[Archive June 29, 2005]
Charles Malik was born in Bterram, Lebanon. He was a philosopher and diplomat. He studied at Harvard under Alfred North Whitehead and in Freiberg, Germany under Martin Heidegger in 1932. He later taught at Harvard and other universities. He was the Lebanese ambassador to the United Nations and the United States from 1948-1955. In 1948 he helped the United Nations draft the “Universal Declaration on Human Rights.” He advocated a “natural law” approach in defining human rights. In 1958-59 he was president of the U.N. General Assembly.
He was a Greek Orthodox Christian. (Most Christians in Lebanon are Maronite Catholic. The Maronite Church has always been united to the Bishop of Rome). During the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) Charles Malik helped to form the “Front for Freedom and Man in Lebanon” to help defend the rights of Christians. He expressed penetrating thoughts in defense of human rights in simple terms and expressed clearly the distinction between good and evil. Mr. Malik does not seem to be that well known but should be listed among the great personalities of the Twentieth Century.
“There is truth, and there is falsehood. There is good, and there is evil. There is happiness, and there is misery. There is that which ennobles, and there is that which demeans. There is that which puts you in harmony with yourself, with others, with the universe, and with God, and there is that which alienates you from yourself, from the world, and from God. These things are different and separate and totally distinguishable from one another. Truth is not he same as falsehood, happiness is not the same as misery.
The greatest error in modern times is the confusion between these orders. Nothing is anything firm in itself— this is the great heresy of the modern world. But there is no power on earth or in heaven that can make falsehood truth, evil good, misery happiness, slavery freedom. And yet what do philosophers tell you in the great centers of learning? They insist that everything depends on what you mean. The mind becomes so blurred and blunted in its judgments that it fails to see the real, given distinction between things.
How do we become true and good, happy and genuine, joyful and free? Only by getting in touch with good, true, happy, genuine human beings. Read the Psalms and the Gospels reverently and prayerfully every day, and I guarantee you two things: first, that you will experience in your own life and being a taste of what is beautiful and strong and certain and free; and second, you will then develop a sharpness of vision to differentiate between the true and the phony, between the beautiful and the hideous, between the noble and the mean.”
(C.S. Lewis for the Third Millennium by Peter Kreeft, ©1994 Ignatius Press, San Francisco)
Photo: Charles Malik with Eleanor Roosevelt (lebaneseforces.com)