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A life story (# 194)


From there, individually or collectively, we gain the ability to anticipate. This anticipation, materialized, for example, in the predictions of epidemiologists, can allow for the necessary adaptations and adjustments.

We all have a story to share: our personal story. And the entire secret history of any human being deserves to be shared, not because each one of us is a homemade variant of the Homeric heroes, but because each history, of each human being, is worth, as a testimony of a time and a geographical space.

Sharing our personal story, this spark of life, can always inspire and ignite the imagination of someone from another generation.

I came to realize that I was born in the early 60s of the 20th century, at dawn in autumn, at home, by the hands of an old and experienced midwife. I was the third and last of three children. "The bottom of the pot," as I've been called many times, or the "were-not-already-to-come." The truth is that I ended up coming at 4 am, and I'm still here sixty years later, strong and tough, contemplating the World since 1960.

In the house where I lived until I was 30 years old, the day began, not with the sunrise, but with the arrival of the two morning newspapers that came under the door and carried, in large letters, the pulse of the World, since the beginning of the day. wedding of the princess of Sweden to the Biafra war, ending in the tide table or in the tour of the Gulbenkian Traveling Libraries. It was loose information that arrived, but it showed that the World existed.

I had as toys a magnificent tricycle, a few LEGO pieces, a toolbox, with hammer and pliers, nails and pieces of wood that made me interact with different materials in the construction of small contraptions.

I watched with delight watching my father dismantle the two fans at home, every year in June, cleaning up the dust accumulated during the winter, anticipating the heat of August. I myself delighted in disassembling many other devices that I could hardly reassemble, leaving some parts and screws, which is why the machines stopped working.

I helped my older brothers build some contraptions, such as transforming a wind-up alarm clock into a fascinating electrical device that turned on lamps and radios at the right time in a desperate effort to wake one of my heaviest sleeping brothers.

It was the discovery of why things were, how materials interacted with each other. It was the basic laws of physics or electricity. It was the logical reason behind the phenomena we were observing.

All of this overlooking a backyard with a leafy wisteria, lots of snails and slugs, and a chicken coop full of hens with late-morning eggs. I took my first steps in Biology by following the hens when they became “stunted”, that is, lazy and lazy, spending the days on the laid eggs, until the chicks were born. The real doctorate in chicken incubation I did when I was 7 years old, with 2 brooders that one of my brothers brought home. The chicks were sold at my father's shop. It was with infinite curiosity that I watched the eggs turn, day after day, until the first pecks of the chicks trying to get out of the egg, a miracle of life happening inside a wooden box. Afterwards the chicks dried by the light of an electric lamp, orphans of mother and children of an incognito rooster.

In the 1950s, my father set up an important store that seemed to sell everything. It was the real “Chinese's shop”, even in the time when China was far away. It was at Casa Tinoco, “the house of a thousand and one articles” that I dealt with dossiers and stamps, from the age of 7 or 8, in a real internship until the end of my adolescence.

In line with the adventures of the five and the Club of Seven, books by Enid Blyton, I was part of a true secret club, with three of my 7 cousins, with whom we spent memorable afternoons throughout the summer. With each of my cousins, without exception, I learned something fundamental to my life.

I witnessed the hi-fi stereo craze that emerged in the 1950s. An uncle of mine received electronic parts ordered in the USA. He meticulously put these pieces together and brought out amplifiers and speaker cabinets that emanated crystal-clear sounds from vinyl records and a record player of a prestigious British brand. My father was part of a group of petty bourgeois who shared among themselves vinyl records, patiently recorded on kilometers of magnetic tape. It was the fascination of electronic recording. From there working on the radio would be a step.

It was through an advertising agency that broadcast it on the radio station of Clube Asas do Atlântico, on the island of Santa Maria. Making radio, articulating music and words are gestures of intoxicating fascination.  

The indelible mark of a teacher I had between 11 and 12 years old, plus a few shelves with books on Science in a public library, led me to choose Biology and Geology as the basis for a degree at the University of the Azores. Still as a student, I dealt closely, in the laboratory, with the Japanese beetle that infested Terceira Island, in the Azores. As such, I discovered what would be the biological fight against this insect, using fungi or nematodes.

Properly qualified as a Mathematics and Science teacher, I started to face groups of people at the age of 10, this stage of life when everything is fascinating. With the pedagogy in a suitcase, I left with other dreams from my island and landed in a school in Sintra.

