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Showing posts from September, 2007

Youth

Time is a child at play; the kingdom belongs to the child.
HERACLITUS



It's not that I was never young.

Actually, I consider myself as having the eagerness of a high schooler, with the intellect of an undergraduate junior who just finds out where his interests really lay, and the humor of a grade school pupil in khaki shorts playing squirt guns with his equally foolish classmates. So I understand what it means to be young--not only out of my ability to remember my own youth's emotions and problems, but more so because I am able to understand what I myself have experienced. If anything, that is my sole problem: while most of me is still a child, my understanding of things is that of an old and sick woman nearing her death. That is why I believe I shall die in less than a decade, say by thirty-five.

But recently, the temporal distance I have with youth has been showing and rearing its ugly head, making me realize not only that I am getting old (which is natural and welcome) but tha…

Ambivalence

Out of indifference, duality immediately breaks forth.
SCHELLING



In Girl Interrupted, there is a scene where Winona Ryder's character, a young lady diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, talks with a profound psychiatrist after a series of mishaps in the insane asylum where she was confined. The psychiatrist, an old woman who knew Latin, asks the troubled lady how she was feeling that morning. Winona answered curtly, "Ambivalent."

Somewhat struck by a word that patients in such places would perhaps never use, the doctor asks what she meant by it. "I don't care," Winona answers, "it means 'I don't care.'" And rightly so. For we usually take "ambivalence" to mean as being "apathetic" or "indifferent"--that whatever is in question does not matter to us."It does not concern me" or "walaakongpakialam." And when there is no concern, there is also no care.

But the good doctor immedia…

Body Challenge 2007

Over brunch at the Camp John Hay manor last Sunday, I and two other friends made a pact--not of blood but of beer--that the one who sheds the most weight among us gets a staggering P10,000. In three months and right before we go back to Baguio, he who loses the most (poundage) gains the most (money). The agreement was ironically made over bacon and scrambled eggs, longganisa and garlic fried rice, and boisterous laughter hiding an earnest seriousness to win the prize. That much money does not fall from trees nowadays.

Before we would weigh ourselves at my house as soon as we got back from the trip, we decided it proper to have one last supper. We stopped at the Isdaan restaurant, somewhere in Tarlac (who knows where?) to fill our bellies till they burst for the following day we knew we would dine in hell.

We ordered the following:
Sinigang na hipon
Kare-kareng bulalo prime cut
Inihaw na liempo (marinated overnight)
Lechon manok (one whole)
Tacpasiao na gulay (Filipino kimchi)
"BSK&quo…

On Leaving

From a certain point on,
there is no more turning back.
That is the point that must be reached.
KAFKA


Like the one who rows a boat,
I turn my back on my destination.
KIERKEGAARD




Interestingly, the word "to leave" originally comes from the Old English laefanwhich means "to let remain, remain, bequeath."

So what, you ask? It just struck me as odd because I would normally take leaving to mean as "going away," or "escaping," in other words as the act of the person who goes in the other direction from where he was. In other words, I thought to leave had an outward projection or vector on the part of the person who leaves while, as I now learn from good old etymology (and common sense revisited), leaving has more to do with from which one comes and what is left behind. Simply put, I thought it meant stealing away from it where now it really means giving (or "bequeathing") what is proper to what is left. It means letting it be--Gelassenheit.

Is th…

The Other Beginning

My heart could receive God if only it chose
to turn toward the Light as does the rose.
Angelus Silesius


Everything stands and falls with a couplet from Angelus Silesius.

My fate, my future, perhaps my life. But you see, a man who has nothing more to lose has everything to gain. This makes it possible for him to lay everything -- nothing -- on the line again and again.

Absurd how our decisions make us or break us. Well, I'm deciding to go with a mystical poet I've come to love and admire, and see how far he can take me. And with Eckhart and Heidegger as the model and the follower, I can't be in too bad a company. It is, after all, a matter of trusting your material, or better, trusting your poet and philosophers.

As I have said a million times, everything begins on Monday. Monday two-thirty to be exact.

No need to wish me luck. This is a matter of fate. This is already a matter of faith.


The Sunburst: Hegel on Beginnings

For my three mentors
with wholehearted gratitude



Hic Rhodus, hic saltus.
Here is the rose, dance thou there
HEGEL from Aesop




Of all philosophers, it was Hegel who taught me how to begin.

Which would strike anyone as odd, given that Hegel would never be considered as a literary writer much less an existential philosopher. To be sure, reading his dry, gray prose could only remind you of a Kant who, in turn, would be the dullest writer around if only he did not have the greatest mind in the past three hundred years. Well, we can't have it all; and while we can accuse both men for not having the imagination of Plato or the dramatics of Augustine, we would also thereby forget that the steady-handed Aristotle and the boring Aquinas surpassed their masters. It's an acquired taste, you see.

