Christian Personalism dietrich von hildebrand

Robin Williams’ Introduction to Christian Personalism

5:48:00 PMAnne Foster


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There are two things which awaken in man fear and trembling; death and falling in love.

They not only send shivers up our spines but they are constant reminders of our unique mode of existence, that we are human persons.

The thought of our impending death pierces our hearts, we can feel it in our bones. We experience our fragile mortality, we feel regret for never making amends with an old friend, we feel ashamed of our past transgressions, and ultimately we feel frightened of the mysterious abyss of the afterlife. Will we be swallowed in darkness? Or will we meet our ultimate Judge?

These feelings which arise give way to knowledge of something concrete and real …  our person.

Similarly, when we fall in love, the preciousness of our beloved awakens in us feelings of utter inadequacy. We feel completely unworthy of the other, and yet we hope against hope that our love might be requited. But, we fear that as we allow our beloved to get to know us as a person, they will discover our frailties, weaknesses, imperfections, and as a result, run for the hills.

These are the feelings, emotions, and experiences particular to the core of our being, our hearts. By, developing an inner intimacy with our hearts, we come to know what it means to be a human person. We come to grasp the existence of a depth dimension of our souls.  Dietrich von Hildebrand refers to this depth of man saying,

“ Man is greater and deeper than the range of things he can control with his free will; his being reaches into mysterious depths which go far beyond what he can engender or create”( The Dietrich von Hildebrand LifeGuide, 39.)





If you can relate to the above testimony, than it might come as a surprise how many people, have lost sight of the mysterious depth of the human person and consequently have lost sight of the mysterious depth of the world around them. In many cases this blindness leads to an over intellectualization.  Feelings and the imagination are discounted as superfluous when it comes to a rigorous intellectual study of the human person. We must place all these silly musings about our mysterious hearts and souls into the hands of the detached psychologist, who can explain away all of our emotions and feelings as mere products of chemical synthesises. We can rest easy and die easy knowing that there is no God to judge us in the end. When our hearts are broken we can remind ourselves that true love never existed in the first place.

This philosophy views the human person as an intelligent animal. There is no mysterious depth underlying our fears and our joys, our tears and our smiles. The heart is but a beating and bleeding organ. And the person, a thinking and breathing organism, a speck in the universe void of meaning and purpose.

Luckily, there are great philosophers out there who have come to the aid of the human person, to defend their dignity and restore a due reverence to our beautiful and unique complexity. Some of these great thinkers include Dietrich von Hildebrand, Karol Wojtyla, John Henry Newman, Edith Stein, and Max Scheler.

However, despite the many exceptional arguments for the grandeur of the human person, given by these philosophers, my favourite argument thus far was given by a character played by Robin Williams in the movie “Good Will Hunting”. By no means am I declaring that “Good Will Hunting” should be sold in a Christian bookstore or that it is by any means an appropriate film. Be warned there is plenty of foul language. I simply believe that there are a handful of moments which shocked and impressed me because they depicted a physiologist who passionately believes in the depth of the human person.  

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One of these impactful scenes from the movie “Good Will Hunting”, to which I am referring to, involves Robin Williams character, a psychiatrist Sean Mcguire, teaching his patient Will Hunting an important life lesson upon their second appointment together.  

Prior to this poignant meeting, Will Hunting, a cocky kid with a photographic memory, memorized a slew of psychology books before arriving to his first visit with Dr. Mcguire. After a bit of small talk, Will observed a watercolor painting Sean had done sitting on a windowsill. He comments on it’s mediocrity before using it’s apparent melancholy motif, to brashly psychoanalysis his new psychiatrist. Will confidently accuses Sean of being a walking time bomb, a depressed and unmotivated has-been who probably married the wrong woman. Sean, trying to hold in his anger asks Will to leave.

Lucky for Will, Sean gave him a second change, and it is upon their second appointment that Sean responds to Will’s cold and arrogant remarks. And I will end this article by allowing Sean Mcguire’s thought provoking dialogue to have the last word.

But, don’t worry this is a modified clean version of the script!

Sean: Thought about what you said to me the other day, about my painting. Stayed up half the night thinking about it. Something occurred to me... fell into a deep peaceful sleep, and haven't thought about you since. Do you know what occurred to me?

Will: No.

Sean: You're just a kid, you don't have the faintest idea what you're talkin' about.

Will: Why thank you.

Sean: It's all right. You've never been out of Boston.

Will: Nope.

Sean: So if I asked you about art, you'd probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life's work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I'll bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You've never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that.
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If I ask you about women, you'd probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can't tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy.






You're a tough kid. And I'd ask you about war, you'd probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, "once more unto the breach dear friends." But you've never been near one. You've never held your best friend's head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help.



I'd ask you about love, you'd probably quote me a sonnet. But you've never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable.

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Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn't know what it's like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer.

And you wouldn't know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms "visiting hours" don't apply to you. You don't know about real loss, 'cause it only occurs when you've loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you've ever dared to love anybody that much.

And look at you... I don't see an intelligent, confident man... I see a cocky, scared ----less kid. But you're a genius Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my ----ing life apart. You're an orphan right?
[Will nods]

Sean: You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally... I don't give a --- about all that, because you know what, I can't learn anything from you, I can't read in some ---- book. Unless you want to talk about you, who you are. Then I'm fascinated. I'm in. But you don't want to do that do you sport? You're terrified of what you might say. Your move, chief.

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