Archive for September, 2007

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Man’s dispersio

September 29, 2007

Saint Augustine, in his Confessions, talked about a dispersio that happens within a human being. Most of us are familiar with the English word ‘dispersion,’ and the connotation of that word has little difference with what Saint Augustine means. However, the dispersio that he pertains to is the disintegration, the scattering of the pieces of our own selves, and this dispersio misdirects us and hinders us from the realization of God.

Marcel relates to this scattering of the self in his exploration of a concrete approach to the mystery of our own being. He says that to recollect, we must first remember and gather again (re-collect) our thoughts into a unified whole. Recollection is not an easy thing to do, however, and even non-philosophers avoid doing such a thing because it is such a burden of our faculties of thinking. For one to be inspired to do it, one must first experience an understanding that something is lacking, and this only happens when we realize that there is a bifurcation between who we are and what our lives are or when we look inside and realize that we were not ourselves all along.

Before digging and drilling into the abstract too much, I better present an example that would hopefully explain what I mean. Let’s take Max Payne, a contemporary figure of video gaming. Max Payne was a policeman, and he lived a relatively comfortable life. There came a time, however, when his wife and their soon-to-be child was murdered, and even as a policeman he could do nothing to rectify his situation.

This is the realization of dispersio: what seems to be one’s perfect life instantaneously and immediately falls apart at the seams that one is led to question ourselves. This experience subsequently opens ourselves to recognize, finally, that who we are is not what our lives are. Is Max Payne now only a policeman? Is he now only the spouse and father? Even he, however, realizes that he is so much more: he is a man more than merely his functions.

This is what society’s problem is right now: man is reduced to his functions. The only guideline is that he does his functions as perfectly as possible, and he becomes a perfect man: he becomes a god among men already. If one is a student, all that one has to do is to study as much and as perfectly as possible, get high grades and be the top of the class, and he becomes the paragon of humanity. People no longer care if he has an excellent attitude for the most part, or if he is sociable or friendly: they merely see his grades and afterward call him as a good person. This is what Marcel finds as wrong (or if I have interpreted incorrectly, kindly correct me), and what I find wrong as well. People are not machines or automata: they must not be judged according to the perfection in what they do. This is an offense as well as an insult to humanity itself. I once thought it was best to live within other people’s expectations and judgments, but I realized that it was an insult to my being, because only being merely the perfect student, or the perfect son was not the whole of me.

I was so much more. I am so much more. And so are you.

 

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Death and the definition of the human person

September 20, 2007

Philosophy is among the subjects that I have right now that I believe are unnecessary simply because thought alone without the accompaniment of action is fruitless and futile, if not totally counter-productive. Philosophy is a leisure that not many people possess. To survive, people need to act, and not only and solely engage themselves in thinking. Despite this, I admit that I glean a lot of little truths and knowledge in my exploration of the thoughts of prominent philosophers. Though they may not be as efficient as the real world in teaching the lessons of life, they help in my survival and in my comprehension of it.

Gabriel Marcel, one of the few philosophers our class is doing a close reading of, once compared life to a series of lottery tickets: most of life happens in and with chance, and the only definite thing is a death in which one does not know of the time or place of its occurrence.

In the end, reflecting upon that paragraph, the only thing that is certain about life is the negation of it – death.

Within everyone, death is an ambivalence. It is both familiar to us because most, if not all of us experience or have experienced that sense of loss whenever a loved one passes on to the other side; yet it is also unfamiliar because most of us do not believe that it will happen to us in the near future. For most of us, death is something that will inevitably happen but is something that is distant from us. When it comes to death, also, the living are inexperienced. One can only experience a physical death once, and he can never return to the world of the living to tell its tale. Death, then, is something both known and unknown, but in the end what we know of it is the same as what we do not know of it: both aspects are incomplete.

