Friday, March 23, 2018

The Mystery Child: Insights of Life for the Pioneer Graduates of SVIS (For the Greater Lagro Gazette)

For the Greater Lagro Gazette
The Mystery Child:  Insights of Life for the Pioneer Graduates of SVIS
Commencement Address, San Vicente Integrated School, March 27, 2018

Our world today loves the Prodigal Son more than his proud and obedient  brother. The son who found his home again, who filled up the missing link of a family, the gap of the bigger world that he saw and experienced with the small world he was born into and where he grew up, the son who learned repentance as a condition to humility, the son who taught the world “love on bended knees.”

 By Dr Abercio V Rotor, Ph.D.
  Guest of Honor and Commencement Speaker

Almost one year ago in this very place, I addressed the graduates of Grade 6 in this school. I said then that it is the greatest honor bestowed upon me as an alumnus of this school some 64 years ago. I am doubly honored today to be with you, the first graduates of San Vicente Integrated School under the new curriculum.

Never in our history had there been five generations living under one roof, so to speak, which include, other than my generation, the baby boomers (born 1946-1964, ages 50 to 71), followed by Generation X – those who come from small families (born 1965-1980, ages 35 to 49). Generation Y constitutes those born 1981-1996, ages 14-34, followed by Generation Z or iGeneration, born thereafter, ages from 6-21). Generations Y and Z constitute largely the millennials who have one thing in common:They are highly dependent on technology, and tend to be individualistic and narcissistic.

You are among the millennials and the i gens. By the way, who (what) is your best friend?

It is the cell phone, the smartphone you carry around, put in your pocket, around your neck, backpack, handbag, under your pillow, on the dining table. It is your most intimate friend, as if it is surgically attached to your body. By the way the cellphone and cellsite are the main sources of radiation that causes cancer and psychological disorder. It has spread into a pandemic, affecting mainly the y and Z generations.

How often do you look at your phone? According to a survey, the average user picks up his or her device more than 1,500 times a week, reaches for it at 7:31 in the morning, checks personal emails and Facebook before he gets out of bed, uses his phone at least 3 hours daily. And almost four in ten users admitted to feeling lost without their device. Have you given a name for your smart phone, other than Galaxy? iPod? Lenovo? Nokia?

What is the implication of this revelation? Listen to my story.

“I cannot feel,” Computer

A teacher gave a home assignment to her students: first, what is love, and second, what does it feel to be truly in love.

Promptly the students consulted their computer. Not their parents first because they were not around. They were in their work, or abroad. Not their friends, they’re bias, of course. Not a spiritual adviser, to many, he is too religious. Not an elderly, he is too traditional. Hello? Anyone out there? Everybody seems to be too preoccupied.

So Johnny or Jon-jon, as Juan likes to be called, typed the first question: What is love? Immediately the computer responded with a hundred definitions. And he chose the easiest and shortest one. It’s just an assignment, he thought. His teacher may not have time to read it. She is loaded with school activities other than teaching.

Next, he entered, What does it feel to be in love? The computer printed: WAIT. Johnny was impatient. He had to hurry up, otherwise he’ll miss his favorite TV program. He tried again. The computer finally answered: I CANNOT FEEL.

And here we have our youth with their best friend the computer, who cannot feel, spending hours every day, 365 days a year, and most likely throughout their lives.

We seem to be locked up with a robot, our intelligence is no longer a natural one. We are becoming slaves of the robot. Modern industries are run by robots (automation). War is fought by robots (drones). Robots beat us in Chess. They steal our time, peep into our room, and trace us on the street (CCTV). They rob us of our privacy. We have indeed enslaved ourselves with our inventions, a new kind of slavery.

Computers gather and store huge amounts of information, information we do not really need, mixing up important and trivial, genuine and fake information materials. This is the newest kind of pollution today – information pollution or “inpollution.” We are sinking into a quagmire of information waste alarmingly increasing every day. We lose our sense of judgement and priorities. Computers cannot truly think and feel, they have no capacity for love, and faith. Without love and faith we break our interrelationship as humanity, the interconnection of the human spirit and creation, and our sacred relationship with God.

Before I continue let me tell you another story.

Mystery Child.

In a workshop for village leaders, the instructor asked the participants to draw on the blackboard a beautiful house, a dream house ideal to live in and raise a family. The participants formed a queue before the blackboard to allow everyone to contribute his or her own idea of such a dream house. The first in the queue drew the posts , on which the succeeding members made the roof and floor, followed by the making of the walls and windows. In the second round the participants added garage, porch, veranda, staircase, gate, fence, swimming pool, TV antennae, and even a car and other amenities.

Finally the drawing was completed and the participants returned to their seats. What make a dream house, an ideal house? A lively “sharing session” followed and everyone was happy with the final drawing – indeed a dream house.

Just then a child was passing by and peeped through the open door. He saw the drawing of the house on the blackboard and entered the classroom, and stood there for a long time looking at the drawing. The teacher approached him, the participants turned to see the unexpected visitor. The child pointed at the drawing on the board and exclaimed, “But there are no neighbors!”

In the same village there was a similar workshop exercise, but this time the participants were to draw an aerial view of an ideal community. The participants formed a queue before the blackboard and after an hour of working together, they came up with a beautiful drawing of a community. There are houses, a church, a school, village hall, and plaza. A network of roads and bridges shows the sections of the village. People are busy doing their chores, especially in the market place. Indeed it appeared as an ideal village.

“What constitute a community?” It was a lively discussion and everyone was so delighted with their “masterpiece” that the teacher even wrote at the corner of the blackboard “Save.”

Just then a child was passing by. When he saw the drawing on the backboard through the open door, he entered the classroom. He went close to the drawing and looked at it for a long time. The teacher and participants fell silent looking at their very young guest.

The child exclaimed, “But there are no trees, no birds; there are no mountains, no fields, no river!”

Some days passed since the two workshops. No one ever bothered to find out who the child was or where he lived. Then the whole village began to search for the child, but they never found him – not in the village, not in the neighboring village, not in the capital, not even in the church. Not in any known place.

Who was the child? Everyone who saw him never forgot his kindly beautiful and innocent face, bright eyes, radiant smile, and pondered on his words which became the two greatest lessons in life. ·

  • But there are no neighbors of the beautiful house! 
  • But there are no trees, no birds; there are no mountains, no fields, no river in the ideal community! 
Analyze the story. Who is this Mystery Child? What is the significance of this story to you? To your future career? Meantime I’ll relate another story, this time, about Narcissus in Greek mythology.

Death of Narcissus

Narcissus, a very handsome man in his youth, loved himself so much he spent hours day after day looking at his reflection on a lake, until one day he fell and drowned. The nymph Echo who was deeply in love with Narcissus but was never reciprocated, wept together with other nymphs over the dead Narcissus. So with the animals in the forest, the wind, the trees, and all those who had known him, except, the lake.

“Why aren’t you weeping?” the nymphs asked the lake. The lake answered, “It’s because Narcissus never saw me, he saw only himself. Every day he came to see his beautiful face, but he never saw a bit of beauty in me - I, who gave him the reflection of himself.”

This story tells us of a common weakness of men and women today, a malady doctors call Narcissism or Narcissistic Syndrome. Time magazine featured the millennials in a special issue as Me, Me, Me Generation. The relevance of this story to you is far reaching. Don’t be an “I” specialist. Never adore yourself. Don’t be conceited. Learn to reciprocate, especially in matters of genuine relationships, of true love. Had Narcissus reciprocated the love of the nymph Echo, and remained humble with his beauty the story wouldn’t be a tragic one, but one with an ending, “and they lived happily ever after.”

The lessons that can be derived from these stories, I believe are important in facing 12 major challenges of our ultramodern world, or postmodern world, as may be referred to.

· Threat of Nuclear Armageddon
· Global Terrorism.
· Drugs and Vices
· Territorial Conflicts
· Tragedy of the Commons
· Environmental Degradation.
· Loss of Privacy
· Auto-toxicity.
· Amorality and Neutral Morality
· Institutional Breakdown
· Pandemic Diseases
· Consumerism

Sibyl’s Wish

I have another story to tell, also from Greek mythology. It’s about Sibyl, a version from the original myth.

Sibyl was a young, beautiful woman of high intelligence; in fact she was regarded as a prophet. One day Apollo, god of music and intelligence, asked Sibyl. “What is your wish in life?” Shy and naive Sibyl simply declined. “Come on Sibyl, every mortal has a wish.” “Well, if you insist, I wish to live forever.” Apollo knew she wanted to be a goddess. “Oh, foolish Sibyl, but your wish will be granted.”

So Sibyl lived on and on. But she was losing her youthfulness and beauty, because she inadvertently missed in her wish the word young. “I wish to live young forever.”

One day, a young man met Sibyl, now long past her youth, a very old woman. “And what do you wish this time Sibyl?” Wryly she said, “I only wish to die.”

How many mortals wish to be immortal? Corpses in cryogenic tanks await science to resurrect them in the future. The pyramids and other ornate tombs were built for the afterlife. People search for the fountain of youth believed to be somewhere in Shangri-La in Tibet.

