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 The Myth of Modern Happiness

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Lyssa
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PostSubject: The Myth of Modern Happiness Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:26 pm

The connection from the J.-Xt. views on Laughter to modernity's Happiness ideal...
in continuation with the [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] thread.

(This post is to also contrast my comment in another section on the esoterism of Jupiterian laughter and Zarathustra...)



Quote :
"In Egyptian texts, laughter is rare, and seldom connected with humour (Gugliemi 1979, 1980, van de Walle 1969). When it does occur, Egyptian laughter is often derisive and is an expression of superiority, though it may also be regenerative and creative.

In one Egyptian myth laughter is clearly erotic and represents a turning point in the narrative.
In this myth, the exposure of the female body makes the god laugh. Like the hierarchic laughter of superiority and derision, such erotic laughter is a repeated motif. It is often triggered by an unexpected display of the naked female body, accompanying and often causing a dramatic turning point in a divine or/and human drama. Erotic laughter fights on the side of life against death, and initiates a new beginning.

The combination of sexuality and laughter was not restricted to myths; it was also found in rituals. Herodotus mentions that when women worshipped Artemis in Egypt, mockery and indecent exposure were part of the ceremonies (Historiae, II, 59–60). In many parts of the world, professional jokers have participated in funerals to cheer up the mourners and counteract the rule of death, and their activity often involved obscene behaviour. Indecent joking and embarrassing words and gestures were believed to stimulate the forces of life, promote fertility and avert evil spirits. In the Egyptian myth of Re and Hathor, when the goddess removed her clothes, showed her body and paraded her sexuality, her behaviour violated cultural norms and kindled a sexual response expressed as laughter. Laughter symbolized the god’s opening up to life and regeneration.

Creation by means of words can be viewed as a creation by the mind at the expense of the body. If the words are precise, they show the creator god’s sovereign control. Jahweh created in this way when he did his six days’ work and said, ‘“Let there be light”; and there was light’. The rationality of the god is emphasized at the cost of divine emotions or body. But words do not need to be rational, they can also be mere sounds, powerful non- sense with magical effects, a point on a sliding scale between laughter and speech. Both nonsense and laughter are sounds, both lack precise meanings, but both may have an eruptive force which can create the world. In Egypt, creative laughter was paralleled by creation through words. The motif of the creative laughter and the motif of the creative word have a similar function. According to a late myth, the Egyptian goddess Mehetweret created the world by means of seven words which went out of her mouth (Sauneron and Voyotte 1959:31, Kákosy 1982:3–4); while in one of the magical texts from Roman times, ‘A sacred book called “Unique”, or “Eighth Book of Moses”’, seven gods were created from seven bursts of laughter ejaculated by a superior god (Betz 1986:172–89, Smith 1984). This superior god is nameless. It is never said what the cause of his laughter was. Anyhow, from his ‘CHA CHA CHA CHA CHA CHA CHA’, seven gods were born. They were the gods of light, water, mind, generative power, fate, time and soul.

When a god laughs seven times and the seven bursts of laughter create seven new gods, the creative power of laughter is not only exploited but also kept in check. This is in conformity with the ancient wisdom teaching in Egypt that warned against exaggerated laughter and Schadenfreude; but if one’s superiors laughed, it was important to laugh with them. It was not laughter in itself that the teachers of wisdom wanted to quench—in a time of upheaval and social unrest, the sages complained that man had lost the ability to laugh—but they wanted laughter to be kept under control. The Egyptians preferred to live in an orderly world where everything had its right place and its right time; nothing should be too much and nothing too little. They had controlled the flooding of the Nile and used it for their purpose for cen- turies. Thus they knew a great deal about the relationship between untamed power on the one hand and systematic order on the other. Uncontrolled bursts of divine laughter might bring forth a disorderly world." [Gilhus, Laughing Gods]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: The Myth of Modern Happiness Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:26 pm

Quote :
"In the mythological texts we have examined thus far, laughter is a force keeping the human under divine control. But it is also a bubbling source of sexuality and creativity, making and remaking the world. These myths featuring divine laughter try out different ways of understanding existence. Creation is incomprehensible, but laughter is no poorer explanation than the creative word or clay. In other words, the laughter of Ancient Near Eastern myths is a purposeful type of laughter that is either derisive and control- ling or regenerative.

Derisive laughter had a victim. It was frequently triggered by an incongruity between the victim’s personal ambition and his cosmic or social position, or by the victim being fooled. It some- times involved goddesses, but was mainly a male laughter of power and domination over others and included a prominent aspect of trickery. It is found in connection with an obsequious laughter—that of flattery and subordination—used to keep one’s superiors amused. In the Egyptian and Mesopotamian texts, derisive laughter is most evident, corresponding to the strong hierar- chical nature of these societies where humans should know their place and keep it.

