As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.
Joshua 24:15
There are no birthday celebrators for June 2018 right now.
In loving memory of CPT Mario Buising Mortega Sr., USAFFE, VET (1920-2004)
In loving memory of CLR Roberto Laudet Mortega (1946-2008)
On Literature and Practicability
myragrace - Tuesday, Mar 7, 2006, 8:07 PM
Literature is not a pragmatic discipline.

The study of it does not lead to direct solutions in poverty, AIDS or cancer. Nor does it serve as a step-by-step guide in inventing new technology or improving a country’s economy.
However, literature embodies a set of values that a particular society gives importance to. Those values run deep into their roots, embedded in history and refined by life.

And these roots branch out to other societies as well, so that those who are lacking in values may be nourished.

For values are important. They mirror a certain society’s personality: its dreams and aspirations, its priorities and taboos. Which in turn, are mirrored by literature.

And I believe this is the reason why erudition in First- World literature is significant. Those pieces carry with them certain values juxtaposed with problems that our similar with ours. In a country that is in dire need of values, this proves significant. It is comforting to know that someone shares the same dilemmas as us; moreover, we find it reassuring when somebody actually prevailed over those problems. With palpable evidences of these ideals, we could follow their examples, or better yet, we could compare and contrast our values with their own and use them in our own context. Through it, we could propagate those said values and raise consciousness amongst many. One might call it excessive idealism, but it is not something new. History attests that values-formation was one of the thrusts of English literature way back then.

So literature is not a pragmatic discipline.

The study of it does not lead to direct solutions in poverty, AIDS or cancer. Nor does it serve as a step-by-step guide in inventing new technology or improving a country’s economy.

It takes part in molding, reinforcing and propagating ideals in a society. It shapes collective thought, and gives a group of people not only a reassuring sense of belongingness, but an identity as well.

And that does not make it any less significant.
Responsibilty for the Other (???)
myragrace - Tuesday, Mar 7, 2006, 8:06 PM
We have all been victims of being. This being is ensconced and focused on itself, quite content that it exists, and its main concern is to continue thriving in that said existence. It is egoistic, its actions always motivated for its own good, prompted by Darwin’s infamous theory of accumulating strength and ascertaining power in order to survive, supposedly rooted in this being’s primordial consciousness.
“This conception of the ‘I’ [moi] as self-sufficient is one of the essential marks of the bourgeois spirit and its philosophy.” And so Levinas stated in his opus, “On Escape”. We have been fed and accustomed to this egocentric perception of being, we assert it even. We apply it in our daily lives: we choose the best seats, we eat the best food, we buy the best clothes---for ourselves. And we fight for these little trinkets of excellence, we beat the others to it. We wake up a little earlier and race with other people in order to get the best seats in the MRT, we work harder and compete with others so as to earn more, and accumulate for ourselves those decadent items in order to showcase that we are getting the best from this existence, and are very much indulged into it. We study hard to get good grades, in order to prove that we are not dumb, that we are of worth because our three-point something QPI verifies this so called intelligence. Besides, isn’t it much easier to do things for ourselves, rather than for others? We swing the door open because we want to go in first, because we got there first, thus we deserve to go in first, and not because we are holding it for someone else. That’s how the world goes, and that’s human nature,. or so they say.

Thus, Levinas’s concept of responsibility for the Other comes as a shock, quite similar to that of a traumatism, probing us out from our comfortable existence and the comfortable mentality that drives it. For him, the central core of the being’s existence lies on ethics, on establishing a relationship with the Other, which is in turn, rooted on the responsibility for the Other. This responsibility is not based on a kind of utilitarianism where it is a progeny of various ulterior motives for self-gain. It is responsibility pure and unadulterated in all its glory, with the expectation of any kind of reciprocity , absent.

Now, that particular idea is hard for me to swallow. As I have said earlier, we have all been victims of being. We have all been used to the egoistic perception of being, most probably because it suits us…or had been led to believe so. And this way of thinking has numbed our senses, that it kept us from asking that maybe, just maybe, there is more to being that satiating its primal needs and staying in power in order to survive.

