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Port of Legazpi

June 8, 2016
Dear Maam Ana,
I write to you in gratitude for the two semesters and to defray a few debts.
I am no philosopher. I view contemplation only as an anteroom to activity. (I suppose the inevitable Jesuit
allusion to this is their being contemplatives-in-action.) I can thus make no claims about the
universality of my thoughts. I can only speak for myself, and that is what I endeavour to do.
I owe, still, some sort of elaboration on the rather lofty concept of the moment, which I brought out
during my final oral examination but have failed to adequately explain 1.
I may be oversimplifying his thoughts (I thus repeat my disclaimer), but it appears to me that Ricoeur
makes the claim that being a neighbour is a state of mind rather than, say, an actual situation with
spatial and temporal dimensions. While I appreciate the attempt to make the point that Christian charity
ought to be extended regardless of social configurations (this, without prejudice of course to Ricoeurs
other point about how charity can be exercised through the mediate relationship that is the socius), that
the neighbour could be taken to mean something more transcendent than it is conventionally
understood to be offers the possibility that philosophers could turn concepts around the head rather than
take things as they manifest. Ideology itself is not evil, but when it is mistaken for philosophy, it poses
some dangers.
In this case, of course, I overthink. (We purveyors of the economic sciences derive laws from
hypothetical extremes.) Ricoeurs philosophy is benign, at worst. Still, we know how Nietzsches work
was twisted so that the Aryan could be the ubermensch. We know how easily the seinsfrage was mixed
up with the sinister, genocidal Judenfrage.
On to my point then: A neighbour is just that a neighbour. Without the crucial element of access, one
cannot be a neighbour to another. The Samaritan may or may not have had the idea that he was subverting
the traditional distinction between Judea and Samaria, but he was certainly lending a hand to that person
which was closest to his hand. To deny that being a neighbour has a vicinal aspect is to suggest that the
word could be made to mean anything. To say that the neighbour is a praxis of charity rather than a
state of being is to make the Lord redundant. Why command us to love our neighbour when
neighbourhood should imply that we already do?
The Samaritan, for all his compassion, could not aid the Roman in Rome. But he could help the Jew in his
vicinity. The fact of embodiment cannot be denied. My childhood friends in Albay used to be my
neighbours, but my neighbours are now the obnoxious occupants of Room 505 of the University
Dormitory. If we are to believe Sartre in that once can be judged only for the things that one actually
does, then I cannot, at the moment, manifest my love for my childhood friends in a face-to-face manner (I
can say affectionate things to them over the phone, but I cannot embrace them). One has to make do with
dormitory neighbours.

The grape and the grain make memory fluid, but nothing quite prepare you for a surprise question.

When I said that the meaning of life can only be derived from the moment, I meant this: I love talking
about love, literature, and the liberation of other people, and I would have loved discussing these things
with the girl I love, but during my oral examinations, there was no opportunity for doing that. The only
person I could converse with was my Philosophy teacher. I should converse with Ms. Avecilla, and no
one else, for the simple fact that no one else is there to converse with. My physical and temporal situation
is the moment, and my neighbours are those whom I have access to at the moment. My neighbour then
was Ms. Avecilla. Whether I should act charitably or whether I should be a total shithead is immaterial to
the fact. I can, in other words, elect to be an awful neighbour.
But thats just me. Didnt I state an earlier proviso that I have no pretensions about being a philosopher?
Still, I believe that I sometimes (more appropriately, seldom) manage to construct beautiful sentences.
Truth and beauty are different things. As a scribbler, I am often torn between using a beautiful word and
using a truthful one. Nonetheless, for the Greeks, the beautiful (kalon) is a path to the true (alethes). As
between a rock and a diamond, the decisive difference between beauty and truth is time and process. I can
thus write eloquently in my youth, with reasonable expectation that in my more advanced years, I can
write truthfully.
In any case, one exists in no other universe except the universe of the moment. While the meaning of life
may be derived from nowhere else, existing is not assurance that some meaning to life will be found. Case
in point: my unhealthy attitude towards public recognition. At various awarding ceremonies, I have found
myself wishing that I could impale myself with the nearest flagpole. There is something to awards that
ruins things for me. I suppose an accolade means that I have completed an undertaking and have nothing
left to do. The pursuit exhilarates me, and its completion renders me useless. At any rate, the embrace of a
friend could instantly anneal thoughts of ending it all.
It is precisely because I am surrounded by friends that I would consider being labelled suicidal as an
insult. Life is a fragile thing, true, but love renders its premature, self-inflicted completion to be idiotic
and patently immoral. This all leads to the inevitable coda on what I believe to be the reason why the
moment ought to be relished.
Ive heard it said more than once that love is a fragile thing. As with most folk wisdom, I dissent, and
would assert that it is people who are too fragile for love, or perhaps, too fragile while in love. The late,
the great Father-General of the Jesuits, Pedro Arrupe, said that once one has fallen in love and has
decided to stay in love, it will decide everything. The danger and the absurdity in love then is that
regardless of lectures on how love is volitional, it will always involve, of all insane things, the emotions.
Attempts to intellectualize love have been undertaken. M. Scott Peck built an authorial career on trying to
explain what love is and what it is not. Ultimately, as Peck admits, all such attempts will be inadequate.
Over Pecks classic, I vastly prefer the more succinct description by the band Nazareth love hurts. One
only need remember the Nazarene to confirm this.
Ones thoughts on love will always involve ones thoughts on pain. The words passion, compassion,
sympathy, and empathy all have pain for their root word. One needs no consolation if there were no
desolation. One needs no comfort if there were no affliction. Times of pain are the most effective test of
love. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that faith, hope, and love remain. Especially in your dimmer
times, those who truly love you, stay with you.

