We become what we read. What we read today walks and talks with us tomorrow. I recently read a book by Matthew Kelly, who is not a philosopher; he doesn’t bring any new apportation to reason or to us. As a matter of fact all he says was said before him 2000 years earlier only adapted to early 21st century. The book’s message won’t be entirely useful or appropriate for all audiences, especially if the reader is firm in faith. It is still a very good and firm critic and reminder of what our core and base is.
As a lapsed and rescued Christian, though, reading Rediscovering Catholicism motivated me to move from a more superficial level of Catholicism (goes to Mass, but doesn’t really have a personal relationship with God) to work hard to learn about God, and be the “best-version-of-myself”, which Kelly speaks of continuously in his book. That “best-version-of-yourself” is actually the version of the You God wants. Understood otherwise, which could be likely to happen, they risk turning self-improvement into the end (and not a means) to glorify God. Dangerous place to walk in. I still want to come back to some of the author’s thoughts and make some little comments of my own.
Even though everyone studies 10, maybe 15 famous philosophers in high school, each and every one of us are philosophers of our own. We all have a philosophy we try to live by. In our 21st century, born out of a century of historical revolutions and changes and fruit of its people’s ideas and attitudes, the philosophies of our Modern Culture are essentially three: Individualism, Hedonism and Minimalism.
Individualism – The ultimate concern for one’s self.
“What’s in it for me?” The false and adolescent notion is that freedom is the opportunity to do whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want, without the interference of any other person or party. This is not freedom. Freedom is the strength and the self-possession to do Good (both for one’s self and for others).
Hedonism – Pleasure is the ultimate goal and aim of life.
Although its first defenders over 3000 years ago assumed that their actions could not infringe on the equal rights of others, nowadays it’s become a mere “If it feels good, do it!” Hedonism is not an expression of freedom; it is a passport to enslavement by thousands of cravings and addictions. And in the end it produces not pleasure, but despair.
Minimalism – Striving to exert the minimum effort and receive the maximum reward.
“What is the least I can do to….?” Minimalism is the enemy of excellence and the father of mediocrity.
If I may, I’d like to bring up minimalism as something hispanic countries are very good at in their political/social/economic systems.
In our nowadays lives we find many who practice and promote these philosophies. On the other hand there are others who see them as self-destructive, and merely offer a glimpse of happiness. But the human heart is constantly on a quest for happiness.
Those of us who call ourselves Christians do so because we believe that the life and teachings of Jesus Christ are the personification of truth, sincerity, and authenticity. The philosophy of Christ is very different from the prevailing philosophies of our modern culture; yet, both claim to be the key to achieving happiness. What is the best way to live, then? We (those of us who call ourselves Christians) believe that Christ’s philosophy is the answer to human happiness.
Nowadays society sees Christianity as a culture of appearances, as any other. People’s need of Truth has not disappeared, though. It has become distrustful, doubtful and skeptic, but never disappeared.
Frankly, it isn’t strange to see how they have gotten to this state of philosophical confusion and God-lacking. Most of this confusion has been caused by all the propagation of symbols and fake images. People are tired, exhausted and overcharged of information. People are overdosed by our political, social and economic climate.
In many ways, Christians are today the same many Jews were 2000 years ago: doctors of a law which we don’t understand because we are human and have made out of Moises’ law something tangled and confusing.
Today, as always, people want to witness someone – anyone – living an authentic life. “Don’t tell me – show me!” Someone striving humbly but heroically to live by what is good, true, and noble in the midst and in spite of this modern climate.
So what is it that they want them to show them? Simple yet mighty:
Our core put into practice.
Philosophy of our Christ
Jesus never asked, “What’s in it for me?” He was motivated by a life of service to others; a life of self-donation.
The world needs Christ’s disciples. Being such means to be a student – to be humble, docile, teachable, and to listen. Jesus gently proclaimed a life of self-denial, saying, “Whoever wishes to follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross.” (Matthew 16:24)
Jesus certainly did not ask himself, “What is the least I can do and still bring salvation to humanity?” Instead, he asked “What is the most I can do for humanity?”
As said before, freedom is the strength of character and the self-possession to do what is Good, true, noble, and right. Therefore, freedom without discipline is impossible.
Love is the core of Jesus’ philosophy. But in order to love, you must be free. To love is to give your ‘self’ freely and without reservation. Yet, to give your ‘self’ to another person or to God, you must first possess your ‘self’. Freedom is to possess your ‘self’. Freedom is needed to love and is only obtained with discipline.
God cares about our happiness. God gave us this desire for happiness which is always alive within us. Our quest for happiness is a quest for God. God Himself put this desire of happiness within us.
Among the many (my many is only very few for so many) things I have read this book was the one I liked most so to strengthen and reaffirm that Christ’s philosophy is the answer to human happiness. We may glimpse happiness for a moment living outside of the philosophy of Christ, but they are stolen moments. They may seem real, but they are just shadows of something infinitely greater.
There are also many Christians who think the problem with the world today is that people don’t come to church. This is not important and it’s hardly near the Core. The real challenge is to bring the Church to the people. Fundamentally, that is what we are failing to do. We are failing to do as Christ did: to reach out and meet people where they are in their need, in their brokenness and marginality.
“We are blessed by what we give, not by what we possess.”
Fr. Theodore M. Hesburgh