On a duty to express our emotionBut you should not for that reason hold back your words anymore than you should hide visible emotion if it is genuine, because this can be the unloving committing of a wrong, just like withholding from someone what you owe him. Your friend, your beloved, your child, or whoever is the object of your love has a claim upon an expression of it also in words if it actually moves you inwardly. The emotion is not your possession but belongs to the other; the expression is your debt to him, since in the emotion you indeed belong to him who moves you and you become aware that you belong to him.
Works of Love
Sep. 20 at 12:49pm
The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God is a book that was on my meaning-to-read list for months. I’m only partway through the introduction, but already there's a lot to like.
The book is a collection of letters from Ruth Pakaluk, a woman I knew slightly when we lived in New England. In fact, we were sent to visit Ruth and her husband right after our marriage by a priest friend who thought it would be good for us to see everyday matrimony in action—a kind of belated marriage-prep field trip.
Ruth was an atheist girl who went to Harvard, converted to Christianity, got married (her husband Michael put the book together), bore seven children, and then died of cancer at the age of 41. …continue reading
Sep. 20 at 5:50am
Central to Dietrich von Hildebrand's philosophy of the heart is the idea of "intentionality" or object-directedness. Emotions, he holds, are not just subjective psychological experiences, but meaningful responses—to persons, events or situations. That is why they can be appropriate or inappropriate, reasonable or unreasonable. Like thoughts, emotions have an objective measure, a standard to which they can and should conform.
Introduced to this idea of “intentionality” by von Hildebrand more than 25 years ago, I've always associated it with objectivity. Not in the sense of cool or abstract rationality — we’re talking about the emotions after all — but in the sense of being formed by the …continue reading
Sep. 19 at 9:24am
Some things that feel like love, aren't. Like seduction or eroticism or flattery.
On the other hand, if it doesn't look like love or feel like love—if it's cold and condemning and feels like contempt —it isn't love.
Love actually does feel like love.
Sometimes love has to inflict pain. But it hates having to do that. It's sorry to give pain. It hastens to soothe and comfort afterwards.
We shouldn't delude ourselves into imagining that "hating the sin" equals "loving the sinner."
Condemning sin isn't good or admirable if it coincides with contempt for concrete persons.
Yesterday's Gospel passage was the one of the woman washing Jesus' feet with her tears, while the Pharisees objected to …continue reading
Sep. 13 at 2:02pm
Browsing through the library one day, I happened on a book about “soft addictions.” It belonged to the self-help genre, and I don’t remember what kind of treatment the author recommended, but it was an interesting idea: the causes and effects, not of physiologically addictive substances, but of relatively innocuous habits like overeating and nail-biting. (This was a long time ago, so electronics were not on the list, but I have no doubt they would be now.)
I thought of it the other day when I ran into two different videos making the rounds. They’re also about addiction, but they’re concerned with showing that certain addictions are “real” because they have a physiological basis or …continue reading
Sep. 6 at 7:33pm
Lots of people are haunted by the sense that they’re not doing enough, not becoming what they were meant to be, not doing what they were put on earth to do. Their efforts seem pointless. For some, this worry amounts to an ever-present low-grade despair, lurking in the background.
There are plenty of possible reasons for this, but rooting out one particular misunderstanding has been especially helpful for me.
Faced with a crisis, a tragedy, or just a looming mountain of laundry or paperwork, it’s easy to get paralyzed for lack of knowing where to begin. Of course, we could begin anywhere. “Ninety percent of life is just showing up,” says Woody Allen, and “Well begun is half done,” says …continue reading
Sep. 6 at 12:36pm
Cleaning my room today, I came upon an old journal and found this thought, from August 2005. I think it holds up.
I am seeing more and more how the human idea of mercy is protection from truth. True mercy [divine mercy] is an encounter with Truth—which is extremely painful. I suppose it's what Purgatory is all about. We prefer the illusions that give us false consolations.
At the time, I was in the midst of deep personal crisis—experiencing betrayal and bitter disillusionment. I was under intense peer pressure from the surrounding Christian community to deny the truth of my experience in the name of mercy and for the sake of "unity".
