process of diverting the attention of an individual or group
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Distraction is the divided attention of an individual or group from the chosen object of attention unto the source of distraction.

It is inevitable that the mind which does not have a place to turn to or any stable base will undergo change from hour to hour and from minute to minute due to the variety of its distractions, and by the things that come to it from outside it will be continually transformed into whatever occurs to it at any given moment. ~ John Cassian



  • Just as the eye which constantly shifts its gaze, now turning to the right or to the left, now incessantly peering up and down, cannot see distinctly what lies before it, ... so too man's mind when distracted by his countless worldly cares cannot focus itself distinctly on the truth.
    • Basil of Caesarea, Letter to Gregory, Saint Basil: The Letters, R. Deferrari, trans. (1926), vol. 1, p. 9
  • The mind which does not have a place to turn or any stable base will undergo change from hour to hour and from minute to minute due to the variety of its distractions. ... By the things that come to it from outside it will be continually transformed.
  • A person whose mind is distracted lives between the fangs of mental afflictions.
    • Santideva, A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life, V. Wallace and B. Wallace, trans. (1997), § 8.1

Seventeenth centuryEdit

  • the things which for the most part offer themselves in life, and which, to judge from their actions, men regard as the highest good, can be reduced to these three headings: riches, honour, and sensual pleasure. With these three the mind is so distracted that it is quite incapable of thinking of any other good.
    • Spinoza, Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect S. Shirley, trans., Complete Works (2002), pp. 3-4

Nineteenth centuryEdit

  • Our foolish minds are weak; they are more than willing to be drawn—and there is so much that wants to draw us to itself. There is pleasure with its seductive power, the multiplicity with its bewildering distractions, the moment with its infatuating importance and the conceited laboriousness of busyness and the careless time-wasting of light-mindedness and the gloomy brooding of heavy-mindedness—all this will draw us away from ourselves to itself in order to deceive us.
    • Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity (1850), Hong, trans., p.157
  • The objective of all human arrangements is through distracting one’s thoughts to cease to be aware of life.
  • If you cut up a large diamond into little bits, it will entirely lose the value it had as a whole; and an army divided up into small bodies of soldiers, loses all its strength. So a great intellect sinks to the level of an ordinary one, as soon as it is interrupted and disturbed, its attention distracted and drawn off from the matter in hand.

Twentieth centuryEdit

  • Sport carries on without deviation the mechanical tradition of furnishing relief and distraction to the worker after he has finished his work proper so that he is at no time independent of one technique or another. In sport the citizen of the technical society finds the same spirit, criteria, morality, actions and objectives—in short, all the technical laws and customs—which he encounters in office or factory.
  • Bodily delight ... is a great, an infinite learning that is given to us, a knowledge of the world, the fullness and the splendor of all knowledge. And it is not our acceptance of it that is bad; what is bad is that most people misuse this learning and squander it and apply it as a stimulant on the tired places of their lives and as a distraction rather than as a way of gathering themselves for their highest moments.
  • Conversation injures more than it benefits. Men talk to escape from themselves, from sheer dread of silence. Reflection makes them uncomfortable, and they find distraction in a noise of words. They seek not the company of those who might enlighten and improve them, but that of whoever can divert and amuse them. Thus the intercourse which ought to be a chief means of education, is for the most part, the occasion of mental and moral enfeeblement.
  • Modern civilization is so complex as to make the devotional life all but impossible. It wears us out by multiplying distractions and beats us down by destroying our solitude.
  • It is perhaps the saddest, most hopeless thing we can say about our culture that it is a culture of distraction. “Attention deficit” is a cultural disorder, a debasement of spirit, before it is an ailment in our children to be treated with Ritalin.

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