Lunacy

Through the skylight, I see a soft pale light dispersed around. It was twilight but it couldn’t have been the sun.

I made a ruckus opening the three locks on the door leading to the garden outside. It woke my sister up but I pretended not to care.

I looked up to what little of what I can see of the western sky and saw a most magnificent rarity: the full moon shining its serene yellow light before it bids goodbye to the night. The cream-painted clouds dance around, reflecting the satellite’s humble radiance.

My sister pulls up the blinds and opens the window.

“What in the world are you doing?” she asks, her voice laden with grogginess, annoyance and a hint of cynicism.

“I’m looking at the moon. Look, it’s full! And it’s setting!” I say. She scoffs, closes the window, pulls down the blinds, and presumably goes back to bed.

The moon rules the night whereas the sun governs the day. At dawn, the full moon sinks slowly, subtly into the horizon, giving way to the sun rising in the east.

It hides playfully behind feathery clouds. The birds sing to herald the start of a new day, the cat prowling around on the grass in search of its early morning prey.

I look away for a second to celebrate the splendor of these earthly things and when I look again, it is gone. The full moon has vanished from sight. The night has ended and the day has begun.

As I sit here in the garden, I must be looking like a lunatic, wondering when I will see the moon in such a way again.

Good morning.

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I Expected Tents. But Thank God for Google.

I know. It sounds like a Panic! At the Disco song.

When I hear the word “camp”, the image of tents pitched around in a circle with campers gathering around a campfire singing kumbaya appear in my mind. I seriously thought, are they really going to put 80 or more student org leaders in tents for five days? This was one of my first apprehensions when I was invited to join the SLDP Change Leadership Summer Camp. I seriously did not want to submit myself to people who would make me suffer for five days under sun and rain in a tent.

Well, thank god for Google. As soon as I found out that it was dorm-style, I brought out my suitcase and abruptly shoved stuff into it. I contemplated bring my guitar but it was too much load already when I’m bring my laptop.

The most important thing I learned, and I told my mom about this, is to appreciate vegetables. Yes, vegetables. Every meal time, we were served rice, a vegetable dish, and a meat dish. The servers would put rice and vegetables in heaps and at least one small piece of meat.

The camp wasn’t at all that bad. The only things that made it sucky were the unpredictable weather and the long lines for the bathroom. I met a few friends (especially from waiting for our turn in the bathroom), lost a few pounds (from walking back and forth and from various team activities), and learned new lessons (what, there were about 5 or 6 talks and lectures). It is an experience to be cherished, not one, but by the many who attended it. I hope that the tradition of meeting friends, losing weight, and learning lessons continue with us in our journey of life.

Dawn of Summer

Thesis: Live in the moment.
Anti-Thesis: There’s no moment in which to live.

Summer has just begun. The heat permeates the air. The breeze turn warm as the sun travels its course. And boredom takes over as I have found nothing to do. Day after day, ever since the beginning, I am finding myself lying in bed, either streaming random drama/romance anime online, talking to my sister, or just plain sleeping. Yes, I know it’s an unhealthy lifestyle and I am best known for being lazy.

Although there are a few anime that deserve recognition for being unique and worth watching, it still won’t change the fact that they end and I am back to boredom. Yes, they end, just like everything else.

Perhaps when school ended, I was happy that all the stress is gone now, that all the burden has been lifted from my shoulders. School has ended and summer’s here! What more could I ask for? Yes, summer’s here. But what now?

A fleeting thought then struck me one day. “I miss school.” Now where did that come from? Maybe it was the boredom talking? After that, I realized that saying it was stupid.

Counter-thesis: There’s always a moment.

“Live in the moment,” as the saying goes. And I have not. I have only been here, lounging around, waiting for the moment without even realizing that I am living it, only that I have to make the moment better. My missing school came from a selfish desire for me to be busy, to do something worth my time. I had not even seen that when school starts, I’d probably say that I miss summer.

