Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner


Originally posted on April 13, 2014

Here’s a term I just coined for vivifying what’s going on, highlighting it in a somewhat dramatic fashion. There is a spectrum of liveliness that one can bring to an experience. Drama does this, but, alas, the word “drama” tends to imply over-dramatization. Ideally, we should be aware that we can bring more or less drama to any situation through a variety of channels. One is to note the implications, ranging from tragedy to hope and comedy—the pessimist-optimist axis. Another is to bring a sense of intensity to the situation—big deal to matter-of-fact. One can imbue an incident with a sense that the “beyond” (e.g., God, angels, Jesus, the devil) has a varying degree of influence, or in contrast, blind chance, that’s just the way the ball bounces. One can imbue an incident with egocentricity, why it happened to “me,” or recognize that things are happening and nothing personal is going on.

To some degree, vivification is a positive process, lending the illusion of significance and intensity to life. Too much and one makes too much of the situation. Too little and it becomes dry. A degree of emotion highlights things, anchors them into consciousness, lends weight to the event, makes life vivid. (Hence the word: “vivification.”)

Cocaine tends to artificially imbue experience with a degree of vivification, but the downside of cocaine is that it’s severely addicting. Mind-junk-food, in the form of television, games, sex, power, violence, fear, and the like are other equivalents of boosting the feel-good neuro-transmitter. Various drugs do this, such as cocaine, or opium (into heroin—a concentrated form of morphine—, whiskey (a concentrated form of alcohol, distilled), and so forth. Of late we have become aware of the power of concentration: In foods it yields greater intensity, yielding short-term pleasure and long term deleterious health effects.

Recognizing that people seek pleasure and that a wide variety of activities can yield pleasure, a great deal of commerce has been developed to deliver more intense pleasure. This feeds innate tendencies towards addiction.


Enjoy yourself, and become more acutely aware that enjoyment is best in the long run when done moderately. For the first time in history, a number of sources of enjoyment have become available and for many, addictive. That media can hook one as readily as alcohol is still new. Sugar, salt, fat, and related tastes can similarly be intensified: Short term, more consumption, more purchasing, business doing well; long term, more obesity and illness.

Epicurianism is not about gluttony, but moderation, mixed with a recognition of pleasure. What occurred to me this morning is that an appeal to simple pleasure is valid.


We have the power to recognize that we can add or subtract drama from our lives. We can use drama to vivify events. We can read a story or an article with more than flatness. Our vocal intonations and phrases can communicate our interpretation, and we can learn to read expressively. Alas, few do; fewer write that way. I think part of this is due to people’s having outsourced vivification, allowed television sit-coms and other media to fill our hunger for significance.

Are we having fun yet? Should we be worried? Should we be indignant enough to change our votes or go out and vote? How can we live more vividly? Have a beer? Drive a car fast over a mountain road? Whatever appeals are built into commercials: Ah, that’s the life!

Becoming aware that we can take back the process of vivifying our lives, we can learn ways of relishing a moment, celebrating, being grateful, noticing, and so forth—these are components in the process of vivification. We can highlight these moments with drugs, but, interestingly, they tend to be forgotten. The point here is that naming the process, valuing it in moderation, we can take it back from external sources and become ourselves the locus of control, the one who makes our own heaven. (We can also learn to make our lives less hellish, but that’s another subject: Hint: all the work done in positive psychology and depth psychology.)

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