Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Thought Project: Week 5

Would you ever be willing to sink so low just so you could claw your way back up, or are you fine with who you are?


I really don't get the concept of sinking so low so one can rise and learn from it.
Why experiment and crush yourself? Why burn yourself? To know that it can heal? To know yourself? Just don't burn yourself in the first place. I say, if a situation does not sink you ...don't ask for it. Simple.

Hey, that's what the older folks are out there for... they've probably been there, so ask and listen to wisdom.

I recall chatting about this with net user...or maybe I wrote it in one of my blogs? Don't exactly remember...anyway, I came up with this - If we have to try everything ourselves for the experience we'd be losing so much time. By the time we got the answers we'd be close to death. It'd be such a waste of time. So why not just gather what the older folks know, sift through it, trust the logical ones and move from there. Then you'd have more time in life to enjoy the answers =)

- 'Sus

you know what, i think those sucky starts are my answer is pretty obvious...yes i will be willing. generally, i'm fine with who and where i am right now, but there are still loads to learn when you are open to being uncomfortable. as long as by "sinking low" you don't mean doing anything that will hurt innocent parties, then yes, definitely. i think adventuring is always more than just geography. there's the internal mindmap (and heart map, and spirit map, and...) to explore as well :)

- Zane

In a heartbeat.

The problem is, I can be pretty brash with things like these. I may forget the stakes of the game, so I entertain the scenario through fantasies - I rise, Phoenix-like, from the ashes of my previous failures and become triumphant. I give excellent advice, I am universally admired, I am humble and modest about my achievements, I am perfect.

I tend to spend a bit more time in my fantasy world than in my reality, so I am obviously not fine with who I am. Right now, at least.

I have nothing against struggles, provided they give you the experience you need. If you want to prove yourself, you know what road to go down - and that is where my problem lies. I don't know which one.

To pit yourself against the teeming humanity is already forbidding. Struggling for something you're not even sure of is suicidal.

- Sarah

UPDATE: 21 December 2006, 4:53 PM

Posting Jon and Djong's answers. Sorry for perennial lateness, guys.

Probably not. At least as far as "Willing" is concerned.

I'd like to think I know myself. My oftentimes sarcastic (sardonic?) sense of humor is the tip of a fairly pessimistic worldview. Not "doom and gloom" pessimism, but more like "Murphy's Law" pessimism. But judging on how often I've skated the line between the two, I sincerely don't think that "letting myself go" and sinking to the bottom will be something I can get back up from.

My trying-to-be-simple philosophy is "do your best, and the rest will work itself out". It's a daily struggle to maintain my sunny (ha. ha.) disposition and not give in the anger, the bitterness, and the cynicism. If I were to quit that struggle, then sheer intertia would probably keep me freefalling until I hit the bottom. And in that decisive, Road-to-Damascus moment when I have pick myself up again, I'll look up at how far I've fallen and probably shrug my shoulders and say "Fuck it. It's probably not going to work anyway."

So no, I'm not "willing" to let myself sink to any depths. I've always thought that it's precisely the struggle to stay afloat that defines who I am. I may not be completely content with who I am, but I like even less the probability of becoming worse than I currently am.

Besides, I do enough sinking just by gravity and inertia as it is. No need to speed things up.

There, I think I've strangled enough metaphors for one day.

- Jon Z.


i guess, from experience, sinking "so low" is always a good opportunity to get to know yourself better. in my case, it took quite a harrowing experience (for my standards, it was harrowing. i realize other people have had worse) for me to be comfortable with who i am, and to be at ease in my own skin, because it tested my limits, and showed me how far i can go without help from anybody else. after seeing what i'm capable of, i became more confident.

because of that, i believe that everyone should have at least one "harrowing" experience to turn them around, to get them thinking more about themselves. 'course, if we can already get to know more of ourselves without having to sink into such levels of despair, well and good. but sometimes, going through the depths of hell just does something to ya. builds... character, lets you know you're made of sterner stuff. :p

- Djong

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Thought Project: Week 4

What Christmas tradition/s do you associate with your family?


Some of our old Christmas Eve rituals:
*Set up an assembly line to make glazed ham-and-butter sandwiches.
*Roll and wrap up Boysen t-shirts in old newspaper to be given to random visitors.
*Help mom wrap last-minute gifts to be labeled "To:______ From: All of us."
*Have creamy soup made with macaroni, ground beef, and sliced hotdogs, along with the sandwiches, at midnight.
*Have two Noche Buena meals -- one at our house, another at my dad's cousins' house right nextdoor.

- Tish

The simple, basic family reunion :) But then again, reunions in my mother's side of the family are anything but simple. Catastrophic is more like it! It's all part of the holiday hoopla--the 10-hour trip to Bicol, arriving at the compound and then getting mobbed by The Committee of Elders (meaning my lolas and aunties), doing the courtesy house-hopping (and making your presence known so they'd be reminded that have to do a last minute Christmas shopping ;p ), preparing for the Noche Buena (which includes a lot of cooking, tasting [which I'm pretty good at!], singing, bantering, laughing, and a few fights here and there among The Elderly), and of course, the Noche Buena itself. We usually gather at the compound's gazebo and have a little program which nobody really pays attention to. Heehee. Pretty personalized traditions, but traditions nonetheless :)

- Koryn

my younger sister setting the table. dressing up for dinner at home. eating and watching TV.

- Zane

funnily enough? Christmas = Cebu. yeah, i know. I'm weird.

Context: My mother hails from Negros Occidental. My Father grew up in Jolo, later moved to Cebu, convinced his family to move to Cebu from Jolo, then moved to Manila with my mother and brother in tow. You can imagine, therefore, that my family unit was fairly isolated in Manila.

Every Christmas, even after my father had passed away in 1998, was therefore spent in Cebu. Visiting my paternal grandparents, and visiting as well my mother's side of the family who'd scoot over from Negros whenever they could. Christmas basically meant not being in Manila, being far from friends, and being in a fairly unfamiliar city surrounded by relatives who I really only saw once a year.

I make that sound terrible, but it's not as bad as it sounds. For me it cemented what Christmas really means to me as a holiday: spending time with family. When you're in that rebellious, chaotically hormonal landscape of adolescence, it's a drag. But when you're living 17,000kms away from all your loved ones, having spent three consecutive Christmases away from home (and about to spend a fourth), you tend to realize how stupid you were as a kid.

Christmas has never been about gifts. Or decorations. Or carols. Or peace and goodwill to all men. Or even that much of a religious holiday.

Christmas is a day to spend with my family.

Not much more to it.

(thankfully, out here in Spain, I have family to celebrate Christmas with. But it's like Light Beer - no offense to my relatives, whom I love dearly and who have been nothing but wonderful to me since I arrived - it tastes similar, it feels good, but it lacks a certain kick only the genuine article can give you)

- Jon Z.

When I was a young lass growing up in the hinterlands of Texas (alright, not quite, but you get the general idea), Christmas traditions were geared toward the birth of the baby Jesus and Christmas gifts! Well, in my family, anyway.

My brother and sister would watch for the first snowfall of the year and yell, "There's snow! There's snow!" So we would all go outside and try to catch snowflakes on our tongues.

The days before Christmas would be very busy for us, but it was never a burden. There were presentations and songs in church, parties to attend, lights to put up, trees to trim, etc. My dad would be putting up the Christmas lights around the roof, and we'd shout if the lights were awry. There was also the neighbor's pool to look at, because we harbored dreams of it freezing to the core so we could ice skate.

But on to the traditions, right? I'm not supposed to ramble.

On Christmas Eve, we would gather in the living room and watch television until 12 midnight. Then we had license to attack the brightly-colored gifts in the corner. Relatives would come around and drop off gifts and stay for some chow.

Same tradition repeated in millions of households around the world, but still. Look at the gifts waiting for us in the picture!

Once we came back to the Philippines, our Christmas traditions normally start with the gathering of the clan and my father giving a mini-Christmas message. One year, we staged the birth of baby Jesus in my aunt's house. It's always been clear to us: the season has never been about the presents and the parties. Jesus first, everything second.

Now that we're older, some of our traditions have gone the way of the dodo bird. Save for my dad's Christmas message, there's nothing we reprise from last year's Christmas celebrations; our family is never complete. The one thing that we're sure of is that anything goes. Spontaneity is key.

- Sarah

UPDATE: 14 December 2006, 1:23 PM

This post from Djong was sent to me at around five pm yesterday. I never got to posting it. Apologies, Djongers.

UPDATE: 21 December 2006, 4:40 PM

Shelah whined I didn't post her answer here, so here it is (after Djong's). Whiner.

You will always find me in my room on Christmas eve, hiding from the relatives, trying to put a little semblance of order in my room while everyone downstairs is yakking away.

But once I finally get the Scrooge out of me (yes, this happens EVERY year), I join in on the fun: I stuff my face with food (it's usually a potluck thing), then go out to the garage, where tables are set up, to drink beer with my dad and my cousins. Every once in a while, I'd bully a nephew or a niece, coerce them into giving me their gifts.

A lot of relatives and a lot of noise. Plus a lot of food, too. That's what I've gotten used to having at Christmas. I don't think I can ever feel Christmas without all that.

- Djong

When I was younger (and still had semblance of a sense of faith and worship), the 24th meant going to the 9PM Mass and spending some time with my parents’ Church friends. After all the religious rituals, we head home and start snacking on cheese and candies. Yes, we are a family with weird food-combining abilities. By
12 midnight, we’d carve the ham, almost finish the cheese and I drink more wine. After much feasting (and a good amount of wine) we’d open the presents my parents manage to save from our nimble hands.

