Kids Today

Feeding Your Inner Caligula

February 17, 2017

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The author wasn”€™t just having an off day such as we all have whenever we try to think. Here is what she wrote in the same journal just before Christmas last year:

There has been a lot of talk lately, at a national, local and personal level, about the importance of putting mental health front and centre. Therefore, as the Christmas season approaches, during this time of gift-giving, we have an opportunity to focus on what we can gift to ourselves, in order to impact in a positive way on our mental health.

And what is the gift we can give ourselves? “€œLiving life authentically, getting in tune with our true sense of how we wish to be in this world.”€ And what if what we really, truly, and authentically wish to be is Caligula? Well, “€œresearch”€ (before which we must all bow down and worship) shows that “€œwhen we are authentic…even if it sets up to be different from others, it still correlates with increased levels of joy and wellbeing.”€ Oh, happy, happy Caligula!

When reading this kind of saccharine psychological bilge, I feel rather (though not exactly) as I do after having eaten too many chocolate truffles at a sitting. Alternatively, one might call the thoughts of the author of the articles psychological kitsch. Kitsch is hard to define but easy to recognize: It is a kind of sentimental garishness approximating or imitating, but not attaining, art. These articles are conspicuously sentimental, written with something approximating or imitating, but not attaining, thought.

I asked a fishmonger what he thought of the idea of children sending themselves Valentine cards inscribed with what they loved about themselves.

“€œValentine’s Day is bad enough,”€ he said, “€œwithout bringing children into it.”€

Now, that’s what I call a genuine thought.

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