[Paleopsych] The decline of literature and the rise of unhappiness
Lynn D. Johnson, Ph.D.
ljohnson at solution-consulting.com
Wed Apr 20 13:54:46 UTC 2005
RE: Gerry's topic, the decline of reading: Concomitantly there has been
an alarming increase in the prevelance of depression. Marty Seligman has
said the lifetime risk of depression gets higher with each generation,
and children today appear to have several times the risk of developing
depression than their grandparents.
Why? Seligman posits it is the development of the hedonistic values,
perhaps originating with the 1960s (my time). The value of "if it feels
good, do it" ironically leads to dissatisfaction and depression.
Seligman has empirically demonstrated this, and its converse, that
self-discipline and service to others lead to greater happiness.
Reading was originally taught as a discipline for the mind. We were
expected to slog through Shakespeare, Dickens, et al., whereas my
children are assigned to read pablum ("literature" from the 1970s)
unless supplemented at home. Hedonism argues the children do better if
they aren't stressed. Discipline argues that children who read, have to
write essays on what they have read, and are expected to intelligently
discuss topics are happier. Such children are happier, and grow into
happier young adults. The civil society that Gioia argues will result is
arguably the outcome of educating self-disciplined people.
FYI: Winston Churchill memorized "Lays of Ancient Rome" by Macaulay -
over 1300 lines - when he was 13 years old. The key verses that helped
shape his iron determination are:
Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
"To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods,
"And for the tender mother
Who dandled him to rest,
And for the wife who nurses
His baby at her breast,
And for the holy maidens
Who feed the eternal flame,
To save them from false Sextus
That wrought the deed of shame?
G. Reinhart-Waller wrote:
> Just in case anyone is interested.
> Why literature matters
> Good books help make a civil society
> By Dana Gioia | April 10, 2005
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