I believe that looking at death as if it were something that will arrive later in the future is incorrect. It loses that sense of immediacy and agency. Death is not something that waits upon anyone: on the contrary, it is the one who acts ruthlessly to many, mercifully to others, but always with speed and quickness. I believe death should be looked upon as a looming spectre, as if it were the sword of Damocles. A thin string of chances holds together our lives as it does with the sword. It may fall anytime, however: it can fall sixty years from now, or it can fall later today.

My belief towards death is my belief towards how I live my life. A philosopher once said that life was a series of infinite moments of the present time. There was neither past nor future. They were merely present that has been, and present that will be. Life does not live in the past or the future.

I realized this not too long ago. Living in the past was as futile as living for the future. The uncertainty of death which hovers above every human life makes this true. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul? Academic excellence is pretty much the insurance one pays to profit him the whole world later on in life. Yet the fact still looms that he may not enjoy it, and it is a certainty that he cannot enjoy it fully for he has to pass his riches on to his heir. This does not mean that I do not believe in the academe, or that I believe in mediocrity (as much as this seems to imply): what I really want to deliver is that I believe there is more to life than the excellence in the academe.

I believe what is needed by every human being nowadays is a personal excellence, and excellence that reaches out instead of taking in; I believe in an excellence that is not and cannot be defined by numbers alone. I believe in a human excellence.

I may have failed in some examinations. My grades may not have been as high as they were when I was in high school or in elementary. However, I have made more friends; I have become a more holistic person; and I can sincerely say that I have reached out more to other people and have become a better person. Grades help with the improvement of one’s status and state in life. This, however, should not be our judge for the person. A person is much, much more than the grades he has gotten, and I have fully realized this only now.

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A Fool’s Inebriation

September 18, 2007

I was, in a sense, born and raised to be an academic by my parents because they sincerely believed I was gifted. As early as five years old, I was tasked to find out the meanings of words that a lot of university students do not even know until now. I was also taught how to spell words like ‘inquisitive.’ In a sense, I did not act or think my age. The only toy I ever treasured in that age of mine was a cheaply-made plastic truck, and compared to my peers I wasn’t as active or as playful. (I was still a child, though, so even then, my hyperactivity must have had irritated quite a few people.)

I was raised to excel academically. There was no such thing for my parents as number two. There was only the apotheosis, the perfect example: there was only number one. Because I wanted to be a good child and I wanted to please my parents, I had done so, and done so consistently. Although not the number one student in all of the batch, I was always the number one student in my class. This was without fail for the whole of my elementary years. My parents remained discontented, however. They believed that I could be the number one in the whole batch. Being number two wasn’t enough. That frustrated me. As early as that time, I was already doubting whether my parents could be sated at all.

I still excelled during my high school days. I never forgot my studies; I did well in sciences; and, to a degree, I was still the best student when it came to the sciences. It was never enough for my parents, though. Why couldn’t I be the number one? Why couldn’t I also excel in the arts? I remain uncertain, but I firmly believe that their plodding and pushing were among the reasons why I have lost faith in the academe as well as the supposed meaning within it.

I now belong to a university located far from my hometown (and consequently, my parents). I have also firmly stood my ground with regard to their prodding. I have told them that I could no longer excel as I did before because I no longer wanted to excel. In a sense, also, my estrangement from them taught me that there are infinitely, infinitely more things to life than excellence in the academe.

I have met people who have regretted burning the midnight oil only to discover that their academic excellence has not benefited them much when faced with real life problems. Frankly, I would agree with them. Real life throws a hardball. The four corners of the classroom teach us the actions of catching. More often than not, however, the classroom does not teach us how to catch, when catching life’s marrow is more important than simply knowing how to do it. I have realized that sucking out life’s marrow is done with a certain personal finesse that can never, ever be taught within the classroom: examinations cannot present it: on the contrary, to an extent, examinations obscure us from what is really needed to be known.

This blog may fail to last long. Whenever, however, ideas regarding how life is supposed to be lived comes to mind, I will try to share what I have realized with the people who will hopefully participate and allow this blog to flourish. That is the reason why I have dubbed this blog a fool’s inebriation.