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Archive for December, 2013

On Hope

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We judge a man’s wisdom by his hope.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.

–Martin Luther King, Jr

The most basic metaphysical issue of human reality is hitched on the questions, (1) Why am I here? (2) What must I do? and (3) What can I hope for? [cf. Richard Schain´s ¨Metaphysics and the Problem of Existence¨ in Introduction to Philosophy: Readings in Academic Philosophy (with Logic) edited by Ruel F. Pepa . . .  http://issuu.com/ruel56/docs/intro_to_philo] But hope in its most genuine sense is coronary (a desire of one´s heart) rather than cerebral (an idea in one´s mind). It is pure dynamics with no mechanics at all for it is a pre-ontic path that looks for being and a pre-epistemic trail that seeks for the knowable. It is basically a subjective energy looking forward to an objective end at a certain point of convergence called fulfilment.

Hope doesn´t tread on an unknown terrain but rather on a terrain of the unknown: a definitive landscape of a myriad of possibilities where no pre-beaten pathways are found for hope is tasked to create one for all its intents and purposes. The surroundings could be hazy and at times dark, even abysmal, but the path of hope constantly heads on towards the glimmer of light on the horizon and with this, life remains meaningful.

To hope is to be suspended between time and space for hope is in the inter-space of nothing and being, of the unknown and the known, of the subjective and the objective, of darkness and light. It is consciousness conferring with itself to create a direction in a world of possibilities. It is the human spirit that dreams and toils, even struggles, to get to where the heart longs to reach.

Hope is in charge of its ways as a matter of feeling but it is not and cannot be in total control of what it expects at the end of the road for the latter has a life of its own and remains a mystery until the point of its realization. To hope then is to resolve to accept the challenges of the unknown. But hope is powerless even to kick off without the prodding of faith which is what the human spirit is equipped with in the face of the unknown. Faith is therefore ¨the wind beneath the wings¨ of hope. So that, every instance of profound hope confirms the facticity of one´s intense faith.

Hope doesn´t easily capitulate to intimidations and discouragements for it is keen in substantiating the validity of threats and restraints that cross its path. ¨Hope springs eternal in the human breast¨ (Alexander Pope), in the faintest throb of life, and has the incredible power even to exert ¨hope against hope¨. The only conceivable breaking point that can quench hope at a point in time is tragedy. But even tragedy is not necessarily the fatal end of hope but just a respite in a lot of instances. Like the proverbial phoenix, hope rises up again from its ashes with a renewed sense of commitment to life, for hope sustained by faith in turn sustains love that makes the world go round. . . . ¨In the night of death, hope sees a star, and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing¨ (Robert Green Ingersoll)

In saying ¨Yes¨ to life (with apologies to Nietzsche), hope manifests courage through the unyielding determination of an indomitable spirit. It is the optimistic spirit that inspires us to make haste and move on as we consider the tasks ahead of us along the path of human evolution or the evolution of human consciousness (cf. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin´s The Human Phenomenon and The Divine Milieu) towards higher and greater refinement. This is the power of hope in us for it is the dictate of our creativity to enhance not only our lot but more so, the lot of generations ahead. The trajectory of hope is future-bound despite uncertainties, ambiguities and apprehensions. Hope plods on even in pain and misery so long as life flickers and we do not lose sight of the ends our hearts desire.

© Ruel F. Pepa, 31 December 2013

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Winter Solstice

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“The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come.  At the darkest moment comes the light.”

Joseph Campbell

“In the depths of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer.¨

– Albert Camus

¨Solstice¨ . . . the sun standing still. In temperate countries both in the northern and the southern hemispheres, two solstices annually occur: summer and winter. Conversely, the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere—which occurs in the middle of the year (third week of June)—is the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere and the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere—which occurs in the third week of December just prior to the New Year—is the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere. In the tropics, these astronomical events are not actually geographically and physically felt except for the holiday celebration associated with it called Christmas brought over by western (European) Christian religion to these countries like the Philippines from where I came.

