Sunday, June 24, 2007

I am not an atheist!

Last Friday, I attended an overnight team building cum workshop and was dead tired when I got home afternoon of the following day. As usual, the first thing I did as soon as I have thrown my dirty clothes away was to turn on the computer and open my email. I was surprised to receive a comment waiting for my approval from an unknown source, probably from a foreigner as he/she spelled Filipinos as Philipinos. The comment was on my post Free Will and Spinoza.

As much as I would like to thank the commenter for putting in a comment, I am sorry but I cannot publish it for it will eat too much space. The comment was two kilometers long and honestly, I could not make heads or tails about it. If you are reading this, can you please collapse your comments into one single thesis? And in something that I can understand. I am sorry to say that I have a very short attention span that if you do not get me hooked on the first sentence, you will completely lose me. Hence, babbling about whatever was your point is totally wasted on me. What are you anyway? An atheist, a prophet of doom? A Christian fundamentalist? An anti-Christ? A war-monger? What? I really don't know.

What I do know however, which everyone should have gotten by now, is that I am not an atheist. I may have a few disagreements with some of the practices of the Catholic church (but I will have to add that that is probably my fault); I may not hear mass regularly like a true Catholic should; and I may not have gone to confession for a very long time, but in spite of all these, never have I wavered on my belief that there is a God. I have been educated in a Catholic school, been bred by nuns, and now teach in a Catholic school that it is impossible for my faith to be shaken by whatever fad or philosophical dogma there is. Sure, I post something about philosophy and in the process may hint at theology from time to time, but that is because I want to know if my understanding is correct based on the commnents I get. I study philosophy in the hope that I can understand it and find ways to increase my faith not decrease it. Never mind what the skeptics might say. Never mind what incongruence intelligent people find. Never mind about being impractical and unfeasible the Bible is to them. What I have is a strong faith and this is something they cannot get out from me.

Friday, June 22, 2007

What it was like to be 18!

I have been tagged again this time by no less than Ipanema a blogger, whom I got to know thru Doc Emer. This tag is another one of those music thingies going around blogs. I am supposed to remember the songs when I was 18 years old and turn nostalgic over them. The rules can be seen here. I am a bit hesitant doing this tag at first as the young people reading this blog may not be able to relate. But then, I do have readers who may be able to and even kind of reminisce after seeing the songs that I included here. So, what the heck? Here goes.

I have grown to a family of music lovers. I have been exposed to different types of music early in my life that the music library in my head spans several generations. Should I say circa 1920's to the present. From my father, I learned to listen to classical music, be fascinated with the guitar as an instrument; from my mother, I inherited my love for the kundiman which she sang in radio programs with her sister when they were younger; my brothers and sisters who influenced me to listen to rock and roll; and now, my children who keeps me abreast with the latest tunes.

But of course, the most memorable music for me would be the music of my teens, the 70's. As I read the rules in Ipanema's blog, I got confused what songs were the hits during that time when I turned 18. I googled it and some of the songs that I remember that made it to the charts were the following as listed here

That's the Way of the World

Shining Star - Earth, Wind and Fire

The Way We Were/Try to Remember - Gladys Knight and the Pips

Black Water - Doobie Brothers

They Just Can't Stop It (Games People Play) - The Spinners

Some Kind of Wonderful - Grandfunk Railroad

At Seventeen - Janis Ian

Lonely People - America

Poetry Man - Phoebe Snow

You are so Beautiful - Joe Cocker

Laughter in the Rain - Neil Sedaka

ONe of these Nights - The Eagles

Lady Marmalade - Labelle

How Sweet It Is - James Taylor

Midnight Blue - Melissa Manchester

Love will Keep Us Together - Captain and Tennille

Okay, I admit, these are not the songs that I want to talk about, though. The songs I'd rather talk about are the ones that inspired me the most. The problem is that I am not sure if they aired when I turned 18. The sure thing about it is that they were heard in the airwaves during the 70's. Anyway, first off in the list is Les Crane's rendition of Max Ehrmann's "The Desiderata". Just the first note of the lady singer singing gives me goosebumps. I think the fact that it has been rumored that authorship of this poem was unknown and that it was just found in St. Paul's Cathedral made it very popular. I have been so moved by the poem that I would make a
of it when I began blogging which my friend Batjay did a voice over and another friend, award winning blogger toni featured anew.

Next ones are kind of oxymorons,if there is such a thing, in music.

The first is Tom Clay's - "What the World Needs Now & Abraham, Martin and John". No, this is not really a song but a montage of songs and news items. It starts with Tom Clay asking his daughter about hatred, bigotry, prejudice, which the child, innocent as she is, answers "I do not know..." Then enters Burt Bacharach's "What the World Needs Now" amid sounds of soldiers preparing for Vietnam, a coverage of the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby, MArtin Luther King and another Kennedy , tearfully giving a eulogy for his brother. The montage ends from where it started. HOw I wish I can share with you the MP3 my new found online friend Gilbert sent me.

The next one is Simon and Garfunke's "Silent NIght/7:00 o'clock new". This song starts softly with Silent NIght with an overdub of the 7:00 o'clock news. As the song gets louder, the news gets even louder and it suddenly hits the listener that the news. You can guess what the news is about.

The last one is not from the 70's. It came out during the Woodstock era so that would be about 1969. However, I first heard it during the 70's ergo, I'm including it to the list. I'm talking about Country Joe and the Fish's I-feel-like-I'm-fixin'-To-Die". This is a protest song, as was the whole rap Woodstock is all about, about the US sending its young men to Vietnam. In this song I saw how to make a protest without the flair of a hothead but as pompous just the same.

