Integractive Sciences: A New Humanization

I strongly believe that one of the deepest problems of the education of our times is its lack of integractive sciences. But before writing about that, let’s clarify what I mean with “integractive sciences.”

Integractive sciences are the sciences of the person: the sciences that study the persons and how they become who they are and who they are called to be. The integractive sciences integrate three faculties: Education, Social Sciences and Humanities, including arts and theology.

Why I call the studies of these faculties “integractive sciences”? Because they can’t follow the method of the natural sciences, so used to “dissect” what it studies. The persons cannot be “dissected”: they must be studied as they integrate, act, realize and project themselves; they must be studied “integractively”. The word “integration” is the union of the concepts “integration”, “action”, “realization” and “projection”, the four phases of integraction as model of human formation.

May be is necessary to redefine a little bit what we call “scientific method”, giving the space to create an “integractive method” as “scientific method” for integractive sciences. The fact is that we cannot pretend to understand the person by “dissecting” his nature, as natural sciences tend to do. We can only understand and study the person with the union of humanities, social sciences and humanities, all together. This requires an “integractive” approach. We cannot keep these faculties separated, proposing that the person is something in one of them and then proposing another thing in the other faculty. They must be integrated because that is how the human person grows: integractively.

Does this means that other sciences and faculties, like natural sciences, health sciences, law, business… are not needed to understand how the person integrates, acts, realizes and projects? I do not mean that exactly. Integractive sciences and natural sciences complement each other. The application of natural sciences, health sciences and any other science is necessary to understand certain aspects of personal growth, but the essential sciences to understand how the person become who he is and who is called to be are the integractive sciences. For example: you can apply natural sciences to the study of the person, but you can’t understand the person through natural sciences by its own.

This had been one of the hugest mistake of our times: reducing the study of the person to the application of natural sciences, or aiming to study integractive sciences with the same method of natural sciences, “dissecting” the integraction of the human person, and so reducing the human identity to “social constructs”, for example. This must change. The human person must be understood “integractively” in order to embrace our identity as we grow more fully humanely.

Our schools are depleted with natural sciences, but the only integractive science that is usually taught is history. That’s a problem. We cannot be surprised that our students get bored in schools that do not help them to understand better who they are, how they grow as persons, and how they are called to be: better human beings everyday. We need to connect what they learn with a better personal growth and a better world. Only through teaching integractive sciences we can aim to build a society for peace, where everyone treats each other as human being and as brother, serving the common good and avoiding all kinds of dehumanization that are destroying today’s world. It is time to propose the creation of schools specialized in integractive sciences, where technology and natural sciences, among other disciplines, are applied to the study of the person.

Weeks ago, I read a quote from Nelson Mandela that I do not remember literally right now, but it proposed that if hate can be learned, love can be learned too. Let’s paraphrase that quote: If dehumanization can be learned, humanity and human rights can be learned too. We can learn how to grow until become the best person we can be. We can only create peace if we learn how to help everyone to grow as the best persons they can be. I call this “new humanization”: an integractive conception of how to become the best persons we can be as human beings. Noticed that I didn’t say “to become the best persons we can be as republicans”, or as democrats, or as homosexual, or as conservative…No: I said “as human beings.

We need a new humanization. We need to learn how to see each other first and foremost as human beings, as brother called to grow together. We are not our genders. We are not our political affiliation. We are not our sexual orientation. We are human beings, called to be loved and to grow unconditionally in fraternity, justice and peace.

There is a wonderful world in taino language, “goeiz”, that means “the spirit of a living person.” We must aim to embrace the spirit of a living person, the spirit of a person that is human and keeps growing as better human being everyday. This is also part of living the Christian faith: “The glory of God is the human person is fully alive” (St. Irenaeus).

We can only keep our students engaged with their education by teaching them how to apply what they are learning to their own human growth; by helping them to be, to do, to grow and to radiate as the best persons they can be. The opposite is dehumanizing them. We cannot keep dehumanizing our society through a dehumanizing education, an education that focus more on ideologies than in the human being and personal growth. We need to search together new ways and paths to create a more human world, a world where everyone can understand how they grow as persons, how to become the best persons they can be, and how to find the tools and resources needed to be able to do so. We need to teach that a human being can never be treated as an object, or as a mean, or reduced through dehumanization, through the ideological laceration of his human identity.

Together, we can make that possible. Together, we can make possible a more human world for everyone.

Let’s keep growing!

A Better World…

Today I am going to write about something that will deeply influence my teaching style as teacher and public server: human rights. First I am going to write about the experience of being completely conscious while my human rights are fragrantly violated, giving concrete examples of those violations. Then I will write about how I am enduring it and how I am able to stand a situation like this one. Finally, I will write about how it will influence my teaching style from now on.

Through these last weeks I has discovered many things that I was unaware of. I discovered many of them suddenly, others through contemplation in prayer. I can’t tell them all in a single text, but one of the discoveries I have made is that my human rights had been, and are being, fragrantly violated. I am being subject of cruel treatment. I am being subject of torture. I am being subject of ideological persecution. These are not easy affirmations to make, especially when they involve collaboration of your own “family”, but reality must be faced.

Let’s begin with the beginning. What is a human right? A human right is “a right that is believed to belong justifiably to every person.” In words of United Nations, “Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.  Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has 30 articles.

In my own words, human rights are rights that belong to all persons unconditionally. They are not negotiable. They are not respected only in those people who believe what you believe or only in those people who stand your own ideology. Governments and public servers are entitled to guarantee that these rights are respected always.

Which violations of human rights I have endured? I will write examples.

Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person: I have been made believe that my live is in danger many times, through many different methods, and that is both against the security of person and against the right to life. These methods require coordination, resources and collaboration of many people, I am not talking about an isolated initiative. I am being exposed to certain set of sounds or images in wherever place I go, including “medical appointments” (I wouldn’t call them exactly “medical appointments” but torture, but I will talk about that later…), in order to try to control my freedom of movement and to make me believe that I have a psychiatric disorder. I have been exposed to sounds to interrupt my sleep many, many, many times, and that is against the right to life.

Article 9. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile: I still remember one of the times I was forced by the police to undergo psychiatric treatment. He did not allow me 30 minutes to finish what I was doing and gather all my things, telling me that “he did not had the time to wait, he needed to go and help more people.” Obviously, he was playing with my Twitter username, “helping to grow” (that has happened many, many, many times, specially among public servers and doctors who insist me when they are forcing me to undergo psychiatric treatment that “they only want to help me”).

I have been subject of arbitrary detention, using judicial orders that are based in manipulations of reality, by police at least three times. Police officers went inside my room, forced me to get out when I was actually being abused mentally and emotionally and I was not able to recognize it, and made me choose between jail or psychiatric treatment.

Article 10. Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him: When a tribunal insists in forcing you to seek psychiatric treatment (I have lost the count of how many times I have been hospitalized by force by the tribunal of Toa Alta, but they are around 5, and still counting…) when the real problem is the manipulation of reality and the abuse of your parents, evidently the tribunal is not impartial but part of the ideological persecution. This is especially true when your parents use the tribunal orders to try to medicate you by force, and when you are not able to defend yourself because the Government doesn’t provide you a free layer to defend yourself and you don’t have the money to hire one.