By some grace I knew this advice was false, like the …continue reading
Sep. 3 at 12:54pm
The Marshallin in Richard Strauss’ wonderful opera “Der Rosenkavalier” sings a beautiful aria about time and what it is like to get older. “Die Zeit, die ist ein sonderbares Ding”, “Time is a strange thing” she sings in elegiac tones, bemoaning the fact that she is no longer young, and that the young man with whom she is having an affair will not be hers forever. She sends him away before he has gotten tired of her, only to have to tell him farewell for good after having smoothed out all difficulties for him so that he can marry the young Sophie with whom he has fallen in love. She has to accept the fact that she was forced into a loveless marriage at a young age, and that she is now …continue reading
Aug. 28 at 12:52pm
In Devra's recent post on "Becoming who you are..." She described the fallacious notion that gender is a mere social construct that inhibits self discovery.
I, too, reject the notion that gender is nothing more than artificial social norms that restrict us from being who we truly are. After all, God created us Man and Woman, two different types of human. Thus, there is a natural distinction between "masculine" and "feminine." Yet, I find myself annoyed whenever the discussion comes up amongst fellow Christians. Not because I don't take the topic seriously, I just don't like the direction the dialogue takes. I've been trying to pinpoint the common missteps taken by earnest individuals when …continue reading
Aug. 27 at 11:23pm
“Become who you are!” St. John Paul II used to encourage us. I loved that. But I ran into a problem: how to figure out what, or who, that was?
People have different ideas on how to go about this. One popular approach is to strip away all your roles. Once you’ve shed all that extraneous stuff, you’ll be able to see what lies beneath it. You’ll be free, the theory goes, to become who you really are.
Well, that depends: what do we mean by “roles”? There are lots of possibilities, but here are four, for starters:
One meaning of "role" is all the “socially constructed” aspects of you. They’re not part of who you “really” are, but they’re so …continue reading
Aug. 21 at 8:44am
I don't know if I can call it the number one lesson of my adulthood to date, but it's up there. I have learned that individuals and groups who seem to be wonderful may actually be badly mired in dysfunction, that is to say, unsound. An unsound group or individual can't manage right interpersonal relations, just as an unsound physical structure can't support weight. No matter how noble their aim and how good and sincere their intentions, they will spread harm and injustice.
Take the Covenant Communiites of the '80s. Take the Legion of Christ. These are my go-to examples, because they're such clear-cut, out-there cases of abusiveness disguised as holiness. Both groups were full of sincere, …continue reading
Aug. 20 at 12:20am
St. Paul warns the Ephesians against letting themselves be “blown around by every wind of doctrine.”
Another danger these days is letting yourself be blown around by every false headline. Or every true headline. It hardly matters. Whether the journalists are lying or not, the game is to get you to imagine yourself an informed consumer of information, a connoisseur, not a human ping pong ball, bounced forever back and forth by the force of your own predictable reaction to their stimuli.
My grad school roommate Agnieszka once explained to us how journalism operated in her native Soviet-controlled Poland. The government would accuse a completely innocent man of …continue reading
Aug. 14 at 10:36am
Christ’s reasoning is shocking sometimes, nay seems downright unjust. To the one who has, more shall be given and from the one who has little, what he has will be taken. This seems like cut-throat capitalism. Then again, Jesus seems to go against justice in order to err on the side of mercy, when he tells the workers of the last hour that they will receive as much as those who have labored all day long. He shuts the door in the face of the foolish virgins who are just a tad late, though they have now managed to get some oil (shouldn’t that be rewarded?); the prudent virgins, who were not generous enough to share their oil with them, however, are rewarded. He speaks in parables so that we …continue reading
Aug. 11 at 2:03pm
Remember when Trayvon Martin was shot, and President Obama said that if he’d had a son, he’d look like Trayvon?
At the time, I confined myself to assessing the President's sincerity, or lack thereof. I can’t give him, or any politician, the benefit of the doubt. I can't assume he just happened to be voicing a genuine, spontaneous feeling of personal connection that just happened to benefit one particular side of a hot-button current-events battle.
But what about that kind of thing? I don’t think it should be dismissed reflexively. It can be used as a tool to manipulate a sentimental populace, certainly, but that’s not its only possible meaning.
I’m Jewish …continue reading
Aug. 7 at 2:28pm
A couple of recent articles about wrongdoing and forgiveness together with some conversations, both in person and online, have revived my ever-ready ruminating on this subject.
I keep being surprised and disturbed and taken aback by how much basic misunderstanding there is out there, even among otherwise mature and thoughtful Christians.
Let's take a case: person A (we'll call her Ann) is offended by person B (we'll call him Bob.)
Ann says to Bob, "That offended me." And Bob responds, "I certainly didn't mean any offense!"
For many (especially many offenders), this should be the end of the matter. He hadn't meant to offend; time for her to forgive and move on.
But, notice that the real …continue reading
Aug. 4 at 10:51pm
I’m still editing Foundations of Management, that book by Juan Antonio Perez Lopez, my husband’s late mentor. I continue to be happily surprised at how personalist-friendly it is. The book is lengthy and systematic, but this post will be neither: just a little something to whet the appetite.
On the Limits of Coercive Power
Juan Antonio distinguishes between power and authority. Power in business organizations is generally measured in terms of money: if you have enough of it to offer—or sufficient power to take enough of it away—you can force anyone to do anything, can’t you? Whether it functions as a carrot or a stick. It’s the “universal …
Aug. 4 at 10:49am
Having heard somewhere that Dietrich von Hildebrand had "discovered" Victor Frankl, author of Man's Search for Meaning and founder of Logotherapy, I asked Alice von Hildebrand to tell me the story the other day.
Some of her details are off. For instance, according to The Victor Frankl Institute website, he was in a concentration camp for 3, not 7 years. But the gist is true and touching.
N.B. "Gogo" was von Hildebrand's nickname.
Von Hildebrand's Wikipedia page mentions the journal in which he published Frankl's essay:
Aug. 2 at 12:09pm
I've noticed in recent years that my favorite thinkers-about-love regularly refer to "the gaze of love." I have immediately in mind Dietrich von HIldebrand, Karol Wojtyla, Jean Vanier, and Roger Scruton. Plato, of course, called the eyes "the windows to the soul." It is in and through the eyes of someone who loves us that we feel and experience ourselves as loved, as valuable, and hence discover our reality as personal selves.
Maria Fedoryka discusses the point in the talks she gave for us a few years back. When parents gaze with love into the face of their tiny child, they are, in a profound sense, communicating to that child her very being, her sense of self: "You are good; you are …continue reading
Jul. 30 at 10:13am
One of my ongoing mental preoccupations is the problem of community. How do we establish it without getting it wrong? What are the sound principles of "intentional" communal living? By "intentional" I mean a kind of communal life that is deliberately adopted and cultivated, as opposed to what occurs spontaneously just from the fact of our living in society.
I've been pondering it since my undergraduate days, when my discovery of philosophy coincided with the imploding of the covenant communities that had been a major influence, for both good and bad, in the spirituality at my alma mater.
At Steubenville I had learned "how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity." Never …continue reading
Jul. 28 at 11:07am
No single person has done more to shape our understanding of Christian personalism than our former professor, John F. Crosby. Last week he and his wife, Pia, visited us in New Hampshire, and he kindly agreed to sit down with me for a recorded conversation about personalism and phenomenology, von Hildebrand, Newman and Wojtyla.
One of the questions I asked had to do with von Hildebrand and Vatican II. Von Hildebrand is well-known for his passionate opposition to the liturgical abuses that followed in the wake of the Council. Less well-known is his profound influence on the substance of its teachings.
Click here to hear the recording of his answer to that question.
(Sorry about our dog whining in the background!)
Members can listen to the full interview at the Member Feed.
Pia and John Crosby sitting at our kitchen table with Alice von Hildebrand.
Jul. 25 at 9:34pm
Business management is not my thing. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool liberal arts type who much prefers words to numbers.
Business lit traffics in words, of course, but it’s so often saturated with the kind of deadly prose you produce when you’re writing for journals that exist to publish articles by people who have to publish there or they won’t gain tenure. They’re read by people in pursuit of tenure and, possibly, by people trying to deny other people tenure. Are they ever read voluntarily, for pleasure? I doubt it.
So it’s a breath of fresh air to discover Juan Antonio Perez Lopez, whose book, Foundations of Management, I’ve been …continue reading