Regenerative laughter had various forms. Erotic laughter was complex and ambiguous. Triggered by the nude female body and by indecencies and obscenities of women, erotic laughter thrived on an interplay of sexual forces. Creative laughter exploited the eruptive power of laughter. Magical laughter was, when it came to dynamic power, an extension of creative laughter. Creative and magical laughter were instrumental, springing from mind rather than body, and therefore were controlled rather than eruptive.

What happens when the symbolic value of erotic laughter is confronted by laughter of hierarchy and power? Examples of such a confrontation are found in the Old Testament.
Laughter in the Old Testament stands out in comparison to laugh- ter in other Ancient Near Eastern myths, not because Jahweh lacks a sense of humour—that was not a remarkable trait of other Ancient Near Eastern gods either—but because the divine laugh- ter of the Old Testament is more derisive than that of any other god.

A classification of biblical humour in general shows that, like ‘laughter’ in Mesopotamia and Egypt, most instances veer towards scorn and ridicule, not merriment and joy.9 Divine laugh- ter in the Old Testament is a mocking laughter. The biting irony of the prophets belongs to the same context; the aim was to mock the destruction of Jahweh’s enemies. Their god did not indulge in comedy and joyful laughter, and erotic ritual laughter was regarded as an abomination. While laughter in sexual contexts had sounded abundantly in the cult of the great Baal, Jahweh’s divine predecessor in Canaan (Hvidberg 1962), the prophets of Jahweh were fiercely against agrarian cults containing sexual rites. Their god worked in history, not in nature (Loretz 1990)." [Gilhus, Laughing Gods]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: The Myth of Modern Happiness Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:27 pm

Quote :
"In the cult created by the prophets of Jahweh, their god was differentiated from his divine contemporaries in Palestine and Syria in one important way: by rejecting sexual rituals and cultic erotic laughter. Jahweh’s divine laughter was the derisive laughter of male power.

‘God has made laughter for me’ (Genesis 21:7), it seems that Jahweh has made a sexual joke directed against the old fertility cults with their potent women and erotic laughter.

Generally in the Old Testament, laughter had lost its playful connotations. Even small children were not spared; short work was made of the children that laughed at or mocked the prophet Elisha, for instance. The prophet cursed them in the name of his god and two she-bears immediately came out of the wood and tore forty-two of the children asunder. The cruel punishment reflected the gravity of the crime and showed that it did not pay to mock the god of Israel (2 Kings 2:23–4). Jahweh’s superiority must not be challenged.

Though it seems that Jahweh’s fierce laughter was a disembod- ied force, Jahweh’s laughter had bodily connotations as well. These bodily connotations are seen, for instance, in Psalm 37, when God’s laughter is contrasted with the wicked’s gnashing of teeth, and in Psalm 59, where God’s laughter opposes the hea- thens who bark like dogs, belch and have swords in their lips. These images of biting mouths and piercing teeth put derisive laughter in a revealing context. Divine laughter was a destructive force, it came from a wide open mouth, more powerful and terri- ble than those set with teeth and swords, ready to swallow and destroy. The bodily connotations of this laughter were opposite to those of the erotic laughter, which was associated with a body which opens itself up and produces. The image of the wide open mouth is found in different Hebrew expressions in the Bible which perhaps indicate derisive laughter; as one scholar put it, ‘all seem to refer to the widening of the mouth in the mocking gesture of victorious laughter’ (Brenner 1990:57).

Compared to the laughter of the Mesopotamian Anu, Jahweh’s laughter was far more destructive. Jahweh’s laughter crushed and destroyed those who opposed him. This difference may be due in part to the fact that the historical context of Jahweh’s divine laughter was different from that of the gods in Mesopotamia and Egypt. The fight of Jahweh’s prophets on behalf of their god as well as for their own theological supremacy forms a background for Jahweh’s laughter. This monotheistic emphasis is also connected with creation becoming a male prerogative carried out by means of God’s creative word, with the assembly of gods and goddesses being banned from the cult, and with women no longer playing significant roles within the cult. Because of Jahweh’s prophets’ and theologians’ attempts to destroy the fertility cults, erotic laughter was overruled. The prophets and priests of Jahweh car- ried out a religious revolution when they made their god the object of a monotheistic and moral cult (Garbini 1988). In this context, it comes as no surprise that they used mockery as a weapon." [Gilhus, Laughing Gods]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: The Myth of Modern Happiness Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:27 pm

