being happy

The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.”

― Laura Ingalls Wilder

“So he tasted the deep pain that is reserved only for the strong, just as he had tasted for a little while the deep happiness.”

― F. Scott Fitzgerald, All the Sad Young Men

Can “being happy” really be defined? We are not dealing here with the general concept of happiness. “Being happy” carries in it a fundamentally existential sense and defining it as a concept is tantamount to robbing the experience of being happy of its essence. Besides, defining it in linguistic terms leads us to a standstill. Nobody will bite a conceptual definition of “being happy” for such will always be wanting from the viewpoint of every individual person whose experience of being happy depends on her/his personal circumstances in life. With a million people each of them having experienced being happy, a million definitions are in the offing. In other words, nobody is capable of coming up with a single universal definition of being happy. Moreover, defining a “living” experience in words is immediately putting boundaries around it. “Capturing” the spontaneity of experience as it happens is missing the next segments of its flow. Let’s appreciate a “living” flower undetached from its stem and hence from the totality of the plant where it is found. Let’s not pluck it from the stem through which life flows. Defining in words a spontaneous experience is like plucking a flower from its stem.

However, being happy may be observed. I know when someone–especially those who are closely related to me–is happy. There are some obvious physical manifestations to know when a person is happy. However, there are also instances when such manifestations are absent and it is only the one who experiences being happy who knows that s/he is happy. Being happy is a matter of subjective feeling so that we can only utter, “I am happy,” for other people to know and think that we are really happy. But there’s no possibility in whatever way of allowing an individual to enter into the state of another individual’s being at the very moment the latter is experiencing it. What is strictly considered at this point of the discussion is the fact that only the one who experiences being happy has the basic knowledge not of being happy in general but of her/his own experience of being happy.

The experience of being happy may be shared by two or more individuals. Nevertheless,  something may make one happy while the same thing could trigger sadness in another. The final results of a championship match between Real Madrid and Barcelona will surely make the supporters of one happy and those of the other sad. But in most instances, being happy on the one hand or being sad on the other is only a flitting thing. As a matter of feeling in the context of our earthly experience, both being happy and being sad are never perennial. In this sense, it is somewhat difficult to draw the demarcation line that distinguishes being happy from being pleased. Or perhaps, there is really no distinction between them. Perhaps, it is just our propensity to get dramatic and different that we diversify terms in our language and one instance is in the way we make being happy distinct in meaning from being pleased. As far as my two cents is concerned, I don’t see the difference between the two at all.

Besides, in a world  full of problems, troubles, headaches and sufferings, being happy is only in pockets and snatches, so to speak. Being happy is therefore  a short span of rosy moments as they are a rarity. We live life as it comes and we should meet it with a high sense of realism. In so doing, we find ourselves on a more stable platform that makes us realize how important soberness is. When the floodlights of pleasure hit us, we are not overwhelmed with seemingly endless exhilaration. When the dark shadows of tragedy strike us, we don’t resign at the corner of defeat and utter devastation.

Being happy and being sad are the two sides of the coin of life. Balance is the name of the game and such is shown when we have already mastered the art of standing on the edge.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 5 November 2015


“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them–that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
— Lao Tzu

The term “natural” may be understood in different ways respective of the context.  Yet, in every context, it is much easier to handle if viewed in contrast with its antonym. At one point, “natural” contrasts “artificial” while at another, its opposite is “cultural” and further still, it is antithetical to “supernatural”. In the first sense, what is “natural” is original and its copy or simulation is the artificial. The simplest example I can think of right at the moment is orange juice which of course is natural if derived by squeezing real oranges while artificial if what makes it look like an orange juice is the artificial coloring and the simulated taste is produced by a concoction of certain chemicals called artificial flavors.

Similar thought may be applied to human beings wherein a person whom we know very well is acting very strangely–i.e., very artificially–in a particular situation. We could make a spontaneous judgment on the matter because we know the person so well and under normal circumstances, we just couldn’t imagine s/he would act in the way s/he’s acting right now. In other words, it is a circumstance wherein the contrast between what is natural and what is artificial is so pronounced. At the end of the day, we get to the point of saying, the person wasn’t her/himself. However, the same evaluation or judgment may not be applied if the other person is a total stranger. We know nothing about her/him, i.e., we are ignorant of who s/he really is. Having this condition, there is no way for us to know what is natural and what is artificial in that person.

