Speeches from Plenary Conversations 1

Last May 11, the UP System GE Conference 2021 came into a conclusion with two plenary sessions scheduled for the morning and the afternoon.

The first plenary sessions discussed the importance and relevance of GE through speeches by eminent set of speakers — University Professor and Professor Emeritus Gemino H. Abad, Professor Emeritus Jose Y. Dalisay Jr., Professor Emeritus Michael L. Tan, as well as UP Diliman Chancellor and Professor Fidel R. Nemenzo.

The plenary speakers for the last day of UP System GE Conference 2021

During the first plenary session, they delved into the importance of teaching GE courses and its timely relevance to the Filipino society. They also talked about the intersectionality and interdisciplinarity in teaching GE courses. The first speaker was Professor Emeritus Jose Y. Dalisay Jr., who imparted 12 life lessons from GE courses:

12 Life Lessons from GE Courses

By Professor Emeritus Jose Y. Dalisay Jr.

Professor Emeritus Dalisay Jr. imparts the 12 life lessons from GE courses

Good morning. There are many discussions of the learning outcomes we expect to produce in general education, and typically, the experts in this field—a category to which I surely don’t belong will say that they include Intellectual and Practical Skills, Civic and Global Leadership, Knowledge of Human Cultures, and Understanding the Physical and Natural World. As one university puts it, GE is meant to develop “informed people who have the ability to act thoughtfully in society, to make critical judgments, and to enjoy a life dedicated to learning and the pleasures of intellectual and artistic pursuits.”

We can all make similar formulations and they will probably be all correct and useful. This morning, however, not being an educational theorist, I’d like to talk about some practical expectations or realizations that I would like my students to come out of GE with.

I don’t know how these can be formally integrated into syllabi, and maybe they shouldn’t be. Rather, they’re overarching notions, a kind of wish list of what I as a teacher wish my students learn from my classes.

I’m phrasing these 12 statements as simply as possible, without too many elaborations, because I don’t want this to sound like an article. Rather, think of these statements as provocations that you and your students can wrangle with. And at the end of this very short talk, the workshop organizers can upload this in the chat as a file. So here we go:

1. You don’t have to understand everything right away. In any case, you can’t. Some things in life will forever remain mysteries—some of them wonderful, some of them perplexing. Staying curious is what matters to the lifelong learner.

2. Engagement helps—and by engagement, I mean investing yourself, putting in your time, effort, and maybe even money behind some belief or idea or activity that means something to you. Sometimes engagement is the best way of knowing, learning, and finally understanding.

3. Not everything has to have practical value—at least not yet, or maybe ever. Value can mean more than utility or money. Delight and discovery are their own rewards.

4. You are not the center of the universe. Not everything has to do with you. However, every connection you can make to the world around you leaves a mark that you were here—and that, in your own way, you mattered.

5. Learn to see time in years and centuries, not seconds or hours. If you want to foretell the future, look back to the past. We may seem to be headed for the future, but in fact we will all inevitably be part of the past. How will you want to be remembered?

6. Intelligence, cleverness, knowledge, and wisdom are very different things. Knowledge without values is worthless and even dangerous. The middling student who has a sense of good and bad and right and wrong is worthier than the summa cum laude who doesn’t.

7. The first thought that comes to your mind may not be the best one. Pause and think before you speak or write, especially in these days of Facebook and Twitter. Speech but also silence can require courage and good judgment.

8. Learn to love something larger than yourself, your family, and your prized possessions. “Nation,” “freedom,” “justice,” and “equality” are very attractive ideas, but you have to learn to bring these big words down to earth, in concrete forms, actions, and decisions. Can you accept that you are your housekeeper’s equal as a human being?

9. Be prepared to take risks and to make mistakes—and even to fail. You can learn more from failure than from over-performance. Everybody—even the very best of us—will fail sometime, and it will be good to believe that we are all entitled to at least one big mistake in our lives.

10. Be prepared to change your mind. As you grow and learn, some things will become more simple, and others more complex. You are not a fixed entity; you are changing all the time, and you can change faster than the world around you.

11. Technology can be deceptive. It can lead us to believe that the world is changing very fast and for the better. That may be true for some of us and for the way we live. But for many others left behind, the world is no better than it was a hundred years ago.

12. Competition is good, but cooperation is often better—and necessary. Poems are written by solitary genius, but bridges, cathedrals, and nations are built by many minds and hands. The best way to deal with loneliness is to find meaning in the many—to learn from and to contribute to the experience of others.

