January 2, 2012

Slow Down

Man in Striped Shirt at the Piano, 1954
Photograph by Roy DeCarava

Excerpts from The Joy of Quiet by Pico Iyer, published December 29, 2011 in The New York Times Sunday Review:

A few months later, I read an interview with the perennially cutting-edge designer Philippe Starck. What allowed him to remain so consistently ahead of the curve? "I never read any magazines or watch TV," he said, perhaps a little hyperbolically. "Nor do I go to cocktail parties, dinners or anything like that." He lived outside conventional ideas, he implied, because "I live alone mostly, in the middle of nowhere."

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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," the French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in the 17th century, "and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries." He also famously remarked that all of man's problems come from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

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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.

. . . . . . . . 

None of this is a matter of principle or asceticism; it's just pure selfishness. Nothing makes me feel better - calmer, clearer and happier - than being in one place, absorbed in a book, a conversation, a piece of music. It's actually something deeper than mere happiness: it's joy, which the monk David Steindl-Rast describes as "that kind of happiness that doesn't depend on what happens."

1 comment:

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