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30th April

My infinite appetite for distractions

In his 1958 book Brave New World Revisited Aldous Huxley talks about how the early advocates of universal literacy did not foresee the development of a vast communications industry concerned neither with the true or the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant. They failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions. With the advent of the Internet and mobile phones, the number of distractions offered to us has increased enormously, and we make voracious use of them, thereby confirming Huxley's observation.


I too have this craving for distractions. Whenever I’m stuck in a text, or I have to do a task I’m not particularly keen on, I grab my phone to check WhatsApp.  Often, before starting to write, I find myself reading mails rather than composing sentences, even though I’m very much aware that it can take quite a while to regain focus after even the smallest distraction. When searching for information I’m often seduced into looking at YouTubes that have nothing to do with the subject I’m investigating. I surf from a conversation on consciousness to a video on monasteries in Bhutan and end up watching part of a Lucille Ball episode.

Several times a day, when I have an idle moment, I check newspapers online.


By doing all of this quickly, I try to convince myself that it isn’t happening, just as I pretend that calories don't count when I rapidly stuff a piece of chocolate cake into my mouth while standing in front of the refrigerator. 

I not only have an infinite appetite for distractions, but also for fooling myself! 


Still, I wonder if I only want to look for distractions to get away from a task. I know from meditating in the early morning hours how sitting in silence gives me a sense of equanimity.  Why then do I prefer to watch Lucille Ball in those minutes between chores? Why is it so much easier to click on a YouTube than to close my eyes and just be?


It might have to do with my mind’s need to be constantly entertained, its fear of emptiness. But it could also be just the habit of , once the task of meditating is done in the morning, I’m free to let my mind roam the rest of the day. 


Now that I’ve become aware of this pattern, I want to change it. It can take several weeks to modify a habit so I should begin as soon as possible. In fact, I’ll start right after having watched the latest video with gossip about the Spanish Royal family. 

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