VIDEO FOR THE WEEK April 5 - 11, 2020
"In the prison of the gifted
I was friendly with the guards
So I never had to witness
What happens to the heart"
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Pico Iyer
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“Going nowhere … isn’t about turning your back on the world; it’s about stepping away now and then so that you can see the world more clearly and love it more deeply.”

“Nothing touches it,” Cohen said, as the light came into the cabin, of sitting still. Then he remembered himself, perhaps, and gave me a crinkly, crooked smile. “Except if you’re courtin’,” he added.


“If you’re young, the hormonal thrust has its own excitement.” Going nowhere, as Cohen described it, was the grand adventure that makes sense of everywhere else.


Sitting still as a way of falling in love with the world and everything in it; I’d seldom thought of it like that. Going nowhere as a way of cutting through the noise and finding fresh time and energy to share with others; I’d sometimes moved toward the idea, but it had never come home to me so powerfully as in the example of this man who seemed to have everything, yet found his happiness, his freedom, in giving everything up.


Late one night, as my gracious host tried to instruct me in the proper way of sitting in the lotus position—rigorous but relaxed—I couldn’t find the words to tell him that I’d never been tempted to meditate. As one who’d been crossing continents alone since the age of nine, I’d always found my delight in movement; I’d even become a travel writer so that my business and my pleasure could become one.


Yet, as Cohen talked about the art of sitting still (in other words, clearing the head and stilling the emotions)—and as I observed the sense of attention, kindness, and even delight that seemed to arise out of his life of going nowhere—I began to think about how liberating it might be for any of us to give it a try. One could start just by taking a few minutes out of every day to sit quietly and do nothing, letting what moves one rise to the surface. One could take a few days out of every season to go on retreat or enjoy a long walk in the wilderness, recalling what lies deeper than the moment or the self. One could even, as Cohen was doing, try to find a life in which stage sets and performances disappear and one is reminded, at a level deeper than all words, how making a living and making a life sometimes point in opposite directions.


The idea has been around as long as humans have been, of course; the poets of East Asia, the philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome, regularly made stillness the center of their lives. But has the need for being in one place ever been as vital as it is right now? After a thirty-year study of time diaries, two sociologists found that Americans were actually working fewer hours than we did in the 1960s, but we feel as if we’re working more. We have the sense, too often, of running at top speed and never being able to catch up.


With machines coming to seem part of our nervous systems, while increasing their speed every season, we’ve lost our Sundays, our weekends, our nights off—our holy days, as some would have it; our bosses, junk mailers, our parents can find us wherever we are, at any time of day or night. More and more of us feel like emergency-room physicians, permanently on call, required to heal ourselves but unable to find the prescription for all the clutter on our desk.

Iyer, Pico. The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere (TED Books) (pp. 5-6).

Simon & Schuster/ TED. Kindle Edition.