Marginalia, no.19

This roving humor…I have ever had, & like a ranging spaniel, that barks at every bird it sees, leaving his game, I have followed all, saving that which I should, and may justly complain, and truly (for who is everywhere is nowhere)…, that I have read many books, but to little purpose, for want of good method; I have confusedly tumbled over divers authors in our libraries, with small profit, for want of art, order, memory, judgment.

~ Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy

Wasn’t it Pascal who named Distraction mankind’s universal foe, the catholic goad of nature, preventing us at every turn from attending to life’s proper tasks? Though periodically re-lamented (as if just discovered), the habit of distraction must confer certain benefits.  A too constant focus on life’s mortal intentions toward us can be a downer, after all, and there are just so damn many books to read – most of which, like Burton’s, are themselves the happy products of distraction.


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