Quote :
"The first time we find laughter in a Christian text is in the New Testament, the Sermon on the Plain in the gospel of Luke:1 ‘Blessed are you who weep now; for you will laugh’; ‘Woe to you who are laughing now! for you will mourn and weep’ (Luke 6:21, 6:25)

These sayings are stamped with a negative attitude towards gaiety in this life, combined with an expectation of great happiness to come, at least for some. The contrast made between laughter and weeping is not new. We have seen it, for instance, in Demeter’s story. What is new is that this contrast is no longer part of an opposition between two phases in a ritual or two sea- sons of the year as in earlier times. It has become a contrast between this world and the next. What is at stake is no longer the seasonal renewal of life, but the salvation of human beings. Laughter has moved out of the present world and has become a subject of eschatology and apocalypticism, a sign of the joy which will be released at the end of time. The critique of wordly laugh- ter reflected in the sayings from Luke found fruitful ground in the early Church and took root.

Clement demanded that even smiling must be kept under control and made the subject of discipline. Because sudden laughter wreaks violence on rational discourse, it must be regu- lated, even if it is natural to human beings:

We need not take away from man any of the things that are natural to him, but only set a limit and due proportion to them. It is true that man is an animal who can laugh; but it is not true that he therefore should laugh at everything. The horse is an animal that neighs, yet he does not neigh at everything.

(Paidagogos, 2, 46)

Clement’s ambition was not to quench laughter completely, but to regulate it. It should be kept in check and used moderately. Why does Clement concern himself with laughter? Because laugh- ter was associated with the body, which Clement and other Church Fathers believed must be controlled. Clement’s uneasiness about laughter is in accordance with the Stoic ideal of late antiquity, that is, that reason ought to conquer emotions.

In its inarticulate outbursts, laughter violates rational thought and speech. Clement dictated that discourse should be controlled, the voice gentle and the words clearly articulated, reflecting a soul that was filled with the words of God (Brown 1989:122–39). Clement even gave advice on table- and bed-manners. His ideal of composure, self-command and restraint is evident everywhere. In short, excessive laughter reveals weakness of character and destroys discipline. Only a moderate laughter fit Clement’s ideal of a well-behaved Christian." [Gilhus, Laughing Gods]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: The Myth of Modern Happiness Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:28 pm

Quote :
"Whether in the East or the West, the learned men of the early Church—such as Ambrose, Jerome, Basil, Pseudo-Cyprian and John Chrysostom—are unani- mous in their hostility toward laughter (Adkin 1985, Resnick 1987). The more it was the focus of hostility, however, the more symbolic significance accrued to laughter. Laughter attained a new religious significance, not as a genuine religious expression, but as a symbol of that which must be shunned by those whose power derived from their religious virtuosity. Paradoxically, laughter acquired symbolic value from its absence rather than from its presence.

John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, is known as the first to point out that Jesus never laughed (Resnick 1987:96–7). Instead he stressed that Jesus wept twice, once when he beheld Jerusalem, and the second time when Lazarus was raised from the dead. John Chrysostom found mourning most suitable on earth, considering the state of the present world. In connection with the life and suffering of Christ he repeatedly and rhetorically asks his audience ‘dost thou laugh?’ (Homilies on Hebrews, XV).

To give vent to amusement was often the first step on the road to perdition. The steps between laughter and grievous sin could be few:

For example; to laugh, to speak jocosely, does not seem an acknowledged sin, but it leads to acknowledged sin. Thus laughter often gives birth to foul discourse, and foul dis- course to actions still more foul. Often from words and laughter proceed railing and insult; and from railing and insult, blows and wounds; and from blows and wounds slaughter and murder.

(Concerning the Statues, Homily, XV)

When John Chrysostom contrasts those who are now laughing with their grinding and gnashing of teeth on the last day, an imagery of grinning skulls and death as a laughing monster seeps through the text. (We also recall Tertullian’s making fun of actors, whom Tertullian foresaw as burning in eternal fire).

When therefore thou seest persons laughing, reflect that those teeth, that grin now, will one day have to sustain that most dreadful wailing and gnashing, and that they will remember this same laugh on That Day whilst they are grinding and gnashing! Then thou too shalt remember this laugh!

(Concerning the Statues, Homily, XX)

Weeping, on the contrary, was meritorious, and the monks had much to cry over: the crucifixion of Jesus; con- stant awareness of their sins; fear for the demons who continually tempted and tormented the monks; terror of eternal damnation. In short, the monks cried over the miseries of this world.

