Ralph Steadman Creates an Unorthodox Illustrated Biography of Sigmund Freud, the Father of Psychoanalysis (1979)

Sigmund Freud died in 1939, and the nearly eight decades since haven't been kind to his psychoanalytical theories, but in some sense he survives. "For many years, even as writers were discarding the more patently absurd elements of his theory — penis envy, or the death drive — they continued to pay homage to Freud’s unblinking insight into the human condition," writes the New Yorker's Louis Menand. He claims that Freud thus evolved, "in the popular imagination, from a scientist into a kind of poet of the mind. And the thing about poets is that they cannot be refuted. No one asks of 'Paradise Lost': But is it true? Freud and his concepts, now converted into metaphors, joined the legion of the undead."

The master of a legion of undead psychological metaphors — who, in the ranks of living illustrators, could be more suited to render such a figure than Ralph Steadman? And how many of us know that he actually did so in 1979, when he produced an "art-biography" of the "Father of Psychoanalysis"?




Sigmund Freud, which has spent long stretches out of print since its first publication, tells the story of Freud's life, beginning with his childhood in Austria to his death, not long after his emigration in flight from the Nazis, in London. It was there that he met Virginia Woolf, who in her diary describes him as "a screwed up shrunk very old man: with a monkey’s light eyes, paralyzed spasmodic movements, inarticulate: but alert."

There, again, Freud sounds like one of Steadman's drawings, sometimes outwardly unappealing but always possessed of an unignorable vitality generated by a solid core of perceptiveness. Earlier chapters of Freud's life, characterized by intellectual as well as physical vigorousness aided by the 19th-century "miracle drug" of cocaine, also give the illustrator rich material to work with. One can't help but think of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which forged a permanent cultural link between Steadman's art and Hunter S. Thompson's prose. How "true" is the drug-fueled desert odyssey that book recounts? More so, perhaps, than many of Freud's supposedly scientific discoveries. But as with the work of Freud, so with that of Thompson and Steadman: we return to it not because we want the truth, exactly, but because we can't turn away from the often grotesque versions of ourselves it shows us.

You can pick up a copy of Steadman's illustrated Sigmund Freud here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How to Use Psychedelic Drugs to Improve Mental Health: Michael Pollan’s New Book, How to Change Your Mind, Makes the Case

The history of research on psychedelic drugs is so sensational that more sober-minded experiments (so to speak) often get obscured by the hip, the weird, and the nefarious, the latter including secret CIA and Army testing of LSD and other drugs as a means of psychological warfare and “enhanced interrogation.” These experiments inadvertently led to Ken Kesey’s infamous “Acid Tests” in Northern California. On the other side of the country, Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary used questionable methods in his psilocybin experiments with prisoners and students, before getting fired and going on to expand the mind of the counterculture, earning the distinction of having Richard Nixon call him “the most dangerous man in America.”

Meanwhile, working in relative obscurity in very different circumstances in the late 50s, a UC Irvine psychiatrist named Oscar Janiger brought volunteer subjects, including several dozen artists, to a house outside L.A., where they were given LSD and psychotherapy. Janiger’s work has its sensational side—a cousin of Allen Ginsberg, he reportedly introduced Cary Grant, Anais Nin, Jack Nicholson, and Aldous Huxley to acid. But his primary achievement, in data that remained mostly unpublished during his lifetime, were his discoveries of the therapeutic and creative use of psychedelic drugs under controlled conditions with subjects who were prepared for the experience and guided through it by trained professionals.




The experiments conducted by Janiger and others differed markedly from the freewheeling recreational drug use of the counterculture and the weaponization of psychedelics by the U.S. government. In recent years, scientists and psychologists have conducted similar kinds of research under even more tightly controlled conditions, substantiating and expanding on the conclusions of early experimenters who found that psychedelics seem remarkably effective in treating depression, anxiety, alcoholism, drug addiction, and other stubbornly destructive human ills. This research supports with sound evidence LSD inventor Albert Hoffman’s description of his drug as “medicine for the soul.”

