Friday, December 3, 2010

The Generosity of Pusillanimity: A Parody of Self-Preservation

Self-preservation is indeed one half of the basic human instinct, the other being species propagation (another blog altogether). Self-preservation for ancient man involves nutritional sustenance, protection from the elements and prevention of harm. In fact if we look closely, we begin to discover that even propagation of the species fall under self-preservation because the sense of self is passed on to the progeny. 

Yet nowadays in modern society, man is faced not much of the elements, not much of predatory harm nor self-sustenance (although in some third world countries this is still true). What faces man is the threat in preservation of the sense of self. A battle between ones self and the ever conforming society that attempts to box us all from every corner.

More and more self is lost for the benefit of oneness. I am not against unity. All I am saying is that why should we be made to sacrifice our self in order to be part of something bigger. I think if that something bigger is truly big enough then it should be able to accommodate one self that may seem different. 

Yet this is the reason behind pusillanimity. We would rather have good things said of ourselves than giving it to others. To us this serves two purposes. First, to seemingly increase our personal value to others, which brings about the notion of “being needed”. The axiom, he who is needed is always heeded, rings true to most – but not always the case.The second and more devious reason for pusillanimity is to not give the notion of being needed to others.

So pusillanimity is both a weapon on the offensive such as in the previous but also defensive such as in the latter. This means we want to receive compliments to make us feel needed by others and not to give compliments so that others won’t feel needed by us.  

I mean, come on! All this for just the assimilation into a popular culture that gives us dictates of rank and file.  

Yet, I draw back a bit at this point. I still don’t agree to this mentality but I do understand the reason behind it – self-preservation (albeit a very distorted sense of self). People feel that since assimilation is the key, sticking out like a sore thumb would lead to demise. This is true, if you are fish, bird or game, which I hope is not anyone reading this.

Yet the strongest way to survive is to forge an alliance. The only way to do this is truth. Give credit where credit is due, give heed to the advice of the wise and give rebuke when deserved.  

In the end, the parody of self-preservation is not the generosity of pusillanimity but rather the pusillanimity of generosity.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Litotes of the Day: Being “Not Unintelligent” Does Not Make One Brilliant

I know people seem to think that this is a biased statement. In fact it is. The only unbiased statement here is that the phrase is indeed a litotes. The seeming bias of this statement springs from the flawed supposition that intelligence equals brilliance. In fact, it may even be more difficult for intelligent people to be brilliant simply because they are perfectionists with lofty intentions.  

So why say it if it is totally flawed to begin with? Simple. There is a grain of truth hidden underneath the flawed logic, which even now though seems but a glimmer of realization, still holds true in my heart. That is, insecure people are sometimes proud. Oxymoronic? Yes. But again definitely true. 

There seems to be no evolutionary basis for insecurity. Nature decides to pick the alpha male or the pride matriarch based on environmental and genetic pressures. Yet, everyone begins the same - a youngster with an insatiable desire to be on top. Despite this, everyone knows to back down once an alpha male is chosen not out of shame but as a survival instinct knowing the best chances are with a pack.  

The struggle does not end though. Emerging males will eventually challenge the alpha males and younger females will show their fecundity to nudge out the matriarchs. Yet despite everything , nature does not produce insecurity, only a realization that some are indeed at a place different than ones own. This concept is not unknown to man, we even have a word for it – niche!

If we look deep into the purpose of insecurity we find an abyss within a wide chasm. This is because there is no purpose to find. Insecurity is just an indication of being lost in purpose. Insecurity is a mask to hide a state which is even more pitiable – waywardness. A state of having no direction. A state of certainty only in the past but never the now, much less the future. 

This is the reason why litotes is the favorite accessory of the insecure. Saying I'm not lost instead of realizing he has not found. Telling people of being not insecure yet never really assuring them of personal security. Wrapping the reality of a different aesthetic as not ugly. Esteeming the not unintelligent as a feat. Litotes upon litotes which if we peel back, reveals the biggest stumbling block of all waywards – the inability to realize that one is lost! 

Realizing ones lack of direction heals our misconceptions and helps us see ourselves in the light that is our niche. We cannot deem our self less than another because each and every one belongs to a different place. There is nothing to be insecure about if we know that niches aren’t stacked on top of each other but rather an expansive interconnection that frays at the failure of one junction.

