The philosopher Pascal said “All human evil comes from a single cause, man’s inability to sit still in a room“. If this was true in the 1600’s when Pascal was alive then how much more true is it today? It’s hard for me to think of the last time I was sitting and purely pondering. Perhaps at the temple or on vacation (particularly in Hawaii…Contemplation by the beach is the best!) but it is hard to think of examples from my day-to-day life?
As I work from home the temptation to answer emails, return phone calls and update spreadsheets at all hours of the day is strong. There are always a multitude of projects that are left undone. In fact, last Thursday I stayed up until 2 am and woke up at 6 am the next morning to finish a filing project which needed to be done to assist with sales tax filing. Part of this was my own fault because I had put it off in favor of other more pressing assignments. I am working to simplify my work life but it can still be very invasive of my time. There is no 5 pm cut-off with my job- both its greatest asset and challenge. Fortunately I finished the filing project on time and commented to my boss how gratifying turning it in was. Despite my long hours I feel like I’m always presenting projects that are ‘almost done’ or ‘nearly completed’. Luckily my bosses (including my Dad!) are amazingly understanding. In truth, almost all the work-related pressure I feel is self-imposed. As part of my treatment of PCOS I am learning how to manage stress and anxiety better but its a process!
Anyway, all I’m saying is it is easy to take up free time with work….
Moving on. As everyone who reads this blog knows my health has been a near-obsession over the last year. This requires hours of my time in exercising, weight training, reading up on PCOS, studying diets, visiting doctors etc. People that think major weight loss can be done easily or by only a slight increase in effort are crazy. Today I was at the gym for nearly 2 hours. It is a huge time commitment. Thankfully I have a job that is flexible and can move around all of these various responsibilities; however, when given a free hour I usually feel like I should be working out or studying up on my condition.
Then there is church. There is the temple to go to (which I did last Saturday. So wonderful). Visiting teaching to do, scriptures to read, lessons to plan, activities to attend and more. My ward is new and I sincerely love it. If I could I would attend every activity and get to know every member. I just wish there was more time.
Finally there are friendships to cultivate, books to read, entertainment to view, music lessons to practice (today was master class. I did Gravity by Sara Bareiles and I think it went pretty well.), journals/blogs to write, loved one’s to call, and a semblance of a social life to keep in order. (not to mention dating someone but who has the time? the list could go on and on)
I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining because I’m not. All of these things are huge blessings that I am deeply and eternally grateful for. I’m just saying that I don’t have time to contemplate or meditate without feeling like I should be doing other things.
What do you guy’s do to find time for deep thought? Surely I’m not the only person with such a fast-paced life? Maybe part of being an adult is not having time for such things? It’s kind of sad because when I was in college I LOVED my philosophy courses. They made me feel alive in thought. They taught me how to analyze the world and human behavior in new ways. It’s hard to overstate their value to me. Even now, nearly 10 years later, I still remember individual lectures in Ancient Political Theory (poli sci 201 with Dr. Holland), Modern Political Theory (poli sci 202 with Dr. Bohn), Theories on Human Freedom (with Dr. Bohn), Political Economy of Women (with Dr. Hudson and Dr. Bowen), and Religion and Philosophy (with Dr. Hancock) (to name a few). I also loved my classes on Chinese Politics (Dr. Heyer) and Japanese Politics (Dr. Christensen). I sometimes wish I could take classes like these again and be inspired with the wonder of the world…Although I probably wouldn’t find them nearly as impactful today. I try to learn on my own but it isn’t quite the same as sitting at the feat of scholars absorbing their hard-earned knowledge, your mind all the while expanding with every word!
College was stressful and very busy but it was also one of the happiest times of my life. It’s such a cliche but I really did find my voice in my classes, and their influence has never been forgotten. I even studied Pascal which led me to the quote that spurned the idea for this post. So, who says you never use what you learn in school? Now if only I had a second to ponder about it! Retirement?
“I can well conceive a man without hands, feet, head. But I cannot conceive man without thought; he would be a stone or a brute.” Blaise Pascal
5 thoughts on “Contemplation”
I wonder if Pascal was mistaken. Think of all the mischief that has been caused by people who had enough time to sit and think, such as Marx and Nietzsche. If they had had to work harder and hadn’t had any time to think our world would be so much better!
I guess it is what you spend your time pondering on.
Good point Mommer! I hadn’t thought about it quite that way. Sometimes contemplation can leave a person depressed. I’m reminded of what Schopenhauer said “life is a sorry business, I resolved to spend it reflecting up on it”. What a sad outlook!
I too miss university and classes such as those you described. I think being an adult means choosing how you spend your time, not giving it up.
I have a friend with PCOS who finds that the more relaxed she is over long periods of time, the more weight she naturally looses. Perhaps sitting and thinking every once in a while will be just as beneficial as the gym?
I agree with Pascal. I can’t see how less thinking could ever lead to the world becoming a better place, but maybe that’s because I don’t consider Nietzsche mischievous, and I don’t find ignorance bliss.
thanks for the comment. Its true. Scheduling some time to ponder wouldn’t be a bad idea. I just have to turn off the tv, put away the ipod, quiet the cell phone and hide the laptop. Tougher then it sounds but probably worth it.
I am not an expert on Nietzsche, but I never thought of him as mischievous either; however, he certainly had quite the opinion of himself. At one time he called all other philosophers ‘cabbage heads’ and said ‘ It is my fate to have to be the first decent human being’ and later said ‘I have a terrible fear that I shall one day be pronounced holy’. Perhaps such an ego is a negative consequence of contemplation? His philosophies seemed to lead to selfishness and nihilism.
I think all the philosophers captured glimpses of truths in their observations. Even if I disagree with the majority of their conclusions (such as Marx and Engels) I can still appreciate the truths observed. I know my mom feels the same way. She is actually my model for continual learning. Her point was more that the mind can lead us to interesting moral places if unchecked.
I’m glad I’m not the only school nerd out there…
Good point about ego… probably makes the classroom scenario the best place to think together to keep it in check. the use of the term ‘cabbage head’ made me smile.