The human person: central controversy of the ageThe present age is a time of great controversy about the human being, controversy about the very meaning of human existence, and thus about the nature and significance of the human being. We know that such situations in history have frequently led to a deeper reflection on Christian truth as a whole, as well as on particular aspects of it. That is also the case today. The truth about the human being, in turn, has a distinctly privileged place in this whole process. After nearly twenty years of ideological debate in Poland, it has become clear that at the center of this debate is not cosmology or philosophy of nature but philosophical anthropology and ethics: the great and fundamental controversy about the human being.
The Person: Subject and Community
Aug. 21, 2013, at 10:45am
We have friends visiting for a few days and lots to do to get ready before we fly to Europe for our sabbatical next week, so I don't have much leisure for writing posts. But I had to share this. It's an interview with a Protestant psychologist who specializes in therapy for victims of sexual abuse. A friend and PP member, who admired its deep personalist wisdom, forwarded it to me. I find it amazing. Tell me what you think.
Aug. 16, 2013, at 9:31am
The other day Jules and I had the rare privilege of getting to spend some hours visiting with three of the Carthusian monks at the Charter House of the Transfiguration in Vermont. They are the only Carthusians in North America. They had invited Alice von HIldebrand, who asked us to bring her. (I so regret not taking a picture! I will see if I can record the beautiful story of her connection to the monastery later today.)
To be with them was to be renewed in faith and hope for the Church. Their serenity was palpable. It was impossible not to feel how attuned they are to God and to humanity, despite their almost unthinkable physical isolation.
One of the three, Fr. Philip, a Norwegian, who …continue reading
Aug. 12, 2013, at 1:40am
Last weekend I attended a fascinating conference and debate on Islam sponsored by Ave Maria Radio and hosted by Eastern Michigan University.
I knew it would be good. The topic is not one that's usually on my mind’s front burner, but the first conference in the “Build the Church, Bless the Nation” series was strikingly successful at getting beyond clichés and echo-chamber applause lines. My hopes were high.
Besides, it promised to be a true debate, not like the carefully scripted election-year baloney festivals that go by the same name.
(Early in the last presidential “debate,” my four-year-old helpfully inserted an ibuprofen tablet into a nostril, keeping my attention diverted during …continue reading
Aug. 9, 2013, at 11:25am
Since it's her feast day, I am reading about Edith Stein. I've learned (unless it's something I'd known and forgotten) that she was born on the Jewish day of Atonement, and that her pious Jewish mother considered this to be of great significance.
And then I find this line from her memoirs. It comes from a moment in her teen years, when she was having to decide what to do with herself: where to go, what to study. Her family was giving her definite hints, but she was resisting their influence. Her decision had to be her own.
I could not act unless I had an inner compulsion to do so. My decisions arose out of a depth that was unknown even to myself.
This captures at least two central …continue reading
Aug. 5, 2013, at 10:30pm
You’d be amazed how much they have in common.
Marla Cilley, known as Flylady, is a “personal online coach to help you gain control of your house and home.” She bills herself as part cheerleader, part drill sergeant, and (lucky for me) she takes a special interest in well-intentioned people with no natural flare for organization and no earthly idea where to begin. (She’s some sort of Christian and occasionally posts a spiritual reflection, but mostly she operates on the natural level.)
Jacques Philippe is a French priest, author, speaker, and spiritual director. He gives deceptively simple advice about peace and freedom and holiness. I’ve written about him here, here, here, and here, …continue reading
Jul. 31, 2013, at 12:45pm
I finished Deresiewicz’ delightful book A Jane Austen Education, which I first mentioned a few days ago. Before putting it back on the shelf, I want to mention another of its insights—one that tracks closely with what I have learned from von Hildebrand about the heart as "the real self" (see his The Heart, chapter 8). It has to do with the need to investigate our feelings.
For Jane Austen the most obvious responsibility we have with regard to feelings is to govern them with our reason. We must not let ourselves be carried away by them, as, for instance, Marianne is in Sense and Sensibility. Even love, indeed especially love, which is the most affective of all human realities, must be …continue reading
Jul. 28, 2013, at 10:52pm
Occasionally, on my morning trek to the coffeepot, I encounter a small child standing next to, say, a little pile of broken glass and strawberry jam.
The child will immediately launch into a convoluted and highly implausible explanation of why the blame for the mess ought to be laid at the feet of some absent (or even fast-asleep) party.
The trouble with this is not just the blatant falsehood, even though, as both a philosopher and a mother, I take a keen interest in truth. It's also that the child so firmly believes that identifying the guilty party is the ultimate destination of his quest. Wiping up the sticky and hazardous mess and carrying on as a slightly wiser and more cautious …continue reading
Jul. 25, 2013, at 2:13pm
Editor's note: Ann Schmalstieg is an artist whose work we discovered when she signed on as a member of the Personalist Project some months ago. We were so moved by it—especially the way she seems to capture beauty in suffering—that we asked her to consider posting about it here. You can find more at her website.
Katie invited me to write about my artwork in a guest post some time ago, and I must admit, I was a bit hesitant. Part of the reason why I paint is because words often fall short, so writing is not my preferred mode of expression. Yet, there is value in sharing clearly defined thoughts, not only for viewers of my art, but also for other artists who are working out their own …continue reading
Jul. 25, 2013, at 1:37pm
Miss Bates has always struck me as pitiable and ridiculous, a character thrown into the novel largely for comic effect. But Deresiewicz has a different angle. He argues that Miss Bates lives "the novel's highest lesson of all": that it is the little things of everyday—the sorts of things talked over repeatedly by Miss Bates—of which real life is made.
