A few weeks ago, I had the enjoyment of actively participating in a special session of the Council of Higher Education. The purpose was to discuss a formidable research statement Higher Education in Puerto Rico: Toward a Vision of the Future. A Base Document. This profound work was sponsored by the Council and was led and coordinated by a distinguished steering team, composed of excellent intellectuals and academicians such as Juan R. Fernández, Carmen Collazo, Waldemiro Vélez, Pedro Subirats, Sandra Espada, Gloria Dávila and Eduardo Aponte. This outstanding team worked very hard for the past four years approaching different groups throughout the entire island, and integrating perspectives in a coherent and researched base expression. The meeting of that day was an intellectual feast, and an example of civic virtue, empathy and solidarity.
The addressed topics were diverse and included issues of growth, diversification, legitimacy, ethics, knowledge, teaching, research, technology and finance, among others. Within the topic of ethics in higher education institutions professor Pedro Subirats made an active and superb presentation, as well as the others.
Professor Subirats made a convincing and philosophical expression on the importance of treating people as people, and being well disposed toward them. What makes life human is what goes on in human company: speaking with others, agreeing with them or arguing with them, being respected or being betrayed, loving, making plans, remembering the past, constructing the future, facing challenges, organizing common pursuits, playing and exchanging symbols.
Education, then, is a life-long learning process on how to live a human life, among human beings, and live it well. If we don`t know enough about how to confront natural dangers in order to survive, we may lose our lives, which is a mayor disaster; but if we have no idea about humanism, we will miss altogether what is human in our lives and in the lives of others, a fate that has no appeal what so ever. So, the question is always one of developing and showing compassion, to feel sympathy for the troubles, sufferings and needs of others, accompanied by an urge to help…
The greatest advantage we can draw from our fellows is not the acquisition of more things or power over more people to treat as things or instruments; it is the shared understanding of other free spirits, which means also the expansion and reinforcement of the quality of our own hearts and humanity.
To be rat or to be human? An interesting question. A rat asks, what will happen to me?, while a human asks, what will I do? The rat wants all others to love him so as to be able to love himself, while a human loves himself and so is able to love all others. A rat will do anything at all to others to prevent them from doing something to him, while a human believes that any benefit he brings to others benefit himself. When we do harm to others the first person to be harmed is our own self. The more courageous we are, the less servile.
Having empathy towards the other, putting yourself in another`s person place, means taking the other person seriously, allowing him as much reality as you claim for yourself. To understand completely what another person may want of you, you have to love them a little, even if it is only loving them for what they represent, that is, their humanity. That small but most important gesture of love, empathy or compassion can never be demanded from you by any imposed law.
Contrary to a rat, a human who lives well must be capable of empathic action, or just compassion. Thanks, Pedro Subirats.
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