While research organizations like MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) have centralized and promoted much of the current research, it’s now getting a huge popular boost from none other than food writer Michael Pollan, bestselling author of books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food. “A self-described ‘reluctant psychonaut,’” writes NPR, Pollan submitted himself as a test subject for experiments with “LSD, psilocybin and 5-MeO-DMT, a substance in the venom of the Sonoran Desert toad.” He has described his experiences and the work of the research community in a new book titled How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.

At the top of the post, see Pollan describe the book in a short video from Penguin. He discusses such ancient ideas (as he has in past writings) of psychoactive drugs as “entheagens”—or chemical conduits to the divine. "In the Darwinian sense,” he says, the evolutionary purpose of psychedelic experiences may be an increase in cognitive variety and the stimulation of “more metaphors, more insights.” In his Fresh Air interview above, Pollan further explains how this works therapeutically. “One of the things our mind does is tell stories about ourselves,” he says. “If you’re depressed, you’re being told a story perhaps that you’re worthless, that no one could possibly love you... that life will not get better.”

“These stories,” Pollan says, “trap us in these ruminative loops that are very hard to get out of. They’re very destructive patterns of thought.” Psychedelic drugs “disable for a period of time the part of the brain where the self talks to itself. It's called the default mode network, and it's a group of structures that connect parts of the cortex — the evolutionarily most recent part of the brain — to deeper levels where emotion and memory reside.” Disrupting old narratives helps people to write better, healthier stories.

As Pollan says in the Time video above, psychedelics have been popularly conceived as drugs that make you crazy—and in some cases, that happens. But they are also “drugs that can make you sane, or more sane.”  One of the major differences between one outcome and the other is the conditions under which the drug is taken. When quality and dosage of the drugs are controlled, and when subjects are prepared for “bad trips” with specific instructions, even frightening hallucinations can contribute to better mental health.

In his psilocybin experiment, for example, Pollan was accompanied by two “guides” and given “a set of ‘flight instructions,” including what to do if you see a monster.

…don't try to run away. Walk right up to it, plant your feet and say, "What do you have to teach me? What are you doing in my mind?" And if you do that, according to the flight instructions, your fear will morph into something much more positive very quickly.

In another example, another psylocybin subject, Alana, describes in the Vox video below her guided experience with the drug during a smoking cessation trial at Johns Hopkins. “There were scary parts, foreboding parts,” she says, but thanks to controlled conditions and the reassuring presence of a guide, “I always knew there was joy and peace on the other side of it. It was freeing.”

Using psychedelics to confront and conquer fears goes back many thousands of years in traditional societies. Modern technological culture has largely turned to antidepressants and other pharmaceuticals to regulate anxiety, but as Pollan points out, “Prozac doesn’t help when you’re confronting mortality,” the deepest, most universal fear of all. But psychedelics—as Aldous Huxley found when he took LSD on his deathbed—can “occasion an experience in people—a mystical experience—that somehow makes it easier to let go.” Surely, there are other ways to do so. In any case, psychedelic drugs seem so beneficial to psychological well-being that they can be, and hopefully will be in the future, used to positively (responsibly) shift the consciousness and creative potential of millions of suffering people.

For more on this subject, read Pollan's latest book--How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Erich Fromm’s Six Rules of Listening: Learn the Keys to Understanding Other People from the Famed Psychologist

Photo by Müller-May/Rainer Funk, via Wikimedia Commons

The social psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm lived through just about the first 80 years of the 20th century, beginning in Germany, ending in Switzerland, and spending periods in between in places like New York, Mexico City, and Lansing, Michigan. But his intellectual experience exceeded even his clearly formidable historical and cultural experience: he engaged in not just psychoanalytic theory and practice but theological scholarship, political critique, and what he called a kind of "mysticism."

To the wider public, which first got to know him through his 1956 bestseller The Art of Loving: An Enquiry into the Nature of Love, Fromm — who had already experienced so much of humanity — was an authority on human relationships. Before one can love, one must, in a broad sense, be able to listen, and he treats that subject at length in The Art of Listening, a posthumously published book adapted from a 1974 seminar in Switzerland.




