Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Barbara Ehrenreich: Fight for Your Right to Party

Barbara Ehrenreich: "According to anthropologists, human festivities--probably going back to the Paleolithic era--featured the universal ingredients of feasting, dancing, costuming, masking and/or face painting, for days at a time. These things didn't happen indoors, within the family circle, but around bonfires, in the streets or on the "dancing grounds" of prehistoric civilizations. Holidays bonded whole communities together, not just families."

In my book Slow Is Beautiful I spend a lot of time discussing the concept of joie de vivre, the French phrase for "joy of living." We're supposed to be enjoying our lives! Joy is the energy that drives love, creativity, and gratitude, concepts at the core of happiness. Even seemingly dour Henry David Thoreau said, "Surely joy is the essence of life"! Kay Redfield Jamison, professor at Johns Hopkins and author of Exuberance: The Passion for Life, sees joy and exuberance as "the wine of the gods," and she states boldly that when it begins to disappear from a culture, the culture is dying.

And now, one of my favorite writers, Barbara Ehrenreich, puts it beautifully in her forthcoming book, Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy. She shows that the impetus toward joy is present in every culture and expresses itself in the human festivities of dancing and feasting... that is, until the power imbalance grows and the powerful try to stamp out the "dancing in the streets" for fear it can lead to a revolution! Ehrenreich argues that maybe the best thing we can do for social change is to throw a big party and dance the night away. It's deja joie all over again!


Gary Sturni said...

Cecile, Came across your review of "Dancing in the Streets"(and am mightily taken by your overall theme of Slow is Beautiful) researching for a sermon tomorrow morning on the Wedding Feast at Cana. Thanks for your help! Gary Sturni / St. George's/ Germantown, TN.

Gary Sturni said...

Sturni again: forgot to say: on my wife's and my honeymoon in England in 74, went to Mass at St. Mary the Less in Cambridge, where the Bishop of Dover preached on joie de vivre, looking down from the pulpit upon 25 restless, mischievious, choir boys -- exhibiting j de vivre. It all fit together! GKS