Tuesday, May 10, 2005

"Looking" Puerto Rican, Science, God, and First Loves

In his book God at the Ritz, Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete’s usual humorous fashion breaks through as he answers two questions he says are often posed to him:

Throughout my life, I have been asked two questions. I have been asked these questions in many different places, in diverse languages, and by people of different cultures, educational levels, religious convictions, and genders. Whatever else human beings may or may not have in common, whether there is or is not a universal human nature, I somehow bring the peoples of the world together by evoking from them all the same two questions: (1) Why don’t you look Puerto Rican? and (2) How can you be a scientist and a believer?

The answer to the first question is simple: as of today at least, Puerto Ricans have not adopted a single official look. Birth in Puerto Rico is considered sufficient grounds for being Puerto Rican, confirmed by love for and solidarity with the land and its people. The answer to the second question is also simple: easily. To be a scientist, I studies hard, passed exams, and earned the professional approval of peers. To be a believer, I learned not to suppress the desires of my heart or what my heart considers essential to make sense of life, including the scientific enterprise. Nothing in my work as a scientist compelled me to suppress these demands of my deepest self, and many things made these demands even stronger, including my desire to understand the world that surrounds me. (31-32)
For anyone who has heard Msgr. Albacete, this response is expected. He is well-known as a man of great intellect and humor. In fact, the first time I heard him speak, he was introduced as someone who could have been a professional comedian had he not responded to another calling. Within the first few minutes of hearing him, this statement’s truth was borne out as the entire audience was in tears from laughter. Trained as a scientist with degrees in Space Science and Applied Physics, he never lost his love for science, as he says:

Yet the scientific method for the investigation of reality is a wonderful human achievement. Science was my first love, and as the song goes:

Un viejo amor ni se olvida ni se deja;
Un viejo amor de nuestra alma si se aleja,
Pero nunca dice adios

An old love is neither forgotten nor left behind;
An old love may withdraw from the soul,
But it never says goodbye.

No comments: