Weekly Word Archives

Weekly Word 5 May 2015

Illustration by Kevin Christopher M. Tee (2015); editing by Allister Roy S. Chua (2015)

Illustration by Kevin Christopher M. Tee (2015); editing by Allister Roy S. Chua (2015)

This was supposed to be last week’s Word. I’m really, really sorry I missed it – as you know, I got sick for most of last week (and the weekend prior), and couldn’t write much. Well, here it is, and once again, kudos to our volunteer illustrator, Kevin Christopher M. Tee, for doing his word arts all the way from Shenzhen, China!

| ɪnˈlʌɪt(ə)n | or | ɛnˈlʌɪt(ə)n |

From my experience, “enlighten(ment)” chiefly meant two things: Buddhism and the Enlightenment. Siddhartha Gautama Buddha’s spiritual journeys led him to a spiritual maturity that was termed “enlightenment” – true wisdom from the troubles of the present world, and how to achieve that transcendental, eternally peaceful state called nirvana.

The Enlightenment, we know, was a turning point in European civilization in the 17th and 18th centuries – an intellectual movement that emphasized reason and individualism and questioned tradition. Here, humanity become a lot more aware about itself and what it could do, and set the ball rolling for a development that has only sped up since it began, even today.

Putting these two historical “Enlightenments” together is what, I think, brings the true enlightenment that our world needs more than ever today. I don’t think we can separate or compartmentalize them into “spiritual” and “worldly” enlightenment, respectively – but perhaps one way I can think of is that the latter tells us what we are capable of doing, while the former tells us (at least from a detached viewpoint, and from an Asian perspective) what we “ought” to be doing.

Let me explain – allow me to enlighten, ha! The Age of Enlightenment empowered us as humans to think and eventually create (or at least re-fashion creation). With the resurgence of European philosophies in an age not seen since Plato’s, left and right, an infinite world of possibilities became available for nearly anyone to grasp. These possibilities, at first theoretical, then were launched into action, and then… boom! there was the Industrial Revolution. And the rest is history, literally.

Asian civilization, too, was flourishing several thousands of years ago, and by extension it, too, had its share of flaws that led some people to realize hitherto unthought-of things. As a young Indian (and Hindu) prince, the Buddha encountered suffering, but also how to be free from it. That formed the basis of his own philosophy-religion that soon blossomed from Hinduism just as Christianity stemmed out from Judaism. He taught to be free from worldly desires and by following the Eightfold Path – which would be taught in a different but fundamentally similar way some few hundred years later by Christ (i.e. not to be consumed by worldly passions or worries, and to seek God’s kingdom first and His righteousness, all built on the foundations of love). Christ Himself preached enlightenment – that He is the light to bring darkness, and that we, too, should be the light to others.

So what is its relevance today? In a world of decaying morals for the love of money or of self, yet in a world that is also becoming more and more sophisticated thanks to science and technology (and ultimately thanks to its Creator), we need a second Age of Enlightenment. Maybe not as large as the first one, but just as important. A true enlightenment that says that we are indeed capable of so much, but we must use our capabilities well and for the benefit not just of ourselves, but of others as well – and to remember that we each have a higher purpose that we must recognize and stick to. That proverb made famous in Spider-Man has never been more fitting and important now.

It may be a coincidence or not that I chose the verb form “enlighten” rather than the noun I’ve been using again and again throughout this essay. Be that as it may: I am inviting action here. As fellow members of communities and the big Community we all belong to, it is our duty to enlighten others that they, too, realize the powerful tenets and capabilities of making Citizenship, Sustainability, and Social Responsibility a lifestyle. That they realize their inherent purpose and responsibility, and live them out. In turn, we should be open to being enlightened by others, if what they say is truly enlightening and helpful for us and others.

Now, let’s go and enlighten each other by commenting below!


verb (with obj.)

  • to give sb. greater knowledge and understanding about a subject or situation
    • to give sb. spiritual knowledge or insight
  • [archaic] to shed light on an object


Middle English (in the sense of “to make luminous”, formerly also as inlighten): in early use from Old English inlīhtan (“to shine”), later from en– and in- [as an intensifier] + lighten or the noun light.

In other languages

  • Bahasa Indonesia: menerangkan
  • بهاس ملايو:
    • مڽدركن (menyedarkaan)
  • Cebuano: paglamdag
  • Deutsch: erleuchten; aufklären
  • Español: iluminar
  • Filipino: paliwanagin
  • Français: éclairer
  • 한국어: 계몽하다 (gyemonghada)
  • Italiano: illuminare; chiarire
  • ភាសាខ្មែរ: បំភ្ (bamphlu)
  • Latino: illuminare
  • မြန်မာဘာသာ: အလင်း (aalainn)
  • 日本語: 啓く (ひらく)
  • ພາສາລາວ: ອະນຸໂພດ (anu ophd)
  • ภาษาไทย: สอน (s̄xn); ตรัสรู้ (trạs̄rū̂)
  • தமிழ்: போதி (pōti)
  • Tiếng Việt: minh bạchdạy dỗgiáo huấn
  • 中文: 開導 / 开导 (kāidǎo); 啟蒙 / 启蒙 (qǐméng); 啟發 / 启发 (qǐfā)

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