The 25th is clan day. The first half would be spent with my mother’s side of the family, which often meant drinking sessions with my grandfather (yes, it was him who taught me to drink) and uncles. I remember this particular Christmas when I was 10 and accused of being prissy (since I came from an exclusive school), my mother’s relatives conned me into eating a dog. I DID NOT KNOW IT WAS DOG MEAT. Suffice to say, the trickery taught me not to drink with the pros…well, not until I was 18 and gastronomically mature.

In the late afternoon, we would head for the ancestral house/hangout of my father’s clan. This side of the family has more boys than girls, so my sister and I receive more attention and hugs from relatives. From this clan, I learned several things: a) big eyes are part of clan genetics b) nipple-pinching can be a shocking and painful greeting c) it’s ok to be crazy and loud even when not drunk and d) no matter how bad the fashion choice, the clan will still love you; despite green cycling shorts and pink sneakers. The table is never, NEVER empty. For my father’s family, food running out would be sacrilege to Christmas tradition. Everyone has to eat something every 30 minutes, no matter how full.

For both sides of the family, Yuletide melancholy was never an issue. Depressed or not, the important thing was you were there to partake in food, tradition and family gossip. Such disregard for sadness is cruel and comforting at the same time.

- Shelah

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Thought Project: Week 3

How has religion shaped your beliefs in the world?


Religion shaped my most basic concepts of good & evil, effectively ingraining in me the accepted modes of behaviour in civilized culture.

But now I think that religion is society's antibody against chaos and anarchy. It's the human collective's way of coping with ignorance and uncertainty...death & the unexplained. It's the beginner's course you have to pass so you can move on to more complex aspects of human life like art, science, politics, & porn.

It's a bunch of great stories about great human beings and some cool stuff about creation & heaven & hell & nirvana and all that. These are some of greatest stories ever told--and great stories shape the world.

- Paolo

My religion has made me believe that "truth" is relative, religion is relative, and that we have to be tolerant about our beliefs of the world against others beliefs based on what others see as "truth".

I was baptized Roman Catholic by a father who is very open minded, who never gives you the answer but as many options, and a mother who questioned whether the virginity of Mary makes Christ less or more the son of God (she believes she could have been a non virgin and the son of God would still be divine). She practically questioned every dogma of the Vatican Church. As a child i blindly followed the ways of organized religion such as the Roman Catholics' way as I really didn't have a choice in a dictatorial Chinese school.

Fast forward to the future and I'm painting the town red on weekends and sleep through sundays. I start questioning my religion, its history and how it came to be, politics of my Church, politics in general, religion as propaganda, why we are here and why my church is so hard headed. I was/am disappointed by the Vatican's actions. I see how many mistakes and imperfections my Church has. I see why they have to act that way (hard headed infalliables) and half accept them as such. I'm still very against the infallibility of the Pope.

After this tug of war of questions I realized that I personally was not built for organized religion. All the questions have actually made my faith in my God stronger but not my faith in the Vatican Church. I feel for people who are afraid to question their religion, thinking that faith is just believing cuz it is so. But I won't ram that down their throats. If they are happy that way, that's good. After I was content with myself and my religion, I lightly treaded on whether other people of other religions had questions and issues like mine. Many did...and I realized we were all in the same boat. I've never looked at my religion as better or above another but I question the actions of other religions too. In the end it has made me tolerant of other peoples' ways brought about by their religious education/beliefs. Not to say I accept all their ways. As I've mentioned...I was not built for organized religion that may influence people the wrong way. I see organized religion as too powerful a tool for good or bad... good or bad being relative.

- Jesus, your reluctant Roman Catholic

i just realized, upon thinking of my answer to this question, that i've had several varying influences religion-wise while i was growing up.

my mom was a catholic. though not exactly devout, she makes it a point to go to church on sundays. being my mother, she was the first to drag me to mass, which i started to resist when i was about 13. i told her that going to church was not something anyone should be forced to do, and she agreed.

my cousin girlie was also quite a strong influence. she was my roommate when i was in high school, as she lived with us throughout her college years. back then, she had just joined a born again christian group, and she was really taking her faith seriously. she gave me my first NIV bible, and i spent quite a lot of time poring over the pages, lingering on proverbs and psalms.

yet another strong "force" was my uncle, who was (or still is, i'm not sure) an atheist. every time my cousin would talk to him about christ, he'd scoff and laugh, and insist there isn't one, and that it's useless to believe in a supreme being.

still, even with their presence, i was never swayed toward a single belief. somehow, i always found something lacking in each. with catholicism, i wasn't too keen on the idea of saints and statues and rosaries. when i pray, i want it to come from me, not from something i memorized out of a pamphlet. i didn't get why we had to stand up, sit, and kneel at certain portions of the mass. couldn't we just listen to what the priest was saying?

