ARETE MAGIS FIDES
(Text of the speech of Atty. Marvin B. Aceron before the General Assembly of students of Araullo University School of Law on July 22, 2004)
Mr. Chito Salazar, Atty. Rudyard Avila, Atty. Reymon Fabros, my dear students of Araullo University School of Law, ladies and gentlemen:
When I was asked to prepare an inspirational talk yesterday for today’s General Assembly, my immediate reaction was to say no. I thought I would need more than just a ten-hour preparation for a big assembly as this. Besides, you all look like you're enthusiastic enough with your studies and don’t need anymore inspiring from anyone. However, after thinking about it, I changed my mind because I think I have something to tell you. And if this would the first and only opportunity for me to address you as a body, I would regret it if i miss it.
LIFE AND ENTROPY
Let me start by saying that I think I already have some idea about what life is all about. When I was a philosophy student at the Ateneo, one of my teachers once said that life is the temporary suspension of entropy. Let me say that word again: entropy. To those of you who graduated with degrees in the sciences, like your dean Atty. Avila who happens to be a medical doctor aside from being a lawyer, entropy might sound like an ordinary word. But to the rest of us, mere mortals, as it were, entropy could be explained as the habit of things to move from a state of order to a state of disorder. Entropy is the reason why nitrogen neatly packed in a box would explode at the push of a button. It explains why the universe, huge and wide, is expanding towards self-destruction. Even now as I speak, the earth has about five billion years left before it disintegrates. Entropy also explains why microorganisms, plants, animals and human beings are moving from a state of life to a state of death. You might also want to say that entropy is the reason why society behaves from a state of morality to a state of immorality, or from a state of law and order to a state of lawlessness and chaos.
That is why to live is to struggle against entropy. To live is to be an energy, a force or a spirit to halt, even for a fleeting moment, this habit of moving from a state of order to a state of disorder. Think about it.
in the meantime let me pose this question: How are we as rational human beings to deal with this nature of life?
One way is to live and let die. Accept that this power is upon us and it is hopeless to struggle against it. A lot of people have lived their lives according to this thinking.
Another way is to struggle to assert our humanity against this tide. Boats against the current, as it were. To live is to have order and to keep things in order. Some people have lived life in this manner.
The good news is this problem is not new. A lot of people who have lived before us have been confronted with this question and have shown by their examples that there is hope in our existence.
ST. THOMAS MORE
Let me relate to you the life example of St. Thomas More. St. Thomas More lived a prosperous life as a lawyer in England at about the same time that Magellan was discovering the Philippines in the early 16th Century.
At that time, England was ruled by a king named Henry VIII. Originally, it was Henry’s brother, Arthur, married to Catherine of Aragon, who was king. But when Arthur died, Henry VIII became the successor to the throne. There was some trouble after Arthur’s death as he left a widow in Catherine of Aragon. Because somehow, the marriage of Catherine and Arthur symbolized the alliance between the United Kingdom and Spain, people prevailed upon Henry VIII to marry Catherine. This marriage, however, was against the law of the Church, which prohibited the marriage of a man to his brother’s widow. It was considered incestuous. Yet, because the alliance of the nations had to be maintained, the pope was prevailed upon to give a special dispensation to allow the marriage of Henry VII to his brother’s widow, Catherine.
The marriage appeared to all right for the initial years until Henry VIII met Anne Boleyn. Henry VIII fell in love with Anne Boleyn and wanted to marry her. But of course it was not possible because he had already been married to Catherine. But Henry VIII thought his marriage with Catherine should be annulled because it was against the law of the Church. Further, he had a particular desire to leave his marriage with Catherine because it failed to bear him a son and the thought of him not having an heir son to the throne horrified him.
Of course, the Pope would not agree to the annulment of the marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine because the infirmity was dispensed with earlier by the Church and to annul it after giving it dispensation would be like to treat the law of the Church as if it were connected to a switch that could be turned on or off at the whim of the King of England.
Thus, Henry VIII decided that the best way to deal with the objection of the Pope was to break the link between the Church of England and the Catholic Church and find himself a bishop who would agree to what he desired. Henry VIII had his parliament pass a law making him the head of the Church of England and requiring everyone in England to take the Oath of Supremacy which meant that Henry VIII was more supreme than the Pope.
All of England approved of Henry VIII’s plan except one man, Sir Thomas More. Thomas More was a scholar of the church and famous lawyer. He was even a friend of Henry VIII. But to him Henry VIII’s Oath of Supremacy was nonsense and he would not bear to take the oath that would make him repudiate the truth about the Catholic Church. As a result of his stubborn conviction, Thomas was jailed. His friends and his family told him that it was wiser to take the oath even if he did not believe in it for then, he would have preserved his status in the English society. But Thomas would not budge. As a playwright puts it, “When a man makes an oath, he takes his life like water in his hands. If he opens it, it will fall.”
Unfortunately, for his open defiance against the will of the King, he was tried for treason and was sentenced to death. On the moment before he was beheaded, he declared that he was the “King’s true servant, but God’s first.”
Henceforth, people remember Thomas More for his struggle to live by the truth in the face of Henry VIII’s desire to divorce his first wife to marry another woman. You might say that Thomas More’s own struggle against entropy is a major struggle for not only does it highlight the battle between truth and falsehood, but also it marked the fight to preserve the integrity of the Catholic Church.
St. Thomas More’s life is something for all of us to emulate in our own struggle against this habit of life. This entropy. As you go and study the law and eventually became lawyers, recognize entropy when you see it. Fight it like St. Thomas More.
And to conclude, let me just share with you three words to help you get by. Three words I have learned when I was about your age finding a way to sort things out of this entropy.
Arete. This is the Greek word for virtue. However, a direct translation of the word is “to be the best of what you can be.” That is my first word. Arete, Be the best of what you can be. Never be contented with what you have done. Maximize your potentials. You can be better.
Magis. It is the Latin word for “more”. Do more. Give more. Love more. Pray more. You will always have plenty to give. You can never give enough. Magis. More.
Fides. Faith. In your life, you will have plenty of occasions to deal with the darkness of the night. Have faith. All things will come to pass. And in the end, only your faith will save you.
Life is a temporary suspension of entropy. St. Thomas More struggled with entropy and showed us that there is hope. Arete. Magis. Fides.