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The mechanics of distraction

The mechanics of distraction
August 29, 2013, 02:51:10 PM
This is an off-shoot of 'Head in the clouds', as I feel that this is deserving of a topic of its own. Encouraged by crow, I meditated a bit on the tricky concept of distraction and these are the words I found.

It went in bit of an unexpected direction, but it grew naturally to be what it is, so perhaps that isn't such a bad thing. Maybe there is something in there of use to someone, somewhere.

The mechanics of distraction

What is distraction? A type of bewilderment. The distracted mind is always a mind seeking something else. A distraction is a means for the mind - often unknowingly - to escape whatever it should be doing, effectively seeking to be in another mind-state than it is actually in.

As such, I believe that distraction is best classified as a type of confusion. Confusion is the general mind-state of distraction, and the specific instance of distraction is always an uttering of a more general confusion.

Now, this is a bit of a paradox for the distracted mind doesn't really want this confused mindstate - but exactly because of this desire, it acts in a way that enforces or strenghtens the confusion, pro-longing the undesired state indefinitely.

How? Well, distraction can manifest in two distinct ways:

1. You should be doing something specific, but instead end up doing nothing generally.
2. There is nothing specifically you should be doing, but still end up doing something generally.

My guess would be, that people who are introverted are prone to the first kind of distraction, whereas extroverts more easily fall prey to the second. Why? Well, introverts generally desire the peace and quiet of the inner world, whereas extro's derive energy from the hustle and bustle of the outer, often social world. But of course, variations occur.

Whether introvert or extrovert, the distracted mind in general is one gravitating towards a desired mind-state, or at least what is perceived as a desired mind-state: What the distracted individual instinctively recognizes as its own comfort-zone. This in spite of the fact that this desired mind-state isn't what is required of the mind at the given time.

This is indicated by the should: The distracted mind always knows that it should be occupying itself with something else. Something (or perhaps nothing) more urgent. Yet, it seeks to escape what it knows, instead restlessly seeking a state 'out of itself' so to speak.

Why is this so? Because the mind feels uncomfortably challenged by the task, the should at hand. For example: The extrovert feel unease with a state of being alone or not having something to do, and thus seeks out meaningless activity to escape this uneasiness. On the other hand, the introvert fears acting on his ideas, truly getting something done, and so post-pones the task in favor of his beloved inner tranquility.

As a result, the tranquility grows restless, and the activity becomes empty.

If such behavior goes unnoticed by the distracted mind - which it generally does - it will lead to a state of subtle torment, both for the distracted person himself, as well as for his surroundings, as the distracted person inevitably grows unbearably-- what shall I call it? Discordant, perhaps. He both suffers from- and inflicts upon others a lack of harmony and fundamental balance

This is of course unfortunate for all. But it will persist as long as the distracted one tries to escape that which he knows that he should- or should not do.

Distraction is a major problem, both individually and collectively in the modern world. In other words: We have too many people doing something that should in fact be doing nothing, as well as too many people doing nothing that should be doing something. This means that the wrong people are doing, and the wrong people are not-doing.

What a confused mess! I say: Let's try to do something about it. After all, we all know that we should, right?

And a logical first step? Undistraction. It is our individual as well as collective duty to avoid distraction at any costs, as we will both be happier as people, and healthier as a society if we leave such confusion behind. This however means that we have to make a conscious effort of leaving our comfort-zone when we know that it is right to do so.

Still many people won't do this. What is generally holding the distracted person back? The answer to this question is both an easy and a hard one: For without exception it is the ego blocking the way of undistraction. The pain of leaving your individual comfort zone is namely the fear that one is ultimately exposed as being something other than one likes to think of oneself. To avoid facing this 'risk', we distract ourselves - simple as that.

This however is the prime confusion, the confusion par excellence - because there is no real risk. We only perceive one, because we - often unconsciously - like to think of our individual selves as the center of the world, and fear that this center - and thus the world - will be shattered and destroyed if we challenge it. That is however not the case, as anyone willing and courageous enough to challenge his own egomanical notions will soon find out - for in fact, the ego doesn't really exist, and therefore cannot be the center of anything. The thought of the ego can exist though, but it only has real power as long as one is unwilling to challenge it. And challenge our egos is something we should all do - because beyond there is reality, which is infinitely greater, more rewarding, glorious, good and beautiful.

There will of course always be people who are too fearful to reach beyond themselves - but we shouldn't be bothered by this, as they are the ones suffering, not us. Unless of course we become, or remain one of them.

Who on earth would truly want that?

Undistract youself!

Re: The mechanics of distraction
August 29, 2013, 03:02:10 PM
Dissecting the word helps a lot too:



No traction! It means spinning your wheels without moving.

I will comment more in depth when I have time later.

Re: The mechanics of distraction
August 29, 2013, 03:13:53 PM
Haha! Very perceptive!

Re: The mechanics of distraction
August 29, 2013, 04:01:31 PM
focus (n.)
1640s, from Latin focus "hearth, fireplace" (also, figuratively, "home, family"), of unknown origin, used in post-classical times for "fire" itself, taken by Kepler (1604) in a mathematical sense for "point of convergence," perhaps on analogy of the burning point of a lens (the purely optical sense of the word may have existed before Kepler, but it is not recorded). Introduced into English 1650s by Hobbes. Sense transfer to "center of activity or energy" is first recorded 1796.

distraction (n.)
mid-15c., "the drawing away of the mind," from Latin distractionem (nominative distractio) "a pulling apart, separating," noun of action from past participle stem of distrahere (see distract). Meaning "mental disturbance" (in driven to distraction, etc.) is c.1600. Meaning "a thing or fact that distracts" is from 1610s.

Re: The mechanics of distraction
August 30, 2013, 12:21:51 PM
Ah, etemology. I get warm fuzzies inside.

