Leaving Los Baños

lazandre-lookin-at-me.jpg

0558, October 20, on the bus. ‘Leaving Los Baños’ – that’s the text message (SMS) I send to Dr Antonio C Oposa on my Siemens A65. I have been up since 0335. I don’t want to be late in my date. I promised Tony I will be there at 8. (Yes, that’s how I text, in full words; my logic tells me it’s good communication practice; it’s good for my English – yes, the receiver’s too.)

Going to Manila to meet with Tony to meet with Ms Emelita V Almosara, Deputy Executive Director of the National Historical Institute (NHI), to possibly discuss my book on Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines. It’s an intellectual biography, the first ever as far as I know. I self-published it December 2005 and have been revising it for a new edition and a new title since then.

On the bus, I’m writing this on a thick, special double-ring-bound college-subjects notebook produced by the National Book Store (NBS).NBS knows its market. I like the notebook; it has a nice look and feel to it, a heavy weight that matches its rich looks. I’m heavy with thoughts this early morning. I’m watching at the same time a movie, video-on-board (I missed the title) where John Travolta is the anti-hero. John Travolta is a movie star I admire, having reinvented himself from song and dance to a movie star of the first caliber.

With The World According To Worp, T W A T W O, I feel I myself have reinvented myself. In T W A T W O, I’m going to bring out my thoughts on things no matter who is reading them – or not.

Rene Descartes is well remembered for saying and arguing, ‘I think, therefore I am.’ He is using his reason to explain his existence, his being. To Descartes, man can’t have become man except by some reason or other, preferably a spontaneous burst of life from the primordial sea. Man has not been created by God or Superman; he has evolved out of the workings of nature.

If that is so, bringing Descartes’ logic to its logical conclusion, I see this: Man has created himself; I think, therefore, that man is God.

Absurd! I can’t accept that. Actually, Rene Descartes had borrowed from a Roman Catholic theologian and coined his famous three words: Cogito, ergo sum. I think, therefore I am. For St Augustine had earlier said, ‘For if I am deceived, I am. For he who is not, cannot be deceived, and if I am deceived, by this same token I am.’ I read St Augustine’s words like this: ‘I believe, therefore I am.’

Borrowing myself from St Augustine, I say: ‘I hold, therefore I am.’ ‘Hold’ means, among other things, ‘to keep in mind or convey as a judgment, conviction or point of view’ (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language). I believe, ergo I exist. Months before this, I had come up with ‘I thank, therefore I am.’ That’s what you get as my tagline if I emailed you back.

Martin Luther himself takes off from where Rene Descartes leaves and says, ‘Faith alone makes someone just and fulfils the law’ (2006, wikipedia.org/). I believe, therefore I am right-minded. Luther is using faith as if it were reason. Sola fide, faith alone.

Faith and Reason, the same as Science and Religion. Faith is not reason, reason is not faith, I say. Martin Luther also said: Sola scriptura, the Scriptures alone, the Bible alone is the source of truth. He rejected Church tradition and the teaching majesty of the Pope (the Magisterium).

When Luther rejected tradition, in fact he was saying that there is nothing to learn from the teachings of the past; when he rejected the authority of the Magisterium, in fact he was saying that the Exalted Leader has nothing to teach at all to his followers. Following the example of Martin Luther, who has now become the Exalted Leader of the past, the Protestant denominations have multiplied by the thousands, each one having its own authority of the Exalted Leader – the Pastor of the Church. That is why no two Protestant denominations can agree on their interpretations of the Bible. There are too many Magisteriums.

Faith divided. A faith divided cannot stand. And it is true today – you cannot point to a single Protestant Church today and say, ‘There is Protestantism, the antithesis of Roman Catholicism.’ Faith alone will set you free – foolishly free of all the others.

My choice is faith and reason. My faith is strengthened by the Bible. My faith is strengthened by reason of tradition (the past) and by reason of the Magisterium (the present). Heaven has been promised me (the future). What more can I ask for?

Faith I associate with creative thinking. I cannot have faith if I am not able to think creatively. I cannot believe in a creator if I cannot think creatively. I thank, therefore I am.

Looking at the example of the people of the United States, I can see that the world is divided into the haves and the have nots. The haves have much because they know how to apply reason; the have nots have nothing because they only know how to apply faith. The more rational, the more scientific the country, the more progressive; the more the people practice their religion, that is, the less scientific the people are, the more their country is poor. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his soul? That is the main religious lesson, especially the Catholic one. With their line of thinking along those paths, the scholars and scientists blame the poverty of the poor countries on their reliance on faith, not reason.

Rene Descartes had that idea; Voltaire too, and our very own Jose Rizal: Reason above faith. Even: Reason alone – sola ragione (I’m inventing). On the day of his own reckoning, in the morning of 30 December 1896, Rizal was reported to have said, ‘My pride was my downfall.’ My highest was my lowest. Reason alone is pride. ‘Pride is the root of all sin’ – Thomas Aquinas.

Before that epiphany, it came to Rizal that his reason had become his faith. He had mistaken one for the other. He had forgotten, like most of the European geniuses, that Reason was just one of two ways to arrive at the truth, Faith being the other.

On one hand, Reason has the pride to say that it is the only one that holds – or beholds – the truth. On the other hand, Faith just holds tight on its own.

The town of Los Baños is more known for UP Los Baños than anything else, except perhaps buko pie, with its fulfilling filling of young, fresh coconut meat, the buko, in between the thick, delicious crust. We have a Los Baños Science Community group, and it’s registered. UP Los Baños is one of the best and most respected Asian universities in agriculture even today. In this town, we even have the world-famous International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). IRRI is the progenitor of the Green Revolution. IRRI is now into developing ‘a new plant type,’ meaning a new rice like no other. That is to say,Los Baños is now into biotechnology, the latest obsession in science. Yes, the science here is world class.

I’ve been around here long enough, in and out, since 1959, but I never really did belong to this community. I’m more of an artist than a scientist, even with my BS in Agriculture. With Laz’Andre’s photo captioned ‘Lookin at me’ (flickr.com/), a local scene, the bus leaving any minute, and thinking of all of the above, by ‘Leaving Los Baños’ I mean leaving a bastion of science and living in a world of faith. The Roman Catholic faith.

Science is Reason personified. While it’s not so obvious, Los Baños is a bastion of reason. ‘The Los Baños Science Community’ is a village of reasonable men. They can’t agree among themselves what is best for agriculture, or for the country, and there’s good reason for that: They are all too brilliant for their own good.

What it is is that they don’t believe in tradition or, which is the same, they believe in only one part of the tradition – what they hold. They don’t believe in the Magisterium of any thinkers other than their own venerated ones.

The world is full of saviors born of logic, those ardently listening to the strains of science, the tune of logic, the music of reason.

I know the music I like. I also know that the heart has reason that reason itself doesn’t know. I shall therefore go on listening to the song in my heart.

Most of the ideas and much of the words in this essay were thought of and written on a bus ride between Los Baños and Manila on 20 October 2006. Back home, and after solving the problem of our desktop PC’s Windows SP2 that crashed, I searched in Flickr for an on-the-bus photo from the Philippines, and that’s how I got the image shown above. Edited 22 October 2006

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Explore posts in the same categories: Bible (Catholic), Cogito ergo sum (Descartes), creative thinking, Creativity, critical thinking, Faith or Unreason, Faith vs Reason, Magisterium (Catholic), Reason vs Faith, Reason vs Unreason, Science or Reason, sola fide (only faith), Tradition (Catholic)

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