In the 1650s, the French philosopher Blaise Pascal noted that: ‘The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he cannot stay quietly in his room.’
Really? Surely having to stay quarantined in one’s room is a kind of psychological torture? And yet Pascal’s idea challenges one of our most cherished beliefs: that we must always go to new places in order to feel and discover new and worthwhile things.
Personally I have never really enjoyed traveling much. To me it’s a hassle, it’s stressful, and it takes a toll on my body and health. I just feel out of sorts. Friends tell me how boring I am, and my reply is always the same: “I don’t need to travel to see the wonders of people and the world when they are literally right on my doorstep”. It’s a matter of perception, and what you choose to see.
Well now nobody can travel: some can’t even make the trip to the end of their lane. What if you had within your brain already accumulated a sufficient number of awe-inspiring, calming and interesting experiences to last you twenty lifetimes? What if your real problem was not so much that you are not allowed to go anywhere, but that you don’t how to make the most of what is already to hand?
Consider that being confined at home gives you one massive benefit: the time and space and encouragement to think. Because whatever you like to believe, I’m calling it out that you don’t ever do the solitary, original, bold kind of thinking that can move your life ahead. A period of quiet thinking creates an opportunity for your mind to order and understand itself. Fears, resentments, intentions, and dreams become easier to name. You start, in small steps, to know yourself slightly better.
You will – one day – recover your freedoms. The world will be yours to roam once more. In the meantime, this period of confinement is your opportunity to appreciate a great deal of what you generally see without ever properly noticing, and to understand what you have felt but not yet fully processed. Enjoy it.