Exuberance is an emotion that is much prized and celebrated but little studied. There are several reasons for lack of close attention to the nature of exuberance. Exuberance is difficult to define, much less capture. As author Kay Redfield Jamison points out, exuberance is as effervescent as the fizz in a glass of champagne. Another reason for the relative neglect of exuberance is that psychologists and psychiatrists have concentrated on the darker emotions such as sadness and grief that cause dysfunction, pain, and suffering. Yet, positive emotions, including exuberance, are essential components of human nature. In addition, the studying of exuberance can shed its own light on the darker emotional states.
Jamison looks at exuberance from many angles. She discusses the importance of exuberance in play and child development through the vehicle of characters in classical children's literature. She delves into research that bears on exuberance such as neurology and brain chemistry. She explores the role of exuberance in scientific discovery through successful and exuberant scientists. Outstanding teachers inspire students with their exuberant enthusiasm.
While these topics give the basic elements that Jamison covers, their enumeration does not do justice to the passionate character of this book that conveys so well the emotion that the author describes. Examples range across such diverse fields as literature, politics, and science. One consistent and telling feature of exuberance is its infectious, stimulating effect on others. Judged by that standard, readers of Exuberance: The Passion for Life not only will find ample food for thought, but also will discover themselves in a more joyous spirit from the uplifting experience of reading this sparkling book.