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The telephone is an instrument which renders useful service in bringing together, with miraculous swiftness, one man with another whom he needs. But if it also brings him together with an unwanted person, a demanding person, an obnoxious person, or a pestering person, then it becomes a scourge at the worst, a harassment at the least. Robert Louis Stevenson detested the telephone; I merely dislike it. "The introduction of the telephone into our bed and board partakes of the nature of intrusion," he wrote in a letter. "I dare never approach this interesting instrument myself." His words, written at least half a century ago, may sound too extreme, old-fashioned, and out of touch with present-day living. But allowing for this, and recognizing the useful service of this device, there remains an echo in my heart of what Robert Louis Stevenson felt. Much of my time is devoted to long stretches of intensive research on a high impersonal mental level, or to absorbed writing, or to deeply relaxed meditation. When I formerly permitted the noise of a telephone bell to burst in abruptly, unexpectedly, or violently upon the silence without or the stillness within, the effect was to give a harsh shock to my nervous system. Nor was this all. It dragged me out of my delicately poised concentration, wasting the time and effort needed after every interruption to work my way back again and to re-adjust myself again. Let all this happen over and over again throughout the day and a state will be reached where the mere sound of the telephone bell will be like the sound of doom.


-- Notebooks Category 12: Reflections > Chapter 5: The Literary Work > # 387






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