Speaking in terms of psychoanalysis, Fromm objects to framing listening as a "technique," since that word applies "to the mechanical, to that which is not alive, while the proper word for dealing with that which is alive is 'art.'" And so if "psychoanalysis is a process of understanding man's mind, particularly that part which is conscious... it is an art like the understanding of poetry." He then provides six basic rules for this art as follows:

  1. The basic rule for practicing this art is the complete concentration of the listener.
  2. Nothing of importance must be on his mind, he must be optimally free from anxiety as well as from greed.
  3. He must possess a freely-working imagination which is sufficiently concrete to be expressed in words.
  4. He must be endowed with a capacity for empathy with another person and strong enough to feel the experience of the other as if it were his own.
  5. The condition for such empathy is a crucial facet of the capacity for love. To understand another means to love him — not in the erotic sense but in the sense of reaching out to him and of overcoming the fear of losing oneself.
  6. Understanding and loving are inseparable. If they are separate, it is a cerebral process and the door to essential understanding remains closed.

Fromm's rules apply not just outside his profession but independently of era or culture: wherever you are or whenever it happens to be, you can always practice freeing your mind so as to concentrate as completely as possible on the person talking to you, honing your imagination so as to vividly experience in your mind what they have to verbally communicate. Of course, to love, in Fromm's sense, remains a particular challenge in this process, and for humans may well stand as the challenge of existence. But whether or not you credit psychoanalysis itself, the fact remains that we all must, to the greatest extent possible, understand one another's minds as our own; the very survival of humanity has always depended on it.

via Brain Pickings

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Diderot Effect: Enlightenment Philosopher Denis Diderot Explains the Psychology of Consumerism & Our Wasteful Spending

In pointing out the clear and present dangers posed by out-of-control consumerism, there is no need for Marxism 101 terms like “commodity fetishism.” Simply state in plain terms that we revere cheaply-mass-produced goods, made for the sake of endless growth and consumption, for no particular reason other than perpetual novelty and the creation of wealth for a few. Everyone nods in agreement, then gets back to scrolling through their social media feeds and inboxes, convincing themselves, as I convince myself, that targeted advertising in digital networks—what Jaron Lanier calls “mass behavior-modification regimes”—could not possibly have any effect on me!

While 18th-century French philosophe Denis Diderot in no way predicted (as Lanier largely did) the mass behavior-modification schemes of the internet, he understood something critically important about human behavior and the nascent commodity culture taking shape around him, a culture of anxious disquiet and games of one-upmanship, played, if not with others, then with oneself. Renowned, among other things, for co-founding the Encyclopédie (the first Wikipedia!), Diderot has also acquired a reputation for the insights in his essay “Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown,” which inspired the concept of the “Diderot Effect.”

This principle states that modern consumption requires us to “identify ourselves using our possessions,” as Esther Inglis-Arkell writes at io9. Thus, when persuaded by naked lust or the enticements of advertising to purchase something new and shiny, we immediately notice how out of place it looks amongst our old things. “Once we own one thing that stands out, that doesn’t fit our current sense of unity, we go on a rampage trying to reconstruct ourselves” by upgrading things that worked perfectly well, in order to maintain a coherent sense of who we are in relation to the first new purchase.

The phenomenon, “part psychological, and part deliberate manipulation,” drives heedless shopping and creates needless waste. Diderot describes the effect in terms consistent with the tastes and prejudices of an educated gentleman of his time. He does so with perspicacious self-awareness. The essay is worth a read for the rich hyperbole of its rhetoric. Beginning with a comparison between his old bathrobe, which “molded all the folds of my body” and his new one (“stiff, and starchy, makes me look stodgy”), Diderot builds to a near-apocalyptic scenario illustrating the “ravages of luxury.”

The purchase of a new dressing gown spoiled his sense of himself as “the writer, the man who works.” The new robe strikes a jarring, dissociative note. “I now have the air of a rich good for nothing. No one knows who I am…. All now is discordant,” he writes, “No more coordination, no more unity, no more beauty.” Rather than get rid of the new purchase, he feels compelled to become the kind of person who wears such a thing, by means of further purchases which he could only newly afford, after receiving an endowment from Catherine the Great. Before this windfall, points out James Clear, he had “lived nearly his entire life in poverty.”