Levinas boldly goes against that mode, radically asserting that selfishness and the complacency that comes with the satisfaction of being alive is not the way to go. We have been victimized by being led to follow centuries-old philosophy that reduces us to lesser creatures than we ought to be. It is not how we should think and perceive ourselves. That assessment of being is wrong.

As I have said earlier, I have a problem with that. I find it rather difficult to accept, especially his notion of responsibility. He says that we are immediately subjected to the Other, we are of service to the Other: we have to respond to the Other’s call, we have to forgo assimilation, instead we must give, readily without expecting any reward in return. Moreover, we are accountable for the Other’s actions. We have to take into consideration the Other in everything we do, for our actions send ripples and affect the Other as well. Thus we open that door to make it a bit easier for the person who is behind us to get in, maybe make him smile, even, so as to make him feel that he is wonderful in his own right, special enough to hold the door for him and let him enter first. And no, we don’t do this little act of service because we are expecting VIP treatment on our part.

Me? Actually accountable for actions rather than my own? Me, not expect any kind of reciprocity from the Other? What about me? What about myself?

Truly a victim am I. I had embraced a philosophy that wholly focuses on myself, and I had let myself blinded by it due to the conveniences it had brought me. However, after whining, I realized that Levinas’s philosophy ceases to glorify the I, and redirects one’s attention to the Other, to another being other than itself. It’s not all about the I anymore. Rather, it’s all about the Other: its welfare and what the I can do for it. Indeed, Levinas’s philosophy is a radical paradigm shift from the Western philosophy we are all familiar with. But he does have a point. Maybe it’s time that we stop focusing on the I and start reflecting about the Other.

“To be human means to live as if one were not a being among beings. As if, through human spirituality, the categories of being inverted into an ‘otherwise than being.’” Levinas was aware that his philosophy is rather atypical, calling us to do acts ordinary in nature, but become extraordinary because they are not for our own benefit, but rather for the Other. We have been all too familiar with a selfish mindset that we regard that being as egocentric. Thus Levinas calls us to be the opposite of that particular being which is reared to be selfish and fed by the struggle for dominance. We should stop focusing on the wonder of the I and look the other way---in direction of the Other. If being is marked by egocentricity, then we should go the other way. And if going the other way means “not being” then so be it.

Interestingly, his philosophy is one of the tenets the Christian faith. The world does not revolve on us alone, thus we shouldn’t live for ourselves alone. Levinas made me realize that I should stop asking about the I all the time, because it is not all about the I. The universe is not geocentric, and we shouldn’t think that it revolves on us. There is the Other, whom we have to take care of, to assume responsibility on, whom we have to readily offer our service to.

In Japan, they say “douzo yoroshiku” after getting acquainted with someone. It is the equivalent of the Western, “Pleased to meet you.” However, if translated verbatim, “douzo yoroshiku” literally means, “I take care of you, you take care of me”. Somewhat like, “Now that we know each other and have met face to face, I affirm my responsibility of taking good care of you”. It echoes Levinas’s philosophy of taking into consideration of the Other’s welfare before selfish gain. Moreover, Levinas goes beyond that, as his concept of responsibility does not expect any thing in return from the Other. It is pure service, untainted by any selfish desire.

Difficult? You bet. It will take me quite some time to re-shuffle my thoughts on the I, to redirect my thinking from myself and to the Other. But it’s worth a try. Yes, definitely, it’s worth a try.
On Madame Bovary, a novel by Gustave Flaubert
myragrace - Tuesday, Mar 7, 2006, 8:05 PM
One of the changes brought about by the paradigm shift from Neo-Classicism to Romanticism is the perspective of Nature. Nature is regarded by Romantics as something that can be wild, and from its wildness, one can find beauty. Whereas, for the Neo-Classicists, Nature must have an order and is bounded by a set of rules. It was rigid, and the Romantics resented that. Thus, the Romantic concept Nature epitomized freedom. And not only did they celebrate its freedom, they reveled on it. And that intoxication was important, for it reflected the Romantics’ yearning to break away from the mundane stringency of Neo-Classicism.