I have resolved to be happy while summer lasts and make the moment count. I’d have to do the things I would not be able to do when the new school year comes. After all, I’ll busy even busier than I have ever been when school starts and probably want summer even more badly. XXX

Drop the What?

Hey Lorenze! I know it’s kind of late but better late than never. Haha. Merry Christmas! Finally, cause if I bring the CD, I won’t find you in school and if I do see you, wala ang CD. So here! I’ve uploaded it so you can download it and share it with other people (if you want).

I’ve compiled songs with awesome bass tracks from my very limited music library for you to listen to and lie down and start crying because of the beauty. I know, I cry to beautiful music too. They are not all jazz fusion as I know you prefer (and I know there are a lot more songs with more awesome bass tracks) but I hope you enjoy listening to this as I enjoyed making it! Haha. Long live music! (But seriously, why didn’t I think of this earlier? xDD)

-Cheska

Directions for Listening:
Have a good pair of earphones. Enjoy!

Track List:

1. Tongue Tied – Grouplove
2. This is the Life – Two Door Cinema Club
3. Tides – The xx
4. Oo – Up Dharma Down
5. Boy – Ra Ra Riot
6. Uh Oh – Taken By Cars
7. Tightrope – Walk the Moon
8. Treasure – Bruno Mars
9. What You Know – Two Door Cinema Club
10. Lifeline – The Answering Machine
11. Up in the Clouds – Darwin Deez
12. 34 – Taken By Cars
13. Rich Girls – The Virgins
14. Shut Up and Let Me Go – The Ting Tings
15. Love Will Save Your Soul – Grouplove
16. Call Me – Kimbra
17. Sun – Two Door Cinema Club
18. Mr. Schemer – She’s Only Sixteen
19. Jenny – Walk the Moon
20. Change – The Young Veins
21. We Walk – The Ting Tings
22. Fences – Paramore
23. All I Heard – Mitzi

Download it here.

Because Good People Need Good Music: Inside Out

Alas! My first playlist! From head to toe, I’ve searched my playlist for songs that mention, or relate to, – you might have guessed it by checking out the track list before reading this – the human anatomy. Out of boredom, I have created a collection of songs that speak of the wonders of the body.

I made this playlist as an appreciation of the body. It is part of identity as human beings. We would not be ourselves if not for our bodies. But as Darwin Deez mentioned in DNA, all these molecules don’t make me who I am. We are still both body and soul, more than the sum of all our parts. I hope that through the songwriters’ mentions of the different parts we learn of the importance of the body and of transcending it to achieve greater meaning.

Track List:

