Forgiveness

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We sometimes harbor feelings toward other people as they refuse to extend us their forgiveness, as if we were entitled to it or as if those people are duty-bound to extend it to us.

I think this is a failure on our part as we lack understanding of the nature of mercy and justice. Forgiveness is unlike punishment or reward which are earned or deserved. It is an act of mercy, borne wholly out of the giver’s desire to forgive.

Such makes forgiveness truly ‘divine’, in the sense that its possible giver is put upon a place of utter power and control over the person who seeks it. When we seek forgiveness, we subject ourselves literally under the mercy of the person we want it from.

That is why it is a contradicting notion to feel embittered whenever we are refused forgiveness. We are not entitled to it. We are beggars whenever we need it.

On the other hand, this makes true forgiveness a difficult feat. It is hard to give up the position of power we acquire whenever are wronged. It is hard to look beyond the pain and the hurt we suffered and let the wrongdoer get away with it.

To forgive is difficult because it to do it is to deny ourselves justice. Therefore, while it takes humility to ask for forgiveness, it also takes humility to give it, for it takes humility to deny ourselves of what we properly deserve.

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Should A Secular Campus Strengthen or Weaken Faith?

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An anonymous question has been posed in my ask.fm account which reads: “You are a scholar who is being honed by the premier university in the Philippines. Assuming you’ve read a number of authors and intellectuals already who say that God is dead, has your faith in God been watered down or has it increased?

This is how I answered: I do not think being exposed to ideas are responsible for how much faith we have in us. If so, I think the smarter one becomes, the less committed to the faith one becomes as well.
But I’ve seen and read individuals who have been exposed to atheistic ideas; some even espoused them at a certain point and yet still managed to keep and be strong in the faith.

Ideas, however, make us reflect inwardly on how much we know about our faith. And that reflection doesn’t diminish nor increase our faith, it merely exposes our faith.

That being said, I am glad to be in the University. I have been exposed to a lot of ideas, both theistic and atheistic, and they have helped me realize just how little I know about God and my relationship with Him. There have been times when I did in fact question my faith and how strong I am in it, yet oddly enough it is in the presence of new revelations from theistic Christian intellectuals and writers, not atheistic ones.

When faced by challenging athesitic arguments, I can simply resolve them in myself by going through the replies of older and more saintly minds than me. And I’ve yet to see an argument against God which Christian scholars have yet to address. I have also yet to see an atheistic idea which would actually change the manner by which I live my life. It seems as if I could be atheist and nothing would change. Change for the better, at least.

What troubles me and my faith is whenever an idea pops out all of a sudden from a reliable Christian intellectual and it has such a huge impact on how I live my life. And whether instances like than strengthen or weaken my faith I have no idea. What I do know is that thanks to such ideas, I am able to know myself more and how much I really know about God and His nature.

(The following is an additional note added in a status update I made after further reflection.)

Our faith can only be influenced by our surroundings, but our surroundings cannot determine just how much faith we have. If so, then it would not be our faith.

We are responsible for what we believe in. However, if what we believe in is God, this means that we are not alone. For if He really exists, He would not stop reminding us of it.

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.

Do Humans Exist?

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Before we begin, here is a picture of me in the nude. Enjoy.

Once, two nameless gods found themselves in an argument. This was an odd event, as these gods were not quite like the gods of the Greeks or the Romans, who had business with one another and always found reason to gather.

Also, unlike the other gods, these two nameless gods know themselves to be all-powerful and all-knowing. They almost never found themselves to be needful of each other’s thoughts, except of course for this one occasion, as they found themselves in disagreement.

The two gods were trying to resolve whether or not humans existed. For one of them heard that far away, there lived beings who like them, had reason and power, though it was not unlimited, like in their case. The other could not possibly believe that such being could exist, for it was utterly unnecessary: if it were not so, they would have known, and at least one of them, in their infinite wisdom and power, would have made one.

They argued and argued about the existence of such an entity: where it must have come from; how it may have supposedly acquired its nature, if it does exist; how it goes about its affairs; and what inplications it might signify, supposing it were true.

