It is a grey, rain-lit new years day.
Pico Iyer’s piece in the New York Times this first 2012 morning –on the unrelenting stream of information with which we are bombarded—hits the mark, I think. He quotes Blaise Pascal, the 17th century French philosopher: “Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.” The average American, Iyer reports, receives 75 text messages a day, and the average office worker experiences no longer than three minutes at a stretch without interruption. Iyer concludes: “We have more and more ways to communicate, as Thoreau noted, but less and less to say. Partly because we’re so busy communicating.” Stillness and time for reflection have become the luxuries we crave. Jet-setting Iyer, who chooses to live in small Japanese village, advocates, to complement our obligatory involvement in the world, the purposeful creation of regular stretches in our lives when we are “out of radio contact.” He writes, “Nothing makes me feel better—calmer, clearer, 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 Stindl-Rast describes as ‘that kind of happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.’”
I will be distracting for one minute to let you know that Bethesda Magazine’s January-February 2012 issue contains my article, “The Spy Who Loved Me: With a father’s confession, the pieces of a mysterious childhood fall into place.” It offers a couple of snippets of my memoir, (due out January 10,) which, during its ten years of gestation, required long, absorbing, sometimes painful but always deeply happy stretches of shutting out the world. I wish everyone the luxury of such joy in 2012.
Originally published on Sunday, January 1st, 2012