Distraction is for my generation what the clap was for my parents. Always lurking just around the corner, seemingly inescapable. One slip-up with an underaged Korean tranny or a fat middle-aged trucker and bam! The clap got yo’ ass. Cancel your appointments, you’re off the market for a couple of weeks.
These days, Leo Babauta, Merlin Mann, and David Allen have beaten distraction to death, yet it still rears its ugly head in our lives, daily.
Case in point: this morning I wake up at 8:30 like usual. I roll off the pile of dirty laundry that’s protecting my bed from having me sleep directly on it and go to the kitchen to reheat a cup of yesterday’s bad coffee. All common scenes in the life of a young person living in a third-rate neighborhood of a second-rate European capital.
Thinking about getting on with my life’s work as soon as I’ve finished eating my scrambled eggs with leftover beans for breakfast, I sit down with Ben Franklin’s Autobiography (free from Amazon Kindle!) and start reading. I get to the part where he says his father was a tallow chandler, and I think, “What is a tallow chandler, exactly?” Wikipedia answers my question quickly: a tallow chandler makes candles out of rendered beef or mutton fat.
The next, logical question: how do I make tallow candles? You never know when civilization is going to end and you’re going to need to light your home using animal fat. If I get a jump on this I can be selling tallow candles to all you schmucks when the shit hits the fan.
You remember spring 2009 when we thought capitalism had come to an end, and we were all going to be using barter and subsistence farming?
What about the springs of 2008 and 2010 when it was the avian flu and porcine flu, respectively, that were going to send us all back to the Middle Ages?
Well just because we haven’t had a similar global panic attack this spring doesn’t mean the world is safe! We need tallow chandlers like never before!
That’s what I thought as I continued reading about long-forgotten vocations. Envying those quaint 18th century New Englanders who could learn a trade in a day, spend the next two weeks perfecting it, and the rest of their lives doing it drunk.
At which point I realized two things: one, it was still too early to go to the butcher to buy some suet (a.k.a. hard fat from a cow’s kidney region, perfect for rendering and candling); and two, I had gotten terribly distracted from my life’s work. My true life’s work. By which I mean posting self-portraits taken in the bathroom mirror and writing blog posts about how nobody appreciates me for who I truly am: a balding, curmudgeonly good-for-nothing with bad breath and out-of-control toenails.
So, instead of getting back to work, I decided to write about my distraction, while waiting for the butcher to open, so I can learn to make tallow candles before the next Icelandic volcano plunges my adopted continent into several centuries of darkness.