Blaise Pascal (on solitude as virtue)

I bought the April edition of Harper’s magazine — you can’t get it at the supermarket checkout (except in FantasyHowdyLand), but my chi-chi grocery emporium’s mag-rack wasn’t that far away — and, well, I bought it because it was Harper’s (and I was hungry), but also because of a perfect storm of stories highlighted on the cover. (I felt fated, head-spatially profiled, chosen.) “American Hustle” features basketball (good news for this hoops-head) and how hothouse youth coaches exploit African kids (possibly even more attractive to this highly conflicted coach who loves the game, loves excellence, hates what is done in the name of religion sport). “Rotten Ice” is a story of Arctic melting, not only for me but for EcoBride. Rebecca Solnit writes, perhaps just for this career English Creature, an op-ed titled “Abolish High School!” The cover piece, though, was both the initial eye candy and the clincher: “GOING IT ALONE: Fenton Johnson on the dignity and challenge of solitude”.

It starts well, pleasing my expectant reading tastebuds. I haven’t finished. I’m saving and savouring. (I won’t wait too long, though, for ideal moments of blissful forested solitude of my own; I’m not completely mad.) I actually didn’t get much farther than Johnson’s opening quote, from Blaise Pascal, and before I leave you with it, I invite you to think of peeves, annoyances, crimes, social blights, sources of misery and signs of impending apocalypse. Then read Mr. Pascal:

“All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.”

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a home-schooled French scholar, thinker and inventor. A mathematical genius, he basically invented the calculator. He wrote philosophically rich Pensees. He was a giant in developing the scientific method. He never reached the age of 40, so I’ve got him beat there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *