Friday, July 9, 2010

Pascal on Our Addiction to Distraction

I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.  - Pascal

  I found this article over at Justin Taylor's blog Between Two Worlds . Very interesting in light of this facebook, twitter, youtube, world we live in; and why we love it.

The issues of multi-tasking, internet skimming, social-media addiction, etc. is only going to become more acute. So it’s helpful to remember that, on a certain level, there is nothing new under the sun. I thought it might be helpful to repost a couple of blog entries on distraction and the heart—written hundreds of years before the Age of ADD.

Pascal, to my mind, has written the most profound reflections on God, man, and “diversion.” I’d recommend getting Peter Kreeft’s edition, Christianity for Modern Pagans, Pascal’s Pensees Edited, Outlined, and Explained, where the relevant thoughts are all gathered in one section (pp. 167-187). Kreeft writes that when he teaches this material, his “students are always stunned and shamed to silence as Pascal shows them in these pensees their own lives in all their shallowness, cowardice and dishonesty.”

Here is one line from Pascal (from #136) that it worthy of a lot of meditation::
I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.
Kreeft’s restatements and commentary are also worth reading. For example, here is an excerpt from pp. 167-169:

We ought to have much more time, more leisure, than our ancestors did, because technology, which is the most obvious and radical difference between their lives and ours, is essentially a series of time-saving devices.

In ancient societies, if you were rich you had slaves to do the menial work so that you could be freed to enjoy your leisure time. Life was like a vacation for the rich because the poor slaves were their machines. . . .

[But] now that everyone has slave-substitutes (machines), why doesn’t everyone enjoy the leisurely, vacationy lifestyle of the ancient rich? Why have we killed time instead of saving it? . . .

Read the rest here.
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