Pico Iyer wrote “The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere” and tells us he did it as “a way of falling in love with the world and everything in it.”
His decision to find and write this message followed his life spent as a travel writer, over several decades, arriving at a time in his life when the pleasures of slowing down and being in one place, especially if it is inside ourselves, was considered the real adventure.
As evidence of this conclusion he points out that today people are going faster and faster in search of contentment and meaning. He tells of a thirty-year study of time diaries where “two sociologists found that Americans were actually working fewer hours than we did in the 1960s, but they felt as if they were working more. He says we have the sense, too often, of running at top speed and never being able to catch up.”
Iyer adds that “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.”
Our educational institutions tend to tell us the point of life is to get somewhere, not to go nowhere. But nowhere can be just as, or even more interesting.
This conclusion sounds good, even though it does seem that if he hadn’t been traveling for all those years as a travel writer before he came to this conclusion, that it may ring a little truer. Years of travel suggest stillness but what about the "homebody" is stillness the best for them? Perhaps he redeems himself when he adds to his conclusions that “Too many of us see going nowhere as turning away from something rather than turning towards something” and “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.”
Iyler quotes Shakespeare who says, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” This isn’t a new truth that how we respond to our experiences is more influential in our lives that the experiences themselves.
Even though it is a short book, Iyler’s quote by William James, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another,” with two more words added, “slow down”, would have been enough.
“Be still Stillness reveals the secrets of eternity”
― Lao Tzu
“There is nothing to save, now all is lost,
but a tiny core of stillness in the heart
like the eye of a violet.”
― D.H. Lawrence
“The inner is foundation of the outer
The still is master of the restless
The Sage travels all day
yet never leaves his inner treasure”
― Lao Tzu