We are being enticed every day of every hour of every minute to distract our selves away from the moment in which we are living. By missing the present, we can forestall what we can have in the future. Almost everyone acknowledges that the very tools we have created to stay connected or “live in the moment” can become the distractions that take us away from relationship with our own selves and relationships with others. Distraction is not new at all. Distraction is as old as Cain. We need to distract our selves, but we do not have to deplete our selves of imagining and wonder to do so.
There is the distraction to escape the self, and there is the distraction that expands the self. So, the following comments are not about a reduction of technology, or an attempt to convince people to jettison their work focus, or an attempt to suggest people stop using alcohol. However, when any of the abovementioned distractions, and the thousands of others we have invented, take us away from imagining and wonder, we can stifle our own creativity in the present.
When we stymie creativity, we stunt our growth and can numb the awareness of the active heart; in other words, distraction that doesn’t rouse feelings, needs, desire, longings, and hope can work against us, and make us miss a creative growth moment. Creativity expands one’s territory, sets a vision on horizons, and so absolutely absorbs us in the moment that time stands still for the creator. That kind of distraction makes putting away anything that would take us away from our selves worth the trouble.
When I was a child, my mother told me something about cottonwood trees that she had not forgotten from her childhood in Mississippi. My mother said that when the breeze blows through the leaves of a cottonwood tree, the leaves rustle in a way that sounds like rain falling on a tin roof. I remember the way her face looked as she told the story—like she was back there and could see her childhood. In that moment, I recognized her as having been a child like me. I was distracted by her words, and my world expanded a little.
I had never noticed what she told me, but did not forget. The breeze touching the leaves of a cottonwood tree does sound like rain on a tin roof to me, too. I noticed later that when a breeze blows in pine trees, it sounds like someone very big whispering something very important. And pin oak leaves in the wintertime sound like stiffened, crumpled paper being rubbed together. They are the last leaves to fall, and often don’t completely lose their leaves until spring returns.
As a grown man, I remember lying on the ground underneath a yellow maple one fall day, and noticing the bright blue sky as the background of the yellow leaves lit by the sun. I still hold that moment as a time of rest and wonder. It reminds me of being a child; it takes me to contemplating the years that have passed by, and brings me to the present.
I also remember, now, as I come to a close, that my mother used to sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and how I liked to hear her sing. She was no singer, by any means, but it sounded good to the ears and heart of the child I used to be.