Ammonius, the disciple of Anthony, insisted that the monks ought never to laugh. In a speech against laughter, the Syrian Ephraem paints the dangers of laughter vividly:

Laughter is the beginning of destruction of soul; o monk, when you notice something of that, know that you have arrived at the depth of the evil. Then do not cease to pray God, that he might rescue you from this death...Laughter expels the virtues and pushes aside the thoughts on death and meditation on the punishment.

(Frank 1964:145)

Laughter had to be conquered to control the body." [Gilhus, Laughing Gods]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
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PostSubject: Re: The Myth of Modern Happiness Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:28 pm

Quote :
"The Gnostics’ laughter was closely connected with seeing through, understanding a point, acquiring new knowledge. The comic conveyed knowledge, an exploitation of the universal con- nection between wit and learning; ‘ha-ha’ and ‘a-ha’. The fre- quent use of riddles, puns, paradoxes and jokes in Gnostic writ- ings can be explained as techniques for keeping the spiritual and the material perspectives in tension, thus making them illuminate each other (Layton 1986). These comic techniques were vehicles to bring forth knowledge: gnosis. Laughter represented a passage from the hidden to the revealed, it was malicious and full of knowledge, at the same time derisive and life-giving. This typically Gnostic laughter was a variant of the spiritual laughter of early Christianity, but with considerably more stress on the aspect of knowledge than on that of piety.

The function of laughter in the Gnostic texts was to make the audience understand. The laughter of the myths is a means to an end; the entertaining potential of the myths is exploited to reach a higher goal, namely to wake up sleeping souls to see their spiritual origin.

The Gnostics were participants in a larger general Christian discourse about the relationship between spirit and matter. They saw the body/soul relationship dualistically and made that rela- tionship a major source of incongruity. With their two Eves, their Jesus opposed to Christ and their stupid world-creator, they played spirit and matter against each other and made a comic mythology out of their incompatibility." [Gilhus, Laughing Gods]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: The Myth of Modern Happiness Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:29 pm

Quote :
"In the middle of the 1980s a book by American theologian Cal Samra, The Joyful Christ: The Healing Power of Humor, spoke of the second coming of Christ and the defeat of the devil when all evil and all barriers between people will be blown away by divine laughter:

Christ came to us bringing peace, love, joy, laughter and healing. And when he returns again, he will lead his disci- ples in a chorus of laughter, because, as the old saying goes, the Devil can’t stand the sound of laughter.

(Samra 1986:11)

Samra’s aim is to establish the healing power of laughter and its value in the true Christian life. He supports his case with Church history on the one hand, and medical theories on the other—the modern and popular physio-chemical theory that laughter stimu- lates the brain to manufacture natural pain-relieving substances, the endorphins, and the older physiological theory that a good laugh gives exercise to the internal organs and helps circulation. Samra describes Jesus as the Great Physician and as the greatest psychiatrist of all times (Samra 1986:37). The idea of Jesus the clown is combined with the idea of Jesus the healer. Samra argues that just as so many health professionals from different disciplines are now using humour in their practice, Jesus, the healer of heal- ers, must also have used humour to calm the ill, allay their fear and cheer mourners." [Gilhus, Laughing Gods]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: The Myth of Modern Happiness Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:31 pm

Baudrillard's following comments show the continuity with the J.-Xt. aversion to Laughter, to modernity's Happiness ideal...

From Jesus as the Healer with laughter, it spirals into... the Modern utopia of abs. Happiness...

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*


Last edited by Lyssa on Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:33 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: The Myth of Modern Happiness Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:32 pm

Baudrillard wrote:
"The ideological force of the notion of happiness does not originate in a natural propensity on the part of each individual to realize that happiness for himself. It derives, socio-historically, from the fact that the myth of happiness is the one which, in modern societies, takes up and comes to embody the myth of Equality. All the political and sociological virulence with which that myth has been charged since the industrial revolution and the revolutions of the nineteenth century has been transferred to Happiness. The fact that Happiness initially has that signification and that ideological function has important consequences for its content: to be the vehicle of the egalitarian myth. Happiness has to be measurable. It has to be a well-being measurable in terms of objects and signs; it has to be `comfort', as Tocqueville put it, already noting this trend of democratic societies towards ever more well-being as a reduction of the impact of social misfortune and an equalization of all destinies. Happiness as total or inner enjoyment -- that happiness independent of the signs which could manifest it to others and to those around us, the happiness which has no need of evidence -- is therefore excluded from the outset from the consumer ideal in which happiness is, first and foremost, the demand for equality (or distinction, of course) and must, accordingly, always signify with `regard' to visible criteria. In this sense, Happiness is even further removed from any collective `feast' or exaltation since, fuelled by an egalitarian exigency, it is based on individualistic principles, fortified by the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen which explicitly recognize the right to Happiness of everyone (of each individual)." [The Consumer Society]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: The Myth of Modern Happiness Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:35 pm

Baudrillard wrote:
"The whole of the discourse on needs is based on a naïve anthropology: that of the natural propensity to happiness.

