15 January 2013

distraction from distraction by distraction


T.S. Eliot talks about "distraction from distraction by distraction" in Burnt Norton, and boy, does that seem appropriate for our modern world.

Edinburgh philosopher John Llewelyn says this "denotes a way of life lived utterly unseriously, in which one allows oneself to be driven hither and thither by one whim after another without rhyme or reason."

Sounds like people watching TV and/or youtube videos for hours and hours.  Did you see that hedgehog video?  The Korean "Gangnam Style" video and its many spoofs?  Some guy from New Jersey singing the Numa Numa song?  And we wonder why there aren't as many Leonardo da Vinci types today.  Maybe it's because we waste our time looking at pictures of bathroom remodels on pinterest or of people's babies on facebook.

Malcolm Gladwell talks about honing one's craft, be it basketball or poetry, for 10,000 hours to attain mastery.  Perhaps if we spent less time being distracted by space-fillers, we would all be masters of some craft by age thirty.

Llewelyn continues:
But although Eliot uses these words to refer to distractions that are random and aimless except that they have the temporary effect of relieving boredom, they are not only distractions from other distractions that kill time. They are, as Eliot’s poem preaches, distractions from what can give to a life sense and direction and seriousness.
Imagine if instead of wasting time playing video games, we logged those hours with Habitat for Humanity and helped build homes for people.  Or volunteering as a Big Brother/Big Sister.  Or learning a new language.

I wouldn't preach being serious all of the time-- I am a big proponent of play.  But I also think we could play better.  Instead of mindless entertainment, let's engage in creative play, outdoorsy play, and constructive play.  Learning a new dance versus laughing at some inane video online.  Reconnecting with old friends instead of checking email for the hundredth time.  Saving up to travel to a new country rather than spending a fortune on an expensive pair of boots.

So, for 2013, I'd like to be more creative, more productive and play better.

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