Escapism May Cause Injury or Death Part II

This is a follow-up to my first post on the novel Infinite Jest, and how it relates to a theme of many other authors and philosophers – boredom and distraction. I continue to notice this theme in my reading and will add additional references here as I find them.

A quote from author Sharon Salzberg:
(added 3/26/2021)

“The theologian and civil rights leader Howard Thurman recommended that we “look at the world with quiet eyes”. It’s an intriguing phrase. Too often, we’re more like those cartoon creatures whose eyes are popping out on springs: “I see something I want, give it to me!” Boing! “Wait – I see something better: I want that instead” Boing! We grab the object, the person, the rush, and clamp on and keep it from changing or leaving. And then – boing – we yearn for something else, because we aren’t even really paying attention to what we’re grasping so tightly. […] Inattention creates an escalating need for stimulation”

A poem by Robert Frost: Escapist – Never:
(added 3/26/2021)

His life is a pursuit of a pursuit forever.
It is the future that creates his present.
All is an interminable chain of longing.

A quote from Sharon Salzberg:
(added 3/26/2021)

“Plenty of distractions are external: the familiar competing tugs of home and work; the twenty-four hour media matrix; our noisy consumer culture. We often try to buy our way out of pain, regarding material possessions as talismans against change, against loss and death. ‘Getting and spending, we last waste our powers’ the poet William Wordsworth wrote. […] And it’s not just getting and spending, it’s texting, web surfing, tweeting, skyping, digitally recording.”

A quote from Alain de Botton in the essay On Distraction:
(added 3/26/2021)

“The past decade has seen an unparalleled assault on our capacity to fix our minds steadily on anything. To sit still and think, without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine, has become almost impossible.”

A quote from Linda Stone
(added 3/26/2021)

“Continuous partial attention is motivated by a desire not to miss anything. It involves an artificial sense of constant crisis, of living in a 24/7, always-on world. It contributes to feeling stressed, overwhelmed, overstimulated, and unfulfilled; it compromises our ability to reflect, to make decisions, and to think creatively.”

A quote from Henry David Thoreau
(added 3/28/2021)

“Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.”

A quote from Jon Kabat-Zinn
(added 4/9/2021)

“The impulse frequently arises in me to squeeze another this or another that into this moment. Just this phone call, just stopping off here on my way there. Never mind that it might be in the opposite direction. I’ve learned to identify this impulse and mistrust it. I work hard at saying no to it. It would love to have me eat breakfast with my eyes riveted to the cereal box, reading for the hundredth time the dietary contents of the contents, or the amazing free offer from the company. This impulse doesn’t care what it feeds on, as long as it’s feeding. The newspaper is an even better draw, or the LL Bean catalogue, or whatever else is around. It scavenges to fill time, conspires with my mind to keep me unconscious, lulled in a fog of numbness to a certain extent, just enough to fill or overfill my belly well I actually miss breakfast.”

A quote from Henry David Thoreau
(added 3/28/2021)

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen … In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and the thousand-and-one items to be allowed for. that a man has to life, if he wound not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, Simplify.”

A quote from Sheldon Soloman, on how subconscious anxiety sends us fleeing into distraction.
(added 4/25/2021)

“What I would submit is that malignant manifestations of repressed death anxiety bring out the worst in us. They make us demoralized, hateful, war-mongering proto fascists plundering the planet in our insatiable quest for dollars and dross, in a facebook, alcohol, tv, stupor.”

A quote from Mr Money Mustache
(added 4/30/2021)

“Most Americans, for example, are deep in unnecessary debt, overweight and poorly nourished, inactive and stressed out, and self-sentenced to a mandatory career of unsatisfying work just to stay afloat. We constantly buy things we can’t afford and don’t need, and the majority of the trading we do does not increase our net happiness. And all of this is done with virtually no awareness of how we are affecting our own ecosystem – the tiny veneer of air and plants that is the only thing between us and the lifeless vacuum of space. In fact, it would be difficult to imagine a less efficient way to maximize “Utility” than what the modern consumer does.”

A quote from Michael Easter, Author, Journalist, Professor
(added 5/28/2021)

“9 hours 16 minutes per day on a cell phone. That’s your entire day! All on that cellphone. Nowadays when we have this discomfort of boredom kick in, we have a super easy escape from it — we are not forced to look inward — we just pull out our phone. […] If you can build a capacity to be alone it can serve you well, and, it also breeds deeper thinking and creativity. There’s a reason that thousands of years of religious tradition they have people who go and spend this time out in nature. Jesus was in the desert for 40 days, Buddha exited the palace gates and spent time in solitude, even Abraham Lincoln used solitude for writing. I feel like people don’t have that as much anymore. “

A quote from Jon Kabat-Zinn
(added 5/28/2021)

“Life gives us scant time for being nowadays, unless we seize it on purpose. We no longer have a fixed time where we have to stop what we are doing because there’s not enough light to do it by… we lack that formerly built-in time we had every night for shifting gears, for letting go oft he day’s activities. We have precious few occasions nowadays for the mind to settle itself in stillness by a fire. […] It turns out that we don’t have to succumb to the addictive appeals of external absorptions in entertainment and passionate distraction. We can develop other habits that bring us back to that elemental yearning inside ourselves for warmth, stillness, and inner peace.”

