Profound Quotes #001 - All Of Humanity's Problems
By Leo Gura - March 5, 2014 | 6 Comments
A deep insight from Blaise Pascal about why your life sucks.
Hey, this is Leo for Actualized.org. Welcome to this profound quotes segment. In this kind of segment what we do is we take a major quote from somebody great in human history and we dissect it and we take a look at how it can have a profound effect in your life if you just think about it and apply it.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
It Goes To The Heart Of The Problem
This is one of my favorite quotes because it goes to the heart of the problem that so many of us have today especially in this overly stimulated, interconnected, entertained world that we’re living in where everything is convenient and it’s easy to plug into the matrix, so to speak, and get your quick hit of stimulation and then to stay plugged and to not do the mental work that people used to do that we now take for granted. What is Pascal really saying here when he’s talking about all of humanity’s problems stemming from the fact that men are unable to sit alone in a room? I might add women as well, and maybe even especially women should be doing more of this that Blaise Pascal here is advocating.
What we’re talking about here is the idea that you need to do more contemplation. This is something that when you say it in our modern times it sounds like contemplation, what the hell is this? This is something philosophical, something abstract, something theoretical, something academic not something that’s cool or hip. Nobody really tells you to be doing this stuff.
In the past actually this is where great ideas have come from. This is how great people accomplished great things. All the greats that you know of from history, all the people that have really influenced culture and society and science, I’m talking about philosophers, mathematicians, scientists, humanitarians, psychologists, even political figures, great leaders in current society and past society. If they’ve contributed anything meaningful to us, they’ve done it because they’ve taken time in solitude where they were able to sit down and come up with something new, something original or at least something that’s more honest and more authentic. Something that is profound that they can then take back and share with the rest of us. That’s how some of these quotes come about. That’s how great ideas come about.
Whether you think about Aristotle and Plato, Marcus Aurelius, the Buddha or moving closer to modern times with Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, great novelists, Henry David Thoreau, Emerson, and then moving into current modern times people from Gandhi to Winston Churchill… All of these individuals, what did they do? They took time to sit down and think.
Pull Yourself Out From The World
There’s something very magical about this period of solitude and contemplation where you pull yourself completely out of the world and you become a hermit at least for a little bit. Maybe for just thirty minutes, maybe for just an hour, maybe for just a day, maybe for a whole weekend. You can decide on the length of time here. The idea is that you pull yourself out so that you can let your thoughts and your creative juices percolate and you just let your brain marinate in your own creative goodness.
You think about all the stuff that you have accumulated throughout your life and throughout your day, all the information and all the knowledge and then you let something just happen with that. That’s where creativity comes from. I find that too many of us nowadays are so overstimulated that we’re always going and we’re doing the next thing. Our schedule is so full we take no time to ourselves and I don’t mean just to even relax, that’s a good place to start, I’m taking it a step further. Not only should you be taking time to yourself just to relax and unwind and not be working all the time and doing crazy, crazy activities, talking with friends and all that, just pull yourself out of that.
You should also spend time being a student. Being a student of yourself, being a student of life, being a student of the things that have happened to you today or the things that have happened to you this week, keeping a journal and actually doing contemplation. That means thinking about things. Thinking about how stuff comes together. Asking yourself questions like, “What is true? What is false? Why did I do that today? Why did he do this today?”
There is a big difference between sitting down and doing this sort of contemplation in a very conscious, methodical way and then sitting down, or not even sitting down, but just doing it as you’re running around throughout your day and just being frantic and hectic and anxious. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about those crazy back and forth debates that you have with yourself on your way to work as to how you’re going to yell at that person who’s not doing what they need to be doing, or how the boss is going to yell at you and what you’re going to say in defense of that. That’s anxious neurotic thought. No.
I’m talking about peaceful, calm, very constructive creative thought. This is where you sit down and think about, “What is it that I want to create and what are some ideas that I as a human being having a brain and having a rational capacity should be thinking through?” This is so missed. I find that 99% of people do not do this and this is why not only do they not get the kind of results they could be getting in their life, but it’s really even worse. Like Pascal tells us, it’s really the cause of humanity’s problems.
Take Time To Contemplate
A lot of the problems in your life, a lot of the problems in political life, a lot of the problems in business life, a lot of the problems in your relationship, a lot of those are simply because you’re always doing, doing, doing and you’re not thinking through your actions. You’re not thinking through them very clearly. When you go back and you read and you study the biographies and the stories of ancient philosophers and modern era scientists- by modern era I mean the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment era thinkers. This was like the 1600s, the 1700s, the 1800s -when you look and study those people you immediately see that the people that were great and that are people that you read about, the reason that you read about them is because they were deep thinkers and they did this because they were able to isolate themselves.
They were not social butterflies. Some of them were but then they were able to pull themselves out. Somebody, for example, that comes to mind is Benjamin Franklin. He’s a deeply contemplative man and when you read his writings and you read his quotes and you read about him you can see that he’s an amazing, powerful genius intellect and he cultivates that by sitting down by himself in solitude and thinking about that stuff. On the other hand he was also very sociable and very social and so he was able to strike a balance between those two.
