Category Archives: Philosophy

RESPONSE-able FREEDOM

RESPONSIBILITY

Today, I am going to talk about three overarching principles: responsibility, freedom, and responsible freedom.

Let us begin with the first principle. Responsibility is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as the opportunity or ability to act independently and take decisions without authorization. To put that simply, this definition can be divided into two root-words: response and ability.

Making a coherent simple definition of the word, responsibility NOW will mean OUR ABILITY TO RESPOND. Responsibility lies in our ability and capacity to act. Responsibility is to do something without being told but simply because we can and because we are ABLE.

When confronted with confusion whether to ACT or NOT, we ask ourselves, “AM I RESPONSIBLE?” So whenever we ask ourselves this question of responsibility, let us remember the root words: RESPONSE+ABLE.

If until now you are asking, “Am I responsible for my parents?” or “Am I responsible for the poor in my community?” or “Am I responsible for my classmate with a failing grade?” My simple answer to that is: are you response-able? If you are, then you must be held responsible for them.

FREEDOM

Now let’s take my second point. You might be familiar with this: “The cry of Balintawak. And the echoes answered back – Freedom!”

From the earliest conception of the term, freedom has been a debatable topic. Nations cry for freedom from the tyranny of the oppressors. The people of the Philippines, for example, cried for freedom against its many colonizers in the past. And we won.

But freedom is not only winning our national liberty. There is more to freedom than the absence of foreign domination and enslavement. Freedom is also personal.

Freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants (Oxford Dictionaries Online). So to say, when one is not hindered to do as he wants, he is free.

When free folks want to go shopping, swimming, or hiking, they can do so. When someone wants to go to the church or any place of worship, he is free to go and exercise his religion. If someone wants to remain silent, he is free to do so – that is his right; such is his freedom. Moreover, when people want to express their opinions, they can gather together and let their voices be heard.

Following this line of thinking, one can even spread gossip and false information about his enemies. One can slap the person next to her if she gets irritated. Or steal someone’s belongings whenever he feels like doing it. Such is freedom, isn’t it? But oops! That seems to be erroneous and it brings me to my next point – the relativity and partiality of freedom.

RESPONSIBLE FREEDOM

Freedom is not absolute. As Herbert Spencer said, “every man has the freedom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man.” This is tantamount to saying that the limitation of our freedom is the equal freedom of our fellowmen. In a simple adage, it means that “our freedom ends when someone else’s freedom begins.”

This brings us to the realization that whenever we exercise our freedom, we always have to consider its implications to others. This relates to our responsibility as caretakers of our brethren.

Putting this into context, one is free to cheat in an examination, but is that responsible? All are free to defame others, but is that responsible? One is free to steal, to hastily judge, to kill, and to commit adultery – but none of those is responsible.

It is right, therefore, to conclude that responsible freedom is directed towards our welfare and the well-being of our fellow men. We are free to do anything good, and just, and beautiful for ourselves and for others.

Exercise your freedom by doing what is good and just. Do something good and beautiful not because you were forced to do so, but because you have the ability to do so. Help, not because it is your obligation but because you are free and able to reach out.

Respond because you are able. Respond because you are free!

My wish for you today is to become responsible for the freedom you all have. Thank you and good day!

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Why we do what we do: Values in Action

Speech @ SPVA Flag Ceremony

Yesterday, a friend, Kenji, came to me and asked, “what are your core values?”

I answered, “integrity, authenticity, family, faith/religion, wisdom/learning, and influence.”

That time, his mind was cluttered, therefore he further inquired, “how do you know these are your values?”

My simple reply was, “values are the things important to us.”

My dear friends, what are the things important to you? There are your values. Values are the ball-bearings of our actions. Our decisions are grounded in our values and belief systems. To put it simply, the choices we take and the decisions we make are propelled by our values.

As an example, if my value is honesty, I will never cheat in the exams because my values say, cheating is dishonest. If I value my family, I will never do anything to disobey and disrespect my parents – because after all, they are important to me.

So I say, we do what we do because it is propelled by our values.

Kenji’s inquiry didn’t stop there. He wanted to know how he can form his own value system.

There’s the rub. Students and friends, I have a good news – that is, values can be learned. Here, I want to show the connection between habits, values, and virtues.

Habits are formed through repetition of a similar act. Then these habits that are formed through the repetition of a similar act would reveal a deeper meaning aside from the act itself. That deeper meaning is what we call values. When one no longer sees the act itself but the reason and purpose behind its performance, then one has already placed a value on the specific act.

So, again, I ask you, “what are important to you?” Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Therefore today, I direct you to a contemplation – to an examination of your values.

Is discipline your value? Then you must be behaving in the class. Is honesty your value? Then you must be honest in the exams. Is obedience your value? Then you must obey your teachers and parents alike.

And finally, is the Eucharist, or the Mass, valuable to you?

If so, there must be a multitude of SPVA Students flocking in the church every Sunday knowing that it is not only an obligation as Catholics to celebrate the Mass but rather an understanding that it is a deeper encounter with the Lord Jesus Himself.

My wish for you all is that you make the Eucharist and all heavenly things a value in your life.

Thank you and have a wonderful day!

THE PRAYING HANDS

Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a family with eighteen children. Eighteen!

In order merely to keep food on the table for this big family, the father and head of the household, a goldsmith by profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying chore he could find in the neighbourhood.

Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of Albrecht Durer the Elder’s children had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew full well that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the Academy.

After many long discussions at night in their crowded bed, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, in four years, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by labouring in the mines.

They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to Nuremberg.

Praying Hands

This is Albert Durer’s Hands painted by his brother Albrecht Durer

Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht’s etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.

When the young artist returned to his village, the Durer family held a festive dinner on their lawn to celebrate Albrecht’s triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable meal, punctuated with music and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honoured position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfil his ambition. His closing words were, “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.”

All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he sobbed and repeated, over and over, “No …no …no …no.”

Finally, Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He glanced down the long table at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly, “No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look … look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother … for me it is too late.”

More than 450 years have passed. By now, Albrecht Durer’s hundreds of masterful portraits, pen and silver point sketches, water-colours, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in every great museum in the world, but the odds are great that you, like most people, are familiar with only one of Albrecht Durer’s works. More than merely being familiar with it, you very well may have a reproduction hanging in your home or office.

One day, to pay homage to Albert for all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Durer painstakingly drew his brother’s abused hands with palms together and thin fingers stretched skyward. He called his powerful drawing simply “Hands,” but the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love “The Praying Hands.”

The next time you see a copy of that touching creation, take a second look. Let it be your reminder, if you still need one, that no one – no one – – ever makes it alone!

Royal Noble Consort Suk of the Choi Clan

Just finished watching the final episode of Dong Yi [동이]..
What i learned about the life of the Royal Noble Consort Suk of the Choi clan [숙빈최씨] is that:

“a man will be bright/radiant, and successful when he has great intentions and great heart.”

A Student’s Prayer — St. Thomas Aquinas

Creator of all things,
true source of light and wisdom,
origin of all being,
graciously let a ray of your light penetrate
the darkness of my understanding.

Take from me the double darkness
in which I have been born,
an obscurity of sin and ignorance.

Give me a keen understanding,
a retentive memory, and
the ability to grasp things
correctly and fundamentally.

Grant me the talent
of being exact in my explanations
and the ability to express myself
with thoroughness and charm.

Point out the beginning,
direct the progress,
and help in the completion.

I ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.


Hark’s Original Quote on Writing

“Writing is a process and it’s never easy! It needs patience and it grows through the course of time.”

Our National Anthem, “Lupang Hinirang”

The Filipino people impatiently await the singing of the Philippine National Anthem whenever Manny Paquiao has a fight in the boxing arena. It seems that it has been a tradition of the National Historical Institute to censor every artist’s faults in singing the National Anthem on a modified version.  It was only recently that Charice Pempengco sang it correctly in two occasions; first at the 2010 Presidential Inauguration, and second, on the Paquiao-Mosley Fight.

Bringing this matter in light, we would try to answer the question: “How is the proper way of singing the Philippine National Anthem?”

Article XVI, Section 2 of the present Philippine Constitution specifies that “The Congress may, by law, adopt a new name for the country, a national anthem, or a national seal, which shall be truly reflective and symbolic of the ideals, history, and traditions of the people. Such law shall take effect only upon its ratification by the people in a national referendum.” At present, the 1998 Republic Act (R.A.) 8491 (the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines) regulates the usage of the Philippine national anthem. It also contains the complete lyrics of “Lupang Hinirang.”

R.A. 8491 specifies that Lupang Hinirang “shall be in accordance with the musical arrangement and composition of Julian Felipe.” However, when literally followed, this means that the national anthem should only be performed by a pianist or by a brass band, as these were the only versions that were produced by Julian Felipe.

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, it is difficult for singers to keep up with the music because the original version was composed in duple time (i.e. in a time signature of 2/4) as compared to the present quadruple time 4/4, making it uncertain if this will either slow down or even double the music’s speed. However, what I can’t understand is that, why do we equate seriousness and solemnity with slowness when it comes to singing of the National Anthem? It’s a march played during the proclamation of the Philippine Independence! Isn’t it supposed to be sung with fervor as it was originally composed?

