on memas and messianic complexes

Theology 141, also known as liberation theology, is currently my least favorite class this semester. It’s ironic because I actually thought it would be the one I would most look forward to, given that I enlisted under a legendary professor whose 62 slots ran out in less than a minute. But I never imagined that there are times I think to myself and realize that I despise his class more than thesis.

In a nutshell, liberation theology teaches us that sin is deeply ingrained in social structures, resulting to poverty, and that taking concrete action to make a better world for these people by following Jesus Christ’s example is the way to God’s Kingdom. At least that’s how I understand it. The highlight of this class is the Immersion program, where we will live among the marginalized people for three days and later on prepare a group report about it. Mine will be in a fishing community in Zambales this coming March.

It’s funny how I dislike this class because I actually am really fond of my professor. He’s a good man, his lectures are engaging, and the hype surrounding him is real. There’s something about his presence that lights up the room and makes you want to be a better person. My seatmate and I actually mentioned we find himself clinging on to every word he says, the same way we did when we took a class under another legendary professor for theology of sex and marriage.

I suspect the reason for my negative sentiment is the subject matter itself. Despite the good intentions and noble causes behind it, it instills a messianic complex in students. Suddenly, some of them think they’re above everyone else because of their newfound sense of purpose, and under the guise of “taking concrete action towards changing society”, they feele their sanctimony and self-righteousness is warranted. And I really hate that.

Earlier tonight, one of my acquaintances made several posts about his Immersion on Twitter. It was captioned “Immersed as fuck”, and it had pictures of a farm, muddy feet, fried fish and his grim face. Another was a picture of a can of beer, and captioned “Post immersion-necessities”. I wasn’t personally offended by the tweets, but I found it really insensitive, considering the point of going through immersion was really to be exposed to these harsh realities in order to be humbled and more conscious of the plight of the poor.

Other people’s reactions to the post were, to put it in the best way I can, batshit crazy. It’s unfortunate because I know a lot of these people, their tweets appeared in my timeline. They called the guy hateful names, openly expressed their anger towards him, and said really nasty things about how the guy didn’t deserve an education like ours. Of course, not to be forgotten is the ultimate phrase self-righteous Ateneans loved to chant during times like these: check your privilege. Given the way they ran their mouths, it was as if they’ve never done anything of that sort before. It was like the kettle calling the pot black. Sure, what the guy said was unacceptable but so was the way they reacted to him was worse.

What puzzles me about all this is that these people, in their attempt at pointing out the guy’s mistakes, are motivated by their learnings in Theology 141 but in no way followed what was taught in class. They threw that part out the window and just crucified the guy, which was so un-Christ like. I don’t have any more words to say about this so I’ll leave it at that. This is the reason why I gave up on organized religion altogether.

I guess my belief stands true: You don’t need religion to be a good person, and religion doesn’t have a monopoly on morality. Correct me if I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure I’m right.

 

 

on the heirophany, heresy, and hope

 

“This is the ultimate paradox about the heirophany: how something can mean both nothing and everything at the same time.”

“Do you believe in Jesus?”

My professor’s voice boomed from the center of the room. He was discussing hierophanies, the manifestations in which the sacred reveals itself to the physical world. Nobody from our class of thirty five answered him, so he walked along the aisle finding someone who would. I tried avoiding his gaze not wanting to be called, but because I was right next to him, I was the obvious pick. He turned to me.

“You! Do you believe in Jesus?”

“No.”

“Would you have a problem if I wrote my name on the wooden cross?”

“No.”

Atheists and agnostics know better than to be loud about their religious beliefs, especially in this country where you were crucified if you said anything negative against the Church. Living here for twenty-one years is enough to make you jaded. There’s an unspoken code among the minority in this country to be as harmless as possible. Being one of them, I didn’t know whether to speak up or be honest in this scenario.

I decided to just keep it real this time because I was asked for my thoughts in an academic setting. Lying would defeat the purpose of taking up a philosophy of religion class. During our first meeting, my professor told us he didn’t want to define what the concept of religion is because doing so might exclude others from the discussion. We were here to learn about the inevitable diversity in faith, after all.