my cousin's born again christian ways were a bit more acceptable, but i found some of their "rules" too... conservative, i guess. like how they weren't allowed to marry anyone outside of their group. and they way they expressed their beliefs was too much. i wasn't the type to be overly enthusiastic and expressive about these things, so maybe it wasn't for me.

atheism was something i found convenient for a time, because it was easy to just negate every religious argument. it's easy to be bitter in a crumbling world, after all. but, i couldn't quite fully embrace it, because there are things in my head that i want explained (not literally in my head).

so early on, i was taught to question, which i now find valuable. philosophy class gave me more "tools" to ask more questions and try to find out what it is i really believed in. and finally, a friend gave me a book--conversations with god by neale donald walsch, and somehow, a lot of my questions were answered. the book features a different take on god, a sort of make-your-own-faith kind of thing. it opened my eyes to a supreme being who didn't judge, who was happy to just sit high up there and watch us get confused with life, who didn't care whether he was feared or revered or respected, a god who thinks blasphemy is hogwash. it made me realize that things don't always, or are never, black and white, how crimes such as stealing and killing can be "right."

i haven't finished the book(s) from cover to cover, but i get where the author is going with what i've read so far, and it fits into my beliefs, and answered my questions. it made me see the world, and everybody else, in a different light, taught me to look at things from a different angle.

Here's an excerpt from Conversations with God (Book 2):

Author: " can any theology work without a system of Reward and Punishment?"

and "God" answers:

Everything depends on what you perceive to be the purpose of life--and therefore the basis of the theology.

If you believe that God is a vengeful God, jealous in His love and wrathful in His anger, then your theologies are perfect.

If you believe God is a peaceful God, joyous in Her* love and passionate in Her* ecstasy, then your theologies are useless.

I tell you this: the purpose of life is not to please God. The purpose of life is to know, and to recreate, Who You Are.

(*"God" interchanges the use of He and She to refer to the supreme being to "jar you out of your parochial thinking.")

and this is something that i could nod in agreement to, how such a few words unlock a lot of things. this is why i live the way i do, just doing things the way i feel is right, not forced or restrained by anything. but at the same time, i learned not to look down on people who don't think the way i do, because, well, we're all just here to learn, right?

- Djong

What I am thankful for is that I learned (and believe) in "goodness".

Growing up Catholic, I was taught that following a certain path reaps certain rewards, that "going astray" results in punishment. As I got older, I realized that such teachings are a little too judgemental for who we say is a "forgiving god". If my religion teaches that I should aspire to be like jesus (who is divine in human form, the epitome of goodness) because he shows us the "best person we can be, then I don't think he would be too judgemental about certain paths...especially since at my imperfect "best", I am tolerant.

Over the years, I've modified my catholicism to fit in with personal beliefs and experiences. I believe in magic, love, that people can be divine while on earth, that the whole earth has one big collective soul...I'm still trying to weave all that into a cohesive belief system but I'm feeling more spiritual with a journey like this. Ultimately, I think that honors the free will we were born with.

So there. Plenty of teachings but only two things seem to have stuck: the concept of good, and the beauty of free will. The rest I call to fore when they resound with truth, from the deepest part of my guts and at the root of my soul.

I believe in a higher power, yes. But I think the name/identity of that higher power is so much more expansive than any religion, or all religions combined.

In a way, I'm also lucky to have had more open-minded catholic religion teachers who taught me to appreciate the bible as some form of literature. It makes it so much more real to me than history.

Do I make any sense?

(What heretical ideas!!!!!!!! Kidding. Thanks for sharing, Z. - Sarah)

- Zane

I am sick of The City’s loose change and spare sanity sucked up by and lived off by an ever-increasing pile of parasitical shit-ticks incapable of standing up and dealing with the world on their own

That quote is taken from Warren Ellis’ TRANSMETROPOLITAN, a comic series following the exploits of Spider Jerusalem, outlaw journalist. Since a the quotes are going to eat up my word count, all I can say about TRANSMET is that you should go read it.

I should start with some context: I studied in an Opus Dei-run school for eleven years (6 to 17 years old) and in a catholic university for four. My parents could be considered devout Catholics. The Catholic Faith has been an unavoidable part of my entire life.

And really, I have no real problem with that. These days, it tends to be very…intellectually hip to condemn “organized religion”. Religion and faith are for the “unenlightened”.

I still consider myself a practicing Catholic (albeit an imperfect one, obviously. The only perfect Catholic got nailed to a tree 2000 years ago). I still go to Church every week and on holidays of obligation. I do my best to, at the very least, comply with the few things my Faith asks of me. You can take the boy out of Church, but you can’t take the Church out of the boy.

Why do I bother? The inherent hypocrisy in the structure of the Catholic Church, the intolerance towards differing points of view, the manipulation and exploitation of the faithful – these are all pretty good reasons to just say “fuck it” and go looking for the next path to Divine Enlightenment. Except, all the other religions tend to do the same.

I go to Mass every Sunday in the hope that maybe, just maybe, I might pick up something new from the sermon. The broad strokes of Catholicism, of any religion, I’m convinced, is to try and make humanity go beyond ourselves and just…be better. Of course, it’s a win-some-lose-some proposition.

The rest…the gossiping old ladies, the fatwas, the righteous condemnation of evil, the “us vs. them” stuff…THAT’S the opiate of the masses. That’s the product of overzealous, ignorant, or Machiavellian snobs who use religion as an excuse to further their own agendae. That’s not religion…that’s politics. It’s very human beings acting under the pretense of the divine.

The moment religion stops being about improving yourself as a human, and more about frightening and manipulating people into obedience, then it ceases to be a religion. It ceases to be divine. It’s just…exploitation, the promotion of fear and ignorance, and even hate-mongering.

Back to you, Spider:

Fucking vampires sucking the will from people whose only goddamn crimes were to be frightened and tired!

And you don’t help them! You don’t listen to them! They get no Truth from you! All you do is scare them with stories of something that doesn’t exist!

- Jon Z.

Upstarts. Baptist Vatican. Born into the faith. I can't say much more than that right now, so I will update and edit my longish draft later. Yeah, I pretty much suck.

- Sarah

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Thought Project: Week 2

What is the one trait or characteristic that you think your friends find most distinctive about you?


once, in religion class, our prof wrote various sentences with specific qualities ("nagagandahan ako sa yo," "magaling kang magdala ng problema," "alam kong malayo ang mararating mo.") and asked us to write each sentence on a piece of paper. then he asked us to give each piece of paper to anyone in the class whom they think fits that specific trait.

i was surprised to find that i got a lot of "magaling kang magdala ng problema." (bakit ba hindi na lang yung "nagagandahan ako sa yo" yung binigay sa kin?!) and time and again, even after that class activity, friends have been telling me the same thing.

i found it surprising. actually, i still do, because i don't feel like i do carry my problems well. the scandalous shoutfest i had with my mom and numerous breakdowns attest to that. but maybe they told me that because they rarely saw me shed a tear or lose my temper (though i think that has changed now, for some of you).

true, i do tend to mask my emotions, especially when i'm around a lot of people. i can smile even when sad, laugh even when i'm boiling mad. but i don't feel that that qualifies as "magaling magdala ng problema." you're just hiding it, it still hovers over you everywhere you go.

i actually think it's better when you show the world how you're feeling. that, to me, is effective "pagdadala ng problema," because you do carry it around for the world to see, and not be ashamed that you do have it. accepting it and just letting the problem be a problem actually helps, as opposed to keeping it, and pretending it doesn't exist.

- Djong

My one trait? I think I'm incredibly stubborn and prone to following my heart. Not impulsively, mind you, but after long thought and much discussion with good friends :)

- Pats, woman without a blog

Trust a former editor in chief to go from philosophy to slam-book in one breath.

I called this a "dangerous question", because really, it is. How you answer it says a lot about you. Where does the sincerity end and arrogance begin? Should it be answered in a cynical, self-deprecating manner, exuding false modesty and caustic wit? What if you have no friends? Or what if you sincerely think that none of them like you enough to call you a "friend" and you're just being presumptuous.

Sigh. I guess stalling won't work, and I already did the whole "ignore the question" routine once.

I guess I'll be pretty straighforward: If I had to identify it, I guess I'd call myself a "saccharine" friend. Not "saccharine" as in "sickeningly sweet" (eeew), but "saccharine" as in "substitute". Bits and pieces of your bestest friends (in the whoooooooole world) somewhat diluted for a experience that is almost as good as original, but with less calories.

I'd like to think I have a healthy sense of humor, but nowhere near as entertaining and charming as Bryan. I've been called "sensible" once or twice, but it's a well-known fact that I am at the very bottom rung of the Sense department, compared to the various members of my family. I can be practical, but lack the innate pragmatism, bedside manner and groundedness of engineers like Gerwin. As far as passionate or starry-eyed goes, I can keep up with, but rarely inspire, the way Djong, Koryn, or Zane can. And maybe there's some faint ember of intelligence lodged between my ears, but Sarah, Therese, Les, and Brian run rings around me in a manner that is most astounding. There may be some romance in my veins, but it pales in comparison to such paragons of Male Virtue like Ejay (who incidentally, updates his blog even less than Sarah does! It's criminal, I tell you).

I won't even go into the Good Looks department (there's a reason I am the only guy from my high school circle of friends not picked as a "Most Eligible Southridge Bachelor" on Friendster).