The worker is not less than a drone or even a queen bee! This is because each one is different . Even a worker bee is not less than it’s co-worker because no matter how similar the work, it is ultimately different. Insecurity is not only counterproductive, it is also purposeless, so why even bother. 

Not being insecure doesn’t make one proud, it makes one secure. And being secure should make pride unnecessary.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Insufficiency of the Pluripotent Plenipotent

As if being plenipotent is not enough, man nowadays strive to go beyond just greatness and power and aim for pluripotency. The idea of “Jack of many trades, master of none” is scoffed at more and more as man targets perfection like no other. The concept is if you can be great at one, why not more? 

I laud these people, really. Even I am guilty of wanting this in one form or another. But lately I have realized that this endeavor is nothing but a recipe for one thing – A TIRED OLD MAN! 

The effort to make one plenipotent takes time, and a lot of it. It is rare that men were born plenipotent. The idea of power being a birthright is an insult to the true nature of power. Power is made complete in the generation of conviction, molded and refined by the kiln which we call life-experience. The longer it stays in the kiln, the more impurities are spirited away . The result – a pure energy-giving power. 

On the other hand the requisites to be pluripotent takes not much time but a lot of effort. It takes a preponderance of skill (or a semblance thereoff) to get one started on the path that leads to pluripotency. And it takes just little time to be involved in many endavors, a true multilateral effort advancing a small step at a time widening the ever-growing circle that is ones sphere. 

The key to plenipotency is time and that of pluripotency is skill. As each one grows, time gets scarcer and skill gets thinner. In the end, time has ran out and skill has all but dried up. The result is an aged fatigued version of ones former self. 

Although the exploits of the world pushes us to excel in all fields at the same time, it also pushes us to fail not by the world’s standards but by the ones we have set in our young days, when all was fresh and free.  

This antithesis brings to mind the life of the Biblical Moses. Definitely plenipotent, imagine raining ten plagues to one of ancient’s greatest civilization, no questions there. Definitely pluripotent, being the second in command in Egypt to being the leader of a nomad people, no questions here as well.

But if we look closely at his failures, the greatest came because he thought himself pluripotent and plenipotent at the same time.  He was told to speak forth water from the rock but by sheer arrogance (or naivete, cause I don’t want to berate a great Biblical icon sacred to the three great monotheistic religions of the world) he struck the rock with his stick. The consequence of this nonetheless great miracle is that he never entered his promised land. It was also in his story, that through the most iconic of all miracles, that  people knew the power of stillness, of doing what is contrary and setting ones self up for failure – the parting of the Red Sea!  

It is only through being still that we appreciate how fast time really flies. It is through giving up, that we appreciate the value of one skill. Only in the leadings of failure that we see clearly success and the satisfaction that comes with it. 

I don’t urge people to fail. I only say that failures are sometimes part of the journey to the zenith we so aspire.  That is the parody of true success. 

Failure of the pluripotent plenipotent to fail fails him to be the pluripotent plenipotent that he truly is.

Synecdoche of Me and Malate: Boon or Bane?

Contrary to what people strongly believe, me and Malate aren’t one. This doesn’t begin to picture though how tightly intertwined the web of Malate and my life are. I am the quintessential Malate boy – born and raised, bred and buttered. Malate is as much a part of me as I am a part of Malate. This is the reality that I have to live with, whether I like it or not.

It was during the hey days of Malate, when it was the hub of socialites and artists and was considered the core of both creme and bohemia, I was born. In the telling minutes after the midnight of the 9th day of the 9th month, a mother never reached her destined hospital and decided to give birth to a son. The birthplace – Nakpil Street. O what a portent, had anyone known! 

Save for the times I was away for vacation in the province or abroad, Malate is where I ate, slept, played (in more than seven ways from Sunday!), studied, splurged, laughed, wept and more importantly grown. Malate has invested in me more than I could count and more than I could extol. Malate knows me inside and out, more than I would have wanted it to. 

The result of Malate knowing me inside and out is like Newton’s third law of motion. As it gets to know me, I have gotten to know and love Malate like it was meant to be. That little bakery by the fruit stand in San Andres, the nice seamstress near Adriatico, that cozy Italian date place on that road to FB Harrison. Little nuances that makes the place unique and makes the experience as ones own.  

