Of Love and Life

May 6, 2012

It is often hard to write about ‘love’ because people always have the tendency to make it emotional. Moreover, when people see you write about ‘love,’ they will most likely ignore it because, again, they would probably assume it to be another one of those cheesy blog entries about heartbreak or bliss or whatnot. Another reason why I shy away from writing about this topic is because people don’t associate me with ‘love’ (palibhasa wala kasi akong love life, lol). That is why when I write about the topic, I anticipate that it would come as a shock to those who know me. But come on, we are all people and there will definitely come a point in our life when we would want to talk about this complex word called ‘love’. In my case, that point is now. So please bear with me for a while as I try my best not to be emotional or cheesy in this blog entry. :))

According to the book I’m currently reading (A Brief History of Thought by Luc Ferry), the Christian idea of love has three levels: (1) Love-as-attachment, (2) Compassion, and (3) Love-in-God. The first level is when we love someone so dearly that we cannot imagine life without them. This level of love is usually governed by jealousy and possessiveness, which consequently cause us much suffering. A higher form of love, compassion, is when we unconditionally care for others who are in need. This level of love is selfless. The highest form of love is love-in-God, which is when we love what is eternal in other people. I do not understand completely how this goes. I guess it is when we love someone not because of physical or outside appearances, but because of who they are inside. Okay, so perhaps we know this one already. Why then are many people still suffering because of ‘love’ even though they have learned to look beyond physical appearances? I will deviate from the book and just base my answer from observation and experience.

People still suffer because love needs to be mutual. I mean imagine, even if you learn to love all the people in the world, but not a single one would love you back, would you be happy? Of course not (unless you’re a martyr or something, but hey, let’s be realistic. You won’t be happy if no one loves you back!). Love should be two-way. Give and take as they say. So others suffer because they are forcing themselves into the heart of someone who cannot love them back.

People suffer because of fear. Fear of being left for another, fear of death, fear of criticism, etc. Fear breeds jealousy and insecurity. That other person is more beautiful than I am, that other person is more sensible, that other person has more sense of humor, and so on and so forth. Obviously, love with fear is in the lowest level of love-as-attachment. This is probably the reason why the Bible stresses that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).

But how can we as humans be capable of giving out this “perfect love”? Perhaps you would say, “by love-in-God”, or by loving what is eternal in another person. But such an answer would only bring us back to where we started (see the last part of the second paragraph).

Okay, I don’t know how this “perfect love” works. Is there even such a thing as perfect in this world? There is still a lot to learn.

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What is Philosophy?

April 30, 2012

I stumbled upon a book yesterday entitled, “A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living” by Luc Ferry. As always, it was the cover of the book that attracted me. So I scanned it and found the content interesting. It is like an introduction to philosophy for lay people. I have always been interested in Eastern philosophies such as that of the Buddha, Confucius, and Lao Tzu, but rarely did I consider reading more about the Western philosophies of Epictetus, Aristotle, and others.

The first time I encountered a discussion on religion vs. (Western) philosophy was during our PI 100 class with Ma’am Albina Peczon-Fernandez. I really enjoyed her class because she would always throw in thought-provoking statements (e.g. “Man created God”). And although it was very challenging to follow her discussions about dialectical idealism, Kant, Marx, and other technical philosophy stuff, I believe that it was then that my interest for Western philosophy started (unconsciously).

Below are my notes on the first chapter, followed by a short reflection.

___________________________

Chapter 1: What is Philosophy?

* conventional (textbook) definition/description:

– formation of a critical and independent spirit

– method of rigorous thought

– art of reflection

– rooted in an attitude of “astonishment” and “enquiry”

* The author believes that the above descriptions of philosophy has nothing to do with the question, “what is philosophy?”, because they are non-specific, i.e. there are a lot of other fields where the above descriptions apply. People tend to narrow down philosophy to reflection and argument, but these are merely tools used in philosophy.

* Philosophers view humans as ‘finite beings’– mortal beings- and we are the only creatures who know our limits, i.e. we know we are going to die. Thus, people turn to religion for salvation. The Catholics go to Heaven, the Buddhists go to the Western Pureland, and so on for other religions. What about non-believers? This is where philosophy comes in.

* Philosophy says that death is more than just a biological ending. Instead, anything that is irreversible can be classified as having died already. This includes everything that happened in the past, things that we can no longer change. Thus, it is this fear of the irreversible that we need to conquer in order to live a joyful life.

* Religion generally addresses this fear through faith and humility at the expense of freedom of thought. Generally speaking, you cannot reason with what the Bible or other Scriptures say. People take it as it is because of faith. In contrast, philosophy also promises salvation, but through careful study of our environment, ourselves, and others. “To philosophise is to learn how to die.” ~ Montaigne

* Philosophy urges us to live in the present. The passage below (from the book) clearly shows this point:

Greek philosophers looked upon the past and the future as the primary evils weighing upon human life, and as the source of all anxieties which blight the present.

