Jogging up the river I got “caught” behind a woman slowing down to check her phone or change her podcast or playlist because she cannot just run and have her own thoughts; she must also be entertained. Not that I don’t sometimes (and love to) run listening to music too—and adore the soundtracks to my yoga classes—but for the purposes of this rant I want to describe what was going through my head. (And I do think it’s important to be able to run or walk or sit or work without also always being distracted and entertained.)
Do you know when you get caught because when you try to pass the person slightly speeds up but then when you fall back in line they slow back down and then when you try again to pass there is a Parks Department golf cart coming from the other direction? While I was in my head launching a full-on attack of this narcissist woman, and launching off from there into a full-on attack of our “hyperconnected distracted” culture as Cal Newport calls it (and also, elsewhere in the same book, “hyperdistracted connected”), I glanced ever so slightly to the side and realized I had already missed half of the short wooden path that extends a bit below Laight Street along the river. That is my favorite part by far of this morning jog up from the school where I drop my kids. Because I’d distracted myself with this distracted woman, I’d already missed half. I fell back behind the woman, veered right, and caught up to the path.
Soon I was off it, but I soaked it up and enjoyed it and breathed deep of the wild grasses that grow there with a strong smell I can’t identify—it’s on the High Line too. I thought, yes I missed part of the path because I was distracted, fighting the wrong fight, but I found it, here I am on it. A new day, a new week, so many things are possible. An easy lesson, an easy metaphor.
Then I walk in the door and I see the news about Vegas and my heart sinks and I think, I cannot believe—but yes of course I can (why would it have changed?) this is happening again. And that it is always written as a contest, a superlative, an honor, a “biggest and best”—the “deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history”—one more dead, it appears, than Pulse—and I think: What are the lessons that again and again we refuse to learn if that most basic right, the right to live, we will not as a society even try to protect?