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Archive for November, 2013

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¨. . . The more attention you give to the past, the more you energize it, and the more likely you are to make a ´self´ out of it. Don´t misunderstand. Attention is essential but not to the past as past. . . .¨

–Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

 

The good life whose exhilaration is now a thing of the past. . . .

A tragic event that has caused a deep scar in one´s psyche. . . .

Then time has stood still and what lies ahead is a dark abyss. One´s reality has suddenly changed on the spur of the moment and the drive to move on sputters and quits. And ¨the deep silence of the heart¨ creeps in and reigns. The sense of the present—much less that of the future—is lost as one floats forlorn in the sea of the past which has swallowed the very expanse of time itself. The past is able to capture and imprison a grieving heart and a soul in anguish. The past has the power to prevent the sorrowful to stand before the noontime sun of the present, much more before the sunset that promises a dawn filled with new hopes and opportunities.

The sense of the past is truly a category within our mental framework and we ought to see the past objectively as it is. As far as our temporal existences are concerned, we are participants of the present, spectators of the past, and conjurers of the future. The past indubitably teaches us a myriad of lessons that give credence to George Santayana words, ¨Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.¨ The past serves its epistemic and cognitive purposes for us as its lessons allow us to better understand the whys and wherefores of the present.

However, present participation in the past is not only a blunder but a grave delusion because the past is final and irrevocable and we only view it in hindsight. Time travel remains a fantasy and there is no way that we can ever locate ourselves in the past at this point in time for such is a distortion of the logic of time—a contradiction in terms. We are always located in the present and the past from the point of view of the present is a matter of memory.

In view of this, we say that, on the one hand, the human condition precludes the present´s participation in the past. But, on the other hand, we acknowledge the fact that the past´s participation in the present is a reality. In the words of Rupert Sheldrake—which is also the title of his major treatise—there is ¨the presence of the past¨ in every conscious species on earth. We who are in the present are in a lot of ways consequences of our respective biological and psycho-social programming—an aspect of the past that constantly remains in our human constitution. In this sense, the past present in us is a natural reality of which no one can totally get rid.

Nevertheless, this reality is not a circumstance that holds us back from treading the progressive path towards the delight of new experiences and the promises of new possibilities which make life worth living. The past present in us as an inherent actuality of our existence may even be portrayed as a leading factor that points us to new and refreshing insights and discoveries to inspire not only our own ascent to higher and more refined intensity of being but even those of others´ and even those of the coming generations´. In other words, the intrinsic process that possibilizes the presence of the past in us is not in any way an impediment but a dynamic that defines where an individual person is and where s/he is not, as well. The boundaries of our personhood which owe their reality to the past present in us is in a significant way facilitative of how we ought to face present realities and conjure up future possibilities in a purely realistic way. The past present in us at this point in time is therefore not an impediment.

The past becomes an impediment in the context of a delusion wherein one makes her/his present—i.e., her/his ¨here and now¨—present in the past. In this event, a human individual dwells in a past which has irrationally made her/him a powerless captive either of an extremely delightful phantasm of a bygone experience exclusively persistent in the landscape of her/his own imagination or of a tragic circumstance that has shattered every fibre of her/his sanity and no ray of hope is seen over the horizon for even the horizon itself is nowhere found and there is only a dark abyss.

It is one thing for the past to be present in the present and another for the present to be present in the past. The former doesn´t constitute the past as an impediment but the latter does for the former is a spontaneous reality while the latter is an empirical absurdity. It is not difficult to find the past in one´s ¨here and now¨ but for one to locate her/himself in the past at this point of time is an impossibility. When memory operates, it is not a case of putting oneself in the past but rather an instance of appropriating the past into the present. It cannot be the case that there is meaningfulness in the present being pushed towards the past; meaningfulness is magnified when the past is pulled towards the present. The latter´s highest point of achievement is called history, whether it is one of an individual or of a nation.

The truth of the matter is we cannot live in the past and to attempt to do so in an absolutely illusory manner is an impediment to the natural course of human (as distinguished by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in his The Human Phenomenon from biological) evolution. On the one hand, we see the normal world marching onward to higher levels of achievements with the optimism of an undaunted warrior. On the other hand, we find the ¨romanticizers¨ of a bygone era who are left behind embracing the petrified relics of a glorified past that will never be revivified, as well as the ¨low-spirited cynics¨ whose lives have been mired by past tragedies and thus failed to see and much less beat a clear path towards a promising future.

