Monday, July 23, 2012

Magical Mind

The following address was delivered by Margarita Ventenilla-Hamada, Founder/Directress, Harvent Schools, Dagupan City & Lingayen, Pangasinan, on the occasion of their 
Achievers' Day, April 3 & 5, 2008:


       Let me start my talk with an analogy that I picked up from my readings: I am like a pencil maker, and you, my dear graduates, are the pencils, ready to do what I have designed you to do. Unbeknownst to many, I have a formula that made you into magic pencils, not ordinary ones. Now, before I send you off into the world outside Harvent School, I have to remind you of three important things:

       First- Because you are like pencils, everything you do will always leave a mark, but fortunately, you have a built-in eraser. You can always correct your mistakes and learn from them. This is easy. You've been doing this since Day One in Harvent. This is why you are not afraid to make mistakes. This is also the reason why you do not laugh at people who make mistakes because you know that mistakes are your stepping-stones to mastering important skills- in school, and in life.

       Second- What is important is what is inside you. All pencils have lead inside them, but since you are magic pencils, the stuff inside you is not a noun that rhymes with the word, 'dead' but a verb -lead. It rhymes with the word, 'succeed'. Having instilled in you the habit of reading and learning for the sheer joy it brings and not for any shallow, childish reason-- like besting your classmates, I have high expectations that you will use this stuff inside you to the max, and become indeed leaders and problem-solvers.

       Third- You will have to sharpen yourselves constantly to retain your magic. By sharpening, I mean un-learning. Now don't get me wrong. I don't mean for you to unlearn the skills you mastered, for skills like reading, communicating and reckoning are permanent or indelible. They cannot be unlearned, especially if you are lucky enough to enroll in a high school that will fine- tune these skills. But I have to tell you that most high schools and universities teach information and myths and inflict these on you as being the truth and nothing but! Or, just as bad, the stories they call myths may be true and tell you they’re fairy tales...and persecute you if you happen to be sharp enough to see through them and denounce them for what they really are. Well, just pretend to absorb them so you can get that diploma and that degree. Memorize those information if you must, and pretend to accept those shallow insights so you will pass those exams. But keep sharpening your minds so you can puncture those myths, even those you had swallowed accidentally along the way. This means, never hesitate to challenge major accepted opinions--in private. But when very necessary, for the good of society, publish your insights, the noise it may cause notwithstanding.

       Ordinary people cling to accepted mind-sets, and never bother to wonder if they happen to be wrong. This is because ordinary people marvel at the unusual, not at the usual, at the abnormal, not at the normal. But people with magical minds do the opposite. They marvel at the ordinary, not at the extraordinary. Out of the magical minds of these people came forth wonderful ideas that have enlightened us about the workings of the universe and our place and role in it.

       An apple fell on Isaac Newton one afternoon, as he napped under that tree. A falling apple is such an ordinary sight, that people did not stop to look and ponder about it. But Newton did just that. He stopped to ponder why it fell and wondered what mysterious force had made it fall. He dared to ask what nobody cared to ask before- Could this mysterious force that made this apple fall be the same force that keeps the moon, the sun and the stars stay in their places in the sky so they do not fly off to space? His question led to the discovery of gravity and to our better understanding of force and motion.

       Albert Einstein was yet another person who invested time wondering why ordinary things are the way they are. People took for granted that water, when heated, turns to vapor or gas, and when cooled, turns to ice. They also took for granted that electric power, or energy can turn into heat, light and sound. But not Einstein. Like Newton, he had a magical mind, so his interest lay in observing the ordinary, not the extraordinary. and so he asked this question about a very ordinary thing- water: If matter, like water, can change forms from gas to liquid to solid, and energy can change forms from heat to light to sound, could matter and energy be one and the same thing in two forms? That question, which was just as devastatingly simple as Newton's, led to the discovery of atomic and thence, nuclear energy, which, depending on how it is harnessed, can give us a taste of heaven or hell at the flick of a switch.

       I may sound immodest when I say that I think I have some of that magic in me. But I'll say it anyway. I think I have. That magic enabled me to look hard at a usual practice in our society and to marvel at it. I saw how parents tutor their children at home and asked myself why they have to do so when the school they pay is supposed to do this job. It never occurs to these parents to ask this question and challenge this long-accepted practice that worked against common sense and their well-being. But it occurred to ME. It was I who asked the question that gave birth to Harvent School- the school that produces magic pencils like you, year after year without your parents' intervention.

       So, my dear pupils, remember to sharpen the lead inside you so you won't ever lose your magic. You can do this by getting into the habit of looking hard at generally accepted opinions and ways of doing things and asking yourselves why they are so. If you do, your thoughts will run deep and produce life-transforming miracles for yourselves and society. You may or may not be hailed as great (I know you wouldn't mind that because I made sure you never fell into the habit of doing things in pursuit of applause.) In fact, you may even be persecuted, like some magical-minded men we know- Galileo, Jose Rizal and Mahatma Gandhi. BUT this is what I can assure you: you will not suffer the terrible fears of the weak- the ignorant and the ordinary. Unlike them, you will not endanger and/or impoverish yourselves running after foolish dreams and cheap values, and you will not die from their illnesses and their peristent sense of worthlessness. Then you will make a second great discovery. Already, you have made your first great discovery in Harvent School- that learning is so much fun. But even more fun than learning, you will soon discover, if you heed my advice, is unlearning. If you master this skill, you would live the life of the empowered, the truly blessed among us.

       My dear pupils and their parents, distinguished guests, members of my staff, my dear friends- always remember that each of us is a pencil purposely made to leave a mark in its path. Let us inspire one another to make that mark that of a magic pencil--a question mark- simple, innocent and profound. Let us keep on leaving question marks in our journey through life, so the world, suffused with the magic of our minds, will rise above all perils that confront it.

       Congratulations and God bless us all! Thank you very much

(Harvent School is a non-graded, competition-free school that delivers mastery of the 3 Rs via its personalized system of instruction, without homework & the harmful effects of reward and punishment. Its 2 campuses offer Pre-school & Grade school courses in fully air-conditioned classrooms.)    
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