Book Nook: The Dead Father by Donald Barthelme

dead-father

It is the fate of all of us, perhaps,
to direct…our first hatred and our first murderous
wish against our father. 
—Sigmund Freud

I SAT AND READ The Dead Father, a formative work of postmodernist fiction, in three bursts: afternoon, evening, then morning. Finishing the novel left me with cerebral indigestion: I am still deciphering the points of the story (despite knowing it’s meant to be essentially and playfully absurd and ironic—to quote, “To find a lost father: the first problem in finding a lost father is to lose him”—which, I suppose, are postmodern devices, gimmicks, and tricks); and I am still weighing its strengths and—for my lack of vocabulary, I shall call them—“flaws,” which mirror my own flaws, for I, the reader, unavoidably give birth to the text, changing it and constructing meaning from it according to myself—my capacity, standard, and perspective. Postmodernism is a literary genre that is self-conscious of the reader’s authority over the text.

Resembling a Kafkaesque world with a dystopian backdrop, the story was about a surrealistic funeral march (only revealed at the novel’s end) for the Dead Father who believed that his children were bringing him into the “Golden Fleece,” where he would recover not just his life and dominion over the world but also his youth. The Dead Father was a 3,200-cubit quasi-omnipotent—yet vain, temperamental, lascivious, and tyrannical—giant who was “dead, but still with [them], still with [them], but dead.” A crew of nineteen men hauled him by means of a cable wire across strange territories to bury him into his equally gigantic grave.

Barthelme’s narrative on The Dead Father was a “fragmented verbal collage”; the sentences were deconstructed—

The wall trembling. The alcove shaped like an egg. Quilt slipping toward the edge. The mountain. A set of stone steps. The cathedral. Bronze doors intricately worked with scenes. Row of grenadiers in shakos. Kneeling. Interior of the egg.

—and some dialogues were written with the shock of non-sequitor (random and unrelated responses to “generate new meanings”), as though in a Freudian free-association game. Take for example this voice-over of a conversation between two female characters:

            Thought I heard a dog barking.
It’s possible. The simplest basic units develop into the richest natural patterns.
Are you into spanking?
No, I’m not.
Pity. We could have something going.
I’m not into that.
Where can a body get hit around here?
Pop one of these if you’d like a little lift.

Barthelme’s daring, unorthodox, even “alien” use of language (a signature Beckettian wordplay, I say, as one cannot not think of Samuel Beckett while reading The Dead Father), his off-the-nuts hilarity, and his ingenious book-within-a-book, A Manual for Sons—which contained the groundwork themes from which the novel stood out, such as fatherhood and its eternal influence on all the father’s procreations, and the sons’ unconscious desires of patricide—were the novel’s strongest suits. From A Manual for Sons,

Then they attacked [the father] with sumo wrestlers, giant fat men in loincloths. We countered with loincloth snatchers…We were successful. The hundred naked fat men fled…When you have rescued the father from whatever terrible threat menaces him, then you feel, for a moment, that you are the father and he is not. For a moment. This is only the moment in your life you will feel this way.

Doubtlessly I enjoyed this challenging book, but it left me unhappy, with a bad aftertaste, like a terrible hangover from a “trip.” I awaited for the “aesthetic event”—my merit of all the books I have read—to happen, but it did not occur throughout the read; perhaps I glimpsed a few flashes of it, but they were nonetheless dim even in that respect.

The ending, which I found human and sentimental, did not find its mark, in me. It’s a rigorous task for me to rate this book objectively since I am yet a naiveté to the avant-garde and postmodern traditions of literature. But conclusively, the late and influential Barthelme was a genius left in his postmodern school and playground, experimenting with possible forms of fiction, leading an evolution that changes the way we think about the written word.

(Published on Sun.Star Weekend: Oct 22, 2016)

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“Skipping between Timelines”

“He believed in an infinite series of times,
in a dizzily growing, ever spreading network of
diverging, converging and parallel times.”
—Jorge Luis Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths”

1

DESPITE ITS MATHEMATICAL TERRORS, the curiosities of quantum mechanics have drawn me in. Since last year, I have buried myself into reading its concepts, especially its framework of space, time, and reality. According to its theories, time does not run in a straight line; instead, timelines bifurcate infinitely: all moments, the theories supposed, exist simultaneously—the past, the present, the future—and are like branched-out threads weaved together into a singular rope, which, hypothetically, makes up the whole universe.

          A god sees the universe as a finished race—its beginning, middle, and end all perceived in a single flash of a moment. All this is indeed difficult, maybe even impossible, for us to grasp since the whole idea stands contrary to what our senses perceive. But a physicist’s inspection on how atoms behave on a quantum level tells us that what we see is not exactly what it is. Well, to us nonscientists, quantum mechanics is either a food for the imagination or a trigger to a headache.

2

In the university’s dormitory bed, weary from the day’s ridge and tunnel hike, I pondered about reality and quantum mechanics and came to realize the different timelines happening in the world within my skull. Then I entered the first layers of my dream.

3

The dream: I was asked to write a piece inspired by the hike: be it a short story, a poem, an essay, or a haiku. I could remember the first stanza of the poem I wrote titled “The Test of Time is the Jest of God,” “Time is God’s measure / Of how much a rock / Can take / Before it breaks.” The poem ended with the next stanza (the first line of which eluded my memory), “[…] / So the cracks remain silent/ And, without despair, accept / God’s eyes into their darkness.” Admittedly, I imagined during the hike that if I peeked into the cracks, my eyes would, by chance, meet God’s or someone else’s.

4

And during the hike, I walked behind a girl and took fancy of her impossibly supple and shapely waist, which, in each her twists, turns, and bends, made my blood boil and undeniably inspired this haiku: “Let my fingers trace / That spine of yours that tempts me / Like a devil’s snake.” Reading the lines, one does not need to look far for an interpretation.

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Illustration by Geraldine Sy

5

In the short story titled “Limbo” (apparently envisioned as we reached the ridge’s peak), the narrator, sensing the story’s coming end, refused to continue lest he might disappear afterward. So he went back narrating in reverse, risking the story to fall into a frightening absurdity: “The summit awaits all of us. But I fear we have nothing to see there afterward. Shall we continue? Shall we continue? But I fear we have nothing to see there afterward. The summit awaits all of us.” The story went on and back.

6

Oddly enough, I conceived of an essay, titled “At the End of the Tunnel,” stating that “the end is imminent, so even if one is alive here and now, one should consider himself dead and gone already, for the future is inevitable and as irrevocable as the past…. In the journey of life, the light at the end of the tunnel is the light of the end—that is, death—and the darkness inside the tunnel was that of life.” Unlike the narrator in “Limbo,” we have been nearing the end of our stories one line at a time, and “in the end, we are all nothing but words.”

7

So that’s all I’m able to retrieve from the dream. In another timeline’s future, I may have completely written all those pieces better or perfectly. And probably some future is now reading this article, since, to quote Borges, “the future already exists now.”

8

I hope, in some future out there, I have read and written all the books I want before “getting out of the tunnel.”

(Published on Sun.Star Weekend, October 9, 2016)

Pinoy-Style Teambuilding at Asean Tourism Summit

“One vision, one identity, one community.”
—The ASEAN Motto

The ASEAN Plus Three Youth Tourism Summit

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The ASSOCIATION of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—consisted of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam—was constituted on August 8, 1967 with aims “to accelerate economic growth, social progress, and cultural development…through joint endeavors and to promote peace and stability” throughout the southeast Asian regions.

On the twelfth assembly of ASEAN, China, Japan, and Republic of Korea (ROK) tourism ministers held in Vientiane, Lao PDR, last January 2013, the ASEAN Plus Three Tourism Cooperation Work Plan 2013–2017 had been outlined, and Philippines and Thailand were chosen as lead coordinators for this grand undertaking.

The Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT)—following the success of its previous summit hosting last September 28 to October 3, 2015, held in Cebu and Bohol—had invited three youth delegates from each ASEAN nation, an ASEAN secretariat and a marketing coordinator, and sixteen delegates from different regions of the Philippines for the fourth ASEAN Plus Three Youth Tourism, themed “Scenes. Senses. ASEAN Spirit.”

The “ASEAN Spirit” in Siquijor and Dumaguete City (June 19 to 25)

Upon arriving in Sibulan-Dumaguete Airport, the delegates were greeted by the DOT and the Provincial Tourism Office (PTO) of Negros Oriental with the “warm, natural smiles and unmatched hospitality” Filipinos were known for and were then escorted to Coco Grove Beach Resort in Siquijor, where a barrio-fiesta welcome dinner, orientation, and a set of local cultural presentations prepared by the Siquijor tourism office awaited them.

Barrio-Fiesta Dinner Welcome

The delegates were delighted with the series of workshops, lectures, and forums on the tourism industry, ecological conservation, and cultural appreciation the DOT facilitated the following day. This was then amplified and put into focus by an island tour wherein the delegates were brought to ASEAN homestay awardees and local attractions such as the San Isidro Labrador Church and Convent, Cambuhagay Falls, the fish spa at the “enchanted” century-old balete tree, and to where they could buy the rumored, mysterious amulets, or “anting-anting,” and love potions, or “lumay.”

Anting-Anting and Lumay

Fish Spa at Century-Old Balete Tree

San Isidro Labrador Church
Cambuhagay Falls2

Sunset Sail with MV Coco Princess

Group sharing bonfire

And in Dumaguete City, the delegates had their race-style tour where they “really felt the warm touch of the Filipino community” on a dry and lovely morning. The delegates had to search for the Bay Walk, Campanario de Dumaguete, Silliman University (to ask students to teach them local songs and crafts), and the city’s delicacies (e.g. Sylvanas). After which, they had their afternoon symposium about the ASEAN Tourism Development Plan, at Bethel Guest House, which was also attended by local tourism and hospitality students.

Preparation for the Race-Style Tour

The Race

One of the pit stops. Take a groufie at the iconic bay walk

The delegates searching for local delicacies

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At Silliman Fine Arts

At the Campanario

At Bethel Guest House

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IMG_6765Not long after checking in to Bahura Resort and Spa, the delegates were brought back to the iconic bay walk where the majestic and magical “Flavors of Dumaguete” program and presentation was going to be held that evening. The following morning, the delegates were brought to Tañon Strait for dolphin watching and to the Manjuyod Sandbar for lunch.

“Pinoy-Style” Team-Building Activities

Facilitated by Cebu Teambuilding Facilitators' Network

Proudly representing Cebu Teambuilding Facilitators’ Network (CTFN), Lorenzo Jose Cahig and Nicolo Nasol employed Pinoy games as team-building activities, such as “Bahaw-Bahaw,” “Slipper Game,”and “Patintero”; this set was paired with teaching the delegates folk songs and children’s rhymes like “Leron-Leron Sinta,” “Tatlong Bebe,” “Bahay Kubo, “Sampung Palaka” and having them choreograph and perform their own interpretative dance of the song.

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Slipper Game

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Bahaw-Bahaw

The debriefing of each activity was followed by discussing Filipino values (e.g. Bayanihan) and relating them with the cultures of the other ASEAN nations. The Pinoy games proved to be impactful learning experiences as the delegates were affected not just physically and mentally but emotionally as well, and they even realized the striking resemblances of each other’s cultures, thus sensing a newly found camaraderie and belongingness.

Patintero

Debriefing after the activity

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Tatlong BebeDuring “the carousel,” the climactic activity of the team building, held at the viewing dock of the Balinsasayao and Danao Twin Lakes, the delegates felt how close they were bonded by the Pinoy games and the summit itself and were in tears throughout the activity.

Balinsasayao and Danao Twin Lakes

The ASEAN Youth Toursim Circle after the Carousel

The Carousel Activity at the lake viewing dock

The Carousel Activity2 (Thanking the facilitators with a full group hug)

Commitment, Cultural Exchange, Culmination

The delegates in their national costumes

The “intended major output” of the summit is the Youth’s Declaration of Commitments that “highlights their vision” for the tourism youth. This was held in Bahura Resort and Spa, which was preceded by the awarding and cultural presentations of each country’s delegates, performed wearing their national costumes.

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(Published on Sun.Star Weekend Cebu: July 28, 2016; All photos by CHADA photography)

A Thousand Beers Ago

If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget;
if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate;
and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.
—Charles Bukowski

A THOUSAND BEERS AGO, I still recall, my best friend took on the question “How can you fall for someone who’s completely over you?” during a drinking session at Fruits and Foods, our favorite bar. When he said “over,” he actually meant “above,” not over as in dead and done. So again, how can you fall for someone who’s completely “above” you? He alone tried answering his inquiry to this paradox. I listened. His thoughts shot deeper into the night until he arrived at an answer: “One just needs to be Superman, so he can fly higher than where she is, and then fall for her.

I laughed at once at this drunkard’s nonsense and almost flipped the table over, but I was stunned upon realizing it must be a vague allusion to Nietzsche’s Übermensch, the Overman.

Believe me, my best friend’s a genius—a rather misguided one at that, especially with a little influence of alcohol. But he’s the unfortunate guy who suddenly falls asleep no matter how savory and sexually accommodating the chicks we are drinking with are. (His tolerance for alcohol back in those days was weaker than a girl’s—unbelievably low.) Well, that means two things: one, more beers for me, and two, I get to take all the ladies.

All are true except for the “ladies” part. Mind you, we don’t drink to get laid (such act goes against my drinking ethics). Heck, we don’t even drink for the taste (we even seek Kulafu if it’s available and the mood calls for it). In all truthfulness, we desperately drink and offer a toast for the enlightenment and salvation of mankind, and seriously so. To quote from the book Alcoholica Esoterica by Ian Lendler, “a bottle of beer contains more poetry and philosophy than any other books in the world.”

(There’s no refuting Lenders statement. Its reverberance, long-stuck and percussive in my ears, soon led me to constitute my own unwritten fundamentals in drinking. One fundamental, carrying the force of a Zen koan, is “To drink is to know, and to know is to not drink.”)

******

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Illustration by Geraldine Sy

My best friend and I drink for wild pleasure and celebration, of course, setting aside our intellectual ambitions for our hedonistic pursuits (this we try to keep in moderation). Inevitably, we drink for our dramas as well. Fact is, during life’s most tumultuous and trying times, you just want to sleep dead drunk for the night and wake up, regretfully, the next day with an even deadlier hangover.

There are times when I need a strong drink so I can write without inhibitions, but alcohol worsens my already god-awful penmanship. Reading the draft when I get sober, I can only make out, barely and with effort, the first paragraph. The rest of it resembles a drug addict’s scrawl on the walls.

Here I present to you a line I scrawled during one of my flights of intoxication: “Alcohol makes emotions inflammable, and it takes only a single question to lick both into flames.”

What lucidity only a drunk mind is capable of attaining! In vino nobis veritas, as they say (“In wine, there is truth”). A drunk mind is as mysterious as it is dangerous.

I am a bit proud of my ability to remember my drunken moments, however cringe-worthy, grotesque, and shameful my acts may be, as not everyone recalls his flights during intoxication; and even when they do, they wish to forget all of it. But not me.

******

My best friend and I have been drinking at my place for some nights now, catching up, for we haven’t seen each other for months. It has dawned on me that we are still asking the same questions regarding life. (To interject a line, “As time flies, what remains the same? The question remains the same.”) Are we still as naive as when we were in college?

If so, a thousand more beers then.

(Published on Sun.Star Weekend Cebu: July 31, 2016)

Book Nook: Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut

I had to laugh like hell.
—Kurt Vonnegut

HOCUS POCUS is a grim, depressing, yet terribly funny, fictional autobiography of General Eugene Debs Hartke, a person who never masturbated and uttered neither blasphemy nor profanity in his life. His parents died in a freak accident in Niagra Falls without ever knowing what hit them. His wife and mother-in-law, carrying a powerful strain of insanity, turned into lunatics. His son and daughter, upon knowing that they too could end up in an insane asylum, couldn’t forgive them for reproducing. Gene also has a son out of wedlock, who was named after a cocktail.

