The third floor of the Anderson Student Center isn’t small, but while I was talking with senior Patrick Fisher it felt like a cramped space. Outside would have been much more fitting, because a conversation with this guy can include some pretty big ideas, and this one did.
Of course, that’s not surprising considering Fisher is a triple major(!) in philosophy, Catholic studies and mathematics, and through five different research grants and plenty of classes has dove into some pretty deep territory surrounding that big question of “Why?”
“It’s just insatiable,” Fisher said of his own curiosity level. He recently wrote his senior philosophy paper on the intersection of math, philosophy and God. “It keeps me up at night. I’m thinking about, ‘Is math ideas in the mind of God? Is it not? And if it’s not, how do you figure that out?’ I’ve always sought answers to those kinds of things.”
Fisher credits his dad, who teaches high school mathematics, with instilling in him a desire to seek out answers and dig into topics he’s curious about, a process he plans to continue next year at graduate school. When we talked Fisher had just finished sending out his first round of applications, which included applying for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to study at University of Oxford in England. Wherever he ends up studying next, Fisher hopes to continue through to a Ph.D. and teach philosophy.
“I’m never going to run out of things to figure out. [I know] this curiosity to get at the fundamental truths of the world must lead to and be a part of imparting that on others and sharing it with others,” he said. “Aquinas talks about how true wisdom is simultaneously practical and speculative science. That when one seeks wisdom, it is truth for itself and also a guide for life. With philosophy and mathematics I think people often miss that. It’s more, ‘What’s the practical application of this? What’s the point of this?’ My thought is that in one sense it’s teaching you how to think, but if you know and seek after the truth of the way the world is, you must be transformed by that. That idea has to become part of you and guide you, because the way you think the world is guides how you act.” (Again, an outdoor setting would have been great.)
Fisher’s quick laugh helped him slide from topic to topic throughout our conversation, including as we transitioned from the mile-high views of his studies to the get-to-know-ya-“Humans of St. Thomas”-style questions.
What’s one thing you cannot live without?
A really fun read. I just finished this play called “Waiting for Godot,” and it was so captivating. When I came home to my apartment and was eating lunch, I had to have that book open. If I don’t have a good novel, play or poetry to read for fun, my energy is just gone.
You have 20 minutes to pack for a trip for a year, but you don’t know where you’re going. What are the first things you would pack?
Besides the essentials, I would want my Bible, a book light, a notebook and that good, fun book I mentioned earlier. Probably Lord of the Rings – I’ve been meaning to read that forever. And then probably the pictures of my family from my desk.
If you could choose any place in the world to go right now where would you go?
I’m going to Rome this spring, so I might just get there early.
What are the coolest pair of shoes you’ve ever owned?
These. Right now. [Puts his Converse Chuck Taylors up on the table.] Everyone does Chucks, but these are new – sweet leather laces, the dark cherry color; I haven’t owned any cooler shoes than this.
What’s your biggest goal in life?
To glorify the Lord in the best way I can. Given the character and gifts I’ve been given, to humbly grow in virtue that I might not get in the way of what he’s trying to do in my life and in other’s lives.
What’s your ideal day?
I wake up, have a whole hour for prayer time; I then have hours to read. It’s going to come across that I’m a bookworm, which isn’t really true. I do other things too. All the food throughout the day would be delicious, and then I would hang out with friends and play board games. I would probably win. Then we just hang. Those things would be about all I need for a great day.