I digress. I wanted to tell you how Hegel taught me to begin.

When I taught philosophy, I would deliver a schola brevis on beginning and what it means on the first day of classes. I tell my student…

Kafka's Parable

Before the Law
by
Franz Kafka



Just when I knew the answer,
they changed the question (again).
THESAINT



Before the Law stands a doorkeeper.

To this doorkeeper there comes a man from the country and prays for admittance to the Law. But the doorkeeper says that he cannot grant admittance at the moment. The man thinks it over and then asks if he will be allowed in later. "It is possible," says the doorkeeper, "but not at the moment." Since the gate stands open, as usual, and the doorkeeper steps to one side, the man stoops to peer through the gateway into the interior. Observing that, the doorkeeper laughs and says: "If you are so drawn to it, just try to go in despite my veto. But take note: I am powerful. And I am only the least of the doorkeepers. From hall to hall there is one doorkeeper after another, each more powerful than the last. The third doorkeeper is already so terrible that even I cannot bear to look at him."

These are difficulties the man from …

Eulogy for Meister Eckhart

What is it to me if someone does not understand this?
AUGUSTINE





Those who do not understand will never be remembered.

In the Papal Bull "In agro dominico" (March 27, 1329) given in Avignon, Meister Eckhart was deemed a heretic on seventeen articles or statements by the brother collected from his books, responses, commentaries and various sermons. It was also judged that he had eleven more statements that were "evil sounding and very rash and suspect of heresy." These supposed heretical teachings came from a doctor of sacred theology, a professor, a proficient writer and a popular preacher.

These also came from a man who is now remembered as a mystic and philosopher, the father of German speculation (Joseph Bach), the reconciler of faith and science (Hegel), and the founder of transcendental idealism (Schopenhauer), and the old master to live by and to read (Heidegger).

What was so controversial about the then little-known preacher of nuns? What did he see that others we…

Diogenes the Cynic (On Detachment)

Empty yourself, so that you may be filled.
Learn not to love, so that you may learn to love.
Draw back, so that you may be approached.
SAINT AUGUSTINE




Diogenes the Cynic, an ancient Greek philosopher, lived in a barrel like a dog. And like a dog, it was reported that he would defecate anywhere he wanted to, masturbate in the public market and urinate at those who insulted him. He believed that men are like dogs--that all public norms, conventions and property are but inventions that have no relation to the real inclinations of men.

Legend has it that one day Alexander the Great saw Diogenes in his barrel and offered that he would grant any wish the dog had. Diogenes then gave his wish: he asked Alexander to step out his light.

Meister Eckhart interprets this encounter as thus:
That is why the man who sat naked in the barrel said to the great Alexander, who had all the world subject to him: "I am a far greater lord that you, for I have despised more than you have possessed. All th…

Simon of Cyrene

Some cannot loosen their own chains
and can nonetheless redeem their friends.

NIETZSCHE



If there be any good to suffering, it is not so much that you discover how weak or strong you are than in knowing how weak or strong others are.

~

Situation. In the waiting area of the doctor's clinic, the booming voices of at least three people can be heard coming from the consultation room. They talk past each other about money, misunderstandings, money, blame, and more money. The doctor sparingly speaks, much less the patient. What was supposed to be consultation turns out to be a family feud over the dinner table. The patient goes out, smiling--as if everything were fine. I thought about asking the receptionist what her illness was, thinking that we might share the same fate. I decided otherwise. I did not want to know anymore for I knew what the problem was already: her family. When it was my turn to see the doctor, I was ashamed of my petty problems.

~

If to suffer is to carry one's burden a…

Eyeshadow

a

Hindi man lamang nangailangan
Ng isang magdamag. Agad agad.
Kapayapaang pagtuklas nais masagot;
Pagpikit sa mismong pagkarinig.
Wala nang tanong--wala nang hulaan.
Hindi natin nais malaman.

Maganda ka, mayaman pa.
Buti na lamang hindi mo wari.
Ngunit wari niya--alam niya talaga--
Kaya mahal ka niya.
Hindi mo makikita: siya o ako?
Hindi kasi mahalaga.

Sundan mo ang iyong puso.
Huwag mag-isip--isip lamang iyan.
Sige, sabi ko. Aray ko.
Naghanap ako ng kutsilyong
Isasaksak sa sariling tadyang.
Huwag mo akong isipin--isip lamang iyan.

Pagbati at paalam--wala nang pagkakaiba.
Sa pagbati nagpaalam;
Sa pagpaalam nagpakilala.
Sa wakas. Hindi na tayo maglalaro.
Magtiwala, hindi kita ililigaw
Kasi di na kita liligawan.

