Andrew Sullivan‘s short-lived retreat from the media biz involved, at some point, a real retreat, he tells Vox’s Ezra Klein in an interview on Klein’s podcast. It involved ten days of “extremely grueling” sunup to sundown meditation at a retreat designed for that purpose.
He learned an important lesson from the experience:
What I drew from that, in many ways, was the thought that we do live the way the meditators say: The lives we live are not the ones we think we’re living. If we zoom out of that experience and look at contemporary America or the West and you just think, “Wow, what an incredible amount of business and distraction that is in fact an entire economy built on top of it. And what is Western humankind really distracting ourselves from something?”
But not even refocusing on what’s truly important could save Sullivan from Donald Trump.
Of course, the daily experience of life lessens the impact of epiphanies, revelations and discoveries of deeper truths, which is why they must be continuously reinforced through retreats, art, celebrations or whatever it is that gets our centers centered.
For a while, it seemed Sullivan escaped the fickleness of enlightenment after he left the retreat. Almost. “There was no point at which I snapped back, because by that point I also had weaned myself off the news,” he told Klein. “But Trump, goddammit—”
“The constant twitchy fascism of the guy just began to penetrate my consciousness,” he said.
Other writing plans—a book on Christianity—were cast aside as Sullivan heeded the call:
I realized in February, when my year off was coming to an end, I thought, I really felt this was history and a moment, and you have to stand up and be counted if you want to really do your duty.
I don’t want to sound noble, but as you can tell from that piece I’m truly disturbed by this man. And truly concerned about the culture he’s thriving in. Every day when I was blogging all these thoughts I’d have about the public wheel I can get rid of, it just built until I thought, “I need a place to put this down.”
You can listen to the full interview here.