As co-creators of this evolving world, we know that the past is truly final and irrevocable. However, it is not quite accurate to think that being final and irrevocable, the past cannot be changed. We as self-conscious, creative individuals are endowed with the power to signify the past for our purposes and such signification we call ¨history¨. It is the lessons of history that enlighten us to better understand the present and to more intelligently approach the challenges of the future which we ourselves are likewise tasked to create. The great Lebanese sage, Kahlil Gibran, remarks: ¨The consequences that cause sorrow and rapture are the seeds that the past has sown in the field of the soul, and by which the future shall profit.¨ (¨On Wisdom¨ in The Vision . . . http://4umi.com/gibran/vision/10 )

History as a matter of signification is therefore an interpretation as well as a re-interpretation of the past. To be relevant to the state of affairs of every generation, the past as history needs to face the challenge of continual re-interpretation for the purpose of drawing inspiration from it amidst contemporary challenges. This is ¨being in control¨ of the past; this is ¨changing the past¨. This is a defiance of the past as an impediment to growth and progress both personal and social.

© Ruel F. Pepa, 27 November 2013

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On Pleasure

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Pleasure is a freedom-song, But it is not freedom.
It is the blossoming of your desires,
But it is not their fruit.
It is a depth calling unto a height,

But it is not the deep nor the high.

It is the caged taking wing,
But it is not space encompassed.
Ay, in very truth, pleasure is a freedomsong.
And I fain would have you sing it with fullness of heart;

yet I would not have you lose your hearts in the singing. 

–Kahlil Gibran, ¨On Pleasure¨ in The Prophet

Pleasure is feeling good while having an experience of something in a particular situation at a certain point in time. It is a state of enjoyment either while alone or in the company of other people, i.e., friends, acquaintances or just anybody. It is a condition of being satisfied about a delightful encounter with an expected or unexpected state of affairs. Pleasure in normal circumstances is basically a sensation where there is no pain. In some events, however, pleasure is a transcendence of pain.

Pleasure in certain instances is contagious. It is shared and is likewise experienced by other persons to whom such pleasure is passed on. Though there are smiles not emanating from pleasure, the most obvious physical manifestation of genuine pleasure is expressed in a smile, in fact, in a hearty laughter at most. Pleasure uplifts and transports one´s spirit from the boring and ordinary flow of everyday life and takes it to a higher plane of appreciation.

Pleasure is a celebration of life in every pocket of wonderful experience snatched from the drudgery and pressure of daily work activities and social engagements. It is a feasting over what we have cherished as a precious moment of genuine personal freedom.  Though in many occasions, pleasure is visibly displayed in carnivalesque revelries, its more profound variety is inward. Pleasure refreshes the heart and enlivens the mind. It inspires playful thoughts and arouses creativity. Pleasure stirs humour and makes us realize that on the other side of pain and sorrow, of grief and tragedy, is a place of respite and healing where sense and sanity are restored and braced.

Pleasure may not be long-term and lasting but it is more real than ¨happiness¨ which is not only nebulous but elusive—just a concept conjured up at the height of one´s emotional turn.  Oft times we talk of happiness in figurative terms through the overpowering poetry that springs from a moment of pleasure. And when we look very closely at the reality of the feeling, it is nothing but pleasure, no more, no less. Why search for happiness like the ancient explorers who dreamed of drinking from ¨the fountain of immortality¨ and reaching the summit of ¨the golden mountain¨ when pleasure is right here and now in this world that we humans have created and re-created in the incessant advances of an evolutionary journey?

But pleasure has another side to which the road is much less travelled. In fact, the faint in heart hesitate to pass through it for making even the very first step is a painful try. These are the squashy type whose limited take of pleasure is the easy life of zero challenges and no bumpy roads to walk on. Pleasure to them is a no-sweat encounter that doesn´t test the strength and courage of their being. This is utter hedonism in the guise of pleasure which even Epicurus condemns from the grave: ¨Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.¨

The élan vital—the life-force—of existence (cf. Henri Bergson´s Creative Evolution) has bestowed on us the power to enjoy life so that the gift of pleasure is not extinguished in everything we desire to do at work, in study, even in every struggle we face and willingly engage in despite the modicum of peril that hangs about on the path towards its resolution. Pleasure is hence not always dressed up in the comfort of an easy life but could be in the deep-rooted yearning of a visionary whose enthusiasm to achieve the dream of her/his life regardless of the perceivable hazards along the way is the supreme expression of the vigorous pleasure raring to be released from the inner sanctum of her/his heart. This is the pleasure of a warrior who doesn´t take life sitting in contentment. This is the ¨will-to-power¨ of Nietzsche´s ¨Dionysian spirit¨ in the ¨Ubermensch¨ whose sense of pleasure is still and always a ¨Yes-saying¨ to and thus a celebration of life.