Happiness is the absolute reference of the consumer society: it is the strict equivalent of salvation. But what is this happiness which haunts modern civilization with such ideological force?

Here again one has to revise all spontaneous conceptions. The ideological force of the notion of happiness does not originate in a natural propensity on the part of each individual to realize that happiness for himself. It derives, socio-historically, from the fact that the myth of happiness is the one which, in modern societies, takes up and comes to embody the myth of Equality. All the political and sociological virulence with which that myth has been charged since the industrial revolution and the revolutions of the nineteenth century has been transferred to Happiness. The fact that Happiness initially has that signification and that ideological function has important consequences for its content: to be the vehicle of the egalitarian myth. Happiness has to be measurable. It has to be a well-being measurable in terms of objects and signs; it has to be `comfort', as Tocqueville put it, already noting this trend of democratic societies towards ever more well-being as a reduction of the impact of social misfortune and an equalization of all destinies. Happiness as total or inner enjoyment -- that happiness independent of the signs which could manifest it to others and to those around us, the happiness which has no need of evidence -- is therefore excluded from the outset from the consumer ideal in which happiness is, first and foremost, the demand for equality (or distinction, of course) and must, accordingly, always signify with `regard' to visible criteria. In this sense, Happiness is even further removed from any collective `feast' or exaltation since, fuelled by an egalitarian exigency, it is based on individualistic principles, fortified by the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen which explicitly recognize the right to Happiness of everyone (of each individual).

The `Revolution of Well-Being' is heir to, or executor of, the Bourgeois Revolution, or simply of any revolution which proclaims human equality as its principle without being able (or without wishing) fundamentally to bring it about. The democratic principle is then transferred from a real equality of capacities, of responsibilities, of social chances and of happiness (in the full sense of the term) to an equality before the Object and other manifest signs of social success and happiness. This is the democracy of social standing, the democracy of the TV, the car and the stereo, an apparently concrete but, in fact, equally formal democracy which, beyond contradictions and social inequalities, corresponds to the formal democracy enshrined in the Constitution. Both of these, the one serving as an alibi for the other, combine in a general democratic ideology which conceals the absence of democracy and the non-existence of equality.

In the mystique of equality, the notion of `needs' is indissociable from that of well-being. Needs point to a reassuring universe of ends, and this naturalistic anthropology lays the ground for the promise of a universal equality. The implicit argument is as follows: all men are equal before need and before the principle of satisfaction, since all men are equal before the use-value of objects and goods (whereas they are unequal and divided before exchange-value). Need being indexed to use-value, we have here a relationship of objective utility or natural finality, in the face of which there is no longer any social or historical inequality. At the meat-and-drink level (use-value), there are no proletarians, no privileged individuals.

Thus the complementary myths of well-being and needs have a powerful ideological function of reducing, of eliminating the objective, social and historical, determinations of inequality. The whole political game of the welfare state and consumer society consists in surmounting their contradictions by increasing the volume of goods, with the prospect of an automatic equalization by quantity and a level of final equilibrium, which would be that of total well-being for all. Communist societies themselves speak in terms of equilibrium, of `natural' individual or social needs, needs `harmonized' and free of all social differentiation or class connotation. In this, they too drift from a political solution to a definitive solution by abundance, substituting the formal equality of goods for the social transparency of exchanges. Thus we also see the `Revolution of Well-Being' taking over from the social and political revolution in the socialist countries.

If this perspective on the ideology of well-being is correct (namely, that that ideology is a vehicle for the myth of formal equality `secularized' in goods and signs), then it is clear that the eternal problem of whether consumer society promotes or hinders equality, whether it is a fully achieved democracy (or on the way to being so) or the opposite -- merely restoring earlier inequalities and social structures -- is a false problem. Whether or not one is able to prove that consumption possibilities are being equalized (income differentials being flattened out, social redistribution, the same fashion for everyone, along with the same TV programmes and holiday destinations), this means nothing, since posing the problem in terms of the equalization of consumption is already to substitute the pursuit of objects and signs (level of substitution) for the real problems and their logical and sociological analysis."
[The Consumer Society]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: The Myth of Modern Happiness Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:38 pm