Gene dreamed of being a jazz pianist or a journalist, but “life being what it was” placed him in West Point and made him lieutenant colonel during the Vietnam War, an accomplishment which made his frustrated father real proud.

That path to West Point was all thanks to the “helmsman of his destiny,” Sam Wakefield, a lieutenant colonel he met during the high school science fair, who would commit suicide years later and leave a very ambiguous and absolutely unoriginal note: “My work is done.”

As a professional soldier, Gene would have welcomed a returning Christ  with a napalm air strike, if ordered to do so by his superiors. At the end of the book, he would reveal the number of people he had killed in the war and how many women he had slept with.

When the Vietnam War was over—which was “nothing but the ammunitions business”—Gene met Sam again, who then hired him as a professor in Tarkington College, which was a correctional insititute, to teach physics and music appreciation to affluent learning-disabled students, or “seemingly hopeless cases of plutocratic juvenile incapacities,” whom no conventional universities would dare accept.

The college did rather well and proved that they could teach what the other universities thought to be unteachable: some of their graduates were successful in life and even became among the nation’s great men.

Spent in this institution were Gene’s happiest days—not as a teacher, but as a carillon player at the beginning and end of classes. He was a good teacher and was a students’ favorite, but he would soon be fired because of “life being what it was.”

Gene landed another job on a maximum-security prison as a teacher to the illiterate and dangerous convicts who were never allowed set foot with society again, and there he contracted tuberculosis. Then one night, a prison break was successful—the largest in American history—with the Tarkington College just across the frozen lake that separated them.

He was inside a prison library when he wrote his scrap autobiography. And so it goes.

Hocus-Pocus

The novel’s format is unparalleled in its unique brilliance: “The narrator wrote this book in pencil on everything from brown wrapping paper to the backs of business cards, from scrap to scrap, as though each were a bottle to fill,” hence the nonlinearity of the story line, a signature Vonnegutian device, which makes this work entropic, digressive, challenging, and anticlimactic.

The story can be summed up as an old war veteran’s retrospection of his life, like taking into account the number of the people he killed in the war and the women he slept with. This method allowed Vonnegut to go on a “freewheeling commentary,” and not without the raging moral outrage and ridicule, on war, fate, society, racism, and politics, business, and education.

The rhythm of Kurt Vonnegut’s “sharp-toothed” and stoical witticisms remains irreproachable and inimitable, and none of his literary inheritors come close to his satirical and philosophical bents.

Definitely among the 20th century’s greatest novels, Hocus Pocus stands as a depressing vision of humanity. Vonnegut states, “I am not writing this book for people below the age of 18, but I see no harm in telling young people to prepare for failure rather than success, since failure is the main thing that is going to happen to them.”

(Published on Sun.Star Weekend Cebu: June 19, 2016)

Cebu Monthly Flea Market Pushes for “Wasteless Movement”

We are not to throw away those things which can benefit our neighbor.
Goods are called good because they can be used for good:
they are instruments for good, in the hands of those who use them properly.
— Clement of Alexandria (150?–220?)

Poster by Malot Aznar (1)

Poster by Malot Aznar

CREATED by Diana Quartin, the #Wasteless: Cebu Monthly Flea Market aims to make “a better Cebu where things don’t get wasted” and, instead, get passed on to other people’s hands.” Now approaching its third month — the first one held last March 19, the second one last April 19, and the most recent last May 15, all at Handuraw Pizza Gorordo — the event continues to promote the “wasteless movement” and sets a trend being the first and only monthly flea market in the city.

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Nikie Jabonero-Larano’s sexy stall!

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Inexpensive items and secondhand articles such as shoes, clothes, DVDs, accessories, handmade items, scarves, kimono tops, palazzo pants, wristband flash drives, cameras, a washing machine, deodorants, swimwear, board shorts, kitchen supplies, PCs and PC parts, books, magazines, and crochet items were sold at the flea market. Local arts and crafts entrepreneurs like Gama Hand Crafts and Lilila Primitive Art also participated and sold their items.

Ten percent of the sales will go to the elected foundation of the month: on the first month, it went to Pandoo Foundation, an NGO that funds and leads outreach efforts in Southeast Asia (also tied with Pandoo Nation, an innovative online game world for kids), and on the second month, it went to EN/Ability’s building of the rehabilitation village for children with special needs in Borbon. EN/Ability is an organization whose “purpose is to develop sustainable and cost-effective programs to provide early detection and intervention for underserved children in Cebu Province who are at developmental risk, and to empower families in the care of their children with developmental delays.”

 

Malot Aznar's Books

Malot Aznar’s Books on the rush!

During the event, Angel Briones, vice president of the EN/Ability Project, gave a brief lecture on occupational, physical, and speech therapy. She also lectured on how to do an assessment for kids with special needs and on giving home exercise programs for them. Doogie Pagaduan followed up with a lecture on the dangerous effects of plastic and on how to make a cleaner and greener Cebu by reducing plastic usage.

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Ukelele Cebu

Last month’s flea market was open from noon until evening, and all throughout the event, a duet from Ukelele Cebu charmed the buyers with their serenades. With food, pizzas, drinks, music, and affordable, beautiful stuff all in one place, the event is also perfect for a weekend recreation with family and friends. And to those who are interested in joining the event, you can visit their Facebook page, Cebu’s Monthly Fleamarket, for updates.

(Published on Sun.Star Weekend: May 29, 2016)

Descent Extreme: Rolling Down the Winding Roads with the 7th Visayan Longboarding Trilogy

The epitome of the Philippine longboarding scene.
An experience that defines the spirit of longboarding in this side of the world. 
—Juan Duazo, owner of Driftwood Local Enterprises

Photo Credits to All Day Media.

Photo Credits to All Day Media

EXTREME SPORTS such as longboarding is yet to be standardized here in the Philippines. Point in fact, only a really few Filipinos understand the intricate physics working behind the sport.

Skaters rolling their wheels in the busy streets, abandoned parking lots, and secret alleyways are oftentimes regarded by society as eccentrics who are “wasting time” and “not thinking about their parents or their future.”

Photo Credits to All Day Media (3)

“Reckless fools! Maybe they’re cutting classes, doing drugs, or drinking.” “Don’t they know how dangerous it is?” Such classic derogatory remarks stem from the general public’s misunderstanding and prejudice over skateboarding. (Another case would be the absence of a decent skatepark in the city while the presence of a basketball court is almost everywhere.) Despite society’s lack of support and judgments, the skater’s spirit won’t break all that easy and will continue to rise.

A group of longboarders is slowly but steadily making a breakthrough in the country’s culture that they caught the eyes of internationally acclaimed skaters who are now joining them in spreading the true spirit of the sport with fellow Filipinos.

Photo Credits - Mediadelic

Photo Credits – Mediadelic

“The simplicity of life and brotherhood brought up by skating is what we want to share,” Joseph Falcone, an experienced longboard racer and a skateboard craftsman for Driftwood Local Enterprises, states during the press conference for the 7th Visayan Longboarding Trilogy, an annual pilgrimage of longboarders, held at KOA Tree House last April 2, 2016.

Photo Credits - Mediadelic

Photo Credits – Mediadelic

Now Asia’s grandest longboarding event, the fourteen-day Visayan longboarding trilogy kicked off in the wonderful island of Siquijor for the Mystical Island Freeride and Traditional Race (April 5–7) and continued and culminated in the mystifying spots of Cebu, in Oslob for the Super Mango Skate Clinic (April 10–12), which was hosted by the world’s #1 pro downhill skateboarder, Patrick Switzer, and in Carcar for the Veggie Hill International Downhill Federation (IDF) World Qualifying Series Race (April 15–17). Almost 300 participants joined the IDF race.

