BY ALEX P. VIDAL
Ilonggo philosopher-lawyer Ernesto “Ernie” Justiniani Dayot once brought me in his mini library in Brgy. Nanga, Guimbal, Iloilo to show his collection of books, many of them classical and philosophical.
The authors were star-studded: Voltaire, Plato, Bertrand Russell, Baruch Spinoza, Saint Augustine, my all-time favorite Will Durant of the Story of Civilization fame, Deepak Chopra, John Stuart Mill, Ayn Rand, Mortimer Adler, and, believe it or, Shirley Maclaine, to name only a few.
“I started collecting some of them in the early 50’s,” explained Don Ernie, a look-alike of Pope Benedict XVI, according to some readers of the Visayan Tribune, where he maintains a regular column.
Don Ernie, now seventy something, actually continues to collect books as a habit until today and don’t be surprised if one of these days, you will bump in the “Book Sale” store somebody who looks like Pope Benedict XVI, err Don Ernie.
Anyway, we both agreed that the real measure of a person’s intelligence is not when a person has perfected a quiz or when a person can memorize the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.
A person may be considered really intelligent if that person is culturally literate.
A conquest and rationalization of fear and creativity and ability to synthesize are also true measures of intelligence.
Cultural literacy includes knowledge about world literature, philosophy, religion, world history, proverbs, idioms, The Bible, mythology and folklore, business and economics, life and earth sciences, medicine and health, technology, world politics, world geography, physical science and mathematics, anthropology, psychology, and sociology.
Although it may help a lot, reading — and not just collecting of — books is an ideal vehicle to cultural literacy. When we collect books and don’t read them, cockroach, ants and pests will do their job.
There is evidence that reading increases our creativity. We must remember that Albert Einstein failed math in grade school, yet he developed the Theory of Relativity while working in the patent office, where he read voraciously.
Abraham Lincoln never got past grade 2, yet he finished law school because he read books. Marcus Aurelius always carried a book of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey even during the war. So was Alexander The Great and Andres Bonifacio.
Books build a love for learning as well as open the mind to creativity. Reading has thus produced generation after generation of great men and women. A book, a story, a dream, a future—the love of reading is the best gift we can give to our children.
Having been a book collector myself like Don Ernie, I had the privilege to acquire some of the great books during my travel in Canada and the United States and I am proud to mention that I will soon donate some of them in the Philippines now that school year has beckoned.