Nuance is everything, of course. Leaving can be a loving act, also. I have learned this the hard way. A
few years back I would never have gathered enough strength in my knees to say all of this. I now have the
requisite strength (and perhaps also the requisite lack of shame).
Almost a year ago, I quoted John Clare in an essay. I chose one of the lines in his Remembrances. The
line goes: Ah, words are poor receipts for what time hath stole away What follows is a parade of
feelings that should be classified under the (bursting) folder, Potentially Embarrassing Material.
It has been six years since the first time and three years since the last, so, seeing her again
today felt like getting hit by a water balloon in the face. (Of course, the impact was anticipated, if
not altogether desired; after all, what was I doing in the girls bloody school anyway?)
The abovementioned her came in its small, fair-skinned constitution (albeit with shorter
hair; she pulls off the appearance and there is no diminution of her beauty). The operative name is
Marissa a name I venerated as if every letter of it were a benediction; in fact I think I still do.
In other words, young love is not through immolating me, despite all my past attempts to
extinguish it. On certain occasions, I take it as a baptism of fire; most of the time, it feels like a
foretaste of eternal perdition. (May God have mercy on my soul and may I never get the full
serving.)
Usually, this topic would make me want to wear a bandolier of pure garlic, but in view of how
much embarrassment I have already been willing to ignore in the preceding paragraphs, I shall let
go of all reservations. The terms letting go and moving on are often believed to be
interchangeable. The nuances will have to be pronounced. Letting go involves the disposal of a
previously valued but now-inconvenient possession, whereas moving on takes a willingness to
get on with ones life even as one carries a heavy burden.
More directly put, letting go is proceeding without something, while moving on is proceeding
despite something. In my case, there is no letting go to speak of, but having accepted that I might
have to live my life carrying a heart full of regret and pain, I am morally certain I have moved
on. Still, one can move on and look back.
Had I gotten the girl, I think, I would have preferred a simpler existence. I would have taken
the generous scholarship offer of the Department of Science and Technology and studied
engineering where the girl does. The world of politics and dialectics and literary hackery has its
dull moments, and while I derive some happiness in being in Ateneo, I find that admission to
Eagles Nest does not equal a full day with the love of my life. But there, there. The mind knows
no limits to wishful thinking. What if I had richer parents and more present relatives; what if I
were better-looking? Then that wouldnt be me.
At any rate, the question of love remains. I think love does not die (it is neither created nor
destroyed, but simply occurs). It only evolves into higher forms, or increases to greater quantity,
or mutates into anger or fear, or degenerates into a form of self-hate. I cannot be so sure about the
form my love has taken. For one, I feel that it has not yet undergone so much of a transformation.
The object of the love has not changed. (I say object instead of recipient for I feel that my
love has not yet seen the chance to be received.) My love is still intact, and I wish I could say the
same of my pride and self-esteem.
Now the crucial questions: Do I still think of the girl at night? Do I still wish to see her and
talk to her? Am I still willing to do the waiting? Yes, yes, and yes. But do I still wish to pursue
the girl? I find that I am unwilling to do that now. She is in the company of a worthy young man

who treats her as she deserves, and better than I think I possibly could. To narrow down a
Keynesianism, only when the facts change will my opinions change; on the condition that the girl
gets her due, I shall cease and desist.
So for the time being, the three-word declarative will remain orphaned and unreciprocated. I
have failed all these years to say the words to her, but I will not fail to respect (what I presume to
be) her present unwillingness to hear the words from me. Only when it is patient and self-giving
is love true, and I intend, with the fullest resolution, to keep my love that way.
Ones emotional faculties mature at an exponential rate in the closing years of ones teenage life. Part of
the task of the young writer is to clarify and correct ones older writing. I have to correct myself: Love
cannot mutate into a form of self-hate. A better guess would be that as soon as one stops loving, whatever
is left of oneself can mutate into a form of self-hate. The present answers to the crucial questions would
be occasionally, occasionally, and no. The concluding sentence is awkwardly constructed, but it gets 1
Corinthians right. I wish I always do.
I couldnt care less about whether existence precedes essence, especially if it should distract me from the
elementary fact that I exist. To be given the chance to love in the here and the now cancels all the tedium
and sheer boredom of the past.
My best friend put it this way, in his introduction to the collection of essays that my then-girlfriend and I
released for friends.
To imagine a world without love is to imagine a state where the human species would not exist beyond the
consumption of water and predation upon the grass beneath our feet. Love exists undoubtedly. A world
that distorts it risks losing humanitys strength in remaking the universe a thousand times over. Pain, joy,
brokenness and ultimately self-giving are what we are made for. The secret to man becoming human is to
know that we are, we will, and are being loved.
I desist, knowing that I could not have put it better than he did; at any rate, I am and shall be
Sincerely yours,
Christian