Good Distraction And Bad Distraction

I THINK THERE is such a thing as a good distraction and a bad distraction. A Good distraction is when you’re still able to remain connected with your environment despite outside interferences. Also, a good distraction is something that does not hinder, but invites, authentic engagement with the people around you. On the flip side, a bad distraction is something that not only distracts you from important, momentary pleasures but it robs you of the chance to form real, concrete relationships with the people in your environment.

If good distractions and bad distractions are real, concrete things that can hinder or enhance our relationships, then why is it that some people choose the bad over the good? And whatever the reason may be, how can we, as individuals and as a society, encourage people to be less distracted?

Distractions are nothing new. We can go as far back in time as we want to and, at each point in history, we would discover that people were preoccupied with one thing or the other. Thus, what this tells us, is that distractions are prelims of human existence.

Although distractions are prelims of human existence, depending on what time period people are in, however, can determine the intensity-level in which people are distracted.  For example, when we look back to the 1960s, during the peak of the hippie movement, what we see is that a lot of people were not as distracted as they are today. Back then, there were no smartphones and no social media to distract people from important issues.

And although they had the Vietnam war, Civil Rights, and the Space Race with the Soviet Union to worry about, they were still able to come together to agree on certain things, like protesting the Vietnam war, listening to the Beatles and fighting for the environment. Granted, the economy was a lot stabler back then than it is today; social welfare programs had just started, and the federal government had increased its spending, we cannot overlook the fact that, despite outside interferences, people were still able to form meaningful connections.

Fast forward to the present moment, and distractions are not what they used to look like in the 1960s. Today, the type of distractions that we have not only prevents us from being hip to how people around us might be feeling, and to some of the important issues of the day, but they also have the added bonus of real, economic losses attached to them. Today, even something as harmless as being distracted on social media costs our economy $650 billion dollars in lost productivity. In other words, the more time you spend on social media the lesser the economy stands to benefit.

Seeing that both our interpersonal relationships and our economies stand to lose when we are distracted, what we now need, more than ever, is a reimagination of what it means to be distracted in a good way. On the surface, that sounds like an oxymoron, that is; how can being distracted actually be a good thing? and that’s true. But, when we look deeper, however, we can see that there are real, tangible outcomes for good distractions.

A good distraction is when you set your phone down and allow yourself the chance to wonder and connect with your environment. Secondarily, good distractions are great for not only fostering mindfulness but they are also great for fostering creativity, and creativity often leads to solutions. What this means is that people in the 1960s were onto something, that is; by allowing themselves to be distracted in a good way, they were able to agree on creative solutions that ended up changing the society in which they lived in.

We, in this generation, are certainly entitled to that same potential so long as we begin to choose good distractions over the bad distractions. But how do we encourage people to choose the good over the bad? It’s no secret, that when it comes to making positive choices, people will choose the bad over the good. One simple reason people do that is because the bad is convenient and sometimes more inexpensive than the good. To change that, though, we need to introduce them to posts like these. Another idea is to create educational programs, lectures, and seminars about the good, the bad, and the ugly of distractions.


The economic cost of using social media;

U.S., economy during the 1960s -1970s; Years of Change

Three reasons you should let yourself get distracted; Fast Economy


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Maria TenHave-Chapman, A Fashion Designer In The Making

WHEN YOU LOOK AT FASHION MODELS—say, in magazines, on posters at airports, at bus-stops, or even on the television—what stands out the most? is it their smile, is it the way that they’ve positioned their bodies, or is it what they’re wearing? If you need some time to think that through, no problem, take as long as you like. In the meantime, I will share with you the one thing that has stood out to me the most. And that one thing is; the lacking of clothes. Before I continue any further, let me just say that I am quite aware that some of you might interpret the latter in a dirty way—in fact, I can imagine some of you right now, with tongue in cheek, asking yourselves: ‘what type of magazines is the author looking at?’

Because I have a sense of humor, I will not fault you for laughing at my questionable observations. This is a judgement-free zone. But for those of you, whose minds did not automatically go to some dirty place, congratulations you are not human. Being human is knowing when to catch ironies, and allowing yourself to laugh when such discoveries are made. If you aren’t able to do that, then what Henry Beecher, a congregationalist and avid abolitionist, once wrote—-may suit you well; i.e., “A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It’s jolted by every pebble on the road.”

