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Do what we can ‘in so far as’

/ 04:15 AM August 14, 2020

As my children gear up for a fully online school year this August, I found myself putting together my own tantum quantum strategies based on what has worked for me during this pandemic. Tantum quantum is a Latin phrase which literally means “in so far as.” Culled from St. Ignatius’ principle and foundation of the Spiritual Exercises, its context is best appreciated in the following admonition: “We are to use them in so far as (i.e., tantum quantum) they lead us to our last end, and be rid of them in so far as they hinder us in the pursuit of the end for which we were created.”

In so far as these strategies might serve other parents and their children in good stead, I’m sharing them here.

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Exercise self-care. In my philosophy class last year, one of my students who was so concerned about maintaining his QPI (i.e., Quality Point Index) shared how he learned the value of self-care the hard way. He would skip meals for days on end and pull all-nighters in the hopes of exceeding his teachers’ expectations. As he was being revived in an ambulance after losing consciousness while studying, he realized that our body is indeed an instrument in much the same way that a smartphone is. But unlike the smartphone, our body is not just an instrument that we can replace when it breaks down.

As the philosopher Gabriel Marcel paradoxically put it, “I have a body” yet “I am my body.” So the same WFH (work from home) self-care reminders that worked for me should apply to online students everywhere. Make time to pray and meditate to start and end the day. They clear your head and make you realize there is a higher power we all can draw strength from. Dedicate 30 minutes daily to any form of physical exercise. I will not belabor the robust research that has been out there for years. The same applies to eating healthy and getting enough sleep.

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Projectize the week. Presumably because of our problematic internet connectivity and because of psychological considerations, much of the online learning that our students will experience will be asynchronous. Meaning, they will not be attending online classes at the same frequency as their pre-pandemic classes. Instead, they would be assigned a module for 1 to 2 weeks, with their teachers occasionally meeting them synchronously. While this would allow students to work on their deliverables at their convenience or when their internet signal is at its strongest, its downside is that they would be left on their own to figure out how to approach their school work.

The solution is to projectize each week. That is, do as project managers do when they are assigned a new project. Estimate the workload at the start of the week and schedule manageable chunks daily. At the end of each day, review the work done and revise the plan for the rest of the week based on what worked and what did not.

Do something for others. To remind oneself of the reason behind exercising self-care and projectizing one’s week, make time to do something for others. Think about it. Is it not the case that one strives to do well in school to discover what Mark Twain considers as the second important day in one’s life? Is it not the case that purpose is hardly all about oneself only but ultimately about others? A farmer plants to feed not just oneself but one’s family and community, just as a musician plays an instrument because he/she finds joy making music for others.

Start small by reaching out to friends you have not spoken to for months, or relatives you have not connected with for quite some time. Make time to read about our fellow Filipinos who are in dire straits because of this pandemic—from fellow citizens who have lost their livelihood to those who are stranded in cramped stadiums as they await the means to finally go home. Look for opportunities to help in so far as (tantum quantum) you could. The internet is awash with imaginative ways to care for others.

Now more than ever, the legendary Jesuit Eduardo Hontiveros’ hymn rings true: “Walang sinuman ang nabubuhay para sa sarili lamang”—that is, no one only lives for oneself.

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Von Katindoy teaches and coordinates projects at Ateneo de Manila University.

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TAGS: distance learning, education, in so far as, no one only lives for oneself, online class, self care, tantum quantum
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