He taught classes with a view of the mountains, while learning, in Lisbon, the secrets of video making. Interspersing with my teaching career, I made several small business documentaries that extended the pleasure I had as a teenager of filming and editing film in Super 8.  

I am particularly proud of a documentary on the Cultural Heritage of the Assembly of the Republic and another on the importance of dental hygiene, produced for the DGS. 

Antidepressants and the dedication of a brilliant doctor were invaluable in facing the aches and pains of forty years of life: the wear and tear and disenchantment that all teachers are feeling in the middle of their careers. But it was these ailments that led me to the doors of homeopathy, where I found a good solution for my health problems. From there the in-depth study of Chinese Medicine was a step. I immersed myself for 5 long years in an intense study of this Millennial Medicine, from the rooms of the University of Chinese Medicine, to the nooks and crannies at home, throughout nights and early mornings of reading and writing notes.

I have followed the struggles for the regulation of Non-Conventional Therapeutics since 2010. From various quarters of Portuguese society came a barrage of opposition to these therapies, accused of not having a “scientific basis”. And it was this challenge that led me to go back to the books and try to understand, after all, what Science was and what it is. I passed Chalmers, Kuhn, Popper and Morin. Above all I remembered the outburst of Pierre Laplace, a mathematician from the century. XIX, in response to Napoleon: "Science not only explains what happens, it can predict and predict."

In fact, in 2016, I realized that the defense of this important health sector would involve delving into the roots of what scientific knowledge is and understanding the meaning and scientificity of Non-Conventional Therapeutics.

The Covid-19 pandemic broke out and in March 2020 we were confined to a strange way of life that was not part of our imagination. I discovered, however, that Newton and Shakespeare had gone through the same experience and that was where important works were born: the Theory of Gravity and “Romeo and Juliet”. In my confinement, however, I only developed an enormous fatigue of many hours at the computer trying to reach my students.

The most surprising thing for those who studied biology was to discover that no one seemed to truly understand basic aspects of the proliferation of an infectious vector, such as a virus. Especially the jurists and economists who dominate the World of politics and governance seem to think they can subject the biological reality of a pandemic to the dictates of tacit politics.

Even in Europe, countries like the United Kingdom or Cartesian France began, distracted by their swagger, thinking that Europeans were clean people and that they were far from Asian epidemics.  

In the USA and Brazil, the phenomena of a deeply distorted perception of what was happening around us were evident.

In the face of a pandemic of this magnitude, the challenge, in the first place, is the full daily perception, by each citizen, of the facts that are taking place. But at the same time it is essential that each inhabitant of planet Earth has some understanding of the mechanisms behind the phenomena that occur around us, whether physical, environmental or social.

For this to happen, we need to be aware of the information that comes to us, like the newspaper that enters us every day under the door. It is necessary to process this information, like someone dismantling electromechanical equipment with nuts and bolts, using a mental toolbox and then mentally organizing this data, in folders and virtual files.  

This entire process is largely done by any of us, unconsciously or informally. Our professional activities may require a more formal or systematic approach, but this process is fundamental and is the essence of our living as human beings.

For this process to take place, it is essential to be well prepared by this millenary institution called school, but it is also necessary that society as a whole makes available mechanisms and devices that allow an understanding of the mechanisms that underlie the most diverse phenomena that occur around us. This applies to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, but it generalizes to many other dimensions of our experience of human beings.

Then Pierre Laplace reminds us that Science gives us the ability to anticipate. And what do we do with this capacity for anticipation? And what to do with this perception of facts and mechanisms?

The answer is easy: we adapt. Instead of the  homo sapiens  we have to build the  Homo anticipating , that is, the human being capable of anticipating and with this anticipation prepare his adjustment in order to guarantee the basic aspects of our life.

In the last two decades, we have seen China assert itself as a great economic and technological power. Why? How is it possible that a country considered poor and underdeveloped throughout most of the century? XX, is dawning, risking to overtake powers like the USA?

This is probably because China has and has always had a cultured elite, very attentive to its historical and cultural past and with an extraordinary capacity for... anticipation and adaptation.

The Covid-19 pandemic that befell mankind in 2020 dramatically shows us the importance of this process taking place, at least, in most human minds. From there, individually or collectively, we gain the ability to anticipate. It is this anticipation, materialized, for example, in the predictions of epidemiologists, that can allow for the necessary adaptations and adjustments.

If this is true for the management of the pandemic, it is equally or more true for a good part of everything that goes on in our daily lives.

© Eduardo Rui Alves 

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