An antidote to this age of distraction

M. Scott Morris

M. Scott Morris

This past Sunday, the Daily Journal ran a story I wrote about Tupelo’s John Armistead, and readers seemed to connect with something he’d said.

• “We have to take some time. We have no time to stand still. A poor life it is if filled with cares. We have to take time to stand still, not listening to the radio or watching TV, but doing nothing, letting the mind wander, letting ideas germinate, letting images develop.” – John Armistead.

That was the last quote of the story. Earlier, he talked about some of the challenges in his life and how he overcame them, and the story ended with a suggestion that we find some resting place outside of our troubles.

It’s easy to drown out the still, small voice. And isn’t it an oddity of our age that we need to be reminded to release the hustle and bustle?

• “Peace is the first thing the angels sang.” – John Keble.

I suppose we could turn things around: We’re lucky to live when there are so many reminders. Tap a keyboard, click a link and a wealth of gentle pointers is revealed.

• “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.” – Anne Frank.

Of course, Anne Frank’s a tough one, since we know how much was denied to her in her short life. We read the quote and feel the truth of it, but then we read her name and feel an additional weight.
I’d argue the weight is compatible with Armistead’s advice, which doesn’t require peace or quiet, but the absence of 20th- and 21st-century tools of distraction.

If our thoughts wander to less-than-happy places, that’s well within the wide reach of human experience.

• “The mind is exercised by the variety and multiplicity of the subject matter, while the character is moulded by the contemplation of virtue and vice.” – Quintilian.

Even so, some part of me craves total calm, to transform my mind into an undisturbed pool, but I’ve managed only a few nanoseconds before the brain starts rippling again.

It’s nothing two or three decades in a monastery wouldn’t fix, and then I could shield my deepest self from life’s grand statements and petty gossip.

• “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” – Buddha.

Hey, I see what the Buddha’s saying here – I mean, I get it as far as my limited understanding will allow.

But peace came from without on Thursday morning.

Rain broke the heat, so my little focusing walk around the Daily Journal campus was about as comfortable as it’s been since May.

Trees swayed in the breeze and leaves rubbed against each other, creating such sweet, ancient music.

For a brief time, I found a resting place.

M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@journalinc.com.

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