Article 12. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks: All that I am living began with the interference with my privacy. Those who are around me were accessing my thoughts and my writings through my computers and devices for years without I being able to notice. When I finally was able to notice it, I was made believe that I had a psychiatric disorder in order to not daring to denounce it publicly for fear of a forced hospitalization or to not being believed by the competent authorities. Last time I went to seek help, a few week ago to the police in Miami, I was told that I only needed to “take my meds”. I never received help of any Government authority in order to stop this interference with my privacy. My correspondence has been opened without my consent many, many, many times, and I have missed many letters too.

Article 17. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property: I have missed the count of how many things I have lost in my “own room”. My security card is not where I left it, my passport card is not where I left it, my Puerto Rican and USA flags disappeared… Through the years I have lost many, many, many things believing that the problem was me. Now I finally realize that the problem was not me in most of the cases.

Article 18. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance: Besides article 5, this is the article that has been violated most deeply. Everything that has been done, all the torture, all the privacy interferences, all the manipulations of reality, even the false psychiatric diagnosis (there was an image of the Santiago’s Way, the place where I discovered my vocation, in the promotion of the place where my parents took me for treatment) has been done in order to undermine the truth of what I have contemplated in prayer and to manipulate what I contemplate in prayer or how I live my faith. This has been truly savage. I have never understood such obsessions in manipulating the prayers of someone else or in denying the faith practices of someone. The violations to this human right has been the core of all the human rights violations that I have endured and am enduring right now.

Article 19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers: When you are being threatened with a forced psychiatric hospitalization by many people, including doctors, if you say what you believe is the truth, evidently your freedom of expression is being violated. Also, the forced medications make me harder to write, so they also affect the freedom of expression.

Article 25. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control: Right now I had not been given money for food, medicines or anything else in two weeks. Why? I was threatened to not being given money for food, being left without car to going to mass, being left without internet to communicate… if I did not follow a psychiatric treatment. The psychiatric treatment is being forced in order to cover the truth about the violations of human rights and the abuse that is happening, and in order to avoid me to express myself freely.

Article 27. (1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author:  the ideological persecution has been of such magnitude that interferes with my right of freely participate in the cultural life that surrounds me. Manipulations of reality are constantly being created by many means. I will give an example of this. My parents leave the papers of my forced hospitalization and my medical plan card besides something with a Puerto Rican flag. Then, when I go to the medical office to the forced appointment, I find that a Puerto Rican flag is placed in the desk of the secretary that receives me to the office, that belongs to a government agency. Then you are being told in that office that you need to go to the office of Medicare in Toa Alta to seek a paper, and when you go there a person with a Puerto Rican flag is “casually” walking by when you arrive to office to seek the needed paper.

The only way to avoid that kind of manipulations of reality is avoiding cultural life until everything is publicly known and you can enjoy a home free of reality manipulations that manipulate your social and cultural life.

Also, everything has been done in order to avoid me to complete my painting, Iesu Amor, and the written works related to Jesus Charity.

Article 28. Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized: As I already wrote, the ideological persecution and the violations of human rights that I have endured has not been something of one person, or two, or three. Hundreds of persons are needed to do something like this. This has not happened only in Puerto Rico: it happened in Miami and even in the cruise ship I was forced to go. A corruption of this magnitude needs some sort of political support. The democratic order is being substituted by an ideological order, and that can’t be allowed to happen. Using fear to try to manipulate people and ideas is being a terrorist, and that can’t be allowed anywhere, especially in USA, the land of the free. It is my duty as citizen to denounce what I have endured in order to avoid anyone else to endure the same violations of human rights that I have endured for my faith.

You may realize that I skipped some articles of the Declaration of Human Rights. I skipped one in purpose: the article 5. The article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Now I realize that I have endured and am enduring torture. I will explain how.

First of all, what is torture? United Nations Convention Against Torture, in its article 1.1, defines “torture” as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

Manipulating reality in such way that you believe that you have a psychiatric disorder becomes torture when Government agencies complicitly help with the scheme. You just don’t create a psychiatric disorder manipulating the reality at home and in the social environments, although that already requires a lot of coordination and resources. Besides manipulating reality, you need a psychiatric medicine faculty that complies and participates in the manipulation of reality in order to diagnose the disorder and “certify” it officially. You need a tribunal that complies and participates in the manipulation of reality in order to force you to seek treatment for that disorder even when you know that everything has been made up and that you don’t need medications that cause you secondary effects that affect your written expression. You need a public agency that has doctors and personal complicit with the manipulation or reality… Why this is torture? Because it had been made with cooperation of public servers, a public university and public authorities. You are constantly treated as a mental patient and as a disabled in such way that, if you had not a clear vision of who you are and who you are called to be, you would lose your whole personality and your identity in the process. Yes, all this is a process of dehumanization, I am well aware of it.

Now, how I have endured everything? How I am enduring all this and still remain to be myself without fears? The answer is simple: God rescued me by making me able to contemplate Jesus Charity, the contemplation of His Love incarnated in Jesus that I painted in the painting Iesu Amor. I have truly discovered that Love is not an ideology: God is Love, and that truth has defined me in such way that no dehumanization process could harm me. I am a daughter of God, a beloved princess of Heaven, a human being in the process of becoming a work of Love. Through integraction I have deepened the nature of personal formation in ways that overcome my own intellectual capacity. When I developed integraction I was not aware of what was happening around me. It was God telling me: “this is the path you must follow in order to not dehumanize yourself, in order to become who you are called to be.” God has not left me alone. The presence of His Love has saved me from hate, cruelty and dehumanization. He is giving me the gift of forgiving everything and beginning a new life, leaving my sinful past behind.

I am so grateful of what I had been given the gift of share to the whole humanity (believe me, this will be publicly known, I contemplate it clearly…) that I would endure everything again just for the opportunity of telling the whole world: truly, God is Love, God saves, God loves you. I have no idea of why all this has been allowed by public agencies and authorities, but I am sure that everything is part of God’s will and that I am safe in His hands. Just for writing this blog post, I am exposed to being hospitalized by force again. I don’t care. I can’t avoid to share with the whole world the truth: God has saved me, God has forgiven me, and can forgive you too. He is waiting you eagerly with His tenderness to help you to grow and become the best person you can be. I am not denying the reality that surrounds me: my human rights are being violated and I am being tortured… but God’s Love is protecting me from all harm and all dehumanization. God is honoring my humanity in ways that I can only be grateful, because what I have contemplated and what I am contemplating can only be a grace. The reality of God’s Love embraces everything and heals everything, including violations of human rights and torture. The charity of Jesus makes all things anew and creates true peace. Evil never has the last word. God’s Love has it. Although I have written today about all the violation of human rights I have endured, it is also true (I contemplate it…) that I have encountered many angels in my way to whom I also owe my life, and to them I will be forever grateful.