The next speaker is Professor Emeritus Michael L. Tan with his speech entitled, “Solace and Strength”. Only excerpts of the full version posted here, however, were given during the conference.

Solace and Strength

By Professor Emeritus Michael L. Tan

Professor Emeritus Tan reading his speech

Amid the world’s worst crisis ever since the Second World War, I have pondered on why we have not been able to overcome this tiniest of viruses, one British mathematician’s estimating that all the Covid-19 viruses of the world, presumably including the maddening variants, would fit into one soft drink can.

My answer is simple: we live in illiberal times. We live in an age of misinformation, and of people choosing to be misinformed rather than to be listen to our admittedly fragile sciences still making its way in the dark, nangangapa, in a desperate search for solutions.

We are willing to spend on unproven and, worse, disproven preventive measures and so-called cures, perhaps the only country that requires citizens to be both masked and shielded indoors and outdoors. We wear air purifiers and ultraviolets gadgets like anting-anting, Covid times’ amulets and talismans. We are willingly gullible, following the most unscientific advisories floating around from instant experts in government and the private sector; I just received a circular from one of our subdivisions, a page of rules issued by the local government for construction projects, supplemented by two pages from the subdivision, requiring tests and temperature scans, sanitizers and disinfectants and, something called stomp pads, which does not exist in any of the English dictionaries I consulted American, British, even Australian. But I figured what it was a new name for the useless, even dangerous foot mats. Stomp pads, I laughed, someday we will be laughed at for our naivete, thinking we could protect ourselves by stomping on the virus.

We live in illiberal times, our Covid times becoming one long dark night of the generals who call the shots with their war metaphors and tactics, deploying armored personnel carriers, police in camouflage uniforms with long arms, in the world’s longest lockdown, that offers our young and the elderly as sacrificial lambs by keeping them sequestered. Never mind keeping them out of the malls, but allow them sunlight, exercise, fresh air and the blue skies. Enough with the complicated and punitive alphabet soup of community quarantines, the euphemism for lockdowns: G, M, E, the last now polysemic, meaning enhanced, extended or possibly eternal.

We live in illiberal times in the sense that we have allowed ourselves to be overcome by irrational fear, willing to sacrifice our freedoms, forgetting what we have learned from our general education (GE), a term I feel should be phased out and more clearly stated in favor of the liberal arts, to be taught, to be learned with pleasure and pride.

Liberal arts, from the Latin ars liberalis, the skills needed for the free, and let us not call these western because these arts are to be found in different civilizations, East and West helping to propagate the other, even preserved and defended as was the case of Greek and Roman classics, translated, expanded by the Islamicate at a time when Europe was in the throes of tribal wars.

True, the liberal arts were especially nurtured in European universities because of notions of academic freedom, first proposed by the university in Bologna and designed to protect the many scholars who traveled to teach and to learn, and to be shielded from threats of intolerant clergy as well as politicians.

The liberal arts, too, became the fertile grounds for humanist thinking to take shape and find its way into the realm of politics, the rise of republics and the notions of the individual with rights, and of freemen, first white propertied male landowners but which have expanded, with varying degrees of progress, into our 21st century.

Covid, sadly, has made us fear the humanist ideals and freedom, Hannah Arendt’s totalitarian temptation still present as we leave our fate to populist leaders. Our fears have driven us, ironically, to seek refuge in the fear-mongers.

What is alarming too is that the longer the pandemic stretches out, the more dependent we become on illiberal regimes. There are emerging voices about Covid-19 staying with us in the long term, thriving on inequities most dramatically demonstrated in the vaccination programs. Forget herd immunity for now, we are told, a term I never liked because it reduces us into herds to be rounded up.

Covid has exposed all the fault lines of our times but our illiberal times often make us censor ourselves, making us fearful of talking about the inequities that have allowed the virus to race through poor communities, about the almost nonexistent public health care system which would have increased our chances of survival. Silent too we are about how decades of neglect of our educational system and, yes, the liberal arts, have made us so vulnerable to Covid’s vicious advance.

We must remind ourselves that liberal arts have been very much a part of our educational system even during the last half of the 19th century when liberal Spanish governor generals and administrators, as well as religious institutions, did encourage the liberal arts and while its reach was small, it did create a functionally literate population and undoubtedly fired the imagination of future reformers and revolutionaries.

When the Americans aborted Asia’s first republic, they built on the existing liberal arts education but gave it an American cachet.

