Beatitudes for Moral Virtue

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The Moral Development of the Human Person as the Imago Dei

Blessed are those

who pursue worthwhile goals,

for they shall find purpose in life.

Blessed are those

who love someone,

for they shall discover the deepest meaning of life.

Blessed are those

who endure hardship for believing in a righteous cause,

for they shall develop moral character.

Blessed are those

who refuse to degrade another human being,

for they shall ennoble themselves.

Blessed are those

who care about the needs of the poor and underprivileged,

for they shall be spiritually rich.

Blessed are those

who feel all alone in standing for justice,

for they shall be sustained by an Invisible Power.

Blessed are those

who are not controlled by money, possessions and pleasure,

for they shall remain in control of themselves.

Blessed are those

who are passionately concerned about a worthwhile issue,

for they shall overcome the indifference of others.

Blessed are those

who are passionate about living for something meaningful,

for they shall make a meaningful difference in the world.

Blessed are those

who will not compromise their values,

for they shall maintain their integrity.

Blessed are those

who don’t give up on themselves, even when everyone else does,

for they shall be vindicated.

Blessed are those

who are more concerned about upholding moral principle than gaining wealth and privilege,

for they shall remain true to themselves.

Blessed are those

who will not allow another person to “walk all over” them,

for they shall develop moral boundaries.

Blessed are those

who do not tolerate every kind of behavior,

for they shall be morally strong.

Blessed are those

who follow the dictates of their conscience rather than the demands of the crowd,

for they shall encourage others to be themselves.

Blessed are those

who speak truth to power,

for they shall change the world for the better.

On Turning a Tragedy into a Triumph: A Tribute to Viktor Frankl (1905-1997), M.D., Ph.D.

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Viktor E. Frankl

The Tragic Dimension of Life

At birth, human beings inhabit a “wounded” or damaged world. Humans themselves are also wounded, finite creatures, limited by their natural imperfections. Since imperfect humans live in an imperfect world, it cannot always be changed, despite all the advances of science.

If science had a solution for every human problem, could fix everything that is wrong with the world, heal ever kind of disease and prevent death itself, then science itself would take on a savior-like or divine-like status, virtually making it into God. However, since science can neither cure every disease nor conquer death itself, then science is neither God nor Savior of humankind.

Therefore, in an imperfect world with human imperfections, it is not always possible for every condition to be changed; nor for all diseases to be healed. As Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl writes,

“Caught in a hopeless situation as its helpless victim, facing a fate that cannot be changed, man still may turn his predicament into an achievement and accomplishment at the human level. He thus may bear witness to the human potential at its best, which is to turn tragedy into triumph.”1

Challenged by Life to Change Oneself

Sometimes, perhaps many times, a person “overcomes” a difficulty or problem only by enduring it. In Frankl’s words,

“Facing a fate we cannot change, we are called upon to make the best of it by rising above ourselves and growing beyond ourselves, in a word, by changing ourselves.”2

That is to say, if a person’s problem cannot be changed, after exhausting all possible attempts to change it, then he or she must change his or her attitude toward it and, thereby, become better, that is, a changed person.

Rethinking the Notion of a “Victorious” Life

The “cure,” then, for an incurable disease may be living with it, enduring it. Coping with the problem, having the right kind of attitude toward it, is, in a way, the “victory” over it.

Of course, when life’s problems or difficulties can be changed, they should be. In short, when things change for the worse, a person is challenged to respond to them by making a change for the better in his or her life.

Endnotes

1. Viktor E. Frankl, The Unconscious God (New York, N.Y.: Washington Square Press/ Pocket Books/ Simon and Schuster, Inc., English ed.1975, 1st Washington Square Press printing 1985), pp. 125-126.

2. ———-, Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning (New York, N.Y.: Insight Books/ Plenum Press, 1997), p. 142.

Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy in a Nutshell: There are no Accidental, Meaningless Human Beings

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“[H]uman existence,” writes psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, “can never be intrinsically meaningless.”1 In other words, you were born for a reason. That may be hard to understand, because many people do not even know why they exist. You are meant to be alive. If it were not so, then you would possibly be dead already. But since you are reading my article, you are, obviously, alive.

However, you are, according to Logotherapy, responsible for finding a meaning to your life. That is thrust squarely upon you, not someone else. There is, then, a rightful place for you in the world, as if it were made for you alone. To accept that view, however, requires a faith-commitment, an existential “leap of faith.” Such a commitment cannot be proven logically or reduced to a logical argument. Therefore, take a leap of faith, that is, keep on seeking until you find a meaning to your life. After all, if the search were not worthwhile, you would not be looking for meaning in the first place.

If that, too, fails, then consider another possibility for a meaning to your life, which Dr. Frankl calls “self-transcendence,” a moving away from self-absorption, self-preoccupation, or moving away from focusing all your attention on yourself. In other words, the meaning of your life is directed to others, helping them find meaning in their lives.

Every day, every hour, indeed, every second, life is a choice, either unconsciously or consciously, to live. Despite life’s many uncertainties, you are responsible – either to your own conscience, to others or even to God, or in all three respects – for staying alive. And you will do that much better with, rather than without, a meaning to life. As Frankl writes, giving advice to those who have not, at the moment, found a meaning to their lives,

“[T]ry to be patient and courageous: patient in leaving the problems unresolved for the time being, and courageous in not giving up the struggle for their final solution.”2

Endnotes

  1. Viktor E. Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy, trans. Richard and Clara Winston, 3rd ed. (New York, N.Y.: Vintage Books/ Random House, 1986), p. 44.
  2. ———-, The Will of Meaning: Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy (New York, N.Y.: New American Library, 1969, 1st printing 1970), p. 95.

Christianity, the Liberal Arts and the Humanities

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The Liberal Arts

In ancient Greece and Rome, a liberal arts education was for men who were not slaves. It taught free men to be good citizens, that is, to live freely and responsibly, so that they could remain free all of their lives.1 The premise of the liberal arts is that education will aid human being in living good lives, both for themselves and the common good, the good of society.2 The two-fold purpose of the liberal arts, then, is to “seek knowledge for its own sake,” for truth is good in itself, and the application of knowledge to enrich one’s own life, as well as the lives of others.3

Originating from the Human Mind

The liberal arts are different from the material arts, which are formed out of matter and, thus, from human hands.4 Liberal arts are free from matter, that is, they are formed from the human mind. For example, a speech is made or composed by the human mind, even if it is written on paper. Other examples are literature, music and logic, all of which originate, first, from the mind and may later be written on material data.5

Disciplines within the Liberal Arts

Today, the liberal arts include a broad range of disciplines, such as the study of rhetoric (public speaking), writing, literature, mathematics, history, political science, education, philosophy, theology, religion, science, psychology, sociology, culture, anthropology, the arts, theater, music and physical education. The purpose of such studies is to give students a well-rounded education, allowing them to become generalists in knowledge, while at the same time, focusing on a specific discipline for their degree, allowing them to become specialists in knowledge.6

Not a Vocational Education

The liberal arts should not be confused with vocational education, which prepares a person for an occupation, such as becoming a carpenter, plumber or an electrician. The primary focus of vocational education is “What can I do with my training?” However, the main focus of a liberal arts education is the shaping of “a person’s understanding and values.”7

The question about studying the liberal arts is not “What can I do with it?” That reduces knowledge to an instrumental value or a useful art. Rather, the right question about the liberal arts is “What can it do to me?” That supposes the intrinsic or innate value of knowledge. In other words, it is good in itself, needing no practical justification.8

The Humanities

Situated in the liberal arts, and virtually equivalent to them, is the studia humanitatis, “studies of humanity” or the humanities. They represent the human person’s concern with human beings and their human world.9 The humanities, then, are the products of human creativity.10 In short, they are from humans and for them. The humanities teach about human beings – morally, economically, artistically, politically, religiously and in countless other ways – at their best and worst.

