Do We Really Want An Uninterrupted Life?

Or are we treating peace and tranquility like another distraction?

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There are always distractions, if you allow them.” Tony La Russa

It’s nice to imagine living without distractions, enjoying peaceful days in thoughtful meditation, pondering our existence. Trouble is, we’re more interested in being here. We love our distractions. We’d be babbling fools, pulling spaghetti out of our noses, if it weren’t for the internet and texting.

We don’t mind meditating, doing yoga, maybe going for a walk. What we do mind is long, uninterrupted silences. Even yoga instructors have the decency to talk while we’re scrunching ourselves into calming positions. Know why they’re calming? They’re cutting off our circulation. Drowning people also go through a state of calm. It’s called not having oxygen.

An overactive bladder is the first sign of withdrawal. Any junkie will tell you that.

Distractions give us a sense of normalcy. We spend an average of 5 hours a day scrolling, doing screen grabs, commenting on dogs snuggling cats. There’s a fullness to being online, a sense of completeness. We’re where the action is.

Think of the frustration we experience when the power goes out. We stare at our blank computer screens. We get antsy. We go to the washroom. An overactive bladder is the first sign of withdrawal. Any junkie will tell you that.

Fortunately, the power usually comes back on before we start doing puppet shows with oven mitts. This happens a lot after hurricanes. Survivors have been found in their kitchens doing Punch and Judy meet Goodfellas.

What’s the first thing we do when we get in a hotel room? We plug in our phones and laptops. Letting a battery run down is seriously stupid. What are you going to do with a dead phone or laptop? Some people go to the movies. Two hours is usually all you need to charge a battery. Most movies are two hours. That’s not a coincidence.

Stupidity sells more than product placement.

A young man from the audience went up on stage just before an evening’s performance. He tried to plug his phone into the outlet. It was a fake outlet. Some patrons were outraged. The young man’s response? “I had two gorgeous girls trying to call me,” he said. It made the internet the same night. One million hits.

A few days later, he tweeted, “My parents are seriously pissed, but that theatre should thank me. I gave them a lot of publicity.” He obviously knows how the internet works. Stupidity sells more than product placement.

A woman was caught asking for money online for her cancer treatments. She showed pictures of herself with a bald head. Three million hits. Authorities checked into it. She didn’t have cancer. That got even more hits.

Who can drive when your steering wheel has more buttons than a sound studio? I see a day when instrument panels will have full church organs.

We can laugh, we can be outraged, but we love distractions. They remind us that the world is a complicated place. Anything can happen. The reason we check social media each day is to confirm life’s unpredictable wackiness. When it’s not wacky, we’re seriously disappointed. We go to the washroom.

So much of what we do requires distractions. Cars are now outfitted with everything from televisions in the headrests, to plug-in UPS ports for downloading your music library. No wonder we’re moving to driverless cars. Who can drive when your steering wheel has more buttons than a sound studio? I see a day when instrument panels will have full church organs.

With all this going on, no wonder yoga studios and meditation retreats are full. Even Don Draper on Mad Men went to a retreat. Okay, he was thinking of a Coke commercial the whole time. But at least he had his legs crossed.

Something’s wrong when sex takes a back seat to sea weed.

There’s big money in retreats. Millions are spent each year finding calm and serenity. Some retreats have full-time medical masseuses. Others stick you in a bath of ground up sea weed. Still others run a pestle around a glass bowl.

You don’t see many selfies of this. Most retreats ask you to leave all electronic devices at the front desk. They also have signs saying: “No sex.” People complain about leaving their devices. Strangely, few complain about having no sex. Something’s wrong when sex takes a back seat to sea weed.

When Tony La Russo said, “There are always distractions, if you let them,” are we letting distractions run our lives? Are we distracting rather applying ourselves? Does one necessarily rule out the other?

We remember the Chubby Chicken deal at A&W, but forget we’re married.

If we’re to believe Susan Weinschenk Ph.D., writing in Psychology Today, many of us are losing up to 40% of our productivity through distractions. Supposely, this plays havoc on our pre-frontal cortexes.

It seems our prefrontal cortexes were never designed for the type of cerebral hopscotching we engage in every day. Our brains don’t have time to process. This is called “maladjusted preoccupation.” We remember the Chubby Chicken deal at A&W, but forget we’re married.

If we heap all the emails, phone messages, texts — and CNN — together we realize this is “cerebral avoidance.” We’re all guilty of distracting rather than applying ourselves. If we weren’t, we’d be inventing stuff. Less than one percent of the population invent things. The rest of us buy them.

Since there’s little chance of us giving up our phones or our internet, there are ways we can at least cut down on the clutter that’s making us forget we’re married. Here’s just a few:

It’s Still Just a Dog: First of all, stop going to Facebook every time someone sends you a notification. The last one said: “Did you see the dog? He reminds me of Spiro Agnew.” Guess what? Most dogs look like Spiro Agnew. Nixon only made him Vice President so he’d appeal to dog owners.

Grow a Pair: I mean a pair of ears. Learn to separate “noise” from “useful information.” Once you’re able to distinguish between the two, you’ll see a definite improvement in your cognitive reasoning. You’ll also discover that Golden Retrievers look like Bob Newhart. This is “deductive reasoning.”

The Three Ball Limit: There’s no shame in admitting you can’t do six things at once. I can handle typing, but add phone calls, texts, or a dog that looks like Bob Newhart, and my productivity descends to the level of a hamster.

Get Out More: Stop thinking the internet shows all of life’s wackiness. Not everything ends on YouTube. Most purse snatchings don’t. Neither does most sex. If you turned off your computer, you’d notice this.

If you enjoy humour and satire, join us for a 5-day (4 night) retreat at Clonmel Castle, Nov 20–24. Spaces are limited, so try to book by Nov 5. Clonmel Castle is located in Port Dover, Ontario. It’s a beautiful Georgian Revival mansion where you can learn, discuss and write humour with like-minded (possibly twisted) individuals. All skill levels welcome. All inclusive. Weekly rate: $1,585. Daily rate: $150.00. For more information, contact Lynneee at: clonmelcastle@gmail.com or call: 1–519–583–0519

Robert Cormack is a novelist, satirist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. For more details, go to Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Publishing.

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I did a poor imitation of Don Draper for 40 years before writing my first novel. I'm currently in the final stages of a children's book. Lucky me.

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