Thanks to a UP Catalogue of 1912, available online in the University of Michigan’s files, I can take you on a trip back to May 1913, when we can imagine an excited “barkada” of young high school graduates preparing to take the admission examinations for UP, scheduled June 16 to 21, 1913. Students were not going to take one half-day exam as it has been in recent times. Instead, they would have agreed to the required entrance subjects of English, History, Mathematics, Latin, Physics and botany or general biology for a total of 11 units. In addition, they were to choose addition subjects equivalent to 4-1/2 units, their choice being colonial history, government, zoology, chemistry, solid geometry, plane trigonometry, French, German, advanced Latin or Spanish.

The breadth of the entrance exams speak of an educational system that most probably prepared students, at the high school level. The UP Catalogue described what had to be mastered for the entrance exams.

For English, besides being tested on spelling, punctuation, grammar, idiomatic use of words, students need to have read “Silas Marnes and one of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, besides The Lady of the Lake, Sohrab and Rustum, Ode to Duty, the Gettysburg Address, Macaulay’s Essays on Johnson.

For history, students have to know world history and US history. No Philippine history. Colonial history is an elective: “a brief, concise summary of the history of colonization in ancient and modern times; the colonial possessions of great modern colonizing nations.”

The section on mathematics is intimidating, warning about where the most students failed: “They can not perform the ordinary operations of algebra either rapidly or accurately, they do not know the theory of quadratic equations, thy are lost among trigonometric formulas, and they blunder when they use logarithms”

For Latin, students are advised to read, among others, Cicero and Virgil. For Spanish, students are reminded they need to be able “to render into good English of from 200 to 250 pages of graduated texts”.

The science entrance requirements included submission of laboratory notebooks used in high school (to be returned after evaluation). Note that for botany, this included an herbarium of fifty species or more and for zoology, fortunately an elective, a collection of at least 200 species of insects and of 100 species belonging to classes other than insects.

After we regained independence, UP formalized the first GE program during the time of Vidal Tan, a mathematician and engineer who correctly saw the liberal arts as the natural and social sciences, and the arts and humanities. Since then we have revised the GE program two more times, the most recent one in 2019-2020.

For decades we had Colleges of Liberal Arts, later renamed in Diliman to the College of Arts and Sciences, which in 1983 was divided into CAL, CSSP and CS. The core of GE has been diluted through the years although, thankfully, we saw too a proliferation of GE course electives, often tied to particular degree programs.

We recognize the dangers of the many academic silos that divide even colleges and departments and speak of the need for multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches and, for this conference, we use interdisciplinarity. We pride ourselves in the number of GE courses that are available but that alone, I must point out, is not interdisciplinarity. The test of interdisciplinarity comes with the numbers of engineering and science students who are motivated enough to take GE electives in the social sciences and humanities. . .and viceversa.

I have helped to design, and to teach GE courses since 1984 when I first joined UP’s faculty, and have found joy in students coming from all over Diliman, and sometimes from other units. These GE classes with a mix of students have always been the most lively, sometimes even combative.

Interdisciplinarity should not be limited to undergraduate GE courses. I find the greatest fulfillment handling classes in the Tri-College PhD Philippine Studies program, where again students come from different backgrounds. We should be proud of similar programs in the UP System, such as the tri-campus professional degree for. . .

Our Covid times make it imperative that we examine our own offerings, and dialogue with the other disciplines to bring in additional knowledge and skills that they might integrate into their courses.

Let me give some examples:

Our anthropology department, biocultural in its scope, has exposed us to interdisciplinarity. One of our GE courses, formerly a general anthropology subject, is called Bodies, Senses and Humanity, allowing students to look at their bodies to index their lives, their identity and then explore bodies as citizenship, civil society and civility, in communities and ethnicities and faith-based groups, in nationhood.

Some of our faculty have taught in one required GE course, Science, Technology and Society, under the College of Science but one of the most important niches in terms of forging a powerful interdisciplinarity. I think back too, with some sadness, of how our 7-year Intarmed program, straight from high school into college leading to an MD, actually started out as a medical humanities program but changed its character away from the humanities.

As a clinical professor in the UP College of Medicine, I still get opportunities to lecture to the medical students on social medicine, and we do have a graduate program in medical anthropology, with students from all over the health professions, as well as the social sciences, learn to appreciate the interface of the social and the medical.