*****

Here’s the list of winners:

Mystical Island (Siquijor) Traditional Race Winners

Photo credit - Grupo Nopo (2)

Class A (Open) Category

Champion – Riley Harris (Canada)
1st runner-up – Tiny Catacutan (Philippines)
2nd runner-up – Lawrence Thompson (Australia)
3rd runner-up – Mitchell Thompson (Australia)

Photo credit - Nerissa Althia Ravina

Photo credit – Nerissa Althia Ravina

Class B Category

Champion – Cameron Hancock (Australia)
1st runner-up – Brian Russel Banzal (Philippines)
2nd runner-up – Gene Nillas (Canada)
3rd runner-up – Sebastian Redila (Philippines)

Juniors’ Category

Champion – Charlie Guitering (Philippines)
1st runner-up – Franz Brian “Pantoy” Solasco (Philippines)
2nd runner-up – RJ Ancot (Philippines)
3rd runner-up – Charles “Bodeck” Reuyan (Philippines)

Photo credits - Trina Risos

Photo credits – Trina Risos

Women’s Category

Champion – Abigail Viloria (Philippines)
1st runner-up – Sharon Marie Diocera (Philippines)
2nd runner-up – Elissa Mah (New Zealand)
3rd runner-up –Anna Pixner (Austria)
4th runner-up – Kara Marbe Urbiztondo (Philippines)

Photo credits - Trina Risos

Photo credits – Trina Risos

Super Mango Clinic (Oslob) Stand-Up Race Winners

Photo credit - Patrick Switzer

Photo credit – Patrick Switzer

Champion – RJ Ancot (Philippines)
1st runner-up –Tiboy Santiago (Philippines)
2nd runner-up – Michael De la Serna (Philippines)
3rd runner-up – Manu Duhamel (Canada)

Photo credit - Grupo Nopo

Photo credit – Grupo Nopo

Photo credit - Patrick Switzer

Photo credit – Patrick Switzer

Photo credit - Patrick Switzer

Photo credit – Patrick Switzer

Grupo Nopo Outlaw (San Fernando) Invitational Winners

Champion – Roy Churchland (Australia)
1st runner-up – Danny Carlson (Canada)
2nd runner-up – DandoyTongco (Philippines)
3rd runner-up – Sam Randalls (Canada)

GN Invitational Winners left to right CHAMPION Roy Churchland - 2nd Place Danny Carlson - 3rd Place Dandoy Tongco - 4th Sam Randalls - Photo Credit to Grupo Nopo

GN Invitational Winners left to right CHAMPION Roy Churchland – 2nd Place Danny Carlson – 3rd Place Dandoy Tongco – 4th Sam Randalls – Photo Credit to Grupo Nopo

Veggie High IDF World Qualifying Series (Carcar) Winners

Open Category
Champion – Patrick Switzer (Canada)
1st Runner-up – Riley Harris (Canada)
2nd Runner-up – Max Ballesteros (Brazil/USA)
3rd Runner-up – Danny Clarkson (Canada)

Women’s Category

Champion – Rachel Bruskoff (USA)
1st runner-up – Elissa Mah (New Zealand)
2nd runner-up – Jenny Schaurte (United Kingdom)
3rd runner-up – Tamara Prader (Switzerland)

IDF Women's Division - Left to Right - Rachel Bruskoff 1st - Elissa Mah 2nd - Jenny Schaurte 3rd - Tamara Prader 4th - Photo by Aubrey Bejec

IDF Women’s Division – Left to Right – Rachel Bruskoff 1st – Elissa Mah 2nd – Jenny Schaurte 3rd – Tamara Prader 4th – Photo by Aubrey Bejec

Juniors’ Category

Champion – Franz Brian “Pantoy” Solasco (Philippines)
1st runner-up – Sebastian Chanco (Philippines)
2nd runner-up – Enrique Chino Padin (Philippines)
3rd runner-up – Mario Nathaniel Umali (Philippines)

IDF Juniors' Division - Left to Right - Franz Solasco 1st - Sebastian Cinco 2nd - Enrique Padin 3rd - Mario Umali 4th - Photo by Mcflurry Adriano

IDF Juniors’ Division – Left to Right – Franz Solasco 1st – Sebastian Cinco 2nd – Enrique Padin 3rd – Mario Umali 4th – Photo by Mcflurry Adriano

IDF Masters’ Division

1st place  – Benjamin Hay (Australia)
2nd place – Ryan Nicholls (Australia)
3rd place – Caloy Sambrano (Philippines)

IDF Masters' Division - Left to Right - 3rd Caloy Sambrano - 1st Place Benbro Hay  - 2nd Ryan Nicholls  - Photo by Ering Ricablanca

IDF Masters’ Division – Left to Right – 3rd Caloy Sambrano – 1st Place Benbro Hay – 2nd Ryan Nicholls – Photo by Ering Ricablanca

*****

Photo Credits to All Day Media

Photo Credits to All Day Media

Photo Credits to All Day Media

Photo Credits to All Day Media

Photo Credits to All Day Media

Photo Credits to All Day Media

The Visayan Longboarding Trilogy aims “to unite the local skating communities in the country and strengthen the foundations of this sprouting lifestyle”; to develop “riding skills, first aid and safety awareness, and to teach lessons on how to be an ambassador in one’s community.” It also aims to create a breakthrough in the sport, thus improving its integrity and safety, and to appreciate our own talents that are now competing on a world-class level.

The trilogy inspires eco-extreme sports tourism in the Philippines island paradises.

(Published on Sun.Star Weekend: April 24, 2016)

“Thy Will, Will Not Be Done”: The Dictate of the Human Conscience

Only those who are truly religious can avail the luxury of skepticism.
—Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols,
or, How to Philosophize with a Hammer

I have found God, but He is insufficient.
—Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

FIRST AND FOREMOST, I would like to note to the reader that I am neither a theologian nor a scholar of philosophy; I am simply a man without profession who is conducting the following moral scrutiny under the rudimentary dialectic acquired through a life devoted to literature and psychology. Admittedly, I am self-conscious over tackling a subject in which I may be direly underqualified to discuss. Nonetheless, I wish to proceed with my conjecture.

me

The contemplation on the life and death of Christ, evoked by the Lent season, has impelled me to undertake the arduous task of composing an essay born of strife toward the conventional standpoint from which Christ’s crucifixion is viewed: as a glorious, miraculous event because through Christ’s death and resurrection, mankind’s grace and relationship with God are restored.

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So here shall I properly begin my analysis:

In The Brothers Karamazov chapter entitled “Rebellion,” Dostoyevsky’s character Ivan Karamazov boldly states that mankind’s salvation rested on “the blood of a tortured child” (Christ is as innocent and pure as a child) and that a respectable man upon realizing this should “return God’s ticket” as its price will have cost him his conscience because the “ticket” has been soaked in the blood of the innocent. “If the suffering of children is required to pay for the original sin, I’d take no part of it.” Ivan speaks of children to make his point obvious: that eternal life is overpriced because it demands the sacrificing of the “lamb.”

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Is it right to let an innocent be punished for another man’s sins? It has been preached over the centuries that out of love, Christ bore all mankind’s punishment in the cross. To quote my best friend,

What happened actually on a hill full of barbarians and soldiers on a good Friday afternoon was that the probability of bloodshed was shouldered by one man, on that one single moment of uncontainable glory.

The said perspective never fails to arouse indignation in me. I believe that the crucifixion is unjustifiable since “[that] child’s tear will remain unatoned for” even if He were resurrected and humanity were delivered from sin. (How could not letting an innocent die be a sin in itself—not to God, but to humanity?) Furthermore, how could the sight of a helpless child asking why he was forsaken seemed to have been overlooked as though his tears bore no weight? Is it all because his torment is part of God’s plan?

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Still, it is impossible to raise objections against God; what right do I—a mere human being—have to rectify an existence that is perfectly beyond me? God’s logic can’t ever be argued since it is “the reasoning of another world, and it’s incomprehensible to the human heart here on earth.” However—and this is the crux of this note—that same premise urges me to rebel because God’s otherworldly reasoning does not apply to the human conscience.

