Better late than never. Here’s the latest roundup of things I’ve been most enjoying, contemplating, and anticipating over the recent days:
I have been enthralled by Ray Monk’s biography of Ludwig Wittgenstein, one of the fathers of analytic philosophy. The Duty of Genius is a classic among philosophers, and I can see why. Monk does a masterful job of exposing the life and thought of this brilliant, complicated figure.
I’ve been anxiously awaiting the arrival a book I recently ordered through my local library: Brian Davies’s The Thought of Thomas Aquinas. Philosopher Ed Feser (who I am sure needs no introduction) recommends it in his interview with Five Books. I have found Davies’s An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion incredibly helpful. You won’t find a clearer Thomist scholar to learn from as a layman.
Which brings to mind this advice for my fellow bibliophiles: start using the library! Yes, I am yelling at you; because it is more than likely that you (if you are like me and every other bibliophile I know) have forgotten libraries exist. But take note: libraries save you money and space.
I recently started using the library as my family anticipates making an international move in the not too distant future. I just don’t want to haul more books than I already have at home. Now, I get it: you want to write and mark up your books. Me too. But speaking for myself, there are at least some books that really do not need to be marked up, and others that are just ridiculously expensive. In these cases, using the bibliothèque makes sense. Plus, for all of who like to read with a pencil in hand, you can just do what William Lane Craig, Karlo Broussard, Cal Newport, and countless other smart people do: make notes or record important quotes in a notebook or on a laptop as you read (I recommend the former, or both).
Recently, Bishop Barron was interviewed on the Mind Pump Media podcast. This is a secular podcast that focuses on the intersection between physical wellbeing and the intellectual life. The podcast interview is so good. The Mind Pump guys cuts right to the chase when it comes to common objections and difficulties that many young people have with the Church today. Also, check out this behind-the-scenes “vlog” of the interview, and watch the spiritual curiosity awaken in this “religiously indifferent” 18 year old as he hears Catholicism explained confidently and intelligently.
Since my last post I’ve watched several great movies. I would most heartily recommend True Grit (the Coen Brother’s one with Jeff Bridges), Dunkirk, and 1960 Disney classic Swiss Family Robinson. As usual, the Coen Brother’s production is profoundly though subtly biblical (the film begins with an explicit quote from Proverbs). It was meant to be a more faithful adaptation of the novel than the John Wayne version. Watch Bishop Barron’s commentary here. Dunkirk was exceptional, an provides a unique “between the lines” angle of the travails of war. We watched Swiss Family Robinson as a family, and it quickly became my 4-year-old daughter’s new favourite show.
“Dad, can I watch Paw Patrol?”
“No. Never speak those foul words in our home again.”
“Enough. Now go play with your sister outside.”
“Umm, Dad? Can I watch Swiss Famwee Wovinsin?” (actual phonetics)
“I’ll get the popcorn.”
Good, wholesome classics are always welcome in our home.
Also, I came across this quote recently by Oscar Wilde who has an incredible way for saying simple things in a profound, world-altering sort of way:
“There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”
And what was his point? Simply this: we are never satisfied in this life. We are always chasing the dragon. Our hearts are constantly restless, and even though we can quell the restlessness more and more as we grow closer to the Logos, the ants in our pants just never really completely goes away. But fret not: as C.S. Lewis pointed out, this fact (once we are willing to face it) brings with it good news and an anticipation of something no eye, ear, or heart has conceived: another World that we have been made for. Peter Kreeft unpacks this, Lewis’s argument for God from desire, here.
Finally, a few days ago I came across Alexander Pope’s “A Little Learning” and haven’t been able to stop re-reading it since. The first four lines:
A little learning is a dangerous thing ;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring :
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
This here encapsulates, in large part, why I write: to usher some into the intoxicating pleasures of truth, goodness, and beauty—and to wake others the heck up; two things, thankfully, that many others continue to do for me.
***Also, be sure to check out my new book Just Whatever: How To Help the Spiritually Indifferent Find Beliefs That Really Matter, published by Catholic Answers Press.
Here’s what people are saying about my recent new release:
“I’ve engaged lots of atheists over the years but in my experience, the spiritually indifferent outnumber them at least five to one. And that latter group is much harder to evangelize. Most atheists at least care about the God question. But how do you make inroads with someone who isn’t at all interested in religious matters? It’s a vexing question, but now we have our desperately needed guide. Matt Nelson’s book shows how to awaken interest in even the most spiritually lethargic person and guide them to the Big Questions of life. This is Pascal’s Pensées for the twenty-first century!” – Brandon Vogt, founder of ClaritasU and author of Why I Am Catholic (And You Should Be Too)
“In today’s highly secularized society where religion does not seem to matter, it is easy for Christians to feel overwhelmed and be led into thinking they do not have answers to the countless objections people have toward the Church. Matt’s clear and simple explanation of the good reasons for our faith will provide readers with well thought out responses.” – Andre Regnier, Founder of Catholic Christian Outreach Canada
“Many of us have converted to the Catholic Church; others were born into the Catholic faith and accepted it without question. But as time passes and the world entangles us the fervor can wane for the convert and the certainty can dissipate for the cradle Catholic. What is the spiritual medicine for these ailments? Matt Nelson’s new book Just Whatever is the doctor’s prescription. Read this book, learn from an experienced fellow pilgrim and get back on track, fervent for the Truth.”
– Steve Ray, Catholic apologist and author of Crossing the Tiber