1. Flowers in Your Hair – The Lumineers
“Then we grew a little and romanticized the time I saw flowers in your hair.”
2. Quesadilla – Walk the Moon
“But I’ve seen your long hair come down. It turned my head inside out.”
3. Amygdala – She’s Only Sixteen
“I’ll always be there at the back of your hand.”
4. Eyes Wide Open – Gotye
“We walk the plank with our eyes wide open.”
5. Heavy Eyes – Oh Land
“Disillusioned girl, keep your eyes straight through me.”
6. Girl with One Eye – Florence + the Machine
“Her pretty little face stopped me in my tracks, that’s why she sleeps with one eye open.”
7. Pretty Eyes – Alex Goot
“Pretty eyes, staring back at me so blue and wide, the colors of the summer sky.”
8. All I Heard – Mitzi
“So be calm. That’s all I heard.”
9. Tongue Tied – Grouplove
“Don’t leave me tongue tied. Don’t wave no goodbye.”
10. Rainbow Veins – Owl City
“I’ll blend up that rainbow above you and shoot it through your veins.”
11. Young Blood – Birdy
“The bittersweet between my teeth, trying to find the in-betweens.”
12. Heart Skipped a Beat – The xx
“Heart skipped a beat. When I caught it, you were out of reach.”
13. Heartbeat – The Fray
“I’m trying to start a flame in the heart of the night.”
14. My Heart – Paramore
My heart, it beats, beats for only you. My heart is yours.”
15. Hardest of Hearts – Florence + the Machine
“There is love in our bodies and it holds us together.”
16. Hospital Lung – The Answering Machine
“I am a hospital lung, collapsed onto the floor, inflated into being by another man.”
17. Between Two Lungs – Florence + the Machine
“Between two lungs it was released, the breath that carried me, the sigh that blew me forward.”
18. Landfill – Daughter
“I want you so much, but I hate your guts.”
19. Handshake – Two Door Cinema Club
“Familiar as you shook my hand, what was it you meant to do?”
20. Kiss with a Fist – Florence + the Machine
“A kick in the teeth is good for some. A kiss with a fist is better than none.”
21. Undercover Martyn (Two Door Cinema Club Cover) – Tanner Patrick & Cameron Mitchell
“And she spoke words that would melt in your hands. And she spoke words of wisdom.”
22. Sunburn – Ed Sheeran
“If you cut deep, then I might learn that you scar and leave me like a sunburn.”
23. Exit Wounds – The Script
“My hands are cold, my body’s numb. I’m still in shock, what have you done?”
24. Skin and Bones – Motion City Soundtrack
“What if there’s nothing more to us? We’re just carbon-based. We’re just pixie dust.”
25. Tiptoe – Imagine Dragons
“Take some time to simmer down, keep your head down low. Hey yeah, tiptoe higher.”
26. Kilojoules – Freelance Whales
“Well, I’ve been making some cold calculations regarding our body heat. It’s not easy. Believe me.”
27. Leave My Body – Florence + the Machine
“I’m gonna leave my body, moving up to higher ground.”
28. DNA – Darwin Deez
“But you don’t care or understand how it feels to be a single double strand.”
29. Perfect Symmetry – Keane
“Holy truth, brother, I chose this mortal life lived in perfect symmetry.”
30. This Isn’t Everything You Are – Snow Patrol
“There’s joy not far from here, right. I know there is. This isn’t everything you are.

Download it here.

Philosophical and Literary: The Difference

For my Philosophical Literature class, I was supposed to write an argumentative paper to defend whether or not the novel I am reading, which was Lord of the Flies, is philosophical. Before I could discern such, I had to define clearly what is a philosophical work and what is a literary work.

XXX

Introduction

This paper will review the nature of the novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding to determine whether it properly belongs to the category of philosophy rather than literature.

The debate over the issue of whether fiction can be philosophy can be stated in the following terms:

One school of thought exemplified by Martha Nussbaum holds that “certain novels are irreplaceably works of moral philosophy”. By extension, this contention should include not only novels but all works of fiction involving narratives such as short stories, epic poetry, extended allegories, and the like. These literary works can be included in a phrase – fictional narrative.

The other school of thought exemplified by Iris Murdoch’s description of philosophy as excluding the works of literature. Murdoch views philosophical works as “abstract, discursive, and direct”. This necessarily excludes fictional narratives from the realm of philosophical writing.

In Nussbaum’s liberal approach to moral philosophical writing, Lord of the Flies would clearly be a novel of moral philosophy. In Murdoch’s concept of moral philosophy, it is not.

Lord of the Flies in Murdoch’s Distinction

According to Murdoch, philosophy and literature are “two radically different kinds of writing”. Philosophy to Murdoch is essentially “an attempt to perceive and to tease out of thought our deepest and most general concepts” and “the critical analysis of beliefs”. This clearly rules out all literary novels in the form of fictional narratives. Unquestionably, Golding’s Lord of the Flies is fictional narrative. Although Murdoch knows the value of literature in showing to the reader areas of moral life to which philosophy merely alludes, she insists that the two spheres are separate.

