An Uncluttered Mind

In class last week, we discussed Howard Gardner and his theory of Multiple Intelligences.  (If you don't know anything about this, I encourage you to read up -- it's fascinating and relevant to just about everyone.)  Later, I watched this interview between him and the dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, in which this quote appears:
"We are all inundated by information. If you look up anything of any degree of currency on the Web, you could spend months going to the links and reading everything.  So, when I talk about the synthesizing mind, I'm pretty simplistic about it: I'm saying, what do you pay attention to you, and what do you ignore; what criteria are you using to decide what to pay attention to and what to ignore; and then, how do you put it together for yourself so it makes sense to you and so you can hold onto it; and then, how do you communicate it to other people?"

I have been accused of having a synthetic mind; people often ask for my notes after meetings or classes because they know I have a gift for articulation coupled with a respect for the kernels of the ideas.  Even if I'm just making a list on the board, I enjoy the look of relief on my students' faces after they've stammered around their thought, given up, and then seen it expressed in my words: "Yes!  That's exactly what I meant!"

Gardner then quotes John Gardner (no relation) with regard to the importance of an "uncluttered mind" -- one that can sift away the chaff and keep the wheat, so to speak.  It was this phrase that stuck out to me: though I do have a gift for synthesis, many days my mind is so cluttered I can hardly put a sentence together for myself, let alone for another.  I think this is the great danger of the modern age, both intellectually and spiritually.  With so much clutter, it's hard to think, let alone to pray.

I am thinking of the upcoming fast, and how I can use it to gain spiritual strength and insight, and it occurs to me that the best way might just be to accept a simple challenge: mental tidiness. One thing at a time.  A phone call OR grading papers OR a blog post OR a ride in the car.  We save time multitasking, sort of, but we waste so much more.