Sea of Tranquility: A beat. A sip of water. Pacing is everything.

While (he) slips immediately into the same stasis that overcame him… It isn’t quite listlessness. He makes a careful inventory of his thoughts and decides that he isn’t unhappy. He just desires no further movement, for the time being. If there’s pleasure in action, there’s peace in stillness.

—  Emily St. John Mandel, Sea of Tranquility: A Novel (Knopf, April 5, 2022)


Notes:

  • Highly recommended.  Let’s just describe this as a Wow. (And if you can listen to book on Audible, a real plus. Excellent narration.)
  • NY Times Book Review: A Dazzling New Foray into Speculative Fiction From Emily St. John Mandel – “In Sea of Tranquility,” Mandel takes up existential questions of time and being…In “Sea of Tranquility,” Mandel offers one of her finest novels and one of her most satisfying forays into the arena of speculative fiction yet, but it is her ability to convincingly inhabit the ordinary, and her ability to project a sustaining acknowledgment of beauty, that sets the novel apart. As in Ishiguro, this is not born of some cheap, made-for-television, faux-emotional gimmick or mechanism, but of empathy and hard-won understanding, beautifully built into language, for all of us who inhabit this “green-and-blue world” and who one day might live well beyond.
  • Image via CBC

Comments

  1. You know what? When I saw this photo on my smartphone right now, a wide smile formed on my face. She looks so content., happy, relaxed. I do think that’s a book I’d love to read. Tks for this precious share.
    Happy and blessed Palmsunday for those who celebrate this day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. peace in stillness. yes, as we are all slowly learning. remember when parents would yell out, “I just need some peace and quiet!”? they are really often one and the same.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes! Beth, your thought reminds me of a post by Sharon Salzberg:

      Theologian Howard Thurman recommended that we “look at the world with quiet eyes.” It is an intriguing phrase. Usually we more resemble cartoon creatures whose eyes are popping out on springs: “I see something I want! Give it to me!” Then our arms extend, reaching out to acquire that object. Our fingers flex, ready to grab on to what we want in order to keep it from changing. Our shoulders strain to hold on even tighter. Our heads rigidly turn to this object so as not to lose sight of it.�Our bodies lean forward in anticipation. It’s a moment of grasping—or an hour of grasping, or a day, or even a lifetime—and it’s very painful.

      All too often we seek happiness in the wrong places and in the wrong ways. We cling to people and experiences and objects as though we could glue them in place, while ignoring the precipice of change upon which we are standing.

      When we practice looking at the world with quiet eyes, we develop a degree of calm and tranquility. The surprising discovery is that this quietness isn’t passivity or sluggishness; in fact, we can be fully connected to what is happening, and have a bright and clear awareness of�it, yet be relaxed. This quality of calm isn’t deadened or coldly distant from our experience—it is vital and alive. We find that the world will come to fill us without our straining for it.

      As we release that momentum toward clinging—no longer falling into the future, ignoring what is here as we obsess about what we don’t yet have, fixating on defeating change and insecurity—we calm our minds. Such calm is its own special type of happiness, one of composure and strength. In that alert yet relaxed state we find peace.

      As we develop more calm we experience being more at home in our body and mind, with life as it is. That feeling is quieter than a lot of the intensity we try so hard to experience, but it is ours, not someone else’s to give us or to take away. That calm can be steadfast and supportive, unbroken when conditions change. It can flourish in the face of obstacles; it can be there for us when everything else seems to fail. This kind of calm is born from deepening concentration. Concentration is the ability to keep the mind steady on an object; it is one-pointed and powerful in its attention. It’s not that we reject or dislike the thoughts and emotions that come up, but rather that we don’t get swept up and tossed around by them all the time. We have a calm center.

      When I first started practicing meditation, I assumed that it took a great deal of grim laborious effort to experience concentration and its fruits, including calm. As my practice evolved, I learned that the conditions required for concentration to develop were far from the kind of tormented struggle I had imagined. As I came to realize, straining to keep the mind on an object does not create the atmosphere in which calm most readily arises. When the mind is at ease, serene, and happy, on the other hand, we can more easily and naturally concentrate.

      Rather than coming from grasping, calm and concentration come from being able to begin again. We look at the world with quiet eyes—even with our scattered and wandering minds, those long stretches of aimless fantasy even though we are trying to be present, and those regrettable interludes of caustic self-judgment even though we are trying to be more loving. Whatever distraction we notice, we practice letting go of it, and we begin again by reconnecting to our meditation object. We discover that, no matter what comes up in our experience and no matter how long it lasts, nothing is ruined or damaged irreparably. No matter what happens, we can view it with quiet eyes, and we can always begin again.

      ~Sharon Salzberg, April 1, 2022

      Liked by 4 people

  3. I read Station Eleven, which was a bit outside my wheelhouse…but this quote beckons me totally. Arguably these is peace in stillness and within that peace, there is also pleasure, I think…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t read Station Eleven…and had read mixed but directionally positive reserves. It’s in my queue, but if outside of your wheelhouse, likely outside of mine too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It was for me – I’m going to Sea of Tranquility next (after the two I’m reading now)..thanks for the intriguing quote – it piqued my interest and I might otherwise have skipped right over this one..

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Tranquility in simply being. Love this 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Just so happen to have a couple Audible credits…. well, now down to one 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Christie says:

    A happy, red head with a good mind!!! Prolific writer…she looks very youthful for being in her mid to late forties …she has a good energy & peace about her…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Added to my Audible wish list!

    Liked by 1 person

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