“Depression is a disease of civilization: Stephen Ilardi at TEDxEmory”

I appreciate what this depression researcher is aiming to do here, and I especially like that he’s taking cues from past hunter-gatherer societies and aborigine Papau New Guineans. His recommendation for increasing Omega 3 fatty acids intake is one I’ve heard mentioned before and fully intend to look into going forward.

But, while I agree with the importance of exercise and completely appreciate his acknowledgment that exercise equipment seems so counter to honest productivity (as in humans used to exercise as part of their daily life operations — exercise wasn’t the goal in itself but rather was the means required to reach their ends, as was natural all throughout history for humans and every other species), I’m not sold on this idea of simply trying to turn exercise into more of a social endeavor so as to motivate us, because hasn’t that indeed already been tried? What are team sports then? Plenty of people do go on brisk walks with others or walk their dogs. I think right there we’re still going to come up against resistance because the activity in question isn’t actually contributing to the creation or perpetuation of something of greater significance (other than one’s own personal health, which apparently isn’t terribly motivating for many of us otherwise we wouldn’t be facing so much resistance in the first place). I do believe here we will continue to bog down because it’s missing the creative and/or operative component that serves something outside of or greater than merely oneself. Hence why these activities naturally were socially carried out—this was about the performance of tasks necessary for the well-being of themselves and others in their tribe/community. Whereas today exercise has become a largely selfish activity intended for the betterment of only oneself, mostly for aesthetic reasons, which to a depressed individual is very likely to seem futile.

That is such an important point that I think really goes to the heart of the matter in terms of the civilizations we now live within and how our labors are being divorced from the creation and upkeep of our habitats, food production and/or procurement (e.g., hunting, fishing, gathering, etc.), self-defense and defense of our communities (police now perform this role on citizens’ behalves), and basic daily tasks and chores required to keep life functioning. We now live in a situation where many sit at desks all day in order to earn money that they then spend to purchase what they need, with very little physical exertion required. The focus nowadays is on conveniences and cutting corners so that less and less physical effort need be required, so we’re just moving farther and farther away from integrating our physicality with achieving our own ends. And this is absolutely one of the biggest downsides to modern civilizations, no doubt, because this drive toward comforts and ease is actually robbing us of the productive use of our bodily energies.

It’s very sad to consider, but also I can’t help but laugh at how complicated humans have made things for themselves. It is truly bizarre how through “advancements” we’ve actually undermined a great deal that historically has provided meaning for our lives and cohesion for our social bonds. So, while humanity has achieved so much in terms of specialization and gaining abstract understandings of natural phenomena, look at what it’s cost us. Is that not a doozy of a paradox to contend with?

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