Clear gives several examples of the Diderot effect that take it out of the realm of 18th century aesthetics and into our modern big-box/Amazon reality. “We are rarely looking to downgrade, to simplify,” he writes, “Our natural inclination is always to accumulate.” To counter the tendency, he recommends corrective behaviors such as making sure new purchases fit in with our current possessions; setting self-imposed limits on spending; and reducing exposure to “habit triggers.” This may require admitting that we are susceptible to the ads that clutter both our physical and digital environments, and that limiting time spent on ad-driven platforms may be an act not only of self-care, but of social and environmental care as well. Algorithms now perform Diderot effects for us constantly.

Is the Diderot effect universally bad? Inglis-Arkell argues that “it’s not pure evil… there’s a difference between an Enlightenment screed and real life.” So-called green consumerism—“replacing existing wasteful goods with more durable, cleaner, more responsibly-made goods”—might be a healthy use of Diderot-like avarice. Besides, she says, “there’s nothing wrong with wanting to communicate one’s sense of self through aesthetic choices” or craving a unified look for our physical spaces. Maybe, maybe not, but we can take responsibility for how we direct our desires. In any case, Diderot’s essay is hardly a “screed,” but a light-hearted, yet candid self examination. He is not yet so far gone, he writes: “I have not been corrupted…. But who knows what will happen with time?”

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Hear 48 Hours of Lectures by Joseph Campbell on Comparative Mythology and the Hero’s Journey

What does it mean to “grow up”? Every culture has its way of defining adulthood, whether it’s surviving an initiation ritual or filing your first tax return. I’m only being a little facetious—people in the U.S. have long felt dissatisfaction with the ways we are ushered into adulthood, from learning how to fill out IRS forms to learning how to fill out student loan and credit card applications, our culture wants us to understand our place in the great machine. All other pressing life concerns are secondary.

It’s little wonder, then, that gurus and cultural father figures of all types have found ready audiences among America’s youth. Such figures have left lasting legacies for decades, and not all of them positive. But one public intellectual from the recent past is still seen as a wise old master whose far-reaching influence remains with us and will for the foreseeable future. Joseph Campbell’s obsessive, erudite books and lectures on world mythologies and traditions have made certain that ancient adulthood rituals have entered our narrative DNA.




When Campbell was awarded the National Arts Club Gold Medal in Literature in 1985, psychologist James Hillman stated that “no one in our century—not Freud, not Thomas Mann, not Levi-Strauss—has so brought the mythical sense of the world and its eternal figures back into our everyday consciousness.” Whatever examples Hillman may have had in mind, we might rest our case on the fact that without Campbell there would likely be no Star Wars. For all its success as a megamarketing phenomenon, the sci-fi franchise has also produced enduringly relatable role models, examples of achieving independence and standing up to imperialists, even if they be your own family members in masks.

In the video interviews above from 1987, Campbell professes himself no more than an “underliner” who learned everything he knows from books. Like the contemporary comparative mythologist Mircea Eliade, Campbell did not conduct his own anthropological research—he acquired a vast amount of knowledge by studying the sacred texts, artifacts, and rituals of world cultures. This study gave him insight into stories and images that continue to shape our world and feature centrally in huge pop cultural productions like The Last Jedi and Black Panther.

Campbell describes ritual entries into adulthood that viewers of these films will instantly recognize: Defeating idols in masks and taking on their power; burial enactments that kill the “infantile ego” (academics, he says with a straight face, sometimes never leave this stage). These kinds of edge experiences are at the very heart of the classic hero’s journey, an archetype Campbell wrote about in his bestselling The Hero with a Thousand Faces and popularized on PBS in The Power of Myth, a series of conversations with Bill Moyers.

In the many lectures just above—48 hours of audio in which Campbell expounds his theories of the mythological—the engaging, accessible writer and teacher lays out the patterns and symbols of mythologies worldwide, with special focus on the hero’s journey, as important to his project as dying and rising god myths to James Frazer's The Golden Bough, the inspiration for so many modernist writers. Campbell himself is more apt to reference James Joyce, Carl Jung, Pablo Picasso, or Richard Wagner than science fiction, fantasy, or comic books (though he did break down Star Wars in his Moyers interviews). Nonetheless, we have him to thank for inspiring the likes of George Lucas and becoming a “patron saint of superheroes” and space operas.

