Blaise Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” The great 17th-century philosopher thought that most of us, most of the time, distract ourselves from what truly matters through a series of divertissements (diversions). He was speaking from experience. Though one of the brightest men of his age and one of the pioneers of the modern physical sciences and of computer technology, Pascal frittered away a good deal of his time through gambling and other trivial pursuits. In a way, he knew, such diversions are understandable, since the great questions — Does God exist? Why am I here? Is there life after death? — are indeed overwhelming. But if we are to live in a serious and integrated way, they must be confronted — and this is why, if we want our most fundamental problems to be resolved, we must be willing to spend time in a room alone.
- Published in Commentary