I’m not saying that you should become a hermit here or become a Buddha. I’m saying that you should just take more time to contemplate, more time to think about stuff. When you actually do this and you don’t just sit here and listen to me doing this stuff, when you actually go out and you try to do this stuff- and I would challenge you right now to do this exercise. Find sixty minutes where you can sit down in a quiet room, maybe in your bedroom, just sit down and have absolutely nothing to do and just sit there for sixty minutes straight and just see what happens. See what happens.
I think what you’ll notice when you do this, it’s amazing, because you haven’t done it for so long that you literally don’t have the willpower to sit there and to do it, your mind is going to go crazy on you. It’s going to be like a stark raving lunatic, jumping from wall to wall inside your skull.
That’s what’s going to be happening is because your mind is so used to stimulation right now. You need that hit of tasty food. You need to plug into that television, that internet, you need to call your friend, chat with them, check your email, go to work and do whatever you’ve got to do there then go and be in your relationship or be immersed in your family life. You’re doing all this stuff and you don’t even realize what it feels like just to take a breath and to sit. I’m not even talking about meditation, I’m just talking about sit and let whatever thoughts come to mind and think them through. There’s something very powerful about that.
Withdrawal Kind Of Symptoms
What you’ll notice if you do this exercise, number one is I want you to notice how much your body, not even your mind, but your body resists. If you do this you will literally notice that your body starts to shake. You’re going to be like a heroin addict who’s been off of heroin for a few days or maybe a week and now you’re really feeling it. You’re feeling yourself coming off and you’re literally your body’s going to start having withdrawal symptoms.
You’re going to come up with all sorts of excuses for why you need to get up, why you need to scratch yourself, why you’re not being comfortable, why you need to change positions, maybe you need to go to the bathroom, maybe you need to go eat because you’re hungry… Your mind is going to start coming up with all these excuses and then your body is actually going to start to tremble and shake a little bit if you just try and keep it still for sixty minutes straight.
You’ve been so conditioned to stimulation that now it feels like your life is empty. When you’re not always running all the time it feels so slow and so still and just feels very awkward, very weird. Notice that. Notice your body resisting. Notice the things that are happening in your mind too, as a second point.
Notice what starts coming up. What kind of thoughts? Negative thoughts, positive thoughts, creative thoughts, neurotic thoughts? What starts happening? Where do your thoughts start to lead you? In what direction?
Fodder For Generating A Great Life
After you do notice this try to guide them in a more positive direction and just sit there and think. Start thinking about maybe some topic. Pick a topic that you want to think about. Maybe you want to think about the business that you’re starting, or some project that you’re working on, or a relationship that you want to improve, or your health that you want to improve, or yourself, your life, the trajectory of your life. Start thinking about something like that and notice what happens throughout that sixty minutes.
I bet you that those first ten twenty minutes are going to be very hectic, chaotic, your mind is not going to be able to stay still. Then if you force your mind and you persist and you keep on the same topic without straying too far, you’re going to start to notice that your mind gears up and it gets on board. Maybe you have some sort of project that you’re interested in improving your health let’s say, and so your mind is now going to start thinking about that.
“Maybe I could start improving my gym routine, by maybe watching some videos, maybe there was this book I wanted to read, maybe I’ll buy that. Maybe I’ll go out there and get myself enrolled into some sort of class, I’ll take a yoga class or whatever. Maybe I’ll go and talk to my buddy, I know a buddy who wanted to be my gym partner with me and so maybe he’ll join up.”
Your mind will start to think about all these ideas that you can now use as fodder for generating a great life. Here it’s going to be your health. If you start thinking about your business you’re going to start to come up with ideas for your business. These ideas sometimes they come up throughout your day when you’re in the shower or you’re doing this and that, but I find it’s very different when you do that by sitting down in a dedicated block of time and actually thinking it through and giving yourself space to really think about that, maybe even having some paper and a pen handy so you can jot down some notes and ideas.
You’ll Be Able To Create Something Powerful
What you’ll find is if you do this and you start developing a habit of doing this every few days or every week you spend an hour doing this alone, quiet, solitude time, and you start thinking about something like your business, you’re going to start to find that you get new creative ideas and those ideas are going to snowball and build on top of each other and you’re really going to create something powerful, something new. This is how stuff is created. The reason could be that you are not living up to your full potential right now and you feel like you’re procrastinating, or that dream project that you wanted to start, that dream career that you wanted to go into is not happening for you.
It’s probably because you’re so plugged into everything, you’re so busy and you know what? You’re busy doing the wrong things. In fact those things that you’re busy doing are probably causing problems for humanity as Pascal said. So instead of what the takeaway is here, is to do this exercise, sit alone in an empty room without any stimulation and see what comes out. I think you will be shocked, surprised and very challenged by this. Go ahead and try it just maybe to prove me wrong.
All right. This is Leo, I’m going to be signing off. Go ahead, leave me your comments. What do you think about this quote? How are you going to apply this to your life? Tell me what kind of results you get with this exercise.
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