HOW THE SECULARISTS SEE THINGS
Enlightenment?

November 1996By Peter Kreeft

Peter Kreeft is Professor of Philosophy at Boston College, and a Contributing Editor of the NOR. His latest books are Ecumenical Jihad and The Journey.

(The following fiction is essentially factual. The essential plot of my story is based on an actual case. As soon as I heard the story, I thought it would almost write itself as a work of fiction. Only the details are invented.)

My Dear Caspar:

It is not easy for me to write you this letter. But my sense of honor and my loyalty to you and to your dear departed father — and, of course, to the name of one of the North Shore’s first and finest families — all compel me to fulfill your demanding request for all the information I can possibly give you, “every last little thing you know about his last days,” in the words of your letter. I must warn you that the details you demand will surely be terribly painful for you to hear.

As his closest business partner in a business where friendship and business were one, I knew your father better than anyone else on earth after your mother passed away 15 years ago. I understand from long experience, as he did, the pressing necessities of the world, and especially the business world, and most especially the world of a private, family-run investment-related business like ours, in which a single hour of extra attention by the CEO could (and often did) make a difference of millions of dollars. So I fully understand why you could not break away from your responsibilities in getting the Tokyo branch of the business set up in time — and then the need for a honeymoon with your new wife, at the most pressing and inconvenient time imaginable! How were you to know how serious your father’s illness was? His sudden death caught us all by surprise. If you are even now berating yourself for not “making the time” (how easily outsiders use that phrase!) to visit him, and for not being at his bedside when he passed away, you should know that these are perfectly normal and perhaps inevitable feelings of self-blame, but that no one outside yourself blames you in any way.

It is not my place to try to judge your state of mind, then or now; so I will directly and candidly fulfill your “demand” to know all the details of your father’s passing. I do not know how you will profit from these facts; I do know, however, that they will upset you. I deeply hope you can separate yourself from your natural affection for your father enough to learn the obvious lesson from his example.


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