Plato’s Cave

People ask, what for? And so I ask too, and sometimes confuse my own answers with the answers others expect.

Maybe education is just like Plato’s Cave too. At one point you realize there’s another world beyond what you’ve gotten used to, beyond what others see and are content with. But it’s just not enough for you to settle with just the shadows. It gets difficult of course as you adjust your eyes to the light. And of course when you tell others of this world you’ve discovered, for what to you is a prized discovery is to others something inconceivable, almost short of illusory; what to you is a worthwhile endeavor is to others a futile attempt to arrive at an elusive end (aka a waste of time).

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On things I dare not admit

I’m too full of myself, I think.

How does on escape the self?

How does one practice renunciation? How does one practice self-denial? How does one practice self-detachment? How does one practice the de-creation (without the destruction) of one’s ego?

If I could be friends with myself I probably wouldn’t be friends with myself.

I’m afraid that the person I’m trying so hard to avoid is the very person I am slowly becoming.

Last night was an owl moment – pun and literally intended – and I hated it. Ah, you  should have seen me! I was close to going ballistic. No, it wasn’t enough that you saw the subtle twitch in my eyes or the restrained irked expression on my face – you had to look on the inside. What was on the inside was this assumption that I was with people who didn’t have anything better to do so they could afford to stay up and do nothing, unlike me, who had loads of other things I had better do.

But then there was something that he said — casually, not to me, but just in passing, that threw a mirror right in front of my insides, enabling me to see everything that was going on rather than being the one experiencing or even causing it all. And I was appalled to see what I saw.

What he said was this – that we were with friends – no, younger siblings who needed support, who needed a community, who needed a family because they literally only had each other.

Just nothing is more appalling than someone concerned with just herself.

And again it happened today – just quite a different variation thereof.

So there’s this constant preoccupation with myself – my own needs, my own inconveniences, my way of doing things, my standards… Far too entitled, far too self-centered. I also see this in my sudden changes in mood just because I wasn’t the center of attention, or a good word wasn’t put in for me, or I wasn’t given the credit (I felt) I was due, or I wasn’t the one preferred to be with, or the conversation didn’t happen the way I wanted it to, or I was sneered at or yelled at or glared at — all of which are an assault to my ego, ergo, an assault to the totality of my being.

All of these are thorns to my heart and baggage to my soul – they pain me and weigh me down and keep me from those things I’ve always considered elusive for me – joy, gratitude, peace, presence, the enjoyment of the petals and an experience of a perpetual lightness – all the stuff I want but never seem to be capable of having.

The incapability is not because of any outward circumstance but the tyrannical self I just cannot seem to escape.

I’m still at a loss with how to escape myself.

I hope I figure it out soon. It’s getting tiring to be in this shell.

Sunsets are not beautiful

Up until now, when I close my eyes I see with vivid clarity that very sunset I saw some days ago. I’m sure the same would be true for sunrises too except that I don’t usually get to witness them given my owlish tendencies, making sunsets, by default, my favorite.

But, sunsets are not beautiful.

Beautiful doesn’t quite capture it.

Sunsets are…

I wish I could write about it in a way that would make another not see it, but feel it — for perhaps the things we see are just things as they are except for the things that they make us feel.

I wish I could write about how the colors intermingled, intertwined, coalesced into hues that made one remember all other sunsets of one’s childhood — the ones watched on a hill or under a tree after an afternoon of play, the ones that instantly created a surge of  hope, innocence, blissful naiveté.

I wish I could write about the eternal canvass on which the sun painted and elegantly sprawled itself, how this time it lay untainted by the city skyline, how it hung there stationary, but projected images that changed in a literal blink of an eye.

I wish I could write about the myriad of diamonds that lay below, draping the shores, and how it mimicked the view overhead, with no intention to mock but to imitate in awe, to aspire to reflect a similar glory and beauty while being neither overpowering nor obtrusive, without stealing what does not belong to it.

I wish I could write about how perfectly discernible the vastness of all the earth at that given point in time was, how one could actually see the infinitude of infinity, how every witness could witness being whispered to of indeed how vast Life is and how tiny of a speck one’s life is, how trivial one’s greed is and how insignificant one’s woe is.

I wish I could write about it all, but the words fail me. The words fail me quite miserably.

How can a view such as that ever really adequately be put into words? When words are but shadows of the real thing? When words are inaccurate representations of what is?

