A dead man

A friend sent me a message last night after I’d gone to bed about this man he saw collapsing in the middle of a street sometime before midnight. The man was declared dead upon reaching the hospital. Doctor’s findings: cardiac arrest.

Waking up with this message, I knew it would define the rest of my day, determining the lens I will use in looking at things–from a program proposal to an evaluation I am working on. The thought of a man suddenly dying on a rainy night in the middle of the street is bewildering. A column written by a young girl in today’s Inquirer talks about depression and suicide. Being reminded all the time of death and its inevitability is something that a cup of coffee in the morning (whose original aroma has all but deserted it) will never easily erase in one’s thoughts. It’ll linger the whole day constantly telling me that all these are for nothing. That in the end, the choices we make while alive will all converge to that singular last breath that is in fact a commencement of that slow but steady process of forgetting and being forgotten.

My friend told me about how that man’s wife and children “were devastated.” I cannot say for sure how this cliché can aptly describe the feelings of the family. For sure they are. But how accurately does the word ‘devastated’ capture the essence of this emotion, of this eternal feeling of loss, eternity being our very myopic and self-centered idea of forever that only lasts as long as one’s consciousness exists? Even language is at a loss in concretizing death, for only living through death can one truly feel it but still completely unable to express it in the purest sense with words.

And so thoughts on the death of that unknown man pulled me back to thinking today and to its concomitant act of writing. It doesn’t matter how futile the attempt is.

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The much, too much a cacophony of noise on my Facebook page brought me back here on my blog to write again. To do the quieter act of writing that I miss a lot. A writing that’s less angry and bitter. I have gone sick of what seems to be a pressing need for everyone on my Facebook news feeds in expressing his thoughts on almost everything.

Nowadays, one’s silence is considered scandalous, the highest and the worst form of apathy. No one has the right to be quiet anymore lest this silence be interpreted as complicity. Of not doing anything to correct the wrong. I suggest we stop or slow down a little, and ask ourselves where this loquacity has led us. It has made us too busy to listen, too self-conscious, too full of ourselves; oh how we enjoy staring at ourselves being reflected in our witty Facebook status. Our Facebook status has become the quickest way for us to be heard, perhaps the only one thing that empowers us in this space that functions best at deadening our senses. Our only pathetic agency. And the likes are concrete indicators that somehow, somebody’s listening, reducing us all to likes, reducing all existentialist questions to questions of likes.

This ephemerality of our chosen medium, of posts being covered, superseded by other posts supposedly more important than the ones before, not necessarily contending against each other but definitely competing for our fleeting attention, has been a bane to us. This ephemerality has brought us nowhere. Although we have this comforting feeling that as a species we’ve made giant progress, in truth we’re deeper into the void we’re made to feel we have escaped.

We’re still lost, maybe even more lost this time. We’ve lost touch of what we truly value. Reflectiveness is a forgotten value of our time. We’ve all fallen victims to the medium. We fret about concerns of deciduous significance. The present is the only thing that really matters to us. We’ve lost hold of our past. And how we dread the uncertain future. The only thing that’s real is this invented present.

All this because of our grinding desire to be heard now, of a want to express what’s currently in our mind lest it obsolesces the next minute, where we are currently at lest time steals it away from us, who we are currently with lest this person abandons us, what we currently eat. Now this is truly sad. Everything is too important, too important we cannot entrust them to our memories.

Perhaps, this is why I am back here now. I want to relish this page and its beautiful silence that I missed so badly.

Why we need to be angry and nurse this anger

In a country whose people forget just so easily last week’s news items (it matters not much if we’re able to dissect and digest them as this require higher order thinking, let’s only focus on whether we have retention of facts), it’s a wonder how we still are able to maintain that dignity warranted a self-respecting nation. Since this sense of shame (if one is a pessimist) is not mandatory, and whether facts are forced on us or not, we still forget, I’m worried about how much little dignity this nation has left (granting dignity and forgetfulness are interrelated), if it has any to begin with.