From the time when Malate was rife with streets straight from American geography (Nakpil was Vermont, Agoncillo was Kansas, Apacible was California, P.H.Lim was Indianna) I have learned to enjoy it and laud it for its free spirit and welcoming arms. Its boundaries are like the arms of the Liberty welcoming all without qualms and judgment. I always tell people to go to Malate and enjoy its appeals for themselves.   

Judge not Malate for it hast and wilst not judge thee.

People say Malate has faded, that Malate has lost its splendor, that Malate is a hotbed of theives and hooligans not to mention the abundance of prostitutes.  Yes, this may be true at times. But Malate is way more than what its image is. Malate is not what it looks like or how things seem. Malate is about how you make your own future. Malate is there so one can discover ones true self and to welcome diversity for everyone else. 

This relationship with me and Malate was forged by the common desire for democracy and freedom of expression, to live a life worthy of la vie boheme! Nurtured by the struggle to prove its worth as its crowds ebbed and flowed and its splendor sparkled and faded. Time will come when Malate will truly be gone but my love story with it won’t end.

I am a Malate Boy and I dare anyone to take it away from me! 

Make your own Malate as you let Malate make you.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Irony and Magic of Gedankenexperiment

E=mc2, the equation that will forever change the shape of the universe as we know it (it literally does!). This life-altering gumbo of 3 letters, a number and a symbol, is the offspring of one Albert Einstein, in an earlier gedankenexperiment. This highlights the human frivolity of mind that enables us to produce people whose thinking not just stops outside the box but extends to what is outside where the box is.

This underlies the magic that is gedankenexperiment. In a place were time and space does not exist, there is nothing that binds the mind. And it is this lack of boundary that soars unceasingly into the depths of that which we can’t even perceive or fathom. Some call it imagination, be it as it may, I think this place brings us to somewhere we can’t even begin to imagine.

In this wild untamed world all things are possible and impossible at the same time. It takes the mind of a genius to unravel the web of personal soliloquy in order to make amends of ones mental clashes, a critical and important step to a gedankenexperiment. And it is in this seeming order from pleasant chaos that sequences arise. Sequences that form the cornerstone of methods, methods that through a multitude of tumults births the magic of gedankenexperiment. And it is this magic that turns mortals to gods of themselves and their thought, inane thoughts to brilliant supernovae of innovation and progress.

Yet, by nature of a successful gedankenexperiment, it is lived alone. In the mind’s solitary victory lies the future of not only the gedankenexperiment but of the thought, the thinker and society as a whole. It was as if a light bulb burned brightly in a closed room for no one to see, a mighty river roars in a secluded forest for no one to hear or a fragrant flower blossoms in an unreachable chasm for no one to savor.

A successful gedankenexperiment commences and ends where it began – in the confines of a churning mind. Untouchable. Unbreakable. Unrealized.

Herein lies the irony of a gedankenexperiment. For the life-altering success that it is, man will only reckon it once it is felt. The importance of this victory only remembered if it is transmuted to action. Only when mankind reels from the reality poured forth by the gedankenexperimenter’s mind will it be labeled a success.

Yet, this is the death of gedankenexperiment. When it leaves the mind in sensory portals and transmitted to others by speech, writing or actions, the gedankenexperiment vanishes faster than it was conceived. It is in gedankenexperiment’s demise that we get to know it by name – experiment, science, innovation, technology. All geared to push man to it’s limits and beyond.

Why does it have to be this way? Because it is. The magic of a gedankenexperiment only realized in its ironic and life-changing dismissal.

This was just a gedankenexperiment, but now it isn’t.

Success? You tell me.


(As written by me in October of 2008)

For those non-readers of Harry Potter, this is one of the first spells in the first book (Wingardium Leviosa being the other). It was a spell to open locked up things such as doors. It seemed like a weak spell when you think about it. Pure brute force can destroy a closed door, persistence can jimmy a well-locked door and well sheer geniuses will always think of a better way. But that all changed when life threw me an Alohomora more powerful than Avada Kedavra...

As most of you know, my father died at 11:22 PM three weeks ago by tomorrow. It was something that was not unexpected but surprising at the same time. We knew it was coming for several years already, and by several I meant over a decade! I truly believed that I had it in my heart to be ready for this...or so I thought.

