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Exuberance
Cover of Exuberance
Exuberance
The Passion for Life
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We have learned much about depression, but what about its opposite? Why hasn't the human emotion that lifts us, inspires us, drives us on, and makes life worth living been discussed-and celebrated? In this outstanding book, bestselling author Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison explores exuberance in all its unrestrained, joyful energy, and shows how its unique vitality is essential to our existence. Jamison points to the contagiousness of laughter, excitement, and positive feelings, and how it plays a role in choosing a mate, in the giddiness of new love, music, and religious ecstasy. She also discusses our dangerous desire to simulate exuberance by using drugs or alcohol. Most of all, Jamison points to some of our most famous artists and scientists to show how they all share an exuberance for life that inspires their discoveries, drives, and the force to persevere even when it seems the odds are against them.
We have learned much about depression, but what about its opposite? Why hasn't the human emotion that lifts us, inspires us, drives us on, and makes life worth living been discussed-and celebrated? In this outstanding book, bestselling author Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison explores exuberance in all its unrestrained, joyful energy, and shows how its unique vitality is essential to our existence. Jamison points to the contagiousness of laughter, excitement, and positive feelings, and how it plays a role in choosing a mate, in the giddiness of new love, music, and religious ecstasy. She also discusses our dangerous desire to simulate exuberance by using drugs or alcohol. Most of all, Jamison points to some of our most famous artists and scientists to show how they all share an exuberance for life that inspires their discoveries, drives, and the force to persevere even when it seems the odds are against them.
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    Chapter One

    "Incapable of Being Indifferent"

    It is a curious request to make of God. Shield your joyous ones, asks the Anglican prayer: Shield your joyous ones. God more usually is asked to watch over those who are ill or in despair, as indeed the rest of the prayer makes clear. "Watch now those who weep this day," it goes. "Rest your weary ones; soothe your suffering ones." The joyous tend to be left to their own devices, the exuberant even more so.

    Perhaps this is just as well. Those inclined toward exuberance have enjoyed the benign neglect of my field. Psychologists, for reasons of clinical necessity or vagaries of temperament, have chosen to dissect and catalogue the morbid emotions-depression, anger, anxiety-and to leave largely unexamined the more vital, positive ones. Not unlike God, if only in this one regard, my colleagues and I have tended more to those in the darkness than to those in the light. We have given sorrow many words, but a passion for life few.

    Yet it is the infectious energies of exuberance that proclaim and disperse much of what is marvelous in life. Exuberance carries us places we would not otherwise go-across the savannah, to the moon, into the imagination-and if we ourselves are not so exuberant we will, caught up in the contagious joy of those who are,

    be inclined collectively to go yonder. By its pleasures, exuberance lures us from our common places and quieter moods; and-after the victory, the harvest, the discovery of a new idea or an unfamiliar place-it gives ascendant reason to venture forth all over again. Delight is its own reward, adventure its own pleasure.

    Exuberance is an abounding, ebullient, effervescent emotion. It is kinetic and unrestrained, joyful, irrepressible. It is not happiness, although they share a border. It is instead, at its core, a more restless, billowing state. Certainly it is no lulling sense of contentment: exuberance leaps, bubbles, and overflows, propels its energy through troop and tribe. It spreads upward and outward, like pollen toted by dancing bees, and in this carrying ideas are moved and actions taken. Yet exuberance and joy are fragile matter. Bubbles burst; a wince of disapproval can cut dead a whistle or abort a cartwheel. The exuberant move above the horizon, exposed and vulnerable.

    Exuberance keeps occasional company with grief, though grief may command the greater mention. Blake's belief that "Under every grief & pine/Runs a joy with silken twine" is a received theme in folklore. Our greatest joys and sorrows ripen on the same vine, says the American proverb. Danger and delight grow on one stalk, maintains the English one. Intense emotions inhabit a correspondent territory: joy may be our wings and sorrow our spurs, but the boundaries between the moods are open. Wings and high moods are shivery things; the joyous do indeed need shielding.

    Exuberance is a vital emotion; it demands not only defense but exposure, for despair far more than joy has found sympathy with poets and scholars. Joy lacks the gravitas that suffering so effortlessly commands. Joy without reflection is evanescent; without counterweight, it has no weight at all. Or so one would think.

    Yet joy is essential to our existence. Exuberance, joy's more energetic relation, occupies an ancient region of our mammalian selves, and one to which we owe in no small measure our survival and triumphs. It is a material part of our pursuits-love, games, hunting and war, exploration-and it is a vibrant force to signal victory, proclaim a time to quicken, to draw together, to exult, to celebrate. Exuberance is ancient, material, and profound. "The Greeks understood the...

About the Author-
  • Kay Redfield Jamison is the Dalio Family Professor in Mood Disorders and a professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, as well as an honorary professor of English at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. She is the author of the national bestsellers An Unquiet Mind, Night Falls Fast, and Touched with Fire, and is coauthor of the standard medical text on manic-depressive illness, Manic-Depressive Illness: Bipolar Disorders and Recurrent Depression. Dr. Jamison is a recipient of the Lewis Thomas Prize, the Rhoda and Barnard Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health from the National Academy of Medicine, and a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship.
    Bernadette Dunne has been narrating for Books on Tape since 1997. She has been twice nominated for The Audie Award and has won six Golden Earphones awards. She studied at the Royal National Theatre in London and The Studio Theatre in Washington, DC. She has appeared at The Kennedy Center, The Washington Shakespeare Company, and Woolly Mammoth in Washington, DC. As a playwright, her work has been produced in New York, Seattle, and Washington, DC. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine Professor of psychiatry and renowned expert on bipolar disorder Kay Redfield Jamison writes about exuberance, a little-studied and often overlooked but contagious emotion. Jamison approaches her overview with the premise that depression, the opposite end of the spectrum from exuberance, is given much more "air time," when exuberance, a more positive emotion, should warrant similar interest. Bernadette Dunne reads Jamison's work with authority, balanced with equal parts of compassion and enthusiasm. Dunne's zeal for the subject is apparent, mirroring Jamison's, whether reading about the microbe hunters of the past, FDR, or John Muir. Together, the two present a thought-provoking and absorbing look at a powerfully motivating mental force. H.L.S. (c) AudioFile 2005, Portland, Maine
  • The Washington Post Book World "[Jamison is] that rare writer who can offer a kind of unified field theory of science and art. . . . The origins and mystery of creativity have long been her holy grail, and she argues -- with her usual wit, ingenuity and panache -- that exuberance is one of its wellsprings."
  • San Francisco Chronicle "Fascinating reading. . . . On a subject that invites inflates prose, Jamison maintains a deft but not showy eloquence. . . . Trenchant and entertaining."
  • Los Angeles Times "Jamison brilliantly conjures up characters. . . . A book on exuberance ought to be a romp to read. The one is."
  • The Seattle Times "Jamison has a capacity for moving smoothly between tasty digressions, hard science and sweeping cultural analyses. . . . This reads like a book that was a long time in coming, written by one who came to appreciate the brightest sunlight only after becoming acquainted with the darkest nights."
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Exuberance
The Passion for Life
Kay Redfield Jamison
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