After I finished my chancellorship, I agreed to step back into one of my previous lives: veterinary medicine, participating in a team that teaching in a GE course there VMed 101, Animal Welfare. The course is taken mainly by veterinary medicine majors but also has a few non-majors who, I hope, will realize that humans too are part of the animal kingdom. A module on anthrozoology, exploring the relationships between humans and non-human animals, startles the students and fellow faculty, as I share how UP Diliman built a program to train emotional support animals, who go on special 24/7 duty during midterms and finals, available for students, and the occasional faculty, needing to hug a dog or cat.

My modules end with Covid-19 used as a case study on the threats of future pandemics that will, inevitably, emerge from the absence of a One Health approach that considers human health, veterinary health and environmental health, in so many words, the need for interdisciplinarity to consider all creatures, great and small.

Our team had two sections with 140 students, an ordeal when it came to reading through essays but there was joy as well, amid the lockdown and challenges of online learning, the student essays animated, showing, as GE courses should, that the discussions were evocative of their lives. I smiled reading one student’s report on how she conducted a small experiment of drawing circles to see if cats would sit in them, something I had mentioned in class after seeing a photograph in the Star of a vegetable vendor in Quezon City who had painted circles to guide physical distancing, and cats ended up taking over. I suggested to the DOH that the cats in their circles could be used for public education campaigns: Kung kaya ng mga pusa, di lalo pa ang mga tao.

Evocative, and provocative, that’s what the liberal arts should be. I was able to smuggle the political into the VMed 101 course, pointing out how our nonhuman animals insinuate themselves all the tim into the arts and humanities. For a sample, I had them read Alan Jazmines’ subversive poem written in 1986, “When the Zoo Took Part in the Elections”.

The liberal arts, liberalism, are feared because they are subversive yes, questioning convention. We saw during the lockdown the red-baiting against UP, expanded now many state universities and colleges, local city colleges, the private sector. The red-baiting has been unrelenting, seeing red in any kind of dissent and, lately, in any effort to help out the poor and the marginalized, whose
ranks have swelled during the pandemic.

This is where we return to my point about living in extraordinarily illiberal times, a fear of freedom and of alternative views, of a willingness to listen to diverse viewpoints and perspectives other than our own. Universities in particular need that diversity, and dialogue. When I entered UP in 1971, I had already finished two years in Jesuit universities, one here and one in the States, but I marveled at a UP where the liberal arts was pervasive, in classrooms and out, and especially our main library, which at that time still carried the best publications from the Philippines and the world.

Only recently did I learn, from a history of the university, that much of what the library was came from the efforts of Gabriel A. Bernardo , who was the university librarian from 1924 to 1957, was one of the early Filipino scholars sent to the States and, later to Germany, but got his master’s in English and bibliography (yes there was such a program) in UP.

It was also in this history where I read about the involvement of students, faculty and staff in the resistance against the Japanese, many sacrificing their lives. Among members of the underground was Gabriel Bernardo who kept with his work at the library but provided liaison with the underground to provide safe places for those who were fighting the Japanese.

Bernardo, I learned, was a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Would Bernardo have survived in UP, I thought, in our illiberal times. Note that after his retirement from UP, he was even able to go to serve Ateneo de Manila.

There is much that we need to think of for the time when we can come back to face-to-face classes and meetings. We must rethink the liberal arts, resume our work around the creation of academic minors to better prepare our graduates for the world out there.

Meantime, much can be done even through our online classes with our liberal arts program in these Covid times, new skills to be more discerning with social media for example. My dentist, whose daughter enters college this coming school year, frets about these lost years, lost in terms of socialization and I thought, as she drilled through one of my teeth, of learning to read people’s

In and out of the dental chair, I continue to dream of what can be in terms of 21st century liberal arts. Foremost, I continue with a particular advocacy started during my chancellorship and this is for physical education to be better developed as human kinetics or movement science, to be offered to majors and non-majors as credit courses, and to be part of the menu of liberal arts subjects so that we can say we truly care for the body, mind and spirit.

We as faculty, too, need to invoke our liberal arts training – perhaps we older ones were luckier to have been exposed to a blend of the west and the emerging nationalist emphasis on the local, of spec thought and “we thought” (Western Thought) and “spe thought” (Speculative Thought”, “Asian Civ” (Asian Civilization) and the late and not lamented enough Nat Sci (Natural Sciences) subjects.

