Wednesday, March 02, 2011

"A Mirthless Enterprise"

Pascal Bruckner on the Western cult of happiness:

This belief in our ability to will ourselves happy also lies behind the contemporary obsession with health. What is health, correctly understood, but a kind of permission we receive to live in peace with our bodies and to let ourselves be carefree? These days, though, we are required to resist our mortality as far as possible. The domain of therapy tends to annex everything that once belonged to the art of living well. Food, for example, is divided not into good and bad but into healthy and unhealthy. The appropriate prevails over the tasty, the carefully measured over the irregular. The dinner table becomes a kind of pharmacy counter where fat and calories are weighed, where one conscientiously chews foods that are hardly more than medications. Wine must be drunk not for its taste, under this regimen, but to strengthen the arteries; whole-grain bread must be eaten to aid digestion; garlic must be bitten off raw for various health reasons.

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