“The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is his inability to sit quietly in his own room.” – Blaise Pascal
When I was an undergraduate, the president of the university -loved- to reference Pascal. This particular one always stuck—and has dogged me most of my life.
I have no problem sitting in my room. I have no problem being physically quiet. But that’s not what Pascal meant. I have always fought the overwhelming urge to -be entertained-. It doesn’t even matter what form that entertainment takes. I can play a game, watch a show, listen to music, read a book, or scroll endlessly through Reddit, but if I’m not working, I want to be -enjoying-.
And that default mode of hedonistic consumption is dangerous. It robs us of the clarity that stillness provides. It prevents us from taking ear to our own thoughts and taking to account our place in the world. We don’t learn how to be ourselves if we never wrestle with who we are. And the world today is designed to make that all but impossible.
We sometimes, I think, fail to realize that the invention of the internet and the advent of the digital age is a Gutenberg Level Event. We’re living through a revolution as big, if not bigger, than the invention of movable type and widespread adoption of the printed word as the primary means of transmitting information. Let that sink in for a minute. Consider what that means, for you, your family, and society.
The carpet bombing of media, entertainment, information, and even education isn’t going to relent—short of an apocalyptic event. It’s up to each of us to decide how we want to engage with it. But it -must- be a choice. Adopting a default, unthinking stance of consumption and entertainment is nothing short of mental and spiritual suicide.
And I think maybe we would be a little better off if we decided to spend a little more time quietly in our rooms. I know it would help me.