[Paleopsych] The decline of literature and the rise of unhappiness

Steve Hovland shovland at mindspring.com
Wed Apr 20 14:05:36 UTC 2005

My shrink says "depression is the common cold of mental health."

I think it is so prevalent because of the long fad for low-fat diets.

Most people are not getting enough fatty acids, so they are
depressed to some degree.

Steve Hovland

-----Original Message-----
From:	Lynn D. Johnson, Ph.D. [SMTP:ljohnson at solution-consulting.com]
Sent:	Wednesday, April 20, 2005 6:55 AM
To:	The new improved paleopsych list
Subject:	[Paleopsych] The decline of literature and the rise of unhappiness

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.
> Regards,
> Gerry
>  Why literature matters
>    Good books help make a civil society
> By Dana Gioia  |  April 10, 2005

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