In many instances, many normal people tend to act artificially in public because of general social expectations–even pressures–embedded in the ways and means where we have gotten used to. We always tend to think of how the public will react if we start doing something unconventional. So the best thing to do is to toe the social line. We go the way of the majority and act artificially to maintain the convention without rocking the boat. However, we act in a very natural way in the presence of intimate family members and friends who, we are quite certain, will never expect from us anything beyond what they know of and about us since time immemorial, so to speak. And in such a condition, we don’t get ashamed. We don’t care at all even if some lapses–even craziness and stupidities–are committed because we know family and friends will always understand. Criticisms from them are always well taken with less strain and no embarrassment at all.

Being natural in the second sense, i.e., natural vs cultural, is a different state of affairs. In this context, there’s nothing negative both ways. The whole situation is basically characterized by a continuum that starts off with the natural and moves forward on a trajectory that leads to the formation of the cultural. In this particular sphere of discussion, the human factor is of the essence being a culture creator. There is no culture much less civilization minus humanity. In a more theoretical configuration, we find the human being right smack at the interspace between nature and culture. Hence, prior to human existence, we say that all was a natural domain, i.e., everything was natural.

Yet, the dynamics of what we call nature–or the natural, if you will–are distinguished by the process of evolution and the emergence of humanity is part and parcel of its orbit. In other words, the human being who is the prime author of all aspects of the global cultural landscape regardless of how diverse it is finds her/his most meaningful niche within the ambit of the natural. In this sense, it doesn’t matter at all how diametrically disparate nature and culture may be; the reality that matters once and for all is the fact that nature and culture constitute an unbroken spectrum. A further elaboration of this issue leads us to a realization that even if culture is by and large thought out in the most sophisticated operation of the human mind and substantially manifested in space-time, the most basic raw materials of physical culture amidst us are drawn and extracted from nature.

Nevertheless, even if we contend of how unbroken the spectrum that connects nature and culture may be, some infringements are however committed along the way not in the area of nature but rather in the area of culture. These infringements are not matters of lapses but of abusive acts of wanton destruction perpetrated by self-aggrandizing people to materially enrich themselves to the detriment of Earth’s natural resources. Having considered this leads us to the two sides of the human phenomenon: the creative culture-builder on the one hand and the destructive nature-abuser on the other.

Lastly, being natural in the third sense, i.e., natural vs supernatural, is simply being realistic. What is natural in this sense is that which we actually experience here and now. On the basis of this, we are all authorities of our respective experiences which in a lot of instances find a common convergence point. We understand each other and agree on many things of natural importance because many times we find ourselves in similar situations. It is realistic to say that we encounter a lot of problems in this world but in the same vein, most solutions to such problems are likewise located in this same world.

This world we live in is real and this is the main issue why we are deemed to make the best of this world. The most sensitive, sensible, responsible and committed among us are the most able and determined protectors of the Earth which is our home. There is no other nebulous world elsewhere which many religions have idealized. The supernatural is a figment of one’s imagination that gives false hope to the naïve and the brainwashed. We defend the natural because we are replete with the rational grounding to sustain its reality while upholding the “reality” of the supernatural takes a lot of imagination and presuppositions based on made-up stories elevated to the level of myths and legends.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 29 October 2015

Thinking Out Of The Box

thinking out of the box

Each of us is an individual located in our own respective boxes, so to speak. Each box constitutes the components of a human person’s being–the particular programming courtesy of the family as well as the way society in general has conditioned our ethos and mores. The box provides the space  where we find safety and enjoy serenity. Basically, it is our comfort zone. It is our haven of rest. It defines what we consider as the norm. It grants us stability and constancy. The box is where we rush into in moments when risks prowl about and threaten our steady bearing.

