Happiness and the Heart | Fr. Robert J. Spitzer | IgnatiusInsight.com
Happiness and the Heart | Fr. Robert J. Spitzer | From "Defining 'Happiness'", chapter two of
Healing the Culture: A Commonsense
Philosophy of Happiness, Freedom and the Life issues
After coming to an objective definition of "person", one might ask,
"Why should we concern ourselves with the matters of the heart?"
The answer is that even though an objective definition gives solidity,
stability; and certitude, it does not give freedom. Even though it gives
evidence and grounding, it does not move one to care or concern. If
we do not make an earnest attempt to set our hearts free, indeed, if we
do not even know how to set our hearts free, we will not be able to
move our most objective, most correct, and most complete ideas into
reality. We'll be all dressed up with no place to go.
I. The "Heart"
In the posthumous collection of notes entitled Pensées, Blaise Pascal
observes, "The heart has reasons that the mind knows not of."  Most
of us have an intuition about what this might mean, but we need more
than an intuition, for the culture, the common good, and the future of
rights are dependent upon the reasons of the heart and the mind. Inasmuch as Pascal was a mathematician, his view of the "mind's reasons"
was probably related to geometrical demonstration, algebraic proof, mathematical definition, the setting of postulates, and so on. In fact, this
barely touches the surface of what can be known by human beings. As
noted in the previous chapter, the Neoplatonists recognized knowledge
outside the spatio-temporal, mathematical, and even imaginary domain
that they termed "the five transcendentals" (being, truth, goodness! justice, beauty; and "the one"). Moreover, poets have recognized yet another "transcendental", namely love, which philosophers and theologians have frequently spoken of as an ultimate objective of humankind. Pascal saw that there was a dimension untouched by the domain
of objective definition theory, logic, and mathematical demonstration.
He believed his beloved mathematics had to be complemented by these
transcendentals in order to achieve the full depth and breadth of understanding and judgment. Through this complementary relationship, I
the heart "awakens" the mind as the mind awakens the heart. Witness, I
for example, the great physicist and astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington,
who in his famous work The Nature of the Physical World makes a defense of mysticism as a consequence of his own scientific inquiry:
We all know that there are regions of the human spirit untrammeled by
the world of physics. In the mystic sense of the creation around us, in the
expression of art, in a yearning towards God, the soul grows upward and
finds the fulfillment of something implanted in its nature. The sanction
for this development is within us, a striving born with our consciousness
or an Inner Light proceeding from a greater power than ours. Science
can scarcely question this sanction, for the pursuit of science springs
from a striving which the mind is impelled to follow, a questioning that
will not be suppressed. Whether in the intellectual pursuits of science or
in the mystical pursuits of the spirit, the light beckons ahead and the
purpose surging within our nature responds. 
Just as Eddington reached the final frontier of scientific inquiry, another kind of knowing was awakened within him. He began to sense
mystery beyond limit, a light beyond mathematical reasoning. Instead
of feeling closure or an emptiness beyond mathematics, he sensed a
being beyond mathematics that infused it with a reality much greater
than the mathematics could define. In his pursuit of truth, Eddington
allowed his other mental faculty to be awakened, to absorb passively and
be filled by the mystery beyond Schrödinger's and Einstein's equations,
and found himself in a state of appreciation and awe rather than in a
state of demonstration and control. This experience of awakening extends also to the pursuit of goodness, justice, beauty, and love.
Perhaps the most important function of the heart is to seek meaning
and purpose in life. If one attempts only to find meaning and purpose
through what Pascal called the "mind", one will likely limit one's view of
reality (and therefore of "person") to what is clearly perceivable and tangible. But if one complements the mind with the heart, one's horizon will
open upon Eddington's mysticism in the equations of physics, the mystery perceived in the glimpse of a sunset over the ocean, the ecstasy felt in
a Brahms symphony, the call felt in the simple song of a bird, or even time
slipping to its still point in the midst of profound camaraderie. The heart
really does have reasons that the mind knows not of, and when these two
realities work inclusively, the full range of human ideals, desires, passions,
commitments, wisdom, hopes, freedom, indeed, even the common good,
seems to find a breadth and a depth that it never had before. The human
spirit comes alive. It sees things anew, finds profound meaning and hope
where before it may have had little. Above all, it gives a different vision of
the human person. The recognition and valuing of the knowledge of the
heart can set one free to see persons in a completely new light--in the
light of mystery, in the desire for the unconditional and the unrestricted,
in the boundlessness of curiosity, in the profundity of the desire for perfect love, in the quest for perfect beauty, and even in the longing for perfect goodness and truth.
II. The Effect of the "Heart" on the Culture
What does the above mean about the definition of "person" and its effects upon "rights", the "common good", and the good of the culture?
Everything. For as the heart goes, so goes the definition of "person". And
as the definition of "person" goes, so goes the definition of "rights" (see
Chapter Seven), and as the definition of "rights" goes, so goes the definition of the "common good". And as the definition of the "common
good" goes, so goes the real welfare of the culture. Will the culture contribute or detract from the development of human beings? Will the culture lead to greater unity or disarray? Will it promote peace or hatred?
Equality and dignity, or bias and prejudice? Will it seek a solution to its
problems in truth, love, goodness, beauty, and being, or rather in lies, hatred,
injustice, depravity, and annihilation? It all depends on whether our hearts
are in the trim, whether we use our hearts to open up our vision of the human person or to narrow it. It all depends on whether we really care
about the person we have perceived, whether "person" and "rights" are
merely legal abstractions, or whether they are the most objective yet mysterious realities within our worldly purview.
In the Introduction to this book we saw that if the culture is to lead
toward greater possibilities and opportunities for humankind (instead of
the opposite), it will have to have the most complete and objective
definition of "person" possible. Now it is apparent this task will require
both knowledge of the mind and knowledge of the heart.
The mind liberates the heart and the heart liberates the mind. If our
vision of personhood and of individual persons can be caught up in this
ongoing interdependent cycle, we can be sure that we will see dignity wherever it may be, that rights will not be a mere legal abstraction, and that the
common good will be fired by a passion and a vision that will surprise even
the greatest optimist. A culture cannot help but benefit from this. The upcoming four levels of happiness are intended not only to awaken the heart,
but also to produce a complementarity of mind and heart that will open
upon a truly respectful, responsible, and benevolent culture.
 Blaise Pascal, Pensées (1670).
 Sir Arthur Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1929), pp. 327-28.
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Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D, is the President of Gonzaga University, and co-founder of University Faculty for Life and
the Center for Life Principles. Fr. Spitzer has been a member of the Society of Jesus (Oregon Province) since August 1974. He took
his first vows in August 1976. He was ordained a priest in June of 1983, and made his final profession in April 1994. He has authored
two books and his third book, Five Pillars of
the Spiritual Life, will be published in the spring of 2008 by Ignatius Press.
Visit Fr. Spitzer online at RobertSpitzer.org.
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