How all this influences my teaching style? I have learned that besides teaching my students to radiate Love, teaching about human rights is necessary in order to help them to achieve the best personal formation possible. Human rights must be integrated in the curriculum in order to create better persons, better citizens and a better society… and eventually, a better world. Yes, a better world. We can’t conform with mediocrity and corruption. We need to aspire to a better world. That is what Jesus call us to do when He calls us to radiate His Love unconditionally and what we are called to do as public servers. We need to teach our students how to create a better nation, a better humanity, and I have learned that human rights are an essential part of that lesson.

Let’s keep growing…

Becoming a Work of Love

I wrote an essay today for the professional seminar of my teaching practicum. In this essay I am supposed to write about what I have learned through the teaching practicum, what are my strengths and weaknesses as a teacher, what are my expectations and projections as a teacher, and what I can give to my country and my people as a teacher. I usually share this kind of essays on Sundays, but because next Sunday I will not be able to share anything due being outside Puerto Rico (in Miami), I chose to share this essay today, the same day I wrote it. It may also be seen as a tribute for all the brave people who have given and are giving their lives to our country and to make our free growth possible, not only for those in the military, but also for all the citizens that strive a better growth and a better country for all.

Becoming a Work of Love 

What is the most important thing I have learned as a student teacher? That I am not only teaching students: I am teaching human beings. I am not only an ESL teacher: I am a public server whose being, action, realization and projection is a growth model for those who I teach. I have the capacity to create the change that my nation needs with my personal growth and my teacher’s lessons. As John. F. Kennedy said in his inaugural address: “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what can you do for your country.” I have discovered as a student teacher what I can do for my country as a fellow American and also as a Christian: creating a culture of sacramental Love, communicating humanity and affirming unconditionally the best growth possible for every person through helping to be, helping to do, helping to grow and helping to radiate everyone as the best person that each one can become; as a sacrament of God’s Love, capable of radiating that Love with his or her personal formation’s growth. As I taught my lessons as student teacher I learned to contemplate each student not only as a student and as a person, but as a human being in process of becoming a “work of Love,” a living sign of God’s Love. Every person is actually sacred and has the potentiality of becoming a sacrament of Love, and through my lessons I was able to learn a concrete way to honor that sacralization and sacramentalization as I served my students with ESL lessons.

How prepared I feel to teach? To be sincere with myself, I think that I have many things to learn yet, but I also think that that is part of my own process of becoming the best person and teacher I can be. I hope to find good mentors along the way for keep growing as a teacher until becoming the best teacher I can be.

What are my strengths? I think that my deepest strength is my formation in the Faculty of Humanities. That helps me to teach departing from the human being, not from the “curriculum”.  Let’s say this in other way: for me, integrating my student’s personal formation is an essential part of the curriculum. It works wonders as a class management technique too, although it was not my intention to use it that way. When students see that you care for them, respect them as persons and want to help them to become the best persons they can be, they get more engaged and get more conscious of the importance of learning how to control themselves and behave better. This is part of embracing learning as a personal formation process, not as an academic process or a mere information transmission process. I have learned that class management is not a matter of following rules in the first place but a matter of integrating humanity in the first place and then following rules.

In what areas I need improvement? My grammar teaching skills definitively need improvement. I have a lot of learning ahead about grammar. The root of this deficiency is that I am not good at grammar in my first language, Spanish, neither. It is very hard to me to define the form and understand the function of all words (I am very used to abduct those that I don’t know, and the abduction is usually right). However, I achiever to understand some terms that I was not able to understand before as I studied them for teaching them (for example: as easy as it seems, I just understood what is the progressive verb tense and how to difference it from the simple verb tense as I discussed them with my third graders). Other area where I need improvement is pronunciation, but this can be easily improved by moving to United States and talking English on a daily basis. How do I compensate these weaknesses? Mainly, through consulting grammar books for understanding better whatever I need to understand in order to teach it, and also through hearing music and movies in English. That helps me to get the correct pronunciation of words (I had never been able to learn pronunciation through the phonetic transcriptions of the words…).

What are my expectatives and projections? My expectative is to be an ESL teacher somewhere in the United States after finishing my master’s degree in Differentiated Education. I am thinking in a place that has a good teaching mentorship program, good integration of technology, decent teaching resources, some professional development time and a strong Latino population. A decent salary and patronal contribution to the Social Security (teachers in the public system in Puerto Rico doesn’t have Social Security contribution, and for me is very important to contribute to the Social Security, I believe it should be a duty for everyone in working age) would be a plus. My projection is becoming a better teacher and a better human being, wherever I could be, and becoming a work of Love that radiates God’s Love through her personal formation’s growth.

What I can give to my country, United States? This is a very interesting question because in Puerto Rico what is usually asked is what United States can give to Puerto Rico. What I can give to United States? I can create through my lessons and teaching style a culture of sacramental Love: a culture where we all see us as living sacraments in the process of becoming a work of Love. For a Christian this necessarily means praying, living the Church’s sacraments and growing in ecclesial unity, but I can also see my students as living signs in the process of becoming a work of Love without teaching them about my faith but about our humanity and our personal formation: how we are all human beings, how is our personal formation (what we all have in common in our growth), how we are all called to grow in communion and human fraternity, how we are all called to be the best persons we can be, how we are called to help each other to become the best person we can be… This is what being American is about for me: helping others unconditionally to be the best persons they can be. This definition of being American is not based in any partisan view, but in an unconditional pro-growth vision, in an unconditional humanity vision.

What I can give to my people, Puerto Rico? Besides what I just said, that applies perfectly here too, I can give to Puerto Rico a definition of being Puerto Rican that doesn’t depends on partisan views but in personal formation: what makes us Puerto Ricans is how we help us to be, to do, to grow and to radiate each other, with enchantment and warmth, with a vision of unconditional hospitality and cultural integration that is truly Puerto Rican. I don’t believe in any definition of being Puerto Rican that depends on our political status struggle, in any partisan view, or in any linguistic view (for example: you can be Puerto Rican and not knowing Spanish, or you can be Puerto Rican and not knowing English). Our political status struggle is very real and a huge problem of human rights, but we need to learn how to see us beyond what divide us and then works towards overcoming our differences with respect, as human equals, as brothers and sisters of the same human family. This begins with an education that is strongly based on promoting the best personal formation possible for everyone, including both students and teachers, not based solely in the decisions of the political party in power or in economic choices. There should be a ten year goal plan for the Department of Education that aims a structure that is independent from the changes related with elections and political power.

Teaching English, for me, is a way to promote the best personal growth possible among my students, among my people and among my country. For me, this is the key lesson of our times: we are all human beings, we are all a human family, we are all deserving of the best growth possible. We can’t keep teaching with our growth to help only those who are convenient to a certain ideology of political party’s views. We need to teach that we are all unconditionally called to growth, that we are all in the process of becoming a work of Love, so we need to help us each other as human beings, loving each other with unconditional humanity. If you want to see this from a Christian view, we can say that we all are a miracle of God’s Love in the process of becoming a sacrament of His Love. This is what I dream to teach as a teacher and as a person: how to become the best persons we can be, how to be, do, grow and radiate until becoming a work of Love.

