All of man's problems

December 18, 2017

I’ve become increasingly a fan of Naval Ravikant of AngelList. The man freestyles prose on all topics, from life to cryptocurrency. His Twitter bio links to a Farnam Street article, and the article links to a podcast the two of them did together. I am halfway through the podcast and am thus far amazed and astonished at Naval’s eloquence and unstoppable substance spewing machine.

At one particular point, Naval quotes the 17th century French mathematician Blaise Pascal who says something that profoundly resonated with me. He says:

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

A dagger through my heart. Ouch. I feel this one. And profoundly struggle with it. I can’t recount how many mistakes and bad decisions have been made in life because of my inability to sit still. I can’t tell you how many habits would never have been formed if I were able to sit quietly in a room.

So, so simple. Yet thoroughly quarrelsome. I’ve undertaken a lot of difficult challenges in the past few years. But to sit alone for half an hour in an empty room somehow sounds most difficult of all. I tremble just thinking about it.

Challenge accepted.

I’ve built up a yoga habit before that lasted just nigh on 30 days. It was wonderful while it lasted, but alas, dies in flame like the rest of my initiatives. But, I like the simplicity and minimalism of this one. Yoga is great but requires you to learn things and do things “the right way”. I’m sure you can point me to some interpretation of yoga that is more self-reflective, but it will probably have an esoteric name, thus requiring me to learn how others did things.

I like this way better: create or find an empty room. And just sit there. For half an hour. No phone, no laptop. Only an hourglass. And do this in the midst of your day’s hurricane.

Really, it’s about control. Who’s in charge of your day? For most, the answer is our dependency-craving monkey self. Desire after desire, all fulfilled at the speed of thought. There is an incipient voice in us that craves a chance in the spotlight. That craves control over our primate selves. It promises to be a more reasonable ruler. It promises to be less capricious. It promises more balanced living, all custom tailored to 21st century way of life. It’s a new software upgrade. We keep telling it, “Not Now”, but the installation is seamless, if only you let it: just be still.