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Today’s New York Times has a brilliant, profound, and complex essay on “The Art of Distraction” by the superb writer HANIF KUREISHI. It is too nuanced, with too many twists and turns for simply summary so I simply advise you to read it, and then to let it simmer, think about it.  Readers of this blog and of my book Now You See It know that I’m always saying that “distraction is our friend.”   If we are feeling distracted, we should pay attention to that distraction.  It may be telling us that there is something better elsewhere, something more deserving of our attention.  Or it may be telling us we are on the wrong path, just when we thought we were zooming in to that perfect conclusion of a paragraph or a project.   Or it may be telling us we need better tools, that the set-up we have is not fully appreciating the particularities and peccadilloes of our own work life and demands.  Or it may be telling us that we need better partners, or a better method, someone or something to help us over the hurdle.  Or it may just be telling us we are working too hard and we need to put down what we are doing and go outside for a walk, or stop for a cup of tea, or go for a run, or maybe just check out Facebook for a while.  Distraction is our friend because it reminds us that we are fully human, not just workers, and that our lives are complex and, trying to shut out the complexity, may in fact turn out to be the least productive way to lead a life.

For Kureishi, the undistracted life is not much worth living.   Distraction is what leads to agony sometimes and art sometimes–and sometimes the art and the agony are two sides of the same thing.    But one thing is for sure:  if we measure productivity by our least distracted results, our least conflicted and interrogated and unquestioned answers, we rarely will produce great art or even great thought.   And, for kids, when we convince them that The One Best Answer on a bubble test is the only right, undistracted answer, we are leading them to a life of shallowness and frustration, for very little in the world operates within the undisturbed bubble.  Real life, as Kureishi reminds us so powerfully, is all the mess outside.

Here’s the url for this beautiful essay.  May it distract your day, and enrich it!   I

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Cathy N. Davidson

Cathy N. Davidson

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