The message about Sibyl is clear: “We – all of us – pass this way but once.” A missionary once said, “I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

The Fourth Wise Man

I have yet another story. Have you heard of the Fourth Wise Man, a novel written by Henry van Dyke. It is about a fourth “king” who lost his way and got separated from his three friends – the three wise men or three kings who succeeded in seeing the new born Holy Infant, whom they lavishly gave personal gifts. After that they were never heard of again. On the other hand, Artaban, their lost companion, never saw the Holy Infant. All along the way he did not ignore people in need of help, in the process spent all the gifts intended for the Holy Child. He had “wasted” 33 years.

Unexpectedly news reached him that a holy man was condemned to die on the cross. He gathered his last strength and went to Jerusalem. There he saw the person he was looking for nailed on the cross on top of a hill (Golgotha). Artaban was gravely shocked and suffered a heart attack. As he lay in a corner dying Christ appeared to him. “I am very sorry, my Lord, I lost my way. I have nothing to give You now.”

“You have given me more than your gifts. You have not lost your way or time. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. What you have done to the least of your brethren you have done it to me.”

The fourth wise man took his last breath; his face turned heavenward bearing a divine smile of peace and fulfilment.

If you can’t be one of the three wise men who paid a visit to the holy Infant, then be that fourth wise man. Be like Albert Schweitzer who became a missionary to fill up what the three wise men failed to do.

Think and aim high to the point of idealism. Aim at a goal, more than that, aim at a cause. Dedicate your work to that noble cause, live your life for it. Peace, integrity, freedom, have no measure, because they belong to the realm of the human spirit. It is said that great men and women fought not only for their philosophy in life, but for their faith. Our own national hero Jose Rizal fought for freedom and dignity of the Filipinos, Mahatma Gandhi for independence of India, Abraham Lincoln for the abolition of slavery, Mother Teresa, now a saint, for love for the poorest among the poor.
"Philosophy takes us to the highest plane of reason, whereas theology
takes us to the highest plane of faith." - avr

When Albert Einstein, the greatest mind in modern times, was asked, “What else can you not understand, Dr. Einstein?” The man behind the splitting of the atom, and adjudged Man of the Twentieth Century, answered in all humility, “I understand just a little about the atom; all things in the universe, only God can understand.” It is a manifestation of deep faith in the Higher Principle, over and above that of science.

On the other side of the coin, when Pope Francis was bombarded with questions on ethico-morals confronting our postmodern world, he answered calmly and hushed the audience, “Who am I to be your judge?” And he led the faithful to a prayerful meditation. It is deep wisdom humbling everyone with the biblical lesson, “He who has no sin throws the first stone.”

And Mahatma Gandhi, Man of the Millennium brought not only man to his knees, but a whole proud nation Great Britain that was once the biggest empire on earth – “The sun never sets on English soil.” Through Asceticism and non-violence – terms that cannot be explained - India was liberated from centuries of human bondage, undoubtedly by the power of the Human Spirit.

Commencement means to start, to begin, and graduation is a planned process, by phase, step-by-step. It is not forging ahead and changing the world. Commencement is also looking back while standing at a crossroad given the choice to go back home like the Prodigal Son. Our world today loves the Prodigal Son more than his proud and obedient brother. The son who found his home again, who filled up the missing link of a family, the gap of the bigger world that he saw and experienced with the small world he was born into and where he grew up, the son who learned repentance as a condition to humility, the son who taught the world “love on bended knees.”

Change, if only for the sake of “progress” is not the saving grace of our world. In fact, it is its greatest dilemma. After all, the most precious thing every person must have, and it is the greatest of all human rights, of all aspirations and goals in life is happiness. If you are not happy you are a loser, in spite of wealth, fame and honor. Take off all unnecessary load, be practical, go back to basics when you are in doubt, much so if you are lost. Live happily, lovingly, truthfully and freely.

Listen to that child who guides you when you are lost, comforts you when you are sad, reminds you if you are late for school, jolts you when you feel lazy. The child who keeps you strong to resist temptation, enlightens you when you are in doubt, .

The child who strengthens you with your conviction, in search for truth, who leads you back to your loved ones in peace and reconciliation; the child who encourages you when you are losing hope, who helps you fight for life when you are gravely ill, who takes you away from danger, who weeps when you have committed a grave error while strengthening you to resolve and rise over it.

The child who talks to the stars, flies a kite as high as your dream, who writes poetry, sings, and loves life with reverence to all living things, who reminds you to keep the earth clean and orderly. The child that never tires, who never grows old, and who lives on in sweet memories.

The child who detests Narcissus and Sibyl, and resists their temptations. The child who does not regret for failing to see the infant Child, just to be able to help the least of his brethren while lost on his way.

This is the mystery child in you, in your life, the child who guides you in your search for a place in the world. ~
Congratulations to you beloved graduates, your parents and teachers, and to all those who contributed to your success, and the success of this occasion. Last but not the least, congratulations to Principal Beatriz Riotoc and staff of San Vicente Integrated School, my alma mater I will always love. ~

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