For Christians, the humanities are due to the imago Dei, the “image of God” in the human person. God is the Creator, and thus, the author of creativity. Because human persons are made in his image, they reflect, in a finite way, the creativity of their Creator.11 They can create, because they are made in the image of their Creator.

The humanities have a special meaning for Christians. As philosopher Arthur Holmes says, “We are to image [reflect] God in all our creaturely activities, our cultural existence and every phase of our humanity. To image God in the fulness of our humanity is our highest calling.”12 In short, Christianity rejects nothing that is genuinely human. Sin, however, is not genuinely human. Rather, it is a distortion of the human will, a human aberration or abnormality.

The Fragmentation of Knowledge

Today, colleges and universities suffer from the fragmentation of truth. They are producing specialists. In the words of Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer,

“In our modern forms of specialized education there is a tendency to lose the whole in the parts, and in this sense we can say that our generation produces few truly educated people. True education means thinking by associating across the various disciplines, and not just being highly qualified in one field, as a technician might be.”13

Knowledge is interrelated. But it is up to the student to integrate or see the connection between different areas of study. Schaeffer continues,

“Today we have a weakness in our educational process in failing to understand the natural associations between the disciplines. We tend to study all our disciplines in unrelated parallel lines. This tends to be true in both Christian and secular education. … We have studied our exegesis as exegesis, our theology as theology, our philosophy as philosophy; we study something about art as art; we study music as music, without understanding that these are things of man, and the things of man are never unrelated parallel lines.”14

Today’s Multiversity

Unlike the Christian concept of a medieval university, today’s university is really a multiversity. It has no unifying world view or point of integration.15 It is literally disintegrated, with fragmented departments of knowledge. According to theologian R. C. Sproul,

“The students’ schedules are filled with liberal arts courses which expose them to wide variety of academic disciplines. But these disciplines have no apparent cohesion with each other. Students move from lecture to lecture, absorbing differing and often mutually exclusive views. The information they glean about their own humanity incites … confusion. In psychology, one view; in biology, another; in philosophy … [still another].”16

In short, in many modern universities, there is incoherence, diversity without a source of unity.

University: Diversity within Unity

A Christian university is patterned after the concept of the medieval university. Like a universe, a university, in Sproul’s words,

“[was] a place where the many (diversity) come together into the unified whole (unity). The working assumption was that all diverse particulars of knowledge discovered and analyzed in the specialized academic disciplines, found their coherence in God. It was the unifying power of theology that elevated her to the queen of sciences, being assisted by her metaphysical handmaiden philosophy.”17

A Christian university, then, consists of diversity in unity and is structured “on the premise that all knowledge is ultimately coherent and unified.”18 Such a university “retains a unifying Christian world-view and brings it to bear in understanding and participating in the various arts and sciences, as well as in non-academic aspects of campus life.”19 For a Christian university or college, the source of integration is the Christian concept of God.

God the Creator is the author of sacred (spiritual) and secular (natural or pertaining to the world and human beings) truth, whether already discovered or yet to be discovered by humans. That is to say, all truth is God’s truth, no matter where or by whom it may be found.20 The humanities, then, Christianly understood, discover the truth of God’s world, especially the truth about human beings.

Christian Humanism

However, Christian universities do not teach that human beings possess the highest value of all that exists. That is reserved for God, the Supreme Being, the only One who is worthy of worship (from the Old English words worth ship). In other words, humans do not have ultimate value, because only an Ultimate Being, God, does. However, out of all the creatures of the world, the cosmos, God gives humans the highest intrinsic value, making them highest in being.21 That is why they are worth studying, understanding and loving.

Endnotes

1Arthur F. Holmes, The Idea of a Christian College (Grand Rapids, MI.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975), p. 35.

