Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Bear in the Mirror

I did not have a chance to write much about my thoughts on the decline of joy article so I wanted to say just a few things here. I thought the ideas presented were interesting - especially as a psychologist I have not been trained to spend a lot of time looking at the historical influences on the world but more at the immediate environment of a person (individual) and so I appreciate a fresh perspective. Fresh is good. It makes me happy.

Having said that, I have been struck, living here in the land of antiquity, at the rich cultural tradition of adornment and fashion. I say this because of the beautiful artifacts that I have seen from Greek and Roman times – people were clearly concerned with themselves given the jewelry, perfume and make-up pots that have been uncovered not to mention the statues! And yet, they did not seem to have an epidemic of unhappiness. And looking at the ethnic jewelry from nomadic people in the area underscores how people have taken the time to adorn themselves - even when they have few other possessions. I don’t think the intensification of subjectivity on the part of oneself accounts for the rise of unhappiness as much as the imposition of the subjectivity of others does.

By that I mean that I don’t think we tend to reflect that much more on ourselves than at any other point in history. But I think that we know so much more about everyone else. This means that we are able to compare ourselves with everyone else. With the ever increasing amount of information available, it becomes easier and easier to gain a sense of where one stands or not, within the world. No longer do I just look at the people immediately around me to place myself in the fashion world (which let me tell you, in Turkey, I am practically a slob!) – I can look at what is happening around the globe. I know that people can be billionaires because I have heard of Bill Gates. Otherwise, it might never even occur to me that someone could have so much financial wealth. I don’t think what we face is the result of too much inward reflection but the result of too much outward reflection.

And, as Sandra pointed out, the degradation of familial and social ties does not help the situation at all.

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