In a recent interview, Academic Dean Christopher O. Blum and Marketing Director Gina Warner discussed A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction (Sophia Institute, 2017), Dr. Blum’s latest book which he co-authored with Joshua Hochschild.
What is the inspiration for A Mind at Peace?
Nearly every week there is another podcast, blog post, article, or book that shows that men and women are having a hard time coming to terms with constant connectivity and the devices that provide it. In addition, there have been a number of important sociological, psychological, and neuro-scientific studies on digital media devices and their effects. What Professor Hochschild and I have found, however, is that the suggested remedies for our anxiety and suffering haven’t quite measured up to what we think is really necessary. Our goal has been to supply a more adequate approach—a Catholic approach—to today’s newly-felt need for interior peace.
Who is the book for and what is it meant to offer the reader?
We would be happy for A Mind at Peace to be read by men and women who experience no anxiety at all about their technology use, and even by those who don’t have smartphones and don’t use social media. We expect, however, that most readers will be using digital media technology more-or-less daily, but are looking for an approach to interior well-being that will help them to put that technology in its proper place.
You mention the many books on the personal and cultural problems caused by digital technology today, such as Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows and Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together. How is A Mind at Peace related to this growing literature?
Those works are chiefly critical, in that they are analyzing digital culture and offering an assessment of its dangers and shortcomings. Our work is chiefly positive, in that it is an examination of our interior faculties of sensing, desiring, knowing, and willing that gives indications—based on the wisdom of the saints and the Catholic tradition—as to how those faculties can be rightly ordered and thus serve our overall well-being.
How would you characterize the peace that is the book’s aim?
Both as “ordered activity” and “the repose of the mind in its end” (the latter phrase is from Aquinas). In other words, the peace we are attempting to describe is not the peace of inactivity, nor is it a merely exterior peace. It is, rather, the deeply personal peace that we gain from a clear conscience, a well-ordered mind, responsive interior senses (such as the memory), and desires that have been bridled by reason.
Does A Mind at Peace offer a technique for achieving interior peace?
Not if what you mean is some simple one-two-three and you’re done kind of thing. We don’t think that interior peace is particularly hard to understand or mysterious, but we do think that attaining it requires the tuning of our different interior faculties—our sense appetites, interior sense powers, intellectual powers, and will—and therefore a work that may take considerable time and effort.
How should a reader approach A Mind at Peace, that is, what would be your advice about how the book is best to be read?
We certainly wouldn’t complain if someone couldn’t put the book down and read right through it over a few days! But we would recommend a slower journey, perhaps even a-chapter-a-day over three weeks. That way the questions at the end of each chapter can be taken as opportunities for leisurely reflection.