In certain ways, the box may be seen as a factor that defines and identifies us as individual persons known and familiar to others. But in a deeper analysis, we get to a realization that individual boxes are nothing but microcosmic reflections/versions of the all-encompassing macrocosmic box that integrates the cultural structure of a society. We call it convention whose strength depends on how such is sustained in the lives of its individual bearers. We say that the box is unassailable, inalienable, non-negotiable. The box is therefore characterized by a self-reflexivity that aims to brace its own platform of strength. In this sense, it is deemed inviolable to seriously acknowledge that subverting the box is a grievous infringement of a preeminent wellspring of social cohesion and tenacity. In other words, we are not supposed to subvert the box.

But at certain points, the box gets oppressive and tyrannical with all the seemingly insurmountable barriers on all sides that define its box-ness. In this condition, our mobility and maneuverings are acutely confined within a very limited playing field. In such a situation, even our conception of free movement is adversely affected. The conditioning mechanism of the box actually prevents us to think of and explore even its frontiers. From a sense of uncertainty which spontaneously evolves in time to a feeling of trepidation and fear, the box asphyxiates and snuffs the call of creativity within the essential singularity of our humanity. The box through all the multivariagated factors that embody  its complex network prevents us to go beyond its fringes which if we just have the courage to get near them will prove to us once and for all that those very fringes are illusory. And thus we get to stand face to face with the reality that we can defy the box.

Yes, the box is here and now but the thought that we cannot resist and pass over it is a self-imposed illusion. The box may be traversed, even transcended, and normal humanity is endowed with the power to do so. In many instances, we tend to be hindered by the established presuppositions of the so-called conventional. Convergent information dominates and persists in us and in the process blinds us to see and explore the possibility of divergent information (cf., Giovanni Corazza’s TEDx Roma lecture on “Creative Thinking: How to Get out of the Box and Generate Ideas” . . . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEusrD8g-dM) We are reluctant, even scared, to diverge from the accepted, the acknowledged, the approved, the authorized. We don’t want to rock the boat. We are discomfited to think out of the box. By and large, we are denizens of the establishment. We have gotten used to things and events. A slight modification disorients us. We get upset when the old ways are challenged.

The box is like Plato’s cave wherein people are chained all their lives while facing a wall where shadows of things passing in front of the fire behind them are projected. The shadows constitute their reality. There is nothing more meaningful beyond the shadows. And when someone gets freed from that “reality,” s/he becomes a pariah. The box or the cave is real but not all of reality. It is just a speck of the more exciting and more immense reality for over and beyond the reality of the box is the more exhilarating and daring reality of possibilities. It is the latter reality that is supposed to excite us and intensify our aspiration to think and explore new opportunities, novel alternatives, unique approaches, uncommon ways, unconventional means. Thinking out of the box is awakening the hibernating courage within us and mustering our strength to probe and walk along the road less traveled.

The norm of the box is poignantly captured in the First Duty of the eminent modern Greek philosopher Nikos Kazantzakis’ “Spiritual Exercises” entitled The Saviors of God (http://www.angel.net/~nic/askitiki.html) as follows:

WITH CLARITY and quiet, I look upon the world and say: All that I see, hear, taste, smell, and touch are the creations of my mind.

The sun comes up and the sun goes down in my skull. Out of one of my temples the sun rises, and into the other the sun sets.

The stars shine in my brain; ideas, men, animals browse in my temporal head; songs and weeping fill the twisted shells of my ears and storm the air for a moment.

My brain blots out, and all, the heavens and the earth, vanish.

The mind shouts: ‘Only I exist!

“Deep in my subterranean cells my five senses labor; they weave and unweave space and time, joy and sorrow, matter and spirit.

“All swirl about me like a river, dancing and whirling; faces tumble like water, and chaos howls.

“But I, the Mind, continue to ascend patiently, manfully, sober in the vertigo. That I may not stumble and fall, I erect landmarks over this vertigo; I sling bridges, open roads, and build over the abyss.

“Struggling slowly, I move among the phenomena which I create, I distinguish between them for my convenience, I unite them with laws j yoke them to my heavy practical needs.

“I impose order on disorder and give a face – my face – to chaos.