After our passion (yes, we are a passionate nation) dissipates into thin air and we begin to forget, so do our anger, hatred (if you want), rage, feeling of propriety, sense of the ridiculous, and sadly our memory.

It is clear why we forget easily. It is our way of coping with all the calamities that strike us, meaningless deaths (it’s odd because death should be spectacular, our finale; it has to be grand, but in this country, death does not have the chance to be tragic like in Greek or Shakespearean tragedies; death here is commonplace), scandals involving our pathetic leaders, (I will not mention) our personal struggles, if only to survive in a country that seems to defy progress and finds itself deteriorating (‘going to the dogs’ would be an exaggeration, but this country always goes against established rules of language; it eats hyperbole on a daily basis, in fact, it is beyond it).

We know we’d all be deranged if we take everything, ourselves most especially, too seriously, like most Japanese, Americans, or Scandinavians do. Suicide is yet to be included in the list of 10 leading causes of death in the Philippines. Hardly will a Filipino place a bullet in his head or gulp a gallon of insecticide. It’s not because we are gullible and believe in the Catholic Church’s teaching that killing ourselves will mean a life spent for eternity in hell. We are scared of death in this country because we know it is going to be prosaic, stripped of all the ideals we have of the final adieu.

It is also for this same reason that we do not get angry. We are enraged, yes, (however, like our passion, it’s short-lived) but because of a fear that we’ll get consumed by this rage, we let ourselves be eaten alive by this conscious forgetfulness, instead. We Filipinos do not get angry because we know we lack the economic leverage, the social capital, and cultural complexity to run amok. The capacity to feel anger is, by the way, deserved. The assumption is that a nation stripped of its dignity relinquishes its right to feel angry. We are unprivileged to express this supposed basic human emotion. And for this we become less of a human being.

This is something the Filipino nation needs to re-learn. We all need to be angry, to feel enraged, no matter how we are undeserving of it, because only then do we become truly free.

What if I die?

People in their twenties fiddle with the idea of dying because death is too remote from where they stand. Suicide is sexy because it is the ultimate form of freedom. Dying for a cause, an ideology, or an advocacy is the noblest reason to die. Giving up one’s life for love is the most romantic justification to terminate life. I used to think this way.

It was only this morning did it become clear to me that these particularly strong statements regarding death are all in the figurative.

I was not scared of dying because I was made to believe that I had my entire life ahead of me. My youth, vitality, passion, I was offering these all to the world. And death was too removed from my reality. It existed in a separate dimension, and that it would not converge with mine until the next fifty years. But what if I could die tomorrow, wouldn’t I be scared? What if I could possibly die at the age of 23, wouldn’t I be scared?

I received a message last night that somebody I barely knew had died. If he were a close friend, I would know the right way to feel. But other than that chance encounter and some failed plans to meet again, the man was an apparition. The situation is alien to me; I do not know how to appropriately react. His path was one of those that Fate mistakenly allowed to cross with mine. But of the many people I’ve met along, he’s one of those I’ve never forgotten

“Hi, i am d sister of Raffy. He owned dis number. He just passed away at 11:20pm. Pls pray 4 his soul.”

He’s too young, around my age, to die. If he died at the age of 23, then my dying tomorrow, this evening, or later, is closer than I thought.

When one knows he’ll die six months from now, he is awed by death’s power and in turn respects and accepts it. When he is in his seventies and knows death is coming anytime but does not certainly know when, he shudders in fear but makes sure that the people around him do not sense this fear. However when one is in his twenties and learns that death is lurking around capable of cutting short all his dreams, caprice, his bravado, the thought drives him mad.

A look at the Filipino definition of ‘integrity’

For a media practitioner in the Philippines, integrity is everything. This sentence needs to be qualified, however.