Lord of the Flies in Nussbaum’s Inclusive Definition

In Nussbaum’s concept of moral philosophy, fictional narrative can state philosophical truths that slip through the cracks of philosophical prose. It is Nussbaum’s thesis that writing style is not neutral and that the form of writing influences the content conveyed. She suggests that fictional narrative is complement to philosophical prose in that one states truths that escape the other. Moreover, philosophy’s concentration of rules obscure the need for perception of particular, even unique, features found in concrete situations. Therefore, she finds fictional narrative superior to philosophical prose in conveying truths about moral life. Finally, Nussbaum says that great novels engage the reader in thinking through moral possibilities of portrayed lives – something philosophical writings cannot do.

Undoubtedly, in Holland’s formulation, literary fiction often qualifies as moral philosophy and in certain cases is superior.

Literary Work as a Subset of Moral Philosophy

In a sense, all literary works are philosophical writings. All literary works, if they were to be coherent, must have a single overarching theme. Without such theme, the literary work loses its sense of unity and coherence. A literary work without a theme is, in the words of Shakespeare,

“… a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”

Where a work is disjointed and is not bound together by the Aristotelian unities of time, place and theme, it is essentially a work of a madman. Thus, in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the eponymous tragic hero finds the world “out of joint”, seemingly out of coherence as he lapses into the madness of his guilt. In William Faulkner’s Sound and Fury, the disjointedness of plot is an emblem of the madness of the main character.

Despite the fact that all literary works deserving of the name is structured over a unifying theme, there are many variants and gradations of such a theme, from the ridiculous to the sublime, from the profane to the sacred, from the non-philosophical to the philosophical. Where the theme of the literary work is philosophical, that is to say, it delves into the ultimate nature of the universe and of human life, then the literary work partakes the nature of a philosophical work.

This would be regardless of the style of the work. The problem arises if the style of the work is fictional narrative. To Murdoch, as stated above, philosophical writing is “abstract, discursive, and direct”. Literary fiction is concrete, situational, and indirect. Fictional narrative does not say, it merely shows. I disagree with this distinction because it is premised entirely on a non-content based difference. As Murdoch herself holds, and she agrees with Nussbaum on this, great works of literature enhance moral understanding. It is my opinion that all fictional narratives on philosophical themes are necessarily philosophical works regardless of the style or approach, regardless of whether it is prose or poetry, narrative or non-narrative. The distinction should be based on the primary source of the fictional narrative, whether it springs from a philosophical idea and is therefore, properly speaking, philosophical literature or from experience, in which case it is pure literature. In this sense, therefore, philosophical literature, that is to say fictional narrative qualifying as moral philosophy, is a subset of the wider category of philosophical writing even as it is a subset of literature.

Examples of Philosophical Literature

Where a literary work, especially a fictional narrative, springs from a philosophical idea, there are bounds to be a number of indicators.

  1. The plot does not flow naturally, but is structured along the lines of the writer’s thesis.
  2. The characters tend to be paper thin and one-dimensional.
  3. There is a persistent hammering of the philosophical theme.

A case in point is Voltaire’s Candide. The eponymous character has not depth and is single-faceted. The plot and the theme are clearly geared to demonstrate Voltaire’s idea that this is not the best of all possible worlds, a philosophical refutation of the conservative elements in pre-revolutionary French society that oppose and form of change.

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin is another case in point. It is a polemic against the evils of pre-Civil War American slavery in a form of a novel. Contrast with Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in which the young Huck which is a complex character has a complex relationship with a runaway slave, Jim. The plot is as meandering and crooked as the Mississippi River with a number of subplots running, and a theme as complex as the characters. There is no question that in Huckleberry Finn, Twain was writing from experience and not in pursuit of an idea.

Examples of Pure Literature

Aside from Huckleberry Finn, world literature abounds in great fictional narratives that cannot be characterized as philosophical in character and yet have strong philosophical implications. This is so because the author is writing from a transmutation of experiences rather than from a philosophical idea.

