Speaking of, I had the pleasure of attending a Catholic men's conference over the weekend, called Man Up Philly. The speakers were incredible. While it was obviously geared toward Catholic men, the underlying message would have inspired everyone, from protestants to secular humanists. The part I wanted to distill and share with you was that these men were so passionate, so involved with their lives. So many of us care so much about what is going on around us that we forget to look inside. I think you can get that kind of introspection from many sources. This conference obviously referred to the Bible a lot. They also talked about Augustine and Aquinas and John Paul II, who were not just great theologians, but great philosophers in their own right. And there are other places too, like Plato and Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, the list goes on and on. Some people refer to this group of thinkers as moral philosophers. They tended to care about human beings more than where the world came from, or the meaning of words. They specifically cared about what it meant to be a good person. I italicized that to show that I wasn't talking about good as a person who follows rules or stays out of trouble. I mean good in the way we have a good car or a good power tool. Essentially, it does what it's supposed to. But isn't that the big question... what are we supposed to do? Aristotle said that the definition of a human is an animal that is rational, so the more we think logically, the more we come to the purest definition of a human. The Bible says we were created in the image and likeness of God, so we should be as much like God as possible. Sartre says that every action that we undertake is our example for how we think everyone else in the world should act. Kant says that we should treat everyone as an end in themselves and not as a mean, and that we should allow everyone to be their own rational agent.
The common theme here? You first have to give a rat's ass about being a good person. I firmly believe that it takes effort and practice to be good at anything. I know, because there are a bunch of things I'm not good at, because I never practice: guitar, a second language, dancing, running long distances, the list goes on and on and on. I never understood how people think they can be good at life if they never practice the basics. No one would ever think they could just walk onto a football field, strap on a helmet and think they would be the next Walter Payton. Perhaps the difference is that we're thrown onto the field and not given a choice whether we want to play or not. Sadly, life also does not come with helmets and shoulder pads. There also isn't a single football player out there who would dare to show up to the first day of camp without having the entire playbook memorized. To continue the analogy, each team has its own play book and each play book has just as much chance of being the successful one at the beginning of the season. It all depends on how the plays are implemented and how the team responds to the plays and coaching. We have playbooks all around us. The Bible, Nicomachean Ethics, the Categorical Imperative, Existentialism is a Humanism, the Suttas of the Buddha. Ignoring these is what has lead us to a place where marriages don't work, people need prescription drugs to be happy, the environment is being destroyed, and where self-victimization is the new self-actualization.