* Philosophy refuses to believe in a god because it is simply too good to be true and, again, the price we have to pay for having faith is freedom of thought. It is essential to point out though that philosophy respects other people’s belief. It does not strive to prove the non-existence of God (for how can someone actually accomplish such a thing?). Instead, philosophers are people who are not convinced with the idea of faith and thus have to turn to something else for salvation.

* Three dimensions of philosophy (sometimes also called the three stages of thought): theoretical stage, ethical or moral stage, and the final stage where one attains salvation or wisdom.

  • Theoretical stage: involves the process of understanding the world we live in and understanding how we gain such knowledge.
  • Ethical stage: involves the process of understanding other people and how we coexist in this world and time
  • Final stage: overcoming fear of the irreversible by attaining wisdom

_________________________

After reading the first chapter of Ferry’s book, I was surprised to find many parallelisms between the Western philosophical ideas with that of Buddhism such as the importance of living in the present, coexistence, and the belief that salvation can be found inside every individual and not through a higher Being (take note that Buddha is not a god).

I believe that the goal of every religion is to make each of us a better person. As my father once told me, “Religion has different flavors to suit the taste of different people.” Therefore, the important thing is to respect other people’s beliefs or better yet, have an open mind and get the good stuff out of different religions and philosophies.

I’ll stop here because I am terribly sleepy (it was such a long, but thankfully productive day- traveled from Antipolo to Calamba to UP Los Banos and back to Antipolo again). Thoughts of why I exist and what I should do came barging into my brain again. But then I guess a lot of people think of that too. Anyway, enough for now. Good night!

Uncertain Life. Exciting Life! :)

April 10, 2012

“It is easy enough to be pleasant

When life flows along like a song.

But the man worthwhile

Is the man who can smile

When life goes dead wrong.”

~ from the book, The Purpose of Life by Ven. Dr. Dhammananda

Reading the book above made me realize something: The cause of my frustration is the fact that I am trying to “change the world” when in fact the only thing I need to change is myself! Why on earth do I keep forgetting that?

It is alright to remain idealistic about my humanitarian engineering dream. However, I must always remember that I can achieve that not by changing others but by changing myself and hopefully the people around me will be inspired to do the same thing. Here’s a paragraph from the book that captures this thought perfectly:

What can you achieve by changing the world? Can you achieve perfection? Never. You will only feed your vanity and fulfill your ego. You will be bound to the wheel of existence. But by changing yourself, by realizing the nature of self through selflessness, self-discipline, and self-exertion, you can achieve perfection. By achieving perfection, your life becomes meaningful and you can render great service to others. People will be inspired by your example; they will follow you and also achieve the common aim in life.

So please, please, Jill, don’t try to change the world! It’s way too overwhelming and frustrating! Cultivate yourself and let’s see what happens. :)

Of Patience and Tolerance

April 10, 2012

“Life is time occupied in space.”


My professor did it again. The last time this happened, nine hours of my time was wasted; six hours flew away today.

My undergraduate teacher described life as “time occupied in space.” She said that if only people would look at life this way, we would not waste any of our time as well as other people’s time because that would be tantamount to slowly killing ourselves or others.

But what do we do if our superior is the one wasting our time? I know I cannot change other people. Perhaps this is a sign for me to adapt or learn how to work with my professor. Okay. Breathe. I’ll try this one tomorrow: bring something to read or do so I can finish something productive while waiting. Alright, that’s what I’ll do for now until I find a better solution to this dilemma. If you have any suggestions please do tell me! I need all the help I can get. Thaaaaank you! :)

Idealistic me. :)

April 4, 2012
i·de·al·ist
[ahy-dee-uh-list]

noun

1. A person who cherishes or pursues high or noble principles, purposes, goals, etc. Synonyms: optimist, perfectionist, reformer, visionary, utopianist.
2. A visionary or impractical person.
Synonyms: romantic, romanticist, dreamer, stargazer.

3. A person who represents things as they might or should be rather than as they are.

*from dictionary.com

———————————————————

My best friend and I had a chat last week and one of the topics that was mentioned in passing was being idealistic – is it good or bad? I told him idealism is not bad, provided that we use it properly. Let me try to explain further.

I am one of those people who loves to daydream about every aspect of my life. Ideas flood my mind everyday and I do agree that sometimes it gets so crazy because I tend to change my mind every now and then when a “better” idea comes along. When I was in high school I dreamed of becoming an astronomer and working in NASA. When I was in college, I dreamed of devoting my life to serve others. And now in grad school, I dream of bringing humanitarian engineering into our department. Haha, I know it sounds too good, too idealistic. You might even say that it’s impossible.

