Japan functions on the basis of everyone sharing certain assumptions, where each person knows his part in a larger whole. The foreigner sits outside and is threatening. If he comes in, that's the most threatening of all.

Where you come from now is much less important than where you're going. More and more of us are rooted in the future or the present tense as much as in the past. And home, we know, is not just the place where you happen to be born. It's the place where you become yourself.

Travel, for me, is a little bit like being in love because suddenly, all your senses are at the setting marked 'on.' Suddenly, you're alert to the secret patterns of the world.

I've yet to use a cellphone, and I've never tweeted or entered Facebook. I try not to go online till my day's writing is finished, and I moved from Manhattan to rural Japan in part so I could more easily survive for long stretches entirely on foot, and every trip to the movies would be an event.

It takes courage, of course, to step out of the fray, as it takes courage to do anything that's necessary, whether tending to a loved one on her deathbed or turning away from that sugarcoated doughnut.

I suppose even when I was growing up, I noticed I was most happy when I was absorbed in something, lost in the moment and forgot the time, whether was conversation, movie, or a game I was playing. That was my definition of happiness. And I was least happy when I was all over the place, distracted and restless.

In many a piece of music, it's the pause or the rest that gives the piece its beauty and its shape. And I know I, as a writer, will often try to include a lot of empty space on the page so that the reader can complete my thoughts and sentences and so that her imagination has room to breathe.

If we do away with semi-colons, parentheses and much else, we will lose all music, nuance and subtlety in communication - and end up shouting at one another in block capitals.

What I treasure most at any moment is intimacy, surprise, a sense of mystery, wit, depth and love. A handful of cherished friends offer me this, and the occasional singer or film-maker or artist. But my most reliable sources of electricity are Henry David Thoreau, Shakespeare, Melville and Emily Dickinson.

A traveler is really not someone who crosses ground so much as someone who is always hungry for the next challenge and adventure.

We readily go to the health club when our doctor suggests we need more exercise, but we regularly neglect the 'mental health club' that our well-being more truly requires.

The first time I stepped onto the rooftop of the Potala Palace in Lhasa in 1985, I felt, as never before or since, as if I was stepping onto the rooftop of my being: onto some dimension of consciousness that I'd never visited before.

A writer is a palmist, reading the lines of the planet.

Though I knew that poverty certainly didn't buy happiness, I wasn't convinced that money did, either.

I think writing is really about a journey of understanding. So you take something that seems very far away, and the more you write about it, the more you travel into it, and you see it from within.

Hello Kitty will never speak.

It's no coincidence that the word 'holiday' suggests a holy day, or that the longest book in the Torah concerns the Sabbath. If you wish to advance in any sphere, the best way is to take a retreat.

I write - though perhaps it sounds pretentious to say so - to make a clearing in the wilderness, to find out what I care about and what exactly to make of it.

People are always asking me where I come from, and they're expecting me to say India, and they're absolutely right insofar as 100 percent of my blood and ancestry does come from India. Except, I've never lived one day of my life there. I can't speak even one word of its more than 22,000 dialects.

It's only by taking myself away from clutter and distraction that I can begin to hear something out of earshot and recall that listening is much more invigorating than giving voice to all the thoughts and prejudices that anyway keep me company twenty-four hours a day.

You can only make sense of the online world by going offline and by getting the wisdom and emotional clarity to know how to make the best use of the Internet.

The average American teenager sends or receives 75 text messages a day, though one girl in Sacramento managed to handle an average of 10,000 every 24 hours for a month.

I've never meditated in my life. I don't practice yoga nor any religion. I'm a tourist on the realm of stillness.

I think one reason, obviously, that I spend so much time in one place is that I've been lucky enough to travel a lot, and now there are other different, invisible trains that are more interesting to me.

A book doesn't have to be a literary classic, of course, to change us forever.

The poverty one still sees in America today is more shocking to me than anything I have seen in Ethiopia or Calcutta or Manila, and has made me, as someone living in a society of great wealth and someone who's never had to worry about the next meal, think seriously about what universal responsibility really means.

I would never call Jerusalem beautiful or comfortable or consoling. But there's something about it that you can't turn away from.

The central paradox of the machines that have made our lives so much brighter, quicker, longer and healthier is that they cannot teach us how to make the best use of them; the information revolution came without an instruction manual.

In the past, I've visited remote places - North Korea, Ethiopia, Easter Island - partly as a way to visit remote states of mind: remote parts of myself that I wouldn't ordinarily explore.

To me, part of the beauty of a comma is that it offers a rest, like one in music: a break that gives the whole piece of music greater shape, deeper harmony. It allows us to catch our breath.

I remember how, in the corporate world, I always knew there was some higher position I could attain, which meant that, like Zeno's arrow, I was guaranteed never to arrive and always to remain dissatisfied.

In financial terms, my sense is that the distribution of wealth, unequal as it is, is self-perpetuating, and, especially in a linked and accelerating world, the rich get ever more quickly richer while the poor get ever more speedily poorer.

Comedy is nothing more than tragedy deferred.

We have more and more ways to communicate, as Thoreau noted, but less and less to say.

We travel initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspaper will accommodate.

Wherever we are, any time of night or day, our bosses, junk-mailers, our parents can get to us. Sociologists have actually found that in recent years Americans are working fewer hours than 50 years ago, but we feel as if we're working more. We have more and more time-saving devices, but sometimes, it seems, less and less time.

The less you struggle with a problem, the more it's likely to solve itself. The less time you spend frantically running around, the more productive you are likely to be.

In Vancouver, in Sydney and in Orange County, we live among fluorescent stores and streets so brightly lit that you can read a book after dark; in other places across our global body, there are blackouts and curfews every night.

Certainly, I think Canada is many years ahead of the curve and still the great global pioneer.

Places have charisma, in short, as much as people do.

Movement is a fantastic privilege... but it ultimately only has meaning if you have a home to go back to.

I think the world is always going to be as diverse as it always has been.

Home is, in the end, not just the place where you sleep, but the place where you stand.

I think of myself as living so much outside borders or old categories that I choose as my leaders U2, the Dalai Lama, Vaclav Havel, Sigur Ros, Desmond Tutu, Barack Obama, and the girl next door. By definition, in short, my leaders are the ones who think in terms larger, and more intimate, than any country.

Alas, those six unfortunate souls who have made their way through my books know that every one of them is about Emerson and Thoreau and their dark counters, Melville and Emily Dickinson. Try as I might, I can't get their inspirations, their challenges and sentences and wisdom and questions out of my head.

The one thing perhaps that technology hasn't always given us is a sense of how to make the wisest use of technology.

Writing reminds you of how much there is in your life that stands outside your explanations. In that way, it's almost a journey into faith and doubt at once.

I sometimes think that so much of our life takes place inside our heads - in memory or imagination or interpretation or speculation - that if I really want to change my life, I might best begin by changing my mind.

We can't change the world except insofar as we change the way we look at the world - and, in fact, any one of us can make that change, in any direction, at any moment.