We will find some of Campbell’s methods flawed and terminology outdated (no one uses “Orient” and “Occident” anymore)—and modern heroes can just as well be women as men, passing through the same kinds of symbolic trials in their origin stories. But Campbell’s ideas are as resonant as ever, offering to the wider culture a coherent means of understanding the archetypal stages of coming of age. As Hollywood executive Christopher Vogler said in 1985, after recommending The Hero with a Thousand Faces as a guide for screenwriters, Campbell’s work “can be used to tell the simplest comic story or the most sophisticated drama”—a sweeping vision of human cultural history and its meaning for our individual journeys.

You can access the 48 hours of Joseph Campbell lectures above, or directly on Spotify.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Feel Strangely Nostalgic as You Hear Classic Songs Reworked to Sound as If They’re Playing in an Empty Shopping Mall: David Bowie, Toto, Ah-ha & More

"…if he went away, as he had once upon a time, other voices, other rooms, voices lost and clouded, strummed his dreams." - Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms

Is there a word for the emotional floodtide that wells up when a song from the past catches us alone and unawares?

The sensation is too private to be written off as mere nostalgia.

Whatever chemical phenomenon explains it, “Cecil Robert,” a 20-year-old from Kaukauna, Wisconsin, has tapped into it in a big way, by messing with the frequencies of pop songs from the 70s, 80s and 90s, until they sound like something playing on the neighbor’s side of the wall, or the echo chamber of an empty shopping mall.

The New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino wrote that his faraway remix of Toto’s early 80s soft rock hit, "Africa," above, sounded like “longing and consolation together, extended into emptiness, a shot of warmth coming out of a void.”




Funny. That pretty much sums up how I feel listening to Cecil Robert’s take on Nena's "99 Luftballons"

It was released in 1983, the year that I graduated high school and in which "Africa"—which I confess leaves me cold—hit Number One on Billboard’s Hot 100 list.

Were it a matter of sheer generational nostalgia, Tolentino (one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 for 2017) should be laid flat by Mac DeMarco’s "My Kind of Woman" “playing slowly from another room.”

And I’d be getting all gooey over "Africa."

It doesn’t work that way.

But it definitely works, as evidenced by the plethora of comments that greet every new Cecil Robert upload:

This is what plays when I’m crying in a bathroom of a party and my crush comes in and comforts me…

This is the song you listen to during the aftermath of a party while everyone is passed out and someone left the music playing...

This really evokes the feeling of slowly bleeding out alone on the kitchen floor & all your senses slowly blurring together under the glare of the fluorescent light overhead set to the tune of the muffled music coming from the record player in the next room…

Such a deep connection begs that requests be taken, and Cecil Roberts does his best to oblige, prioritizing those who make a modest donation on his Patreon page:

I need "Hotel California" playing at an airport restaurant bar late at night…

I need U2—"Beautiful Day"  playing in a diner while it’s raining in the afternoon…

I need "Coming of Age" by Foster the People being played in a diner while I eat a hotdog and wait for my car to get out of the shop across the street...

(For the record, Tolentino asked for an another-room edit of Jai Paul’s dreamy 2011 electro-soul hit "BTSTU.")

Some of Cecil Robert's source material—Julee Cruise’s Twin Peaks theme, "Falling," for instance—is so ethereal that placing it at the other end of the sonic telescope almost feels like overkill.

On the other hand, it could add a welcome layer for fans subconsciously pining for that lost sense of anticipation—for early 90s girls in 50s saddle shoes and pencil skirts, for episodes doled out one week at a time…

Get in a weird mood on Cecil Robert’s YouTube channel.

Fast track a request for $2 on his Patreon page.

Listen to his original ambient compositions on Soundcloud.

via The New Yorker

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC this Tuesday, March 20 for the second installment of Necromancers of the Public Domain at The Tank. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

How Much Money Do You Need to Be Happy? A New Study Gives Us Some Exact Figures

“If I gave you a million dollars, would you…?” (insert possibly life-altering risk, humiliation, or soul-selling crime here). What about ten million? 100 million? One BILLION dollars? Put another way, in the terms social scientists use these days, how much money is enough to make you happy?

If you’re Montgomery Burns, it’s at least a billion dollars, lest you be forced to suffer the torments of the Millionaire’s Camp. (“Just kill me now!”) As it tends to do, The Simpsons’ dark humor nails the insatiable greed that seems the scourge of our time, when the richest 1 percent take 82 percent of the world’s wealth, and the poorest 50 percent get nothing at all.