“I do not know whether behind appearances there lives and moves a secret essence superior to me. Nor do I ask; I do not care. I create phenomena in swarms, and paint with a full palette a gigantic and gaudy curtain before the abyss. Do not say, ‘Draw the curtain that I may see the painting.’ The curtain is the painting.

“This kingdom is my child, a transitory, a human work. But it’s a solid work, nothing more solid exists, and only within its boundaries can I remain fruitful, happy, and at work.

“I am the worker of the abyss. I am the spectator of the abyss. I am both theory and practice. I am the law. Nothing beyond me exists.”

To SEE and accept the boundaries of the human mind without vain rebellion, and in these severe limitations to work ceaselessly without protest – this is where man’s first duty lies.

Nevertheless, it is in the Second Duty where we see how the box is defied and the reality of more challenging possibilities outside of the box is courageously faced, even embraced:

I WILL NOT accept boundaries; appearances cannot contain me; I choke! To bleed in this agony, and to live it profoundly, is the second duty.

The mind is patient and adjusts itself, it likes to play; but the heart grows savage and will not condescend to play; it stifles and rushes to tear apart the nets of necessity.

What is the value of subduing the earth, the waters, the air, of conquering space and time, of understanding what laws govern the mirages that rise from the burning deserts of the mind, their appearance and reappearance?

I have one longing only: to grasp what is hidden behind appearances, to ferret out that mystery which brings me to birth and then kills me, to discover if behind the visible and unceasing stream of the world an invisible and immutable presence is hiding.

If the mind cannot, if it was not made to attempt the heroic and desperate breach beyond frontiers, then if only the heart could!

Beyond! Beyond! Beyond! Beyond man I seek the invisible whip which strikes him and drives him into the struggle. I lie in ambush to find out what primordial face struggles beyond animals to imprint itself on the fleeting flesh by creating, smashing, and remolding innumerable masks. I struggle to make out beyond plants the first stumbling steps of the Invisible in the mud.

A command rings out within me: “Dig! What do you see?”

“Men and birds, water and stones.”

“Dig deeper! What do you see?”

“Ideas and dreams, fantasies and lightening flashes!”

“Dig deeper! What do you see?”

“I see nothing! A mute Night, as thick as death. It must be death.”

“Dig deeper!”

“Ah! I cannot penetrate the dark partition! I hear voices and weeping. I hear the flutter of wings on the other shore.”

“Don’t weep! Don’t weep! They are not on the other shore. The voices, the weeping, and the wings are your own heart.”

Beyond the mind, on the edge of the heart’s holy precipice, I proceed, trembling. One foot grips the secure soil, the other gropes in the darkness above the abyss.
Behind all appearances, I divine a struggling essence. I want to merge with it.

I feel that behind appearances this struggling essence is also striving to merge with my heart. But the body stands between us and separates us. The mind stands between us and separates us.

What is my duty? To shatter the body, to rush and merge with the Invisible. To let the mind fall silent that I may hear the Invisible calling.

I walk on the rim of the abyss, and I tremble. Two voices contend within me.

The mind: “Why waste ourselves by pursuing the impossible? Within the holy enclosure of our five senses it is our duty to acknowledge the limitations of man.”

But another voice within me – call it the Sixth Power, call it the heart – resists and shouts:

“No! No! Never acknowledge the limitations of man. Smash all boundaries! Deny whatever your eyes see. Die every moment, but say: Death does not exist.'”

Yes, the box is real but outside the box is a more exciting and daring reality.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 22 October 2015

Do We Have A Soul?


The question has never been simple and easy to deal with. Though, the issue at hand is almost a steadfast notion which is never questioned by adherents and devotees of whatever thought system–or religion, if you will–where such a notion is held in grand esteem. The concept of soul is an important component in the infrastructure of a metaphysical system that puts the human being within a larger belief context dominated by supernatural forces. In this sense, the materialistic/physicalistic scientific presuppostion has absolutely no access into it for it is never observable much less experimentable. The most we can say about it in positive terms is it is a construct to strengthen pre-established convictions zealously guarded by their defenders from the aggressive onslaught of prospective assailants.

