Just last week, Mrs YWS hit me with a question that has given me great food for thought – ‘Are all distractions worthless?’
Well, thanks for reading.
If only it was that easy.
There’s a murky complexity in striking the balance between immersing ourselves in the transcendent and important, and a healthy level of engagement with the fun, less serious aspects of life.
I mean, what can people do who are in genuine need of downtime? There are people who are carers or who give and give in their lives already, looking after family or friends. And those who are perhaps involved in caring professions who struggle to switch off from the myriad needs around them.
And of course there are those of us who are simply stuffed after a day or a week at work.
How can they get a break from their burdens?
Obviously, I don’t think that innumerable hours spent with heads perusing our fantasy football team is the answer, but distractions like fantasy footy, movies, TV, footy tipping, poker etc aren’t in and of themselves worthless.
I do see that we use these activities to medicate ourselves from our overriding issues. We don’t stop and purposefully address our deep levels of fatigue, pain, disillusionment and burnout, creating change to sustain a healthy, balanced pace of life.
We seldom make a habit of examining our habits. For the most part, they are passively acquired. Most of our decisions are made re-actively, not pro-actively. They lack intentionality.
And why would we?
In Australian culture, it’s not hard to see why. We rank 29th in the OECD in ‘employees working very long hours’. Half of Australian fathers with young children are working over 45 hours a week. We are 28th in the OECD in time devoted to leisure and personal care.
This is not working.
No one in other countries is looking at the Australian model, or the U.S. one for that matter, and holding it up as an example to behold.
What we as a country have created as ‘the norm’ in relation to our work-life balance is broken. It has placed irresistible pressure on the individual, fracturing our relationships and our connectedness to the outside world.
It’s no wonder that when our time is our own, we switch to our default cocoon, engaging our empty emotional tank in the safe, the familiar, the known. Ironically, it’s the constant engagement in these activities that’s preventing us from addressing our apathy, our hurt, our disengagement.
The wrong question
This reminds me of the couples who are waiting until they get married to … well, you know! And they ask the question, ‘How far is too far?’ The thing is, though; it’s the wrong question.
If that is their goal and their starting point is to love and respect the other person, then the ‘technicalities’ of what is and isn’t permissible become irrelevant. They don’t need someone else to set down guidelines for them. There’s a greater narrative driving the story.
Back to the beginning
This piece started with the question, ‘Are all distractions worthless?’
Again, it’s the wrong question.
It reeks of opportunism, seeking to justify a lifestyle and set of behaviours which we are too exhausted, too distracted or too proud to genuinely examine.
This forum has never demanded complete eradication of activities that, when overindulged, can lead to many of the issues mentioned above.
Some of them I will actually re-engage with when May 24 ticks around. Others, I won’t.
9+ months of space from many of them has, however, enabled me to identify them for what they are – fun, engaging, yet ultimately unimportant; for me, a very positive realisation. At the same time, my own level of engagement and understanding with the transcendent, the truly important, has been deepened and widened.
This will not be a journey that I will ever look back on and regret.
I hate having a question responded to with a question. It makes me feel like I’m talking to Yoda, or Dumbledore. Still, I get the purpose behind it, infuriating as it may be at the time.
The question I have consistently asked myself over the last 287 days hasn’t been whether a given activity is worthless or worthwhile, but more, ‘What are you distracting yourself from?’