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[Photo of Efren Penaflorida]One of Jean-Paul Sarte's most famous lines is 'Hell is the Other.' Hopefully, we will spend Valentine's with a heavenly, rather than hellish, significant other!

Contrast this with the Golden Rule, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you' or, more pointedly, the Jesuit ideal of becoming a 'Man for Others.' Thus, while we are, or should be, fully in control of our self, in our day-to-day lives we have to deal with others. There are several 'others' we have to consider, some more significant than, well, others.

After the romance of Valentine's Day, national elections loom and love of country comes to the fore. Several years ago, Kim JaeYoun wrote an essay about the Philippines. He starts with "Do you really think the corruption is the problem of the Philippines? I do not think so. I strongly believe that the problem is the lack of love for the Philippines."

When we hear election promises and motherhood statements, we often have to listen carefully to determine if the candidate has love of country at heart. This because, without a genuine love for others, even the best political intentions can and do go astray.

We have to watch out, not only for graft and corruption, but also for the kind of conceit and arrogance that leads to Ampatuan. Self-confidence and a self-assured demeanor are good, but watch those egos!

Selflessness does not necessarily mean self-effacement, yet we often equate sincerity with humility. In today's political arena, the attitude of quiet, understated self-sacrifice would be somewhat counter-productive.

As in show business, the candidates must constantly call attention to themselves. There is no such thing as bad publicity and sound bites rule. So listen carefully. Who are those who truly serve and whom do they serve?

Assessments and expectations of our leaders are all well and good, yet JaeYoun continues with a critical call for personal responsibility and action. He writes, "I am sure that love is the keyword which Filipinos should remember. We cannot change the sinful structure at once. It should start from person."

When our cynicism threatens to overshadow our lives, it is refreshing to meet and appreciate many otherwise ordinary people who give much more of themselves to their jobs, their communities, to causes and principles.

A few will eventually be recognized, as was Efren Peñaflorida (CNN's Hero of the Year.) Fortunately, he is not alone and there are many more who remain unknown while persistently engaging in random acts of selfless kindness; just helping a bit, doing what they can no matter how small or insignificant the effect or context.

There are several types of love or caring. They are characterized by a concern that goes beyond mere self-gratification, and all involve varying degrees and types of selflessness.

The paramount example would be in the Gospel of John, "For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son." Whether you're Christian or not, whether one even believes in a Supreme Being, the very idea that an omnipotent being would offer such a sacrifice is well worth considering.

Finally, JaeYoun, who recently wed before Christmas, looks to the future. Says he, "If you have a child, teach them how to love the Philippines. Teach them why they have to love their neighborhood and country. You already know that God also will be very happy if you love others."

What, after all, is our raison d'etre? Eat, sleep, procreate? Plant a tree, write a book, and have sons?

Would you be satisfied if you simply had as many offspring as a rabbit, were alpha wolf of a big pack, and could preen like a peacock? Then if and when you have children, would this be enough? How exactly would you raise them, what would you like to pass on to the future?

If there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?—Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn

Print ed: 01/10


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