The class continued with my professor asking people whether they would be offended if someone wrote on the wooden cross. Many hands shot up. He approached more people on the spot, and they said they weren’t willing to write on the cross for an A, cash, or to be spared from an F. My seatmate said she couldn’t be made to write on the cross for anything. I was again asked whether I would be okay with writing on the cross, now that people expressed they would be offended by it and I said no. Thankfully, that was the last of it for me. Or so I thought it was.

Later that afternoon, my friend sent me a screencap of my classmate subtweeting about what transpired earlier in class. I didn’t expect that kind of controversy…

“PH103 classmate who said she doesn’t believe in Jesus also said she doesn’t find anything wrong with writing on the wooden cross in the room.”

“Don’t know what to feel. On one hand I was disturbed because of some sort of lack for respect towards the culture and tradition of others.”

“Esp. if you’re fully aware of the sanctity of the item/belief to the respective religion/culture.”

“On the other hand, if it’s her belief that these items are nothing but items, should I respect that and brush it off as having her own beliefs?”

“Kasi once everyone else said that they had a problem with it, binawi niya and said she wouldn’t do it kasi everyone else had a prob with it?”

“Baka she acts on d basis of people around her rather than beliefs? But aren’t people’s acceptance of sanctity of things acting on belief?”

 

In a nutshell, she was apparently scandalized by my religious beliefs and accused me of disrespecting hers. Truth be told, I was more scandalized at her disrespect for my lack of it, considering she is the head of the Analysis and Discourse cluster of our university’s governing body for organizations. Of all people, I would have expected her to have more understanding for varying opinions, but that’s not the case here.

What bothered me the most about the entire hoopla was how she used the Catholic standard of morality to pass judgment on my personal opinion as a person who doesn’t subscribe to any religion. She condemned me for condoning sacrilege, a sin for Catholics, not realizing that sacrilege doesn’t exist to me because I don’t believe in holy objects- they are nothing more to me than ordinary objects, and so there really isn’t anything to vilify on my part.

Also, I found it ridiculous when she made a distinction of whether I acted based on belief or based on the people around me when both can be the same thing. I act on the belief that we must be aware of the sensibilities of other people, which in layman’s terms is called respect. If something I’m fine with doing bothers someone, then I won’t do it. Easy as pie. I find it hard to grasp why my behavior is taken against me just because it isn’t motivated by some higher power when all I’m doing is observing social etiquette by taking other people’s feelings into consideration. (Oh, because it’s not God, that’s why.)

I sought the opinion of a few friends regarding the matter and specifically told them to call me out and be brutally honest when sharing their thoughts. None of them said they felt offended and even accused me of overthinking it. One suggested I apologize, which I ended up doing because that’s what minorities do. They apologize because they’ve always been told they’re wrong, invalid, and because they offend even without meaning to, just because their beliefs are uncommon and unorthodox. I didn’t choose or mean to offend, but I don’t get to say I didn’t if people said they are.

Another takeaway I’ve gained from the experience is that the thing with being a minority though is that we have a heightened sense of acceptance, at least I’d like to think. Because we’re so used to wanting others to accept our beliefs, it’s become second nature for us to extend tolerance to others. I hope more people would learn this, especially those from the majority, who are so used to their ideas being the only acceptable ones because they’re conventional.

I guess this is what my professor sought to do from our exercise about Jesus and the wooden cross, to make us aware that differences in faith exist, and that we must coexist despite and because of it.

Really looking forward to more philosophy of religion lectures. :)

 

 

My Yearbook Experience

Like most sentimental people, anything that involves chronicling the present excites me.

Back in high school, I was part of the literary staff of our yearbook. My responsibilities included editing and proofreading around 250 write-ups, coordinating with batchmates who haven’t submitted theirs yet, and reporting progress to my editor. I had a fun time, especially because I liked writing, and it was fulfilling seeing my words on print after the yearbooks came out.

Four years after my first encounter with the publication process, I applied to be part of my college yearbook’s Executive Board. I heard it was competitive, especially with the rumored large volume of applications, but I tried out anyway because I thought I was experienced and competent enough to take on the position.

