I used to complain about the conspicuous excess of American automotive consumption as mirrored in the humongous multi-multi-vehice garages attached to most new homes. I still complain about too many gas guzzling SUVs and too much traffic congestion. We wonder about the deep and shallow sources of unhappiness, but we needn’t wonder about the misery of commuter gridlock. It’s real. It takes me 50 minutes to get to school, most days. If I were traveling in the other direction it’d take twice as long. What’s the plural of Sisyphus? I see so many of them behind the wheel, in the other lanes, daily. They don’t look happy.
Still complaining, but not (starting today) about my vehicle’s abode or the sap, grime, frost, and avian excrescence it will no longer greet me with each morning. Yesterday we added a third port, to the carport, and I feel fine.
I feel even better about the prospect of eventually replacing its tenant, the dented but undaunted old Corollla, with a new Leaf. The 2016 model purportedly has a range of 100+ miles, which if true is enough to get me to school and back on a single charge.
This is the kind of thing my younger self wouldn’t have wanted to believe my older self would ever get excited about. Zest looks different, at different stages of life.
We had a good discussion about zest and related themes yesterday in Happiness, including Russell’s “malady of introversion.” A few of us took issue with that formulation, and spoke up for the maligned introvert. Introversion is not self-absorption, it’s not hyper-intellectualism. It’s the quest for a quiet mind.
Russell said, a few chapters back, that a quiet life is essential for happiness. That’s a virtue many extroverts never know. TED has been all over it, especially Susan Cain and Pico Iyer. “In an age of acceleration, nothing can be more exhilarating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing is so luxurious as paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is so urgent as sitting still.” Sitting still and reflecting can be hard work, but sitting still and not reflecting is an unexamined life.
Once again, I say: sit a bit, but then stand and move. Solvitur ambulando. “Sturdy legs could mean healthy brains.” First finish your coffee. Then, for an hour, turn your attention away from the headlines and the noisy terrorizing world (which after all is still not all-consuming).
You can walk and think at the same time, and you can walk and not think. “The intense interest that life can assume when brought down to the non-thinking level, the level of pure sensorial perception,” is something else the extrovert is liable to miss. You have to be quiet long enough to catch it.
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