Speculating about the possibility of a revival of collective joy, Barbara Ehrenreich asks, “Why not reclaim our distinctively human heritage as creatures who can generate their own ecstatic pleasures out of music, color, feasting, and dance?” Watching a samba school practicing for carnaval, she realizes why we need these expressions of collective feeling, and her answer makes me cry for joy: “to acknowledge the miracle of our simultaneous existence with some sort of celebration.”
We are the clue!
Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy

Barbara Ehrenreich’s history of “collective joy” brings what we call “human rites” (music, art, drum, dance, song, story, circle) into clear focus as the vital elements of ecstatic ritual activities practiced by indigenous people everywhere. She explores how these archaic rites went underground with the Greek mysteries, became suspect in Rome, suppressed over many centuries by institutionalized religion, and finally transformed into spectacle, replacing participation with the passivity of the consumer. She even mentions Burning Man as an alternative to spectatorship, where thousands gather annually “to create art, dance, paint, and costume themselves.” If you’re short on time, read the introduction and first chapter on the archaic roots of ecstasy, and then the final chapter on the possibility of revival. Know your human rites!

Dancing in the Streets