LIVING AS APPRENTICES
Saturday morning (at 6:30 AM!) I was listening to the TED Radio Hour on my favorite NPR station, Michigan radio, (very grateful that the station had paused the fall fund-raising drive for my two “can’t-miss” shows: this one and On the Media).
I was stopped short by the following statement: “It’s only by stopping movement that you can see where to go.” Since I had missed the name of the TED speaker, I went to the NPR website and made a wonderful new friend, Pico Iyer. According to his blog, Pico Iyer “was born in Oxford, England in 1957, to parents from India, and educated at Eton, Oxford and Harvard. Since 1986 he has been writing books and since 1992 he has been based in rural Japan with his longtime sweetheart, while spending part of each year in a Benedictine hermitage in California.” The following is an excerpt from his thoughtful essay entitled The Joy of Quiet, first published in The New York Times on Jan.1, 2012.
“The urgency of slowing down—to find the time and space to think–is nothing new, of course, and wiser souls have always reminded us that the more attention we pay to the moment, the less time and energy we have to place it in some larger context. “Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries,” Blaise Pascal wrote in the 17th century, “And yet it is, itself, the greatest of our miseries.” The same French philosopher famously remarked that all man’s problems come from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.
When telegraphs and trains began to suggest that convenience was more important than content, and that speedier means could make up for unimproved ends, Henry David Thoreau reminded us that “The man whose horse trots a mile in a minute does not carry the most important messages.” Even half a century ago, Marshall McLuhan, who came closer than most to seeing what was coming, warned, “When things come at you very fast, naturally you lose touch with yourself.” Thomas Merton struck a chord with millions, around the same time, by not just noting that “Man was made for the highest activity, which is in fact rest,” but acting on it, and stepping out of the rat race and into a Cistercian cloister.
Yet few of these voices can be heard these days, precisely because “breaking news” is coming through (perpetually) on CNN and Debbie is just posting images of her summer vacation and the phone is ringing. We barely have enough time to see how little time we have (most Web pages, researchers find, are visited for ten seconds or less). And the more that floods in on us (the Kardashians, Obamacare, Dancing with the Stars!), the less of ourselves we have to give to every snippet. All we notice is that the distinctions that used to guide and steady us—between Sunday and Monday, public and private, here and there—are gone.
We have more and more ways to communicate, as Thoreau noted, but less and less to say. Partly because we’re so busy communicating. And—as he might also have said—we’re rushing to meet so many deadlines that we hardly register that what we need most are lifelines.”
If this teaser of wonderful writing interests you, I encourage you to check out his blog at (http://picoiyerjourneys.com/index.php/about/ and click on Inner World.