Autopilot

May 10, 2019

 

In lieu of Avengers Endgame, I have been explaining to my kids how lucky they are to be growing up now in terms of the high-quality, epic films and TV series available. 22 interconnected, mostly good superhero movies! When I was growing up, the best superhero movie we had was X-Men, which hasn't aged all that well, and which ended with the disastrous X-Men 3. But growing up right now--and just living right now in general--is more complicated than it was when the first X-Men movie came out. We all know it, so I won't go into all the ways things have changed. For this humble blog post, we will focus on one specific complication: distraction. As in, the one million things fighting for our constant attention from morning till night that are distracting us from being normal functioning humans.  

 

A few weeks ago I was driving up north for a work conference and found myself with two and a half hours of quiet time. These days, quiet time is filled with checking my phone over and over and over, because the little bugger is constantly beeping and buzzing and begging me to look at it. Like the responsible driver I am, I only use it for maps and music in the car. 

 

The first hour of driving was fine. I listened to music. I paid attention to the roads. But the second hour--that was when something magical happened! That's when my brain, with nothing to distract it, with a hundred miles on the same stretch of freeway, switched into autopilot. That's not to say I couldn't have swerved out of the way if a zombie stumbled across the road, but without all of the beeping and buzzing, my brain relaxed and switched into a different mode. It was lovely. I started thinking about ideas for new books and ways to improve existing projects, and solutions to problems I've been having. When I arrived at my destination, I pulled out my notebook and wrote everything down that I could still remember. 

 

It wasn't so long ago when we weren't burdened by cell phones. They're amazing! They're also terrible burdens. They don't allow us to be bored and sometimes that's exactly what our over-worked brains need. 

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