Letter 054: Distracted from Distraction by Distraction

Letter 054: Distracted from Distraction by Distraction

Greetings, hero!

Deep breath in, and hold. Count to 3, let it go.

Did you notice anything?

I did—looking around my desk, I saw my pen and ink sitting idly for the first time all morning. I saw a stack of papers not shuffle themselves for a few moments. I saw, for a brief second, my to-do list withhold judgement from me. Because for those few seconds of quiet, what I really noticed was that nothing happened. 

In fact, this letter was still waiting for me. It was exactly where I left it. There were no urgent telegrams or {!} important messages that expired in my few seconds of reflection. I didn’t miss out on any critical opportunities or life lessons. I didn’t miss any phone calls from very important people, or fail to hear some old wizarding friend knock on the door. 

Yet far too often, I live my life as if at any possible moment everything was going to fall apart unless I was absolutely attentive, coiled so tightly that nothing will escape my grasp. Every single thing worth thinking about is worth overthinking about, as if every single ‘i’ must be dotted and every single ‘T’ must be crossed or the whole world will implode in seconds. Life operates at the speed of now, and every single moment demands more from us than the last, more attention, more control, more time, more, more, more…

And escape is always available: deep breath in, deep breathe out. 

Nothing broke. Nothing fell apart. Because yes, life is demanding. But all too often it’s demanding of the wrong things. We get caught up in the constant flow of information, the countless voices that, taken all together, never amount to more than noise. We’re so afraid of losing out on each individual moment that we end up losing out on all of it, missing the forest because we’re so distracted by each individual tree.

It’s what Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset writes about when he said, “Among his various possible beings each man always finds one which is his genuine and authentic being. The voice which calls him to that authentic being is what we call “vocation.” But the majority … devote themselves to silencing that voice of the vocation and refusing to hear it.” 

It’s why we need to know, now more than ever: take the deep breath. Take the break. Let the ever present, non stop stimulation of modern life fall by the wayside. Get away from what T.S. Eliot described as being “distracted from distraction by distraction”—the never ending loop of new external stimulus. And listen—once the unnecessary noise has dimmed to the background. Breath deeply. What do you hear? What is the thought that remains when the distraction is gone? 

May the road rise up to meet you!

The Mentor