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Discovery vs. Distraction

December 1, 2010

Change makes you think and for the vast majority of us that have been subjected to the unavoidable change of transitioning from a family life at home to an abandoned couple, college matriculation has been long anticipated but completely unprepared for.  A bucket of cold water has been thrown in our collective face, and rather than clarifying perspective, new questions are revealed.

Having the echo absence post-Turkey Day reconvening  there is a new appreciation of the reciprocal relationship between discovery and distraction.

Babies are the epitome of discovery.  Virtually everything they see, taste, feel and sense is new.  The instantaneous glow of happiness or shriek of fear that overwhelms their entire being is directly related to discovery.  From that point forward until our mortal coil ceases there seems to be a waning of discovery and a larding up of distraction.  Initially, Sesame Street was discovery for children and eventually, it turned into meaningless distraction.

As we aged out of adolescence, the thrill of new relationships inevitably gave way to dating being a distraction until you met the “right one.”  For a lot of us the discovery of the “right one” led to the ultimate discovery – kids.  Through them, the level of distraction ratcheted down and the level of discovery on our part went through the roof – a sort of mid-life anti-crisis.

And now as that overwhelming sense of discovery ebbs as children glide path away, we are left with the new sense of impending distraction.

But distraction from what?  Nora Ephron said in a recent interview, she believes it is the “D-word” – the corollary to taxes as one of the core unavoidable facts of life.  So now that my generation is “on the return flight home” as per my wife’s sharp assertion, the motivation to distract is extreme but also, there is a desire to discover.  Unfortunately, the two get incredibly murky.

Are you really discovering anything when your pet becomes a surrogate child?  Is it really a discovery when you now find time to go to lectures to hear interesting folks talk about interesting things when there was no sense of void in your intellectual well-being prior to your youngest child going off to college?

Perhaps the greatest discovery/distraction dynamic there is, is pathetically present in many of my tribe (the Y chromosome units). Some of us think there is a new revelation of discovery opened up to us the form of forbidden females that are somewhere in the vicinity of our children’s ages. In truth, that form of simulated rejuvenation is as hollow a distraction as one can imagine.  The extra-marital distraction is, to me, rather like the desire to take heroin or, more accurately for me personally, to suit up in  a football uniform and decide it would be “great” to practice with the local high school football team.  The anticipation would be exciting.  Even the first few seconds of the experience would be overwhelmingly electric.  But almost instantaneously, extreme pain, regret, and ultimately, self-destruction ensues.

So as I look at the relationship between discovery and distraction I try to rationalize why I do not view watching a Law & Order episode for the 27th time as a distraction as long as I am pumping on my exercise bike. When I  am tempted to have that fourth cocktail at the ethanol altar known as 116 Crown in New Haven, it’s clear that the greatest impact of change is not in what has left you but what you are choosing to take on, and why.

Discovery or distraction is perhaps a difference without distinction for most of us. But for me its the only distinction that makes a difference.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Susan permalink
    December 1, 2010 9:43 pm

    Duo, I loved this one. It’s quiet, sage advice. Sometimes it takes a while to find what will fill the void, it’s not as automatic as we’d like and the in-between time can be especially painful(and dangerous). Sometimes it helps to remember that our feelings, no matter how hard to bear, will likely not stay the same for long.

  2. December 3, 2010 11:04 am

    Gee, I dunno Duo – the whole huge world of creation is a sufficient distraction, isn’t it? Since EVERYthing counts in architecture, there is always something new to learn. Something unknown that reveals itself. I spend countless hours discovering – instead of wasting my time with television.

    Ya, I discontinued my cable service, have given up on cocktails for awhile. So much time for reading, learning.

    But, yes, the void of the children having left the house – it is huge. And no amount of architecture can replace that. It simply – is.


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