I like to listen to people debate, even if they aren’t directly debating each other, but rather, responding. I see a lot of this online, and it does get tiresome after a while due to the midwittery of most writers/debaters. Most bring nothing new to the debate because they simple don’t have the mental accuity to do so. Popular midwits, such as Matt Walsh, are popular because they strike that everyday-man recognition, but with their use of excessive or fancy words, they seem to be saying something profound, something we hadn’t quite thought of. I don’t mean to sound harsh; I dont even have the IQ of a midwit. That is, mine hovers right on the average. However, because I struggled with learning in school, I was forced to dismantle everything and put it back together in order to understand anything at all, which means I’ve done a lot more mental work than other people of average or even above-average midwit IQ ranking. Struggle is good for humans. It really is. An intelligent person who hasn’t struggled, who is clever and grasps concepts too easily, may end up with a very shallow understanding of the world. This is unfortunate but true.
Lately, I’ve been searching for intelligent debates or responses between Protestants and Catholics. And by that, I mean between living people. I want the on-going conversation, and not the one that occurred hundreds of years ago. I’ve spent a lifetime reading dead authors; I want to engage now with living people. This has become a chore due to the laziness of midwits. It’s one thing to ascertain your own side’s position. It’s quite another to understand your opponent’s. Midwits have foregone conclusions, but their willingness to embrace a deep understanding of their conclusions tends to be sorely lacking. If you are a Protestant simply because you believe Catholicism is a works-based religion, but have not bothered to read the RC catechism, then you are bringing nothing of merit to the table. The same is true of the reverse, although I’ve found that educated Catholics have been forced into a position of apologetic thinking — a defensive position brought about by struggle.
However, that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily impressed by modern Catholic thinkers. On my Kindle, I’m still enjoying the dead ones, currently 17th and 18th C Saints (with a capital S). E.g., I don’t mind men like Scott Hahn, but he does strike me as a shallow midwit. I had finally decided to read his Rome Sweet Home anyway, but then I found a review that insisted I — well, not me, specifically — should read Dorothy Day’s conversion story instead of Hahn’s. I decided to read both.
Dorothy Day is dead, so she doesn’t meet my desire for a living, breathing conversation. However, reading about Day prior to starting her autobiography did get me thinking about another aspect to debates on philosophy and theology. Intelligence is only one part of the package when it comes to influencing others. Personality, genetics, and sex are also part of the picture. Personality and genetics are why I read Chesterton and shake my head in wonder and claim my historical soulmate is a grumpy-faced Englishman. With Day, I recognized the look on her face, too: stoicism that could be misconstrued as meanness or grumpiness. But with Day, I have the female sex in common. Also, as it turns out, she was born in America to an Irish father from the South and an Anglo mother from the North…which is basically my ancestry, as well. Her Wiki bio is a little unsettling, as she dabbled in feminism and communism and lived an immoral life before converting to Catholicism. I recognize none of that because I grew up in a Christian home, whereas she did not and, hence, she did not have the foundation I was given. That being said, Wiki is an inherently biased source; I would prefer to read Day in her own words. So far, there is recognition for me in her writing, as well.
There is much to be said for personality clusters. There are only so many personality types in the human population. I see them again and again, albeit influenced by the factors I’ve already mentioned (intelligence, sex, genetics…even upbringing, as seen in Day’s early behavior). When enough of these factors come together, likemindedness occurs — the concept of “soulmate.” Being influenced by somebody who is so similar to me is probably a bit…selfish, but not terribly unusual. Most people are influenced in this way. On the other hand, is it really influence, or is it simply comforting to not feel alone in the world? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that those who have really influenced me are those who have surprised me. I unwittingly discussed that in my recent spiritual memoir and would like to delve more into that another time.
If you’ve managed to make it through this entire post, then I have a couple questions for you: what thinkers do you consider to be soulmates? And what thinkers have surprised you and woken you up?