As luck would have it, I am proud to say that I’ve come full circle and am now the college yearbook’s incumbent Senior Write-Up editor. It’s been a really stressful time, handling a gross total of 2300 write-ups and a team of 9, but equally rewarding and enlightening as well.

Here are some of the things I’ve picked up along the way so far:

  1. Contrary to popular belief, the yearbook team doesn’t like imposing strict guidelines. It’s the administration who does. We only follow orders but we get all the flak for it.
  2. Yes, there are perks that come with such a tiring job, especially since we don’t get paid for it, but we still have to keep some of them a secret.
  3. People (even and especially those from other school publications) will dismiss the yearbook as an official publication because it’s project based, and not one that regularly publishes issues every time period, as if that were its sole determinant.
  4. One “thank you” is enough to validate all the work you’ve already done.
  5. It’s enjoyable reading about what college meant to different people from different majors since you get to see what the university experience is from various lenses.
  6. Deadlines will be disrespected no matter how much time is given to accomplish a certain task.
  7. Taking shifts during yearbook photoshoots is amusing because you get to see everyone all dressed up and made-up, but you also realize it might be the last time you might ever see these people.
  8. Your personal social media accounts will be a customer service chatbox for the next few months.
  9. Anything can be done for the most part as long as it’s reasonable and you ask politely.
  10. Graduation feels so much more concrete when you’re part of the yearbook team because that’s the target date of release.
  11. It pays off to be friendly because people really appreciate service with a smile, and they will notice if you go beyond the demands of your job.
  12. People are literate but that does not mean they actually read.

 

… And more to come!

While studying for ethics at 1:23AM

Aristotle posits that happiness can only be attained by acting in accordance with virtue, but what if I don’t want to be happy that way? C’mon, I’m 21 and life hasn’t started for me just yet. I want to be recklessly free, making my own mistakes and later on being excused from them under the premise of being young and immature. There’s this strange satisfaction that comes with knowing that people are willing to go through risks for your sake.

When she told him that she would be the least of his worries, he was taken aback. He ended up saying things like “I’m not conceited, I actually think I’m ugly and unattractive”, things to make him look like the innocent victim with an inferiority complex. But we all know that power structures are constructed in such a way that males will always be painted as the one dragging the girl into his bullshit, when in fact in this case both are equally at fault.

My best friend is the most loyal person I know. She’s the type of friend who would rationalize my feelings when I tell her I feel guilty about giving in to my impulses instead of correcting me about them. I remember the time I helped her get out of some big trouble that could’ve stained her permanent record. People won’t be proud of us but at least we have each other to call when one of us needs help in burying the body.

 

 

Bianca

Everything started in the smocket during freshman year. You looked like Wednesday Addams personified, but a friendlier version. Of everyone there, I didn’t expect you to be the nice upperclassman who’d go out of her way to talk to the awkward girl and make sure that she wasn’t out of place. But that’s how it happened, and it didn’t happen just once. It continued until the day you graduated.

Black was your color, as seen in your goth fashion sense and winged eyeliner, but there was nothing dark about your personality. Sure, there were times when you were snarky, but always in a funny way. I’ll never forget the way you always poked fun at everyone that they became running jokes. It was boobs and uptightness in my case. I can’t keep track of how many times you told me that I was a third wheel to my huge twins, and that I needed to let loose and break away from the good girl image I try so hard to keep.

I eventually did. In fact, I clearly remember the night you played my unplanned wing girl. It was at this shabby bar along Xavierville Avenue. The boy I liked was in love with you, but you had a boyfriend at the time. Even if when I was absolutely certain that my juvenile infatuation would lead to nowhere, you still made something happen between us. It lasted for about a minute and I went home feeling giddy that night, all thanks to you. Never did I imagine myself doing something like that in front of so many people I knew. Not without you acting on it and pulling me out of my shell like always.

Our friendship wasn’t always smooth-sailing but you never failed to find a way to resolve things and keep our friendship intact. I’ll never forget that day you spontaneously sat me down and apologized for everything that’s transpired between us. It was supposed to be a secret between the two of us. Particularly, you said that you were sorry for breaking girl code and that you would understand if I chose to distance myself from you. At first, I was extremely weirded out, and all I could think about was you overreacting and overestimating the extent in which I liked the boy, the same boy I liked who was now the person you were dating. I didn’t see it then, but this is what you wanted to say: I care about your feelings and I don’t want you to be hurt because of me. In truth, I should be the one saying sorry if I’ve ever made you feel like you didn’t deserve to be happy. But I honestly don’t blame you for capturing his heart. You make it so easy to love you.