A quote from Adam Gazzaley, The Price of Distraction
(added 5/29/2021)

“We are intolerant to feeling bored. Boredom is something we cannot just sit with and allow to watch over us even though it doesn’t actually hurt us. There is also anxiety that you’re missing out on something else, that FOMO, there’s something going on that’s deserving of your time that you’re missing. There’s also the anxiety that you’re not being maximally productive – that you have the capacity to get another thing done simultaneously. And so as those elements accumulate over time along with your diminished return that you’re getting, there’s a driving force to push you [to ingest more information in more places]. Boredom has almost been driven into extinction by technology.”

A quote from Jordan Bates

(added 5/31/2021)

“For the wise, the Internet is the Library of Alexandria x 1,000,000 and the most empowering, world-connecting, prosperity-creating tool in human history. For the unwise the Internet is a maddening black hole of triviality, outrage, and distraction. What the Internet is for you—and what life itself is for you—depends entirely on where you put your attention. Your attention is your most valuable resource; what you pay attention to is creating your future.”

A quote from Kierkegaard
(added 6/9/2021)

“Boredom is the root of all evil. It is very curious that boredom, which itself has such a calm and sedate nature, can have such a capacity to initiate motion. The effect that boredom brings about is absolutely magical, but this effect is one not of attraction but of repulsion.”

A quote from Alan Watts
(added 6/9/2021)

“The brainy economy designed to produce happiness is a fantastic vicious circle which must either manufacture more and more pleasures or collapse –providing a constant titillation of the ears, eyes, and nerve ends with incessant streams of almost inescapable noise and visual distractions. The perfect “subject” for the aims of this economy is the person who continuously itches his ears with the radio, preferably using the portable kind which can go with him at all hours and in all places. His eyes flit without rest from television screen, to newspaper, to magazine, keeping him in a sort of orgasm-without-release through a series of teasing glimpses of shiny automobiles, shiny female bodies, and other sensuous surfaces, interspersed with such restorers of sensitivity — shock treatments — as “human interest” shots of criminals, mangled bodies, wrecked airplanes, prize fights, and burning buildings. The literature or discourse that goes along with this is similarly manufactured to tease without satisfaction, to replace every partial gratification with a new desire.

A quote from Malcom Gladwell
(added 6/12/2021)

“When you surround yourself with certain kinds of objects, they become a public statement about who you are. There are hundreds of choices that are necessary to fill out your life with objects and things, and I think that requires an inner logic as well. Maybe the modern version of introspection is the sum total of all those highly individualized choices that we make about the material content of our lives.”

A quote from Harvard Social Psychologists

(Added 7/3/2021)

“Research has shown that minds are difficult to control, and it may be particularly hard to steer our thoughts in pleasant directions and keep them there. People prefer “doing” to “thinking”, even if what they are doing is so unpleasant that they would normally pay to avoid it. The untutored mind does not like to be alone with itself.”

A quote from Veritasium
(Added 7/3/2021)

“When given tasks that only use a fraction of mental capacity, participants frequently thought of the future and their plans for it. In this way being bored is essential for goal setting. If your brain is always consumed with other stimuli, you’ll rarely ponder the bigger picture and set long-term goals for yourself and consider how to achieve them. […] Every time you’re waiting for something, you have a decision to make which seems like a tiny one: pull out your phone for a few seconds or minutes, or, just be bored – experience only your thoughts. It seems like an insignificant decision; if you don’t give it much thought your obvious action is to see what’s new on your app of choice. And in making that decision you are alleviating a moment of boredom. But you are also likely making yourself less creative, less altruistic, less likely to assess your current state, and less likely to set goals for your future.”

A quote from Daniel Goleman, Psychologist
(Added 7/4/2021)

“Focused attention is an endangered species. It goes like this: you’re really intensely focused on that one thing you have to do or you want to do—the paper you’re writing or the project you’re working on—then you think, ‘Oh, I better check my email,’ and then that leads to your Facebook and that leads to the phone call, it leads to—we call this multitasking. The brain actually does not do multitasking, it doesn’t do several things at once in parallel, rather it works in serial and it switches very rapidly from one thing to the next. Then when you go back to that project or whatever it was you were so focused on, your concentration had been at a very high level before you started doing the other things, now it’s much lower and it takes a while to ramp up to that same level.”

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