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Showing posts from July, 2007

Imagination and Love

But as she wrote she saw in her mind's eye another man,
a phantom composed of her most passionate memories,
her most enjoyable books, and her strongest desires...

Madame Bovary

Stendhal, in his acclaimed essay on love, depicts the role of the imagination in the lover in what he calls the process of crystallization. Having observed salt mines in Salzburg, he says:
Leave a lover with his thoughts for twenty-four hours and this is what will happen: At the salt mines of Salzburg, they throw a leafless wintry bough into one of the abandoned workings. Two or three months later they pull it out covered with a shining deposit of crystals. The smallest twig, no bigger than a tom-tit's claw, is studded with a galaxy of scintillating diamonds. What I have called crystallization is a mental process which draws from everything that happens new proofs of the perfection of the loved one. (1957, 45)Crystallization is the phenomenon that happens in the mind of the lover. And it is fueled by…

Bar Room Philosophy

The simulacrum is never what hides the truth--
it is truth that hides the fact that there is none.


My friend remarked recently how different drinking at home is from drinking in a bar. In the bar, there are no trips to the refrigerator, no need for preparing pulutan, no cleanup after, no wife, no kids, etc. It's just you, some company and the whole "bar experience." What do I mean with this? I mean all the pyrotechnics, sights and sounds that drinking out can offer that your garage and monobloc tables and chairs cannot.

Let us take an example. Of course let us begin with the servers. In my favorite watering hole, the bartender is always a lady in her twenties and never a man. Not that they do not have male employees--in fact they have as many--but because this is all by design. (I studied business, too, you know.) With make-up on, they wear brightly colored shirts that are worn in Safari expeditions and fairly decent shorts that still leave some room for the ima…

Pascal's Paradox

The test of a first-rate intelligence
is the ability to hold two opposed ideas
in the mind at the same time, and still
retain the ability to function.


What do I mean when I say I love the beloved? Who do I love?

When I see the beloved, I cannot help but see her in her outward aspect, that is, in her appearance. She gives herself to be seen first and without remainder. In front of this spectacle, I cannot deny what I see, and what I see is her reality in the flesh.

Holding my attention and letting it stay there, she gathers my gaze and prevents it from wandering away from her or becoming lost to itself. We see this when we look into each other's eyes as we talk. My eyes do not rest on her nose, forehead or even the organic eyes; I look through them in search of the person I am talking to. In their double void, her eyes swallow my vision and freeze it in suspension. I may find no visible object to hatch onto yet I say that I see her. And she welcomes me by letting herse…

Flying on a Budget Airline

You pay peanuts, you get peanuts.You depart and arrive after midnight but before sunrise.
Redder eye flight: The flight stewardess looks sleepier than you.The seats were specifically designed to provide no comfort.You have to pay for snacks and drinks.
Bottle of water: 50 pesos. Cup noodles: 100 pesos. Beer: 100 pesos. No ice: priceless.
You also arrive in a budget airport which is located in a far-flung province one and a half hours away from the city.You get wet as you walk on the tarmac under the rain because they do not have a connecting bridge from the plane to the terminal.Woe to you for thinking about and even asking for newspapers.They do not even serve you peanuts.

If I Were a Bridge

for albert

Do not burn bridges. Friendship is a bridge.

Initially, when we think of a bridge, we imagine a constructed artifice which serves man by delivering him from one point to another in convenience. In convenience because a bridge is built to strategically connect two points at the shortest possible distance; it does not make sense to make a longer bridge when you can make a shorter one. Sensibly, a bridge is a practical innovation for people whose feet are always moving and whose eyes are always looking beyond what is near and into what is on the horizon. A bridge is man's wish to solidify what he walks on knowing that he cannot walk on water. To a certain extent, by building a bridge you are already flying.

But what essentially is a bridge? Is it merely a connection or a transition from one point to another? If I were a bridge, I wouldn't feel that. To be sure, humans would walk on me with the intention of reaching the other end; but when they walk on me, from end to end,…

What We Have Here is Failure to Communicate


Language, they say,
Is a lot like love. Words are
Like the flood of a lover's emotions,
Upon seeing her walk through the door,
Rushing forth without knowing
Whither it comes and whither it goes,
Sweetly pouring in such sweet talking,
Paused by a smile or
Held by a kiss, when the medium
is the message and words
are no more.


The average person uses around 16,000 words a day. Yet seldom do we say anything.


I love talking but I am not talkative. Actually, I am the silent type. If I don't have anything to say, I listen. If I have something to say, I listen more. Then sometimes, when given the chance, I talk.


Chesterton is supposed to have said that hell is being happy and not having anyone to tell about it.


Two ears, one mouth. --Greek proverb


When I was on vacation, I noticed two men, Koreans I think, who were talking to each other the whole day; first by the pool, then by the restaurant, then at the beach. It seemed that they didn't tire each other out and that they h…

Children and Fools

for myself
in memory of July 15, 2006

When I was teaching philosophy, I would always have my students read Karl Jasper's "What is Philosophy?" from his Way to Wisdom, a collection of the twelve public lectures he gave on radio in 1950. I found the lecture straightforward, easy to read and yet comprehensive enough for an introductory taste of what philosophy is for students who are basically taking a philosophy course for the first time.

