Thursday, April 24, 2014

Distractions

A distraction is any thing--any noun, really--that causes you to shift your focus from a task or, for that matter, from another noun.  Tasks, after all, are nouns; they are things.  Sometimes, they are persons, or places. Sometimes, distractions are events.

A distraction wrenches your focus from the thing or event you were engaged with, calls attention to itself in some provocative way, perhaps with an event bearing some intriguing decoration or theme, then reels you into its orbit.  

If schools and personality tests were focused more on situations where distraction were given the attention distraction deserves, your life would have taken a more privileged turn. There is no telling where you might be at this moment or if, indeed, you would be writing this at any moment.

In many cases, gifted authors use distraction as a trampoline for suspense or tension, using artful shift in point of view or perspective, much as a magician or prestidigitator uses distraction to keep the viewer from seeing the mechanics of the narrative device we recognize as suspense.

These same gifted authors will take us up to the end of a scene in which a character is expected to make a decision or instead has taken a step where he has believed there to be firm footing, only to discover there is none.  The author shifts our focus to another character, in another place, perhaps even at an other time.  We are left, reluctant but intrigued, to follow the new character and the new situation.  We--most of us--understand we are being played, manipulated; we have as much as plunked down our money to be played and manipulated, much as we plunk down our money to be manipulated when visiting a chiropractor or masseuse. 

If you were to consult a dictionary for a definition of the literary term "anticlimax," you would in all probability come in contact with the word "distraction" as an approach leading to a definition.  Anticlimax is a distraction from what might otherwise have been a dramatic closure, which is to say a tie-up of as many loose ends as are likely to be tied.  The distraction muddies the effect brought about by the more agreeable ending or closure, injecting into the narrative the same, mindless spawn of events we so often experience in real life.

Most mornings, you awaken by design and deliberation or by the secondary outcome of having slept your full.  This morning, because you were up quite late the night before, you slept past the time you'd normally sleep your full.  Thus you awoke with the knowledge that Reality had gained a jump on you.  

Dozens, perhaps hundreds of events had already begun their course while you yet slept, meaning your time of waking, whenever it was, became a fraught time, a time of catch-up.  Indeed, there were things to be dealt with in the form of telephone and electronic messages of various sorts, requiring responses and action.  

You could with some justification call these events distractions.  With equal ease, you could argue to The Cosmos--which is always too busy to listen or respond--that these distractions might not have happened or, if they were determined to happen, would not be so severe, had you not been distracted the night before with the result of you being up and working longer than ordinary.  

In some ways, your relationship with The Cosmos puts you in mind of the conflict between romantic partners when such matters as career, household management, care for children or addled adults cause distractions from the original romantic intent.

What seemed like a good idea at the time was in all probability a first-rate good idea, but it has now suffered attacks from the attack drones of distraction.

At this point in your life, you find your relationship with the Cosmos to reflect a remarkable similarity to a romantic relationship attacked by a swarm of hungry distractions.  There have been times when you felt a tangible sense of romantic bonding with The Cosmos and its cousin, Reality.

Now, The Cosmos is in effect miffed with you for asking of it the equivalent of "What's for dinner tonight?" instead of "Hey, we've both had a real day.  What say we go out for dinner?"

The Cosmos would like you to think you are remiss for not having asked that question.  But for all it matters, you know better.  You were distracted.  Try using that as an excuse.  

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