These last few weeks I have been thinking about thoughts, thinkers, philosophy, and Chesterton. A couple weeks ago I mentioned St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor. His "angelic" purity and freedom from passions gave him a mind of such clarity that I honestly believe he may have few peers in any field from any time or any culture. Thomas' dispassion colors his writing.
Taking this point, that personality paints ideas, I consider Plato. It is interesting to note that Plato , in his youth, was a Pankrationist. Ancient Pankration for all intents and purposes is the equivalent of contemporary MMA. Plato was a man who knew physical ruggedness. He understood the pressure of carrying an opponent's weight and scambling for limbs and countering wrenching maneuvers. If we really grasp this life experience of Plato, his philosophy takes a very striking direction(did I say "striking?" hehe). Platonic philosophy is a philosophy of mind and "forms." The classical criticism of Plato being ungrounded in the physical is diminished when we consider the whole Plato. His communication and expression is ethereal, but his inner experience of life was far far more gutteral and Earthy.
One of Chesterton's subjects, St. Francis of Assisi, embodies the above point. "Preach always, use words when necessary." -- This is a philosophy of a whole person. Personality paints idea. St. Francis wrote discourses on humility and simplicity by the spirit he carried performing the most mundane tasks.
Turning this view to Chesterton, I think it bears to remember that he had what would now be called developmental issues and a later breakdown. This inner turmoil led him to understand sanity and insanity, beauty and ugliness, normalcy and aberrations. I do not know enough of the details of his formative experiences, but those inner demons which he faced led him to a spectacular universal insight and a wisdom beyond any of the men of his time.
Taking this view of philosophy and ideas as the full reflection of a total person I find Christ to be an utter enigma. I have been thinking lately that the most haunting words of the New Testament are, "And who do you say that I am?" from Matthew 16. The Passion of the Christ takes on powerful meaning considering the totality of Jesus' words and actions. I think this is where many of us fail in apologetics. We know so many answers, and I admit I become frustrated over some of the ridiculous misunderstandings people have regarding Christianity and Catholicism. To merely be able to "define and defend" is insufficient. We can see from above that even secular philosophy cannot be adequately draught out in that manner.
Very humbling stuff.
2 months ago