Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Introduction & Resisting Distractions

Originally posted on October 5, 2010

The topic for this blog is folly, also to be realized as forms of self-deception, lapses in critical thinking, giving in to your less-worthy motivations, allowing yourself the luxury of illusion, and so forth.

In some roles, illusion is just fine, very adaptive, mature, poetic, sublime. It is the mythic foundation that makes our life juicy, funny, astonishing, and in other ways supports a wide variety of experiences that make life meaningful. I’m all for cultivating imaginativeness, playfulness, creative mythmaking, and so forth—but it’s better to recognize when and how these functions are being used. For many people, it blurs over into roles where it would be better to be more clear, to penetrate illusions. So I work in both areas: I want to actively promote imaginativeness and spontaneity in contexts where that is what’s needed, and also to promote acute perceptiveness and hard-headed critical thinking in other contexts where that’s what’s needed.

Now there are certain kinds of relaxation in your thinking that are just fine. I like to recognize proportionality. If you do some things a little, that’s okay, but if you do them a lot, that’s foolish. Then you might want to ask yourself, in terms of your life goals, what’s the right amount for you?


Say, allowing yourself to be distracted. This involves computer-based social connections, emails, tweeting, Facebook, and so forth; or television; video games or internet-based multi-player games or activities. You may be on “Second Life,” one of these kinds of programs in which you create alternative adventures for your alter ego “avatar,” but how much time will you give yourself.

In the olden days before the onslaught of the information-overload media-saturated postmodern era, there was even a slight value in staying up with what’s going on. You might have expected yourself to be current with fashions and the news, and to disdain those who were “out of it.” All this has changed, flipped: It is impossible to keep up, other than in a very narrow field of interest or endeavor. Too many people have gotten aboard, and most activities can be found to have sub-groups and often even they have become sub-divided and too big to know most of the major players. So what then does it mean to “keep up” in a narrow field? Does it get you any actual status points?

What I’m getting at is the need to criticize old values that have become unworkable. Being knowledgeable, able to answer trivia questions, was admirable, worthy of awards on quiz shows. Now it’s becoming laughable, and made more so by the relatively immediate access to knowledge by web-browsers and Wikipedia.

The new skill is to learn to contain, turn away from, resist the temptation of, or more accurately perceive the limitations of potential distractions. Folly entails believing in the absolute nature of obsolete ideas and values. They just don’t apply anymore.

More about folly will follow in the coming days.

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