If you are feeling jaded about politics, gloomy at the weather and unenthusiastic about praying, I suggest reading the latest work by Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College and the author of dozens of books, some of which I have blogged about over the years. It is Ask Peter Kreeft: The 100 Most Interesting Questions He’s Ever Been Asked (Sophia Institute Press). I guarantee it will make you laugh, distract you from politics and the weather and rekindle a need to pray.
This is because Kreeft has a highly accessible style of writing and a way of presenting a subject that brings it to life; that diverts as well as informs. A convert of many years’ standing, his goal is always to try to get his listeners or readers to wake up to the reality of our lives: that God loves us, that Christ died for us, that Heaven is our goal (but not a certainty either) and that following certain rules for living will bring peace and happiness rather than discontent or a mindless void.
As he explains in his introduction, almost all the questions have come from Q and A sessions in universities and churches, adding “Some are profound, some silly, some tragic, some funny; some easy, some hard; some simple, some complex.” He has divided them into loose chapters under headings such as “philosophy”, “religion”, “Catholicism”, “the Supernatural”, “books and music” – even “surfing” (he is a keen East Coast surfer).
Just to give you some flavour of this endlessly engaging, humorous writer, part of his response to the question “Who are your favourite philosophers?” goes “If I were an atheist, I’d rank Lucretius, Nietzsche and Sartre as the greatest philosophers…Even if you deeply disagree with them, they are brilliant and they are fully what they are…”, adding that he regards them as “three works of art: you can understand and admire them even though you don’t buy them…And of course, because we are not God, we appreciate things best by contrast: pleasure by pain, life by death, good by evil…To see what difference God makes, read Nietzsche on the death of God.”
Kreeft starts his thoughtful response to the question “You’ve been criticised as “simplistic.” How do you respond to that?” by remarking, “I say that I don’t deserve that compliment.” Among his list of “Nevers” to the question “Can you give us some really simple practical advice?”, he includes, “Never prefer being divorced in Hawaii to being in love in the Bronx” and concludes, “You can also learn a lot from your knees, but only if you bend them.”
There is also his affectionate memory of a childhood incident in answer to the question “Can you tell us a piece of wisdom from your father?” but it is too long to quote – and I am still only on the opening chapter on the theme of “philosophy.” There are stimulating reflections on angels and on ghosts among many other subjects (such as listing his favourite films) but I will conclude with Kreeft’s response to a question in the “Culture” section that runs, “What’s the most important thing we can do for our culture? What’s the main thing missing?” He answers crisply, “Christ. Our culture is Christophobic. Let Christ come totally into your heart and your life and He will do the rest. He will seep into your culture through a million pores…the first thing is the real presence of Christ in your soul and in your life, in your thought and in your motives.”