Welcome to the Existential Roundup, where we bring you links to some articles currently trending that may be of interest to those in the existential-humanistic psychology community.
This roundup starts off in Ancient Greece and Rome, because it seems that for those who like to diagnose mental illness, it is never too late. Check out The Atlantic’s article “Diagnosing Mental Illness in Ancient Greece and Rome." How different is it to diagnose depression as a mental illness as it is to say it was the will of Zeus? That is a whole different way of creating meaning.
And often, when we speak of issues of the gods and faith, these issues also tend to hover in the realms of theism. As a result, David Brooks’s column “Alone, Yet Not Alone” makes for some very interesting reading on that subject as he deals with the many of the complaints hurled against religion these days while looking at how a young Catholic songwriter experiences faith.
Perhaps Brooks is going through some sort of awakening himself these days, as he has also written another very existential column “The Art of Presence," which could really be an excerpt from an existential psychology textbook as to how to be present with another in a time of need. For his many readers who have probably never heard many of these ideas before, it’s a brilliant way to bring some of these thoughts into the mainstream.
To understand more about how we relate with one another, check out “Quantified Self: The Algorithm of Life” in Prospect Magazine, which suggests that perhaps we can come to understand ourselves better through numbers—or maybe the whole process is self-defeating. And in the Pacific Standard, learn “How Gossip Serves a Greater Good.” The idea, dating back to Ancient Greece, is that if you know there is a potential for gossip and ostracism, you will contribute to the greater good. In fact, the word ostracism comes from the Ancient Greeks.
Also in the Pacific Standard, it turns out that new research shows that plaque builds up in the hearts of couples who express mixed feelings towards each other. In “For Couples, Mutual Ambivalence Increases Cardiovascular Risk,” even a little ambivalence can be physically toxic in a relationship. This is really a problem if you believe the article in Bookforum entitled “The Unbearable Truth: Why We Must Tell Lies," which explains that lies are an essential step in getting to the truth.
Perhaps one of the most moving pieces you may read and experience comes from Simon Critchley in "The Dangers of Certainty: A Lesson From Auschwitz," a story of the author’s remembrance of a BBC television series he watched as a 13-year-old boy and the impact it still has on him today as he struggles to understand the interplay between knowledge, uncertainty, and the human beings who interpret it.
If you haven’t been following any of the groundbreaking work my former New York Times colleague Amanda Hess has been doing to expose what is really going in gender relations today, particularly in the media, at least check out her story in Slate commenting on a recent New York Times Magazine story posing the question about whether a more equal marriage means less sex. Hess’s article “Does Gender Equality Kill Sex Lives?” takes a hard look at what kinds of jobs are really being equated.
And if any or all of these articles have filled you with more existential anxiety than you can handle, please read Gil Fronsdal’s wonderful piece entitled “Fearlessness Can Co-Exist With Fear." The fear might not go away but Fronsdal explains that it doesn’t have to, and you can have fearlessness too. That sounds good enough to me.