Though we are more familiar now with the so-called Christmas season connected with the winter solstice, there has always been something religious (or spiritual, if you will) in it that antedates the Christian era. Generally, the common symbols we find in the celebration of Christmas like mistletoes, decorated trees, candles and lights, wreaths and hollies among others have always been present in the pagan world of the northern hemisphere countries of Europe long before the advent of Christianity. Christmas is therefore the ¨Christianization¨ of the winter solstice celebration whose institutionalization through time has in the process led to the ¨stealing¨ from the pagan world of most if not all of its foremost highlights.

In the Hebrew Scriptures of the Jewish religion (known as the Old Testament in the Christian Bible), there is a single instance of ¨solstice¨ which is not in any way associated with the annual summer and winter astronomical events. In the book of Joshua, chapter ten and verses twelve to fourteen, the tribal deity of ancient Israel called YHWH caused the sun to stand still in Gibeon to give the Israelites—known as the people of the said  tribal deity—the best opportunity to slaughter and annihilate in broad daylight an enemy tribe called the Amorites.

Then Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “O sun, stand still at Gibeon, And O moon in the valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, Until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies. Is it not written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day.There was no day like that before it or after it, when the LORD listened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.…

In this particular instance, the ¨solstice¨ was miraculously effected by the brutal, vicious and ruthless tribal deity of ancient Israel to wipe out an enemy tribe. This sadistic tribal deity of ancient Israel was a far cry from the Christian deity who is supposed to be a god of love and whose ¨son¨ called Jesus is mythically believed by Christians to have been born sometime during the winter solstice and in whose honor the Christmas season is being celebrated annually.

The ¨solstice¨ in the Jewish story is one immense murderous event perpetrated by a people through the assistance of their blood-thirsty tribal god while the pagan winter solstice has always been symbolic of renewed hope, faith in the restorative cosmic forces and most of all, love of life. The pagan winter solstice is an exaltation of the human spirit being reborn and revitalized from ¨the dark nights of the soul¨—¨la noche oscura del alma¨ (with apologies to St. John of the Cross)—into the energizing warmth of a radiant morning. It is from this splendid background that the Christian religion stole the grandeur of a prevalent celebration called Christmas to the point of even getting arrogant with the silly line, ¨ It is not the birth of the Sun but rather that of the Son.¨

Christianity, whose key figure—Jesus Christ—is a paragon of humility, should be humble enough not to monopolize the significance of the annual December 25th celebration for there are deities of other religions whose births (in different periods) are also celebrated on the same date: Attis and Dionysus both of Greece; Mithra of Persia; Salivahana of Bermuda; Odin of Scandinavia; Crite of Chaldez; Thammuz of Syria; Addad of Assyria; Beddru of Japan and perhaps more.  [http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_gods_where_born_on_the_25th_of_December?#slide=3]

It only shows how the winter solstice has influenced the lives of many generations of humanity through the passing of different civilizations. It is in this light that it is not quite accurate to say that ¨Jesus is THE reason for the season,¨ which is a universalizing slogan. What is logically acceptable at least is when Christians claim that ¨Jesus is OUR reason for the season.¨ An all-encompassing claim which exclusively articulates ownership of the celebration of the winter solstice by saying that Jesus Christ is the ONLY reason that makes the season meaningful is a blatant audacity of narrow-minded Christians of the fundamentalist variety.

The original and more spiritual celebrators of the season were the ancient pagans whose legacy is still being carried on by the modern ones with the same spiritual intensity and pomp utilizing the ancient material symbolisms inherited from their precursors of olden eras. Christians should be more sensitive not to monopolize the winter solstice celebration and acknowledge the fact that most—if not all—material symbolisms we find in the Christmas celebration actually came from the pagan realm.