© Ruel F. Pepa, 19 November 2013

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This penetrating analysis of what is presently going on in the Philippines has now passed 1K on Facebook which makes it officially viral. . . .

http://newsjunkiepost.com/2013/11/15/typhoon-haiyan-yolanda-exposes-philippine-governments-failure-and-corruption/

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Social Network

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Social network is the third-wave (cf. Alvin Toffler´s Third Wave . . . http://www.gobookee.org/alvin-toffler-third-wave/ ) redefinition of the concept of society via the highest stage of technological evolution achieved so far in the present era which is also known as the cyberspace age. It is the actual realization of what Marshall McLuhan  calls ¨the global village¨ in his The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man published in 1962 (http://www.scribd.com/doc/87539506/the-Gutenberg-Galaxy-the-Making-of-Typographic-Man ) and Understanding Media: The Extension of Man published in 1964 (http://beforebefore.net/80f/s11/media/mcluhan.pdf ). It is a transcendence of space-time, not that our sense of space and time is vanished but is likewise redefined as society has passed through the same process of reconfiguration. For one individual person to connect with another, geographical location is immaterial. Someone in the US may have a live virtual conversation right now with another in Ukraine in real time. This is virtual reality. The reality of the shrunken world figuratively spoken of some decades ago is an absolute actuality here and now.

Redefined along with the concept of society and the space-time sense is the concept of personhood. The human person, in the context of cyberspace has been essentialized while physicality of being is set aside. It makes some real philosophical sense in a way as it has been classically held that the core of humanness is fundamentally defined in non-material/non-physical terms and hence a distinguishing factor that separates the human being from the animals. It is our material/physical reality that links us with the animal world. It is however our self-consciousness, creativity and spirituality that put the demarcation line between our humanity and the animal world. In cyberspace, such non-physical/non-material core is magnified and has redefined personhood as an instance of dematerialization. The human person is essentialized in a dematerialized state of affairs. While converging on a social network (e.g., Friendster, Facebook, Twitter), human physicality is a secondary consideration and what matters to a large extent is virtual presence manifest in the articulation of thoughts and expression of feelings as well.

The ontological configuration of cyberspace or virtual-world reality is all in the mind. It is the ¨post-modern¨ realization of the subjective-idealist theorizing of the Irish philosopher of the early modern period, George Berkeley.

¨In terms of the digital technology of our contemporary world which Alvin Toffler calls the ´third wave´ era, the Berkeleyan paradigm is closest to the notion of ´virtual reality´. . . .

¨Berkeley´s conception of reality denies the existence of matter. He simply believes that matter, as this concept is used in physics, does not exist. . . . .

¨Berkeley´s reality—the world we experience around us on a daily basis—is virtual reality. In this reality, the ´computer´ that processes data is God whose power is far more immense than what we limited humans could come up with directly absorbing and processing all our experiences and sensations in our minds. We, in fact, actually explore and move around in the world that God has created in the same manner and capability that we can explore and move around in the spatio-temporal milieu of a man-made virtual reality. Yet both these worlds—in the Berkeleyan sense—are nothing but illusory. Reality, therefore, rests alone on one´s experience of them and on the power that processes information to generate them.¨

[From Ruel F. Pepa´s ¨The Matrix Movie Series: A Berkeleyan Affirmation of Reality¨ pp. 171-173 in Introduction to Philosophy: Readings in Academic Philosophy (with Logic) . . . http://issuu.com/ruel56/docs/intro_to_philo ]

Virtual reality in its post-Berkeleyan rendering is no longer particularly concerned with the denial of material/physical reality but more especially concentrated on the importance of the mental, dematerialized aspect of being. In other words, cyberspace ontology capitalizes on the de-emphasis or de-signification of spatio-temporal materiality. The cyberspace is therefore a landscape of boundless possibilities that stretches on in self-generating dimensions whose regulating factor is the infinite flexibility of the imaginative and creative expanse of the human mind.