Ted Failon is now seeing the end of his career, that is how I see the recent case involving the primetime news broadcaster and how the different media organization covered the events. Any media personality, no matter how big the name is, who is pulled in this kind of mess is bound to go nowhere but in deeper abyss.

ted-failon

While the authorities are looking at the two angles of the story: that the wife of Failon, Trinidad Etong committed suicide; and that Failon has a hand in the death of the woman, is not anymore important. Wherever the evidence may lead, Failon is bound to be kicked out of ABS-CBN.

Although other media practitioners have been involved with wrongdoings such as corruption, extortion, bias and unethical practice of profession, they continue to be heard, read, or watched because they have not really lost their integrity in the qualified sense. In the Philippines, a person lost his integrity to practice his profession as journalist if it is proved in the court of law that the crime alleged was actually committed and that the story was broadcast that leads to a negative public opinion.

The first criterion is not very important if it is not broadcast. Unless the second criterion is met, the integrity of the erring journalist remains intact. However, even without being proved guilty, a journalist can be unfairly tried without actually facing judgment in the court. The tone of coverage and a different angling are all it takes to end a career.

Simply put, a journalist who is notorious for accepting bribes can still become the leading primetime news anchor and even go on to become the country’s president if none of his acts is made public. This does not say, however, that public knowledge of his crime does not exist. It does, but unless there is no formal news coverage of his crime he remains blameless and moral. Media in the Philippines has already replaced the role of the judiciary.

This kind of rule will be disadvantageous in cases involving high profile journalists pleading not guilty of the crime. He is already pre-judged, and more often than not, guilty is the verdict. For Ted Failon, he has already lost his integrity that took him decades to build.

Nonetheless, pseudo-journalists such as those handling showbiz news are not covered by this rule. In fact the more controversial and steamy their lives are the more their supposed integrity increases to report showbiz news.

Concepts such as integrity, truth, and justice are understood in an amorphous sense in the Filipino society. They don’t have form, they are not stiff, they can be molded according to the ones holding power, they may look solid and well-founded but are they constantly in a flux. Whether Tef Failon killed his wife or it was she who ended her life is already immaterial here. Failon has already been judged, no matter how hard his mother station does the damage control. The public has made its judgment, and so the ABS-CBN management will have to concede and will do the necessary step.

Failon has lost whatever ‘integrity’ he has.

Suicide and the need for spectacle (Part 2)

In the corner of your room a thick, yellow nylon cord you used to pack your things last month when you transferred place looked very inviting, perhaps so inviting that you took it and started to do simple knots forming a loop that can be adjusted like the ropes used by cowboys to catch animals in Western movies you watch with so much interest.

Under your bed is a Baygon insecticide for killing pesky cockroaches you abhor. Well, you also hate the smell of it whenever your landlady spray it in your room every week, but, you all of a sudden, had this unexplainable urge to sniff it.

You turned your head to check the time and you inadvertently saw the bottle of sleeping pills lying on top of your study table, the bluish white label looking too conspicuous before the helluva of books you have not started reading.

You decided to wash your face and while staring at the reflection of yourself in front of the mirror, the light bouncing from the razor gave a slight illumination on your cheek; you thought it was beautiful. You held the razor.

You then decided to open the window and looked down at the traffic below your room in the tenth floor; the careening cars seemed to be smiling at you, inviting you to join their never-ending bustle.

If there is one human activity that fascinates you more than anything else, it’s suicide.

Le Suicide by Edouard Manet
Le Suicide by Edouard Manet

Life, for me, is all about passion. It is the energy that keeps me burning inside and sustains me to be the best in whatever I do. Without this passion life ends. It’ll never be a metaphysical question on my part for going in the realm of metaphysics to explain why I act the way I do and why I see life in a manner that I see it now will not make sense, at least for me.

Suicide is more of a crying for help. It is not the actual desire to die. It is to attract attention to something that has gone hopeless because of solitude, hopelessness, or a protest against the cruelty of life.

Will it ever be justified? I say yes.

