By Nina Karin Monsen
The Loving Person
The Loving Person is more than a book about Personalist philosophy. It is a wonderful conversation between writer and reader on the ultimate value of the individual person. The American tradition of personalism has included such names as Walt Whitman and Dr. Martin Luther King. So what is this philosophy precisely? Why should one be interested in Personalist philosophy? Monsen writes about Personalism as a way to clearly see lives and our struggles and to grow from that view. Our behaviors are mile markers on the path towards becoming a whole person, towards rebirth as a living intellect, a soul, a complete being.
Monsen has immersed herself in a sea of ideas and been inspired by many philosophers. Quotes from their works and references to their writings are used prominently throughout the book. In her introduction, Monsen specifically mentions Emmanuel Mounier, an intellectual powerhouse in French cultural life from the 1920s until his death in 1950 at the age of 45. Monsen focuses on Mounier’s wonderful ability to integrate emotion and intellect into his work and recognizes that it is this ability that can help us become an authentic human being – a person.
Monsen describes how personal development can be understood as growth of an ethical nature and as three distinctly different phases through which each human being must pass on the way to a relationship with self and with others. When the person is liberated and matured, these phases are choices. We learn to integrate all the dimensions of pack mentality or individualist into the realm of the personal.
Childhood and adolescence are typified in the stage dominated by a pack mentality, the need to belong to a group and to be just like everyone else in the group. Sooner or later, for shorter or longer periods of time, every human being will want to move on to the next phase of development, the phase of the individualist. It is in this phase one strives to clearly differentiate oneself, at any price, from the “others” whom one previously, as one of the pack, tried so hard to emulate.
It is in the third phase we can learn to become a complete person. Our maturity arrives during the stage of conflict between the individual and the crowd and we become independent, self-aware, and convinced of our uniqueness, taking it for granted without needing to talk about it all the time. We can give and receive tenfold back. The more generous and honest we are, the more successful we are as a person.
Monsen believes that we need a strong counter-culture full of new ideas about human possibilities and abundance, positive and optimistic ideas about who we are. Ideas are tools we can use to form ourselves as opposed to simply letting things happen, letting nature run its course in our lives. She inspires us to grow into personhood.
Monsen points out that sociologists and social scientists view people simply as representatives for the groups to which they belong, and argues that they are far too dominant in forming public opinion. In fact, it is because their views of human beings are so focused on roles that they are unable to elicit the richness found in each person.
Society does not need more experts in rationalizing. Society needs more experts in communication and more people with the ability to personalize ideas, feelings, thoughts, actions and values.
Nina relates that Leo Tolstoy once said that five-year old children were the greatest philosophers. Their wonder and open-mindedness let them find connections and make room for themselves in something greater, something that transcends. Our wisdom truly does come from within. We all have wisdom even if some may be wiser than others. We will never be able to learn how to respect each other if we are unable to relate to the best of what people have created and brought forth. Ultimately, Monsen’s goal with this book is to inspire us to find what we are truly capable of being and to help others reach their highest goals and dreams.
About the Author
Nina Karin Monsen
Nina Karin Monsen was born in Bergen Norway and earned her Magister Degree in Philosophy in 1969. She has been part of the Norwegian intellectual scene ever since. In a way, Nina defies description. She is so many things; philosopher and writer, feminist and debater, university lecturer and novelist, government scholar and Christian thinker. Complex and prolific, She has been weighing in on many different subjects for over 40 years in newspapers, in debates, and her fiction and non-fiction books as well as her lectures at various universities and other arenas.
Above all else, Nina is a thinker. She believes in careful crafting of language, knows how hard it can be, not just to avoid misinterpretations and misrepresentations, but to create a world that the reader can enter and make his or her own. Words take on a new life under her able direction.
The Loving Person is, to date, her most popular book. A book of philosophy, it still sells in the thousands in a small market like Norway. It does so because it says important things in a way that people can understand it. She has chronicled her intellectual and spiritual journey through ideas and current events. She has written about the welfare state, philosophy, politics, family, feminism, gay marriage, abortion, and the rights of children. She has often seemed like lone voice of reason or a constant irritant to the powers that be. That does not faze Ms. Monsen. She is out to explore the world, find the truth, and make sure that even unpopular opinions are heard. She is the essence of freedom of speech and received the Fritt Ord Prize, Norway’s prestigious award to support freedom of speech, in 2009 for that very reason.
A devout Christian, a Personalist philosopher, a friend, a widow, and a loving sister: these are all words that describe Nina Karin Monsen. She will likely continue to confound her critics and delight her supporters for years to come.