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Showing posts from September, 2006

On Suicide (The Leap) II

The good man should flee life when his misfortunes become too great;
the bad man, also, when he is too prosperous


In ancient times, suicide was not thought to be a crime (sui-cide) but was perhaps even awarded with reverence and admiration. In a world when people died at a much younger age due to war, lack of medicine, plagues, and man's surrender to the powers of Nature, man's lot was far more unacceptable as it is today. And in front of the Fates's and Lady Fortune's fickle but quick decisions (and indecisions), man was pushed to the limit, to the end of the tragedy, at the brink of an unfathomable fall.

Yet what man had -- amidist the terror of Moira and their fleeting lives -- was the freedom to end the tragedy once and for all without having to wait for the story to end, by putting the final period on it so as to let the chorus enter earlier than expected. After all, life was just life: the story had to end anyway. So why prolong it, they thought.

As Pliny say…

On Suicide (The Leap)

For them

If you have the courage to die you will have the ingenuity.


He climbed over the ledge without hesitation but with much fear in his heart. With his hands clutching the rail, his feet searched for something that could support his weight, something he could finally count on. He looked down; and it was a long way down. Five floors, to be exact. The other people were busying themselves with window-shopping and hurrying to their unknown destinations. This man knew what his destination was: nowhere but death.

His foot finally landed on what he thought were pots of plants that were displayed off the ledge of the railings to make the shopping mall more attractive, more glamorous. Only then did he realize that the pots were not pots of clay. They were made of styrofoam, thus, they were light, and the brackets that supported such beautiful but absurd plants will not support his weight. There was no more time to blame the plants or himself. There was no more opportunity to curse the G…

Invisible Love (The Bridge)

For Donna who is dying

And so after a year, we end with Marion giving us a sketch of what love is: that love is “a visible jubilation of invisibles, without any visible object, yet in balance, through the crossing of aims…” That is why it is possible to no longer look at my beloved but still see her, be with her. Seeing without seeing, it now becomes clear how lovers need not see each other face to face. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery says, “Love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward in the same direction.” Orpheus, if he truly loved Eurydice, should have had faith in their love and should have walked on without seeing her following him. If only Orpheus believed in Eurydice, if he believed in their love, they would have been able to walk out of Hades toward the same direction, the same horizon, without having to see each other. But Eurydice died—this we all know. But the greater problem is she will always have to die. Whether or not Orpheus looked at her, Eur…

Without Why (The Rose) III

Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity! What advantageous difference for man in all the labor by which he labors under the sun?

Ecclesiastes 1:2-3


Only God does not have to be. And God loves without being.

Jean-Luc Marion

But to know that the child and the rose hide a secret is to already know what we do not know, what is missing in us. We are precisely able to imagine what is in the child at play or the rose in bloom because we ourselves were children before, because we could be a rose 'without why' as well. If we try.

Heidegger notes the difference as such between human beings and the rose:Humans live so differently from the rose that, as they go about doing things in their world, they glance sidelong at what the world makes and requires of them. . . . we humans cannot come to be who we are without attending to the world that determines us -- an attending in which we at the same time attend to ourselves. The rose has no need of this (Lecture 5, The Principle of Reaso…

Without Why (The Rose) II

Lifetime is a child at play; moving pieces in a game.
Kingship belongs to the child.

Heraclitus, Fragment 52

The child at play never asks itself why it plays. The child just plays; and if it could, it will play as long as possible, it will play throughout its life. See its delight and witness its smile.

If it would never go hungry or if the sun would never set it too will never leave its playmates and playthings. Time flies at play because it stops or suspends time. Time -- as we grownups only know too well -- is the culprit for order, schedules and priorities; yet for the child, there is no time, there is only bottomless play. It is we who impose that this or that should be done at this or that time. We stop the absurd and supposedly endless play ("He does nothing but play") because we insist that discipline, order and priorities be instilled in the child at an early age ("He needs to learn other things beside playing"). So that the child will become like us one da…

Without Why (The Rose)

For herwho
in the winter could not wait
for love to bloom in spring

Should the highest principle contain the highest paradox in its taste? Being a principle that allows absolutely no peace, that always attacks and repels, that always anew would become unintelligible as soon as one had understood it? That ceaselessly stirs up our activity -- without ever exhausting it, without ever becoming familiar?Novalis


Just remember in the winter
far beneath the bitter snows
lies the seedthat with the sun's love
in the springbecomes the rose

"The Rose"

In his Theoria motus abstracti, Leibniz first makes public mention of the principium rationis or the principle of reason: Nihil est sine ratione or "Nothing is without reason." While unknown to him (and to many), this principle which is used here for a rather esoteric and abstract work (an investigation on the conditions of the possibility of motion), this 'mighty' (grande) and 'noble' (nobilissimum) princi…

A Toast (The Best Man)

As we celebrate Jan and Sandra’s day of love and their truthful acknowledgement of it, allow me to tell you a story—a myth that while may have never happened and deemed apocryphal may still shed some light on this already brilliant and luminous night.

Let me tell you a tale coming from no one else but the tallest of all philosophers and the master storyteller himself—that giant of thought who goes by the name of Plato.

In his dialogue entitled The Symposium, Socrates among his friends try to answer one simple question: "What is love?” It was no coincidence that this whole dreamy conversation happens in a banquet o sa isang inuman sa pagitan ng mga magkakaibigan.For that is what the Greek word symposion means: inuman, just like what you, my family and friends, are itching to do right now.

