We are distracted. When we look back from our frantic present, the past seems like a place where we could hear ourselves think. In “The Wandering Mind,” Jamie Kreiner observes that the modern-day distraction epidemic has revived our interest in medieval monks, “those supposed paragons of concentration,” as masters of self-control and calm.
“The Wandering Mind” is a lucid and vivid examination of how early Christian monks created habits of contemplation to “connect their minds to God,” opening “panoramic vistas of the universe that transcended both space and time.” Ms. Kreiner, a professor of medieval history at the University of Georgia, also shares intriguing perspectives on our own values and priorities. The monks inhabited a different world, but they too were “deeply preoccupied by the problem of distraction.”