Sunday, October 30, 2011


Artwork by the author
“When the game is over, the king and the pawn go into the same box.”
-Italian Proverb

DEATH is one of—if not the only—the single most powerful word that man has come up with in its entire existence! It is used to define that of which we could measure—by pulse, and other medical machines—the tangent means, and those that is veiled in mystery. Death in this manner could be both finite and infinite. In the finite, Death is confined to the ceasing of heartbeat, the end of pulse, the termination of bodily functions, in this area people, regardless of religion, reach a unanimous acquiescence to.  While in the infinite, Death is regarded as a doorway: to heaven, to the Kingdom, to Olympus, to reincarnation, to hell, to Hades, and what have you.

The effect of this word has stirred the governing morals, philosophies, acts, policies, in different civilizations across time. It has remained a great influence amidst the ever changing pages of history. It is never outdated! It is used in so many ways: as a threat, to control, in religions, a cuss, as an ultimate form of sacrifice.  Death’s semantic power is lent to the entire human race no matter their stature is in society. 

I view Death in as much as the same manner that everyone does. I define it in its finite and infinite meanings—what it is in medical science, and in its literary and mystical connotations.

A friend mentioned the other day—the “game” I am responding to—that Death is one of my “loved” topics. And as I gawk in a nook where my mini library is, I could see that random titles are dedicated to its study. And having read, contemplated, and having seen, there is another definition of death that led me to realize that for the most part of my existence on this planet, that while I am here, I am nonetheless—DEAD!

I see dead people like me. They are on the streets, they attend concerts, they buy things, they eat, they sleep, they marry, they attend seminars, they work and earn hundreds to millions. They are everywhere. And yes they do not notice.

Sorry, I am no Casper and I do not have a third eye (or at least an active one). However, this form of death, this definition is both different and encompassing from the earlier two. Let me share it:

“Death is the inability of man to live.”

And yes, here, by taking this gist a lot of us died long before death could claim us. Our heart might beat, our chest might take in air, our mind sending synapses, and our organs in full functioning but here I ask: is this living? Is the ceasing of our heart’s beat, our one gasp of breath the final act of Death?

Some of us would readily embrace Death because out there another life awaits. After here, there is the reward, the rest, the repose, the vindication that we have prepared ourselves for. For others Death is the reset button or similar in pressing the ctrl-alt-delete keys simultaneously. Man feared death for centuries, but I say man feared Life more.

Why not? Life is filled with uncertainties—Changes. It is tainted by heartaches and betrayal. It is plagued by despair and humiliation. And the loneliness that lurks is as haunting as ever. The world in itself is bedeviled by these elements. So we hide in the shell of fear and regret. We cower from the madness and chaos that tests us. In turn, our dreams are abandoned because the road is dark and fogged. We give up our dreams because it’s impossible. We succumb to the lies of commonness in all the remaining sands in the glass. We trade Life for Safety and the Known, and this in turn injects us with fierce venom that kills us instantly. And here, the many dead are amongst us.

The third definition is by far the most lethal, the most excruciating, the longest, and at times contagious. But with this death, there is always the other side of the coin. With this we could always come back and live. And to be able to do so we need to realize and experience that Life, amidst the dark and unknown waters that we need to thread, is also unexpectedly beautiful.

And before we go to the graves of our love ones, light a candle before their names  etched on marble, perhaps it is only proper to ask ourselves: have I truly lived?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Of Gifts and Expecting

Artwork by the author

One of my college friends started a 30-day project in which we are asked to respond—in any media, in any way that we could better express ourselves—to the questions or other forms of media that she would give us; she is using Facebook as venue for a group of some twenty people to reflect on each others’ response; she believes that the site can be of better use, instead of all of the usual things that we could see, and my friend being a Christian chose to relate her project in Jesus’ relevance to our lives. I participated not because I am a devout Catholic but because I believe that the Divine could participate in a very pragmatic manner in which discussion would help us better understand.  

The first weeks prompt pervaded in me with much awkwardness; the question: what do you expect during gift giving sessions? Instead of me thinking of something, memories of my childhood flashed back into my thoughts, or rather relived in my mind.