I know I criticized the whole "self-deprecation" thing, but I'm not doing it on purpose (well, maybe just a teeny-tiny bit). It's just, you know, you realize you have this amazing collection of people whom you consider friends, and you tend to ask yourself "Jumping Jimminy Cricket, what DO they see in me, anyway?"

I don't really know. I'd like to my "saccharine"-ness is a result of all these great people rubbing off on me, and I get to share that with everyone else.

Or it could be 'cause I give really good hugs.

Or maybe because my house used to be a regular Booze Joint. Yeah, that's probably it.

(did any of that make any sense at all?!?)

- Jon Z.

Well, that's an easy question - I'm probably the nerdiest person they ever met! I'm never without a book in hand and a recommendation for obscure bands.

Honestly, though, I have no idea. I'm a lot of things to different people. I can be quiet to some people, and outrageously bubbly with others. I suppose the closest trait I can say that's quite distinctive to me is the ability to read anywhere. I read at parties, at debuts, at gimmicks - to be specific, I've been videotaped reading at a friend's debut and a friend of mine has caught me sneaking in a few pages while relaxing in a bar. It's just something that I've never seen as ridiculous, at least from my point of view. I'm easily restless, and I need something to do. I'm quite aware of people having laughs over it, and I don't mind. Not much, anyway.

Oh, and I also steal food. Chocolate, to be specific. Djong has never let me forget it.

- Sarah

UPDATE: 21 November 2006, 7:51 PM

Ha ha! this is fun. it really depends on which friend. isn't it interesting how we reveal only certain parts of ourselves to certain friends, and bare it all to some? =D

anyhoo, they will probably report that i am a whatever-goes kind of girl, a cowboy with stuff in her head :)

- Zane

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Thought Project: Week 1

To prepare for the first question, I found this quote by Plutarch:
For never to be able to control passion shows a weak nature and ill-breeding; and always to moderate it is very hard, and to some impossible.

Plutarch, in The Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, "Solon"

Does nobility of character come when one denies oneself, or will it lead to a form of delusion?


Neh. Character, and not nobility comes from self restraint. We must remember that in their times it was all about separating our natural qualities from that of animals to prove that man was above all forms of living creatures. Passion is in man's nature, his animal restrain what cames naturally animalistic in public is elevating us above animanls. Is it a denial of our true being? I doubt so. More like evolution of man in society. The path may not always be correct. That is why we had so many movements in the past.

It was also a time when norms had to be put forth to create a society with a common culture (the many churches followed this formula too...a bit extreme at times). Without restrain it would have been each man for himself. I say man because woman had no place in society in his times.

Now the question; nobility of character from denial of self or is it a form of delusion? Answer, it depends on the norms of the times. As we see nowadays, being Howard Stern is character. This man has no self restraint. A villain is nowadays seen as someone to be awed by or at times looked upon. Following the right path (which in itself is relative to the times) is also seen as character. Character in itself is relative nowadays in our world where there is no common culture. I am a believer that we must have a common culture to function without much anxiety but I'm losing the battle. I'd be considered the one without character and delusional in a world of young folk who follow and argue that there is nothing wrong with the mantra of "me, me, me" and instant gratification for survival.... I see it differently, I think that with sacrifice or a bit of restrain we can still survive, but it's a world of each human for himself as we don't have a common culture. I'm simply outdated.

- 'Sus

First, I’m going to totally avoid the question and talk about nobility as a concept (at least, as I see it). Merriam-Webster defines “noble” as “possessing outstanding qualities”. There are more definitions in the link, but they’re all fairly vague. Traditionally we think nobility is being right and true and good, when in fact it means “better than everybody else”.

Which makes it strange as an aspiration. If I want to be noble, it means I want to or have to be aware of what people think of me. Of various third parties approving of my behavior and thus considering me “noble”. To try and be purposefully noble requires a certain amount of two-facedness – do you do something because it is right, or because everybody ELSE thinks it’s right, and thus your approval rating shoots up?

But then, that tends to contradict the common notion of nobility – which is being a good person above and beyond the call of duty, right? A person who would qualify as noble theoretically doesn’t give a good goddamn what other people think, nor whether other people think he/she is noble or not. You just do what's Right, because your momma said so (or because it's the Right thing to do). So if you want to be considered noble, you have to not want to be noble. It becomes sort of a weird zen-thing, doesn’t it?

And my point (don’t worry, I have one…I think) becomes this: it’s a slippery slope to talk about or decide on nobility as an “end”. What Plutarch talks about, in a sense, is good behavior, is about just being good people. I think it’s about finding that balance in one’s self to just do What is Right. Because if people will then consider you noble, it’s more than likely you won’t care, because all you want to do is the right thing. And if you want to be considered noble, and do things to be “better” than everybody else… well, then you’re just an arrogant bastard with a budding superiority complex.

