Erle Frayne D. Argonza
Kabanal-banalang araw! Holiest of Days!
As articulated in earlier articles by me, institutions torment the ‘free spirits’ or souls with ‘individuated minds’. Institutions were designed for the ‘mass mind’ people, for the harbingers of the ‘folkspirit’ or folkgeist. I’d say from my own experience that current education is inadequate for the former, for gifted children and most especially for ‘star seed’ children.
As a young man of Age 22, Erle Frayne Argonza can be described as possessing a ‘conqueror’s psyche’. Barely starting in his work as a community development assistant, he was already very bullish in meteorically rising to top leadership and executive roles. At that age, he envisioned his entry to the presidential palace as an executive in the future, 25 years hence (at age 46 he did become a bureau director in the presidential palace).
Compare that young adult Erle to the boy Erle of preschool and school days. It was a stark contrast, to be sure. This tot was shy, melancholic, and was deeply communicating with his own inner self or detached from the crowd. He went through a traumatic childhood, and he with the ‘gifted mind’ and ‘star seed’ went through a process that, to his surprise, was undergone too by other ‘star seeds’.
Born in 1958 in a typical agrarian-commercial town (today’s Tuguegarao city), my mother was only 18 years old when she delivered me. My father was a soldier than, and was on duty in the field, battling insurgents, on July the 6th when I breathed air for the first time. Imagine the loneliness and depression of my mother at that time, when she was barely out of teenage. That melancholic experience was to gel in me as a boy with a ‘melancholic personality’, a personality that was to dog me till my early adulthood.
Right after that birth, we babies (I was the 2nd child) were motored off to Manila, where my mother had to take her bachelor’s degree (nutrition). After her successful schooling (4 of us were born by then), our family settled in Tuguegarao in mid-1963. There I was to intensively learn my ABCs, arithmetic, and reading proficiency right at home. At age 5 I could read the major dailies with the comprehension level of a teenager, and I never even went to school till 1965 as a Grade 1 pupil.
At age 6 (1964), my grandmother, a teacher about to retire, brought me to the Linao grade school where she was teaching (Linao is a rural village in the town). She pitted me, a mere 6 year old tot, against a 12 year old pupil of hers in arithmetic and other basics of tot learning. To the wonderment of those present, the boy Erle easily beat and out-smarted a pupil 6 years his senior.
Little did I know about the consequences of that behavior. All I recall was that at age 6, I realized that I was too different from the kids around me, my sibs and cousins included. I was all too contemplative and hungry for the creatives, for analytical thought constructs, for challenges. I was almost always in contact with my own ‘inner space’ or whatever even when in the company of fellow kids.
At that age, I began to squirm inside me, questioning why I should be associating with kids whose qualities were different from mine. Why can’t I find kids of my own kind? By age 7 this was compounded when I entered school for the first time, where I could associate with kids with ease but I knew that I was different from them. They were all too playful, learned by rote, and always expecting for candies (high dependency). They were utterly shallow, to say the least. (I realized later that kids are indeed naturally shallow.)
But the really devastating part was the educational system itself. There was nothing in it that was intended for ‘gifted children’ and moreso for ‘star seeds’. It was all rote, there was none of the accelerated system that later on was introduced by the Montessori school. My esteem simply crashed, my morale ebbed, and I attended school largely as a mechanistic behavior: my Dad would whip me dry blue if I didn’t go to school at all.
Add to those experiences the authoritarian personality of my father (he whacked us to the level of physical abuse in today’s legal jargon). My parents were quite poor as they started family life unprepared, at a time when we babies were already around (our poor diets, clothing, toys, teeth were indicative of a bad start of family life). In 1966-68 I suffered from nephritis, had to eat a zero-salt diet for 2 years, and can’t play sports due to my perennially ailing kidneys.
The final blow to my esteem came in 1969 when my Dad met a motorcycle accident. For a year he can’t work at all, due to leg fracture disability. To be able to save our family from financial collapse, we siblings have to sell ice candy around town. We had a newly constructed house then, furnished with a refrigerator and Esso gasul stove (we were among the first to acquire them in town), so our family can mix and produce ice candy and cook delicacies with ease (my mother was good at baking).
It didn’t occur to me then that peddling wares at raw age had a good side to it, as training for entrepreneurship. All I knew was we siblings were forced to peddle wares, forced to labor when we should be focused on our studies. For two (2) years life went on that way for us, and by age 10 the devastating effect of this quite wretched life, added to the bad school system, punitive father, and sickly physique, took its toll on me.