Deresiewicz contrasts the small talk of Miss Bates (and of Austen's novels in general) with the conversations he used to have with his friends, and with the modernist …continue reading
Jul. 23, 2013, at 9:31am
In his recent talk on von Hildebrand and superabundant finality, Jules distinguished among different kinds of "superabundant finality". Some superabundant goods of sex (i.e. children) are much more important and central to its essence than others (such as, say, stress relief). He drew an analogy with an ancient apple tree at our home in New Hampshire. He said that its apples are its fruit in a much deeper and fuller sense than other real superabundant gifts connected to the tree, such as shade and fun for boys. I thought those who listened might like a visual. This is the tree he had in mind.
Jul. 21, 2013, at 9:14am
I just read the blog-post “I don’t wait anymore” (http://gracefortheroad.com/2012/02/03/idontwait/) where the author describes taking off her purity ring at the age of 25, after having worn it for 9 years. Contrary to the first impression the initial sentences might give, the author does not go on to say that chastity is too hard, repressive or unrealistic. She’s actually not giving up chastity at all. But she took off her ring, since the way chastity was promoted in her Protestant church was wrong, by making false promises and representing God wrongly. She was told: “Be the woman God made you to be, focus on that, and then the husband will come.” Pressure was added through a popular …continue reading
Jul. 20, 2013, at 11:09am
Just now I was listening for a second time to the talk Jules gave yesterday morning in Steubenville on von Hildebrand's distinction between the primary "meaning of marriage", i.e. love, and the primary "end of marriage", i.e. children. (I can't think of anything I'd rather do than listen to my beloved talk about marriage.)
Specifically, he tries to show that not only does this distinction not (as some critics charge) undercut the Church's teaching on the inseparability of sex and pro-creation, it deepens and enriches our grasp of that teaching, by drawing out and emphasizing the personal structure of conjugal relations.
Spouses don't use each other to produce children. God doesn't use …continue reading
Jul. 19, 2013, at 12:59am
I’ve been reading Jacques Philippe again. This brings on the urge to just string together Jacques Philippe quotes and call it a post, because, after all, who could say it better, or what is there to add?
The book in question is called The Way of Trust and Love: a Retreat Guided by St. Therese of Lisieux (Scepter).
It’s perfect for people like me—and I suspect there are many—who suffer from the uneasy conviction that there must be more to the Little Flower than what we imagine, but who are too allergic to nineteenth-century religious prose to find out for sure.
This short paperback, as accessible as it is profound, will allow you to derive enormous amounts of spiritual nutrition from St. …continue reading
Jul. 17, 2013, at 1:47pm
Dietrich and Alice von Hildebrand were married on July 16th, 1959.
In honor of the occasion, I interviewed her yesterday evening here at our summer home in New Hampshire.
PS: "Gogi" and "Gogo" were von Hildebrand's nicknames.
PPS: Sorry about the barking dog early in! Happily, it only lasts only a few minutes.
Jul. 11, 2013, at 3:36pm
Something I constantly notice is that unembarrassed joy has become rarer. Joy today is increasingly saddled with moral and ideological burdens, so to speak. When someone rejoices, he is afraid of offending against solidarity with the many people who suffer. I don’t have any right to rejoice, people think, in a world where there is so much misery, so much injustice.
I can understand that. There is a moral attitude at work here. But … the loss of joy does not make the world better—and, conversely, refusing joy for the sake of suffering does not help those who suffer. The contrary is true. The world needs people who discover the good, who rejoice in it and thereby derive the impetus …
Jul. 10, 2013, at 11:23am
A facebook friend has linked a list: 15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy. It's not my kind of list. It strikes me as a typical instance of cheap pop-psychology bromides masquerading as wisdom. It's not that there's no truth in it at all; it's that much of what's said is reductive, ambiguous and superficial. It glosses over the real problems it pretends to resolve.
Example: The first thing the reader is urged to give up is "your need to always be right." Well, okay. No one should "need" to "always be right." But it's not very helpful in the concrete, is it? Take a case in which I am convinced I am right. You accuse me of lying and I deny it. Is my denial to be interpreted as …continue reading
Jul. 9, 2013, at 12:41pm
Actor Dustin Hoffman offers a beautiful, personalist insight from his experience of working on the movie Tootsie. Watch it.
How many women have suffered because they are habitually treated (especially by men) not as persons, not as unique individuals, but only as more or less beautiful specimens of the female type. It's so moving to see that he here realizes not only what a suffering that must be for women, but what a loss it is for men. "How many interesting women I never got to know."
Jun. 30, 2013, at 9:56am
I want to continue our conversation about the “self-referential person”--the one who lights a lamp but then gets scared and hides it under a bushel, reluctant to go out into all the (contaminated) earth to preach the gospel.
We can agree there's a big differentce between fearful, self-imposed isolation and the legitimate effort to found new communities and develop a sense of identity for oursleves and our descendents.
That doesn't let us off the hook completely, though: we still have to discern--over and over--when and how to engage the culture and when and how to repudiate it. St.Augustine's speaks of the Israelites taking "gold out of Egypt"
--a metaphor for embracing whatever good is …continue reading
Jun. 25, 2013, at 7:36am
Contra a recent National Catholic Register blog post by Pat Archbold, titled “8 Rules for Marrying my Daughter”:
1) Unless your daughter is a minor, you don’t get to have requirements for her prospective spouse. Not only do you not get to choose him for her, you have no veto power over her choices at all. None. You don’t get to lay down criteria. You don’t get to say, “He has to be Catholic,” much less, “He has to have a prayer life.” However reasonable the demand may seem to you, and however objectively advantageous to your daughter, you have no right to insist that the man seeking her hand in marriage be gainfully employed, or have no debt, or come from an intact family. All of that is …continue reading