Modern heroism inspired by Rizal
In this contemporary period, we need to look at our definition of heroism through a new lens. We do not need to die for our country just to be considered a legitimate hero, except if there is an inevitable war. On a philosophical, ethical narrative, we need to produce a life that is exemplary and useful.
The gist: We can only give what we have.
Thus, to become a hero we need to make ourselves better. We can only inspire other people if we are inspired. We can only educate others if we are equipped with knowledge and wisdom. We can only teach what we know.
Like Jose Rizal, he made himself useful. He read lots of books. He visited museums. He traveled to many places. He prepared himself for something that was greater than who he was. And he could only reach this pillar of greatness if he himself was capable of being a great man.
Greatness needs a conscious decision and action. Jose Rizal proved distinctly that from an ordinary, good man, we can become a better man; from an ordinary life to a remarkable life. He attempted to perfect himself through arts, education, and practical skills.
He was able to write two novels, “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo,” because from a very young age, he read and studied a lot. He prepared himself.
“You can only give what you have.” This dictum is essentially fundamental to heroism. We cannot love if we have not loved. This should not be misinterpreted as selfishness or ego-centric values. This is about helping ourselves so that we can effectively help others and our communities.
We need to invest in nurturing our minds. We need to read. Seek and you shall find.
We can only be a light for humanity if we are enlightened. We can only carry the torch if we have the strength to hold it in our hands.
Jose Rizal was an enlightened being. With everything he had achieved in his short 35 years of existence, he was a great model of how to live.
Those who are prepared to die are those who are prepared to live. Jose Rizal openly embraced his death at Bagumbayan because he had prepared for a life worth remembering. But we must remember that he made himself better not only for himself but for his fellow Filipinos and for the future of our country.
There is nothing wrong with looking after ourselves. Self-love is an inherent ingredient to purposeful heroism. How can we look after our families if we ourselves are sick and dying? How can we educate our children if we ourselves are ignorant? How can we help the community if we ourselves are poor?
So, there is nothing wrong, too, in wanting to be rich. Through our resources, we can support many poor families. But of course, we need to have our own healthy finance before we can help other people.
But the greatest investment is the investment in self-improvement. We shall also be rich, not just in financial terms, but rich in a mind that is wise, a heart that is compassionate, and a body that is fit.
Modern heroism is about elevating ourselves from a mundane superficial existence to a meaningful purposeful life. When we find our purpose, we seek a better understanding of how we can be productive and useful—and the best way is to start with ourselves.
Heroism within is an attempt to reach a higher level of perfection where our excellence and achievement are contributory to building a progressive society.
Jose Rizal is the perfect model. May the Filipino youth of today find inspiration in Rizal’s life so that our country, The Philippines, will not lose hope in our kabataan, ang pag-asa ng bayan.
We are all heroes—only if we are willing to give ourselves a chance to become one. Nothing is too late. We can start now. Let us help ourselves today so that tomorrow we can help others.
Jose Rizal’s letter to Mariano Ponce:
“A Filipino must be just and foremost a good man, a good citizen, who will, with his mind and heart and if needed be, with his arms as well, help his country progress.”
“Totoong bayan muna bago ang sarili. Pero sarili muna bago ang iba. Ang pagbabago ay magsisimula sa ating sarili. Ito ang makabagong pagkabayani.”
Rado Gatchalian is the Eastern Australia Area deputy commander of the Order of the Knights of Rizal-ANZO region and the archivist of the Knights of Rizal-Northern Sydney Chapter.