 

 

On the road to Ubermensch

Maybe life is a series of opportunities to overcome.

To “overcome” in a Nietzsche sense – to overcome the self, to overcome man, to evolve. Perhaps it starts with transcending one’s innate predispositions, default tendencies. Maybe it starts with having that conversation you so adamantly try to avoid. Maybe it starts with running towards, head on, that very thing you fear, rather than running away from it – always running away. Maybe it starts with paying heed to that call, that constant hum in your head which you, on a day-to-day basis, turn off just so that you may conform.

And this morning I did just that – overcome.

And to overcome, at least attempt to, to at least even scratch the surface of, warrants the singing of the soul, a private celebration.

Well, I’m not so much of a coward as I thought, after all.

Tonight is a night of rekindling

The Philippine Daily Inquirer
04:22:00 
11/22/2008

Season of Goodbyes

Happiness is a choice, I’ve been told. And for a while, I did try to live by this, convinced that it really was up to me to choose to be happy or not to be happy. And as far as I was concerned, everything was fine. My life was quite comfortable, complete and well-ordered. I didn’t understand what it was like for some people to be depressed or, worse, suicidal. I simply couldn’t fathom how and why they could possibly run out of things to be thankful for and glad about, when even just waking up in the morning was already a miracle in itself, already reason enough to celebrate. But after having to go through what seemed to me like a season of goodbyes, I came to realize that happiness is not so much a choice as an opportunity.

There came a point in my life when I was forced to let go of a lot of things even before I was ready. I couldn’t help but feel like something was lacking, like something was missing, although I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what. It drove me crazy just trying to figure it out. Every day was a struggle. I saw my glass as neither half-full nor half empty, but bottomless. I knew I had a good life, but I just couldn’t feel it. I lost my faith, my belief in a lot of things (and people), my natural high. I lost track of what I was living for. I lost myself.

I did everything I could to get rid of such a wretched disposition. I struggled to focus on the so-called bright side, I tried to uncover every possible explanation as to why this and that needed to happen, I forced my life to be flooded with several supposedly effective distractions. But still nothing seemed to be enough. There was never enough reason to stop denying, never enough strength to proceed, never enough pride to stop suffering.

It was exhausting. It was like swimming upstream, going against a raging current, or forcing a drop of water from a broken faucet. I couldn’t simply choose to be happy because happiness wasn’t an option readily presented to me. I didn’t have the ability to manipulate my present circumstances and change things in my favor. I lacked the appropriate resources, so to say. It was impossible for me to provide myself with what I didn’t have, to create something out of nothing.

It all seems so exaggerated and melodramatic, I know, especially for someone as young as I am. Looking back, what I went through was actually nothing compared to what other people have faced and endured. But pains of the heart are great masters of treachery and delusion. They have a way of tricking you into believing that your wounds are the deepest and that the damage done to you is absolutely irreparable. They can have you trapped inside a black hole, where a “bright side” is impossible to even think of.

Up until now, I still haven’t completely rid myself of the melancholy, I must admit. Feelings of sadness still hover every now and then, especially when all the workload from school gets a little too toxic. But despite this, somehow a kind of joy still manages to abound. Simply put, at this point, I feel happy for the most part, but not because I choose to be, but rather because my current state of affairs finally allows happiness to rise naturally.

It has been about five months since I first entered college. For five months, I have been exploring an unfamiliar world of new beginnings and of infinite possibilities and opportunities. For five months, I have been with people who are so steadfast in fighting for things they know in their hearts are right; people who, with seemingly unfathomable courage, willingly dive into the swirling pool of life head first, eager to embark on journeys into the unknown; people who don’t just wait for things to happen to them, but actually make things happen for themselves.

After seeing this kind of scenario every day for five months, my perspective changed. I was inspired. It seemed to me that the rest of the world was finally cooperating to give me every great thing that life had to offer. And so I allowed myself to partake of things that I used to neglect and ignore. I allowed myself to embrace anything and everything that threatened the normality of things, to leave my own comfort zone and just wander in and explore new worlds. I allowed myself to be overwhelmed by the vastness of life, to take risks, fight more battles and seize more opportunities.