Nevertheless, it is tragic to note that the originally spiritual celebration of the pagan winter solstice has been ruined by the materialism of modern nominal Christianity. In their hands, modern winter solstice celebration has been commercialized and has likewise lost in the process not only the graciousness of the ancient pagan spirituality originally associated with it but also the magnanimity of Christian virtues exemplified in the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Christmas as it is celebrated by nominal Christians has even made Christianity seasonal as this is the only time of the year when they affirm their shallow Christianity through their superficial adoration of their so-called ¨Lord.¨ I am of the opinion that Christians to be true to their commitment should be inspired and moved to action by the words of wisdom and example of Jesus on a daily basis and not only during the Christmas season. It might be more in the true spirit of Christianity if Christians would be inspired by the pagan spirituality that has animated the ancient winter solstice celebration: renewed hope, faith in the restorative cosmic forces and love of life.

Merry Yuletide Season to All!

© Ruel F. Pepa, 23 December 2013

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The question makes sense metaphorically. Literally, we ask: Are there external forces that manipulatively control our thoughts and actions of which we are not conscious? But how crucial is the role of consciousness on this issue? Does it imply that if we are conscious of such external controlling forces, it could not be construed as a case of manipulation? What if we are conscious of them nevertheless we allow ourselves to be manipulated by them? I am of the opinion that ¨puppetry¨ is real in both instances.

Even the case of not being conscious of such forces triggers a deeper question: What more fundamental events in the life of a self-conscious being bring him to a certain point wherein s/he fails to be conscious of the manipulation being done on her/him? One who has gotten used to a situation of manipulation likewise gets to a point where things are normalized, even the very experience of being manipulated. In this case, manipulation becomes normal and common and the ¨puppetry¨ continues unabated.

But are we not all puppets of our genetic configuration and social programming? Behaviourists of the Pavlovian-Skinnerian variety think we are. We have been conditioned by certain genetic and environmental factors from which there is no way out. We are captives of the past and every decision or action we make is predetermined by how we have been individually ¨engineered¨. In other words, human freedom is a fiction. We are not free moral agents, have never been and will never be. We are all ¨puppets¨ being manipulated by some mysterious hands that have put in order the genetic chips of our individual existences and placed us in social milieus where we find ourselves here and now.

But how does one get to this generalization when I am not only conscious right now but likewise self-conscious? I am aware of who I am and where I am at this point in time and anything I do or plan to do later is within the sphere of my volitional capacity. I am free to do what I want to do and resist getting into a situation where I don´t want to be. Now that I am aware of manipulation and the possibility of getting manipulated in certain circumstances, I will see to it that no one can ever get me into it. It is within the scope of my individual freedom to prevent any manipulative act of anybody to influence me and desecrate the freedom which I believe defines the authenticity of my person.

Yet, at the end of the day and in the silence of our hearts we get into a much deeper reflection of these matters and face the question: Isn´t this whole scenario simply a psyching up of ourselves to sustain a delusion we have been made to believe in since time immemorial? Could it be construed as an arrogant posture of one who has been led to defend the illusion that the sole basis of our humanity is the reality of freedom? What if we are not truly free? What if one´s consciousness of the notion of manipulation and the possibility of getting manipulated in certain instances doesn´t definitely prove that one is free? What if we become aware at a certain point that there is an uncharted corner of our inner life permeated by a kind of absolute weakness susceptible to manipulation? What is that overpowering force that is able to instantly dissipate the rhetoric of freedom fiercely asserted on a variety of platforms? And after all the diatribes and treatises vigorously backing up the proposition of human freedom, we turn around and find ourselves in the convention of real life amidst the instrumentalities of actual daily manipulations dominated by true-to-life ¨puppeteers¨ in a world of ¨puppet shows.¨

Real-life puppetry is a power issue and it is extensively pronounced in the realms of politics, economy and religion among others where we find power-wielding protagonists who are not only in control of their lives but of the lives of others. In the area of politics, they enact laws and exact duties. In the domain of economy, they own and manage the means of economic productivity and dictate the tempo and mode of goods and services production. Furthermore, they control the markets in terms of price manipulation and distribution priorities. In the sphere of religion, they formulate dogmas and deliver ¨hell-and-brimstone¨ sermons to instil fear in the hearts of the so-called believers.

