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Vita Renovatio


Before true philosophy can arise,

it is necessary that the old philosophy destroy itself.

I have had the pleasant company of construction workers hanging around the house for two weeks or so already. We are having some renovation work done; and these distractions--seeing different men in different dress pass by my study window, hearing different noises such as hammers on wood, spades mixing cement, drills on concrete walls, unnecessary chatting, the sudden silence of the noonday nap, etc.--have been more than welcome to spice up what have always been holy and solemn days.

They come in at 9am, work till noon, then work till 5pm. Nothing could be simpler. In contrast, my schedule for "work" is, to say the very least, a little more complicated--and certainly less productive.

That I envy them--like our artist of a gardener--deserves another story in another telling.

Yet what I want to tell you about now is what they have been doing.

A small gym is now being installed as an extension of my parents' room. That space used to be a rock garden with an access from their room. But my parents found out that they do not use it as they had originally intended--as a smoking area (for we do not smoke inside the house). And so the idea came up of making it into a gym that would respond to the reality that my father and I are out of shape. Though I am not sure I'd use it faithfully, I approved of it. (Well, it will look good, I thought.)

The other work concerns the former common computer area that we siblings are supposed to share for study and work. But since the area turned out to be uncomfortable--low tables and chairs, no air-conditioners, etc.--I suggested that it be redone according to the actual and natural way we use it and could use it. The image in my mind, which in turn I relayed to my cousin who's my boss and our interior designer, is that of a coffee shop study area--well-lit, a place comfortable enough to have coffee in, with the sombre seriousness of a study table in the middle of the room, where all the computer clutter and office supplies can be hidden from view. And, of course, since we have been finding it difficult to look for places to shelve our books (my room and the study are now fully booked), I also wanted to have more floor to ceiling bookshelves installed. It would be like a "common library" where me and my sisters can share books and book space; that is, pretending that me and my youngest sister would read our sister's chic lit. That would mean that the end is near.

But I still digress. I want to tell you what I learned from renovation projects. And so I won't wonder off again to the unessential, here's a list:

  1. One has to destroy in order to build anew.
    And by destroying, I mean really destroying, in the literal sense of knocking down walls which were built to last, hammering down wooden cabinets that can no longer be used, and in the process of demolishing what needs to be demolished, one should expected collateral damage. Demolishing, like death, means total annihilation; and renovation is never meant for the poor of heart who enjoy grieving a loss.
  2. It is more difficult to renovate than to build from scratch.
    Because, as a corollary of the previous point, renovating means not only having to destroy what was hitherto there but it also means having to work around certain givens that cannot be destroyed. That the gym is adjacent to a room means that you cannot tear down the wall of the room but you must build around it, adjust to it along with its technical determinations (electrical wiring, the location of structural posts, etc.). That the work area can only be in the second floor; that it already has two large windows; that there was no allotment for a possible split-type air conditioner or exhaust system; that it is an open area, etc., means you cannot use all the walls for shelves, having to provide an opening on the wall and finding and concealing the compressor of the air conditioner down to the first floor, maximizing the space already there that cannot be adjusted--lest you fall to the dining area below. Renovation , after all, literally means making new what is already old--what is given, what is there. And we all know that it is easier to begin tabula rasa than to begin in media res.
  3. A renovation is a good time to assess (and do away with) excesses and clutter.
    It was only because of having to clean up the computer area that I realized how much mess we siblings (but mostly me, I should confess) have accumulated in that area for just over three years since our transfer. All the gadgets and computer peripherals; reams of design paper; snake pits of cords and wires; unmarked CDs and DVDs not knowing which contain memories or trash; unused school and office supplies which had I known we already had would have saved me some money; manuals that were never and will never be read but keeping them gives the assurance that "one day" they will come in handy, etc. After placing all these things in boxes three weeks ago, I realized that no one among us three needed anything from them except an occasional hunt for a blank CDR or a search for bond paper. Almost all of them were unnecessary; in that span of time, I was only asked to set-up the printer only once. Because of this, I made a vow: that along with a new computer we are bringing in after the renovation, I will not merely put back the trash we have now neatly stored in boxes and will do away if not all but most of them. It is essential in any new beginning--and all beginnings will necessarily have to be new--that there should be as few baggage pieces of clutter as possible and the least amount of burdens of excess.
  4. Never, never look back.
  5. And remember that the good will always re-create its own space.

My mother always said that before you begin, you should first fix your hair, fix your room and then fix your life.

And when the band of workers leave next week as I come back from a vacation, I will arrive at a relatively new home. I would have accomplished the second task and will soon be on my way to the third.

Watch out, world. After all, All s a i n t s Day is only two days away.



  1. I was shopping in advanced for some Christmas gifts in a bookstore when I saw this interesting definition of "saint" in The Atheist's Bible (if I remember the title of the book right): "a dead sinner revised and edited." Then I remembered your site. Hmmm. Interesting definition, and an even more interesting title of the book which seems like an oxymoron. Hehe (=

  2. very good. because that's where I got it. It's from Ambrose Bierce. :) I got the book by the way.

  3. yeah, i thought so (= was it a good read?

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.


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