They had come up with different theories about its existence and nonexistence, but had come up with no final conclusion; until finally, one of them (neither of them would admit to the idea afterwards) suggested that they look for the said being. Fortunately, after searching for it among the vast number of universes that are, they found one. And its name was Socrates.

Socrates was delighted to meet such beings, even with him not knowing what exactly they were: the gods would not reveal their nature to him, for they deemed that his limited reason and intellect may not be enough to grasp the idea if their being. They began asking him a lot of questions which Socrates gladly answers one by one.

After they have exhausted the last of their questions, Socrates found that it was his turn to ask the questions. “Lords, you now know what I am,” said the human. “But what are you?”

The gods looked at each other, seemingly unwilling to answer the question for Socrates’s own sake. Reluctantly, one of them answered: “We are gods.”

Gladness grew on Socrates’s face as he had seen gods, and yet did not tremble, nor die in their glory. “I have heard about you in the myths of the oracles and old wives,” said he. “But I have always wondered – as we were told that you as well as us are ruled by chance and the Fates – what sets the gods apart from men?”

The gods were again taken aback: not only did Socrates have prior knowledge about them, he also was delighted to be in their presence! Yet the gods knew that there must be a misunderstanding about their nature (though it was excusable, as these are mere humans after all): for they were not ruled by fate or chance. They know themselves to be all-powerful and all-knowing, meaning they have the full capacity to define their own existence. This they related to Socrates, who, upon hearing, enlarged his innocent smile.

“What elegant pieces of wisdom I am hearing! This is all too foreign to me!” exclaimed the philosopher. Humbled by such knowledge, Socrates felt the irresistible urge to ask another question: “What then, do the all-knowing and all-powerful gods need my counsel for?”

The gods were growing fond of this young, though scrawny-looking, human, as they had sensed in him not only curiosity but humility. Perhaps this was what humans were for, they thought: to remind the gods of their might and superiority. “Dear human,” one of them said. “We have sought your counsel to settle a dispute on whether or not humans existed.”

The smile on Socrates’s face shrank as his mind grew uneasy. He asked in response: “By humans, what do you mean?”

“Humans,” said one of the gods. “Are lesser beings are rational, but not all-knowing; and while having will, are not all-powerful.”

At this point, Socrates found himself in deep thought. The gods, looking down on him, were curious of what could have been the cause of such change in his disposition.

“In that case,” Socrates slowly said. “If you were all-knowing and all-powerful, would you not have the dispute at the first place right? You would have not found yourselves in differing positions, nor would either of you have required the counsel of another in resolving such a problem, if indeed you were all-knowing. For all Truth is one.”

“Furthermore, you have defined human beings as ‘rational, but not all-knowing; and while having will, are not all-powerful’,” added the human. “From our conversation, I could properly assume that you are rational; for if you weren’t, you would not find it necessary to ask questions when met by ignorance.”

The gods were silent.

“I could also infer that you have will for here you are, looking for answers in the hope of finding them,” Socrates continued. “If you are indeed rational and yet, from my experience of you, are not all-knowing; if you possess will and yet are all-powerful, could it possibly be that you are human?”

It was at this point that the gods felt a surge of anger from the insolence of the human, while it looked as if it were really asking out of curiosity and not arrogance. They were humiliated by a lesser being, and yet their reason cries out: how can this be so, if they were indeed gods?

Bearing this unshakable thought, the gods fled from Socrates. Vowing to never speak of the incident again nor ask the question that led to their humiliation, the two nameless gods went their separate ways and never seek the another’s counsel ever again. They proceeded to rule over their own personal universes with utter indifference towards the universes of other gods, the worlds and proceedings that inhabit them, and most especially, towards humans.

For the gods have learned through humiliation that it would be better to never ask questions and never doubt their being as all-powerful and almighty gods, than to entertain the notion that they might indeed be nothing more than human.

And Socrates? Well, he went to court.

This is what happens when you remind “gods” of their humanity.