The crucifixion account allows us probe into the nature of absolute obedience and fear (both construed as signs of faith) and how these values cost man his humanity: when Jesus told the apostles about the prophecy, Peter rebuked him, saying that shall never happen. But Jesus said that it is all written and they should do nothing but fulfill God’s will.

But what is the cost of this faith but the death of conscience? (God’s ordering of Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on Genesis 22 prefigures this.) The apostles understood it was God’s will for Jesus to die on the cross for the salvation of the world and get resurrected.

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The cross symbolizes what God has done—offering to the world “His only begotten Son” (Jn. 3:16)—in order to redeem the world from sin; the cross is also a grim reminder of the blood sacrifice: “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). In the Old Testament, “spotless animals” are sacrificed in place of the sinner: this foreshadows the sacrificing of Christ, “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

In the crucifixion, we see that not a soul intervened with the authorities and the divine will to defend the innocent; not a soul revolted against the injustice, crying, “Thy will, will not be done!” There is only compromise and fear: the throwing away of conscience for the salvation of man’s soul.

Chicken Abortion

Naa kay eighteen diha, ki?
—Anonymous

I WALKED ALONG the polluted sidewalk downtown where there lay a stretch of street food stalls that habitually begins to grow crowded at the first stroke of twilight. People who just got off from school and work found themselves feasting on the delicacies to relieve their hunger and nerves, sometimes while enjoying a conversation with an acquaintance or a friend, mostly exchanging summaries or anecdotes on how their day went.

Passing by, I could hear peals of laughter, as incessant as the sizzling of food in the scalding oil, and even belches of people whose stomachs were gratified right after the gulp of their beverage, often followed by lighting a cigarette.

I looked with astonishment at the burning of the cigarettes, for their tips stood out perfectly, like crimson stars, between the moonlight and the glares coming from the headlights congested in the road.

The greasy savor in the air suddenly rendered me famished, but somehow absolved me from the whole day of earthly labors.

*****

I was well into my fourth piece of penoy when a group of foreigners lined by the stall I was in. The crowd threw glances at them.

The five foreigners, three men and two women, whom I thought were Americans, looked exhausted, out of breath, undoubtedly from carrying huge backpacks, bags, tents, and rolled sleeping mats. Nevertheless, I saw excitement gleaming from their faces; their eyes were of those beholding the arrival of a long-awaited meal.

At once, I reckoned that the foreign group must have heard myths about Balut and that now they were going to unfold its mystery; one of them confirmed it by saying he found “the Balut.”

The men declared to draw first blood while the women backed them up with cheers.

I listened to the vendor stuttering his way in giving instructions. He guided them through gestures—like pointing at a certain part of the shell—and managed to convey the instructions with precision.

I was surprised at how the men devoured the embryo in an instant, perhaps without even tasting, and certainly without spitting the bits of bones and hairs out; regardless, they expressed delight at its tastiness.

The women’s applause caught the attention of the busy crowd. It was their turn next. But no sooner had they peeled the shells than they backed down at the sight of the embryo.

As though spectators in a show, passersby circled around the stall and cheered for the women.

“Chicken abortion!” I broke in. People, including the foreigners, turned and laughed at my remark; a student even repeated, “Di ta mokaon ani uy, kay chicken abortion.”

One of the women stopped laughing and asked me, “What happens if no one eats them?”

“They’re thrown away,” I said rather coldly. “The reason they’re ‘aborted’ is because the farms here can’t afford to raise them. So even if they were to live, they’d eventually die of starvation. Besides, no one can shelter all of them, and they’d be a nuisance if they’re too many.”

The crowd, I realized, was silent and listening to me the whole time, perhaps never expecting such an insight on the matter.

“Balut,” I continued, “is actually a solution to poultry overpopulation.”

*****
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Illustration by Geraldine Sy

I lit my fourth cigarette while walking into the heart of the downtown, which I fancied to be pumping the traffic of strangers and vehicles into the streets.

The evening declined, and I looked at the moon glowing brighter beyond the rise of the buildings, the sight of it misted by the smoke coming out of my mouth.

I stood on the street corner, listening to the cacophony of wheels, horns, footsteps, and gossips, when a strange memory involving balut sprang into mind:

Once, a sallow balut vendor, who was my “suki” since he was just across the street near my home, confided to me about hearing death rattles of full-grown embryos from inside their shells as he boiled them in his large pot.

(Published on Sun.Star Weekend: March 27, 2016 and on Zerothreetwo, a local online magazine)

Cheers to TINTA! A Toast to Another Bottle of Ink!

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute.
We read and write poetry because
we are members of the human race.
—Sir John Keating, Dead Poets Society


ON THE TENDER NIGHT of the 27th of February 2016, at the 2nd floor of Handuraw Pizza, Gorordo, TINTA of University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu marked its 13th monthly poetry reading, or “Basa Balak,” which was handsomely titled “Kasumaran: Pisik sa mga Tinagsip” (Anniversary: A Splatter of Fragments), as a year already passed since TINTA started breaking ground into the city’s literary landscape.

Denver Torres (Photo by Rika Castro)

Denver Torres

Karla Quimsing (Photo by Rika Castro)

Karla Quimsing

TINTA hosted their largest crowd yet. In attendance were established Cebuano writers Denver Torres, Jona Bering, Karla Quimsing, Anthony Kintanar, and Larry Ypil; various members of the Nomads and BATHALAD, two of the literary circles in Cebu; TINTA poets Jae Magdadaro, Monica Manluluyo, Reyna Cadiz, Astrid Ilano, and Tara Angela Prieto; and Cebu-based start-up Suwh(a)t, whose soulfully hand-crafted notebooks served as prizes for the trivia and “tigmo” session. The audience, mainly composed of youths who brought their own poems, songs, and anecdotes into the open mike segment, contributed largely to the full house event.

Anthony Kintanar (Photo by Rika Castro)

Anthony Kintanar

Suw(h)at is a Cebu-based crafts start-up that seeks to empower individuality and thoughts through carefully crafted and personalized notebooks/paper products. (Photo by Rika Castro)

Suw(h)at is a Cebu-based crafts start-up that seeks to empower individuality and thoughts through carefully crafted and personalized notebooks/paper products.

Overwhelmed by the growing multitude of people appreciating the monthly poetry nights, Tara Angela Prieto, TINTA’s incumbent chairperson and also a graduating psychology student, envisioned a “stronger patronization to these literary events.”

TINTA Chairperson Tara Angela Prieto (Photo by Rika Castro)

TINTA Chairperson Tara Angela Prieto

A Rorschach Test

When the first verses were penned by its founding chairperson, Romeo Nicolas Bonsocan, on June 16, 2011, TINTA no sooner became UP Cebu’s official—and only—creative writing organization. With the guidance and support of Lilia Tio, Januar Yap, and Shane Carreon and the commitment of the group’s members, TINTA, which was initially born of the idea of having an essential creative outlet and “interest-based organization” for students, assumed the form of an inkblot smeared not just in the school walls but also in the walls of contemporary Cebuano literature.

Outside the school’s wrought iron gates, TINTA conducted their own love letter writing contest (2013; the awards night was held at the painfully missed beauty of La Belle Aurore) as well as a literary awards night (2014; this was held at UP Cebu) that drew participants from different universities.

Going in for the Quill

The organization was formerly named “Mga Alagad sa Dagang” (The Order of the Quill). Now, other than being the Cebuano translation for “ink,” TINTA also stands for “Tunob” (footprint), “Iwag” (light), “Nasod” (country), “Talento” (talent), “Alampat” (art)—five components that serve as the organization’s cornerstones.

TINTA’s groundwork activities are to “read, write, and inspire.” They practice their craft through sharing, engaging in discussion, and getting involved in the development of national literature. They also hold several workshops, where they are mentored by Cebu’s literary heroes.

Now stepping into their 5th year, TINTA continues to influence a generation of young writers to move toward a renewal—or a revolution, if you will—of Cebuano literature.