In the Hindu religion, the soul is known as the “Atman” which is the human counterpart of the divine “Brahman”. There is therefore an ontological link that connects the Atman and the Brahman which grants the meaningfulness of human existence. Without such link, humanity is nothing. The Atman is the essence of being that guides humanity in pursuit of earthly pleasure and desire (“Kama”) as well as power and wealth (“Artha”) but without setting aside or ignoring the demands of duty and responsibility (“Dharma”) towards fellow human beings, society and the entire cosmic reality. These are human states of affairs whose trajectory is guided by the Atman towards the final achievement of liberation (“moksha”).

In the Christian tradition, the Hebrew concept of “nephesh” lives on from its Jewish theological rootage and in the new dispensation is directly associated with the Greek “psyche” where it is understood as the soul. However, the association is basically more theological than etymological because a deeper analysis of the Hebrew “nephesh” leads the inquirer not to the concept of soul because there is no such concept in Judaism. Early Bible translators (particularly those whose translation became known as the King James Version of the Bible) who worked on the Hebrew Scripures (also known as the Old Testament in the Christian Bible) were heavily influenced by their Greek-dominated theology as they translated “nephesh” into “soul”. Modern-day Biblical scholars have unanimously resolved the problem by a general consensus that “nephesh” in the overall context of Jewish theological system should more accurately be understood as “being”. In this light and as it is used in the Hebrew scriptures, “nephesh” doesn’t only refer to human beings but even to animals. In other words, both human beings and animals are “nephesh.”

However, the Greek concept of “psyche” is not totally isolated from the Hebrew “nephesh” as they are synthesized in the Latin concept of “anima” from which the English word “animal” is derived. The “anima” is the soul as it was configured in medieval theology but with a significant dosage of Aristotelian ingredient in the theological formulation of St. Thomas Aquinas.

“For Aristotle and for his medieval interpeter, St. Thomas Aquinas, in animals, the soul was the form of the body; even plants had souls which gave their body form. The growing oak tree was attracted towards the material form of the tree by the soul of the oak. Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas thought that there were animal souls which coordinated their movements, their instincts, their senses, their emotions. Of course, the word “animal” comes from the Latin word for “soul” which is “anima”; they were beings with souls. In addition, human beings had rational conscious minds concerned with the use of language and these conscious minds were embedded within the animal and the vegetative parts of our soul. The vegetaive soul shapes the embryo and the body had to maintain health and recovery from injury and disease. The animal part of our nature gives us our animal nature, our emotions which we share with the animals, our senses which we share with other animals.” [As quoted from Rupert Sheldrake’s lecture entitled “Cycle of Wonder: Can Science Revive Spirituality” . . . http://iai.tv/video/cycles-of-wonder ]

This whole exposition and any other related discourses as well on the complex issue of the soul do not, however, strengthen the case to prove the existence of the soul as a space-time entity.  Nevertheless, in the language-game where  it is traditionally used, the soul is more basically understood as a principle upon which certain observable and experimentable aspects of life–human, animal and plant–are reckoned to signify activities–both external and internal–that constitute the empirical and the rational in the whole gamut of reality where consciousness plays a vital and imminent role. This entire landscape is now the present specialized concern of the science of psychology which in its infancy had focused more on the unquestioned given-ness of the soul as a metaphysico-theological assumption. Psychology’s emergence and modification from being a thought system that initially dealt with the study of the soul (“psyche”) to becoming a science now engaged in the study of behaviors and mental activities in both humans and animals has gone a long way. With the rigorous demands of modern scientific paradigm, it has transcended the nebulae shrouding the concept of soul and directed its attention to focus on the more concrete and hence observable matters of behavior and cognition that constitute the transformational path of ontological progress towards a goal that integrates experience both external and internal.

The evolution that the concept of the soul has gone through gives us the image of a seemingly formidable and unassailable institution of a concept destined to survive in eternity, so to speak. Then, finally, it got to the point of standing face to face with the instrumentality of scientific investigation which has conclusively determined that the concept of the soul as it was theologically formulated on the basis of medieval metaphysics is nothing but a construct to sustain a belief network which in turn likewise sustained the soul’s image as real within the framework of such a belief system.

