Jan 07 / Simcha

The Joy of Quiet

Artwork: Vivienne Flesher, NYTimes, 1.1.12

The average American spends at least eight and a half hours a day in front of a screen of one sort or another. The average American teenager sends or receives 75 text messages a day.  Many of us are finding ourselves controlled by the many time-saving devices that have also considerably expanded our lives.

In a recent article in the New York Times (The Joy of Quiet, 1.1.2012), author Pico Iyar tells us he has yet to use a cellphone, has never Tweeted or entered Facebook, tries not to go online until his day’s writing is finished, and has moved from Manhattan to rural Japan in part to keep his sanity intact.  Nothing makes him feel better, calmer, clearer and happier, he writes, than being in one place, absorbed in a book, a conversation, a piece of music.

Iyer, the author, most recently, of The Man Within My Head, notes that the urgency of slowing down — to find the time and space to think — is nothing new.  “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.

So what to do? How do we stay in touch with the world without losing personal, emotional clarity?  How do we continue to make use of those devices and machines that unquestionably make our lives quicker, longer and healthier, without losing touch with ourselves in the process?  How do we make time for that which is slow, quiet and self-reflective?  Is there a way we can “revive those ancient customs known as family meals and conversation”?

Possibly we can find answers to these questions on the internet.  More likely, however, the answers will be found within…. if we can find a moment to be alone with ourselves long enough to think.  We might also consider NOT clicking on any of the icons below and choosing instead to share this reflection with no one at all!