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The veil of distraction and being human
Today I want to discuss what it means to be human and the veil of distraction that comes with that.
By Jason Skirry, Philosophical Living
We live in a distracted world.
We are constantly being bombarded by advertisements on TV, in taxicabs, buses, on billboards, and even at the ATM machine. There’s always “breaking news” on TV, Facebook and Twitter. The internet gives us immediate access to so much information about what is going on in the world that it’s hard to keep it all straight.
The only escape from all of this is when we are at home. But even here, we distract ourselves with our phone apps, email, texting, computer games, and TV. Of course I’m not immune to all of this. I always have my cell phone with me, and I check my news feeds, answer emails, send text messages and watch funny videos.
Leaving aside the issue of imposed outside distraction I want to focus on our self-distraction. That is, what are we distracting ourselves from?
I think our self-distraction reveals something important about ourselves.
Specifically, it’s the fact that we don’t want to be alone with ourselves because we are afraid of what we might find. Maybe we will find loneliness, dashed and forgotten dreams, guilt, resentment, hurt feelings, and pain. We want to avoid this stuff at all costs even if it means losing out on experiencing life.
Last Friday my two kids went on a 3-week trip with their mom. This will be the longest stretch of time that I’ve been without seeing my kids. When they drove off, I immediately grabbed my workout stuff and went to the gym, and afterwards, went running. I usually listen to music when I run, but this time I decided not to.
I didn’t want to lose myself in the music and forget about my feelings of loss and loneliness. I wanted to dig into those feelings, explore them and see what was really going on.
As I ran around the lake, I experienced an outer and inner world that I’ve missed every time I went running with music pounding in my ears. The outer world opened up to me in full flower, the birds were chirping to each other and flying around me, the squirrels ran across my path and up trees, mother ducks with their ducklings swam near the edge of the lake, babies giggled, played and cried on the grass, and people on benches having deep conversations. I smelled the thick scent of lilac trees, the algae on the lake, and the fresh cut grass.
I turned to my body and felt my heart pound, my legs ache, and my lungs heave as I made my way around the lake. I also looked into myself and sat with my loneliness and loss, missing my kids and wishing I could be with them.
My inner pain mixed with my joyful experience of the world around me to create as sense of peace and calm in my soul.
It was like my inner world was somehow brought into harmony with the outer world and I felt fully alive. I felt my humanity, with all its pain, fragility and vulnerability, along with its joy and happiness.
If I were listening to music, I would’ve missed out on all of this. In the end, this experience helped me to explore and digest the feelings I had about missing my kids.
What I learned from this experience is that we need to be aware of self-distraction and make an effort to step away from things and just be.
There’s so much talk these days about being “present” in the moment that it’s turning into a cliché. But there is some truth to it. We need to be present in our outer moments as well as our inner ones.
If we don’t do this, we might be missing out on experiencing life itself, with all its pain and joy.
That is, if we only want to experience the good stuff and forget about the bad stuff, then we will miss out on what it is to be human.
Jason Skirry is a professor of philosophy and founder of Philosophical Living. He works with people to examine and improve their lives through philosophy, literature, art and poetry. Learn more at www.philosophicalliving.com
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