Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Stillness is an Art

When I read a review of Pico Iyer's latest book, The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere I was intrigued and impressed and decided that I have far too many books so the review was sufficient. Needless to say, I eventually purchased it because book addiction is powerful and irrational.

It is a blink of a read in some respects, only 66 small format pages, an extended essay really. Iyer is a fine essayist though, and the book is a gem. He extols the virtue of going nowhere in an age when just about everyone assumes that we ought to be going somewhere, although that destination is increasingly unclear. Iyer is also a devotee of  Canadian Leonard Cohen, the Jewish, Buddhist contemplative song-writer and poet.

One of his chapter's is called A Secular Sabbath but I had to smile. Iyer quotes two excellent Jewish writers on the Sabbath, Judith Shulevitz and the iconic Abraham Joshua Heschel. He also makes reference to the biblical Ten Commandments and one of the longest of those commandments which is about keeping the Sabbath holy. In making the case for a secular sabbath he gets 'ligion.

I agree with Pico Iyer that nothing and nowhere are admirable choices in a culture of frenetic media and empty diversion. My choice is to find the times to do nothing and go nowhere with the God who rested on the seventh day and directed us to be Sabbath-keepers.

Are you accomplished at keeping the Sabbath? Are you okay with going nowhere as an aspect of your spiritual life?

Here is Pico Iyer's TED Talk on stillness.


Laurie said...

Just added this book to my list. My so called "spiritual life" has been going nowhere for years. This just might be the book for me.

Frank said...

Another worthwhile book is Hamlet's Blackberry, by William Powers.
It's related because it advocates regular, intentional disengagement (a digital sabbath) in our digital age. It's hard to be still if we are constantly distracted by our various communications devices.
I have begun to observe this by not reading emails on Sundays, for example. I use the telephone and only Skype to connect with family.