Now then, and if I may continue, here is what I meant about “the lacking of clothes;” currently, in our American culture, there seems to be a proliferation of more nudity and fewer fabrics. And my concern with this is, that there is nothing special about our naked human bodies—-namely because we all have the same parts. However, what does make us different from the rest of our human counterparts, is the clothing that we wear. It gives us a sense of identity; a kind of expressive utility, and a distinctive style—-that exists nowhere else but on our persons’

In view of this, and what I would like to see more of, is a push towards less nudity and more fabrics. And I’m not just talking about any kind of fabric, but fabrics that can push our restrictive understanding of expressions into a woven cosmopolitanism of electicity. It is paramount that we, the American public, advocate for such a push, so that we can stop living in a society where “We undress men and women,” wrote Pierre Cardin, an Italian-born French designer, ’cause we don’t want to “….Dress them anymore.”

Although that sounds like an impossible task for someone to advocate for, still, I think that it can be done. When the right person comes along—someone with passion, an air of electicty, and unfettered reveries—-the change and reversing of an undressed culture will be swift and revolutionary. Now then, the question becomes; not when, but where will that next advocate and visionary come from? In my opinion, I believe that person will come, not from abroad—like Italy or France—but here, at home, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

19-year-old, Maria TenHave-Chapman, from Grand Rapids, Michigan is on the trajectory of becoming a fashion designer. Her unique and visually-tasteful fashion sense is truly something special. The young 19-year-old has been modeling for over a year now; is currently enrolled at an Art and Fashion school at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, and not too long ago, just had her first-ever successful Top-and-Skirt design showcased at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. The theme for the event was centered around nature and personal growth. And, although students were usually held back by some of the strict fashion-course requirements throughout the semester, this time, however, each student were given the freedom to freely showcase their creativities.

Maria’s dress, if I may quickly describe to you, was uniquely-simple, but yet, aesthetically-refreshing; it’s length, draped eloquently from the top to just inches above the knees. The color of the dress itself had a rich deep blue color, like an ocean on a brisk, windless afternoon. And all over the dress—-predominantly on the bottom and then fewer on the top—-were, what appeared to be tiny scrunched-up clouds. If you’re having a tough time imagining that, no worries, I will provide you with a visual at the end of this piece.

My passion has been and always will be fashion. For the longest time, I had a sense of shame about pursuing fashion because it’s seen as a shallow and unintelligent industry to be a part of. [But] within the last year, I’ve learned to take pride in what I’m pursuing because I know it’s what I’m meant to do, ” wrote Maria, via email. “I’m confident that I’ll be successful, it might take quite a while to be successful but I’ll get there.

Since I was little,” she added, “how I dress myself has always been about self-expression. I’m a quiet and introverted person when first meeting new people, so I’ve liked being able to show a part of myself through clothing and make an impression that way. I’ve never really cared about what other people thought, I dress for myself and myself only. I’ll wear whatever makes me laugh, or makes me feel confident or cool.

I find it interesting that Maria initially thought that the pursuit of fashion was a kind of exercise in futility—-Because I’ve always viewed it to be the total opposite. In my view, I think it’s a selfless, intelligent, and noble pursuit. What other industries, if but only a few, can you find talented, passionate, and gifted individuals pressed with a task to not only express their creativities but to also clothe the world in the same process?

With that said, I really don’t think that she meant what she said in a literal way—-I think she was just trying to be modest. It is a tendency for artists that are introverted to be humble and unflashy. And there is nothing wrong with that. What I find interesting, though, is that, those exact same artists are the ones who end up revolutionizing the world. Take, Pierre Cardin, for example; throughout his career people always described him as a meek, kind, and deferential person. But that didn’t mean that he wasn’t sociable—no, and in fact, his upbeat and inspiring personality often attracted many people to him. Moreover, and the point that I am trying to make, is that this same deferential individual was also the first person to put his brand on his clothing. Today, and because of Pirre Cardin, you will not find any pair of shoes, dresses, T-shirts, watches, etc, without the brand of the designer on it.

