Two and a half men

. . is the topic of my first Trade Tripper column for the year in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:

"It is interesting to think that for almost a decade into the Common Era three of the greatest men in history walked this earth at the same time. More than any, they changed the course of the world. Though they worked in different realms, one in the temporary and secular, the other two in the religious and eternal, and despite the three having never met, their actions affected each other and their legacies significantly.

Augustus Caesar is perhaps the greatest ruler the world has ever known. While Julius Caesar, his uncle, is more popular and his “Veni, Vidi, Vici” quoted repeatedly by the hubristic lot, nevertheless, it was Augustus who could rightly claim of finding Rome as rubble and leaving it in marble. Pax Romana was his creation, not Julius’.

Though not as charismatic and gifted an orator as Julius, Augustus was blessed with a great intellect, dogged determination, and marvelous administrative skills. He was simply a leader who got things done. He was far from the rugged, gladiator type that most associate with ancient Rome via Hollywood. He was of average height, of slender appearance, and fragile health. He was not a soldier. Yet it was he, at 19 years of age, who fought, out thought, and beat all who opposed him: his uncle’s murderers Brutus and Cassius, then Cicero, and eventually Mark Anthony and Cleopatra. Unlike the lesser men and women presently in our government for whom the exercise of true leadership is anathema, with Augustus the sun sets and rises with Rome. Cool and detached, he (unlike the mark of the truly mediocre) never lost his temper even when being heckled by the crowd or the senate. His love for country was on full display near the end of his life, moved to tears upon being honored with the title of “pater patriae”.

It was Augustus’ administrative call for a census to all those under Roman jurisdiction that made Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary travel to Bethlehem from Nazareth. It was in Bethlehem that Jesus was born.

Of Jesus I’d write less about and defer to the theologians. Although I must say that it is deeply interesting (and profoundly inspiring) to know that the Christian faith is founded not on grandeur or power but on humiliation. For Jesus humbly submitted himself to Roman law and he was, upon the sentencing of Pontius Pilate, insulted, beaten, spat upon, and executed not merely as a common criminal but in a manner reserved for the lowest member of society. It is the complete opposite, as Henri Nouwen noted, of our “upward mobility” mentality. Christ did not espouse suffering for suffering’s sake but rather of faith, hope, and love. The crucifixion, as our own Horacio dela Costa pointed out, is Christ telling us how to take the inevitable earthly sufferings like a man."