Because I believe that teachers are public servers, I will end this essay with the same line that some elected public servers usually end their oath of service:

So help me God…

The Happiest Teacher On Earth

Today I am going to share an essay that I wrote for one of my University classes: Teaching ESL Writing. The task was writing an essay about a picture, and I chose a very special picture for me: Iesu Amor (the painting I made for imaging God’s Love) being exhibited in the Art’s Festival of the World Youth Day in Brazil. This essay explains what makes me “the happiest teacher on Earth.”

Here is the essay:

The Happiest Teacher On Earth

WYD

This picture is the portrait of the exhibition of a painting that I created, titled “Iesu Amor” (“Jesus Love” or “Jesus Charity” in English).

How I had the idea of creating an icon that imagined the Love of God? Everything began in an exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. The Eucharist was exposed for viewing, clearly visible to my sight. I had the idea of creating an icon that “imagined” God as Love in order to “discover” my vocation, which was supposedly lost (or so I believed in that moment). I was a moment of crisis in my life. I had no idea of where I belonged, where and how I could serve with my talents, or if I could be able to live my faith as catholic.

I began reading the encyclical Deus Caritas Est, of Pope Benedict XVI, and contemplating it in prayer, in front of the Blessed Sacrament or in my own room, through adoring God’s presence with my whole personal growth. Little by little, each form of the painting began to be discerned through this contemplation. I can’t mention all the symbols that the painting contain, but I can mention the first ones that were clear in my heart once I began to create a “visual imagination” of God’s Love.

The first shape of the painting to be discerned and formed was Jesus himself: the way that human being is able to “imagine” God’s Love is through Jesus, the incarnation of that Love. This choice of this imagination is inspired in two very concrete sentences of the Deus Caritas Est: “We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words, the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” So, the image of a God that is Love must be a Person: Jesus of Nazareth. This is the most basic form shaped in Iesu Amor.

The next shape to be discerned was how to imagine the nature of the “breath” (being) and “do” (action) of Jesus in unity. I discerned that with a figure of a resurrected Jesus that was in a wall behind the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament: I realized that I could imagine Jesus’ nature as light, both in the sense of light as being and light as verb, by painting him like a “living star of Heaven”, a resurrected Jesus that was a morning star, like the Book of Revelation’s star. That way, I chose to paint Jesus radiating light from the eyes, from the tunic (the own body) and from the lamp. Discerning this was harder than it seems. It was not simple for me finding a way to paint the nature of Jesus that I was contemplating through the reading of the Deus Caritas Est.

The next form to be discerned was the “giftedness”, the personal self-giving through communion. Because Jesus’ self-giftedness to the Church is complete, the painting must be a gift to the whole Church. I imagined this form in a very particular way: instead of painting this giftedness, I made the whole painting an “ecclesial gift”: I proposed it as a gift for Pope Francis. It never materialized that way, and as a matter of fact it was a way too simple painting to be considered a gift for the Pope, I knew it, but the important thing for God was the disposition. All this is inspired in the sentence of the Deus Caritas Est that says “Since God has first loved us, love is now no longer a mere “command”; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.” The encyclical says that “In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and significant”. To that I add: in a world where the name of God is often associated with profit and worldly success, personal giftedness, learning to give us as freely as Jesus gives himself to the Church, is a timely message.

Finally, is a part in the Deus Caritas Est that says: “Love of God and love of neighbor have become one: in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God… Love of neighbor is a path that leads to the encounter with God and that closing the eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God.” I shaped this idea in a very particular way: Jesus is walking towards the center, towards the person, towards the neighbor… He is not walking to the right nor to the left, but towards the front, were the person who is contemplating him is. Also, the eyes are wide open, looking to the person and radiating light.

Although I did finish the painting itself, and shared it in the Arts Festival of the World Youth Day of Brazil (were this picture was taken) this creative project became the project of my life: to shape God’s Love in my own personal formation. Therefore this photo means a lot to me: it imagines the creative goal of my life, sharing and radiating God’s Love, humanely and ecclesially. As an ESL teacher, this means that teaching for me is an act of love, that I contemplate every student as person in the process of becoming a work of God’s Love and that I am called to help them to be, to do, to grow and to radiate unconditionally, and to learn to love them through my lessons as God loves us. This is a responsibility, but also a gift that makes me the happiest teacher and person on Earth.

An Integractive Vision

Today I will write about a personal choice that influences my teaching style: the choice of contemplating reality through an integractive vision.

We all see and build reality through a concrete vision. No one can avoid that. It is very important to be conscious of how we see and construct reality, especially if you are a teacher, because teachers help their students to realize their own vision. What are my principles for building my vision of reality? How accurate is my reality perception? How integractively coherent is my reality? What is the point of view of my reality? These are all very important questions that usually are not assumed consciously. Let’s answer each one of those questions.

What are my principles for building my vision of reality? I have a very concrete foundation for building my vision of reality: integraction, or personal formation’s growth. That’s why I call my vision an “integractive vision”: the foundation of my vision of reality are the human growth processes, or how the person grows, humanely and ecclesially, until becoming who is meant to be. In everything I see I ask myself how this or that helps people’s personal growth, how it informs, conform, transform and reform the whole personal formation, how it helps the person to be the best person he or she can be. With “integraction” I do not mean my own personal formation’s growth, but personal formation’s growth according to truth.

How accurate is my reality perception? With “accurate” I mean “non-ideological”. I will explain what I mean with “non-ideological”.

Usually our reality’s vision is perceived as “liberal” (left direction) or “conservative” (right direction).  In integraction, the left and right directions (emanations) of the integractor are interpreted in a very different way: one direction is meant to be actuality and the other direction is meant to be potentiality. This is a very different notion of “right” and “left”: it is not an “ideological perception” but an “integractive perception.” The direction of the integractive perception depends on the actuality and potentiality of personal formation’s growth, not upon “conservative directions” or “liberal directions. This can be very hard to understand to people that are used to perceive everything as “conservative” or “liberal.” Having an integractive perception of reality means that it is perfectly possible to affirm both “conservative directions” and “liberal directions”, because it all depends on what helps the whole person to be, to do, to grow and to radiate until becoming the best person he or she could be. There are some “liberal directions” that inform, can conform, transform and reform all the personal formation’s growth, like defending the poor and standing for immigrants and refugees. At the same time, there are some “conservative directions” that also can inform, conform, transform and reform all the personal formation’s growth, like defending the life of the unborn, defending religious freedom and defending a strong economy. There are “liberal directions” that are against the integraction, actual or potential, of the whole personal formation of everyone, like promotion abortion, and there are “conservative directions” that also are against the integraction, actual or potential, of the whole personal formation of everyone, like promoting the use of guns. The integractive perception relies on whatever helps the person, potentially or actually, to be, to do, to grow and to radiate as the best person he or she can become, no matter if it may come from the “conservative direction” or from the “liberal direction”. From the integractive perspective, the conservative and liberal issue really doesn’t matter at all: both can be right sometimes, and both can be wrong sometimes. What’s right is right no matter which ideology proposes it; what’s wrong is wrong no matter which ideology proposes it. What matters in the integractive perception is the actuality and the potentiality of integraction, of the personal formation’s growth processes. Whatever breaks or hurts any of those processes is wrong, not matter if it comes from the conservative side or from the liberal side.