There was utterly no one to talk to about my state. I kept silent about my inner feelings, wept silently when alone. The inspiring presence of my grandfather, who openly chastised my father for his failings and who was surely sympathetic to us grandchildren, quite saved the day for us sibs. But my melancholy was already advancing. It was only the soothing countenance of an Angel whose presence I was very much aware of that made me sustain my inner balance then. That being I later found out was the Archangel Michael himself, Lord of the 1st Ray (warriorship) of the Hierarchy of the Angelic realm.
All along, the school system was badly ill equipped to handle ‘cases’ like me a ‘star seed’. To compensate for the deficiencies of my environment, I read voluminously, and was reading adult stuff as early as Age 11. By that age I learned to play the guitar via self-learning, joined the rondalla (instrumental group) upon entering Grade 6, became a ‘star dancer’ in school by then, and the route to rising above my wretched, shy, melancholic nature was opened up. I also digested what I could learn from my genius grandpa and ex-teacher grandma (till they left for the USA when I was circa 11).
To say of the presence of a brilliant teacher-advisor who could innovate in the classroom to accommodate gifted children? Of a principal who can do the same? In a public school anyway that lacked the decent amenities of a good school (it was damn impoverished)? No, there was no such thing then, no Montessori or Walforf Steinier school that were both designed with enormous genius and wisdom.
To cap all horrors, the school system rewarded rote and called it ‘honors’. Children whose mental prowess were just a bit better than monkeys’ (sorry for sounding condescending) were awarded ‘honors’! What intoxicating hubris! Horror of horrors!
The ridiculous side to this system remains till these days: the ‘banking method’. The system works by presuming that learning is like a ladder, that one goes up the ladder in linear manner. I could only laugh with guffaws today at this pedagogy, as it discounts the possibility of quantum leaps in learning, and of methods that could be more radical and astounding in results than the ladderized methods for morons and subhumans (excuse me again please).
I was already ending my adolescence when I encountered the sociologists, psychologists and topnotch pedagogy innovators. One of them was Paulo Freire, who dealt devastating blows on the ‘banking system’ and innovated on a ‘conscientization’ pedagogy. These innovations were precisely the ones I was looking for, or those that recoqnized quantum leaps and can make geniuses even out of the most moron folks. I also learned yoga meditation inside the classroom, thanks to the psychologist Prof. Alfredo Lagmay, husband of my anthropology mentor Dr. Letty Lagmay, who got invited to workshop us students on yoga meditation. (Dr. Alfredo Lagmay is among psychology pioneers in the Philippines.)
To my own surprise, I discovered that all of us possess the ‘genius within’. Some kids like the ‘star seeds’ and ‘gifted children’ are those who are lucky enough to have evolved faster in the mental realm, and experience their genius as early as childhood. However, I found out that other youths whose IQs were mediocre at age 15 (when aptitude tests for college are administered in the Philippines) were able to achieve quantum leaps in consciousness till they turned brilliant-to-genius by age 20!
And to further my own surprise, I found out that even folks whose only knowledge is mechanistic skills to deliver letters as mailman and pound clothes on rivers as laundrywomen can achieve the quantum leaps via yoga meditation and the inspiring guidance of a sagely Guru. The narratives of master Paramahansa Yogananda positively indicated this possibility, as shown by the case of an ordinary mailman who, after constant yoga practice, turned genius of a seeker, are concrete case studies of achieving quantum leaps in consciousness via another pedagogy: the science of yoga.
Being a yogi myself, I have already graduated from genius to the mystical. And this is another surprise for me: that the mystical is higher than genius. I did it via yoga and universal mysticism, plus constant studies and readings. And, mind you, I will end the ‘mystic phase’ of my life soon and enter an awareness level of ‘nirvanic consciousness’, thanks to the constant work of my Spirit Guides on me.
In sum, our orthodox understanding of learning behavior models (very linear) and educational methods (‘banking system’, rote learning) are largely meant for the simpletons, for the laggards and the middling souls. I wonder whether this general situation can be changed soon, maybe not in my lifetime.
The gladdening news is that there are now personages and environments that can assist the ‘star seeds’ and ‘gifted children’ along the way. Their innovations bring immense hope for many sensitive, intelligent souls. These souls will become dominant probably before this century’s end, when 5% of the population will be geniuses and trans-geniuses, the rest will be the middling souls while no more laggards will be around (they’ll be transferred to other planets that will suit their psyche).
[Writ 17 March 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]