(Published on Sun.Star Weekend: March 13, 2016; photos by Rika Castro)

Book Nook: Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning: On the “Last of the Human Freedoms”

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Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms, that is, to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

TO COMPOSE a brief synthesis of Viktor Frankl’s lucid insights on a prisoner’s self-transcendence over the inhumanity of the Holocaust is the purpose of this essay.

From 1941 until 1945, the Jews were held captive and systematically massacred in the concentration camps under the Nazi territories. The covert methods of this genocide included starvation, heavy manual labor under severe conditions, torture, hanging in the gallows, then mass murders, gas chambers, and crematoriums—methods that, by the final stages of the war, had already decimated approximately 11 million people.

Upon captivity, all possessions were taken away from the prisoners, names replaced by numbers, not a strand of hair left unshaven on their bodies. They were forced to toil like animals, despite their serious malnourishment, and slumber in abominably small bunk beds like stacks of corpses.

Nothing was left of the prisoners’ lives but their hope for liberation and their nakedness to the inevitability of death surrounding them. But amid the gamut of terrors, for three years, Frankl, who was a psychiatrist before the occupation, investigated the camp’s psychology and secretly jotted down notes on scraps of paper that served as the manuscript for his own psychotherapeutic theory: that is logotherapy (logos is Greek for meaning).

In his book Man’s Search for Meaning—an autobiography about his Holocaust experience and an introduction to the concepts of logotherapy—Frankl postulated that “the sort of person a prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, not the result of the camp influences alone.”

Numerous prisoners, after recognizing the impossibility of surviving under the camp’s environment, either ran into the electrically charged fences to commit suicide or simply awaited death to come over their beds. They found no meaning in prolonging their unjustifiable suffering.

But Frankl observed there were a few prisoners who “never lost their ideals in the depths of degradation” and possessed a humor that offered necessary self-detachment and reprieve from the conditions. They endured their suffering honorably and remained as though undaunted in the face of the camp’s thoroughly abject reality.

These odd behaviors, however small in number, Frankl concluded, suffice as proof that the “work of choosing” and the “will to meaning” become the “soul’s weapon in the fight for self-preservation.” As long as there is a deep sense of meaning that fortifies the spirit, an individual can suffer without despair and not become subject to decay.

Logotherapy presupposes that man’s inherent will to meaning and freedom of choice are the authors to his own personality: “Man is more than psyche. […] Man is a self-determining being, man decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment.”

The antithesis of surrendering to the machinery of the base instincts is the discipline of making conscious decisions in each moment. Between stimulus and response is a space of freedom that is solely determined by the individual’s volition.

(Published on Sunstar Cebu ’ZUP Page Book Nook: February 29, 2016)

Keeping a Diary: A Lifelong Discipline

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If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.

—Anais Nin, In Favor of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays


MY INDULGENCE on Henry Miller’s autobiographical novels has led me to Anais Nin, a free-spirited, intelligent woman whose ideas have molded and complemented with Miller’s writings. I’ve no sooner read Nin’s works than she becomes one of the few female writers I adore and venerate.

Nin, a monumental diarist and feminist in the twentieth century, writes “to taste life twice, in the moment and in introspection” and to “recreate [herself] when destroyed by living.” The lifelong and almost-daily practice of keeping a diary has built her “an inner world that can withstand destruction.”

At age 11, Nin has started the diary as a series of letters to her father who abandoned the family. She decides to become a writer. Decades later, the diary has grown into some 150 volumes. The 35,000 pages of handwritten journals are now kept as a unique, uncensored document of a woman’s “multileveled” life contending against puritanical, societal dogmatism and restraints.

Her five novels, collection of short stories, and essays on various subjects, Nin believes, are all “merely outcroppings” from her diary: what she produces outside is “a distillation, the myth, the poem.”

Here, gathered from Nin’s and Miller’s works, are a few methods of their lifelong discipline:

  1. The diary as a confessional and confidant. Begin by “eliminating the idea of the [diary] as [good writing].” Express explicitly and fearlessly. “It’s not an exercise in literature; it’s an exercise in our lives.”
  2. Automatic writing. This is devised by the surrealists to bypass consciousness. It is thought without effort and control. Write “unconsciously,” with abandon and digressiveness, as though possessed by spirits. Besides its cathartic effect, this method introduces intimacy with the cryptic workings of the mind and the “supernatural forces.”
  3. Free association and dreams (techniques in psychoanalysis). The person is given a certain word as a stimulus and is encouraged to report—quickly and without censorship—whatever image or word association that arises in his mind; this is to uncover repressed thoughts.
    When recording dreams, don’t rush to wake up; instead, with eyes still closed, remain in the twilight state (between waking and sleeping), reach inward for that last thread of dream material, and trace back the labyrinth before writing. Note down impressions of the dream. List a string of free associations stemming from the dream elements (e.g., a stab wound in the dream could be related to the fear of death or suppressed sexual arousal in real life).
  4. Various compositions. Write insights on specific subjects (e.g., relationship traumas), portraits/sketches (e.g., impressionistic reviews of places, events, and character analysis of people), letters, imagined moments, and dialogues.

Keeping a diary, as Nin said, is a necessity to everyone’s “becoming” as the daily logs put life into deliberate attention and reflection. The diary is an “instrument for living” that should be not only for writers but also for anyone from any walks of life.

(Published on Sunstar Cebu ’ZUP Page Book Nook: February 8, 2016)

In and Out the Labyrinth of the Mind (A Personal Note on Gestalt Therapy’s Impact)

 

The most tremendous voyages are sometimes taken without moving from the spot.
—Henry Miller, The World of Sex

 

THE GESTALT MARATHON is an indoor, static marathon, with all its participants inside a large, conducive room weary and confounded from the in-depth processes, emotional exercises, experimentations, and self-encounters and discoveries yet equipped with an awareness so sharp it cuts deep through the surface of their perceived experience and evokes rich and different perspectives from within—perspectives that are at least insightful, freeing, and integrative, if not directly curative.

`           Awareness per se, by and in itself, can be curative. (Perls)

In August 2009, after two days of intensive self-awareness activities, I have stepped upon this new ground where I have made contact with myself and understood “awareness” not just in its psychical nature but also in its biological, instinctive sense (as an élan vital that encompasses not just humans but all of life). “Our awareness is all that is alive and maybe sacred in us. Everything else about us is dead machinery” (Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions).

Though abstract—and sometimes abstruse, elusive, and ineffable—awareness also seemed like a state of matter, at least to me: I have my hands on it, uncomprehendingly feeling its fluctuations, its rising and falling (a lifeline), and its pulsing, as though a heart, from the deepest trenches of my skull-sized ocean.

Franz Kafka spoke of literature “as an axe with which we chop at the frozen seas inside us.” The same thing can be said of the Gestalt marathon. With all the compression and pressure already inside the participants—their lifelong suppressed issues and traumas remaining incessantly percussive via neuroses—the release is akin to an eruption of a dormant volcano that has long forgotten about its own existence but suddenly awakens from this amnesia of living.

The Gestalt marathon offered me a chance to let my deep-seated feelings burst and tear down my prison and chains, albeit not permanently. When I found out that, by theory and experience, there’s a rhythmic relationship (contact and withdrawal) even to such things like freedom and captivity, I started building another prison, this time, of my own choosing: it is an inner world where I can give my thoughts free rein without extrinsic influences and only led by pure impulses bubbling from the well that is my soul (my organism). I believe that opposites complement one another, as in the principles of Taoism of light and darkness. Truth is that nature is cyclic, inevitable, and necessary.

The walls of this prison mirror my solitude, but this voyage of the mind arrives at a fecundity of potentials that is seeking to be drawn into life and to participate in reality. It’s like slipping into a dream and waking up with Samuel Coleridge’s flower in hand.

