by Zoe Pollock
Robert Wright returns from a meditation retreat, clicks on a Paris Hilton video, and ponders our plugged in lives:
In the space of only a few minutes, the grid had sent a succession of emotions coursing through my body, none that I’m especially proud of. And I feel especially not proud of them right after a meditation retreat, which grants enough critical distance from your feelings to highlight their frequent pointlessness, if not absurdity...
So there you go: covetousness, schadenfreude, anxiety, dread, and on and on. It’s the frequent fruitlessness of such feelings that the Buddha is said to have pondered after he unplugged from the social grid of his day that is, the people he lived around and wandered off to reckon with the human predicament. Maybe his time off the grid gave him enough critical distance from these emotions to discover his formula for liberation from them. In any event, it’s because the underlying emotions haven’t changed, and because the grid conveys and elicits them with such power, that his formula holds appeal for many people even, and perhaps especially, today.
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