A social network, whose operational arena is the cyberspace, is a dematerialized system of human interactive energies that forge relationships regardless of locational instant. Facebook as a case in point is a social network where people can relate with each other without having necessarily been acquainted physically, i.e., as warm bodies concretely present at a certain space-time point called paramount reality. In fact, friendships ranging from the most superficial type to the most intimate are established, nurtured and sustained even without necessarily getting into an actual face-to-face encounter in the so-called paramount reality. Information from the most banal to the most essential in terms of personal or social importance are exchanged, disseminated, shared, discussed and debated on in a social network. A pressing issue can get viral online through a social network and draw the attention of prospective advocates of different degrees of commitment and detractors of varied levels of dissatisfaction.

A social network is a post-personal conduit that is capable to yield the most detailed information or hide the most guarded facts about individual persons depending on the degree of their relational intimacy with or level of impersonal alienation from each other. Its functional base is in the hands of individual operators engaged within an agreed-upon parameters wherein one does not only have the power to control her/his limitations but also the possibilities that could be triggered by the degree of her/his openness towards the other. At a certain point, social networking is a power game.

A social network is also utilized as an effective tactical channel of profitable business or commercial enterprises, both small-scale and big-time, to advertise/endorse/promote goods and services on a virtual person-to-person deal where travel time and transportation cost are non-issues as far as salesman-customer meet-up is concerned. This is post-modern salesmanship where even a well-furnished business office with actual location address is a thing of the past. In this case, a social network makes a business appointment less businesslike and more personal. Online deals via social networks bridge the gap between, and hence dissolve, the traditionally held personal-formal divide in interactive engagement.

Social networking in many instances is a potent instrumentality that raises issues and advocacies of political import on local, national even international scale. It is an effective tool to upgrade the awareness of stakeholders in a particular setting by way of substantial and detailed information dissemination. A social network is an operative agency to rally people to decisive action based on principled platforms aimed to effect an imminent event to change a social order. As a political tool, it could be reasonably inferred that social networking is both creative and destructive. It should not therefore be underestimated as a basic means able to topple a government and inaugurate a new one.

© Ruel F. Pepa, 13 November 2013

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This is a delicious evening, when the whole body is one sense, and imbibes delight through every pore. I go and come with a strange liberty in Nature, a part of herself. As I walk along the stony shore of the pond in my shirt-sleeves, though it is cool as well as cloudy and windy, and I see nothing special to attract me, all the elements are unusually congenial to me. The bullfrogs trump to usher in the night, and the note of the whip-poor-will is borne on the rippling wind from over the water. Sympathy with the fluttering alder and poplar leaves almost takes away my breath; yet, like the lake, my serenity is rippled but not ruffled. These small waves raised by the evening wind are as remote from storm as the smooth reflecting surface. Though it is now dark, the wind still blows and roars in the wood, the waves still dash, and some creatures lull the rest with their notes. The repose is never complete. The wildest animals do not repose, but seek their prey now; the fox, and skunk, and rabbit, now roam the fields and woods without fear. They are Nature’s watchmen — links which connect the days of animated life.

Henry David Thoreau, ¨Solitude¨ in Walden

 

A communion with oneself. . . . A state of being alone within the confines of one´s self-consciousness. . . . .  A singular moment of intimate encounter with one´s soul. . . . A spontaneous course that takes one to the infinite terrain of her/his inner space. . . .

In most instances we don´t purposely get into it. There just seems to be some potent energy that pulls us into solitude and settles our minds in it to better understand ourselves as well as certain circumstances in life and the particular space we have in them. It is a mental state that seeks respite and tranquility. To be in solitude in this sense is hence a natural impulse.

It has some degree of depth and intensity that leads fragments of experience to converge at a point of meaningfulness and enhanced awareness. In a lot of instances, solitude heads towards enlightenment and the emergence of new insights. It is a moment that renews and refreshes one´s being in the silence of the heart.

In solitude we know ourselves much better as the moment leads us away from what we think we should be in the presence of the others. It is one vital opportunity for one to veer away from the expectations of other people. Solitude endows us with a rare chance to examine ourselves and the events of our lives without the fear of being observed from the outside. It is a one-on-one dialogue with one´s very own self where there is nothing to hide. One´s state of solitude is a moment of truth. It is an integrating point in time that in one way or another brings one´s humanity its fullness not in the sense of perfection but in the realization of an innate power to face the complexities of life with renewed care, commitment, courage and creativity.