One particular detail on this conservative and liberal issue: it is usually understood that the “creative” side are liberals and the “traditional” side are conservatives. I am both highly creative and highly traditional (yes, you can be both at the same time), but I do not define myself as liberal or conservative, but as integractive. It always surprises me when people can’t conceive another perception beyond “liberal” and “conservative”. I really don’t understand why being creative and being traditional should be perceived as opposed to each other, as some insist to promote. Let me be clear: there is absolutely nothing wrong in being conservative or being liberal, I am no one to judge anyone. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong in not perceiving reality with a “liberal direction” or a “conservative direction” neither. The constant war between conservatives and liberals, even inside the Church, is a waste of time and cognitive energy for me. I pass of having an oppositional perception, I choose to have an affirmative perception. I prefer to invest my cognitive energies and my time in affirming the best personal formation’s growth possible, potential an actual, for everyone. As you may guess, due this I have been seen as an “opposition” by both conservatives and liberals. My intention is not opposing anyone, I really don’t need to oppose anyone. I only need to oppose to whatever hurts or breaks personal formation’s growth processes, whatever hurt or breaks human dignity. I merge “pro-choice” and “pro-life” in a single expression: “pro-growth.” I am “pro-choice” in the sense that I affirm that everyone is entitled, just for being human being, to the choice of grow, including the unborn. I am “pro-life” in the sense that I affirm that everyone is entitled to a life of growth. For me, both “pro-choice” and “pro-life” can mean “pro-growth.”

What is the difference between an ideology and an integraction? Ideology is based in a system of personal values. Integraction is based in a system of personal formation. The personal formation includes values, but it doesn’t force a certain set of values, as ideologies does. An ideological perception models the personal formation processes according to values. An integractive perception models the values according to the personal formation processes. This is what I mean with “integractive perception”, in its both directions, actuality and potentiality. For concluding this I am departing from both ecclesial and human integration: spiritual/organic-intellectual-social discernment (contemplation/observation-ponderation-interaction). Answering how “accurate” the reality perception requires to integrate all of those kinds of discernment. How integractively coherent is my reality? This refers to how integration, action, realization and projection are in harmony between them, forming a whole unity, and also refers to the universality of the growth’s affirmation. For example: if I affirm the best growth possible for everyone, the same applies to the unborn and to those who identify themselves as LGBT, and the same applies in my action, in my realization in my projection, it is not only an “intellectual idea”, a “social construct” or an “organic image”. If you are integractively coherent, the affirmation of the best personal formation possible for everyone must be equally consistent in all the personal formation growth processes: in the integration, in the action, in the realization and in the projection. If you are integractively coherent, you can’t act affirming the best personal formation of everyone but not project yourself affirming the same. For example: you can’t act promoting the best growth possible for everyone and project yourself with an abortion or not respecting those who identify themselves a LGBT people. Something is wrong in the integractive coherence if that happens.

What is the point of view of my reality? The best growth possible of everyone, not only mine. Is not merely and “I” point of view: it is the point of view of the “I” and the “we” in communion. No matter how “alone” someone could think he or she is, I write “alone” that way because I believe that if we grow we are necessarily growing in communion, with God and with the other, as brothers and sisters of the same human family. Human being is that way, only grows in communion. That’s the point of view: communion, “personal giftedness” (the self-giving to others as a gift), both humanely (human fraternity, helping to be, to do, to grow and to radiate as the best person we can be, becoming living signs of humanity) and ecclesially (sacramental fraternity, helping to be, to do, to grow and to radiate as incarnated sacraments, becoming living signs of God’s Love).

There is a very important issue about reality that must be considered consciously too: no human being can control reality, only God can. No matter how much information about a person’s life we may have, even if we manage to access very sensible information about his or her most intimate spiritual conscience, only God can control his or her reality. Many ideological influences may seem to try to control reality through several methods (for example: through control of conscience, or through control of information), but at the very end, only God can control it, and He always amazes everyone with His Love’s surprises. God’s Love, being loved by God, is human being’s most evident reality: everything else is radiated from that Love. There is no brighter clarity in reality than contemplating how we are loved by God and there is no deeper mystery in reality than confessing that God is Love, so our humanity is created by Love, for Love and with Love.

All this means that progress, for me, is not an ideological progress, the progress of propagation of some values. Progress is the unconditional promotion of the best personal growth possible for everyone, no matter in which developmental stage the person is and no matter the sexual diversity, the political diversity, the functional diversity, the gender diversity… Progress is learning to recognize ourselves as growing persons with equal dignity, with all the consequences that this implies. We are very far away of accomplishing the best growth possible for everyone. We are very far away of achieving a better understanding, recognition and promotion of all the personal formation’s processes in every person. We still rely the worth of the person in ideological values, instead of valuing ideologues according to the worth of the person. Humanity needs true progress and true tradition: humanity need the best personal growth possible for everyone, not only to those who seem convenient according to a certain ideology. We need to learn how to embrace our whole personal formation and help each other to become the best person we can become just because we recognize each other as human family, not because someone stands my own ideological values, so it is convenient to me to helping him or her to grow. Not recognizing every human being as a person unconditionally worthy of growth, denying the personal formation’s growth of some human beings, is the biggest injustice of our times.

How all these details about my integractive vision influence my teaching style? Well, first of all, for me teaching is a radiation of Love. Actually, the whole personal formation’s growth is a radiation of Love that creates communion, family and community. No matter what, the student must know that he or she is unconditionally loved in every growth stage, including when he or she commits a mistake. Although I never had the need to talk about God’s Love in any of my English classes (no religious theme has been discussed in any of my English classes), I try and pray for the grace of letting each student know through my English lessons how unconditionally loved he or she is, in the same way God let me know how unconditionally loved I am and I will always be, no matter how dire or hurtful the circumstances could be. That is my way of “evangelizing”: radiating God’s Love through my being, my action, my realization and my projection, even if I do not expressly pronounce the word “God” with phonemes.

A second influence of my integractive vision is I never try to control my student’s reality, and this means a lot of things. I let them be and let them grow respecting their dignity, their integrity, their whole personal formation’s processes. What I do try to keep in control and try to help my students to learn how to keep in control is behavior, what is very different than try to control someone’s reality through an ideological vision. For example: it is not the same trying to impose a specific value through using books that only propose a convenient value (that’s ideological) than trying to help the student to acquire a new habit that allows his or her whole personal formation to grow more coherently (that’s integractive).

