Existence & Phenomenological Experiences

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

This is a saying by the French scientist and philosopher Blaise Pascal in his work Pensees (Thoughts) – a work that wasn’t completed before his death and is considered a masterpiece and landmark in French prose.

The saying here conveys an apparent matter, which is the physical condition of sitting alone in a room. Some people when hearing about this saying, they go in a room and experiment it to see how much they will be able to; some other laugh about it and say what’s sitting alone in a room for extended period got to do with resolving humanity’s issues. Well, both misunderstood Pascal’s intention from that saying.

Philosophers and scientists are more well acquainted with this saying because they experience it themselves. We sit alone for prolonged periods, we stay staring through windows or on objects, sometimes playing with moustache, hair curling, or a pen is involved. Why we witness this? Because our physical body is lost in the immersive mental activity of our minds…The body is just left floating on the silence and emptiness surrounding. Immersed in this activity, this state of sitting alone can continue for hours or days, with no boredom.

That said, it’s all about sinking deep in thinking and being there just for thinking. In this sense, Pascal was referring to the fact that humanity’s problems come from people’s poor afford to quality time for thinking, which results in deficient thinking and wrong actions. They take thinking as an inline activity they do while driving, sitting with people, or eating…At best when they even close their room and sit alone, they suffer two things: either feel boredom and rush to go out after some little time or they get distracted by other things other than the thought that should be in focus.

Retirement and sitting alone for ‘Real’ thinking that yields ‘Real Outcomes’ is the custom of thinkers and prophets. And thinking might not be for a specific situation (like thinking whether to buy this or that), but it’s thinking for itself (like thinking about one’s life and actions). It takes hard work to conceive the right thought and to reach the highest truth…And, this is not everything. After this effort is afforded, there is still the hard work of putting the achieved mental outcome into real practice.

 

2 thoughts on ““All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

  1. This doesn’t seem to be an accurate reading of Pascal, in fact a scientist contemplating some problem for long hours would be no different than the king chasing after a fox. Pascal has a particular sort of thinking that one should devout his time to when sitting alone, and that is contemplating one’s life, it’s author (God), and it’s end.

    ““Man is obviously made to think. It is his whole dignity and his whole merit; and his whole duty is to think as he ought. Now, the order of thought is to begin with self, and with its Author and its end.

    Now, of what does the world think? Never of this, but of dancing, playing the lute, singing, making verses, running at the ring, etc., fighting, making oneself king, without thinking what it is to be a king and what to be a man.”

    -Excerpt From: Blaise Pascal. “Pascal’s Pensées.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/eMcDE.l

    1. Thanks Tesh for sharing in your insights about this topic. For sure you are absolutely right in pointing out that the matter starts with the deep reflection into the self, God, and it’s end. I think the combination of these elements would enable human to envision his path in life and how to shape himself/herself into this. In your quoted section, it shows that one misses the essential thinking dimension and rather than chasing after appearances. I am pretty much aligned with this in the last attempted paragraph in the post – for one should think for the self in reference with other significant matter, whichever he chooses for himself. And it’s not meant to be situational or vocational thinking relating to one performing a specific task; in fact, destructive weapons were made by scientists’ work. Thinking to begin with self along other worthwhile consideration is a determinant fact. I agree.

      In this sense, if you are interested in writing up a blog post about this, whether the topic or Pascal’s, you are more than welcome to guest blog post this and I will happily publish it on the blog – Just drop me a line.

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