“…I don’t accept failure. I will do what it takes to be successful and I know I have it in me to be successful (that’s mostly regarding being a designer, not modeling),” she said, via email. “I won’t cut corners and I won’t step on others to get to where I want to be. The best part of modeling is being able to meet everyone that I have. Every photographer I meet is so unique and genuine. Being around creative people encourages me to be creative and encourages me to push myself to create. The more I create the more I will learn. I don’t see myself being a model in the future because it’s not what I feel passionate about, although I love doing it.

Maria pointed out that being around creative people “encourages” her to be creative, and that the more she creates the more that she will learn, but I wonder, where does she draw her inspirations from? “I find a lot of inspiration in old movies, fine art, and the ’60s,” she tells me. “[Basically,] I’m inspired by anyone with a strong sense of individuality.”

It’s obvious that Maria has what it takes to succeed, and knows how to draw inspiration from the things around her, but, and aside from her relentless drive and creativity, she contends that she’s just a typical girl from the West Side of Michigan—-who loves being photographed around Grand Rapids, or at her families lake. When I asked her to tell me—and her fans—something interesting about herself that most people wouldn’t know, she replied; “Hahaha my fans, because I have so many. I feel like I’m not too interesting of a person, I have a pet bunny who’s four years old. I named her Ingrid after the singer Ingrid Michaelson, mostly because I couldn’t think of a name for her that I didn’t associate with someone I disliked lol. 

For Maria, Detroit, Michigan may be a good place to live—-“I love having all four seasons in Michigan, the change of season allows for a change of mind and a change of wardrobe,” she said—–but it is not where Maria wants to end up. Maria has bigger goals for herself. “I’d like to live in New York for a bit because that’s where everything, fashion-wise, seems to happen.” she writes. “The type of success I want for myself and my life won’t be found by just staying in West Michigan all my life. I’m content to be here for now, though. I’ll try to intern for some companies and bust my ass to do creative and original things. Those will help me figure out my place in the huge fashion industry. I know once I find my niche I’ll be able to thrive.”

Most people do not know this, but Detroit, Michigan is well-known for its fashion extravaganza. Every year they put together a sell-out, annual “Fash Bash” event that has consistently raised more than $4 million dollars for the Detroit Institute of Art. Also, “The Renaissance City,” one of the many nicknames of Detroit, Michigan, has another annual event that draws a massive crowd of people and sponsors each year; The Michigan Fashion Week. “Michigan Fashion Week is a company designed to showcase and highlights Michigan’s prestigious talent in the fields of fashion design, photography, art and modeling, looking to present their businesses and talents in a professional manner,” they wrote, on their website. “We create opportunities of invaluable exposure, networking and aligning them with experience professionals and advocates in the industry and in business. We are now in our fifth year and have had 4 very successful, highly attended inaugural Fashion Weeks and have reached and touched over 1200 people each year.”

And in addition to that, “The Renaissance City” has produced a lot of local and famous fashion designers—like, Anna Sui, Adriana Pavon, and Bonnie Foley. One of the amazing highlights in Anna Sui’s career was that she somehow got singer and songwriter, Mick Jagger to wear her men’s designer suit on Saturday Night Live. Adriana Pavon and her heavily-influenced Mexican garments and fashion line won, the Fashion in Detroit Local Designer Award back in 2010. And then for Bonnie Foley, with her “Christian Larue” fashion line, has caught the attention of international designers in the fashion industry. And according to a statement on her website, “Bonnie is poised and ready to expand her label to an international level.”

Given this little well-known fact about “The Renaissance City, I think that before Maria sets sail for the Big Apple, perhaps she should consider presenting her unique fashion style to the many different fashion events around Michigan. Those venues could use her strong sense of determinism, passion, and creativity. And I must stress, that although Maria is young and still has a lot to learn, it is my belief, that she has the potential to someday become someone as original, prodigious, and divergent as Pierre Cardin, Anna Sui, or Adriana Pavon. Her funny and engaging personality, coupled with her unique fashion perspectives, and drive for success are solid precursors for someday achieving the latter.

Here is the photo of Maria’s dress that I previously described:

To find out more about Maria and to see some of her amazing photoshoots, look for her on Instagram, @maeriea

Main photo was taken by Madison Heetderks. Check out her work, here @m4di_s0n

Don’t forget to click the following link to read about our last Weekly Inspiring Person; Brittany Herbert, a young aspiring law student at the University At Buffalo


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Feeling Alone

photo-1479443127034-d935545a97f9I KNOW I AM NOT ALONE, I know I am not alone, and I know I am not alone. But sometimes it certainly feels like I am. And trust me, I know it is a hard thing to admit, let alone accept, that sometimes we might be alone; but, once we actually admit it, though, sort of like how I just did, something strange starts happens. We start to think, we start to look around, and then we start to assess our lives—-and, somewhere in that process, we discover that we were really never alone.

