“What people really want most in life is to be heard, and this is a really sweet opportunity for that,” Associate Professor of Philosophy David Dudrick said to the crowd at Heretics Lunch on Thursday, March 6. Over the course of his talk, “There and Back Again: Not a Hobbit’s Tale,” Dudrick shared some of his life story and some of his philosophy on life with the Heretics Club. The title, he explained, reflected his thoughts about the zig-zagging course of his maturation.
“It’s about going out and changing but then coming back to where you were, making progress in a certain sense but then falling back, of leaving but returning to the same place, maybe changed, maybe not,” he said.
Dudrick grew up in Nanticoke, Pa., a town that he ironically described as a place that aspired to be the city of Scranton. He came from a Catholic, working class family, and spent his childhood in a largely homogenous community. He was never particularly interested in college, but upon taking his first philosophy class at Franklin & Marshall College he found his perspective to have shifted vastly.
“I wanted to do some exploring. I was really turned on by the idea that I was going to think about the big questions of life,” Dudrick said.
His mother, less than thrilled with his choice of philosophy, suggested that he pursue an English major so that he would at least have the fallback career option of writing greeting cards.
Dudrick continued on the philosophy track, over the course of which he began to contemplate his conceptions regarding religion. Realizing he was an imperfect part of an imperfect world, Dudrick turned to his faith for answers.
“The world in some fundamental way is broken, it’s not as it should be. There’s great beauty and goodness, but there’s something about it that’s fundamentally not right,” Dudrick said. “I felt even more powerfully that there was something about me that wasn’t right, and there was no way in my brokenness to pull myself together. If there was going to be any hope it would have to come from without, come from a perfectly good and
powerful being.” This being, of course, was Jesus.
Dudrick spoke of the difficulty of preserving the passion of such a revelatory moment following the necessary transition back to mundane life, but explained that he ultimately came to a point at which he felt fully comfortable in his faith. Despite frequent challenges to his belief from then on, Dudrick expressed a firm certainty in his religion balanced with a deep level of respect for those who disagree with his ideology.
“It’s important to see that you can disagree with somebody without thinking that the other person is evil or irrational. I do disagree with people who don’t believe in God and who don’t accept Jesus as God’s son; I think they’re wrong, but they think I’m wrong too,” Dudrick said. “I think if you do believe this stuff you should be confident about it, and you should treat people with love. Even if what you believe is true, that certainly doesn’t make you better than anybody else.”
He further elaborated on this point in a discussion of relative truth – a notion that he rejects. Relative truth is a designation created by those who don’t want to disagree with others, Dudrick explained, but the fact of the matter is that everyone experiences their own personal, authentic truth in an equally legitimate way.
Dudrick concluded the talk with a final word on the concept of “there and back” and its implications regarding progress and recurrence.
“I guess I don’t know how far I’ve come in my thinking. I was raised Catholic and I’m Catholic, I started out liking philosophy and I still like philosophy,” Dudrick said.
“Maybe I’m going around in a circle, but I don’t think that’s such a problem. Because maybe, hopefully, the circle itself moves forward, maybe I’m maturing in some way – and if that’s true, it’s not by my doing, but by God’s grace.”
Heretics Lunch is a weekly Brown Bag that takes place in the Chapel basement every Wednesday at 12:15 p.m. This semester’s theme is “The ______ that changed my life.” Next week will feature Senior Associate Athletic Director for Internal Operations Ann-Marie Guglieri giving the talk, “The Book That Changed My Life.”