As was my sin during the first years of teaching, I would struggle with the whole text with my students, trying to leave no room for something undigested or an insight left unread. Though it was time-consuming, I basically covered and discussed every part of the short lecture. But there was one part I would always leave hanging because I couldn't understand it enough to try to explain it; so I just breeze through or touch on it. It was the part where Jaspers discusses the sources of philosophy--where they can be implicitly found in our e…


All men's miseries derive from
not being able to sit quiet in a room alone.


I'm always terrified when our gardener comes to the house.

He comes over to tend to our grass and plants every other fortnight or more frequently in the rainy season. Lean, with sun-baked skin and around my age, he spends most of the morning until early afternoon mowing the grass, trimming the plants, uprooting the weeds, and--as a bonus--even applies his artistry to some bushes by shaping them into squares, circles and whatever yet-to-be-named figure he invented on that given day. His is no easy job; he walks a good three kilometers from the gate of the village in order to get to our house by eight; he has to bend his back for the most part or squat and double up as he cuts away with the heavy garden trimmers; and all this during the time when the sun is at its most unforgiving height. All he has is a plastic pitcher of lukewarm water our good maid brings to him and a few sticks of cigarett…

The Anti-Self (The Cat and The Butterfly)

Live the lives, live them all.
Keep the dreams separate.
See: I rise, See: I fall.
Am other, am no other.


I once had a long conversation with a friend a year ago when he opened up to me regarding some problems he had. He was having some difficulty with creating and maintaining romantic relationships with women. Not that he was undesirable or a bore; actually he is quite good-natured, rich and intelligent. But among us high school friends, notwithstanding some close but no cigar relationships with women, he is the only one who has yet to have a girlfriend. And this fact would always be the butt of our jokes among us. Though he does not find it funny, he is also quite at a loss as to the reason why, among his many attempts, he has yet to hear the word "yes" from somebody he loved.

After asking him some questions first and thinking about his dilemma, I suggested one thing to him: to reinvent himself. Reinvent in the sense of going beyond his limits, changing some things, a…

Erotic Edge

for ejec

To be contracted by another person
into a single being--how strange.

Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Nietzsche says on being a lover:

One seems to oneself transfigured, stronger, richer, more complete.... It is not merely that it changes the feelings of values; the lover is worth more.Whence does this kind of transfiguration occur in the lover? How is it possible?

One may be inclined to guess that the bliss experienced in eros merely changes the perception of the one who loves (and perhaps is loved). Anyone familiar with the feeling of falling in love will attest to this: that the fall in itself is experienced as a lightening of being. As any other experience, eros is a lived experience of consciousness--an experience which is internalized in the side of the lover which elicits certain (pleasurable) sensations such as joy, enhanced sexuality, elation, etc. These sensations flood the lover's consciousness, and being conscious of its elated self, it likes what it sees and feels. With s…

On Blinking

For Eloi

Nietzsche says:
The last men blink.Those who blink blink because they squint at what suddenly overwhelms the eyes in a flash of an instant. It may be said that what they see (or don't see) outflanks one's vision, forcing it to surrender for a moment in front of what it cannot see--grasp, understand, or own. The lids close. They close because they have to protect the eyes. From what? From being exposed to what it suddenly cannot master through vision and apprehension. The eyes suddenly become outplayed in its own game: that through which one can see is now the medium through which one is seen. Seeing itself seen, the eyes shy away; they close. Or blink.

Thus we usually blink when we become aware of ourselves, conscious to the point of insecurity. The beautiful lady blinks and looks at her shoes when she realizes that the man across her had been glancing at her in admiration. Two passengers in a jeepney blink at each other once their eyes meet accidentally, shyly trying to…

The Broken Mirror

It is always a world of a difference if you see yourself at the other end of the table. It is only then that you begin to understand.

A very close friend of mine is going through what I went through at exactly the same time last year. This is no mere assimilation or empty comparison but the presence of a very strong cohesion between his experiences and mine. I think he is on the verge of a crisis, very near to that fall. What scares me is that I know that when you fall from that precipitous height, you never are able to recover completely and everything will change.

Of course I cannot say that I know what he is going through completely. Or better yet, I cannot say that I can feel what he has been feeling. He is more easily overcome by emotions and lives by them and would perhaps take them to their conclusion. At the height of it, even though such emotions would push me to the edge, I still held on to reason as best as I could or as best as I thought I could. If he would take emotions to…

Notes on Love and Hate

1. Love is not blind but infatuation is. Hate is not blind but anger is (Heidegger). Love and hate, as I had guessed before, gather one's self in a resolve with an intention which is beyond good and evil. Sometimes, as I have experienced, hate welds you stronger to yourself than love does. This explains for the intricacies and singularity of purpose in revenge. Hate is not yet madness and nor is love. Anger and infatuation are the forms of true mania. In mania, one becomes "beside himself" as one is "seized" or "overcome" by something (strong emotions, affects, subconscious, trauma, etc.). And this is the danger because what has hitherto gathered one's self is unleashed unto the object of passion for worse (even if the thought intention was for the good). Because of this transference of control unto the object of passion, being beside himself, one is not able to see with his own eyes reality anymore: what he sees is a fractured reality. The object…