What if you slept
And what if
In your sleep
You dreamed
And what if
In your dream
You went to heaven
And there plucked a strange and beautiful flower
And what if
When you awoke
You had that flower in you hand
Ah, what then? (Coleridge)

Conversely (this time, the flower is from the outside), at moments of selfless subjectivity, which I soon learn from Gestalt therapy, I take note of how an external stimulus passes “through my senses and into my mind” and watch the whole course of this awareness continuum bifurcating through the labyrinth, along with its curious loops and random turns and associations. This is why time passes inside the mind differently (in our heads lies a “battleground of invisible forces”).

We are aware of the age-old adage of the “mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.” The mind is the center where we process what our senses gathered. The Gestalt marathon freed my mind—and thus freed me from it—and attuned me well with my senses. An awareness that is not just run by the brain but also by the pleading of the guts has been born. (The finish line of the marathon is integration: the mind-and-body split made whole.)

The “frozen seas” are chopped down; the seas become an ocean. My awareness circles above like a bird. But all of life follows the rhythm of life. Parts of my ocean will, in its own time, freeze. However, that’s not a bad thing; it has to happen so I can rest on top the labyrinths.

Koryu, look. The birds are going back north.
I wonder who said that birds are free?
Though they fly in the sky freely,
If they had no place to arrive or branches to rest on,
They might even regret having wings.
What is true freedom?
It is, perhaps, having a place to go back to. (Koumyou Sanzo)

Book Nook: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: On “Burning” Books

2c8fbe5e4422715ae29c6caef51be045“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.”

“It was a pleasure to burn.”

FAHRENHEIT 451 (1952) opens with this frightening line. Ray Bradbury writes of a dystopian future where books are burned along with the homes where they are hidden. Here, the firemen’s job is to start fires instead of putting them out. The masses are addicted to watching and discussing TV shows flashing from their “four-walled televisors” and are oblivious or indifferent regarding the imminent genesis of a nuclear war—about their world being “swept with confused alarms and struggle and flight / where ignorant armies clash by night” (Arnold, Dover Beach).

Hitherto, Bradbury’s prophetic legacy remains resonant—even almost solid and identical—in its unnerving resemblances and implications to this modern era of rapid technological progress but with the most of humanity still mindless of its repercussions. Take for example the irony of their ignorance: with tons of information bombarded and crammed into people’s heads, only a little time is now left for quiet introspection and skepticism. People are “[rushed] quickly to conclusions [their] minds [haven’t] time to protest” and thus learning only a little, which is “a dangerous thing” (Pope, An Essay on Criticism).

Due to the ubiquity of the Internet, the endless blabber flooding the social media, and the online articles abominably compressed for quick, shallow reading, elements essential to critical thinking—such as “the quality of information,” the patience and “the leisure to digest it,” and “the [carrying] out [of] actions based on the interaction of the previous two”—are inanely abandoned.

History does not lack but rather possess an almost plethoric memory that bears the perversities of obliterating books, libraries, and whole nations. During the Nazi regime, a bonfire for thousands of books was set in the streets of Berlin, Germany. “Where one burns books, one will soon burn people” (Heine). The first Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang also commanded the rigorous abolition of the all chronicles written before his reign and the burying of their scholars because he wanted history to begin with him. The ancient library of Alexandria, a house of incalculable scrolls, suffered from fires throughout the centuries.

Destroying books is the prime symbol of censorship and oppression of thought. But “you don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture,” says Bradbury. “Just get people to stop reading them.” In Fahrenheit 451, we must note that before the government decreed the burning of books, it was the public who first turned away from reading.

(Published on Sunstar Cebu ’ZUP Page Book Nook: January 18, 2016)

On Constant Book Circulation


We should read to give our souls a chance to luxuriate.
Henry Miller

 

THE ARGENTINE WRITER Jorge Luis Borges, who is also a hedonistic reader, has “always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” (In his short story “The Library of Babel,” Borges conceives the universe as an infinite Library.)

According to Henry Miller, an expatriate American writer whose libertine spirit broke literary conventions, “a book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition. Like money, books must be kept in constant circulation… When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, a Russian novelist immortalized for his unflinching analysis of the human psyche, “[viewed reading as] an important occupation.”

For someone like me who doesn’t own an “infinite library” and who has been unfortunately traumatized after listing the unreturned books my friends borrowed for too long a time that it’s almost a Herculean task to borrow them back, the idea of “my books spending leisure time with [other people]” has become repulsive. Well, that’s an obvious exaggeration; however, it gets my point across clearly.

So in lieu of my neurosis and contempt for the business of lending books, I figured that the occupation of writing succinct book reviews and recommendations suffices as a practice of constant book circulation:

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Borges’s Ficciones (1962) is an erudite collection of short fictions written by gargantuan hands of imagination: a literal endless labyrinth of books, an obscure group of geniuses conceiving a whole universe, an author who attempts to “rewrite” Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote word for word, a dreamer who was dreamt in return, a paraplegic whose perfect memory was a “long metaphor for insomnia,” an imaginary argument posing that history imitates literature, a scholarly commentary on an nonexistent book, and more stories that blur the distinction between fact and fiction.

Tropic of cancer.jpg for real

Tropic of Cancer (1934), Miller’s notorious autobiographical novel, was banned for thirty years following its publication due to its explicit language and themes—thus immediately emerging as a cult figure. Miller, a penniless and starving young writer, recounts the joy, freedom, and misery of his Bohemian life in the seedy depths of Paris. His surrealistic prose sketches, existential reflections, social criticisms, and unrestrained stream of digressions and free associations introduced a new form of genre where memoir and fiction were intertwined into one rope. Miller fought against censorship and defended the freedom to read. Tropic of Cancer is one of the books responsible for the “free speech that we now take for granted in literature.”

crime-and-punishment-bookcover

Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment (1866)—a masterpiece and antecedent of psychologically driven novels—is about a delirious, intelligent young man whose logic concluded into the cold-blooded murder of an old, abusive landlady, with him vindicating that he is obligated and permitted to transgress from human laws for the greater good.

(Published on Sunstar Cebu ’ZUP Page: January 3, 2016)

 

Book Nook: The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

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“Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.”

J. D. SALINGER’S magnum opus, The Catcher in the Rye (1951), was a landmark novel in the 20th-century American literature and was listed as one of the best English-language novels of the century. Hailed as that “rare miracle of fiction…[where] a human being has been created out of ink, paper, and the imagination,” this mock-autobiographical story—narrated by a cynical, sardonic, cuss-tongued, yet sensitive and grieving seventeen-year-old Holden Caulfield as he spends his days in a mental asylum—has captivated the imagination of many and sold more than 60 million copies, and continues to sell 250 thousand copies a year.

In the vernacular of his time (the 1940s), which Salinger delivered in an incredible capture of language, Holden tells us “about this madman stuff that happened to [him] around last Christmas just before [he] got pretty run-down” when he went to New York the night following his expulsion from Pency Prep.

The Catcher in the Rye is the mouthpiece of Holden’s rebellion—the launch of his antipathies toward the “phoniness” of adulthood. In the character of Holden, Salinger molded an archetype of “teenage angst and alienation,” almost like a younger-sibling incarnate of the disturbed unnamed narrator in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground.

(Mark David Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon, said, “Because Lennon was a phony.” His response letter composed only of one line: “Read The Catcher in the Rye.”)

World War II created Salinger: the soldier was “the ghost in the machine of all the stories.” Salinger carried chapters of The Catcher in the Rye to help him survive and wrote amid the war. The pages landed on the shores of D-Day, hid in the trenches, and witnessed the atrocities of the concentration camps, all of which were funneled into the novel.

Due to unwanted fame, Salinger went reclusive, and the public invaded him throughout his life.

Though remaining unpublished from 1965 until his death in 2010, he wrote prolifically. In the bunker where he installed himself was a safe full of manuscripts; this was said to contain the complete chronicles of the Caulfield and Glass families, other novels, short stories, and a Vedanta manual. Claims hold that Salinger “left instructions authorizing a specific timetable” that these works be published between 2015 and 2020.