At this point, we are brought to a realization that we are living in a world where on the one hand are the powerful manipulators and on the other are the manipulated powerless. We are caught and eaten up in a world-system where things are dictated from a modern-day Olympus, the mighty abode of ¨gods and goddesses¨ whose global powers do not only manipulate but likewise exploit the politics and economies of less powerful nations on earth. They create wars and destroy peoples they abhor or whose wealth of natural resources like petroleum they intend to monopolize . They make weak nations get much weaker and sow the seeds of poverty to extensively disempower them. These political and economic ¨puppeteers¨ have even been able to control the channels to situate and track the most modern developments in science and technology whose most current efforts are in the area of meteorological manipulation that creates violent weather and climate changes (e.g., the High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program or HAARP in Alaska).

Human manipulation/exploitation as ¨puppetry¨ is not only seen in genetic and socio-cultural programming. The common citizens of a country are generally puppets of the state power machinery that in a lot of ways controls the lives of people through laws, orders, obligations, prohibitions, taxation, restrictions and a myriad of other control mechanisms. These are matters that the more critical members of a society are very much aware of. In other words, they know that they are being controlled and manipulated in an intricate maze of conditions, constraints and requirements carried out by the powers that be in a society which they call home. And it is the insufficiency and even the utter absence of the people´s united resistance to oppose such sheer manipulation that sustains and continually possibilizes ¨puppetry¨ despite the fact that they very well know such reality.

In a stricter sense though, they cannot be construed as puppets because a puppet qua puppet does not and cannot know that it is a puppet.  However, in a looser and more figurative sense, they are as they allow themselves to be so. They are ¨puppetized¨ and hence viewed as puppets. Subservience to the manipulative, exploitative and oppressive whims and wishes of a political or an economic or a religious power is an absolute case of human ¨puppetry¨—an utter infringement of one´s human dignity as a moral agent supposed to be endowed with the non-negotiable factor of free will.

But are we truly endowed with free will? At this point, we are being dared once more to justify the reality of free will. If our persons are defined in terms of genetic assemblage and environmental programming, does it still make sense to talk of free will? It seems we have gotten to a point where the most rational resolution is to accept the fact that human personhood is pre-determined and free will is just a persistent illusion that is hard to die. And even right on this front, human ¨puppetry¨ remains strong.

If such is the real human condition, then moral responsibility dies with free will. One´s ability to distinguish and judge what is good and what is bad (evil) as well as to do what is right and avoid what is wrong is a matter of free will. If everything we do is just an outcome of what we have been conditioned or programmed to do, then nobody should be held responsible in destructive, harmful, injurious, vicious and violent acts perpetrated by a human being since such acts are precisely consequential to her/his genetic assemblage and the social condition wherein s/he has been programmed.

Such consideration is fundamentally deemed scientific and sensible nevertheless fractional for it de-emphasizes what a human being is capable to do in persistent resistance to and open defiance of an obvious expectation grounded on well-defined and clearly identifiable social orientation and programming as well as evidently traceable hereditary characteristics and peculiarities. This is the very locus where free will emerges. As such, it is a flawed configuration to reckon free will within the sphere of genetic and environmental determinism. A single counter-instance that disconnects itself from the train of such determinism destroys the universal presupposition that precludes the reality of free will.  In fact, a clear case in point is in one´s refusal to be coerced. This is a genuine act of free will. A person who has the guts to resist and defy the coercive forces applied on her/him to yield to certain demands detrimental to his moral integrity is a clear ¨materialization¨ of the reality of free will. In specific instances where free will manifests, human ¨puppetry¨ dissolves.

Are we puppets? No real puppet has the high-level capability to ask that very question. But why do we often find ourselves in situations where we seem to be puppets? Because we allow ourselves to be ¨puppetized¨. In such instances, one knows within her/himself that s/he is no puppet at all but s/he appears to be one from the point of view of the powerful puppeteer. Where there are no conscious ¨puppets,¨ no ¨puppeteers¨ in human society will ever thrive.