Suicide taboo is not universal. Western religions as well as Asian religions (those descending from Abraham) i.e. Judaism, Islam, Christianity condemn it as a crime against life. But in some Eastern culture it is viewed as honorable if not altogether necessary. Result of researches point out that males are more successful in committing suicide more than females although females have more unsuccessful attempts. Being male, lacking a social network where I can open up my qualms, fears in life, being unable to show emotions in a society where males are not expected to show deeper aspects of human emotion, I am vulnerable.

I can never speak about something I do not understand, and here I am confronted with a choice I have to contend with, but something I neither fully understand nor expect to comprehend in this lifetime. Something that we all have to pass through, sort of a rites of passage. But the stake is bigger; it’s not just about being accepted in the adult world-it’s a stake as big and as important as life itself.

Suicide is a personal decision.

Despite being a personal thing it should not be done in a sloppy, lop-sided, undramatic manner. For all, suicide must be tragic. Following the logic used above, for it to be tragic it must involve spectacle. Spectacle, however, is dependent on time. Hanging, slashing, over-dosage, jumping from the building’s tenth floor are becoming passé through the years because of over-use and inartistic way of doing them. The challenge, aside from finding the will to end one’s life, is to make it a statement of the kind of life one had while still alive.

Suicide does not cheapen life, rather it has a higher purpose, more than the perfunctory manner most of us see life. Suicide celebrates life in its highest sense.

I’ve contemplated about it for so many times, but I am being eaten by my passion for life. Living is so much better than dying. And besides, the pressure of making the act very tragic, something worthy of spectacle, is just too much to bear.

But will it ever be an option? I say yes.

Sucide is sexy (Part 1)

Death is fascinating because it is our entry to an unknown place where the undead are forever barred from entering. With the last breath we come face to face with both our destiny and our supposed rest. Nobody can say what it is, how it looks, where it is, the weather, etc. We can only speculate.

But there is more profound than understanding death, it is to understand the act of taking one’s life. Suicide. Some have contemplated ending their lives; some even enacted the plan with certain degree of success and failure . The means of acting it out are dependent on the capacity of the person to be creative. The more dramatic is the method, the more spectacular it is. To justify our existence, we deserve nothing but death that will equal the tragedy of this life.

I collected quotes from people who committed suicide and I hope the readers will see the pains, love, celebration of life, and gamut of human experience written between the lines and beyond the lines by these people who, at one point in their lives, realized that death is more honorable, more real, sweeter, more life-like than life itself.

The act of taking my own life is not something I am doing without a lot of thought. I don’t believe that people should take their own lives without deep and thoughtful reflection over a considerable period of time. I do believe strongly, however, that the right to do so is one of the most fundamental rights that anyone in a free society should have. For me much of the world makes no sense, but my feelings about what I am doing ring loud and clear to an inner ear and a place where there is no self, only calm.

Wendy O’Williams,
07 April 1998

The sadness will never go away.

Vincent Van Gogh
29 July 1890

I don’t feel the passion anymore.

Kurt Cobain
08 April 1994

I feel certain that I’m going mad again. I feel we can’t go thru another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices and I can’t concentrate.

Virginia Woolf
28 March 1941

Not God but a swastika So black no sky could squeak through. Every woman adores a Fascist, The boot in the face, the brute Brute heart of a brute like you.

Sylvia Plath
11 February 1969

I am complicated, and I feel like I am going to die. I am angry without reason, and I might go mad…I feel like I have lost myself and my identity…The Lord came to me…I was about to collapse, and he quietly lifts me up.

Jeong da Bin
10 February 2007

It’s all make believe, isn’t it?

Marilyn Monroe
05 August 1962

I am sorry —

Elliot Smith
21 October 2003

Things just went wrong too many times.

Tony Hancock
24 June 1968

At this point, I wish I were dead. I can’t cope anymore.

Ian Curtis
18 May 1980

Excuse all the blood…

Per Yngve Ohlin
8 April 1991