We like Pico Iyer’s concept of “Nowhere” and share his fantasy of unplugging. At the same time, we are wary that the romanticization of “real life” betrays a dualistic perspective of nature vs. technology. But Iyer is reacting to something legitimate: an alienation borne from the mismatch between the timescales of human engagement and technological development. His exploration of the idea of stillness presents an attractive alternative to the more common reaction of anxiety, but we should remember that it is a by-product of the same failures of technology that remain neglected.
DateJune 4, 2015TitleOn Being: Pico Iyer – The Art of StillnessSegment00:25:14 – 00:28:19Krista Tippett — You write about the idea of Nowhere—nowhere with a capital “N.” Where is that? That nowhere with a capital “N,” what does it mean?
Pico Iyer — Well it’s probably the wilderness and the wilderness is probably the place where one finds illumination. But the reason I came up with that funny formulation is that I notice when I began traveling a lot, 30 years ago, I would talk about going to Cuba or going to Tibet and people’s eyes would light up with excitement. Nowadays I notice that people’s eyes light up with most excitement when I tell people I’m going nowhere or going offline. I think a lot of us have this sense that we’re living at the speed of light, at a pace determined by machines, and we’ve lost the ability to live at the speed of life.
KT: We’ve spoken about your notion of stillness, and that’s one way you describe your practice and one way you talk about that—the Buddhist corollary—is this notion of “right absorption.” I really like that and I think that also applies to what you just described: a discipline and maybe a necessity for all of us in whatever kind of life we lead.
PI: Yes, I love that word absorption because I think that’s my definition of happiness. All of us know we are happiest when we forget ourselves, when we forget the time and we lose ourselves in a beautiful piece of music, or a movie, or deep conversation with a friend, or an intimate encounter with someone we love. That’s our definition of happiness. Very few people feel happy racing from one text to the next, to the appointment, to the cell phone, to the emails. If people are happy like that, that’s great. But I think a lot of us got caught up in this cycle that we don’t know how to stop and isn’t sustaining us in the deepest way. I think we all know our outer lives is only as good as our inner lives. So to neglect our inner lives is really to incapacitate our outer lives —we don’t have so much to give to other people or the world, or our job, or our kids.