In solitude we find ourselves more concretely experiencing the essence of personal and individual freedom which in many instances is lost in a flurry of social commitments, demands and pressures. We are too socially (even, too politically) attached most of the time and the whole situation hurts the very human in us as the will is lost in the frenzied commotion of the chaotic crowd.

Social attachment seems to be as inherent as our existence. We generally see ourselves as perennial social beings and extraction from it is a settled preclusion. The human will is hence inseparable from its social location. We have deemed it a given that society is our ontological arena—the absolute ground of our being.

¨Attachment is the situation where the human being´s understanding of her/his humanity is generated by factors of power that emanate and flow from sources that are not in—and hence outside of—the human person´s individuality. Attachment in this sense, occurs as the strong force that draws a human individual to the fold of a system characterized by interconnected demands, invented obligations, and institutionalized mandates. Through these considerations, the human being circumvents the meaning of freedom in artificial and alienated—even alienating—terms for such terms are imposed from the outside of the human individual and not something that is felt and willed from within her/himself. Very often we sacrifice our own humanity by capitulating to certain demands and expectations of legal, moral, social, political and economic nature among others. These are situations when the will is de-activated and in the process our very own humanity is held in abeyance. We therefore temporarily lose our humanity.

¨Attachment is caused by a paradigm shift that has led us to accept without any question an interpretation of being and life fully submitted to the dominance of an all-encompassing system and the more specific sub-systems within it. In this connection, the meaningfulness—as well as the meaninglessness—of human life is therefore entirely determined by that very system itself. Attachment is attachment to the concrete constituents/elements of a system both in general and specific terms.¨

[from Ruel F. Pepa´s ¨The Principle of Non-Attachment and the Problem of Human Meaningfulness¨ in SOPHOPHILIA (http://www.free-ebooks.net/ebook/Sophophilia)]

In solitude we find ourselves released from these attachments. In the process, we get into a situation where better insights pop up and bring us to a broader horizon where new possibilities are not only ideas but practicable concepts couched on promising realities to boost the potency of meaningful life.

The creative impulse that intensifies one´s moment of solitude brings forth intricate exquisiteness captured in artistic expressions as well as spiritual profundity that finds articulation in philosophic formulations. In this sense, solitude is a gift of our humanity. It affirms the very human in us by way of self-reflexivity, appreciation and a sense of synthesis. It is a state of being that allows us to look within ourselves. If ever we wish to explore the location of the sixth sense, it becomes manifest in a moment of solitude.

In his The Philosophy of Solitude (available on http://www.amazon.com/philosophy-solitude-John-Cowper-Powys/dp/090424718X) John Cowper Powys opines that we often get into unhappy situations because of too much involvement with others and their life circumstances. Solitude is hence the way to extract ourselves from them. However, solitude is not a means of escape from the hurly-burly of life in the world of social interactions. It rather provides us with a reflective space to strengthen our individuality so that our presence is not only magnified in moments of social encounters but also meaningfully acknowledged through the sensibility of our resolve when decisive action is essentially called for.

Solitude is an occasion to silence—i.e., to calm—the mind. In Chapter Three of the Tibetan Buddhist volume, The Peaceful Stillness of the Silent Mind [http://www.lamayeshe.com/?sect=article&id=139], titled “Experiencing Silent Wisdom,” the author, Lama Yeshe observes:

¨At certain times, a silent mind is very important, but ´silent´ does not mean closed. The silent mind is an alert, awakened mind; a mind seeking the nature of reality. When problems in the sense world bother you, the difficulty comes from your sense perception, not from the external objects you perceive. And when concepts bother you, that also does not come from outside but from your mind’s grasping at concepts. Therefore, instead of trying to stop problems emotionally by grasping at new material objects or ideas, check up silently to see what’s happening in your mind.

¨No matter what sort of mental problem you experience, instead of getting nervous and fearful, sit back, relax, and be as silent as possible. In this way you will automatically be able to see reality and understand the root of the problem.¨

On a philosophical note, we may appreciably conclude the present discussion with the acknowledgment that solitude is a locus of great consequence to realize the Socratic challenge, ¨Know yourself¨ by way of self-examination for ¨An unexamined life is not worth living.¨

© Ruel F. Pepa, 6 November 2013

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