- Jon Z.

I think nobility of character stems from being unafraid to be perceived as delusional. It takes some serious guts to moderate one's concern for what others think about oneself.

- Zane

Nobility of character...such a loaded term. Can you have one without the other? But that's another question in itself. So - on to the first question. Nobility, to me, has always had implicit sacrifice. One cannot be noble without sacrificing anything. But again, what are you sacrificing for? For yourself, or for someone/something else? It leads to quashing something within yourself in order to abide by societal rules.

To already think of stifling a part of yourself brings troubling thoughts. It says, to me, that you're not completely comfortable with who you are. That you live by others' praises and opinions. That you're shackled by the rules of your religion. Society says that you must not live for yourself, but you cannot live for them either. Surely there's a happy medium here somewhere.

As I infer from Plutarch's quote, one can never live a life free of passion. We are only human; we have our urges and desires. But by not living out what makes us human, we're continuing to hurt ourselves and the ones we love. You think your sacrifice is noble because it seems like the right thing to do? There's your delusion.

- Sarah

UPDATE: 16 November 2006, 12:54 pm
UPDATE II: 16 November 2006, 5:48 pm
UPDATE III: 21 November 2006, 8:17 pm

Denying oneself doesn't necessarily make you noble. Most people do it in the name of religion, claiming that their self-denial will earn them brownie points with a god who appreciates self-sacrifice. After all, Jesus did it himself, on behalf of all the world's sinners. But that was the point of Jesus's life, to save sinners - he wanted to, he could, and he succeeded!

Most mortals, on the other hand, generally deny themselves to conform to the wishes of selfish people, not to reach self-actualization. People deny their true identities - consider religious homosexuals refraining from following their hearts because they'll burn in the fires of hell. Maybe religion is a good enough refuge for them, but they will forever feel like there is something missing from their lives. People deny their true vocations - consider children who study a course against their will just because their parents want them to take that course. It might be admirable for them to be so obedient to their parents, but they are short-changing themselves by not being fully committed to their life direction. Some other industry is deprived of a stellar and passionate painter, pilot, lawyer, or journalist because that person is slogging through a caregiving course.

Sometimes, of course, self-denial can be ennobling, as when you stop yourself from being a negative person, or when Mother Teresa devoted her life to serving India's poor. It's ennobling when you deny yourself a course of action because you recognize how it will make you and other people both better off and happier. There is no nobility in suffering if you can't suffer gracefully and turn out an inwardly bitter, unfulfilled person. Most people aren't saints, and will be secretly unhappy if they deny themselves something they really want.

Self-denial is ennobling only if it makes you happy, perversely. Happy not that you are suffering, but that you never really needed whatever it is you denied yourself. If your self-denial serves to make your life lighter and easier to live (because you're on the path you want to be), then it is ennobling because it makes you a better person.

- Pats, woman without a blog

"For never to be able to control passion shows a weak nature and ill-breeding; and always to moderate it is very hard, and to some impossible."

Passion is good. We all have it. We all need to be able to express it, and let it out. I am all for passion. (Go! Hahaha!)

As simple as it may seem, I guess what Plutarch is trying to say is, "Anything in excess is bad."

I don't think denying oneself (whether totally or partially) of one's passion equals nobility of character. But I also don't think that controlling or moderating your passion can lead to a form of delusion or lead you to live a double life.

It's all a matter of controlling it. Giving in to your passion doesn't necessarily mean allowing it to consume you. And controlling it doesn't also mean denying yourself of it.

I think weakness of nature comes in when you allow it to consume you, or if you allow it to be unconsumed.

As they say, "Everything in moderation."

- Shen

I think the first thing we have to do is define "nobility". In this context, I guess that "nobility" is tied to one's ability to transcend one's urges, wholesome or otherwise. This would mean that a noble act is the denial of one's pleasure and/or convenience, since "being human" is equated with weakness and the inability to control one's desires. One’s character then, is tantamount to discipline. After all, there is nothing more shameful or disgusting than to have animalistic urges, i.e. eat like a pig, have sex like bunnies, considering that the humans have the gift of rationality and should therefore “know better”. Strangely, most people do not associate these two. Premise one: being human is being weak. Premise two: the ability to think and feel separates man from animal.

So what does it mean to be human then? And what does it mean to have “character” if both principles are taken into consideration? I think it would be limiting to say that character is based on the merit of depravity and disregard of base needs. If this is the case, then passions would be considered a vice and therefore, something to be avoided.

Then again, it is unfair to take these things in absolute terms. Pleasure and motivation are two things to be considered since these are strangely intertwined. It would be a shame to disallow the self of depriving enjoyment from something; after all, this is a distinguishing trait of being human. We eat because we are hungry, but also take into consideration what to eat. If the situation allows it, you would not have scraps for lunch would you? Nor would you drink a strange concoction of vinegar and isopropyl alcohol in pursuit of a cocktail treat.