So, there. Hope these songs brought back memories to you, too.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Free-will and Spinoza

On one of those very rare occasions that I could bloghop around, I chanced upon one of auee's posts Bag a wife,literally which narrates a report that women in Krygyztan are being kidnapped by strangers to be their bride. I was thinking that this is just like the cartoon character of a man from the stoneage holding a club on one hand while dragging a woman by the hair to show the world his prize catch. Sure, we outsiders think that this is barbaric. And yet, can we really say that? Do we have the right to judge? As we all know, a culture's ways have been developed over time and is the accepted norm in such a society. Besides, what makes us sure that we don't have something similar?

Then, I read that the Sassy lawyer has her own take on the issue. The entry reiterated my premise that this is culture bound and that we don't have the right to judge. As a matter of fact, she goes on deeper to say that this happens to us also citing rape as an example. I will not go into the details anymore as you can read it from the source here. What I am interested, though, is that she has related the phenomenon to free-will. Free-will is the exercise of control over one's decisions and actions. This concept has been with the Christians for a very long time. In Christian dogma, everyone is given free-will in the belief that God has no control over our actions and that we shall be judged according to our choices in life. Hence, man has complete dominion of his/her own being. If said subject chooses good, then paradise awaits him/her in the after life as a reward. If the choice was to live in sin, then the consequence is eternal damnation.

This talk on free-will reminded me of Spinoza. Spinoza has been excommunicated not only by the Jews to which he belonged but even by his family for his radical ideas. One of these ideas is his counter stand to Descartes' dualism - "that reality consisted of two completely separate substances - thought and extension." To Spinoza, there is only one substance ergo, God is nature and nature is God.

Free-will does not exist to Spinoza. Man is governed by nature, which to him is equivalent to God and vice-versa. Although God does not govern our lives like a puppeteer, His control over our actions is exercised by limiting them by outside forces. As an example, we can decide to wiggle our toes, make circles with it but we can never ask it to detach itself from us and make it jump on its own for this is not within the nature of a foot or our toes. Likewise, an apple tree may choose to bear the sweetest fruit but only if the conditions are right, viz., proper sunlight, water, etc. and moreso, it will never bear pears or mangoes. It is in the same manner that "we can be hindered in our development and our personal growth by political conditions."

This is very interesting in that I can relate our fate as a people amid the turbulence of economic and political upheavals. How can we ascertain whether or not we are making the right choices, right being objectively correct, when most of our people are living in dire straits? Where is free-will when the choices are down to the lesser evil?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Thousand Words

Here are some pictures taken during my trip to Thailand. Emjoy!


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

To group or not to group - Part II

Once again, the question of group work has come up in a parents' orientation that the school has given yesterday. As usual, it is a question of how the kids are graded and the fairness of the grading. "What if the members are lazy and only the leader or one of the members did the work alone?"

As the question was addressed to the administration and I am no longer a part of it, I deemed it prudent not to answer the query and leave it to my superiors. After all, it was a question addressed to the whole congregation and not to me. I, too, had given group work and the question could have been thrown at me. Thank God I didn't have to answer that one for my response would not have been approved by the questioning parent. But that is getting ahead of the story.

Anyway, it is so easy to say that in the case where only one person did the work, that person should be given the full credit and flunking the others. That would have appeased a fuming parent who thinks it is unfair that his/her child is the only person who did the work. But I had been thinking about it and realized something in the process which might not be a ery popular stnce especially to parents of aspiring honor students. However, as a teacher, that is not the best response for me. Allow me to explain.

A group work is given to meet certain objectives. If the only objective was to expedite the completion of the project, then, giving the person who did all the work the grade might be okay. Afterall, the only objective is getting the work done at all costs. However, this is not the case. For me, it is more of the process than the output. The reasons why we give group work is for the students to learn team work and achieve camaraderie and a have a sense of belonging. Together with this, the students learn to decide based on their options, either by circumstance or their own creation (which plan to follow, what kind of technique or whatever to use), division of labor, delegation of duties and learn how to agree to disagree.

Based on these goals, I say, the failure of one in a group is the failure of all. They have failed to do the task because they failed to meet the objectives. It is the leader's role to assign tasks to his group, delegate responsibilities and see to it that everybody does his/her job. It is the role of the members to contribute, cooperate and respond to the leader's orders.

Come checking time, it is imperative for the teacher to see what transpired during the creation process. I talk to the entire group and question them. First the leader to find out if everybody contributed. This is not as hard in my case as most of the works have been done inside the classroom. This I do, sometimes, alone with the leader to assess if he/she is telling the truth. It may be that the leader either is covering up for the members or that he/she is intimidated into submitting the truth. Next, I talk to the members and assess how the work was done. By questioning them, I tend to feel how honest they have been and if my gut feeling tells me there's something awry, I probe in deeper until I am satisfied I get the entire picture.

So, what grade do I give in case only one person worked on the project? It depends on the outcome. If the work is good, the person who worked gets the highest grade in the group and give the others a passing mark. However, they do not get the highest mark possible and I make sure that they understand why such grade was what they deserved.

I am aware that this is not foolproof, though. Hence, at best, I do not give a very high per centage on group work vis a vis individual work. Nevertheless, I have to give them the experience of working together.