Pasan ng pag-unawa: damdaming sinantabi.
Di ko na nais umunawa.
a

Psalms 90:15

Should anyone come after me
let him deny himself,
take up his cross and follow me.

Matthew 16:24


And not once only, while circling this
road, is our pain renewed:
I say pain and ought to say solace.

Dante



The word "to suffer" comes from the Latin sufferire, a variant of sufferre, which means"to bear, undergo, endure, carry or put under." The makeup of the word is more telling; su comes from sub "up, under" + ferremeans "to carry." Literally, to suffer means to carry something.

But this act of carrying something is not a mere handling of objects in the way that we carry this or that. There is something in that which is carried that makes the carrying a little harder than any other old thing. This "something" makes the carrier go down or under it. It might be because of its weight, or size, or both; yet what can be inferred is that it is no longer the hands which carry it--it is already the body which goes under it. The body then tries to buttres…

Cycles of Violence

It started out as two lovebirds on a night out.

The man, an American, was heartily devouring his steak. I did not see his companion, a Filipina, eating anything. They were both drinking: San Mig Light, Corona, tequila.

I pointed out to my friend the Poet what grabbed my attention: a huge military-like backpack hanging behind the chair of the man. Was he a turtle? They did not have a car, I concluded, and went on with my drink.

A little later, upon chancing to see the face of the woman, I told my friend that she was beautiful. Straight long her, clear skin, big round eyes and womanly. She also had that Filipina-American charm where you know she's different but not completely so. Nearer than impossible, but farther than possible at the same time.

Rarely do I see women in the bar, and this, even if nothing can be done but to gaze, at least was a welcome sight.

Then they disappeared. What at first amused us--I told the waiter to check the bathroom in jest--would break our hearts. There was…

Anti Technology Males (ATMs)

I do not know why but I suddenly had the urge to leave the house by lunch and go elsewhere yesterday. Maybe it's the heat or the mess in my study, or the need to be around strangers and being lost in a crowd; no matter, I decided to go to Eastwood at the drop of a hat. (Pure impulsiveness is like an adrenaline shot in the heart.)

I brought my books and note cards with me, some essays in case I got bored with Hegel and Kierkegaard, and, with only spare cash on me, decided that it will be a different day. First thing I did when I got there was to withdraw some cash from the ATM.

Now, this might be run-of-the-mill for most; this was, however, a gargantuan task for me. I do not know how to operate such things. The last time I withdrew from an ATM was when I was in college and, because of my stupidity, the machine ate my card. So I was nervous as a pianist who tries to keep her fingers from shaking as she performs in her first concert.

Naturally, when it was my turn (there was a short lin…

Signs

a


I do not wish to scare you. I see signs.

Signs point to other realities. Realities which are otherwise not seen in the actual. They are not symbols.

Symbols stand for themselves. They do not mean anything more than what they show. This is the impenetrability of symbols. They keep their secrets to themselves.

I like signs better. You ask them a question and they answer politely.

By asking the right question, you get the answer you wish to hear.

I ask questions that can be answered by yes or no.

The world has enough problems to waste time on understanding complex questions. It only has time for nodding or shaking its head. But at least you get an answer. The silent idol does not do this.

When I ask something, I do not expect an epiphany. Let me make it clear: I do not hear voices. And mind you, I believe psychotics really do not hear voices. They hear themselves. And since I've long found that out, I listen to signs.

Now, of course, that can also get you into trouble. No …

The Saint's Weekend Miscellany

All sorrow comes from love and holding dear.

MeisterEckhart



I went on an "artist's date" last Saturday afternoon. Since there was time to pass until meeting up with my girlfriend in the evening, and because I figured a break from reading convuluted Hegel would do me some good, I set sail to Greenhills. I brought the new lyrical essays that the Poet gave me a few days ago, some index cards and money because--naturally--I would not have the strength to resist both LukYuen and Fully Booked.

Alone with my thoughts and lost in a bustling crowd, I also couldn't help but observe people. This is my guilty pleasure when I go out on artist's dates; and what should be a date with your self turns out a date with everyone and no one because I end up being with all. And because I had my cards handily available, I wrote down these following notes:

LukYuen, 4:15pm

Because it's the first day of September, which heralds the coming of the melancholy Christmas of December, Greenhills…

Only One Thing is Necessary: Martha and Mary

Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you
unless you remain in me. I am the vine,
you are the branches.

John 15:4-5.


Luke 11:38-42 reads:
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. 40But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" 41"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

The text above has been classically interpreted as the human tension between vita activaand vita contemplativa or the life of action and the life of…