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The modern world is wonderful in many ways (dentistry is good, cars are reliable, we
can so easily keep in touch from Mexico with our grandmother in Scotland) – but it’s
also powerfully and tragically geared to causing a high background level of anxiety and widespread
low-level depression. There are six particular features of modernity that have this psychologically
disturbing effect. Each one has a potential cure, which we will only collectively put
into action when we know more about the disease in question. Here are the six: 1. Meritocracy:
Our societies tell us that everyone is free to make it if they have the talent and energy.
The down side of this ostensibly liberating and beautiful idea is that any perceived lack
of success is taken to be not, as in the past, an accident or misfortune, but a sure sign
of a lack of talent or laziness. If those at the top deserve all their success, then
those at the bottom must surely deserve all their failure. A society that thinks of itself
as meritocratic turns poverty from a problem to evidence of damnation and those who have
failed from unfortunates to losers. The cure is a strong, culturally endorsed belief in
two big ideas: luck, which says success doesn’t just depend on talent and effort; and tragedy,
which says good, decent people can fail and deserve compassion, rather than contempt.
2. Individualism: An individualistic society preaches that the individual and their achievements
are everything and that everyone is capable of a special destiny. It is not the community
that matters; the group is for no-hopers. To be ‘ordinary’ is regarded as a curse.
The result is that the very thing that most of us will end up being, statistically speaking,
is associated, with freakish failure. The cure is a cult of the good ordinary life – and
proper appreciation of the pleasures and quiet heroism of the everyday. 3. Secularism: secular
societies cease to believe in anything that is bigger than or beyond themselves. Religions
used to perform the useful service of keeping our petty ways and status battles in perspective.
But now there is nothing to awe or relativise humans, whose triumphs and mishaps end up
feeling like the be all and end all. A cure would involve regularly using sources of transcendence
to generate a benign, relativising perspective on our personal sorrows: music, the stars
at night, the vast spaces of the desert or the ocean would humble us all in consoling
ways. 4. Romanticism: The philosophy of Romanticism tells us that each of us has one very special
person out there who can make us completely happy. Yet mostly we have to settle for moderately
bearable relationships with someone who is very nice in a few ways and pretty difficult
in many others. It feels like a disaster – in comparison with our original huge hopes. The
cure is to realise that we didn’t go wrong: we were just encouraged to believe in a very
improbable dream. Instead we should build up our ambitions around friendship and non-sexual
love. 5. The Media: The media has immense prestige and a huge place in our lives – but
routinely directs our attention to things that scare, worry, panic and enrage us, while
denying us agency or any chance for effective personal action. It typically attends to the
least admirable sides of human nature, without a balancing exposure to normal good intentions,
responsibility and decency. At its worst, it edges us towards mob justice. The cure
would be news that concentrated on presenting solutions rather than generating outrage,
that was alive to systemic problems rather than gleefully emphasizing scapegoat and
emblematic monsters – and that would regularly remind us that the news we most need to focus
on comes from our own lives and direct experiences. 6. Perfectibility: Modern societies stress
that it is within our remit to be profoundly content, sane and accomplished. As a result,
we end up loathing ourselves, feeling weak and sensing we’ve wasted our lives. A cure
would be a culture that endlessly promotes the idea that perfection is not within our
grasp – that being mentally slightly (and at points very) unwell is an inescapable part
of the human condition and that what we need above all are good friends with whom we can
sit and honestly discuss our real fears and vulnerabilities. The forces of psychological
distress in our world are – currently – much wealthier and more active than the needed
cures. We deserve tender pity for the price we have to pay for being born in modern times.
But more hopefully, cures are now open to us individually and collectively if only we
recognise, with sufficient clarity, the sources of our true anxieties and sorrows.
Did you know that the school of life is a real place? With classes, events and a shop. Visit our website to learn more.



現代社會讓我們的心靈生病 (How the Modern World Makes Us Mentally Ill)

13824 分類 收藏
Evangeline 發佈於 2018 年 9 月 7 日    JR.KaTo 翻譯    Evangeline 審核



ostensibly 為「表面上」的意思,作副詞用,常用於形容表面上看起來是某樣東西,但實則不是。
This ostensibly liberal statement is, in fact, to cover up the true ugly aim of the government.

【TEDx】新觀點:TED TALK 出了什麼問題?(New Perspectives - What's Wrong with TED Talks? Benjamin Bratton at TEDxSanDiego 2013 - Re:Think)

meritocratic 是「菁英的;菁英領導的」之意,作形容詞用。
Education is important in meritocratic America.

另外,meritocracy 則是「菁英領導體制;任人唯賢」或是「英才教育 (制度)」之意,可當成 meritocratic 之名詞用法。
This country's merotocracy is corroded by wealth desparities.

cult 為「膜拜;狂熱」的意思,作名詞用。
It was clear that a cult began to form after her amazing debut performance.

【TED】艾倫‧狄波頓:一種更寬容、更溫和的成功哲學 (A kinder, gentler philosophy of success | Alain de Botton)

secular 為「現世的;世俗的」的意思,作形容詞用。
We all live in a more and more secular society, in which religion has a lot less influence on our daily lives.

另外,與 secular 意思完全相反的字是 sacred。
sacred 的意思是「宗教的;神聖的」,作形容詞用。與宗教相關,「莊重的」之意。
The Bible is the sacred book of Christianity.

His bedroom is absolutely sacred to him.

scapegoat 是「替人頂罪者;代罪羔羊」的意思,作名詞用。
The leader was made a scapegoat for the team's failure.

【TED】Rives:凌晨四點鐘博物館 (Rives: The Museum of Four in the Morning)


文 / Priscilla Huang




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