Being human, I think, is knowing better. True, we seek pleasure for pleasure’s sake, be it sense or mind. But acknowledging this truth, that is to submit to one’s desires/whims/brat attacks, is character itself. There’s nothing wrong with admitting a need but it becomes problematic when “need” and “want” overlap. Weakness is merely submitting to wants and needs. Character is knowing the answers to the how’s, what’s, why’s and when’s of both.

- Shelah (whom I promised not to post how she got her answer; Old Spice and yoghurt are clues)

Introducing: The Thought Project

I'd like to introduce a new project that's been in the works for a little over seven days. (I know, right?) Briefly, it involves asking a question every Tuesday and having people answer it over the week, with my posting their answers on the next Tuesday. Here's an excerpt from my e-mail:
It's a "Question of the Week" sort of thing, a project for my rarely-updated blog. (Shameless self-promotion, I know.) Since we all have our beliefs, I thought we could share with one another our reasons for our faith, our life, our actions; in short, a look into the human condition and how well we really know ourselves.
I'm happy I've got a lot of positive feedback on this. I've always wanted to know what other people think about life and their philosophy in it. Here's to sharing their thoughts with the world.

*I included a photo of Jens Lehmann just because.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!

Surely, the world is not meant for peace. There is no beauty in violence, and there should not be; violence is pure. It is intrinsic in everyone, whether we seek to quash it through study and high intellect. We are born with violence, and we look for ways to minimize it in a superficially civil world.

People are afraid for its glorification. Blood, toil, tears, sweat; all testify to pride and effort. Why should it not be held up in the highest esteem, when violence has borne us so much of the world? The Roman Empire would have never existed; France would have never had its revolution; America would have never had its country; the Catholic Church would have never risen to preeminence. And yet it is shunted, not brought out to the open for its dark influence. Wars have been fought and wars have been lost, and violence still lives on.

We can debate on the matters of pretty speech, but we can never debate on the matters of violence; all violence is sincere. It does not hesitate to express, whatever the emotion behind it. It is never tentative or hesitant. It is there for all to see, and words fail even at that. With words, there are lines to be read, inflections to be analyzed.

It is this world that we are introduced to in "Green Street Hooligans", where the passion of the football firms are brought to somewhat blinding light. Pete Dunham (Charlie Hunnam) is the leader of the Green Street Elite, the proud football firm of West Ham United, and it is his task to bring his firm back to its old glory days. Ex-Harvard student Matt Buckner (Elijah Wood) is compellingly drawn into this mindset, and discovers just how things are started and ended with fists.

Noble savages are the characters not; yet theirs is a morality that they do not question, and they legislate accordingly. Whoever breaks the code is singled out for punishment. They do not pretend to love anything but the tiniest excuse to break out in fisticuffs; Pete, particularly, is pushed around by no one and led by his passion and pride. Matt is astonished and elated at his first proper introduction to a fight. The violence shocks, but not surprisingly so.

Violence never changes, but the film attempts to give it one last honor: validation. Despite its sketchiness and gray area regarding this, the ending is a bit contrived, but nonetheless shows the viewers why some lessons are best learned in blood.

The world is touched by violence. That is its birthright. There has been no golden age of peace, of unity, that had been brought up and torn down by dissent and blood. In its own way, "Green Street Hooligans" shows us that there is no redemption in violence, a tangible reminder that oftentimes life is not bound to such lofty ideals. Peace will never exact the terrible price of violence, but it is borne of it. And thus we are left to ponder on the minutiae of life.

*image from here

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Vignette # Oh, I forget already.

This one's for you, Jon.

Who: Coworker and I
What: Dinner
Where: Elevator, anonymous Makati building
When: Approximately 7 pm

When Coworker and I stepped into an elevator getting ready to scrounge for food, we found that we were an all-female group. Aside from a couple of office workers, a pregnant lady and her friend were talking. We never took notice of what they were talking about until...

*Pregnant Lady Friend (PLF): May panty ka? May panty ka? (Do you have a panty? Do you have a panty?)
Pregnant Lady (PL): Mumbled reply.
PLF: Ah, so may panty ka nga? Eh **pantilet? (Ah, so you do have a panty? What about a pantilet?)

At this point Coworker and I were looking at everywhere but each other.

PL: ...masikip kasi... ('s tight...)
PLF: Ah, kumikiskis talaga yan! Lagyan mo ng baby oil. (Ah, that really chafes. Put some baby oil on it.)

After a moment the elevator doors opened onto the ground floor and Coworker and I thankfully escaped, free to laugh as loudly as we could.

*Not exact conversation as too busy holding in laughter
**Further research (against will) has revealed this to be "pantalette". SFW, I think.