Is a vague but persistent sense of dread just part of being 40-plus, or do teens and 20somethings feel it also? In 1967 the Troggs sang that “love is all around” but not today, baby. Today it’s dread, foreboding, negative anticipation — an uh-oh climate of “I don’t know what’s coming but nothing all that good, I fear…another bombing, another financial crisis, another mass slaughter by some wackjob, my Siamese cat will be run over…something.”
It’s not just the existential climate of 2013. You know Edvard Munch and Franz Kafka felt this. Kant, Rilke and Heidegger too. Cary Grant dealt with this throughout his entire life. It’s the weight of the world, man. But if you want to make it go away, all you have to do is pop a Tylenol. Seriously.
A 4.19 piece by Time‘s Maia Szalavitz acknowledges that Tylenol “isn’t the most obvious remedy for dread. Unlike, say, heroin or a stiff drink, it isn’t known to provide the emotional escape that fear of dying might require.” But a recent clinical study indicates that Tylenol seemed to make a difference among some Vancouver-residing subjects who were asked to contemplate death…”[it] somehow reduced anxious compensation.”
Daniel Randles, a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia, tells Szalavitz that the results of the limited study “don’t prove that Tylenol can treat existential despair.” But I am nonetheless now thinking about buying some Tylenol and seeing how I feel after a few days. All I know is that I sense the tingling presence and the threat of death, doom and financial ruin everywhere, and it might not be so bad to have some of that feeling medicated away.