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(By Felice Prudente Sta. Maria)
A Heritage of Nobleness
Andre Malraux's definition of culture as the "heritage of the quality of the world" is a most inspiring concept. His message can denote the excellence of a people's way of life. It can also mean its nobleness. Culture is both the pamana ng kagalingan and pamanang karangalan.
The tangible products of a culture can be made excellently or poorly. A generation's works of art and science can be compared with those of other periods . One generation, average level of "quality" can be inferior or superior to that of another generation's. For instance, Filipinos of the 19th century embroidered by hand more finely than Filipinos today. The work of the best 19th century Filipino embroiderer possibly is as accomplished, however, as the products of the best Filipino embroiderer working today. But there were more fine products in the previous century than today's partly because hand embroidery was the fashion and because the machine alternative had not yet taken root.
The adjective "excellent" implies an object, an idea, a job that is done as best as possible and better than a general understanding of what is average. When one thinks of excellent, one thinks of the "pinaka" whether in terms of executing details positively, complying with rules, or meeting expectations.....expectations of beauty , ornamentation, simplicity, clarity, understandability or whatever other criteria apply to a critique or an assessment of the work under study.
Nobleness implies virtue. Different peoples practice virtue in different ways. But a comparison among religions and ethics through many centuries of political regimes, and social organizations shows that there is one underlying principles to virtue: an acceptance that the only right one has in life is the right to do good for others.
It is a sense of "righteousness" that propels humankind perhaps beyond its own expectations in sciences and arts, in thinking and in creating. It is when people believe fervently that they are working on behalf of not just themselves, their family, their community, their country but humankind in its totality, that homo sapiens proves its merit.
Undoubtedly, one man's freedom fighter is another man's enemy. Undoubtedly, experiments to cure disease have resulted in drug abuse. Undoubtedly, revelations in physics and chemistry to protect the home and the person provided the seed for terrorism. But it is precisely because leadership and learning have forgotten to stop and evaluate whether the "advances" of a generation will be used to benefit or deter people's standard of living and quality of being.
It is the challenge of cultural workers to help their generation look into itself and seek out its capacity for virtue. Filipino culture values purity of loob (one's innermost being) and pakikiisa (social interaction). It is virtue to be mapagbigay loob, tending to give of one's innermost self. "Ang taong di marunong makipag-kapwa, walang kayamanan sa balat ng lupa," goes a Tagalog-Filipino saying. (A person who cannot get along with others, has no treasure on earth). The sakop (group, ranging from family to work group to national political grouping and religious community) is very important to a Filipino. Individual harmony depends greatly on being in harmony with one's groups.
Filipino culture considers goodness and beauty as inseparable. The greeting is "Magandang umaga," - beautiful morning, rather than good morning. One is complemented if said to have "magandang kalooban-literally, a beautiful innermost being, or self. The adjective implies goodness not just beauty. If one has "magandang kalooban,"one may also respect for other people's loob through one's behavior. Psychologists are concluding that Filipinos value person hood not personality-again an indication that a self's spiritual dimension must develop in partnership with its emotional, rational, volitional dimensions.
Filipino psychology differs from that of some countries, just as it is similar to that of others. Customs change with the demands of time. But values can be institutionalized, traditionalized. Customs are how things are done; values are why they are done. The generation that values cultural tools, customs and values to respect the human dignity, the innermost self of others is assured that it has ennobled itself by ennobling others.