Another way my integractive vision influences my teaching style is that I have learned to respect my student’s own vision and helping them to realize how to be more coherent with the vision they choose to build, whatever it is. This is more applicable to middle school students than to elementary school students, because elementary school students are usually still “learning to see”, so you need to present them all the views possible in order to make them are able to understand different point of view and create their own visions. That can be done in many ways during the class, especially through modeling examples that are pertinent to each student’s personal formation. How do I know that the examples I model are pertinent to the students’ personal formation? At the beginning of our first class together I gave them a homework: an interest inventory in which I asked many questions about them. I gave it as a homework so they can take as much time as they need to think the answers and write them according to the information they choose to share with me. For example: there are students that have medical conditions that they choose to not share with me, although I have known them from other legitimate sources. Whatever information that they choose not to share with me, I don’t take it count or assume as known in our conversations and classwork. This interest inventory is key to me to know what examples are more pertinent to each students’ personal formation, although talking with them and playing with them also works to know it too. I have them in a binder with sheet protectors and consult it as many times as I need, because I don’t have the memory to memorize all their answers, but I need to keep them present constantly.

Other way my integractive vision influences my teaching style is through trying to create communion (unconditional personal giftedness), to create family (unconditional personal acceptance) and to create community (unconditional personal empathy) in the classroom, so there is the “creative growing space” needed to learn how to become the best person they can be while learning English as second language. I do not explain them explicitly this (I do not want them to learn that they must do things the same way I do them, I usually seek the way to let them choose how to do things, although the instructions do state clearly what they should do), I simply do whatever is necessary to achieve the needed “creative personal growth” environmental conditions. I consider that the learning environment is part of the curriculum, so creating a space where learning and personal growth is possible as its best is something that I really try to care. For me it’s a proven fact that students learn more and better when they see that the teacher care their personal growth and respect them as persons in the first place. The school culture has a lot to do about this too. This is not something that a teacher can do by her own initiative alone, the school learning principles (I prefer to consider them “growing principles”) must allow this too. This has been the case in the Elementary School where I had been doing my teaching practicum.

I took me a long time and some life experience to learn that reality is not accurately assessed with an ideological vision but with an integractive vision, a vision founded in the personal formation’s processes, in how the person becomes who he is and who he is called to be, and in the unconditional dignity of every person. It also took me some time and experience to realize that reality can’t be manipulated at the own will, sooner or later it reveals itself. All this influences not only my teaching style but my whole understanding of personal formation. Contemplating reality through an integractive vision definitely helps me to grow not only as the best person I can become, but as the person God calls me to be.

Let’s keep growing!

An Immense Joy

Yesterday was my last day of teaching practicum. We danced the weekend song for a last time. After that I had an activity with my students, titled “Celebrating being the best persons we can be.” We discussed why is important to aim being the best persons we can be (we can change our community, our country and the world by being the best persons we can be!) and how we can become the best persons we can be (be brave, be kind, be yourself…). After that I gave them ceramic medals (they made them weeks ago) that celebrated what they do best, according to themselves, so they could learn to recognize the best in everyone. Here are some pictures of the medals they modeled (I painted them and tied the ribbons):

We had “best sleeper” medals, “best dancer” medals, “best scientific” medals, “best artist” medals, “best student” medals, “best loving my mom” medals, “best gymnast” medal, “best at playing” medals… They were the best in many different things! Here are some pictures of them with the medals:

Finally, after I gave all the medals, including one medal of “best English teacher” to my mentor teacher, I gave a gift to my mentor teacher. I modeled a ceramic plate for him, with his name, inspired in the colors and forms of a world map, because that is what he did: opening a new world, a new horizon, for me. I was very thankful for and I wanted the students to know the meaning of that gift. Here is a picture of that ceramic plate (I also made a similar plate for my supervisor professor and for the dean of the Faculty of Education, who was in my final evaluation as student teacher):

This was my last class of my teaching practicum. I will be going on Monday to the school, but classes ended yesterday.

I admit that at the beginning of the teaching practicum I had fears about if I would be able to do this. Being able to teach for me is not only a matter of passing classes and mastering the subject’s material. Being able to teach is also being able to give the best of yourself, giving who you are, what you do, how you grow, what you project… in a concrete way that serves your community. That is not easy at all. As a matter of fact, I had been trying to do that since long years ago, first as philosopher, and after as a theologian. I failed both times. I had all my past failures very clear in my mind. I had very clear in my mind that my learning style is quite exceptional, that I am an intellectual woman (daring to think by your own and with your own cognitive style is always a risky business, but that is especially true if you are a woman), that my reality vision is also quite exceptional (I will write about that tomorrow)… Those are some of the biggest obstacles I faced in my past in order to accomplish learning how to serve my community.

I expected to have many troubles during the teaching practicum. The first trouble I expected were the students themselves: learning how to manage them and adapting to their level of knowledge (in the pre-practicum I needed to adapt A LOT and when I was a religion teacher I had many problems with class management). A second trouble I expected was problems with giving a class following a lesson plan (during the pre-practicum I was totally unable to do that). Another trouble I was expecting was losing things like tests or students’ stuff (I lost a test and some students’ stuff while I was a religion teacher). Other trouble I expected was problems with obeying my mentor teacher (I am not a naturally obedient person). Besides those “expected troubles”, many other things could go unexpectedly wrong, like not get along with my fellow student teachers, not get along with other teachers, methodological discrepancies or simply not being liked by my students. I had been so used of not being able to serve others that I was simply expecting that something, anything, would go wring this time too, and I wouldn’t be able to pass the teaching practicum after I passed all the necessary classes.

Another thing I expected during the teaching practicum was the need of relying in my reasonable accommodation in order to be able to do things as everyone else, as I had done through all my teaching courses.

Well, everything ended way better than I thought. I really did not have any trouble at all. I really enjoyed it and I will miss my students. I did not need to “obey” my mentor teacher: he always gave me creative freedom. Most surprisingly, I did not need to rely on my reasonable accommodations for functioning like anyone else: I had fewer attention problems while giving classes, and everyone use technology, some even more than me, so it was not an exception made only for me. There were no tests, so there was no anxiety neither.

Being able to finally discover a way to serve my community is an immense joy. After so many years discovering what I am not able to do, I had been finally granted the opportunity to discover something that I am able to do creatively and professionally, something in what I can work and give the best I can give, something in what I am not perfect (for example: my pronunciation was corrected by my own students sometimes) but in what I can learn to become better through the years, as I get more experience.

No matter how good I had been told I did this teaching practicum. I am prepared to the possibility of not finding job for August. Things are very hard in Puerto Rico right now, there are a lot of people that have more experience and talent than me. I will start the master’s degree in August and if I don’t find a job in the next two years, I will move to USA. In order of priority, my favorite places to move are Texas, Florida and California, states that are in the south. I do not get along with the snow and temperature changes!

I am very grateful of everything I have learned. I did not only learn to be a good teacher: I also learned to be a better person, to teach human beings, not only students. For me that is very important.

I expect to complete the process of my teaching certification as ESL teacher in July, once I have my teaching certification tests results (they should have arrived already, but they haven’t) and after I come back from a travel to Miami, Mexico and Central America. I also expect to keep serving my community and practicing my teaching skills with some kind of voluntary work while I get a job as ESL teacher.

I am very grateful to God for the opportunity and the blessing of receiving a teaching vocation. As a “memory” of what I lived during these last months, I got the PBL project of my students: ItsHardToBeASentence

Let’s keep growing!

