P E N S É E S
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” French writer Blaise Pascal wrote a long time ago. Being alone in a room, on one’s own and without any external stimuli and influences, is a frightening idea. But not always. Many people today long for this opting-out, for silence, for deceleration. Retreats and sabbaticals are more popular than ever, as reflected in the words of Austrian poet Ernst Ferstl: “Time that we take is time that gives us something.” Is deceleration the answer to the speeding and the velocity of life? Should we spend more time in rooms alone? Or is this hiatus just another event in our jam-packed schedule of life?
Instead of leisurely strolling around, one rushes from one event to another, from one information to another, from one image to another.BYUNG-CHUL HAN
Sociologist Hartmut Rosa believes that deceleration is not the solution because, in his opinion, hardly anyone approves of being slow as an end in itself. According to Rosa, slowness is only the other side of the coin whose front side is acceleration. But what is the solution then? A different relationship to the world, Rosa concludes, which he calls resonance. Resonance is what happens when we are moved and touched by something. When another person, a work of art, a tune or nature strikes a chord and resonates within us, thereby changing us. Resonance is a successful encounter, the opposite of a relationship to the world that is characterized by alienation. In order to feel resonance, we must engage with the person or thing that has the potential to create resonance – and quit the rushing and hurrying, because under stress, nothing resonates.
With his concept of the “new vagabond”, philosopher Byung-Chul Han suggests a similar path: “Instead of leisurely strolling around, one rushes from one event to another, from one information to another, from one image to another. [...] But today’s society not only lacks the leisureliness of the flâneur, it also lacks the hovering lightness of the vagabond.” He praises the emptiness between events, which he calls “an empty interval in which nothing happens, in which no sensation takes place” – a productive or “active, inventive” (François Jullien) in-between, where something new can be born – a time of lingering, of drifting, of simply sitting around. Much like in German humorist Loriot’s sketch “Feierabend” (“home time”), in which a man’s wife repeatedly asks him what he wants to do and the man, comfortably sitting in his armchair, keeps replying: “I just want to sit here.” In the words of novelist Sten Nadolny: “I am now ready to let time pass and wait for a miracle. When you do this, you behave in a peaceful way and still remain sufficiently alert in order not to miss anything.”
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