So 03-04, what are some situations in which you feel distracted? Are there consistent ones?

I feel distracted at apparently random intervals. There is no consistency for me. Sometimes I get distracted while practicing music; this is strange because I love working with music.

There is a hollow behind my house that has been dumped in for decades. I've been hauling the garbage up, separating the sellable scrap from the waste, then bringing them where they need to go. By all guesses I should be bored to tears with this kind of work but I am gleeful when I'm doing it.

Re: The mechanics of distraction
August 30, 2013, 07:42:32 PM
Living religious belief is probably the one thing that has kept people collectively free from distraction as well having prevented the growth of the ego throughout human civilization. Notice that at the current time, ego/distraction is generally more of a problem in the western world and in the more developed countries influenced by the west. Is this as a result of the large-scale disintegration of religious belief in those populations? Of course their are many other (often inseparable) variables that come into play but I think this is a big one.

I spent a long time wondering how can the world be changed and eventually concluded that it is a task beyond the individual (and yet, somehow I still think it isn't). As a civilization is composed of individuals and each individual, including their mind-state and behaviour is influenced by and influences those around them it really does start to make sense to "become the change you wish to see in the world". I can attest to this in that the most positive influence on myself has been that which I've seen in others.

To add another angle to the discussion, do you believe in such a thing as fate or destiny? Are certain individuals not ever going to be ready to overcome the distraction and the ego?

Re: The mechanics of distraction
August 30, 2013, 09:05:28 PM
Experience indicates that there are many people who will never overcome the rule of ego.
In this lifetime, anyway, if you subscribe to the idea of reincarnation.

Re: The mechanics of distraction
September 03, 2013, 12:41:31 AM
I think that I was in fact distracted when I wrote the OP, though I felt as if I was doing my very best. It didn't achieve what I set out to do.

However, the OP is a prime example of the way that I am most commonly distracted: I loose myself in the abstraction of an idea, and completely forget the reality of it.

In life, I am currently seeking to employ my philosophical understanding of things in a more earthy way. Writing and explaining things in a 'structure', while ending in a call to arms of sorts, like the OP, is my way of explaining something to myself. But I know that this isn't the most effective way to communicate to others.

I paraded an awareness that I hadn't effectively achieved yet. Consider this a correction.

Re: The mechanics of distraction
September 03, 2013, 12:01:15 PM
Were you 'parading' anything? It didn't appear so.
Besides: you don't get to embody anything subtle without sometimes missing the target, en-route to accuracy.

Re: The mechanics of distraction
September 03, 2013, 01:19:21 PM
Perhaps you are right. I'm probably being too harsh on myself. Parading it wasn't - just me expressing myself inadequately.

What got me was this from the 'Head in the clouds'-thread:

When the mind can't stay with itself, it cannot do what it's supposed to do, namely identify everything else as that, which everything else is. All becomes mixed up. The distracted person cannot tell the difference between the world, and perception of the world.


This was really the most interesting part of that, which you called the mackerel. The tasty bit. But instead of just going for that, I fell into my usual ways.

Re: The mechanics of distraction
September 03, 2013, 02:14:50 PM
Yes, YES! I went back and checked.
The distracted person cannot tell the difference between the world, and perception of the world.
That, my friend, is a revelation.
There is more in that than in 10,000 words.

Re: The mechanics of distraction
September 05, 2013, 01:54:52 AM
Actually... you're right.

Revelation isn't a bad word to describe it. It's a revealing or unveiling. It came to me out of the blue - it isn't mine. I wasn't thinking about it - I just wrote it.

Thanks for pointing this out, crow - I might have missed it completely if you hadn't.

Re: The mechanics of distraction
September 05, 2013, 08:53:02 AM
We walk shaky philosophical ground to be sure that we can tell the difference between reality and our perception of reality. There are many blurry lines between the extreme ideas like Solipsism and Realism. In this case all would apply; the blurry line we walk depends on our state of mind. Or is that backward?

To posit that there is indeed a difference between reality and our perception of it in the first place already scares most people, which is too bad because it's almost disappointingly obvious.

Re: The mechanics of distraction
September 05, 2013, 09:22:02 AM
Reality is the scariest thing there is, to most.
Civilization only exists, to cover it over with layer upon layer of camouflage, so that the timid may forget the complete uncertainty of existence, and become able to function in a way that gets big things done.

That was how it was, anyway.
How it now is, seems to entail getting nothing done, regardless, while people satiate themselves with any possible distraction and transient pleasure.

Reality continues to exist, though, as it always has, and always will, as the wilderness that the brave freely explore and glory in.

Re: The mechanics of distraction
December 14, 2013, 03:14:18 PM
Wouldn't you agree that extroverts have an advantage over introverts? Especially in a world that neccessitates, prizes all kinds of busy-ness and activity?? You can see that with the catchphrases and many nuggets of advice throughout that scream 'doing something is better than nothing' (of course, there is a problem when that 'something' is really as empty as doing nothing).

But back to my original point: At least when the extrovert does 'something', that 'something', which could be meaningless at first, has a chance to lead to something meaningful. Well, somebody could be a social networking fiend, getting a daily fix chatting it up with online 'friends', and nothing but useless conversation comes about for the longest ennui-inducing while... but one day, a conversation that is routine-breaking, habit-changing occurs and the person gets motivated to go out into the world and exercise and learn and practice survival techniques or build a house, or whatever is a meaningful 'something'.

Following the OP's example, it would seem the introvert by nature  probably won't take risks and remain in the distraction rut moreso than the extrovert, who by doing things, could achieve a healthlier life by trial and error, without neccesarily knowing it.

In what ways could the introvert, who lives inside the mind, gain on the extrovert and maybe prove better?