2Anon. 2019. Liberal Arts: What is Liberal Education? Christendom College. [Web:] https://www.christendom.edu/academics/liberal-arts/ [Date of access: 7 September 2012].

3Peter Kreeft, The Best Things in Life (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 1984), p. 31.

4Mortimer J. Adler, The Great Ideas: From the Great Books of Western Civilization, ed. Max Weismann (Chicago and La Salle, IL.: Open Court Publishing Company, 2000, 5th printing 2002), pp. 242-243, 245.

5Ibid. 246. In antiquity, the liberal arts were divided into two parts, namely, the trivium and quadrivium, consisting of seven areas of study. The trivium consisted of grammar, logic and rhetoric. The quadrivium consisted of arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy.

6Anon. 2003-2012. What is the Difference between Liberal Arts and Liberal Sciences? Learn.org. [Web:] http://degreedirectory.org/articles/What_is_the_Difference_Between_Liberal_Arts_and_Liberal_Sciences.html [Date of access: 17 September 2019].

7Arthur F. Holmes, The Idea of a Christian College, op. cit., p. 36.

8Ibid., p. 37.

9Mortimer J. Adler. 2008-2009. The Mortimer J. Adler Archive: Aristotle’s Ethics — The Theory of Happiness, Part I. The Radical Academy. [Web:] http://radicalacademy.org/adleraristotleethics1.html [Date of access: 17 September 2019].

10Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Worldview, Vol. 5: A Christian View of the West, 2nd ed. (Westchester, IL.: Crossway Books,1982), p. 427.

11Ibid.

12Arthur F. Holmes, The Idea of a Christian College, p. 35.

13Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Worldview, Vol. 1: A Christian View of Philosophy and Culture, 2nd ed. (Westchester, IL.: Crossway Books,1982), p. 12.

14Ibid., p. 211.

15Arthur F. Holmes, The Idea of a Christian College, p. 19.

16R. C. Sproul, John Gerstner and Art Lindsley, Classical Apologetics: A Rational Defense of the Christian Faith and a Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI.: Academie Books/Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p. 10.

17Ibid., pp. 9-10.

18Ibid., p. 9.

19Arthur F. Holmes, The Idea of a Christian College, p. 19.

20Ibid., pp. 24-25.

21Norman L. Geisler, Is Man the Measure?  An Evaluation of Contemporary Humanism (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988), p. 123.

Minute Meditation on Suicide Prevention: Finding Reasons to Live

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Founder of Logotherapy

Usually, a person who wants to commit suicide is not thinking rationally, clearly; his or her mind is clouded by emotional distress. The reason is that it is instinctive, even unconsciously rational, for the human creature to want to live, to gravitate toward being. There are, in fact, always good reasons for a person to live, even if he or she, at the moment, may not recognize them. There are, for instance, other persons to encounter in love and service. There are also projects to complete and possibilities to actualize in the future, even if a person does not clearly recognize them in the present. But there is no good reason to end one’s life. Suicide is a negative act that ends the possibility all positive acts. It is the wrong answer that ends any right answers to a problem. It is the ultimate choice against ending all choices. It is an act against oneself, because true self-love will always care for the self it loves. Viktor Frankl writes,

“[I]t is our duty to convince the would-be suicide that taking one’s own life is categorically contrary to reason.”

If a person is in despair, contemplating suicide, not knowing why he or she should stay alive, then that person needs to be given reasons to live, to be reminded that life, despite the emotional distress of the present, is a great good to be cherished and preserved.

Endnote

Viktor E. Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy, trans. Richard and Clara Winston, 3rd ed. (New York, N.Y.: Vintage Books/ Random House, 1986), p. 51.

The Difference between Knowing about and Knowing a Person

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Inter-Subjectivity

Indirect Knowing

There is a vast difference between knowing about and actually knowing a human being. The first kind of knowledge is indirect, that is, factual, objective, detached and dispassionate. Such knowledge does not require any real personal involvement in someone’s life. It is, using the language of the personalist philosopher Martin Buber, an “I-It” relationship.