© Ruel F. Pepa, 19 December 2013

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http://newsjunkiepost.com/2013/12/16/small-is-beautiful-a-model-of-economic-development-for-the-philippines-and-beyond/

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Memories

memories

Mem´ries light the corners of my mind

Misty watercolour mem´ries of the way we were

Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind

Smiles we gave to one another for the way we were

Can it be that it was all so simple then

Or time has rewritten every line?

If we had a chance to do it all again

Tell me, would we? Could we?

(Lines from the song ¨The Way We Were¨)

 

Things of the past that cross the threshold of the present . . .

Consciousness here and now that gives access to bygone events . . .

Images that force their way into one´s mental landscape . . .

Memories may be exciting and thus desired; they may be tragic and hence exorcised. We don´t get bored and tired rehearsing the former while in case of  the latter, we always try to look for an escape route. But is there really such an escape route?

Memories of great and stirring things are at our beck and call in moments when we need to get inspired. They seem to be subservient to our will for we can instantly bring them to mind. In moments of solitude, they are just around the corner of our wakefulness ready to be tapped. They may not be originally fantastic but the mind at the moment of recall has the power to embellish every detail in their sequential order. They are like snapshots we breathe life into and instantly get transformed with the vividness of stunning imagery. Like in the lyrics of the famous song, ¨The Way We Were¨ popularized by Barbra Streisand, these are memories ¨of the smiles we left behind, smiles we gave to one another¨; these are memories of the ¨laughter we will remember.¨

But likewise in the same song is heard that ¨memories may be beautiful and yet, what´s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget¨. There are painful memories. But can we just simply throw them away in the sea of forgetfulness? Are we in control of these sorrowful memories in the same way we hold in our hands the fancy of those exhilarating ones? It seems that these sad memories have a life and power of their own. We just don´t have the strength to be in control of them. They persist and assert themselves in our consciousness and dare the frontiers of our sanity. We don´t easily get rid of them. In fact, they could be likened to perennially fresh wounds that never heal even in a lifetime.

Memories inspire the human soul and stimulate one´s  heart´s desire. . .

Memories dishearten the spirit and intensify sorrow and pain. . . .

Memories bring us to a mountain-peak high . . .

Memories lead us on the brink of a dark abyss. . . .

This is the human condition which is always being reckoned in terms of the abstract present but the past doesn´t seem to want to let us move on. The present qua present is flitting and elusive so that what is concretely held in abeyance is the ¨persistence of memory¨ (with apologies to Salvador Dali) and the lure of the future. The present therefore becomes the convergence point of what already happened and the things yet to come. On the one hand, we have unrelenting memories of things gone by while on the other, we are suffused with the will to bring forth the realization of our dreams.

Nevertheless, in a lot of times, memories relentlessly bombard our consciousness and in the silence of our heart we ask, Are they the most fitting essence of how we should look at human existence? Are memories the most unquestionable evidence that sustains the reality of the mind and hence the existence of what transpires in it? More than being riddle-solvers, we are also castle-builders and the power behind these abilities does not simply rise up from each of our unique individuality at this point of time but has long been marching on from the collective memories of our ancestors since time immemorial.

Our reality is much larger than the individual life we have had since the first time we saw the light in this world upon birth. Our reality can never be divorced from the unbroken trail of past events, distant and proximate. We boldly claim our prowess to create the future and such has been concretely demonstrated through generations. But we must humbly and reticently accept the fact that we are fashioned by the memories of our humanity etched on the tablets of our cultural legacy. In this sense, there is a much deeper way of looking at memories than those we have in our individual conscious minds.  The reality of the collective unconscious is genetically embedded in our psycho-physiological assemblage which is not only an instance of the psychological persistence of memories but also of their cultural endurance in the biological infrastructure.

In the final analysis, we are creatures of memories both in the personal sense as well as in the cultural.