As each one gives his own answer to the question as to what love is, one drunk fellow (not Socrates—for he doesn't get drunk) offers a myth that had been handed down through generation…

The Refusal of the Gift (The Giver) II

“Do not give a heart I may not receive.” Racine

But if a gift is not ignored and acknowledged by the recipient (the letter read, the present opened) how else may the givee not complete the givenness of the gift than by simply refusing it, by – after gazing at it and knowing it -- totally rejecting it as a gift, that is, to say ‘no’ to it?A gift may be refused by the givee because of contempt (“too little,” “too late,” “too much,” “too soon”), mistrust (“there is something fishy here,” “what does he want in return?”) or pure malice (to shatter the giver when he is most vulnerable, that is, to refuse not only the gift but the giver as well). Whatever the reason may be, as Marion says, what is decisive in the reception (and completion) of the gift no longer resides in the perfection of the gift (and therefore, in the giver as well) but in the givee who must decide either to accept it (reception) or decline it (refusal). The gift is complete in its thinglike (objective, total) status: wholl…

The Refusal of the Gift (The Giver)

To her
who ignored my gifts
and refused me

"...unexpected gift, unexpected time."

William Forrester, "Finding Forrester"

I love giving gifts.

Not that I have that much money to spend or that many friends to spoil. It's just that there is something exciting in giving a gift: exciting for me, the giver and for the friend, the givee. What with the unexpectedness and surprise that veils the coming of each gift and perhaps the imagined unguarded smile and delight that dawns on the givee's face (imagined because surprise gifts are gifts received when the giver has long gone and withdrawn), the gift displaces the relationship between I and Thou.

Friendships, like love, is built on a commerce unlike the everyday economy we willingly take part of. Economy feeds on the exchange between this for that, my money for your product. Yet the commerce and exchange in friendship while sometimes reduced to the economic principle of equality ("We should split the bill equ…

Death Comes in Threes (The Child at a Wake)

For Lola Ester Borja
December 8, 1920 - September 8, 2006

"That's one of the perks of being dead. You know what happens after you die and you know the meaning of life. Life is wasted on the living."
Nathaniel Fisher
Six Feet Under (Sixth episode, First Season)

Death did come in three instances this past week: first, the father of a server in Outback; second, the grandfather of a long-time friend (I was there when he first heard it and he turned to us saying, "Cheers"); and third (the very next day), the grandmother of my cousin whose name was Ester Borja.

She was 85 years old. And she died of old (but of a ripe) age. I believe it was our Mother who took her. (See the dates when she was born and when she died above.)

My family and I went to the wake. There were only a handful of people there, and we were one of the first to sign in the guestbook -- that final attendance sheet for the departed's final party. There were also only a few boquets of flowers sent…

Building My Library (The Book Collector)

For my Neighbor
who reads her Benjamin at night

"Pilosopiya -- iyan ang kailangan mong pag-aralan. Kahit na wala ka nang pera maliban sa pambili ng lampara at langis. Kahit wala ka nang panahon maliban sa pagitan ng hating-gabi at pagtilaok ng manok."

Friedrich Holderlin
in a letter dated 1796, translated by Remmon Barbaza

"... to quote the answer which Anatole France gave to a philistine who admired
his library and then finished with the standard question, 'And you have read
all these books, Monsieur France?' 'Not one-tenth of them.
I don't suppose you use your Sevres china every day?'"

Walter Benjamin
"Unpacking My Library," Illuminations

My father could not believe his eyes when he opened my credit card bill for last month's reveries. He called me in his usual seemingly-angry-but-just-excited-voice and pointed to the bottom line which I had to pay back to him in a few days. As my mouth went agape, he said, "I told you."


The Freedom to Know

For the Mathematician
who is also a late bloomer

Habent sua fata libelli

quoted by Walter Benjamin, Illuminations

I never read a book much more buy one until I was twenty-one.

Of course there were book reports to be done and standard textbooks to be skimmed through all throughout the formative years of this life; yet, they do not really qualify as reading. For in real reading, a certain kind of liberty is at play: the freedom to choose one book from thousands and thousands available to you, and the decision to read here and now inspite of the possibility of reading another or any other.

I always give my students the experience of choosing a book in a library as an example of the absurd freedom we have -- absurd because such a freedom participates in the infinite and the finite (Buber). There is an inumerable quantity of books displayed before your very eyes, spanning rows and rows of shelves on floors upon floors in the library, all waiting for your tentative fingers to pick them and for yo…

On Staying and Waiting

For Erjoy

"Because legein (to let), which lets things lie together before us, concerns itself solely with the safety of that which lies before us in unconcealment, the gathering appropriate to such a laying is determined by safekeeping."

("Logos," Early Greek Thinking)

"They also serve those who stand and wait."


"I waited for you."

That was what Victor Navorski said to the lovely but impatient Amelia in the movie "The Terminal." And Victor knew what he was saying.

A victim of unusual circumstance, Victor Navorksi arrived at the JFK Airport in New York just when a coup d 'etat in his beloved Krakhozia transpired overnight. His passport and visa were instantly denied by the immigration and, without understanding much of what the Chief of Security said, he was asked to wait until Uncle Sam would take care of the crack in the wall the unassuming tourist fell into. As Dixon said, he was a "citizen of nowhere," and strict b…