We must help students through these times, marked by so much of unresolved anger, despair and grief. The liberal arts wait as a wellspring for solace. Read, we must remind them, and not webpages. The humanities and the arts, of our country, of Asia, of the world, offer much to revive numbed psyches, even while offering hard-nosed wisdom of the ages. Read and reread Camus’ The Plague as well as Rizal’s Treatment of the Bewitched for we are a nation bewitched, amid a

May I reiterate the need to address our fears, especially our fear of freedom. The liberal arts again, intertwined, offer besides solace, strength for the times. It is not enough to provide comfort we must empower, we must en-courage.

Tell our stories, our counter-narratives, of this Quincentennial, which should go beyond Lapu-lapu and commemorate instead the many heroines and heroes, sung but more importantly the still unsung, who resisted colonialism.

Think too of the important dates coming up: this year is the 20th anniversary of 9/11, which was one of the early excuses to plunge the world into illiberalism.

In December we mark the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, a time to speak of peace and the specter of new imperialist wars.

Let Pearl Harbor’s 80th anniversary be a time as well to put history right side up, including how MacArthur’s “I shall return” was much more of a farewell than a promise. We acted, we moved, we prepared the way for our liberation, as we had in relation to Spanish colonialism, American colonialism, the Marcos dictatorships and the resurgence of authoritarianism in our times.

Illiberal times are transforming education into a mechanical transmission of skills without thought, obliterating the public domain where our identities are supposed to be tempered: kapwa as self in others, building compassion in diversity and in inclusion.

Solace and strength from the liberal arts, now more than ever.

The third speaker is the current chancellor of UP Diliman, Professor Fidel R. Nemenzo.

UPD Chancellor and Professor Nemenzo discussing the importance of GE courses

I’ve had the pleasure recently to listen to the online GE conversations on innovations and adjustments that many of us have had to make in teaching our courses during the pandemic. We continue to learn from each other’s teaching practices amid these difficult times, ultimately as we think about what would benefit of our students but also how we ourselves could adapt and find ways to improve as teachers in the remote learning environment.

From the discussions we see how UP education is a combination of training in the disciplines with liberal education, as embodied in our GE program, which is holistic and integrative in orientation. As our students pursue their disciplinal expertise, specializing in their major subjects and electives, the UP GE program provides them with the larger view, allowing them to see the connections between disciplines, as well as with the rest of the world in all its complexities. An important goal is to develop in students the capacity for critical thinking- a habit of mind- with which we question assumptions, see connections, understand context, look at different perspectives, read between the lines, think out of the box, and consider the consequences of our thoughts and actions. The critical, agile mind is among many other vital tools that will help enable our students to, as the GE program mandates, “effectively address increasingly complex issues and challenges in the 21st century”.

I like how the Harvard GE task force puts it: “The aim of a liberal education is to unsettle presumptions, to defamiliarize the familiar, to reveal what is going on beneath and behind appearances, to disorient young people, and help them find ways to reorient themselves.”

I join this conversation today in order to address why GE is important in my own discipline, in the sciences. First of all, we need to dispel the myth that science is neutral. In fact, science and mathematics are adventures of the mind with real consequences. Science is vital across the disciplines; it is not just a collection of facts, but rather at its core, a way of thinking and dealing with the world. Science, through technology, bears an impact on society, particularly on culture, values, and institutions; these too, in turn, shape the development of science. Science also has context and is shaped by it: historical, cultural, social, and ethical. Our students need to be equipped with an understanding of science, its powers, as well as its dangers, when left unchecked.

There are a few occasions that come to mind when I think about the possibilities for interdisciplinarity for the sciences. One was forum we had at the College of Science 12 years ago, on the commemorate the 150th year of the publication of Charles’ Darwin’s The Origin of the Species. This was a cross-disciplinary symposium where we examined how Darwin’s ideas have shaped thinking within and beyond biology, including the controversies that these ideas have provoked, which in turn enriched discourse within and across disciplines. Our panelists came from diverse fields: Perry One from Biology, Michael Tan from Anthropology, Maris Diokno from History, and Raul Fabella from the School of Economics.

In November 2018, we commemorated the bicentennial anniversary of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein through a symposium on Literature, Science and Ethics. Again, an occasion of course for interdisciplinarity. Shelley’s 19th century pioneering sci-fi novel, which gave us one of the most iconic monsters in literature and film, anticipated 21st century issues: the body and human consciousness, biotechnology and human responsibility, robotics, artificial intelligence and the perils of science ungoverned by ethical norms.

These events and others like it allow us to share and debate ideas across different colleges, and are reminders that we belong to a community of scholars. We may come from different disciplines, but this community brings us together to explore the many ways in which our disciplines connect and interact.

