Read. To be Happy

Reading Campaign Propaganda PosterPhoto Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

While I was in elementary school, I do remember my school having a campaign and posters to promote reading.  But I didn’t become passionate about reading until 5 years ago.

I believe that it’s because that campaign was only about reading and not about one’s interests.  That should not be missing from the campaign.

I also believe that now, we need a reading campaign like the war propaganda poster above.  If there should be propaganda about anything, it should be about reading.

The posters should be in all languages and appealing to look at, using cool graphic design and even, let’s say — fashion models.

Penguin Classics

I also wanted to share images of my books, which is the reason for my lack of savings — but highly appropriate because they went into things of value.

This page from my copy of Julius Caesar’s The Conquest of Gaul published by Penguin Books contains Pearson‘s tagline which is inspiring.

The Modern Library Classics Aristotle Works

Next is my copy of Aristotle’s works which I got at a discount because of its condition — but the contents are intact so it was a good deal.  I would have preferred to have more copies of Aristotle’s works by Oxford or Penguin Classics but having most of Aristotle’s works in one book is very convenient.

Studying in the Philippines, I have acquired the habit of using plastic covers for my books as added protection — which can be seen in the picture.  It is not tacky like plastic-covered furniture and can improve the look of secondhand books.

The used book below was purchased for 40 Philippine pesos, which is more or less 1 US dollar.  For that I got Christian, Buddhist and Hindu philosophy as well as George Berkeley and David Hume.

Random House ThinkersBelow is one of my favorite books that I bought.  The cover design is beautiful and the Fraktur is embossed.

German Enlightenment Immanuel Kant Penguin Books Great Ideas

I also wanted to show the cover design below because the crux of the essay itself is on the cover — all the more emphasizing the brevity of life.

Seneca On the Shortness of Life Penguin Books Great IdeasThese are just a few of the books I could have started reading in third year of high school.  I don’t know why during that time, I never listened to Cher from the movie Clueless when she had Tai read one non-school book a week.  If I did, I would have known more possibilities than I did before.

Speaking of possibilities, this is from my favorite Western novel Tucker by Louis L’Amour:

You can read can’t you?  If you can read, you can learn.  You don’t have to go to school to get an education, although it is the best way for most of us, and anyway, all school can give you is the outline of the picture.  You have to fill in the blank places yourself, later.

Again, that’s from a book I purchased for 40 Philippine pesos.

Louis L'Amour Tucker (2)Those are just a few reasons books make me happy.

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Objectives

Training WheelsPhoto Credit: Dawn Endico

Why do we go to school?:

To learn skills that will help us succeed in life.

And after one has “completed his or her education”, what does one have to do for the rest of his or her life?:

Work.

Now, out of all the people who have completed their education, how many are successful at working at a job one can do until retirement?

If one is not one of those people, but has completed his or her education and followed everything he or she was taught, who or what is to blame?

Blaming does not solve anything but I will provide a solution after pointing out the second objective.

Job Interview

Photo Credit: bpsusf

In my post The Social Contract, I referred to a line from Book X of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics which states the purpose of life:

..what remains is to discuss in outline the nature of happiness, since this is what we state the end of human nature to be..

If that’s not true, surely life’s purpose is not to be sad.  Yet is it not possible to become unhappy with one’s life?

Do we know how long our lives will be such that happiness can be delayed?

So when should one give happiness a thought?

While I was always very in tuned with my own interests growing up, I had this notion that I always had to “follow” — whether it’s my parents or school.

And with an educational system inherited from Prussia, who wouldn’t get that idea?

Prussia Jena students Befreiungskriege Lützowsches Freikorps military

So, with that educational model, how would a child or student get the idea of happiness, the purpose of life?

Now, I will continue the discussion regarding the first objective.

There is nothing wrong with following.  Jobs require us to be able to follow instructions.

But is following all we need to do in order to be successful?

Here is what I propose to reform the educational system:

There should be a weekly class called Self-Knowledge & Free Thinking.  In this class, students are free to go to the library and/or use any learning resource that pertains to one’s interest.  Students are recommended to write their interests down in a notebook/journal so that they can refer to it and pursue their interests on their own when they can.  Students should also be encouraged to read the Classics and books from the Enlightenment since these are the foundations of excellence and quality learning.

I could have started on those books in junior year of high school, but maybe some could start earlier.

This would just be a once a week, non-graded class.  The rest of the education system can remain unless other improvements can be found.  There can still be tests, grades, assignments, etc.  The system does not have to be upended to be reformed.

But the fact remains — it must be reformed.

Learning does not stop after graduation, so what happens when no one is instructing us?

With our current education system, how many students who have graduated are able to succeed in life and learn without someone telling them what to do?

With the Self-Knowledge & Free Thinking class, students would have the opportunity to experience learning independently regularly so that despite having to follow instructions the rest of the time, they would know that they have the ability to learn on their own.

If this were to be tested by the department/ministry of education, I would suggest the class to begin at 4th grade.  Although I feel that high school students need this the most, I believe that if a high school student has already become jaded with the educational system, the class might not be as effective.  But with 4th grade I feel that it would be too early for a student to have become jaded and is the perfect time to start learning topics that the school is not providing.

I believe that with this idea, more people can experience happiness and achieve success.

The more support there is for this would show that this should be legislated.

Again, from my post The Social Contract, I noted that under heading B. Happiness of Nicomachean Ethics is:

9. Legislation is needed if the end is to be attained.

IMG_2739

Photo Credit: Marc Wisniak

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Free Thoughts

Friedrich Schiller Weimar Classicism Schlosspark Tiefurt Goethe

In the third chapter of Jose Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere, the protagonist Crisostomo Ibarra, who has just returned to the Philippines from Europe, is the guest of honor at a banquet and becomes subject to the curiosity of the other guests in this dialogue (with English translation) :

“Alin sa bansa sa Europa ang higit ninyong naibigan?” ang lalaking mapula ang buhok.

“Higit pong gusto ko ang Espanya na siya kong ikalawang bayan.  Pero naibigan ko rin po ang lahat ng ibang lugar na pinuntahan ko.”

Si Laruja naman: “Iniisip kong napakaraming bansa ang inyong narating.  Sa mga bansang narating ninyo, ano po ang pinakamahalagang bagay na inyong nakita?”

Sandaling nag-isip si Ibarra.  “Mahalaga po sa anong batayan?”

“Halimbawa po’y sa relihiyon, sa pulitika, sa lipunan, sa kabuhayan…sa lahat po ng bagay.”

Matagal munang nag-isip si Ibarra bago sumagot.  “Bago po ako pumunta sa isang bayan, pinag-aaralan ko muna ang kasaysayan ng bayang iyon.  Pinag-aaralan ko kung paano iyon umunlad at sumulong ang kabuhayan.  At natuklasan ko, ang paghihirap o pag-unlad ng isang bayan ay laging may kaugnayan sa kalayaan o kagipitan ng naturang bayan.  Pag malaya ang kaisipan ng mga mamamayan, mas malamang na maunlad din ang kanilang kabuhayan.”

English Translation (by Charles Derbyshire with my own alterations as well):

“Which country in Europe did you grow fond of the most?” asked the rubicund youth.

“After Spain, my second fatherland, I don’t have a preference for any other.  However, I would choose the freest country. “

“And you who seem to have traveled so much, tell us what do you consider the most notable thing that you have seen?” inquired Laruja.

Ibarra appeared to reflect.  “Notable–in what way?”

“For example, regarding religion, politics, society, livelihood — everything.”

Ibarra paused thoughtfully before replying.  “Before visiting a country, I study its history.  I study how it developed and its well-being progressed.  I have observed that the hardships or progress of a country is always related to the freedom or oppression of that country.  If the citizens think freely, then it’s highly likely that they will be more developed.”

Immanuel Kant Thinking Cap

Photo Credit: Ariel arito

Now, philosopher Immanuel Kant also discusses freedom in his An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?:

…For this enlightenment, however, nothing is required but freedom, and indeed the most harmless among all the things to which this term can properly be applied.  It is the freedom to make public use of one’s reason at every point.  But I hear on all sides, “Do not argue!”  The Officer says: “Do not argue but drill!” The tax collector: “Do not argue but pay!”  The cleric: “Do not argue but believe!”  Only one prince in the world says, “Argue as much as you will, and about what you will, but obey!” Everywhere there is restriction on freedom.

Which restriction is an obstacle to enlightenment, and which is not an obstacle but a promoter of it?  I answer: The public use of one’s reason must always be free, and it alone can bring about enlightenment among men.  The private use of reason, on the other hand, may often be very narrowly restricted without particularly hindering the progress of enlightenment…

Whether the use of reason is public or private, the bottom line is no one can really restrict another person’s thoughts.  Our actions may be limited by law, but our thoughts can never be restrained.

Therefore, freedom is achieved by thinking.

If freedom is simply doing as we please, and doing without thinking, then animals have achieved freedom.