Despite having only a few visible works in his oeuvre, Salinger was a literary giant as The Catcher in the Rye resonates through generations of teenagers caught between childhood and adulthood.

(Published on Sunstar Cebu ’ZUP Page Book Nook: December 13, 2015)

Book Nook: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

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I wanted to destroy something beautiful I’d never have. Burn the Amazon rain forests. Pump chlorofluorocarbons straight up to gobble the ozone. Open the dump valves on supertankers and uncap offshore oil wells. I wanted to kill all the fish I couldn’t afford to eat, and smother the French beaches I’d never see.

I wanted the whole world to hit bottom.

Pounding that kid, I really wanted to put a bullet between the eyes of every endangered panda that wouldn’t screw to save its species and every whale or dolphin that gave up and ran itself aground.

UPON WINNING the Oregon Book Award for best novel and the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award, Chuck Palahniuk’s visionary debut novel, Fight Club, was shot to the veins of mainstream fiction. Following the success of its 1999 film adaptation directed by David Fincher, Fight Club gained cult classic status and has become a disturbingly accurate interpretation of our modern world.

The unnamed male narrator, suffering from a long streak of insomnia, finds cure by attending cancer support groups. But when Marla Singer—a sallow, heavy-smoking nihilist—enters the evening meetings and mirrors his own fraud, his insomnia returns, so he confronts Singer to split schedules with him.

On the night when his condominium mysteriously blows up, he calls Tyler Durden, whom he had previously met—under strange circumstances—on a beach. They agree to meet at a bar, where, after drinking, Durden asks him a favor, “I want you to hit me as hard as you can.”

The narrator swings the punch that cradled Fight Club into the world. Shortly, a multitude of men with white-collar jobs join them. Every weekend, in the parking lots and basements of bars, they hold these late-hour no-holds-barred-and-barefisted fights that “go on as long as they have to.”

These one-on-one melees curiously evoke psychotherapeutic effects—resembling that of enlightenment—within the men: they are reborn from their entombed lives.

Fight Club soon evolves into Project Mayhem, an anarchic army led by Durden, who seeks to fulfill his visions of global enlightenment through organized chaos, public unrest, and demolition.

Fight Club is a social satire on the dehumanizing effects of consumerism: alienation brought by chronic materialism, illusory comforts, overindulgence, and career and lifestyle obsessions fueled by advertising. “The modern world is for business—not for the people,” as what the great psychoanalyst Carl Jung said.

“It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything.” Skillfully fusing Zen elements with Durden’s extremist ideologies, Palahniuk has written a provocative expression of metaphysical rebellion. The collective revolt against the existential vacuum is Durden’s nucleus and what draws men toward him.

Fight Club’s noir ambience and the solid economy of its prose are reminiscent of Albert Camus’s The Stranger, but with the sharp nonlinear narration executing its plot; also inheriting Kurt Vonnegut’s dark humor, Chuck Palahniuk is among today’s distinct and intriguing voices.

(Published on Sunstar Cebu ’ZUP Page Book Nook: December 27, 2015)

Book Nook: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

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Oh, it was gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh. The trombones crunched redgold under my bed, and behind my gulliver the trumpets three-wise silverflamed, and there by the door the timps rolling through my guts and out again crunched like candy thunder. Oh, it was wonder of wonders. And then, a bird of like rarest spun heavenmetal, or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship, gravity all nonsense now, came the violin solo above all the other strings, and those strings were like a cage of silk round my bed. Then flute and oboe bored, like worms of like platinum, into the thick thick toffee gold and silver. I was in such bliss, my brothers.

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1962), Anthony Burgess’s most famous work, suffered from notoriety and controversy when Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation (1971) shocked its audience as it seemed to have glorified violence. The film received critical acclaim and gained cult following. Clockwork Orange was then linked to increasing crime rates and was banned. This “misunderstanding” caused by the film made Burgess disown the book, with him saying that he should have not written it because of the dangers of misinterpretation. Though chosen by TIME magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels, Burgess dismissed Clockwork Orange as a minor work undeserving of its fame, which all the while overshadowed his other major works.

Inspired by the juvenile delinquency of the early 1960s, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and with the rise of the sci-fi genre, the prolific British author Anthony Burgess wrote A Clockwork Orange, a short, transgressive dystopian satire. It was narrated in “Nadsat” language—an imaginary teenage slang invented by Burgess from his studies of Russian—by the Beethoven-loving young thug Alex. Along with his three “droogs”—that is, Pete, Georgie, Dim—the fifteen-year-old Alex leads a life of violence—stealing, beating people, raping, and committing murder with gleeful countenance—until he gets arrested and sentenced fourteen years in prison.

Two years later, still desperate to get out and blind to the repercussions, he was selected to be a test subject for the “Ludovico’s technique,” a Pavlovian conditioning treatment for criminals, and was promised to be released from prison in a fortnight. Afterward, Alex is conditioned to feel sick, paralyzed, and dying whenever he thinks of anything evil. The novel continues with Alex being freed but now deprived of free will.

(In the US edition, the last chapter, which the editors thought unnecessary, is omitted against Burgess’s will.)

Through extreme violence and depravity, Burgess probes the ancient and imperishable philosophical problems of free will, moral choice, and the grinding entities of good and evil in the battleground of man’s heart: “Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness?”

Both a linguist and a musical composer, Burgess has flawlessly orchestrated the linguistic feats in A Clockwork Orange, a reminiscent of what James Joyce did on Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. With his unorthodox mastery of language, Burgess has innovated literature and was called as one of the few and inimitable literary geniuses of all time.

(Published on Sunstar Cebu ’ZUP Page Book Nook: November 15, 2015)

Book Nook: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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“I’m scared of him, and that’s why I know him. If you’re scared of someone you hate him but you can’t stop thinking about him. You kid yourself he’s all right really, an’ then when you see him again; it’s like asthma an’ you can’t breathe…”

LORD OF THE FLIES, written by the Nobel laureate William Golding, is a frightening and influential work of fiction. The macabre maestro Stephen King wrote in his introduction to the book, “Flies always represented what novels are for…not just entertainment, but life and death… The writer’s imagination becomes the reader’s reality.”

First published in 1954, Lord of the Flies is an allegory of man’s descent from cultured, rational thinking to primitive, bloodthirsty savagery. The story took place at the dawn of an atomic war. A plane was shot down, and it crashed on an uninhabited tropical island. The survivors, all schoolboys, were scattered around until the loud, deep blasts from a conch called them together.

Led by Ralph, whom they later voted as chief (unanimously because he had the conch), they formed an assembly and discussed on what to do in the island, how to survive and get rescued. But “the delight of a realized ambition” overcame them—the freedom of having “no grownups” around. This sudden liberation from adult supervision made it difficult for their chief to manage the group, and even himself.

Days of blistering heat and cool, dark nights passed; the boys went on with their daily tasks: playing, building shelters, hunting, keeping fire. Then the littluns (little ones) experienced terrors from imaginary monsters and nightmares the island evoked at night. There’s a “beast” out there, but the biguns (big ones), though anxious, said there was none and even sought out to kill it.

Turmoil stemmed from juvenile misunderstandings. Jack (the head of the “hunters”) grew vehement toward Ralph’s leadership. Thus disorder broke out, splitting the boys into two groups, which soon led to brutality and Ralph’s weeping for the “end of innocence.”

Lord of the Flies’s theme is an attempt “to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature.” The story is an experiment—a group of schoolboys stranded in an island without the guidance of adults—and what’s exposed is the basic wildness lurking within man’s heart, a dormant savagery awakened by the warm spilling of blood; this is what the Freudians call Id, the perpetually repressed “anarchic, amoral” unconscious drive.

Cunningly crafted by the author, the title Lord of the Flies is a translation of the Greek Beelzebub, a name for the devil.

With its dense naturalistic imagery and layers of symbolisms, Lord of the Flies is a masterwork, a modern classic, though an infinitely cynical portrayal of human condition.

(Published on Sunstar Cebu ’ZUP Page Book Nook: October 25, 2015)