I went home at exactly 11:20 that night after hearing a frantic call from my hysterical mother whose anguish is palpable even across the phone. I never heard words and sobs blended so intimately as though a sound, only a wife in fear of loneliness can produce.   The sight that revealed itself to me when I came to my father's bedside, was one I can never forget. My mom was holding tight my father's hands as if holding on to dear life...the same life my father was about to let go. In true doctor fashion, I felt my father's pulse, I listened for a breath, I took out my stethoscope. 

Then it was suddenly 22 minutes past 11 already. 

A scene was playing in my mind, one I commonly control in the hospital, with me shouting - Time of Death 11:22 PM. Only this time, in the numbing coldness of my father's room, all was silent. I merely gave my mother a look and pried her hand away from my father's into mine. A small reminder that things will inevitably change for us.

Then the 'Alohomora' came. Suddenly my sheltered world was opened to the reality of things to come. It all came as though a torrent of insatiable waves, of wrath, frustration, uncertainty, sadness, loneliness, gratitude,  rolling forth an unstoppable train and I was just powerless to stop it.

In pure confusion, I leaned forward to ask my father what to do. Only to realize, a response was never to be heard of again from that brilliant mind that seemed to be churning out wisdom and reprimand all the time. I merely knelt by the bed and whispered to my father's ears, "Tatay, I know I promised, pero di ko pala kaya (but I can't do it)". This pertained to my pact with my father regarding me not crying when he passes away.

Then as if an answer from Tatay, I cried ceaselessly as if the tears which I have never shed for a very long time, overflowed the dam of my pretenses and uncorked the confusion in my heart.

Then serenity followed. Even in death, Tatay has a way of still ministering to my needs. The 'Alohomora' has finished its hold. I was once again closed but no longer locked. In the end, it was the 'Avada Kedavra' that gave the 'Alohomora' its ultimate power in me.

Life goes on as I step forward from the door that I just closed only to find more doors in front of me. But those are still stories in the writing....

Transiency of Vicissitudes: Curse of the Modern Man

Again I dip my hands in topics most people dare not talk about openly. This topic is the societal notion of a geek, nerd or loser. This has nothing to do with conformity but rather of a degree of intelligence and consideration of others, which might spell our survival as a society in the end.

Why do I say intelligence? First of all intelligent people are evolutionarily linked to being adaptable in new situations. This means that in order to adapt to a certain social situation, it is a requisite that one has to have encountered that particular situation, learned from it and retained the knowledge gained. That my friends takes intelligence. This is what propelled ancients from nomadic hunter-gatherers to city-builders. So social adaptation is an intelligent trait, not of conformity but of integrating ones uniqueness to make the society feel as if it is its own.

Consideration on the other hand is a relative term, meaning one cannot be considerate enough and neither can he be consideration-deficient. But certain situations need the simplest of sense, which for me is the core of consideration. Like in church, we don’t go in to insult God. We don’t take the bus, bring our books and do our homework just to get drunk in school. Meaning there is a modicum of least expected decorum which is socially accepted. Again this not conformity but the realization that the benefit of many may outweigh the benefit of the one. Watch the series Great Migrations in National Geographic TV and you’ll understand this better.

So why is vicissitude nowadays seemingly transient. This is because the value of intelligence has been losing ground. The focus of our societal dictates are now focused on beauty, wealth, status and fame. Soon we will end up with a society of famous beautiful richly connected people with no power to adapt easily, which again is a phenotype of the intelligent. I am not against any of these people but what I am saying is that when a great catastrophe arises, we need to look to the intelligent people with firm unwavering vicissitudes to help us all adapt.

Yet the world looks down upon intelligent people as nerds, geeks and losers worthy of nothing but ridicule and disgust. Even I realize that I get more friends when I try to dumb myself down. That should never be the case, and I truthfully regret it as soon as I do it. These nerds, geeks and losers are the hox genes of society that will turn the tide against a deluge of change which I am undoubtedly sure would come. What will happen if we need these intelligent people and suddenly they realize that by dumbing themselves too much, the transiency of their vicissitudes has become permanent?

Alas! What woe has befallen the vain quests of man.

All I am saying is that the time is ripe for the rejuvenation of the intelligent classes. From the cloisters of laboratories and the shops in their basement, we must learn to give them the podium that will be their pulpit for change. Let us welcome them more and not be afraid to learn from them.

In our movement for modernism let not vicissitudes be transient, lest we all fade by our own hands.