In Praise of Distraction, with Tyson Lewis

When you’re curious about something, you’re pulled off in multiple directions. Your eye can be snagged by some seemingly inconsequential dimension. ~ Tyson Lewis

At the close of his elegant and exhaustive biography of Leonardo Da Vinci, Walter Isaacson offers a list of the habits we might learn from Leonardo, that we might in some modest way emulate the genius.

First on his list is be relentlessly and randomly curious. 

He goes on to include retaining a childlike sense of wonder, seeing things unseen, respecting facts, thinking visually, collaboration, procrastination.

Somewhere in the middle is get distracted.

Tyson Lewis, who teaches in the College of Visual Arts and Design at the University of North Texas, is fascinated with his students’ assigning curiosity a soft inconsequentiality that seems determined to deescalate the moment: “I’m just curious.”  He makes the case for distraction.

What I Learned: Protocols are different from lesson plans. They prepare the classroom for something other than a pre-determined learning objective, creating space for unexpected experiences and insights.

What I Loved: Now I have the language and frame for my Big Jar of Wannabe Analogies! It’s just me, opening space for awkwardness and insights.

Listen to Choose to be Curious #89: In Praise of Distraction with Tyson Lewis

What happens differently when you are just curious?


Tyson is the fourth in my series of interviews with the contributing authors to the forthcoming anthology Curiosity Studies: A New Ecology of Knowledge (University of Minnesota Press, 2020).  Stay tuned for future episodes!

Dip into Tyson Lewis’ protocols and other writing here

Savor more of David Keplinger’s elegant poetry here.

Theme music by Sean Balick.  Check out Sean’s new album “From the Pines”.  “Our Own Melody” by Piano Mover, from Blue Dot Sessions

You can subscribe to Choose to be Curious on Apple Podcasts/ iTunes and Stitcher.

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There's a difference between talking about it versus actually engaging in the kind of open ended risk-taking that curiosity affords us.

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