The year is 1996—I was a kid again! My birthday is near; my parents asked me what I would want most as a gift. Without any hesitation—for I do remember even now what I want—rubber shoes, no not like any other rubber shoes, I wanted Dino Lights! Back then, everyone is wearing them: my classmates, my neighbor, even my senior. It was the craze of the time, the fashion (like iPad, Facebook, and hair rebonding)! I imagined myself wearing the shoes, running while the lights flickered with the speed of my pacing feet. It was a certainty that I would get the shoes. My parents, after all, were serious when they asked me that question, which turned on a thousand light bulbs above my head.

They went to the mall on a Sunday; malls then are not too common (I like it best that way, not the mushrooming SMs that sprouted out of nowhere). They went to Plaza Fair, which is the Rockwell of that era. Earlier, they asked me to get a measure of my foot, which I traced in a bond paper. It was only a matter of time, a thought that I rejoiced over. When the doorbell rang that night, I ran as fast as I can to unlatch the gate and welcomed my parents. And there they have this huge rectangular box it could only be one thing—my shoes!

It was my shoes alright! I was jumping with joy, thanking my parents to no end. However, when the box flipped, it was no Dino Lights but sturdy yellow hiking shoes. My heart was chipped. I was disappointed. Yet I have to keep my smile, I know my parents paid for it (they rarely buy us stuff). And for the succeeding gift-giving occasions it would be so. One Christmas passed and I didn’t get the toy that I wanted. The other time, I didn’t get any worthy of note. There was a time when I have to write to Santa Claus—inspired by the ABS-CBN cartoon, which they air every yuletide season—but even Mr. Claus is too distant. And as we grow up, it is as if gifts are not malleable to our own desires and wants.

I have realized that gifts are blessings that too often shadowed for something that we desired for. We tend to look at the things that we want to get, not what we already have; gifts are a reflection of the people that has given them to us, which for me means that material value is not as important as the person giving them. There is a quote in a book, whose title escapes me now, it says, “a friend is enough a treasure one can acquire in a lifetime.”

I believe that the Unseen Hand gave us, and is continuously giving us gifts be it people (those who nurtures us, and those who tests us), opportunities, situations, experiences, toys, books, things, talents, skills, jobs, dreams, health, and most of all our breath. We just need to look at it as such. I may have seen this in the hard way, or am still telling myself to see whenever I choose not to or can’t. 

Nowadays, I could, though I am not saying always, look at gifts not in a manner of expecting but rather of accepting.

*kids (and those that think they are) should still write to Mr. Claus for fun. :)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Owning Creations

*a clip from The Philippine Star that unveiled the owner of the sun
Our society too often defines us based on what we own.  The world appears to be a huge property to be coveted for, as if by taking a parcel of it under our name bit by bit we are led closer to peace, success, prosperity, happiness, completeness, and all of those abstracts. Our existence is based on what we could own. While this is inevitable—there is a need to own no matter how simple our definition of it is, and I will not be a hypocritical about it—there are some owners that are pretty farfetched. There was one who declared himself as the emperor of USA; Joshua Abraham Norton I is the first and only monarch of the entire United States of America. Lands are named in the name of kings and queens, by tribe or faith. Some already claimed ownership of the celestial bodies: meteors, asteroids, comets, planets. Even our billion year-old sun has an owner. She lives in Spain.    

Although we could laugh about it, shrug our shoulders and turn away from these outrageous entertainment (for this is what it is for people—entertainment), there also exist something wrong in this context.

We need not to move beyond our atmosphere, in this country we could see this kind of materialism. Islands sold from person to person, ignoring the people that lived there long before their fathers could learn to walk; look at Fuga island, islands in Palawan, and other places in this archipelago. Land owned in rapacity, and even self-righteousness, is plaguing this country (and the world). And what frightens me is that mostly they are considered legal.

A friend once commented about ownership that lingered in my head. “How could we own something that is older than us…that existed before us?”

Truly, more than the bounds of the laws, ownership should not only be legal but should also be, in every sense, moral.