The True Revolution

At Sundays, I usually write about personal experiences that have influenced my teaching style. Today I will write about something that has caused me some trouble during my college student life, both as graduate and as undergraduate, in Puerto Rico: my national identity. I believe that my nationality is USA, not Puerto Rican. For me, Puerto Rico is not a nation.

In Puerto Rico the conception of national identity is usually mixed up with a partisan view. If you believe that you are from USA, you are assumed to belong to the political party that promotes Puerto Rico’s statehood. If you believe that you are Latin American, you are assumed to belong to the political party that promotes Puerto Rico’s independence. If you believe you are both, you are assumed to belong to the political party that promotes the current political status of Puerto Rico.

For me, the conception of my national identity is not connected to the belonging to a specific political party. I believe that I am both from Unites States and from Latin American, but I don’t identify with any of the political parties of Puerto Rico. I believe that my country and homeland is United States and I believe that Puerto Rico is part of United States, but I don’t belong to the political party that promotes statehood. I believe that from the experience of traveling through Latin America, North America and Europe. You see, it is very easy to say “Puerto Rico is a nation” when you had never been outside Puerto Rico. However, it is very, very difficult to know and live in other nations and affirm that Puerto Rico is a nation. That has been my experience.

Spanish people call “American” to people of the whole continent (as it should be, I think), not only to people from United States. So, I was clearly American for them, but it doesn’t meant they believed that I was from Unites States. All depended in what language I chose to speak, because they don’t know how to notice the difference between United States English and Puerto Rican English: it was American English, period. If I spoke American English, I was assumed to be from United States. If I spoke Caribbean Spanish I was believed to be Latin American, from “somewhere there.” However, the difference between how you were treated if you talked to them in Spanish and how they treated you when you talked them in English was astonishing. I was clearly paid more attention when I talked in English, even if they did not understand me at all. I was even called a very offensive name, “sudaca”, once, because they place where I lived was full of people of South America, so I was assumed to be South American while talking in Spanish (I had no idea of why, because my Spanish accent is clearly Caribbean accent, not South American accent. I did not considered an insult to be considered from South America, but the way it was told to me). I love Spain (I consider it my “mother homeland”) and I knew many people who respected me no matter what language I chose to speak. However, when I lived in the north of Spain, that was the reaction many times. When I lived in the south of Spain the reaction was quite the opposite: I needed to hide my United States passport, speak Spanish and affirm that I was from Puerto Rico (not from United States) in order to avoid stares in certain places. That way I learned about the convenience of having two ways to say the same: I could say “I am from Puerto Rico” or “I am from United States” and “technically” I would not be lying in neither way.

So, how I chose that I am citizen “from United States” and not “from Puerto Rico”? I lived the experience of being in a terrorist attack (of ETA, if you have the curiosity to know) and from that moment on I began to reflect about my national identity, and why some people were capable of kill (or at least, attempt to) in order to affirm their national identity. I began to read and to be more aware of the Puerto Rican colonial status in that process.

Through the months after that terrorist attack I had many sleeping difficulties due a sound in the ears that began after the terrorist blast. I began to have severe memory problems also. I began forgetting very important things around me. For example: I lost my passport three times in a year span. Each one of those times I needed to go to the Embassy of United States in Madrid in order to get an emergency passport, and face a shaming-but-necessary process to prove that I was who I was supposed to be and that I was not selling the lost passports.

That experience taught me that if anything happened to me the place that I would need to go would be that embassy. Puerto Rico’s “national government” had no capability at all to respond to any situation of “its citizens” outside the island. Only United States had it. What kind of nation couldn’t be able to respond for its own citizens? If a nation is not able to respond to its own citizens, it is not a nation at all, because the citizens are the reason of being a nation. All this means that I began to be conscious of what “being from United States” meant while I was living abroad. In Spain I was as citizen of United States as any other citizen of United States would. I was not treated differently just for being Puerto Rican, as it has clearly happened many times when I had been in continental United States. It is a fact that a Puerto Rican may be treated as a “different kind of citizen” when he or she is in continental United States, and that many Americans doesn’t know that Puerto Ricans are United States citizens.

Besides living in Spain (Granada, Pamplona), I have visited some cities of United States (Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York, Philadelphia), of Latin America also (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Mexico, Dominican Republic and Costa Rica), and of Canada (Toronto, Quebec). After all those travels, I determined that the “nearest place” to how I lived in Puerto Rico were the cities of Florida, specially Miami.

I feel I should clarify that although I don’t believe that Puerto Rico is a nation and I believe that United States is my homeland, I do believe that there is a Puerto Rican culture. Having a cultural identity that is different of your nationality could be conflictive to some, but for me it isn’t. I don’t see contradiction in being culturally Puerto Rican and being citizen of United States. I am actually proud of it. What I am not proud about is the kind of relation that United States has developed with Puerto Rico. Let’s say it clearly: the current political relation of Puerto Rico with United States functions as a colony, although it cannot be called officially that way. However, no matter how many defects that relation may have, it does exist. Puerto Rico is part of United States, although right now the relation between them it is not in its best shape. For me, resolving this colonial relationship is not a matter of political affairs or partisan affairs: it is a matter of human rights. Puerto Ricans depend on the decisions of a president they can’t vote for, and that is a clear violation of human rights, just to say an example. It is an inconvenient truth for United States, but still it is a truth, no matter how unseen it is.

Although I affirm that Puerto Rico is part of United States and that my nationality is USA, I respect those who doesn’t believe so. I am no one to impose a national identity to any one, but that doesn’t mean that I should be imposed a national identity that I don’t believe I have. Sadly, that could perfectly happen in Puerto Rico through different channels. I will give only one example of this.

While I was a graduate student of theology in Puerto Rico, I proposed the painting Iesu Amor to the Arts Festival of the World Youth Day in Brazil. Usually, to a person be able to do this he or she needs a lot of support. At the beginning, when I shared the I idea, I got plenty of support, enough to be able to believe that I would be able to complete the process of proposing Iesu Amor to the WYD and to begin that process. However, something happened during that process.

I was attending a class about the History of the Church in Puerto Rico. In one of the class discussions, I proposed something “almost heretical”: Puerto Rico should have some kind participation in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, a participation similar to the one we have in CELAM, because we are part of United States (I was referring to Puerto Rico’s constitution) and we culturally belong to United States also (not only to Latin America), our parishes are more like Miami parishes than like Latin American parishes, I argued. My classmates and even the professor got angry after hearing that. “Puerto Rico is a nation, we participate in CELAM only.” someone told me. I said clearly that I thought that Puerto Rico is not a nation, but part of United States. I stated that not only because of our constitution, but because what I have learned while living outside Puerto Rico. I caused a huge scandal among my classmates, most of them from the Archdiocese of San Juan, for daring to affirm that Puerto Rico is not a nation. After that incident, many of those people who had offered me their support with the process proposing Iesu Amor to the WYD did not show their support any more. After experiencing the very same issue when I told clearly that I could not apply theology of liberation in the theological part of Iesu Amor (I mean: people who initially supported me withdrawn their support when they knew I was not applying theology of liberation, nor interested to apply it), I chose to keep going with the proposal of Iesu Amor to the WYD by my own, so I could “protect” IesuAmor from becoming a “nationalism symbol” (Iesu Amor is not supposed to have a nationality because God’s Love is universal) or an application of Marxist ideology (we studied the first document written about the theology of liberation and it clearly quoted Marx, and I couldn’t apply that kind of theology to Iesu Amor because it reduces the human person. That was one of the reasons to develop a theology of my own for creating Iesu Amor). I did absolutely everything that a whole team of people and experts should do, including reviewing that Iesu Amor and the theology of light was aligned and agreed with the Church’s Magisterium, with my own available resources. I was able to send the painting to the WYD, but it didn’t returned to Puerto Rico.

