The title caught my attention like a mirror, A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction. This book, by Christopher Blum and Joshua Hochschild, with a foreword by Fr. Paul Scalia, draws on wisdom from the world’s greatest thinkers, Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Augustine, and applies it to concrete ways to navigate a world saturated with communication chaos.
Fr. Scalia defines the problem in the foreword, “St Augustine famously defined peace as the tranquility of order. We all intuit the truth of that statement… But we live in a schizophrenic culture. As much as we might want that peace, we still desire the world’s distractions.”
The authors cite political theorist Michael B. Crawford, who states that, “we are losing our ability to act according to settled purposes and ongoing projects, and instead coming under the influence of powerful interests seeking to profit from our loss of self-command. Today we are less settled, and more easily manipulated, more often distracted, and more deeply worried than we were 30 years ago.”
Blum and Hochschild sought a solution through philosophical, theological and spiritual reflection applied to concrete action. The three parts of the book, Living Well, Sensing Well, and Thinking Well, articulate the peace and right order that we instinctively crave, and assert that it is found through the choices we make and the actions we take.
In an interview with Dan Burke and Melissa Elson of Divine Intimacy Radio, Dr. Christopher Blum discusses the book and how to overcome distractions that are leading to greater levels of anxiety across our culture (you can listen to it here). In the interview, Blum suggests using the book as a three-week self-guided retreat.
Each chapter explores ageless wisdom put up against contemporary realities, and contains quotes from saints and scripture as well. The chapters all contain questions for reflection which the reader can use to better understand themselves and how they need to adapt their thinking and choices to find peace and order in their lives.
Drawing from the advice of St. Frances de Sales, the authors encourage the reader to moderate their digital engagement, seeking higher fulfillments instead, in human interaction, thought, and non-electronic experiences.
The book leads us through an exploration of many virtues that fulfill the deepest needs of our human nature, and offers self-awareness exams and concrete tools aimed at our digital consumption and how we regulate it. By encouraging us to seek the higher virtues in order to live a peaceful life, we are led to the source of those virtues, and the source of all peace, God.
A Mind at Peace is a roadmap to rooting our lives in Christ, and in his peace, not by retreating from today’s world, but by exercising our choices and actions in ways that allow Christ’s peace to permeate our lives in the midst of it. Written in an interesting and absorbing manner, it offers tools that can help us bring peace to our own lives and those of our children.
The book, published by Sophia Press, is available here and would make an excellent book for small group study. The authors also offer an Examination of Conscience with special attention to the influence of digital technology.