Baudrillard wrote:
"One of the strongest proofs that the principle and finality of consumption is not enjoyment or pleasure is that that is now something which is forced upon us, something institutionalized, not as a right or a pleasure, but as the duty of the citizen.
The puritan regarded himself, his own person, as a business to be made to prosper for the greater glory of God. His `personal' qualities, his `character', which he spent his life producing, were for him a capital to be invested opportunely, to be managed without speculation or waste. Conversely, but in the same way, consumerist man [I'hommeconsommateur] regards enjoyment as an obligation; he sees himself as an enjoyment and satisfaction business. He sees it as his duty to be happy, loving, adulating/adulated, charming/charmed, participative, euphoric and dynamic. This is the principle of maximizing existence by multiplying contacts and relationships, by intense use of signs and objects, by systematic exploitation of all the potentialities of enjoyment.

There is no question for the consumer, for the modern citizen, of evading this enforced happiness and enjoyment, which is the equivalent in the new ethics of the traditional imperative to labour and produce. Modern man spends less and less of his life in production within work and more and more of it in the production and continual innovation of his own needs and well-being. He must constantly see to it that all his potentialities, all his consumer capacities are mobilized. If he forgets to do so, he will be gently and insistently reminded that he has no right not to be happy. It is not, then, true that he is passive. He is engaged in -- has to engage in -- continual activity. If not, he would run the risk of being content with what he has and becoming asocial.

You have to try everything, for consumerist man is haunted by the fear of `missing' something, some form of enjoyment or other. You never know whether a particular encounter, a particular experience (Christmas in the Canaries, eel in whisky, the Prado, LSD, Japanese-style love-making) will not elicit some `sensation'. It is no longer desire, or even `taste', or a specific inclination that are at stake, but a generalized curiosity, driven by a vague sense of unease -- it is the `fun morality' or the imperative to enjoy oneself, to exploit to the full one's potential for thrills, pleasure or gratification.

Consumption is social labour. The consumer is required and mobilized as worker at this level too (perhaps as much today as he is at the level of `production')." [The Consumer Society]

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"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: The Myth of Modern Happiness Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:45 pm

Baudrillard wrote:
"the BODY. Its `rediscovery', in a spirit of physical and sexual liberation, after a millennial age of puritanism; its omnipresence (specifically the omnipresence of the female body, a fact we shall have to try to explain) in advertising, fashion and mass culture; the hygienic, dietetic, therapeutic cult which surrounds it, the obsession with youth, elegance, virility/femininity, treatments and regimes, and the sacrificial practices attaching to it all bear witness to the fact that the body has today become an object of salvation. It has literally taken over that moral and ideological function from the soul.

Unremitting propaganda reminds us that, in the words of the old hymn, we have only one body and it has to be saved. 87 For centuries, there was a relentless effort to convince people they had no bodies (though they were never really convinced); today, there is a relentless effort to convince them of their bodies.

The current structures of production/ consumption induce in the subject a dual practice, linked to a split (but profoundly interdependent) representation of his/her own body: the representation of the body as capital and as fetish (or consumer object). In both cases, it is important that, far from the body being denied or left out of account, there is deliberate investment in it (in the two senses, economic and psychical, of the term).

if you don't make your bodily devotions, if you sin by omission, you will be punished. Everything that ails you comes from being culpably irresponsible towards yourself (your own salvation). Quite apart from the atmosphere of singular moral terrorism which infuses this carte du tendre (and which equates with puritan terrorism, except that in this case it is no longer God punishing you, but your own body--a suddenly maleficent, repressive agency which takes its revenge if you are not gentle with it), one can see how this discourse, under the guise of reconciling everyone with their own body, does in fact reintroduce, between the subject and the objectivized body as threatening double." [The Consumer Society]

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"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: The Myth of Modern Happiness Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:46 pm

Baudrillard wrote:
"Being beautiful is no longer an effect of nature or a supplement to moral qualities. It is the basic, imperative quality of those who take the same care of their faces and figures as they do of their souls. It is a sign, at the level of the body, that one is a member of the elect, just as success is such a sign in business. And, indeed, in their respective magazines, beauty and success are accorded the same mystical foundation: for women, it is sensitivity, exploring and evoking `from the inside' all the parts of the body; for the entrepreneur, it is the adequate intuition of all the possibilities of the market. A sign of election and salvation: the Protestant ethic is not far away here. And it is true that beauty is such an absolute imperative only because it is a form of capital.

