Renewal of the Mind

As if by coincidence I was reading an article yesterday on the need for the renewal of the mind, then read through Chapter 1 of Dietrich von Hildebrand’s “Transformation in Christ” – which is all about the complete renewal of the mind in Christ – and then this morning I was reading through the Epistles and of course opened right up to Ephesians 4:22-24, “Put off the old man who is corrupted according to the desire of error, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind: and put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth.”

I can take a hint. And no matter there one looks, that’s a steady Pauline theme.

Interestingly, as much as one is transformed and gives oneself over completely to Jesus Christ, He calls one always deeper into the mystery, into the life of the divine, into His Sacred Heart. And truth, so many struggle given the abuse crises, the seeming chaos in the Church, the seeming abnegation of responsibility by ecclesial authority.

After all, this is either true or it isn’t: “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word; but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of god we speak in Christ.” 2 Cor 2:17. If one is going to live in Jesus Christ, then it’s a constant, willing ongoing renewal of the life in Him. Otherwise – one is simply a parrot; or a stall in the market where people stop in for a dash of hope, a glimmer of light, an example here and there.

Back to the article. Essentially the author writes about the constant distractions in modern life and, in the academic setting in which he abides, urges a renewal of the life of the mind. He points out that the renewal belongs to the academic sphere.

Is Email Making Professors Stupid?

By CAL NEWPORT Donald Knuth is one of the world’s most famous living computer scientists. He’s known for his pioneering efforts to bring rigorous mathematical analysis to the design of computer algorithms. An emeritus professor at Stanford University, he’s currently writing the fourth volume of his classic book series, The Art of Computer Programming, which he’s been working on since the early 1960s.

In 2014, the Boise State anthropologist John Ziker released the results of a faculty time-use study, which found that the average professor spent a little over 60 hours a week working, with 30 percent of that time dedicated to email and meetings. Anecdotal reports hint that this allocation has only gotten worse over the past five years. “The days of the ivory tower are a distant memory,” concludes Ziker, and many burnt-out professors agree. 

The author, Cal Newport, is also the author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.

Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy. And yet, most people have lost the ability to go deep-spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not even realizing there’s a better way.

He argues for a pursuit of a culture conducive to deep work – with less of the distractions brought about by turning professors into middle managers.

In short, we’re already paying a price for the proliferation of ceaseless communication and administrative busywork. The question is whether we’re finally ready to admit it and have an honest discussion about whether it’s worth it. 

Let’s apply this to the Church.

Priest’s today are overwhelmed in the necessity to respond 24/7 to an a times withering array of emails, phone calls, texts, social media messages, administrative tasks – all the while feeding off of what time for prayer they have, tending to the work of the sacramental life of the Church, and the need for time with people of every walk of life – friends, colleagues, new parishioners, new friends, souls in need of pastoring.

The life of the mind is key in the life of the priest, and for all who want to live in Jesus Christ. One doesn’t have to be an academic to have a well developed mind. But one does need time and space with both objective reality and with one’s thoughts – and in community – to realize the life of the mind.

It’s a well written article, with sound proposals for the academic sphere. The religious sphere needs to recapture them too.

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