Of course, everyone is in all his right to not support what they can’t agree with. But declining to support what is supposed to be an ecclesial project, like creating and sharing ecclesially and internationally a painting that imagines the Love of God, just because the author does not believe that Puerto Rico is a nation, or just because the author is not a liberation theologian, taught me that ideologies can be very dangerous. At the very end, it was like doing the same thing that the terrorist did in the terrorist blast I lived in Spain, but intellectually. I mean: terrorists are capable of killing a person for their ideology, so, attempting to kill an idea because that idea does not get along with the own ideology is doing the same thing than a terrorist, but intellectually.

I thought this issue very carefully before choosing to keep going with the proposal of Iesu Amor to the WYD by my own. Puerto Rico have a huge “politization” problem: everything is “politized” (mixed with politics). I needed to avoid Iesu Amor to be politized, and for doing that I needed to have the whole creative control of Iesu Amor’s proposal process. It was not a “nationalization” issue: although I believe that Puerto Rico is part of United States, Iesu Amor is not meant to promote statehood neither, so I needed to avoid any political interpretation of what I was doing, in an environment where everything was highly “politized” and “socialized” (with “socialized” I mean “seen mainly from a social perspective”. That “breaks” the integractive vision of the theology of light, that integrates the organic dimension, the ontological dimension and the social dimension). I thought all these issues when I chose to keep going with Iesu Amor’s proposal alone and to do everything that I could to protect the idea that Iesu Amor truly meant to promote: the “visualization of God’s Love” in the whole personal formation; the process of informing, conforming, transforming and reforming the own personal formation as a living sign, a visible sacrament, of that Love.

It took me a while to realize that, although it was not my intention, Iesu Amor also became, somehow, a “nationality proposal” for me: I was proposing myself another kind of nationality, a “national identity” that is not founded in a partisan view, or even in belonging to a specific a country, but in living God’s Love, in living charity. I think Saint Paul explains this better than me, so I am not going to deepen this. It was my Puerto Rican culture what taught me to call Jesus “my Love” (in Puerto Rico, it is very common to call people “my love”), but Iesu Amor taught me to transcend cultural views and transform it in a broader vision, a vision of fraternity among cultures (including between Puerto Rican culture, Latin American cultures and American culture), and even among nations. It also took me a while to realize that with Iesu Amor I was also serving my nation and my cultures: I was proposing a fraternity (sacramental fraternity) that can help to be, to do, to grow and to radiate all kind of people and to affirm the dignity of the humanity of everyone.

Let me be very clear in one important detail related with my “choice” of nationality and Puerto Ricans’ dignity: you need to have a “charity vision” to forgive many injustices that have been committed to Puerto Ricans by United States. I am not blind to the fact that United States has denied the dignity of Puerto Ricans many times in their ways to deal with Puerto Rican affairs. If you want to know more about those errors, you can read “War Against All Puerto Ricans,” by Nelson A. Denis. However, with a “charity vision” it is possible to choose historical forgiveness, to embrace all the growth that USA has brought to Puerto Rico and to be able to affirm with personal pride (not ideological pride) that your culture is Puerto Rican, Latin American, Spanish and American, and your nation is United States.

How all these experiences about my national identity influence my teaching style? It has influenced me in several ways. A first way is that I try to avoid to become an “intellectual terrorist”: I avoid to attempt to kill ideas that are not agree with my vision, I simply let everyone create their ideas as they choose if they do it in a respectful manner. This also means that I teach to my students all kind of ideas, not only those which I am agree with. A second way this influences my teaching style is that I do not make nationality distinctions in my students: for me they are all human beings, sons and daughters of God. A third way is that I avoid all kind of nationalism in my classroom. I actually even avoid using the expression “my nation”, but when I use it, I let each student decide what “nation” means, without letting them assume that If someone says “nation” he means “USA” just because I mean “USA” when I use the same expression. I call this an “open-meaning word”. For me, letting them assume that “nation” can only mean “USA”, or that that nation can only mean “Puerto Rico”, would be intellectual proselytism. For example: I have seen instances where the expression “our nation” is used as equal to “Puerto Rico” in ecclesial documents, and that equals to implicitly exclude from the Church everyone who doesn’t believes that Puerto Rico is “our nation”, but USA. I avoid that kind of situation in my classroom by letting everyone choose what “nation” means when using that word, without imposing or even promoting a specific definition, or my own definition.

Another way that these experiences has influenced my teaching style is that I when I need speak about the Puerto Rican nationality issue to my students, I speak about all the options, letting the students to “build” their own view and make their own choices about their nationality, respecting whatever they want to affirm. Other way this has influences my teaching style is in my choice of showing respect to both anthems and flags (Puerto Rico and United States’ anthem and flag), no matter if those who are around me choose to only show respect to the Puerto Rican anthem and flag, and of teaching my students to do the same because all anthems and flags should be respected. Finally, this has taught me that is very important to affirm the value of the human person always, inside the classroom also. The human person is worthier than any other thing. It is not worthy to try to “break” a person for the sake of nationalism, or any other ideology. If you can’t agree with someone, never try to impose your view, because that is not respectful and you can cause damage. It is OK if we do not agree with someone’s view, but it is not OK if we can’t respect each other’s views. Usually this is a very important lesson for my students, no matter in which form it is applied (believe me, this lesson can be applied to many different circumstances).

A final idea to conclude this blog post: I do believe that we need to be aware of our duty to serve our nation and our homeland (whatever you believe it is) with our personal growth, through becoming who we are meant to be. It is often believed that to change a nation a revolution is needed. I think that changing a nation begins with changing the own personal formation in order to be the best person we can be. If you want to change your nation, be the change you wish to create in your homeland. (In Spanish: Si quieres cambiar tu nación, sé el cambio que deseas crear en tu patria). The true revolution begins with each person’s choice of living charity, of radiating God’s Love, of incarnating fraternity, of creating communion. I have read several times that someone told, I don’t remember right now who, that “love is love”. I can say it in a different way: God is Love. God’s Love––a Love that is a Person, a personal encounter that radiates life in communion, not an ideology––can change not only our personal formation but our nation if we choose to let us inform, conform, transform and reform by that Love. A teacher can change a nation with his or her example of Love. A parent can change a nation with his or her growth in Love. A builder can change a nation with his or her work of Love. We all have the amazing opportunity of creating a better nation for all through helping to be, helping to do, helping to grow and helping to radiate God’s Love, beginning with our personal formation.

Let’s keep growing!