So, yes, we had things to do because life was just like that. To live was to work because our play was our work. We worked at our play and never had enough time. All too soon, our parents or somebody introduced us to the idea of hobbies, and then the whole, entire edifice of our world began to crumble.
Life fell apart. On one side was work; on the other side was play, and somewhere in the middle, we "sandwiched" our so-called hobbies. But, then, something else began to slip into the bifurcated world. What was this? It was distractions.
In fact, it was a whole train of distractions and changes in not only the separation of work, play, and hobbies. Oh no! My play group began to be forced to separate. My good friend, Peggy, was simply one of the gang. She could outrun many of the group and could throw, tackle, wrestle, and do all the things that we loved to do. There was never any problem either when we would choose sides. On our make-shift playground when we did not worry about uniforms, we could easily divide the group into two teams: the "shirts" and the "skins." Peggy could fit into either group until she couldn't—to our great puzzlement and dismay.
One day Peggy's mother rushed out on the porch when she saw us peeling off our shirts. She yelled for Peggy to come into the house and told her she would have to play on the team with the shirts! That did not seem right to her or to all of us on the "skins" team who needed Peggy as our fastest running back! She was puzzled and embarrassed, and all of us were left to try to figure why Peggy's mom did not like the skins! She had only told Peggy that she, the mom, would explain later that night. We made Peggy promise she would tell us when she found out. Meanwhile, we might as well go home. Somehow, the game felt strange, as if some mysterious force had fallen on us and distracted us from the innocent, spontaneous, wonder-filled times we had always enjoyed.
Peggy never told us what her mom said. But everything had changed because in a very short time Peggy herself became a distraction—at least for me, when Peggy became my "girlfriend."
And there we have it. More about Peggy later, but I return to the statement I made earlier. If we do not have anything to do, we will do anything. Why? Because as the title of this writing implies, there is a will to distraction. And now we come to the heart of the matter. Just what are our present distractions? From what are they distracting us? And why does this matter? Why this topic? I am raising this topic with its attendant questions because of the turmoil that clouds the institutions of our country and the bizarre actions, conspiracy theories, and crippled enactment of policies needed to save our planet from its downward spiral toward ruin.
Furthermore, in what sense do we "will" these distractions? Let me state it quite simply:
A distraction is a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention
to something else; a diversion or recreation. (New Oxford American Dictionary)
Will is a state of mind in which there is an intentional outcome. (RM)
From this vantage point, considering the nature of distractions and the disturbing tendency to focus our will on the distractions rather than what really matters, we may understand the paralysis that describes this time in which we are living.
What do I mean when I refer to "what really matters?" No doubt you could provide your own list, but I offer the following four concerns that threaten our way of life and the prospects for a world in which our children may live their dreams and reach for the stars.
First, there is the increasingly obvious deterioration of our natural resources. Habitats are disappearing, land masses are shifting, ocean currents are disrupting life not only of sea-dwelling creatures but also the distribution of heat around the globe, a process mediating the temperatures of the cold arctic and the hot tropical regions.
Second, there remains a great racial divide in our country. The majority of the world's people are people of color. The last days of the "white world" are upon us. It is expected that Caucasions will become a minority within the US by 2045, and that one quarter of the world's population will be African by 2050. New leadership emerges, but racial differences continue to plague our realization of earth's people as one.
However, just as we are divided racially, so also are we divided politically. But unlike the factor of race that can divide people, our political unrest seems to stem from ideological posturing. How much of this is driven by fear and how much is driven by the ages' ongoing drama of power-seeking? Unfortunately, our most powerful religious groupings only serve to perpetuate the divide along power lines between "those who have it" and "those who do not." Most disturbing, however, is the collapse of one political constituency that seems to have abandoned any attempt at all to participate with good faith in a political forum where issues may be debated and compromised solutions presented. Instead, cultural issues are sensationalized for the advantage of political gain.
The fact that this kind of demagoguery can take place in a relatively educated society can be understood only because of what I list as my fourth concern: the politicizing source of pseudo-news within some of our media that is nothing more than propaganda riding the back of entertainment by individuals who thrive within a personality cult obsessed with self-serving aggrandizement.
These four distractions form the beginning of realities that can survive only when there is "a will to distraction." But this "will" cannot last. Just as the distraction of my first love, Peggy, eventually sank over the horizon of life's many contingencies and adventures, so too will this political moment recede over the horizon. What you and I cannot know now is what may remain when the sun rises over a new day and our present distractions escape the grasp of our will.
(The phrase "a universal will to distraction" is found in Carl Jung's Collected Works, Vol. 9i, para. 617.)