So freedom is about thinking.  Thinking beyond limits.

Because if one’s thoughts are limited by ignorance or emotions, then one would not be free from those things.

Freedom is achieved by thinking beyond limits while acting in accordance with the law.

Who doesn’t have this ability?

Happy Fourth of July to everyone!

Bald Eagle American Flag Fourth of JulyPhoto Credit: Pam Roth (Bubbels on sxc.hu)

Sources:

Espino, Vivencio O. Noli Me Tangere ni Dr. Jose Rizal. Philippines: Flo-Vi Enterprises, 1995

http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/6737/pg6737.txt

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/kant-whatis.asp

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Embracing Individuality | γνῶθι σεαυτόν

Temple of Apollo Delphi Gnothi Seauton (3)

Photo Credit: Skhaen

Before entering college, when I was looking through a college brochure to decide what course of study to take, this immediately grabbed my attention:

AB Interdisciplinary Studies

The course of studies in this program is highly flexible and is suited to the individual student rather than to the requirements of a traditional major.  Students may take courses combined from various programs such as management and psychology, literature and communication, political science and economics.  Essential to this approach is the individual direction which is provided to each student by a senior faculty member.

Many IS graduates proceed to law or business school; work in advertising, business and government; and become teachers, writers, and artists.

I knew in my heart that was what I wanted.  But someone really close to me, someone I considered a mentor immediately dissuaded me from choosing that like it was the plague.

The reason I wanted to choose IS is that I wanted to study sociology, but also learn writing skills.  I am also attracted to advertising, and that was mentioned in the course description.  But what sold me was: “Essential to this approach is the individual direction which is provided to each student…

But…because of my “mentor’s” reaction, I changed my first choice.

Luckily, the university which provided that course also had a general Communications subject where I was still able to learn writing skills from a reputable professor.

But back to that line: “Essential to this approach is the individual direction which is provided to each student…

Shouldn’t every student be able to apply that to themselves since everyone is…an Individual?

If the path to one’s goal happens to be the same as many others and is well-established, that makes things easier.  But would that still make one less of an individual?

cookie cutter

Photo Credit: Tomtchik

That brings me to the question:

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Now, is the answer to that the same as:

What makes you truly happy?

If not, why on earth do we keep asking the first question?  Shouldn’t we be asking and answering the second question instead?

If students are not answering this question and not spending time on their own interests, how interested can they possibly be in studying?

I was always a lover of learning, but I never answered that question until after I dropped out of college.  Had I started answering that from 4th grade, I know that I could have been an even better student.

That is why I paired the title of this post with the Delphic maxim:

γνῶθι σεαυτόν (gnōthi seauton) or “Know Thyself”

If the educational system does not provide that instruction, we still have the ability to follow it.  But how much easier would it be to achieve happiness if it did?

So how about the first question?

There’s no point in asking it anymore because the answer should always be:

Myself.

Auguste Rodin the ThinkerPhoto Credit: Hansjorn

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Balikbayan

Saudi Arabian International Schools Falcon Yearbooks

My Photo: The yearbooks that I have from my childhood in Saudi Arabia and the US.

The Filipino word Balikbayan is a combination of the words “balik” meaning to return, and “bayan” meaning home country.  It “refers to overseas Filipinos including overseas Filipino workers and the Filipino emigrants who come back home to the Philippines after staying in foreign countries.”

When I was around 6 years old, my family and I moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia because my father found employment at Saudia Airlines as a systems analyst.   Our experience, which we share with the other expats who lived in our community in conservative ol’Saudi Arabia, is not something I would expect from such a place.  Saudi Arabia is a strict desert country of commercial and residential areas and our community of Saudia City truly was an oasis of international culture.  It was because of our school, the American International School of Jeddah, whose campuses were formerly known as Saudi Arabian International Schools, that we were able to celebrate each other’s cultures like a global village.

This is not an opportunity that I myself earned.  But I want to share this, because through this experience I was able to see the beauty of different cultures rather than ugliness in what was foreign to me.

At the same time, we Filipinos of Saudia City were also able to celebrate our own culture through many social gatherings and parties.

International Evening

My Photo: That’s me wearing the Barong Tagalog in the first row, fourth from the right, in fourth grade.

But after 6 years of living in Saudi Arabia and 1 year in the States, my parents and I moved back to the Philippines.

It was quite an adjustment for me.  I was not used to the way people acted and communicated.

For example, I’m an only child and I’m comfortable being by myself; but in the Philippines, people are puzzled why one would even consider being by themselves and I often get confronted about it.

