On Distraction

“Sorry, I was designing the tree house.”

It’s a common response during one of those embarrassing moments when Katy catches me not paying attention. I’ve been designing our tree house for a year and a half, or maybe thirty, and am planning on building it later this summer.

The English language uses phrases like spaced out, absent-minded, or lost in thought to describe distraction. They couldn’t be less accurate. If they were true, distraction would be a Zen like, Buddhist state where your mind is empty, but it’s not.

I’m distracted, because I’m fascinated by everything. Take the history of animation. I think of movies like Peter Pan being from when I was a kid, but it came out in 1953. While VHS has long been replaced by other mediums, the animated Peter Pan has endured. Why? One of my favorite movies (animated or otherwise) is Treasure Planet, a space adaptation of Treasure Island that use traditional 2D animation layered over 3D computer animation, making it the most expensive traditionally animated movie ever made. It was pitched at the same time as The Little Mermaid, which was released in 1989, but didn’t come out until 2002. Why was it rejected, and why did it stay in someone’s brain for over 13 years? And what is it about Treasure Island, written in 1882, that has me talking about it a century later?

As Shakespeare said,

“Not marble nor the gilded monuments
Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme,
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmeared with sluttish time."
(Sonnet 55)

One of the things I love is when you find out the actors you like in live features are also the stars behind your animated favorites, like Joseph Gordon-Levitt staring as Jim Hawkins, when I also love his performances in 500 Days of Summer, 10 Things I Hate about You, Snowden, and even Angels in the Outfield.

Distraction is the weight of a vivid imagination. Once I had to write down what I wished there was more of in life. I wrote down, “Elves.”

This has benefits and downsides. Two nights ago, Makayla couldn’t sleep, because we had talked about what to do if there’s a fire in the house. “I can’t get it out of my head,” she said through tears. She’s inherited my imagination, and with it the awful nature of struggling to get things out of her brain. So, I asked her to make a list of what she'd like to bring to the farmers market when she comes with me for the first time on Saturday. I'm really touched that she wants to get up at 5:30 to spend the day with her dad. She’s bringing her monkey, a blanket, snacks, coloring books, and her gigantic pink unicorn, Euna, and fell asleep adding to her list. The only way the imaginative can dislodge something is to replace it with something else.

Tree houses, like businesses, animated movies, and families, take a lot of hard work to make imagination reality. Stay tuned. 🌳🏠💪

Joel and Katy

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