Now, the more scientifically enlightened among us don’t use the concept of the soul in its medieval configuration.  Its most common appropriation at present is in the figurative sense which is encountered more in poetic versification and prose. In retrospect, this modern understanding jibes well with the ancient Hebrew concept of “nephesh” which is properly translated as “being” and thus never evokes a mysterious or an ineffable aura. In the final analysis, we haven’t really dismissed and thrown away the concept of the soul in the dustbin of insignificance but rehabilitated it in the sphere of literary endeavor.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 29 September 2015




“Actioni contrariam semper et æqualem esse reactionem: sive corporum duorum actiones in se mutuo semper esse æquales et in partes contrarias dirigi.” (“To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction: or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts.”)

— Isaac Newton, Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica

Gender is basically a social construct (as distinguished from sex which is biological). It is traditionally defined by a classification of certain assigned roles to people in a social formation. In this sense, masculine roles are sharply distinguished from those of the feminine. Through time we have seen how this situation has been institutionalized with the fabrication of an impregnable frontier that separates one gender from the other. There are tasks socially assigned to exclusively cover the range of a gender’s conduct. In other words, none of a particular gender’s traditional roles may be assigned to and thus performed by those who belong to the other gender. Along with this is the standardization of an imbalance between genders where one is considered to be more superior than the other.

We’ve even witnessed how a wedge is stuck between genders to segregate skills and professions and in the process consider some of them more distinguished over the others. Though more equitable societies generally found in the West have levelled off the gender playing field, so to speak, the spectre of the traditional past still lingers in some localities. There may really be some changes in different areas of concern where we have seen the frontier being traversed both ways. Yet, when it comes to the issue of one gender dominant over the other, quantitative/statiscal records still show the persistence of the traditional perception which is actually embedded in the people’s collective consciousness. This whole scenario affirms the notion that old habits are really hard to die (as a line of an old song goes).

Though we’ve already seen an increase in the number of males in the nursing profession, it is still predominated by women and hence remains to be considered as a feminine career. However, there are certainly positive indications that sooner or later, a balance in terms of gender will be achieved. The same is true among the professional practitioners in the fields of construction and transportation (air, land and sea) which are yet considered as masculine arenas despite the entry of women in trickles. We can enumerate more employment areas where gender classification is yet particularly stressed.

What I consider as seriously odious on the issue of gender distinction is the privileging of one over the other which in the traditional context is the masculine over the feminine. We could have seen some superficial instances where there seems to be a progress towards equality but a closer analysis reveals that underneath still remains the vestiges of the old patterns. We can sense here the protracted ramification of medieval religiosity which exalts the social prioritization bestowed on the male species. It only shows that despite the trend that veers away from the religious and moves onward to secularization, a considerable amount of certain values, behaviors and attitudes still reflect the clout of male-domination in religion that continues to exert a lasting influence even in the cultural apparatus of the modern western human being.

The ghost of patriarchy is very much alive and felt in many traditionalist societies even in the contemporary post-modern era. Male-dominated societies which give more emphasis on the exceptionality of sex roles than gender roles (the fact that these societies are said to be dominated by males) continually thrive as denizens in these societies are yet incapable to disentangle and distinguish sex roles from gender roles. Worse still, women remain subservient to the wishes and biddings of men who are regarded as physically stronger (which is a matter of sex and hence biological) and therefore more stable, more decisive, more purposeful and more determined (which are matters of gender and hence cultural). But a closer look at this equation reveals the faulty association because physical strength is not the precondition of stability, decisiveness, purposefulness and determination. In other words, over and beyond the physical and the biological, these personal qualities of cultural importance may be present and therefore further enhanced in both masculine and feminine genders. (1)

However, on a positive note, we have likewise acknowledged the fact that there are unrelenting forces amidst us that continue to sustain the struggle towards gender equality with remarkable achievements along the way. In highlighting this matter, we could even conjecture that the whole event is constitutive of an evolutionary process that will ultimately lead to the desired objective. In other words, there isn’t even a need to aggressively pursue the battle plan for like a railway track, every movement on it inevitably leads to where it is destined to end. Nevertheless, we are realistic that the whole process will surely take a longer period of time until the arrow finally and fully hits the target.

