Distraction and Fascination

attention nature warriorspirit

Fascination is a kind of gentle stimulation that occurs on a deeply embedded wavelength. It's like plugging in our mental and spiritual batteries to the source in order to recharge or resync them with the natural rhythm.

Driven to Distraction

Distraction, on the other hand, is what happens when we are trying to forget or escape from our current state. It's not a constructive thing; fascination can lead to learning and creativity, but distraction is a response to burnout and simply an attempt to unburden overworked brains.

TV (and most mass-media entertainment in general) is designed to be distracting. It presents us with content that requires minimal focus and provides plenty of simple stimulation. It is easily and intentionally addictive, like sugar, as evidenced by the never-ended storylines of TV dramas. The goal is to give our minds something easy to follow so that they lose track of whatever was burdening them in the first place.

The problem with distraction is, as the name implies, it doesn't help us deal with our problems. It just helps us forget them for a while. It also promotes a short attention span because that is exactly what it is promoting and stimulating.


Fascination may not help us deal with our problems either, but it does promote focus, as Louv argues in his book, citing countless examples of children who find their ADHD symptoms alleviated by time spent in nature.

The way I understand it, fascination is like going on a jog after work: when you get home, the last thing you want to do is put on your running shoes and head out the door, but it always does you a world of good. You usually feel better afterwards, even though it takes a bit of work and focus to start. How many times have you solved a big problem on a long jog or walk, or simply decided to let it go?

Your alternative is to flop down in front of the TV and try to forget it all for a while.

Fascinated Warrior, or Distracted Victim?

How we navigate this dilemma relates to our practice of Awareness and Intention. Obviously, allowing for a lot of distraction in our lives isn't conducive to the practice of Awareness, and by stagnating our mental energies, it also saps away our Intention. We can run the risk of making ourselves victims of our stressful lives, reliant on distraction to get us through. The warrior mindset rejects victimization, instead turning challenges into opportunities for growth.

Fascination, on the other hand, I'd argue is the purest expression of  Awareness, relaxed, open, and free of judgement, something akin to how the Buddha said we should approach life. There is a lot to be fascinated by in this wonderful world if we can learn to see it with the eyes of a child.


I do want to offer one caveat. For a while, I was dismissing all TV shows as distraction simply because they were on TV. My partner A would have jumped on my opening example to point out that the first child could have been watching a program on spiderwebs, and that would have completely changed the emotional impact of the scene I was painting.

TV is just another medium for human storytelling, and to a large extent, the quality of stimulation it provides is determined by the kinds of stories it carries. Books can be just as hollow and distracting (hence the term pulp fiction). TV programming has been irrevocably tied to advertising however, with the result that even great storytelling has to serve a commercial interest. This creates all sorts of problems for the spirit of art.

Still, there are some great stories out there, with complex, engaging, fascinating plots and characters. These can inspire us as much as some of the greatest books out there.

In case anyone was wondering, I don't include reality TV in that categorization.

Fascinated? Looking for concrete ways to live the Warrior Spirit? Join the e-mail list to get tips on Aware, Intentional, Integrated living, and get updates on the upcoming book, a codification of the lessons I've learned exploring the Warrior Spirit.

Photo credit: Ryan Tir on Flickr