Ernest Hemmingway, a Nobel laureate like William Golding, started out as a reporter rather than a writer of fiction and in his writing fictional narratives, he has been cited as having portrayed the true face of his generation. In A Farewell to Arms, he says

“I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain. We had heard them, sometimes standing in the rain almost out of earshot, so that only the shouted words came through, and had read them, on proclamations that were slapped up by billposters over other proclamations, now for a long time, and I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it. There were many words that you could not stand for except to bury it. There were many words that you could not stand to hear and finally only the names of places had dignity. Certain numbers were the same way and certain dates and these with the names were all you could say and have them mean anything. Abstract words such as glory, honour, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the number of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates.”

In the above quoted, there is no hint whatsoever that Hemingway is pursuing a philosophical idea or a moral point. He merely records as objectively as he can the butchery of the First World War and the reaction to it.

In the words of William Barrett in Irrational Man,

“The example of Hemingway is valuable here, for he is not an artist inspired by intellectual themes; quite the contrary, he is a reporter and a poet intent on reporting what it is he really sees in experience, and what he has seen and reports to us in this story is the Nothing that sometimes rises up before the eyes of human beings. A story by Sartre on the same subject would be much more suspect to us: we would have reason to believe that the Existentialist writer was loading the dice intellectually, reporting on experience out of a previous philosophical commitment. But to reject Hemmingway’s vision of the Nothing, of Nothingness, might well be to close our eyes to our own experience.”

This is the heart of the distinction between fictional narrative as great literature and fictional narrative as moral philosophy.

Lord of the Flies as Moral Philosophy

Based on the standard of what constitutes moral philosophy, I am in my opinion that Lord of the Flies is moral philosophy in the guise of a fictional narrative.

This is obvious from, first of all, the characters in the novel that are found to be not so much flesh and blood characters but are symbols of a philosophical idea. In the novel, Ralph represents civilization, Piggy represents rationality, Jack represents the primitive in man, and the conch shell represents society. The characters are one-dimensional. They do not contain within their character the internal conflicts of a human being that which makes them human. They are rather like pieces on a chessboard which the author puts into play to determine the outcome which he then leaves hanging.

The plot is basically unoriginal, previously Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson, depicting the ultimate triumph of rationality and civilized feeling in a scenario which there is no dominant government or other institutions of civilization. Golding’s plot does not suggest the triumph of civilization and rationality. Towards the end, they were about to lapse into primitivism until they were saved by adults.

Lord of the Flies is an extended allegory. As such, it is meant to prove a point, to make a case, to exemplify an idea. It is not meant to depict experience. Golding admits this in a publicity questionnaire, he answers

“The theme is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature. The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable. The whole book is symbolic in nature except the rescue in the end where adult life appears, dignified and capable, but in reality enmeshed with the same evil as the symbolic life of the children on the island.”
Thus, I conclude that Lord of the Flies is moral philosophy in the form of fictional narrative. The fact that Golding won a Nobel Prize in Literature does not detract from the fact that his work is more moral philosophy than literature because it is in fact overtly moral philosophy.

Evil and Night

The philosophical problem of evil is how can evil exist in a universe created by an all-powerful God? If God is the ground of all being, how can there be evil created by a concept of the all-good? His goodness must permeate every atom of the universe. Therefore, from whence does evil come?

Some have compared evil to darkness. If God is light that shines upon all things, the things themselves upon which the light shines cast shadows. That shadow is evil, or the absence of light, the absence of God. This answer is not satisfactory even if it is poetic. It contradicts the nature of God as all-powerful and all-pervasive.

In the Old Testament apocryphal story of Job, God allowed the Devil to cast evil upon Job in order to test the latter’s faith. Job had been faithful in his religious duties and had been blessed with fortune, family and health. When the Devil told God that Job was faithful only because he was also fortunate, God told the Devil “Try him out. Give him bad fortune.” So the Devil took away Job’s fortune, many of his family and his health. When his neighbours saw what happened to Job, they told him “What happened to your God? You remained faithful to him but he has given you all these misfortunes.” Job answered back that he remained faithful to God despite everything.

But when Job confronted God, he asked Him “Why have you done this to me? I have been faithful in all of my duties and I have trusted in you. What you are doing to me does not make sense.” God answered back, “Who are you to question Me? Where were you when I laid down the foundations of the universe?”