This may come as a shocker to most people, but I go through that process almost all the time. On average, and mostly during midnight and especially on the weekends, I sometimes feel like I am alone. Like, no one knows I exist and like the whole world has forgotten about me. And during those times, which by the way, is happening right now, I would ignore my feelings of loneliness; not contact anyone, turn on Netflix, go on Facebook, and even check Instagram to see how much fun other people were having. Basically, ignore, ignore, ignore was/is my way of coping with my leitmotif feelings of loneliness.

But what is loneliness, really? Is loneliness something that is restrictive solely to the mind, is it something that is triggered by the lacking of other persons in our lives, or could loneliness be both of those things? In view of that, what type of loneliness was I experiencing?

For some people, loneliness is the lacking of friends, but for others, loneliness is having too many friends and not feeling any real connection(s) to them. “People drain me,” said Margaret Cho, an American comedian, whose sense of loneliness is reflective of the latter group, “Even the closets of friends, and I find loneliness to be the best state in the union to live in.” And then there are people like Hilaire Belloc, a prolific Anglo-French writer and Historian during the twentieth century, who thinks that loneliness begins after the death of every friendship. “When friendships disappears, he writes, “Then there is a space left open to that awful loneliness of the outside world which is like the cold space between the planets. It is an air in which men perish utterly.”

Although people like Margaret Cho and Hilaire Belloc are right in their estimations of what constitutes loneliness, however, what rarely gets mentioned, and what I want to focus on, is circumstantial loneliness. For example, you might be feeling lonely because you live in a rural or suburban community with nothing around to do, you don’t have a car to go places with, and you don’t have capital to buy the things that you desire. So you see, circumstantial loneliness is a temporary disconnect from the people, places, or things around you that gives your life meaning. And that is very important to know. And why is that? Well, because, I feel, that when people say that they are lonely they are confusing the primary form of loneliness, which is circumstantial loneliness, with other secondary types of loneliness.

Another example of circumstantial loneliness is the example of a prisoner in solitary confinement. By circumstance, he or she is temporarily disconnected from the outside world, which within it, possesses all the people, places, or things that have the benefits of adding meaning to his/or her life. In this context then, if our prisoner would to think that he or she was lonely, it’s not that he or she may be wrong, but you and I would know that his or her estimations wouldn’t be quite accurate.

Now then, If we would to remove that prisoner from solitary confinement and place him or her in the larger population, or with the things that he or she loves to do the most, then naturally not only would they be happy but their life will have meaning again. But, I know what you’re thinking; that clearly, that prisoner can see that he or she is under solitary confinement and thus what other types of loneliness that they may feel is not the primary one. And my reponse would be, that, isn’t it interesting how when we’ve been accommodated with this example, to see how easy it is to confuse circumstantial loneliness with other types of loneliness—-as oppose to when we are on the receiving end of loneliness. Conversely, the only way to be aware of circumstantial loneliness is to not ignore the secondary feelings of loneliness like, how I was originally doing, but to fully acknowledge it. Furthermore, being aware of circumstantial loneliness rather than assuming that you are alone for other secondary reasons, is a very powerful mental exercise—-because it demonstrates to us that feeling lonely is a choice. And when we realize that we have choices in life everything changes—and we become more in control of our lives.

Having said that, and to answer the question of what type of loneliness that I was feeling?, well, it was circumstantial. I was feeling lonely because I live(d) in a rural community—-far away from and all the happenings of the city life. But rather than being down and mopey about my spatial isolation, I took this time to reflect on it—and in doing so, realized that I had a choice in choosing to be happy about my circumstance or to be angry about it. Also what I have discovered is that there is no bad or good when it comes to loneliness—it’s all perspective. And for that, and just like Bruce Barton, an American author and politician, I too now believe that “It would do the world good if every man would compel himself occasionally to be absolutely alone. [Because] most of the world’s progress has come out of such loneliness.”


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