Direct Knowing

The second kind of knowledge is direct, that is, experiencing another human being in his or her uniqueness as a person. Such a relationship involves self-transcendence, which is a “moving out,” a choice to move away from oneself, one’s own “world,” and move into another person’s “world.” In doing so, one person discovers another person’s emotional “highs” and “lows,” likes and dislikes. In other words, a human being enters, by virtue of direct experience, into another person’s intellectual, spiritual and emotional “world.”

Existential Encounter

The personal relationship that I am describing, which is the greatest or most enriching of all human relationships, is, in the terminology of existentialism, “an encounter.” Strictly speaking, a human being does not encounter things, such as rock, trees, boats, houses, and objects in outer space. Rather, he or she can only encounter persons. An encounter, then, is, in the words of Viktor Frankl,

“[A] relationship between an I and a Thou – a relationship which, by its very nature, can be established only on the human and personal level.”

It is, indeed, a human tragedy, a form of psychological and social alienation, for a human being to throughout his or her life, knowing all kinds about others but never really knowing someone as a person.

Indirect Leading to Direct Knowing

Of course, knowing about another human being may lead to knowing him or her as a person. However, for personal knowledge to occur, there must be a movement from the factual to the experiential; from the abstract to the concrete and from the general to the specific knowing of a here-and-now person.

There is, then, nothing wrong with knowing many things about others and, in general, the world of objects. But the knowledge of things, as important as it may be, is not nearly as important as the knowledge of persons, for persons are always and infinitely more important than things.

Endnote

Viktor E. Frankl, The Unheard Cry for Meaning: Psychotherapy and Humanism, rev. ed. (New York, N.Y.: Washington Square Press, 1978 and 1985), p. 73.

Making a Meaningful Difference in Students’ Lives, Often without Even Knowing about It

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Subject: Hey Rev!; Sent By: The Student Shall Remain Anonymous; On:Mar 03/18/16 2:05 PM; To: Timothy Lent tlent@mail.immaculata.edu

The following email to me was unsolicited:

Rev! I hope that you’re doing well! I haven’t seen you around campus lately, so I just wanted to check in and make sure you’re still alive. I’m graduating in May, and I suppose with that, I’ve come to reflect on my past years at IU. I was thinking of what classes and information that I would take with me in my future endeavors, and I think the class that had the most impact on me was your Christian Ethics class. I may not be a Theology major or minor, but I feel that I learned the most applicable and life-changing material in your class. Truthfully, I think I learned more from who you are as a person than the information that was taught.

I wanted to thank you for caring for your students. This may seem mundane, but the way that you genuinely cared for us made a huge impact on my life. I’ll always remember when you would tell us that “It’s okay to not be okay”. There is so much truth in that statement! For you to simply ask how we as your students were doing, made the class that much more of an impact for me.

I’m actually interning at a high school for my senior internship, and I’m loving it. As I learn more about my students, I keep thinking of all that I learned in your class. I remember your transparency with your students, and your honesty about the struggles you’ve gone through in your life. To know that a professor, a Reverend, and a PhD can be that authentic with his students shows a lot about who you are. I think if nothing else, God has given you the gift of transparency-not everyone can be honest, open, and relate to so many. I hope that as I move forward in my education and my life, I can be as caring as you were for us!

I don’t know where you’re at in life, Rev- if you’re even at IU anymore, but I hope that wherever you are, God is using you to change the lives of others. If I’ve learned anything in working in this school, it’s that sometimes we go into our vocation and try to save everyone. That doesn’t always happen-and it’s easy to focus on that, but if we impact the life of ONE person we interact with-we have truly won. I know you’ve impacted my life and the lives of others-and I hope you keep on doing that!

I hope you keep on keeping on, Rev! In the words of Viktor Frankl, “What is to give light must endure burning”. I hope you’re not “burning” too much, but I know you’ve given light to others!

——-

Immaculata University | 2016 IU