The Saturday Read – Pico Iyer ‘The Art of Stillness’

This weekend’s ‘Saturday Read’ encourages us to “live outside conventional ideas”, as designer Philippe Starck describes how he maintains his innovative perspective. “I live alone mostly, in the middle of nowhere.”  ‘The Art of Stillness, Adventures in Going Nowhere’ is author Pico Iyer’s continued exploration of ‘staying put’ that began with his 2011 article, ‘The Joy of Quiet’.

“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.”

In ‘Art of Stillness’, Iyer describes himself “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.”

He describes his book as “simply about how one person tries to take care of his loved ones, do his job, and hold on to some direction in a madly accelerating world.”

He tells the story of his visit to the Mt. Baldy Zen Center outside Los Angeles to interview singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. It’s the encounter and result that give the book it’s center. Leaving the retreat he reflects:

“…not many years ago, it was access to information and movement that seemed our greatest luxury; nowadays, it’s often freedom from information, the chance to sit still, that feels like the ultimate prize. Stillness is not just an indulgence for those with enough resources – it’s a necessity for anyone who wishes to gather less visible resources.”

He shares his journey in both written and photographic narrative. His images invite the reader to his ‘Nowhere’. Near the end of the book he shares his conclusion:

“It’s only by taking myself away from clutter and distraction that I can begin to hear something out of earshot and recall that listening is much more invigorating than giving voice to all the thoughts and prejudices that anyway keep me company twenty-four hours a day. And it’s only by going nowhere – by sitting still or letting my mind relax – that I find the thoughts that come to me unbidden are far fresher and more imaginative than the ones I consciously seek out.”

“Nowhere has to become somewhere we visit in the corner of our lives…”

Find a corner in your life and enjoy “The Art of Stillness”.

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