Skip to main content

In the Land of the Blind the One-Eyed Man is King

It depends, you see, on the kingdom in which you wish to be king.

I have chosen this small room as my domain. The books around me constitute my wealth, the sofa my throne, the day my reign.

Where there is no division between being sane and mad, right or wrong, life and death. Where everything is permitted. Where my wishes are made and where I know of no excess. There are no paychecks here, no evaluations, no requirements, and nothing is expected from you. Hence, it all lies between you and yourself and the difference you make.

Though I know that if I go out of this kingdom I will most likely never be accepted. There, I will have to play again in the game they invented, whose rules they made in their favor, where their smiles welcome you as the sentry welcomes the convict to the death chamber. I lose my powers there, and no one will believe me. And so I play on and do my best to put up a front. The difference is knowing this--for most people get lost in the world and forget their true lives.

And so I retreat to this makeshift study every morning to work and play--which is which I do not know anymore. Then I go to the world by night, dressed to play my part, going on and on about my angst, appearing strong but in need of pity, of wanting to be taken care of, preaching about the absurdity of the world. So all is well.

A loser to the world, but a king in this small room.

Rilke, after having breakfast and sipping on good coffee, would come to his study dressed in a shirt, tie and suit. Before him and on his large desk in the middle of the room were two pens. And how he would spend the day would revolve around the choice of which pen to pick up.

One pen was for the everyday matters such as bills, requests, and also his expansive but little-known correspondences. He would spend the whole morning writing letters to friends and acquaintances, deliberately writing with such precision and passion much like as he would display in his poetry. By lunch, a stack of letters would have risen by his desk, ready to be delivered.

The other pen was reserved for "work." Through this pen flowed the volumes of his poetry and a novel which made him famous. But it was painstaking "work"; the ease by which he had written his letters would pale in comparison with the difficulty he endured in "working."

I imagine him bleeding as he wrote. But he kept on trying.

He had adapted a maxim by which he lived his life. "One must work, and do nothing but work, and one must have patience."


Painted on the wooden beams in the ceiling of Montaigne's third floor study were some fifty inscriptions from the Bible and the classics.

Some of them read:

The happiest life is to be without thought. --Sophocles
Have you seen a man who thinks he is wise? You have more to hope for from a madman than from him. --Proverbs
There is nothing certain but uncertainty, nothing more miserable and proud than man. --Pliny
Everything is too complicated for men to be able to understand. --Ecclesiastes
This was a man who devoted himself to the life of the mind. After reading from among the thousand books in his study, I imagine him tilting his chair back, putting his feet on his desk, and repeating those lines from his ceiling.


Rilke "worked" not knowing that his words would be read around the world.

Montaigne read even if he knew the vanity of the mind.

I stay here, wasting away the days.

We are kings.


Popular posts from this blog

The Fields of Amorsolo

The first National Artist in Philippine history, referred to warmly as the “Grand Old Man of Philippine Art,” Fernando Amorsolo (1892–1972) still stands today as a looming figure in Philippine art responsible for being one of the artists who helped define what we up to now visually imagine as essentially Filipino. The images of rural life, of golden fields below clear blue, blue skies; the smiles of farmers which diminish their weariness as they plant, harvest, and winnow rice;most especially the iconic figure of the Filipina maiden working in the fields—the beloved dalagang bukid--; these, I believe, even after generations of Filipino painters since Amorsolo, have remained in our hearts and memory. Amorsolo did what great masters do for their country: bestow upon it its own icons, represent its native beauty, that is, to give its people and lands an identity and a face. There are, however, as many intentions for art as there are works of art. And these intentions will always remain in…

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…

A Love Sooner than Later

BROWN PENNY William Butler YeatsI whispered, 'I am too young,' And then, 'I am old enough'; Wherefore I threw a penny To find out if I might love. 'Go and love, go and love, young man, If the lady be young and fair.' Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny, I am looped in the loops of her hair. O love is the crooked thing, There is nobody wise enough To find out all that is in it, For he would be thinking of love Till the stars had run away And the shadows eaten the moon. Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny, One cannot begin it too soon.

One cannot begin to love too soon--conversely, one should not love too late or in life's demise. That waiting for the "right time," or the "right person" to love, what are these but the cries or sighs of an unready, even tired, heart? One becomes ready only when one begins to understand love slowly (or again), and one understands love progressively when one, simply, performs the act of love. Love, like mos…