This is our National Anthem – a symbol of our Nation and a witness to our independence. Give justice to it! Singers should have control as they sing it; without so much embellishments, renditions, and modifications! Artists and Choral Groups are totally in error when they modify the tone, put second voices, etc. on the National Anthem.

We felt so liberal in modifying our National Anthem to suit our musical taste. What we do not realize is that when we continuously stray from its original version and tempo, it somewhat lose its gravity and historicity too.

We should realize that when we sing the National Anthem, we do not perform on a show. Rather, in singing it, we should bear in mind that we should let everybody sing it and feel it to become proud of our country. As the Hymn goes, “Aming ligaya na ‘pag may mang-aapi, ang mamatay ng dahil sa Iyo. (‘Tis our joy, when there be oppressors, to die because of Thee.)”

Hark’s Original Quote on Flattery and Criticism

What good does it bring to have a thousand friend who flatters you with false words? I’d rather have a single enemy who criticize me with the truth!

THE LIGHT OF MY EYES by Wang Yang

Often, we look for outside beauty. We fail to realize that beauty is not an artificial physique but the goodness of the heart. We should always remember that what is essential is invisible to the eye. The eye is blind for what is really important and beautiful. Let us not be discriminatory and judgmental of people’s appearances. Let us see and perceive beauty from within.


My High School English Teacher told us a story that I will never forget. I cried when I first heard it and I still cry up to now when I hear or read it.. At the time, I wasn’t interested to have a copy. But once in time, the story flashed back to my mind and I suddenly felt the urge to have a copy for myself. I tried hard to find a printed copy, so I went to ask my teacher to lend me hers. But my teacher said her copy was misplaced. I looked for the story in the internet but in vain. But at last, my long search came to an end. I happen to fall on a website (http://clairepalunday.multiply.com) where the article has also been posted.


To assure myself that I could share million copies of the story to other people around the globe, I felt free to post the story here too.]=============================================================================================
Wang Yang (Central Daily News July 10/11,1973)
Published in Reader’s Digest April 1976

What I saw behind my bride’s veil repelled me.

How blind I was to the truth!I was awake as Dr. Chou Taoahsiang operated to give me a corneal transplant. They had deadened the nerves around the eye, but I could hear metallic instruments clanking and Dr. Chou speaking.

My right eye had been inflamed and swollen for more than three years. When I checked into Taiwan’s Tri-Service General Hospital in Taipei, I could hardly see out of it, and my left eye was severely hyperopic. Doctors discovered that I was suffering from keratitis (inflammation of the cornea).

“You could have picked it up from towels or from swimming pools,” I was told.

“I’m a swimming instructor at an Army Officers’ School,” I said.
“That’s probably how you caught it,” the doctor said.About a year later, I learned that a corneal transplant could restore sight to my blind right eye. When I told my wife, she brought out her savings deposit book. She had managed to save $500 after years of hard work.

“If this isn’t enough, we’ll try to get more,” she said, adding, “You’re not like me. An illiterate person is blind though he can see. A man who can read needs both eyes.”

I put myself on Dr. Chou’s waiting list. A month later, he phoned me. “A driver was involved in a bad car accident,” he said. “Before he died, he told his wife to sell parts of his body to help support their children. Could you spare $250?”

The operation and hospital expenses would come to a further $200. I agreed, and was told to check into hospital the following day. I was extremely lucky. People waited for years before a cornea becomes available, and I told my wife how grateful I was to her for making the operation possible.

As I was being wheeled out of the operating room, my daughter Yung put her lips close to my ear and said, “Everything went well. Mother wanted to come, but she was afraid.”

“Tell her not to come,” I said. “But tell her I’m all right. She is not to worry.”I was 19 when I married on my parents’ orders. My father and my wife’s father were close friends and had pledged that if their wives gave birth to a boy and a girl, the children should be married.

I had never set eyes on the girl who was to be my wife until the day she was carried to our house in a bridal sedan chair. After bowing to heaven and earth, she was led to my bedroom. When at last I lifted the red brocade of her bridal headdress, I gasped with horror. Her face was cruelly covered with pockmarks, her nose was a deformity, and beneath sparse eyebrows, her scarred eyelids made her eyes swollen. She was 19, and looked 40.

I fled to my mother’s room and cried all night. My mother told me that I must accept my fate. “Homely girls bring good luck; pretty ones court sorrows.” But nothing she said reduced my anguish. I would not share a room with my wife, and I did not speak to her. I lodged at school. When summer vacation came, I refused to come home until my father sent a cousin to fetch me.

