Sunday, January 17, 2016

José Rizal; in whose image?

Some folks find themselves in less than perfect circumstances, and they rise up to be perhaps larger than life.  Such was José Rizal who struggled with political and religious oppression under colonial rule.  He was a world changer.

In response to a narrow, lifeless religious rule, "No, let us not make God in our image, poor inhabitants that we are of a distant planet lost in infinite space.  However brilliant and sublime our intelligence may be, it is scarcely more than a small spark which shines and in an instant is extinguished, and it alone can give us no idea of that blaze, that conflagration, that ocean of light.  I believe in revelation, but in that living revelation which surrounds us on every side, in that voice, mighty, eternal, unceasing, incorruptible, clear, distinct, universal as is the being from whom it proceeds, in that revelation which speaks to us and penetrates us from the moment we are born until we die.  What books can better reveal to us the goodness of God, His love, His providence, His eternity, His glory, His wisdom?  ‘The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork."  --  José Rizal, more than a century ago.  

José Rizal was a doctor, a prolific writer, and a key voice in the emergence of the Philippines as a nation.  Rizal challenged political norms and aggressively advocated freedom of speech and assembly for the Filipino people.  For his writings, he was prosecuted by the Spanish colonial authorities, both governmental and church, as an inciter of rebellion.  He was executed, and the Philippine Revolution exploded immediately after his death.  

His books, poems and plays are seen as powerfully influential both at home and abroad, inspiring change for freedom and liberty, for education and opportunity, a grand vision indeed.  His first book Noli Me Tángere was initially banned by colonial authorities, but copies were smuggled into the Philippines.  A poem he wrote shortly before his death was later recited by Indonesian soldiers before going into battle for their own independence. 

Monuments in his honor stand in more than a dozen cities around the world including Manila, San Diego, Chicago, Madrid, Lima, and Hong Kong.  Nearly every town and city in the Philippines has a street named after Rizal.  He was thirty-seven.

Curious what triggered Rizal?  He read Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.