Thursday, December 30, 2021

Inner Life

My friend Joe Chaikin was a friend of Susan Sontag. I met her a couple of times with him and joined the conversation. I still remember an argument I had with her. We were talking about inner life, our inner lives, and Susan remarked that most people don't have inner lives. This seemed like a deeply illberal position—I was shocked and offended. Everybody has an inner life, I insisted. But she is probably right. Having an inner life means paying attention to consciousness itself, not just whatever you happen to be doing or saying, who you happen to be with, Most people, I suspect, don't even do that but tend to act mechanically, their minds elsewhere, as if being physically present is enough. Inner life can be rich beyond measure, fed by all the art and thought you have ever taken in. Joe, Susan, and I kept up with plays and movies, read inquiringly all the time, went to concerts, opera, ballet, museums, thinking about it all and processing it into work of our own, thinking about ourselves doing it. Not everybody does that.

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