The GE program has become all the more important in our current context of the pandemic. Within this environment of interdisciplinarity, we must also bear in mind how we as educators can encourage our students to “develop the ideals of humanism and nationalism (pagiging makatao at pagiging makabayan)”. Not only do we find ourselves in a rapidly changing world in the midst of emerging technologies, but our national and global situation requires citizens who can “take creative and constructive action that contributes to the improvement their community, the nation, and the world, based on a strong sense of their cultural and historical identity as well as a sense of a shared humanity”. We must foster an environment that provokes questions at the same time as they move our students to concrete action, especially amid the many injustices that still plague our own society. But this can only happen if we consistently find ways to connect and interact, reaching out to disciplines outside of our own not only during these trying times of the pandemic, but even beyond the remote learning environment.

It is definitely a combined effort across disciplines to ensure that the GE program continues to provide students with the necessary tools for the future, so that they can offer viable solutions to our problems and help bring us closer to that still elusive and complicated path to the “next normal”.

Last but not the least is the speech of University Professor and Professor Emeritus Gemino H. Abad. His speech is about the nature of language, or what is it “to write”.

The Nature of Language or, What IS IT “to write”?

By University Professor Emeritus Gemino H. Abad

University Professor and Professor Emeritus Abad reflecting on the nature of language

When one tries to put into words one’s experience of living his own life, one soon realizes his spirit’s deepest yearning is for a meaningful life, and all his words cry out for more light. All he has are his words which from childhood have shaped his consciousness – the same words which also voice his own community’s consciousness of their “world” or “reality”; and when he writes, he makes his own clearing in that consciousness, for there the very words themselves have other depths and echoes of meaning through all his comm-unity’s ever-changing history and culture. (Note: Language, generally, is any means/medium of expression or communication: e.g., in painting, realistic or abstract, the medium is line, color, perspective. English experience comes from Latin experientia, “act of trying,” experiri, to try; akin to Latin periculum, “attempt; danger, peril.”)

To write is to weave again one’s own sense/consciousness of what is real, what is true; what is right and just. Note: text, whether speech or script, is from Latin, texere, “to weave”; and the word consciousness is kindred of conscience: our sense of what is good and bad. Our consciousness is our psyche: self or being, heart and mind, spirit (in Greek, psychē is “breath, principle of life, soul”). When we reflect, we become quiet as we listen to our own spirit speak to us.

Writing is both trial and agony (from Greek, agon: contest, struggle), where Language is the Muse and Imagination, the spirit-guide. For what one writes is not so much written in as wrought from a given language. Language is a given: a gift, blessing, grace. It is our Imagination’s finest in-vention (found within our consciousness), and supreme, for without it, we would have no memory, no history, no culture, no civilization. Language and Imagination are one. Since words are abstractions, concepts (translations of what the mind perceives, what the heart feels), we need to imagine what they express. (Note: To translate is to carry or ferry across the void of meaninglessness or the space between languages.) To think well is to imagine well: the words evoke an image, the image lights up its meaning. It is the Imagination makes real to the mind what the mind sees or intuits in Reality (Nature, Creation: Mystery); and Memory is Imagination’s heartland. (Note again: In our science’s “chaos theory,” Reality is One: all things somehow interweave. Mystery, Greek mystērion, from mystēs, “initiate’: so, the day one is born, one is initiated into Mystery.) All great thinkers, scientists, artists, leaders are men and women of keen mind and vigorous imagination.

Without imagination, there is no thinking nor intuition beyond concept. “Concepts without intuition are empty,” says Immanuel Kant, “intuitions without concept are blind” (in Critique of Pure Reason). Perhaps, all knowing is intuitive: if so, then concept which translates into language is what intuition may bear. It may also be that concept is at the heart of language, and intuition, at the core of concept: “Nor mouth had, no nor mind expressed / What heart heard of, ghost guessed,” says Gerard Manley Hopkins, in his poem, “Spring and Fall: To a Young Child.”

In conclusion: To write is to affirm what one’s own spirit tells one. We are our words, and all our words speak true. “A rose is a rose is a rose,” says the poet Gertrude Stein. Only the liar ab-uses, corrupts language, and so, degrades his own nature and deceives himself and others as well. So then, if the nature/being of language is truth-saying, then our human nature is truth-seeker. The authentic human is the man of his word. The word (in our human reality) is our way, our truth, our life.

The full plenary conversation and the speeches can be viewed here: