I’m not sure when I first read the quote by French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal: “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone,” but I have been intrigued by it ever since. I understand Pascal to be saying, “People don’t like being by themselves with their own thoughts.” I also can read it as, “Miseries come from not knowing yourself.”
A recent study examines Pascal’s opinion in a scientific manner.
Timothy Wilson, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, wanted to know what would happen if people were given the opportunity to just quietly think. In an interview with the Washington Post, professor Wilson explained, “People usually think of mind-wandering as a bad thing because it interrupts when you’re trying to pay attention. We wanted to see what happens when mind-wandering is the goal.”