It goes without saying that we live in frenetic times. This article by Alan Jacobs in Harpers gets to the heart of how we live today. Quoting the work of German sociologist Gerd-Günter Voss, Jacobs highlights how three forms of life developed over centuries: traditional (living as those in our culture and class have for as long as one can remember), strategic (those who follow clear goals such as finishing college or starting a company), and a third which is called situational.
This is the reason for our modern anxiety and depression, writes Jacobs. “People are less likely to plan to be radiologists when they hear that radiologists may be replaced by computers.”
There’s much more to his wonderful essay, but he characterizes our times just right. One suggestion for dealing with our “having access only to a situational conduct of life—and anxiety and depression”? Read.
Jabobs writes, “I want to argue that one of the best actions we can take when faced with this paradoxical misery is to listen to the voices of those from long ago and far away—to “break bread with the dead.” And while I do not wish to suggest here that reading old books is a cure for depression, the expansion of our temporal bandwidth, to which reading old books can make a vital contribution, just might be a hedge against depressive inclinations and might provide a port, for however brief a time, in the storm.”
I couldn’t agree more.