Childhood Favorites Post #3. On Distractions.

As a side note, I’m having a hard time deciding what to write about in response to everything I’ve been reading lately. Usually, I feel compelled to distill what I find to be the most meaningful aspect of a book and put it into the context of both the entire work as well as my current thought life.  But then there are the random sentences I underlined while reading that spark an idea.  I’m going to have to do a little bit of both throughout the Childhood Favorites series because inside these “juvenile” books there is just. so. much. Which, lucky for me, is the purpose of this unit in the fall.

One of the creatures set on preventing Milo, Tock and the Humbug in The Phantom Tollbooth from rescuing Rhyme and Reason is the Senses Taker, who collects an absurd list of information from each character before he can, literally, take their senses.  When Milo tells him that their destination is The Castle in the Air, he says he is sure they would rather see what he has to show them. Milo begins to see a circus on the horizon.  Tock the dog smells marvelous scents.  The vain (but loveable) Humbug hears a crowd applauding and cheering for him.   Their senses–literally and figuratively–have been taken from them.

Juster’s description of what happened to them was so creepy:  “They all stood as if in a trance, looking, smelling, and listening to the very special things that the Senses Taker had provided for them, forgetting completely about where they were going and who, with evil intent, was coming up behind him…Milo was too engrossed in the circus to notice, and Tock had closed his eyes, the better to smell, and the bug, bowing and waving, stood with a look of sheer bliss on his face, interested only in the wild ovation.

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes, distractions are quite nice.  Piles of papers to grade? CSI, how I love you.  Stressed? Oh, Glee. Such joy. Of course, hikes and runs and laughing are more healthy distractions when life gets a bit overwhelming.

But other times, distractions take me on a path that veers so far away from where–and who–I want to be, that it does seem like there is an old, evil Senses Taker trying to prevent me from getting where I know I could be.  But he’s tricky, because it’s so easy to settle into the comfort of what is easier and more enjoyable, just like Miles, Tock and Humbug.

“And furthermore, I’ll steal your sense of purpose, take your sense of duty, destroy your sense of proportion…” This is when the destruction sets in. I wonder how many dreamers have forgotten their initial ambitions and hopes by losing sight of what they were originally chasing.

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