Idealism allows me to dream big. Once you have a dream or a goal, you have a purpose for waking up everyday. I started grad school with enthusiasm. I was eager to learn from professors who had PhDs and from my classmates as well, hoping that I could get something to fulfill my humanitarian engineering dream. I already had a thesis topic in mind and I was doing great in my classes and exams. But during the latter part of the semester I was starting to feel that something is not right. I started to see that the academic world I am moving in is not what I expected it to be. The three things I saw were the following:

First are some of our professors. I was disappointed because there were a lot of times that a professor would forget about his/her class or meeting. Students come from different places (Laguna, Bulacan, Antipolo, etc.) and time, money, and energy are wasted just because of a teacher’s irresponsibility. I asked myself, “Ganun ba talaga pag “Doc” na ang tawag sayo? Pwede ka nang ma-late at mahirap ka na hagilapin ng estudyante?” No. I refuse to believe that. I understand that Docs are extremely busy, but that is not enough reason to disrespect other people’s time, money, and energy. Besides, other Docs are very diligent in the classroom, which means that it is really possible to balance things out. This disappointed me so much because these are people that I look up to.

Second are some of the students. Many incoming second year students still don’t have a thesis adviser. Based on conversations I had with some of them, they just do thesis for the sake of graduating. Perhaps I understand very little about research that is why I am able to say this, but I find it frustrating to browse the archives section of the library and find so many research projects that will probably stay on paper forever. We are engineers. We are supposed to put theories into applications, not only on papers. I do not want my thesis to stay on paper and get stuck in the library. I want people to benefit from and use my research.

Third is the system itself. I realized that the postgraduate program is designed to produce industry workers. This revelation really shocked me. I do not plan to enter industry so why did I put myself in this place where I am being trained to become an industry worker?

The three facts above overwhelmed me, especially the last one. Obviously, too much idealism spells disaster. It can blind us. I searched the Internet for articles that could help me. True enough, there were many out there who have a similar dilemma as I did. One article* hit the spot. It said idealism can cause us to

be so blinded by your “shining” ideals that you forget others are free to have their own opinion and become discouraged when you think no one is listening to you.

I was indeed discouraged for a while when two of my professors did not consider the thesis topic I had in mind. One of them suggested a different topic and said something along the lines of “no one has done research on that topic, choose another one.” Okay. I knew I had to change the way I see things or else I’ll end up quitting the ERDT program.

Paradigm shift.

I prayed for God’s guidance and made a new plan: I will finish my master’s and accept everything that it is for now. The professors, the students, the system, everything. I will respect my professors for their position and experience, I will respect the freedom of my fellow students to make their own decisions, and I will respect the fact that the program was designed for industry. I will not judge any one of them. Besides, obtaining a master’s degree is my ticket to becoming a full-time faculty in the department. Unless I get in, I can’t do much for my humanitarian engineering dream. I need all the knowledge, experience, and wisdom I can get in this journey.

Before I end this already looooong blog entry, let me share a passage from the same article stated above:

…being an idealist is really about being a visionary. And visionaries are inspired people, with creative and innovative ideas, with insight and resourcefulness. Visionaries think and then plan their future with imagination combined with wisdom. I’m not there, yet, but that is my ultimate goal.

…idealism is about values, and always acting with those values in mind. When a person lives their life and acts from a higher place, an ethical place, that is right and realistic.

You see? Being an idealist is not really bad. We just have to be careful on how we use it. :)
*http://www.thisinspiredlife.com/diary/item/43-on-being-idealistic

What do I write?

April 3, 2012

I wonder what to write. About school? Friends? Family? Love? Life? Haha. There are too many topics to choose from! Let’s see, let me share a thought that occurred to me last week.

Life is complicated because we have a lot of roles to play. We need to be a student, a daughter/son, a friend, a citizen of a country (and of the world!), etc. Our environment can also make life complicated because a lot of temptations are present. But if we look at it in another way, life is actually simple. For instance, if we are sad we should simply find the cause of our sadness and direct all our efforts to eliminate that cause of sadness. We people just have a knack for complicating things. From the Catholic perspective they say that God made us to be simple, but we have made ourselves very complicated. The Buddhist put it simply as karma. Cause and effect.

So, is life simple? Yep, I believe it is. We can all live a simple life. Of course it will not always be easy, but it is definitely possible. It’s just a matter of choice. :)

Tiangge Day. “This is Life!” haha

March 29, 2012

Mama, Tita Nel and I went to Alabang with Papa to see the tiangge (bazaar) near his office. This is also Papa’s second to the last day of work (he’s retiring) so it might be a long time before we could visit Alabang again.

This Alabang bazaar is really one of the best tiangge’s I’ve ever seen! Nakakalito, ang daming magagandang bagay na super affordable. :D We had lunch at Tsokolate Batirol and the food was great! Actually, I order the same thing every time I eat there: Creamy pesto malunggay pasta with shrimps. Yuuuuummmmyy! I <3 pesto! :)

After lunch, we went back to the tiangge to finally buy the things we wanted then at around 3pm we walked to the nearby Bellevue hotel to have a snack at the cafe. If you think it’s expensive, you’ll be surprised that the price of their food is very reasonable. The price of their cakes and pastries are comparable to local bakeshops like Red Ribbon. It may be just a little more expensive, but the serving size and taste is waaaaaayyy better. Sulit!

Thank God for Family day! :)