The story has two unusual points. First, in this story, there exists a devil in conversation with God. The devil is the embodiment of evil. In this legend, there exists a devil in the presence of God. Second point is that God allows evil to befall on man as a means of testing his faith. Third, God scolds Job for questioning His sense.

What this story tells us therefore is that evil exists in the world even in the presence of God. But God allows evil to befall man and God defies logic and sense.

All throughout the Old and the New Testament, the chosen people bewail their misfortune despite the fact that they are the chosen people of God. The story of Job resonates most in the plight of the six million Jews that were murdered by the Nazis in the Second World War. This is one solution to the problem of evil but it is of little comfort especially to those who died in the Holocaust.

Elie Wiesel exclaims in his novel, “As for me, I have ceased to pray. I concurred with Job! I was not denying His existence, but I doubted His absolute justice.”  But Akiba Drumer explains, perhaps in reply, “God is testing us. He wants to see whether we are capable of overcoming our base instincts, of killing the Satan within ourselves. We have no right to despair. And if He punishes us mercilessly, it is a sign that He loves us that much more…”

Another solution to evil is that it is a product of man’s free will. In the story of the Garden of Eden, man was given free will in that he had the power to choose whether or not to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Free will must be understood to commit error, commit sin, commit evil. Without the capacity to commit sin, one does not have the capacity to do good. Where there is no free will, there is no good. So free will presupposes the capacity to do evil. Robots or people that are pre-programmed do one thing and not another cannot be said to have free will. Free will presupposes choice and choice presupposes the option to choose wrongly.

The Greeks have a variation of this free will. They do not understand free will so much as sin as they see it as ignorance. Evil arises when people cannot see the good and therefore do not pursue it. Where, in the Bible, sin is a product of perversity or rebelliousness. In the Greek tradition, error lies in ignorance. But whether in the Hebraic or the Greek tradition, the idea of evil or sin is connected to the idea of the flawed nature of man, that is either his perversity or his ignorance. And certainly in the case of the Holocaust, the murder of six million Jews, the perversity of the Nazi regime, or its ignorance, can be seen as the cause of the suffering.

But this evades another question. What of the evil in the form of great natural calamities, over which man has no control? Nuclear devastation may be man-made but volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, none of these can be traced to man’s doing. Therefore the idea that man’s free will or ignorance is the cause of evil does not explain satisfactorily the phenomenon of evil.

The idea of Leviathan and Behemoth as extraordinary entities of nature much greater than man but not identical with God is used to explain evil of a mammoth scale, beyond the control man but not an instrument of God’s will. These biblical concepts allow an explanation of great natural disasters that are beyond good and evil. They are natural phenomena, not man-made of God-willed events. This is a partial solution to the problem of the phenomenon of evil. But still it does not fully explain how such evil can exist in a universe created by God because it suggests that the attribute of omnipotence of God should be re-examined. God may have created the universe but, to follow the theology of the Deists, after God created the universe, He allowed the universe to take its course without his intervention. This is not traditional Catholic but it partially explains the phenomenon of evil in the universe created by an almighty God.

In conclusion, the problem of the phenomenon of evil cannot be resolved without confronting the attribute of omnipotence of God. This attribute clashes logically with the fact of evil. And the two explanations available, man’s free will and the entities of Leviathan and Behemoth, detract from the doctrine of omnipotence. There is simply no going around this logical track unless one denies the fact of evil in the world.

Another alternative is to consider reason or our sense of justice and fairness to be purely human concepts that cannot be applied to God who beyond nature. Logic does not apply to Him since logic is a mere creation of His. We mortals cannot question the puzzles of creation since we were not present at the creation itself. Akiba Drumer again says, “Man is too insignificant, too limited to even try to comprehend God’s mysterious ways. But what can someone like myself do? I’m neither a sage nor a just man. I am not a saint. I’m a simple creature of flesh and bone.” It is either that we change the concept of God or we accept that He is beyond human understanding.