© Ruel F. Pepa, 10 December 2013

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Phil Revolution by Carlos Francisco

 

“Patriots always talk of dying for their country but never of killing for their country.”
―Bertrand Russell

“A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”
―Edward Abbey

“The greatest patriotism is to tell your country when it is behaving dishonorably, foolishly, viciously.”
―Julian Barnes, Flaubert´s Parrot

Patriotism is basically an expression of one´s love towards her/his homeland taking into consideration all the circumstances like people and culture related thereto. It is characterized by a deep attachment a citizen of a country feels obliged to consciously acknowledge as a reality that cannot be dispensed with. Generally, it is considered as an inherent spirit that connects a human individual not only to her/his immediate family but to the socio-cultural roots that have sustained for generations the community life where s/he is meaningfully located now and the communal values that have shaped the core of her/his humanity as well. Patriotism is the leading factor that goads people to pull their acts together and face imminent threats to the very institution that has given them social character and cultural identity as a nation. Patriotism strengthens the national fibre of a country and gives its denizens a sense of integrity, self-esteem and cohesive dignity.

In certain instances of historic significance, patriotism is concretely tested and aggressively realized in courageous acts aimed to defend an embattled motherland. It is essentially a persistent power that transcends and overcomes one´s fear of death for it endows her/him with a selfless foresight of ideals that might not be fully realizable at this point of time but more feasibly in the generations to come. Patriotism has therefore created heroes both exultant and tragic. What uniquely stands out though is the fact that its inspiring strength has moulded warriors of impeccable characters—noble defenders of their most cherished patrimony. It is the solid wall that constantly prevents the erosion of a people´s will to defend their sacred sovereignty against aggressors and colonizers.

Patriotism is the primal factor—the most fundamental cornerstone—in the formation and reinforcement of a stable nation. Furthermore, patriotism is a matter of zealous and hence non-negotiable commitment to the preservation of a national culture. In this sense, it is not only in the battlefield that patriotism is witnessed but in every act of fortification directed to institutions that promote and instil in the minds of the present and the next generations the pre-eminence of the socio-cultural condition that has provided and will continually provide them with a kind of national pride and dignity unassailable in the international front.

Nevertheless, in the deep ¨winter¨ of national impoverishment, fragility and economic uncertainty, patriotism hibernates. It is not something that is always awake, alert and enthusiastic. Patriotism is simply set aside and ignored when in the depth of severe destitution and scarcity, a powerful and wealthy nation turns up and offers its resources as an act of salvation that promises a life of comfort, contentment and leisure. Patriotism is effortlessly blown away in Faustian capitulation to a trouble-free and painless achievement of one´s heart´s desire. At the end of the day, it could be plainly perceived that the grand design of the powerful is really to extinguish the fire of patriotism in the heart of the subservient nation now utterly subdued.

But patriotism is not without its fault; an overdose of which results to an impediment of progress. At its most extreme limits, it is a key that credulously locks the gate of a nation and prevents the inroads of new concepts and initiatives in varied fields facilitative of a better, finer and more creative advancements in the human condition. North Korea, in its ultra-patriotic posture has missed and even been deprived of so much of the new technologies the modern world offers–high-tech gadgets, instruments and equipment which surprisingly are being profusely enjoyed by its paramount leader who is taunted as one of the twenty richest leaders in the world today.

Ultra-patriotism is anathema to open-mindedness and spawns fanatical dogmatism and uncritical mind-frame. It is not therefore astonishing to find it an ally of both religious and political fundamentalism. In this event, what we have is a rabid adversary of rationality at least and at most of scientific analysis and investigation. Ultra-patriotism is a defeatist stance that underestimates and stamps off the natural flow of the human creative power; it is only for those who have chosen not to think. Soldiers in the armed forces are generally programmed to achieve this level of stupidity by initially letting them swallow hook-line-and-sinker the motto: ¨Obey first before you complain.¨ And in the performance of their duties as ¨patriotic¨ vanguards of national interests, they instead turned into subservient minions of manipulative and exploitative leaders in government whose interests they bigotedly defend at the expense of the common people´s security and well-being.

© Ruel F. Pepa, 4 December 2013

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