My wife was cooking supper when I arrived, and raised her head in a smile when she saw me. I walked right past her. After supper, my mother said to me privately, “Son you are being very cruel. Her face is unattractive, but she does not have an ugly heart.”

“No, it must be beautiful,” I stormed. “Otherwise how could you have made me marry her?”

My mother’s face grew pale. “She is an extremely good girl, understanding and considerate,” she said. “She has been in this house more than six months now, and works from morning to night in the kitchen and at the mill. She has not uttered a word of complaint about the way you have treated her. I have not seen her shed a tear. But she is shedding them inside. Do you want her to live like a widow although she has a husband? Put yourself in her place.”My wife and I began to share the same bedroom, but nothing changed the way I felt. She always kept her face down and spoke softly. If I argued with her, she would raise her head to give me a submissive smile, and then quickly lower it again. She’s like a ball of cotton wool, I thought. No will, no temper.

In the 30 years of marriage that followed, I seldom smiled at my wife and never went out in her company. Indeed, I often wished her dead.

And yet, my wife proved to be endowed with more patience and love than anyone I know. When we first came to Taiwan, I held a low rank in the army, and my income was barely enough to pay for rent and food. The baby was often ill, and we had to cope with medical expenses as well. When my wife was not looking for after the household, she wove straw hats and mats to earn a little money. When we moved to a fishing harbor in the east, she darned fishing nets and when we moved north, she learned to paint designs on pottery. We never lived in army quarters because the truth was we both feared her meeting people I knew. I was often away from home, but I knew that needn’t worry about our two children or the household, with her looking after everything.

After the operation, my daughter Yung brought me a transistor radio to occupy the long hours while the bandages remained on my eyes. But I had plenty of time to think, and my thoughts kept returning to my wife. I was somewhat ashamed for telling her not to come to see me.

After two weeks, I learned that the stitches would soon be removed. I could not contain my happiness. “When I recover,” I told Yung, “I want to pay a visit to the grave of the man who gave me his cornea.”

But I was nervous, for I knew there was a chance that the transplant would not take. When they removed the bandages from my right eye, I scarcely dared open it.“Do you see any light?” Dr. Chou asked.

I blinked. “Yes, from above.”
“Yes, that’s the lamp,” he said, and patted me on the shoulder.
“It’s a success. You can go home a week from today.”During that week, he tested my eye everyday. First I could see shadows, then the number of fingers on his hand. On the day I was going home, I could see the window, the bed, and even the teacups on the table.

“Mother’s making your favorite dishes to welcome you home,” Yung said when she came for me.

“She’s a good wife and a good mother,” I replied, words I could never say before.Yung and I climbed into a taxi. She was strangely silent all the way home. As I walked into the house, my wife was coming from the kitchen with a plate of food. When she saw me, she lowered her head immediately. “You’re back,” she murmured.

“Thank you for letting me see,” I said. It was the first time I remembered ever thanking her for anything.

She walked past me abruptly and put the food on the table. Leaning against the wall with her back toward me, she began to sob. “It is enough to hear you say this. I have not lived in vain.”Yung burst into the room in tears.
“Tell him!” she cried. “Let father know you gave the cornea for his eye!” She shook her mother. “Tell him!”

“I only did what I should,” my wife said.I grabbed her by the shoulders, and looked closely at her face. Her left iris was opaque, as my right one had been.

“Golden Flower!” It was the first time I spoke her name.
“Why…why did you do it?” I demanded shaking her hard.

“Because…you are my husband,” she said, burying her head in my shoulder. I held her tight. Then I got down and knelt at her feet.

Admonishment from Parents is Never Without Love

Whenever I commit mistakes, my parents admonish me. Like tonight, I went home late without prior notice, and I already expected their admonishment. Things like when I am flamboyant which is irritating in their eyes, when I eat not in proper time due to some computer activities, will not go by uncorrected. Every single mistake will not pass unadmonished.

But I know that whenever my parents admonish me, it is always with love. I know, and I feel, that when I am wrong, they are pained. Therefore they want to guide me and make me reflect. They always want their son to be righteous. When they admonish me in a loving manner, they don’t actually scold me but instead let me realize that what I did is wrong, that it has unkindly consequences, and that I shouldn’t do them again. When they admonish me, they want me to act like a grown up and be responsible for my actions and choices.

For these things, I love my parents. I love them even more when they admonish me. For I know that admonishment from parents is never without love.

I repeat, it is never without love.