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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

The Life of the Mind

A little help in taking every thought captive for Christ.

Zena Hitz has written an encouraging book on reading and intellectual life. In Lost in Thought she shows how leading a life of the mind can help in knowing God, grant us many delightful hours of reading and meditation, and prepare us for many useful vocations.

Much of the book traces her own intellectual journey to a calling in thought. She shows us how to appreciate reading and study not for gaining grades or jobs, but simply for the delight of learning and of living a more transcendent life. She says she “learned about the process Catholics call ‘discerning a vocation,’ in which through prayer and silence one waits for God to expose one’s deepest motivations and so to clarify the shape of one’s life.” She explains that “the hidden life of learning involves some savoring of its natural objects – people, numbers, God, nature – for their own sake.” One must have time for this, and to be able to withdraw into a place of solitude to gain the most benefit.

Investing in a life of thought leads us to people, places, ideas, and insights that can be uplifting and edifying. “The inwardness of the mind at leisure unlocks the dignity that is so often denied or diminished by social life and social circumstances…Intellectual life is a way to recover one’s real value which it is denied recognition by the power plays and careless judgments of social life.” But she also wants us to understand that “Every mode of learning is a school of hard knocks.” If we want to have a thoughtful life, we’re going to have to work at it. She provides plenty of examples of where to turn and how to proceed.

She summarizes her work: “Perhaps we ought to think of intellectual life as having not so much an objective as a direction: toward the general past the specific, the universal beyond the particular, the reality behind the illusion, the beauty beneath the ugliness, the peace underneath violence…” Ultimately, we want to learn to know God and love Him better. She adds, “The mind or the intellect, as seen in the exercise of the love of learning, shows its capacity for knowledge and understanding, for chipping away obstacles to the truth, for contemplating what is beautiful or admirable, even for being aware of the bare fact of our own mortality and fragility.”

This book is full of examples of thinkers and their work. It’s a delightful read and could be of much help in developing a reading and study plan for those so inclined.

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