Also, another major difference between the Philippines and other countries is the standard of living.  But I don’t regret returning to the Philippines.  It is part of who I am as a person, and if I don’t know my own country, how can I know who I am as a person?

But as someone who has grown up abroad in countries with higher standards of living, I certainly wish the same for my own country.

I know it’s attainable, but are we willing to put in the effort?

I have studied and written about reform on this blog, and although reform must progress by government action, we citizens must exert effort.  I have done my best, along with many others, to find out how we can become the best nation we can be, and for our ideas to be legislated, we have to express our support.

Philippine flag

Photo Credit: Mike Gonzalez (TheCoffee)

Yet my ideas are the result of studying not just my country, but others.  And one does not actually have to leave the country to be able to do that.

But do I consider the Philippines home?

Despite my frustrations about living in the Philippines, I still love this country and I am thankful that it has given me an opportunity to live abroad.

But to answer the question…the World is our home.

That’s why we all have to get along.

International Day (2)

My Photo: Scan of a page about International Day from my third grade yearbook

Source: http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php/Balikbayan

 

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Perception ~ Experience

René Descartes The World and Other Writings Perception diagram

For a long time growing up, I let people’s perception of me hurt my feelings.  Fortunately, there are many other people in the world we can meet who will appreciate us for who we are.

A person can simply like or dislike another person regardless of who one is as a person and if I had realized this sooner, I wouldn’t have wasted so much time and energy caring what people thought of me.

But because of those negative experiences with some people, I have learned to choose how and who I open up to.

Another negative experience I’ve had with people regarding perception involves “family”.  After I dropped out of college, I didn’t go through with my plan to leave the country and I was figuring out what to do.  During that time, my “family” couldn’t understand my actions and I got so many condescending comments — as if they really knew me.

As if they knew how serious I was with socially-oriented causes.  If all I wanted was a secure, stable future then of course finishing college would help.  But my goal was to write about transforming society.  Although I was studying sociology, there were so many things college wasn’t teaching me.  I discovered outside of college the kind of job that could support me, and I spent so much time reading I couldn’t have possibly had the time to meet college requirements.

Villa Il Roseto Florence Blue Closed Window ShuttersPhoto Credit: Cyberuly

I understand that it’s easier to assume things about people, but if we haven’t experienced the same thing as other people, how can we possibly understand them without asking them about their lives?

If my family and relatives really wanted to understand me, they could have tried to get to know me.  But that would be harder than making up one’s mind about someone.

What happens when we make up our minds about a whole group of people?

If we don’t want to understand other people, if we don’t want to know the truth about people, then yes, we should never ask or investigate.

If we only see what we want to see, will our lives be easier?

We cannot know a person’s experiences just by looking at him or her.  We have to connect,

Communicate.

Students Raising Hands Ask Inquire

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Anak

Video Credit: ACSPPA/AMLC

The word “anak” means child in many Malayo-Polynesian languages, including that of my country the Philippines.  It has also been used for the title of a Filipino song and movie, giving it the depth this word deserves.

The title of this post is “Anak”, because one must be the child of a parent to exist.  We all have this in common.

And street children have parents, which is specifically the topic of my post.

In relation to that, I was able to watch in high school the documentary Minsan Lang Sila Bata (Children Only Once) twice, which is about child labor/exploitation in the Philippines.  As sad as this reality is in the world, I wasn’t moved to do anything about it at the time I first watched the documentary.

But when I got accepted into my school’s Peer Counseling Organization, I was given an opportunity along with fellow members, to work with street children.

The Inconsequence Ivan Malyutin 1926 street children 5 year Soviet economic planAs I wrote in my post Extra-Curricular, our project was to host a “Day of Fun” for the street children of Kuya Drop-In Center, wherein they could use the pool, play basketball, volleyball and other fun games with us at our school.  During one of our games, two kids started hugging my legs for some reason.  I don’t usually experience that kind of affection from people, not even from my family.

How is it that children who had nothing could be giggling, smiling, having fun and showing affection?

I don’t even feel like I did anything for them.  They were the ones who gave something.  They taught me about humanity and how society should be.

That day was the reason I chose to study social issues.

It is because of that day that I desire the “happiness of society”.

Now, all of us members of human society come from our parents, and our parents from our grandparents, and so on.  But logically, there would have to be a first parent.  Who is this first parent?

We would all then have originated from this first parent.

We all come from the same source.

How should we treat one another?

 

Forgiveness 3 Carlos Latuff Hug

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