The last time I saw you was at Starbucks the Monday before you died. You had no make-up on and you looked like you were blooming. Seeing you again was a breath of fresh air on that dreary morning, especially with the way your eyes lit up as you were telling me how much you enjoyed your work and master’s classes. More than anything, I was glad to know that you were finally happy. Before I left, you invited me to go to this party on Friday because you would be there. But I ended up not going and am now feeling the heavy impact of my decision. If only I had known sooner that it would be the last night you would ever have on Earth, I would have went in a heartbeat. Later on I find out you asked our friends to invite as much people as they could. It all makes sense now.

All I want to say is that I am extremely blessed and thankful to have known someone like you in this lifetime. I’ll say my final goodbyes to you soon. Too late for regrets now. I miss you and love you very much Bianca. Rest in peace.

Things I’m Thankful for

  1. Having your thesis advisor tell you that she sees drastic improvement your work.
  2. Late night Nihonbashitei runs with family at midnight.
  3. Receiving an unexpected birthday gift from your first and closest college friends- in the correct size and a style you like.
  4. My new grenade shaped lighter.
  5. A common hatred strong enough to form new bonds.
  6. Being told “I wish everyone were like you” after taking on something for the first time.
  7. The opportunity to experience what law school is like.
  8. Successfully bullshitting a presentation you crammed a night before in front of critical panelists.
  9. When your working friends spontaneously drop by your school and invite you to hang out.
  10. Filipino indie movie screenings at an accessible place and affordable price.
  11. An opportunity to bring down a group of people you’ve hated since day one.
  12. Bumping into your crush on days you didn’t expect to see him.
  13. When schedule clashes are resolved on their own, sparing you the necessity to choose which one to attend.
  14. Hugs so big they swallow you whole from people you love.
  15. Satiated yearnings for affection you’ve been craving for a while.
  16. The act of sitting down and writing a letter on paper.
  17. Coffee Bean’s tropical sunrise iced tea.
  18. Knowing you’re the class favorite.
  19. That feeling of smugness when you know you’re not the only one who feels this particular way.
  20. Newly cleaned sneakers.

I act all nonchalant but really it bothers me how

  1. At the back of my mind, I know you only agreed to eat out with me because you knew I’d be footing the bill. I didn’t want to assume the worst of you, but as soon as we got back to school you proved me right.
  2. All your encouraging words strike me as sorry attempts at making me feel less bad about my inability to write. None of my feedback is ever positive, just points of improvement, and don’t even try to say otherwise else be called a liar.
  3. Some people get away with acting cute without even actually doing shit, yet get full credit for others’ efforts.
  4. Regret is eating me from the inside now that it’s too late to reverse it. I knew shifting into a fine arts course was the biggest mistake I could ever make in college.
  5. The most effective way for me to feel better about myself is by comparing myself with people who have it worse and justify it because it’s done secretly.
  6. If given a chance, that I would be ready to give up on a cause I love and care about because of the dirty politics that comes with being a person in position.
  7. Despite 21 years of living, I still haven’t found a solid group of friends to call my barkada and don’t think I’ll ever find them.
  8. Pathetically insecure I am about my outward appearance because of the fact that I’ve never had a boyfriend or anyone seriously court me.
  9. You always complain about being unrecognized, that you’re tired of being so kind, yet reject the love that reaches out to you.
  10. I am writing about these repressed feelings like it’s no big deal.

Senior year is taking its toll on me. I’ve barely been stressed out throughout my stay in college. But I can’t even put into words how emotionally taxing these past few months have been. Give me a break. I need a breather. Someone to talk to would be nice but knowing me, I never speak up when I’m bothered emotionally because I don’t want to be a bother and I sincerely mean it- don’t take this as passive aggression. Feelings can be dismissed, life can’t. This blog is my only refuge.