Hypothetical windfalls aside, the question of how much is enough is an urgent one for many people: as in, how much to feed a family, supply life’s necessities, purchase just enough leisure for some small degree of personal fulfilment?

As the misery of Monty Burns demonstrates, we have a sense of the 1% as eternally unfulfilled. He’s the wicked heir to more serious tragic figures like Charles Foster Kane and Jay Gatsby. But satire is one thing, and desire, that linchpin of the economy, is another.

“What we see on TV and what advertisers tell us we need would indicate there is no ceiling when it comes to how much money is needed for happiness,” says Purdue University psychologist Andrew T. Jebb, “but we now see there are some thresholds.” In short: money is a good thing, but there is such a thing as too much of it.

Jebb and his colleagues from Purdue and the University of Virginia addressed questions in their study “Happiness, income satiation and turning points around the world” like, “Does happiness rise indefinitely with income, or is there a point at which higher incomes no longer lead to greater wellbeing?” What they found in data from an international Gallup World Poll survey of over 1.7 million people in 164 countries varies widely across the world.

People in wealthier areas seem to require more income for happiness (or “Subjective Well Being” in the social science terminology). In many parts of the world, higher incomes, “beyond satiation”—a metric that measures how much is enough—“are associated with lower life evaluations.” The authors also note that "a recent study at the country level found a slight but significant decline in life evaluation" among very high earners "in the richest countries."

You can see the wide variance in happiness worldwide in the “Happiness” study. As Dan Kopf notes at Quartz, these research findings are consistent with those of other researchers of happiness and income, though they go into much more detail. Problems with the methodology of these studies—primarily their reliance on self-reported data—make them vulnerable to several critiques.

But, assuming they demonstrate real quantities, what, on average, do they tell us? “We found that the ideal income point," averaged out in U.S. dollars, "is $95,000 for [overall life satisfaction],” says Jebb, “and $60,000 to $75,000 for emotional well-being,” a measure of day-to-day happiness. These are, mind you, individual incomes and “would likely be higher for families,” he says.

Peter Dockrill at Science Alert summarizes some other interesting findings: “Globally, it’s cheaper for men to be satisfied with their lives ($90,000) than women ($100,000), and for people of low ($70,000) or moderate education ($85,000) than people with higher education ($115,000).”

Yes, the study, like those before it, shows that after the “satiation point,” happiness decreases, though perhaps not to Monty Burns levels of dissatisfaction. But where does this leave most of us in the new Gilded Age? Given that "satiation" in the U.S. is around $105K, with day-to-day happiness around $85K, the majority of Americans fall well below the happiness line. The median salary for U.S. workers at the end of 2017 was $44, 564, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Managers and professionals averaged $64,220 and service workers around $28,000. (As you might imagine, income inequality diverged sharply along racial lines.)

And while the middle class saw a slight bump in income in the last couple years, median household income was still only $59,039 in 2016. However, we measure it the "middle class... has been declining for four decades,” admits Business Insider—“identifying with the middle class is, in part, a state of mind” rather than a state of debt-to-income ratios. (One study shows that Millennials make 20% less than Baby Boomers did at the same age.) Meanwhile, as wealth increases at the top, “the country’s bottom 20% of earners became worse off.”

This may all sound like bad news for the happiness quotient of the majority, if happiness (or Subjective Well Being) requires a certain amount of material security. Maybe one positive takeaway is that it doesn’t require nearly the amount of vast private wealth that has accumulated in the hands of a very few people. According to this research, significantly redistributing that wealth might actually make the wealthy a little happier, and less Mr. Burns-like, even as it raised happiness standards a great deal for millions of others.

Not only are higher incomes "usually accompanied by higher demands," as Jebb and his colleagues conclude—on one's time, and perhaps on one's conscience—but "additional factors" may also play a role in decreasing happiness as incomes rise, including "an increase in materialistic values, additional material aspirations that may go unfulfilled, increased social comparisons," etc. The longstanding truism about money not buying love—or fulfillment, meaning, peace of mind, what-have-you—may well just be true.

You can dig further into Andrew T. Jebb's study here: “Happiness, income satiation and turning points around the world.”

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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