Let us take this same logic a little further. The ethics of beauty, which is the very ethics of fashion, may be defined as the reduction of all concrete values--the `use-values' of the body (energetic, gestural, sexual) -- to a single functional `exchange-value', which itself alone, in its abstraction, encapsulates the idea of the glorious, fulfilled body, the idea of desire and pleasure [jouissance], and of course thereby also denies and forgets them in their reality and in the end simply peters out into an exchange of signs. For beauty is nothing more than sign material being exchanged. It functions as sign-value.

It is an `atmospheric' heat. It no longer comes from intimacy and sensuality, but from calculated sexual signification." [The Consumer Society]

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"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: The Myth of Modern Happiness Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:46 pm

Baudrillard wrote:
"The cult of the body no longer stands in contradiction to the cult of the soul: it is the successor to that cult and heir to its ideological function. As Norman O. Brown says in Life against Death: `We must not be misled by the flat antinomy of the sacred and the secular, and interpret as "secularization" what is only a metamorphosis of the sacred.' 94

The material evidence of the `liberated' body (though, as we have seen, liberated as sign/object and censored in its subversive truth as desire, not only in athletic activity and hygiene, but also in eroticism) must not be allowed to deceive us here: it merely expresses the supplanting of an outdated ideology--that of the soul, which is inadequate for a developed productivist system and incapable now of ensuring ideological integration -- by a more functional modern ideology which, in all essentials, preserves the individualistic value system and the social structures connected with it. And it even reinforces these, establishing them on an almost permanent basis, since it substitutes for the transcendence of the soul the total immanence, the spontaneous self-evidence of the body. Now, that self-evidence is false evidence. The body as instituted by modern mythology is no more material than the soul. Like the soul, it is an idea or, rather--since the term `idea' does not mean much--it is a hypostasized part-object, a double privileged and invested as such. It has become, as the soul was in its time, the privileged substrate of objectivization -- the guiding myth of an ethic of consumption. We can see how intimately the body is involved in the goals of production as (economic) support, as principle of the managed (psychological) integration of the individual, and as (political) strategy of social control." [The consumer Society]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: The Myth of Modern Happiness Sun Sep 28, 2014 6:46 pm

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: The Myth of Modern Happiness Sat Jan 09, 2016 7:27 am

Eric Wilson wrote:
""… melancholy is a fearful gift.
What is it but the telescope of truth?"
—Lord Byron

I can now add another threat, perhaps as dangerous as the most apocalyptic of concerns. We are possibly not far away from eradicating a major cultural force, a serious inspiration to invention, the muse behind much art and poetry and music. We are wantonly hankering to rid the world of numerous ideas and visions, multitudinous innovations and meditations. We are right at this moment annihilating melancholia.

We wonder if the wide array of antidepressants will one day make sweet sorrow a thing of the past. We wonder if soon enough every single American will be happy. We wonder if we will become a society of self-satisfied smiles. Treacly expressions will be painted on our faces as we parade through the pastel aisles. Bedazzling neon will spotlight our way.
What is behind this desire to purge sadness from ourlives, especially in America, the land of splendid dreams and wild success? Why are most Americans so utterly willing to have an essential part of their hearts sliced away and discarded like so much waste? What are we to make of this American obsession with happiness, an obsession that could well lead to a sudden extinction of the creative impulse, that could result in an extermination as horrible as those foreshadowed by global warming and environmental crisis and nuclear proliferation? What drives this rage for complacency, for the innocuous smile? What fosters this desperate contentment?

The psychological world is now abuzz with a new field, positive psychology, devoted to finding ways to enhance happiness through pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Psychologists practicing this brand of therapy are leaders in a novel sort of science, the science of happiness. Mainstream publishers are now learning from the self-help industry and printing thousands of books on how to be happy and on why we are happy. The self-help press fills the shelves with step-by-step plans for worldly satisfaction. Everywhere I see advertisements offering even more happiness, happiness on land or by sea, in a car or under the stars. And as I have already noted, doctors now offer a wide array of drugs that might eradicate depression forever. It seems truly, perhaps more than ever before, an age of almost perfect contentment, a brave new world of persistent good fortune, joy without trouble, felicity with no penalty.

I want to get to the bottom of these fears, to see if they’re legitimate or just neurotic grumblings. My feeling right now is that they are valid. This sense grows out of my suspicion that the predominant form of American happiness breeds blandness. This kind of happiness appears to entertain a craven disregard for the value of sadness. This brand of supposed joy, moreover, seems to foster an ongoing ignorance of life’s enduring and vital polarity between agony and ecstasy, dejection and ebulliance.
Trying to forget sadness and its integral place in the great rhythm of the cosmos, this sort of happiness insinuates in the end that the blues are an aberrant state that should be cursed as weakness of will or removed with the help of a little pink pill.

