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Exhaustion, a Status Symbol?

We've all said it—"I'm exhausted." But do we say it to make ourselves feel good? Hannah Rosefiled, writing for The New Republic, talks about Anna Katharina Schaffner's new book Exhaustion: A History. In it Schaffner "… shows how each era remakes the condition in its own image, reflecting its medical, technological and cultural developments, as well as its fears. Dangerous precisely because it keeps us from action, exhaustion has for centuries done double duty as a sign of weakness and a badge of honor."

Here are a few steps in history:

Galen - In Galen's writing, exhaustion occurs mainly as 'lethargy, torpor, weariness, sluggishness, and lack of energy,' all of which he regarded as symptoms of melancholia, produced by an excess of black bile.

Late Antiquity - [E]xhaustion was spiritualized rather than medicalized. Under the name of "acedia" (literally "non-caring"), exhaustion signified a lack of faith and an inability to feel and participate in the joy of God's creation.

Renaissance - In the Renaissance, melancholia was associated with the influence of Saturn.

But as Rosefield states, "Sometime in the eighteenth century, doctors and philosophers stopped blaming exhaustion on the weakness of the individual and started blaming it on changes in society. Ever since, exhaustion has been associated with the demands of modern life." But then she transitions to today and Rosefield says, "… exhaustion still hints at status, but of a different sort. To say that you're exhausted is to telegraph that you're important, in demand, and successful."

Possible Preaching Angle:

Exhaustion is almost an everyday occurrence for a lot of people, but there is a cure: Sabbath.


Hannah Rosefield, “How Exhaustion Became a Status Symbol,” The New Republic (7-25-16)

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