An anxious reach

The start of the season of Lent in the Christian tradition. The word Lent comes perhaps from the Old English and refers to the lengthening of the days in Spring. Most spiritual and wisdom traditions around the world have periods when we are encouraged to simplify things down to better see what is important or to dedicate more time to reflection and silence.

The past decade has seen an unparalleled assault on our capacity to fix our minds steadily on anything. To sit still and think, without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine, has become almost impossible. The obsession with current events is relentless. We are made to feel that at any point, somewhere in the globe, something may occur to sweep away old certainties, something that, if we failed to learn about it instantaneously, could leave us wholly unable to comprehend ourselves or our fellows.…

The need to diet, which we know so well in relation to food, and which runs so contrary to our natural impulse, is something we now have to relearn in relation to knowledge, people and ideas.

We require periods of fast in the life of our minds no less than in that of our bodies.

Alian de Botton, School of life: Distraction-concentration

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