Of course there is a fine line between what I’m calling melancholia and what society calls depression. In my mind, what separates the two is degree of activity. Both forms are more or less chronic sadness that leads to ongoing unease with how things are—persistent feelings that the world as it is is not quite right, that it is a place of suffering, stupidity, and evil. Depression (as I see it, at least) causes apathy in the face of this unease, lethargy approaching total paralysis, an inability to feel much of anything one way or another. In contrast, melancholia (in my eyes) generates a deep feeling in regard to this same anxiety, a turbulence of heart that results in an active questioning of the status quo, a perpetual longing to create new ways of being and seeing.
Our culture seems to confuse these two and thus treat melancholia as an aberrant state, a vile threat to our pervasive notions of happiness—happiness as immediate gratification, happiness as superficial comfort, happiness as static contentment. Of course the question immediately arises: Who wouldn’t question this apparently hollow form of American happiness?

Aren’t some of us so smitten with the American dream that we have become brainwashed into believing that our sole purpose on this earth is to be happy? Doesn’t this unwitting affection for happiness over sadness lead us to a one-sided life, to bliss without discomfort, bright noon with no night? Deceived, we miss out on the great interplay of the living cosmos, its luminous gloom, its terrible beauty. The American dream might be a nightmare. What passes for bliss could well be a dystopia of flaccid grins. Our passion for felicity hints at an ominous hatred for all that grows and thrives and then dies—for all those curious thrushes moving among autumn’s brownish indolence, for those blue dahlias seemingly hollowed with sorrow, for all those gloomy souls who long for clouds above high windows.

Some of our most sacred institutions have become happiness schools.
We have medical technologies to ensure that we get artificial health. If we are too wired to sleep after our day of surfing the Net and tapping out text messages, then we can pop an Ambien or a Lunesta to give us artificially induced sleep. If we’re feeling just a little blue, a bit off-kilter, psychologically speaking, we can take Paxil or Prozac and in a few days enjoy an unreal gratification, the two-beer buzz of canned bliss. What if you’ve been overindulging lately on PowerBars and pork rinds? Not to worry. For a decent fee you can pay for liposuction and tummy tucking to offer the look of health.
In each of these cases we have traded flesh for prosthetics, heart for hardware.
Isn’t it a great victory, then, to be able to make the world say yes at every turn, indeed to value only those parts that tickle our fancies? We are gods of a pleasure dome of our own making.

Famous for intoning that “the tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction,” Blake in this poem argues that a person bent on living in a rationally predictable universe must necessarily desire a “solid without fluctuation” and a “joy without pain.” These yearnings for complete security create a world of psychological stasis, a mental wasteland where nothing moves and lives. Wherever this person of total order looks, he sees only his own static thoughts projected outward. He does not perceive the thriving, spontaneous, contingent universe at all. He witnesses his brittle ego as in a mirror. As Blake says in another work, “There Is No Natural Religion” (1794), a man controlled by an overly rational yen for control sees “only Himself”.
The persistent intoning of “I’m fine,” “I’m fine” pushes down the gloom. There in the unconscious the dark feelings fester. They of course will not stay down but always will return in monstrous forms—in neurotic behaviors like constant hand washing or cleaning, in vicious nightmares and unseemly reveries. The problem is that these poor souls won’t be aware of the source of their nervousness. They’ll tend to blame others or the world, anything to keep intact the delusion that they’re just fine, thank you, anything to keep at bay the vicious fear eating at their hearts. We believe, then, that these happy types tend to suffer a desperate satisfaction. This of course leads to guilt. They look around everywhere and see others behaving as if they were perfectly happy. Those suffering the inner torment wonder what’s wrong, why they can’t get with the program, why they can’t just get on board. They feel inadequate but must nonetheless lie to themselves and say everything’s okay.

The greatest tragedy is to live without tragedy. The blues are clues to the sublime. The embrace of gloom stokes the heart." [Against Happiness]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: The Myth of Modern Happiness Fri Dec 02, 2016 1:32 pm

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: The Myth of Modern Happiness Sun Jun 25, 2017 1:59 pm


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PostSubject: Re: The Myth of Modern Happiness Sun Jun 25, 2017 2:02 pm

Isn't it always the most unhappy who pronounce their happiness, just as the weakest repeat how strong they are, and the untalented how talented?

Necessity is the mother of all innovation.
Ned/Suffering, creates, where contentment stagnates and atrophies.
The most miserable spirits created the most beautiful art - no pain, no gain.

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