A Farewell to My Favorite Spot

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Hey, Bench.

I used to see you everyday and look forward to being with you. I can’t even begin to remember how many times I laughed and cried in your presence. And how many times I was just glad to be there and not anywhere else.

It would always piss me off to find you occupied. I guess I was just so naive and possesive that I couldn’t see that I’m not the only one capable of appreciating your perfection. I seem to be deluded in thinking that you were made for me and myself alone. Deluded, because I thought I had somehow earned something like you just by being.

I’m writing to you because now you’re going through changes that might alter whatever we have forever. Being caught in the middle of these changes, I feel afraid of not being able to recognize you anymore, of not being able to call you mine anymore, or worst of all, losing you altogether. I admit that it’s my fault for being so attached. And for crazily thinking that what we had was too big to fail.

But now I know. God, do I know now. That perfection can’t be earned. That beauty can’t be, by repeated expression of ownership, owned. And we fool ourselves – I have fooled myself – in thinking that I somehow deserve you. That I own you. That I could always just leave and find you there waiting for me. That the ground upon which you stood will never crumble.

I know now that beauty is only beautiful because it is apart from us. That is why we always long and always yearn for it. And it is when we cease to long and yearn and fight for it that we lose sight of it, even as we hold it in our hands or sit upon it.

I regret never having to properly express how beautiful you are. I was so focused on expressing how happy I was with you; how you made me feel, rather than what I see in you. I wish I did. Maybe then I wouldn’t find you being taken away from me.

But now, all there is to say is goodbye. And I hope whatever change happens to you, it won’t remove whatever it was that made you beautiful from the beginning.

I will always have our memories tucked inside the confides of my heart. And these words. And this picture. And while it fails to capture the immensity of your value and your beauty and your heart, it shall at least remind me that nothing ever will. It will also remind me how lucky I was to have found you.

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Truth in Struggle

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Thank you for this food for thought.

The anonymous artist strikes again.

Days ago, I wrote about a writing on a wall I found about Beauty. It is wonderfully poetic that this time, I am to write about one I found on Truth. It is as if I am an allegory for the human soul, which is drawn to Truth through Beauty. Straightaway, like in the last post, I shall outline the thoughts this work of art has evoked. I hope you who read may find order in these thoughts, for that is why I write: for people, including me, to understand my thoughts.

1.) I could not help but inquire upon the goals of this anonymous writer. To dismiss these works as mere vandalism would be to take for granted the profundities they cast light upon. Truth, Beauty, as well as Goodness, are words which describe the absolute thirsts or needs of our soul, though we may be inclined to take them for granted and are seldom reminded that of our need for them.

I am not qualified to argue for or against whether we really need these things, or they are merely words which count for nothing, especially if Reality is nothing but the physical, material world. But if asked what my personal basis that such needs are innate and absolute, I would merely point out the state which we fall whenever we feel the lack of them: loneliness.

What makes us lonely? Is it simply the lack of company? If so, why do we sometimes feel lonely even in the presence of other people – even if they are people whom we love? And why, whenever we feel this loneliness, this emptiness, do we turn to songs or books or the wise words of a friend or confidante?

It seems that sometimes, we do not only feel lonely. We feel empty. And if our souls have this state of emptiness, there must be something which may fill it, just as food fills our hunger or water fills our thirst.

This is why we find joy in beautiful songs and movies, in making sense of our problems, and in the acts of comfort provided even by a stranger. We feel empty. And we are satisfied by beauty, truth and goodness.

2.) What does ‘absolute’ mean? It may be defined as unchanging, or as something complete or pure, or philosophically, as a principle which exists independently of other things. Absolute truth, or rather Truth, may mean any or all of these things.

Now most of us, and I am not exempted from this, may simply dismiss the question as unimportant: “Why even bother?” Truth, even tiny bits of it, do not always bring pleasure. In fact, we are often told that Truth hurts. We ask to “break gently” Truth to us because sometimes “we can’t handle the truth.” Sometimes would prefer by comforting illusions, untrue ideas which are simply pleasing.

To quote Nietzsche: Why Truth? Why not rather the lie? I do not claim to have the answer. I also find solace in ignorance, and sometimes, even reject the truth of a statement just because it does not conform to my way of life and thinking. And to adjust everything for that bit of reality, however real it may really be is just too hard. Right?

