From, In Search of Distraction: the rewards of the tangential, the digressive, and the dreamy:
Distraction need not simply be another name for attention shifted (“I was looking at this, then I looked at that”). Attention is a form of “tension,” but the relaxation here — both that which creates the condition for the new perception and that which follows from it — is primarily conceived as passive (objects fall “upon the eye, are “carried to the heart”). The sense of one’s capacity of apprehension being “penetrated” is also strange; it’s as though, in a certain state of distractedness, our capacities are not our own. Yet this state isn’t conceived as deficit or disorder; although it arrives as Wordsworth has undertaken “final abandonment of hope,” it signals an advent. And even as he becomes distractedly absorbed by the bright star, the star itself is already luring him into a feeling for something other than itself, igniting “a sense of the Infinite.” The numinous turns nebulous. The unfocused seems to include — or to inspire — a new sense of freedom.
Whatever this freedom is, I would like a little of it. More than a little. I’m writing this sentence as a distraction from a book about poetry that I’m meant to be writing, but also with a hunch that the book may get written via the distraction, that something in the book needs to get worked out — or worked through — by my not attending to it. Or perhaps the book was really always a distraction, and wherever the non-book resides is the place I’m supposed to be. “I like to put things up around my bed all the time,” Diane Arbus once noted,
pictures of mine that I like and other things and I change it every month or so. There’s some funny subliminal thing that happens. It isn’t just looking at it. It’s looking at it when you’re not looking at it. It really begins to act on you in a funny way.
That’s a dream — or daydream — of the tangential as a route to the heedlessly thoughtful, which is a dream I want to have.