Thoughts on Lent 13: Clarity of Mind

My vocation happens to be that of a writer, though every person’s vocation requires clarity of mind. In my case clarity of mind drives the pen. What does it drive in your case? If your mind is cluttered as a writer your words will be tedious and often superfluous. If your mind is cluttered in any vocation, you will feel like you are walking in circles.

Whether in my vocation or yours (do you know what your vocation is?), unhealthy dependence upon social media in its various forms carries the potential to become the great enemy of the clear mind. The speed with which it assaults one’s cognitive faculties and arouses and often conflicts one’s emotions is counter-productive. Worse, the corrosive sense that you must constantly feed it — keep the numbers up —  is the biggest hazard to the clear mind. When this pressure seizes you,  you start operating reactively, driven by outside urgencies, rather than proactively, arising from your core. Reactive thinking evolves to the place where you can’t think straight and causes an mental overload that compromises the integrity of purpose. One’s unitive singular focus begins to blur.*

A strong example of what I mean is reflected in the following passage written by Knut Hamsun in his book Hunger. When your mind is clear, something beyond you finds ground and moves extraordinarily. Hamsun calls it (in his case) “windfalls in language” — yet the same is true for any vocation: 

“All at once, one or two remarkable sentences occurred to me, good for a short story or a sketch, windfalls in language, as good as I had ever come on. I lay saying the words over to myself and decided they were excellent. Soon, several other sentences joined the two; instantly I was wide awake, stood up, and took paper and pencil from the table at the foot of my bed. It was like a vein opening, one word followed the other, arranged themselves in right order, created situations; scenes piled up on scene, actions and conversations welled up in my brain, and a strange sense of pleasure took hold of me. I wrote as if possessed, and filled one page after the other without a moment’s pause. Thoughts poured so abruptly and kept coming in such a stream that I lost a number of them from not being able to write down fast enough, even though I worked with all my energy. They continued to press themselves on me; I was deep into the subject, and every word I set down came from somewhere else.”

~  ~

*A disciplined mind can make great use of social media. The key is discipline.

About Wendy Murray

Wendy Murray is a veteran and award-winning journalist. She served as associate editor and Senior Writer at Christianity Today magazine and has written extensively for other publications such as Books & Culture and The Christian Century. She has written 11 books.


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