This whole culture of gender orientation and gender role performance is in general an issue of personal choice that does not have any necessary bi-conditional bearing with female or male sexuality. The state of affairs wherein certain roles are assigned exclusively by a traditionally patriarchal social orientation to one gender instead of to the other—which still relatively dominates many societies nowadays—has been undergoing a dramatic transformation. We are therefore heading towards the full flowering of a socio-cultural landscape where social roles become flexible and are not preconditioned by sexuality and strict gender role demarcation. (2)

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 23 September 2015


(1) “On Sex and Gender” . . . https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/on-sex-and-gender/

(2) Ibid.

What’s In A Name?


“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

by any other name would smell as sweet.”

— William Shakespeare

Names are anything. A name could spell power or disaster, hatred or admiration, respect or contempt. In most instances, we associate names with circumstances of either private or public significance and in the process, a name could acquire a connotation of fame or notoriety. In this particular consideration, there’s actually nothing inherent in a name that makes it outstanding or disgraceful, prominent or inconspicuous. The distinction or insignificance of a name is something obtained from an external derivation as a matter of substantial impression that may either be appreciative or derogatory. This reality leads to a generalization that ranges from the local to the global and could be sharply aimed to either break or make the person of an individual or a corporate outfit.

We tend to attribute qualities and impressions to names on the basis of how their past or present possessors conduct(ed) their lives and it so happened that many of them have landed on the pages of history: Alexander, Constantine, Augustine, Charlemagne, Napoleon, Gandhi, Washington and Lincoln to name a few. Even in the most local context of small towns and villages, names of respected  and vilified personalities create lasting impressions in the minds of people now and in the many generations ahead. In view of this, a multitude of namesakes emerge while other names are deemed nefarious and thus tabooed by social consensus. As an implied rule, nobody names her/his child Lucifer, Hitler or Judas.

However, we find parents naming their children after great heroes and famous personalities in showbiz, sports, politics, arts, science and technology among others with the aspiration in mind that their offspring will live up to the distinguished legacy of the persons after whom they are named. At this point, we acknowledge the reality that naming a child is basically an act of idealization. Underneath this convention is the fascination of the naming parents to think that in the future, the offspring will be like their idealized/idolized eminent namesakes. In conjunction with idealization is the effort of parents to programme and reinforce the personality and character of their child according to the qualities, skills and charisma of the idealized hero. The whole process could reasonably be construed as an act of spontaneous manipulation which appears to be as natural as it has been ordinarily done since time immemorial.

At a closer look, the satisfactory effect of this typical exercise is basically on the naming agent and not necessarily on the named subject. At a certain point of one’s life is the awakening stage of self-awareness wherein one realizes that s/he has been given a name that s/he is not comfortable with.  It may not always be the case since there are those who really like the names their parents bestowed on them so that they are even grateful that their parents gave them the names they proudly carry now. However, this positive acceptance doesn’t confer blanket endorsement to the traditional practice of naming done by parents.

With this in mind, I am of the opinion that parental naming as a socio-cultural convention should only be temporary. As a humanizing right, the act of naming should belong to the person her/himself who is to be named. This matter could be accomplished by the time the person has already reached the majority age and hence has already acquired a higher level of maturity in terms of decision-making and action-taking. Taking this into consideration opens up a totally radical way of looking at human reality at a point in time when everything conventional is placed under the microscopic lens of critical scrutiny.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 15 September 2015


“Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may.”
— Plato

 “Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye.”
— William Shakespeare, Love’s Labours Lost

“Today, each artist must undertake to invent himself, a lifelong act of creation that constitutes the essential content of the artist’s work. The meaning of art in our time flows from this function of self-creation.”
— Harold Rosenberg

Could there really be a significant difference between the function of art today and in the past? Isn’t inspiration the most fundamental be-all and end-all of art in all its forms and in all ages? Art is “an exquisite work of human creativity that is appreciated and valued according to its own impressive and praiseworthy qualities that transcend the prosaic and the trivial.” (1)  An artist gets inspired to create and perform which in turn inspires an appreciative audience. Art in this sense is both internally as well as externally satisfying, i.e., to both the artist and her/his audience.

