Vision of discussion on distraction with Plato and Aurelius. “The Undistracted” by Irwin Edman. (March 2020)

Susan's Thursday morning note March 5, 2020 
The Undistracted by Irwin Edman.  (Author having a vision of discussion with Plato and Marcus Aurelius)

Good morning.  Just enough light to know dawn will soon arrive.  The sun will soon bring news from the other side of the world on her ventures during the night.  The cranes are flying overhead, for I can hear their morning cries as they continue their migration.  My angel of dawn is peering through the little opening of my curtain.  She brings a small tulip bulb to remind me what is underground only a few yards from me – the bulbs beginning to awake knowing that spring is coming.  Helping me keep the eternal perspective of today being only a short scene in my play called life.

I’m picturing a scene from June 1, 2000 with Stu nearing the end of a back-packing trip near Ely, Minnesota.  We were spending the entire morning at a little quaint used bookstore in the north woods.  He purchased a book (now out of print) that he encouraged me to read.  I’ve always loved the book – just sitting daily near me, for I have sentimental attachment to it.  The exact half-hour that he purchased his treasure, my father died in a farm accident here in Aurora.  I always picture us in the little book shop, while simultaneously, unbeknownst to me, an accident at the farm here in Aurora that would affect the rest of my life.  Needless to say, this particular book has always held sentimental value to me.  I treasure not only the tangible book, but the writings from this author, Irwin Edman.  The essay that I am thinking of this week is entitled The Undistracted.  I’ll type a few thought-provoking quotes of the author having a vision of a discussion with Plato.

…I had been wondering why there are so many few undistracted people in the world – a saint here, a fanatic there, a conqueror there.  But most people are lethargic or hysterical.  They are a cave of whirling winds, or they are dead calms.  They are confusedly excited about everything, and they have clear dedications to nothing at all.  They are promiscuously tempted by anything, or they love nothing deeply, or dearly, or well…noncommittal.  You say (speaking to Plato) you are undistracted…but what makes, what made, you so undistracted in your own time?…I suspect private life was just as filled with crises and disappointments in your time as in ours.  You must have seen how others, or you yourself, perhaps, were distracted by a growing faintness or weariness in your own soul, by the seductions or the frustrations or the fatuities of the flesh.  You saw wars…”

Plato responded, “Only those are distracted who live in time; those only are undistracted who live in eternity.  For they only can be anxious who live in the suspense of a future sought for precariously and cared for uneasily.  It is only in time that there is hope, uncertainty, expectation.  Only in time is there a future in which expectation can be disappointed, in which uncertainty can swell into disaster, and dreams become corrupted by actuality.  Only those who live beyond time are exempt from distraction.”

The author then begins another vision now with Marcus Aurelius (author of Meditations) Their discussion on distraction reads,“…Busy yourself with few things, and you will be tranquil…” “Well, it isn’t as easy as that, for there aren’t quiet spots to retire to any more, and no matter how one withdraws from events, they impinge themselves upon us…I always admired you, Marcus…for with all the vexations and disappointments of a conscientious and devoted life as an emperor and a husband and a father, you remained serene and calm and unconfused.” “I have watched many generations since my own time…I am convinced that those alone are undistracted who do whatever they have to do with all their might, and live fully to the extent of their powers, like an eye that sees, a fire that burns, a flower that blossoms.  Turn inward; examine your own nature, and if you find out what it is that you are, and if you do that which the nature of things meant you to be and do, you will not be distracted any more.  There are eternal cycles and there is nothing new under the sun.  Now, as in my time, if all goes wrong, or seems to go wrong, it cannot be disastrous to a free spirit, nor can the excitement of success or the images bred of passion be distracting to an independent mind.”

The author then goes on for another 50 pages to have vision and dialogues with St.  Paul and various philosophers and authors of humanities.  If you are interested in his books – they were written in the 1940s and extremely thought-provoking.

We so easily get “distracted” – to look at our lives and personal circumstances and begin putting life out of perspective, losing our visions, straying from our goals.  We must make personal daily, weekly, monthly, and life-time goals.  We must keep them accessible.  Keep focused on what is eternal.  We must drop constantly to our knees, we must look upwards to the heavens daily, where our help comes from.  Life is important.  Our decisions are important.  We do not want our minds to be as Plato above described, “whirling winds, or dead calms” – but ordered, prayerful, looking outward, looking forward.  Thank you for letting me again enter your Thursday and for entering my life.  Life.  So many acts in our play.  So many scenes.  All making up part of the entire play of our life.  The curtains will close eventually to the audience here, only to enter the next unknown scene of eternity.  Susan