Now there’s a paradox.
Many of us living in industrialized Western nations enjoy the highest standard of living any humans have ever known.
Yet rather than making us happy, it makes us feel alienated and depressed.
Yuval Noah Harari explores this and many other subjects in his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind.
He explores the alienation, depression, and pressure many modern sapiens feel as originating, at least in part, from the mismatch between our pre-agricultural brains and post-agricultural lifestyle:
For nearly the entire history of our species, Sapiens lived as foragers. The past 200 years, during which ever increasing numbers of Sapiens have obtained their daily bread as urban labourers and office workers, and the preceding 10,000 years, during which most Sapiens lived as farmers and herders, are the blink of an eye compared to the tens of thousands of years during which our ancestors hunted and gathered.
Harari argues that, although our daily lives have changed dramatically, the evolution of our brains and minds has not kept pace. According to research, many of our present-day social and psychological characteristics were forged during our long hunter-gatherer history:
The flourishing field of evolutionary psychology argues that many of our present-day social and psychological characteristics were shaped during this long pre-agricultural era. Even today, scholars in this field claim, our brains and minds are adapted to a life of hunting and gathering. Our eating habits, our conflicts and our sexuality are all the result of the way our hunter-gatherer minds interact with our current post-industrial environment, with its mega-cities, aeroplanes, telephones and computers. This environment gives us more material resources and longer lives than those enjoyed by any previous generation, but it often makes us feel alienated, depressed and pressured.
There may be no simple fix for this dilemma. And even assuming this were possible, who would want to forgo the comforts of modern life for a return to the life of our earliest ancestors?
For now perhaps the closest we can get is a periodic return to nature. As summer draws to a close, make some time to spend outdoors.