However, this attitude may shed light to a possible explanation. Maybe the problem is not that Truth is not important, but rather it is too important. Even if we need Truth, we don’t want it because we foresee endless trouble if things turn out to be real. We find it hard to adhere to certain truths because we are afraid of being alienated, or offending, or being attached or committed to demanding creeds. And so politically, we would rather be apathetic (and/or pragmatic) than conservative or radical. Philosophically, we become subjectivists or relativists or skeptics. Religiously, we become not atheists or theists, but agnostic. We resolve that since Truth is demanding, we should suspend judgement.

This may be enough or this may not be enough. And I, too, am inclined to think that suspending the search for Truth is in fact profitable or practical. You may turn to other things: more pressing matters like bills and homework and romantic relationships. I would even suggest that if the world is neutral and nothing we do ever really does good or bad to others and the world, then we must all be agnostics and relativists and pragmatics.

But it seems that the world is not neutral. We want to experience good and we do not want to experience bad things. Things matter to us. They have meaning. Our feelings, actions and thoughts have consequences, both internally (to our character) and externally (to other people). And these feelings, actions and thoughts are dependent upon how we view the world in general. Therefore, I think that to never have time to question the things that matter the most is not only selfish, but careless.

3.) Where does God come in?

Well, if you’re a Christian, God matters to our search for Truth because He is Truth. His will is Goodness and His nature is Beauty. The emptiness we feel is simply our longing for Him. And so you must, like Jacob, “wrestle” for His blessing because then you will have everything you need. You must, like Job, practice His presence: speak to Him as if He is real, even when you doubt Him. For if He is real and if He loves you, He will answer back. Even if what He would say hurts. There it will only be a matter of pride.

If you are not Christian, or if you suspend judgement, or if you do not believe in God, you must still struggle with the idea of God. And not just the idea of a refutable God, but a God who may exist even without us having certain knowledge of Him: an unprovable God. What if He exists? What does that imply? And what are you doing about it?

Regardless of one’s belief, the search for infinite and absolute and complete Truth is a struggle. That is what wrestling means. To exert all strength. To hurt. To fight. This search will hurt our pride for pride will not win it. It is utter openness and utter humility that would win us Truth, whether it is great philosophical Truths or littler, simpler, but no less liberating truths.

We will be satisfied by Truth, no matter how hurtful or how little it may be for the time being. But we have to want it. If we don’t we will be okay, but we will not be complete. Truth may be harsh and it may be hard to find. But it is Truth. And it sure beats loneliness and emptiness and feeling lost.

Beauty in Pain

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Vandals like these are objectively better than penises.

Whoever made this, thank you.

I saw this question written on the wall by ASCAL, the pathway between Palma Hall and the CAL Faculty Center.

Rarely do I see a thought-provoking question written in blood-red spray paint on a newly-cemented wall. These, so far, are the thoughts it has provoked:

1.) Before answering the question, I would like to comment on it. I am inclined to believe that such a question is built on the premise that pain is something ‘ugly’.

I find it easy to sympathize with this notion as like most ‘ugly’ things because it does not evoke warm, pleasant feelings. Like most ‘ugly’ things, we are not drawn to it; on the contrary, we are appalled by it. Pain – in plain language – is ‘ugly’ because it is not ‘cute’. We are not made happy by pain and we are thus inclined to avoid it.

Now, while I understand where this viewpoint may be coming from, I think that pain may not necessarily be an ‘ugly’ thing. I think there is such a thing as pain which is beautiful, perhaps because of its consequences (like the pain one feels with having one’s broken tooth pulled out), or because of its motivations (like the pain one might feel in dying for one’s country), among other things.

To abhor pain, to find it ‘ugly’ for the mere fact that it hurts and to exhaust all means – whether good or bad – to avoid it, would not only be shallow and conceited, but also is cowardice.

Our pleasure-crazed culture may frown upon such an idea, but I think the notion that some experiences of pain are not only necessary but beautiful as well should not be denied. For honor, glory and excellence are not borne out of maximizing pleasure, but through laboring through and enduring pain.

