disappearance of traditional festivities was itself a factor contributing to depression.

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This is a fascinating analysis and I believe merits much consideration. So, get the calendar section of the paper out, look for what's happening in your area -- a fair, a parade, an outdoor concert; or grab a bunch of people in your neighborhood --

"This is an invitation
Across the nation
A chance for the folks to meet
There'll be laughin' and singin' and music swingin'
And dancin' in the streets!

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