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Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Searching For Quiet

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Photo via Paper Sky

Novelist Pico Iyer wrote a fascinating piece in The New York Times‘ Sunday Review section this weekend, titled “The Joy of Quiet”. Noting how pervasively communications technology has engrossed our lives, he writes of a coming luxury of quiet.

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.

Searching for time away from being “connected”, friends of his, Iyer explained, “go on long walks every Sunday,” or forget their cellphones at home. Others “observe an ‘Internet sabbath’ every week, turning off their online connections” on the weekend. And speaking of his own quest for quiet and solitude, Iyer confides: “I’ve yet to use a cellphone and I’ve never Tweeted or entered Facebook. I try not to go online till my day’s writing is finished, and I moved from Manhattan to rural Japan in part so I could more easily survive for long stretches entirely on foot, and every trip to the movies would be an event.” Read the entire piece here.

Pico Iyer’s new book—on hauntedness, fathers and Graham Greene—is The Man Within My Head. Liesl Schillinger reviews it in The New York Times Sunday Book Review. The book demonstrates, she writes, “there’s fellowship to be found in the community of eloquent strangers, an eternal literary companionship.”

Hear more from Pico Iyer on February 9 at 92nd Street Y, when he appears at Unterberg Poetry Center with Rececca Solnit.

We’re curious, how do you find quiet and solitude in our wired life? Let us know in the comments.

Next up at 92Y Poetry: Words & Music: The Cornet Rilke with Wolfgang Holzmair, baritone / speaker and Shai Wosner, piano, on January 23. That’s followed by Péter Nádas on January 26.

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