What Anatomy of Restlessness Means

The Anatomy of Restlessness is the idea that people can’t sit quietly in a room; we get bored quickly. We have an urge to get out and explore, to experience new things. If we can’t or don’t get out and explore, then we suffer in one way or another. This idea descibes the motivation of humanity at its most basic level – to get out there and see something different.

Circle of business men sitting in a field with their laptopsThe internet in some ways transcends the Anatomy of Restlessness; for the first time we can see every detail of the world at large without leaving our room. We can explore the globe from the comfort of our favourite chair. It’s not the same as travelling in person, of course, but it’s an important part of keeping our thirst for new knowledge at bay. Of course, without all the websites around the world, the internet is no more more than a series of cables going nowhere. So it seemed that there wasn’t anything more appropriate to call a company devoted to building websites than Anatomy of Restlessness.

Of couse, we didn’t invent the Anatomy of Restlessness. It was the philosopher Pascal who first came up with this basic idea:

“All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Blaise PascalPensées

It was however the novelist and travel writer Bruce Chatwin that came up with the termAnatomy of Restlessness which builds on Pascal’s idea. It was the title of a book he wanted to write:

“It was to be a wildly ambitious and intolerant work, a kind of ‘Anatomy of Restlessness’ that would enlarge on Pascal’s dictum about the man sitting quietly in a room. The argument, roughly, was as follows: that in becoming human, man had acquired, together with his straight legs and striding walk, a migratory ‘drive’ or instinct to walk long distances through the seasons; that this ‘drive’ was inseparable from his central nervous system; and that, when warped in conditions of settlement, it found outlets in violence, greed, status-seeking or a mania for the new.”

Bruce ChatwinAnatomy of Restlessness – Uncollected Writings

Although Chatwin never wrote that book, it is the name given to a collection of his work published after his death.