Today, I received an email with a quote in the signature attributed to Blaise Pascal reading
All of human evil comes from a single cause, man's inability to sit still in a room.
A more accurate quote is,
tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne pas savoir demeurer en repos dans une chambre
All the unhappiness of men comes from only one thing, which is not knowing how to stay at rest (or 'remain peacefully') in a room.
Here is the whole passage in context (I translate),
When I put myself sometimes to considering the diverse agitations of men and the dangers and trouble which they expose themselves to, in the court, in war, from where are born so many troubles, passions, endeavours that are hardy (or fool-hardy) and often bad, etc., I discovered that all the unhappiness of man comes from just one cause, which is not knowing how to stay peacefully in a room. A man who has enough goods to live, if he knew how to live with pleasure in his home, wouldn't leave it to go on the sea or to the seat of a place. One buys such an expensive warrant for the army, only because one finds it intolerable to not move from the town; and one looks for conversations and the distraction of games only because one can't stay at one's own home with pleasure.
But when I thought about it more closely and after finding the cause of all our unhappiness, I wanted to discover the reason for that, I found there is one very effective (reason), which consists in the natural unhappiness of our feeble and mortal condition, and so miserable, that nothing can console us, when we think of it closely.
Whatever condition one figures oneself to be in, if one assembles all the goods which can belong to us, royalty is the most beautiful position in the world, and nevertheless if one imagines oneself (in that position), accompanied by all the satisfactions associated with it. If it's without distraction, and if one lets oneself consider and reflect on what is, that langorous happiness wouldn't sustain itself, it necessarily falls among the sights which menace it, the revolts which could happen, and finally the death and sickness which are inevitable; such that, if it is without what one calls 'distractions' (literally 'detours', figuratively 'games'), there he (the king) is unhappy and more unhappy than the least of his subjects, who play and distract (or entertain) themselves.
How would a Buddhist respond to such a statement ?
I have a feeling he or she would agree at least on some levels. Even though it seemed Buddhism was introduced to the west beginning mainly in the 20th century, this quote seems to echo that the West was not totally unawares.
If I remember correctly, "Lines Composed a Few Mile Above Tintern Abbey" also seemed to reiterate some principles found in Buddhism.
There were probably missionaries who came in contact with it after the birth of Christ. Reverand Kusala mentions Zen Buddhism was actual a reaction of missionaries coming in contact with the existing Therevadan tradition.