Fresh on the heels of the Information Age, quiet and solitude, an "ability sit quietly in a room alone" - Pascal's bar for a healthy mind - have emerged as the contemporary idyll. Hearing its incessant whistling, we now know, for instance, that information can be positively debilitating because far from freeing, choice can be a paradox. In an essay that I keep going back to, William Deresiewicz argues that it's particularly important, and particularly important in this day and age of mediated automata, for leaders to cultivate solitude in order to know their own minds. The always thoughtful On Being recently recently pointed out that its most popular blog posts feature the words "major news events" and "meditation," which makes intuitive sense to me. The one leads straight to the other.
The Joy of Quiet is trending:
In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them — often in order to make more time. The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug. Like teenagers, we appear to have gone from knowing nothing about the world to knowing too much all but overnight....
So what to do? The central paradox of the machines that have made our lives so much brighter, quicker, longer and healthier is that they cannot teach us how to make the best use of them; the information revolution came without an instruction manual. All the data in the world cannot teach us how to sift through data; images don’t show us how to process images. The only way to do justice to our onscreen lives is by summoning exactly the emotional and moral clarity that can’t be found on any screen.
If you've been here for a while, you know that I can relate. "Quiet" is not something that I fall into exhausted when all else fails, but a reserve that I go to continually for the energy that a majority of others find in the company of people. That's the basic introvert - extrovert distinction. So I'm not completely surprised that introversion - solitude - quiet - is trending now, having recently become cultural watchwords, if not something of a commodity. Susan Cain's "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking," for example, is pre-ordered on my Kindle. And as the linked piece from Pico Iyer underlines, organizations will now gladly take your money just to leave you alone, which, I have to admit came as something of a surprise. I'll do it for practically nothing.