In a letter dated July 10, 1844, to friend and fellow poet Thomas Holley Chivers, Poe gave one of his most often quoted, profound-sounding-yet-elusive comments. He wrote: "Man is now only more active — not more happy — nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago."
Some, who put little effort into it, read this as Poe's admission that he's not happy and is, perhaps, depressed. Such a juvenile interpretation strips the quote of its depth. The "active" nature of humanity Poe refers to refers to the changing cultural climate: the boom in industry, the sudden influx of writers and magazines, the movement from agrarian communities to urban centers, the growth of crime, etc. Does any of that stuff make mankind any happier or wiser?
Is it still true today? Our "activity" is now internet-driven. We make "friends" through Facebook, have "conversations" through e-mail, "meet" people through webcast conferences, and believe that any knowledge worth knowing is available for free on any given web page. Are we happier or wiser today?
Feel free to interpret in the comments.