2.) That being said, there is such pain that may be found to be downright ugly, even by those who think that there may be beauty hidden in pain: the seemingly arbitrary, undeserved and cruel pain, which does not seem to produce either glory nor fulfillment. Such pain may include car accidents, killing sprees, rape-slay cases, etcetera.

The torturing and killing of the innocent neither as martyrs who welcome it, nor as heroes who have fought through it and lost, but as children who do not know any better: if there is such pain which invites the question the most, it is this kind of pain. How can undeserved, unwanted and unnecessary pain ever be made into something beautiful? It is I think, the only legitimate case against an all-powerful and all-loving God. And I, too, struggle with it everytime I see cruel injustice and oppression and untimely deaths.

To answer why God would permit such evil to prevail, however is another matter for another time. But is important to note that this is what makes the question difficult to answer. There is the kind of pain which is beautiful as it builds us up, and another kind which is just simply pain which hurts and kills for no apparent reason.

3.) In answering the question, I distinguish between the two kinds of pain.

The first kind of pain, the pain-as-means-to-an-end, may only be as beautiful and good as its own end. And the way to make such pain truly beautiful is to suffer it without hiding, transcending cowardice and regard for one’s safety.

Such pain’s beauty wasted when the cause is abandoned in the name of fear or conveniece. Christ’s sacrifice, for example, is beautiful because He did not opt out. He saw it through. Even if it means death.

The second kind of pain cannot be made beautiful. It must be eliminated. It is why there are causes which require us to endure hardship like good revolutionaries: because there is a war needed to be won.

Injustice can only be made beautiful by defeating it. Oppression can only be made beautiful by ending it. Evil can only be made beautiful by destroying it.

And in suffering through the realization of Goodness, of Justice, of Heaven – whether it is in this life or the next – is what would makes us truly beautiful.

A Summer’s Worth of Literature: First, What is Literature?

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If you liked this movie, watch

If you want kids to learn, hire a teacher.

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” – Robin Williams, Dead Poet Society

Literature, put simply, is the art of words. Be it written, sung, or spoken, literature, like all other art forms, is an expression of the human’s inherent tendency to create, discover and immerse itself in beautiful things.

Humans of all cultures share this tendency, and with it they share the same appreciation for poetry and prose and spoken literature, though they may have different modes and means of expressing such appreciation. Literature is found in these different cultures in the diverse practices of their respective societies: religious texts, songs of harvest and historical epics are only some of the many examples. This being said, it can be said that literature functions as a documentation of human heritage and history.

Works of literature are not only seen as documents, though. The art of words is also used throughout the course of history as vessels for education or the fostering of values from older minds to younger ones. History’s most influential teachers use stories to expose metaphysical, philosophical and spiritual truths. Jesus, Buddha, Confucius and Plato: what they have in common is not only their consciousness of an objective code of goodness, but also their utilization of allegory and metaphors and parables to elicit emotions in correspondence to such truths.

Literature has also aided in critiquing society and in changing it. Songs of revolution, of war and writings concerning the plight of Man are also prominent in the passage of time. Reflections on the past, thoughts on present matters and hopes and fears regarding the future are common themes in literature. Ideas expressed in works of art, especially literature, has not only been shaped by the course of history, history in return has also been greatly influenced by the ideas expressed in literature.

Ultimately, beyond its contributions to the historical development of culture, philosophy and society in general, literature is and has been treasured as it serves as a means of communicating the intensity and depth of emotions, truth and desires derived from our humanity. The best works of literature are glorious products of the marriage between human experience and imaginative employment of language. Unlike other animals, we do not merely feel pain, we lament it; we do not only experience happiness, we enjoy it. These expressions of consciousness – joy, lament, grief – are best captured, perhaps may only be captured, by words alone. And through literature, people not only incarnate such feelings, they are able to communicate and understand the hearts behind them.

It is by this notion that I believe literature to be one of Man’s greatest contributions to the world. Borne out of the meeting of the internal mechanisms of his soul – reason, feeling, and desire – and the external world in which it moves, literature is what happens when Nature meets wonder.

Literature, in the final calculation, is Man’s glorious scream, or sigh, or laugh in his terrifying encounter with the beauty which surrounds and overwhelms him.