The Young Jose Rizal and His Slippers
The Slippers Left to Float
"If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well." (Mt. 5:40)
As I was listening to the homily last Sunday on the Gospel Mt. 5:38-48 where apart from the verse above, Jesus was also quoted saying, "When someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other one to him as well" (Mt. 5:39), one of the common anecdotes of our national hero when he was a child came to my mind. The young Pepe, as Jose Rizal is known to be called, after losing one of his slippers as he was riding a boat, was said to throw his remaining slippers into the waters. At such a young age, he was said to reason that his remaining slipper, without the other pair, is no use to him. Someone who might be able to pick both slippers will be able to use the pair of slippers well.
As this thought occurred to me, perhaps due to the verse on the tunic and the cloak, I began to think of the direction of the current in the rivers and in the seas. True, the current seemed to move a single direction; nevertheless, upon considering the length of time spanning from when Rizal lost one of his slipper to the time when he decided to throw his other slipper, and considering the vastness of the waters, the likelihood of both slippers ending up in one place and being obtained by one person is very little.
Although the young Rizal did have a reasoning not common to the young and one which even some adults would not be able to understand, I realized after thinking of the direction of the current how Rizal's reasoning in this particular incident of his life isn't as sound as people make it seem.
On second thought, this anecdote wasn't meant to highlight Rizal's ingenuity. After all, his novels, his works, his various professions, his linguistic abilities and his other achievements all point to his ingenuity that there seemed to be no point in adding this anecdote to the evidence of his gifted intellect. No, perhaps not.
Perhaps this anecdote is one which aims to show and highlight the goodness and the care for others that is evident in the young Rizal. Perhaps this anecdote would like to show the children that at a young age, we can learn to detach ourselves from useless material things (one of which is half of a pair of slippers which is practically useless if its pair is missing). Perhaps this anecdote is a prefiguring of the future Rizal, one who would spend his own time, money and resources to expose the cancer of the colonial Philippine society. And perhaps, this anecdote, does not only relate to the tunic and the cloak in last Sunday's Gospel. It also relates to giving the other cheek to the one who strikes our cheek. After all, in spite of the various opportunities to escape, Rizal chose to face his death, and disagreed to a rebellion.
We have been too focused on Rizal's wisdom and intellect that sometimes, we tend to forget the more important thing that is in him - his patriotism. After all, he is a national hero not because he is wise and intelligent. Many had been wise and intelligent, but are not heroes. He is a hero because he has a heart that cares for his fellowmen.
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