Madame Bovary was a Romantic herself: she longed to break away from the mechanistic repetitiveness of her life with Charles, for it failed to fulfill her disillusioned concept of love. Thus it was important for Madame Bovary’s seduction to take place in the woods. The woods represent Nature, which mirror the Romantic ideals of freedom. It was a temporary emancipation from the prosaic echoes of the country, which strangled her and forced her to play the contrived role of a proper woman. In the woods, her quixotic whims were realized. In the woods, her archaic courtesan relationships and impressions were brought to life. In the woods she can inebriate herself with these fantasies, which were restricted from her for so long. In the woods, she can be herself, or at least the part of her that was forced to ebb in the dark recesses of her being.

Her seduction heightened her belief that her fairy-tale understanding of love can happen in real life. The woods cannot be any more perfect for this to take place; it is a sanctuary wherein her seemingly wild wishes were gratified. There, she was far from the clasps of Charles and Berthe. There she found beauty in a chimera fired by medieval romances, far from the box society has encased her and the humdrum simplicity of rural life.
On So-Called Worthless Time-Slashing
myragrace - Tuesday, Mar 7, 2006, 8:03 PM
“I sent the vision flying. I opened my eyes and let them rove over the peeling plaster ceiling of this neglected place, over the indifferent metal decorations that were so modern and utterly meaningless…”
“Toot toot!”

The faint beep of my cell phone separated me from Anne Rice’s idyllic world of visions, ghosts, dead husbands and frustrated necrophiliac violinists.

“Hi, Myra. I’m sorry. I totally forgot about Mom’s thingie today. Don’t worry, I’m on my way.”
He is on his way. Okay, no problem. In an hour’s time he should be here. So I went back to page 142 of Anne Rice’s, “Violin” as I chomped down my lunch. It was twelve noon.

Four hours later, I was still in Jollibee, down to the last fifty pages of my book, still waiting for my friend and getting a hell lot of suspicious glances from the crew. He said he’d come, so I decided to wait.
Don’t get me wrong. I never liked waiting. I find it such a useless act, as you pass time doing nothing. And the thing is, most of the time, you are not even sure whether what you're waiting for will come, which makes it more frustrating.

Surprisingly, it's something that we do practically all the time: we wait in line at fast food chains, we wait for our date to arrive, we wait for that perfect person to enter into our lives etc. Waiting it seems, is so much important that not only are we willing to give a chunk of our precious time to it, but are lives tend to depend on it as well. Take for example, a man convicted of a crime. He is sentenced to life imprisonment. And what does he do all the time he is in jail? Wait. Wait that the sentence be lifted, wait for some wealthy family member to bail him out, wait for a miracle that may never happen, and wait for his sentence to be over as he checks the remaining days off his little calendar, if ever he is lucky enough to have one.

For me it's such a meaningless act. It's so passive, and it never seems to bring any good to anybody.
However, upon reading "Waiting for Godot", I realize that waiting actually has a purpose. It affirms our beliefs. it may be as superficial as waiting for your server in hopes that he’ll give you food, or as important as waiting for your scholarship grant to get accepted in order to stay in the university. In my case, I believed that my friend would arrive, even if it meant slashing a total of five hours off my time to prove it. Nevertheless, these beliefs constitute a big part of our lives; and they do so because in one way or another, it gives our lives meaning. By waiting, we say that what we believe in must be true because we are willing to give a portion of our lives doing nothing , in order to prove that what we believe in must be correct. And this assertion is important already, as it assures us that at least we have a belief that gives life meaning, in one way or another, whether it's true or not. For waiting puts our convictions to the test, and if ever, whatever we are waiting for does not re-surface, then that must mean that our convictions are wrong, and must turn to a new one. However, that is a different matter altogether, and for now I am content to say that waiting presupposes that we have beliefs, which give our lives meaning. And having beliefs, at least just for now, is enough. that I've pondered on it, waiting is not so bad after all. And yeah, after four hours of reading (and finally finishing the dang book in the process) and an hour of strolling down the mall, my friend actually did show up, and we ended up having the time of our lives.
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