But does art mimic real life or perhaps art has a life of its own which in certain instances is mimicked by real life? Whatever the case might be, real life and art must have a convergence point that in the course of events in this world enhances, even enriches, both. Aesthetic perception is something inherent in humanity under normal circumstances, though it might be argued reasonably that artists are artists with all the passion and intensity of their arts because there is something in their spirit that gets beyond the so-called normal. Having this in mind leads us to the notion that within an artist’s essence is a yearning that seeks release and expression through a particular medium. Much deeper than the idea of inspiration is this existential artistic yearning whose full fruition is in the materiality of an artwork, a composition or a performance.

“Art is the concrete/tangible/substantial materialization of the human creative impulse to convey her/his most vital desires and needs. Art is the channel that facilitates the release of humanity´s imaginative urge that makes life more liveable and more worth enhancing. In a broader sense, we may even contend that human life in its truest essence is art itself. It is the artistic spirit of humanity that sees beauty in the natural environ of earthly existence. The course of life on earth provides magnificent inspiration to the creative human being in the furtherance of the world which s/he started to create millennia ago and has been the focal point of her/his most determined struggles to survive, to improve and to make life more meaningful despite myriads of troubles, adversities and tragedies. (2)

Paradoxically, an art that creatively captures real life bestows the latter with wings that let it fly in the celestial imagination of a beholden connoisseur. In the same vein, real life that excitedly captures an artistic expression or performance deepens and accentuates the latter’s  magnitude with dramatic effervescence. The function of art is therefore purely of a subjective nature with all the possibilities of varied, even contrapuntal, appreciative and non-appreciative receptions emanating from a multiplicity of perspectives. As the saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

An art may have some socially relevant message but its impact may only achieve deep fruition through subjective recognition. It is how an art affects me personally that I consider it worthy of my profound esteem. It is one’s own personal and existential valuation that makes an art essential. No honest-to-goodness aesthete basically cares at all when an art has already achieved wide recognition for such only entails quantitative credit of statistical proportion. What matters at this point is the qualitative value of an art which may only be corroborated through the richness of one’s articulate reflection. Art appreciation is not a follow-the-leader procession but an instance of penetrating discernment. It is characterized by an extraordinary feeling of exhilaration that spontaneously engulfs one’s sensitive state at the moment of encounter. In this connection, art remains and will always be a matter of individual and subjective meaningfulness. It is the inner exhilaration one experiences that makes art sublime.

Manipulative art is thus an oxymoron for an art is composed, designed or performed in a condition of freedom aimed to free the human spirit and appropriate its power to relish the boundless sphere of aesthetic insight. In certain present-day contexts, art is however lamentably  used as propaganda tool to advance party politics aimed to brainwash people and condition their minds to toe the party line. In this situation, art defeats itself and what the people get in general is not really art but its semblance. “Propaganda art”–which is a distortion of the true essence of art–isn’t reflective of authentic human experience but a drawing away of one’s sensitivity and sensibility from the existential aspect of her/his reality to get her/him closer to where the dominant political powers want the people to be and that is precisely in a state of subservience and controlled movements. Getting critical to the different forms of this “art” as in literature, painting, sculpture, installation, theatre and drama, among others, automatically courts the ire of the powers that be and the critics are hence instantly declared as subversives.

However, this turn of events may witness the emergence of real artists from among the subversives and give rise to subversive art which in the process recaptures the true essence of art. Subversive art is authentic art for it exalts unconditional expression and unhindered appreciation. In fact, art should in some ways be perennially subversive for in such a state it will always be an exciting arena of human activity that unceasingly challenges aesthetic creativity in a dynamic way.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 21 July 2015



(1) “Where Technique Ends, Art Begins” by Ruel F. Pepa . . . https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/where-technique-ends-art-begins/

(2) “The Value of Art” by Ruel F. Pepa . . . https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/the-value-of-art/


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