About a year ago I was writing a book. In putting the book together I re-read sections of a philosophy book that I had read more than 45 years ago.
When I first read it, I found the book very stimulating, but sections of it I had difficulty understanding. I guess I have learned at least a little in the years since my first reading of the book because I had no difficulty understanding any part of it that I re-read a year ago.
What amazed me was that I have hardly looked at the book in the last four decades, but the philosophy of person that the author presents is exactly the philosophy of person that I have been teaching in the last 45 years.
How could that be? Did my first reading of the book so impress me that I embraced the author’s vision without being aware that I embraced it?
Was the content of the book in my subconscious so that I was using knowledge that I was not even aware that I had?
Perhaps in the last 45 years I read many of the philosophers whom the author had read, and so the author and I were influenced by the same thinkers.
I cannot explain how the book seems to have influenced me through the years that I never looked at it, but the experience illustrates for me how mysterious human knowing is and how our reading, and indeed our entire educational experience, can shape us and form us into whom we become.
Perhaps the best explanation of how I spent 45 years teaching a philosophy of person that was the same as the philosophy of person in a book that I had not looked at during those years is that the author of the book was a priest-professor of philosophy, and I am a priest-professor of philosophy, and so our interests may overlap considerably.
In teaching the philosophy of the human person, I am interested in discussing God, freedom, truth, love, immortality, morality, truth, and beauty.
The priest-professor who wrote the book probably had the same interests in writing that I have had in teaching.
No matter what schools we attend or what degrees we are awarded, I think that there is a sense in which all of us are self-educated. What I mean is that no matter what influences we are exposed to, we make decisions about what we accept or reject, what we commit ourselves to, what we allow to deeply influence us and what we do not allow to influence us.
In recent months the notion that each of us builds and constructs his or her own culture has become more important to me.
We are not blotters just determined by the larger culture surrounding us. We make all sorts of decisions that can greatly influence whom we become.
We decide what books we will read, how much time we will spend watching television and what we watch on television, which films we will choose to see, what newspapers and magazines we will read, what activities we allow to take up our time.
There are treasures available in the contemporary world, but we have to be receptive and active in experiencing them.
I think our faith should be an important influence in constructing our personal culture. Our faith gives us the most broad and profound vision of reality. It should help us appreciate what is important in our efforts to construct our own culture.
Our faith can grow and deepen or apparently can also narrow and weaken.
The philosophy of person that I have embraced has been influenced, at least indirectly, by my faith. How could it not have been? I am certain that his Catholic faith also influenced the priest-professor who wrote the book that apparently influenced me so deeply.
Our faith can shed light on all of our experience. Our faith vision should not be limited to activities that obviously are religious, such as praying or receiving the sacraments. God is present at every moment of our lives, and our faith can help us make decisions that make God’s presence more real to us.
The recently deceased theologian, Fr. Michael Himes, pointed out that if by secular you mean some area of reality in which God is not present, there is no such area.
If we can believe that deeply, we might experience the world in a new way.
Pope Francis insists that God is part of everyone’s life. If we embrace the Holy Father’s view, our interpersonal relationships should be greatly enriched. We might experience God’s presence in ways that startle us. It might seem as though we are living in a new and wonderful world.
Father Lauder is a philosophy professor at St. John’s University, Jamaica. He presents two 15-minute talks from his lecture series on the Catholic Novel, 10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday on NET-TV.