The whole “season of goodbyes” thing wasn’t easy to live through. Nonetheless, it’s a phase that I wouldn’t skip, or trade for anything in the world. It compelled me to both learn and unlearn so many things. I have come to realize that happiness is an opportunity that can be seized, not an option that can simply be chosen and forced upon oneself. I have discovered, too, that life’s ventures may at times expire, but they never run out. And the best way to increase one’s opportunity for happiness is simply to just carpe diem all the way through.

Angeline Dellosa, 18, is a first-year physical therapy student at the University of the Philippines, Manila.

First published in The Philippine Daily Inquirer, 04:22:00 11/22/2008

 

The Sin of Three Dichotomies

Sin of Three Dichotomies

There was a time when I was caught in three dichotomies.

First, the dichotomy of life in the Spirit and life in the world. I treated the two as two different, disjoint spheres when in fact, both function together, with one constantly merging into the other. I sought only individual piety rather than what I could contribute to the outside world. I didn’t concern myself with politics or social issues – I consider them irrelevant in my faith. The dichotomy resulted to detachment.

Second, the dichotomy of love of God and love of neighbor. I considered the greatest command, “Love your God and love your neighbor as yourself” as two distinct commands, when both are one and the same – one cannot function without the other. I was so caught up with “loving God” that I forgot to love my neighbor – I didn’t even know who my neighbor was. I was deaf to the cries of the oppressed, blind to the needs of the victimized. The dichotomy resulted to apathy.

Third, the dichotomy of the justice of the state and the justice of God. I was one of those people who thought that the victims of the EJKs deserved it. I was one of those people who remained unmoved by all the weeping that echoed and all the blood that fell on the streets for I thought that it was all dramatized and staged – a propaganda against the government. I was one of those people who condoned the killings. The dichotomy resulted to injustice.

I was caught up in the sin that these three dichotomies brought – detachment, apathy, and injustice – until I saw that one’s life in the Spirit ought to manifest in one’s life in the world, that the love of God ought to translate into the love of neighbour, that the justice of the state ought to operate according to the justice of God.

There ought to be no distinction, there ought to be no dichotomy – not ever, not at all.

The Voice of Silence

Though I did see grace, comfort, hope, I first had to see me.

It set me off inward, looking to myself – my past experiences, my internalized others, my own incapacities, insecurities, inner contradictions. What I came to was actually already an explosion. The spark that set it was the previous hurdle – I found it unsettling because I felt that I was being forced to be sure about something I wasn’t sure about.

Sure, I have hopes for the future. Some days my image of a future self inspires me. On most days though it gives me a picture of how much of a long way I’ve yet to go. On most days I forget the “yet” and rigidly settle with “I am not.” On most days I am overwhelmed by the seemingly abysmal gap between who I am now and who I want to be. On most days I am plagued by self-doubt – a healthy dose of self-doubt is needed as it helps anyone to be grounded and to be realistic and to grow, but my self-doubt seems to be the kind of self-suicide; the kind that paralyzes and brings all hopes and dreams to perish.

What if nothing comes out of all this hard work? What if I will never be ever good enough to be who I want to be? What if I don’t have what it takes? What if everything I’m doing are just attempts to prove something? To prove that I can, to prove that I do have what it takes, to prove that I’m worth something? Then if that’s the case, it’s all just a defense mechanism. It’s not all real. 

What if they’re right in saying — their lips don’t say it but their eyes show it — that I’m wrong? That this is a mistake? A lost cause? A futile endeavor? A waste of time and energy and resources?

In the moment of this discovery though, it felt like you sat with me. You were beside me on the grass, looking out to where I was looking, listening as my heart spoke, and listened all the more even when my heart could no longer bear to speak. A friend who thought it best to simply sit with me in silence. To not offer any advice. To not say anything. Because it was only in so doing that I could feel accepted. Assured.

I was trying so hard to hear your voice, but what I actually needed to hear was your silence. A kind of silence that silenced all other voices. A silence that made me not do or be anything else. A silence that made me feel accepted for who I was, just as I was. A silence that reassured me of grace, comfort, and hope. Just when I thought I had lost much of it. 



I am incarcerated,
 Imprisoned in the Fortress 
 Of the False Self.

I look inside,
 I don’t like what I see.
 Too much of this,
 Too little of that.

I come up with all sorts of
 Pretensions, pretenses, defenses.

I ask,
 Where do I go to escape from myself?
 You say,
 Come to Me. Come to Me. 

How beautiful it is to be able to
 Come to You just as I am
 When I cannot even
 Come to me just as I am.