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Archaic Revival

We tend to think of mental illness as a universal experience, having read of the tortured artists of European history or the insanities of rulers throughout the last few thousand years, but many scholars have noted that mental illness, particularly depression seems to be a problem of ‘civilisation’. Anthropologists report a very low incidence of depression and mental illness amongst traditional hunter-gatherer communities. Furthermore, some interesting studies that tracked hunter-gatherer communities in Uganda as they shifted to agricultural practices, showed that the rate of suicide increased by three times within a decade. In fact, many studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between modernisation and rates of depression. I find it interesting that as we are sold more and more ways to make life easier, less arduous, and more entertaining, we seem to be creating less and less happy populations. There are many different explanations as to why this occurs but it seems to me that there’s a multitude of factors that all come under the banner of civilised modernity. Inactive lives, processed food, lack of sunlight, lack of community, loneliness, specialised impractical skills, detachment from nature, inequality, increased competition with peers, isolation. To me, it seems fairly obvious that the physical security and technological advancement that we’ve gained via modernity leave us completely short-changed when considering the fundamentals of human experience that we’ve lost. Philosopher Terrence McKenna recognised this in the 90s and although he was enthusiastic about our rapid progress in science and technology, he also saw the gaps in human experience that have developed as a result of the spread of ‘civilisation’. That’s why he argued for an ‘archaic revival’ a process of remembering the fundamentals necessary for a fulfilling life: community, ritual, leisure, rewarding work, equality, freedom, psychedelics and self-reliance just to name a few. Not to reject our advancements but to re-integrate human happiness back into our modern lives. That’s why on this piece I have incorporated the woodland scene with the moon, fire and surrounding forest on the back. These experiences are ones that have brought our ancestors comfort for hundreds of thousands of years and continue to provoke the same feeling of comfort and security in our primal brains.


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