Goal-setting · musings · Spirit

Existentialism is overrated

We’ve all come to a point in our lives where we have to confront the question, “What is the meaning of life?”, or maybe something simpler, “Why am I alive?”, or “Why should I keep living?”

When you’ve witnessed great suffering, or experience the numbness of pleasure, there seems to be nothing further ahead. Does it get any better, does it get any worse? And at that moment, you probably begin thinking about what you’ve been spending so much time on in the past weeks or years.

Sometimes, we get stuck with the question, and it isn’t easy to answer. For some existentialist philosophers, perhaps the meaning of existence goes only so far as your needs exist. But what if you wanted or needed nothing? What if, at some point of great suffering or great pleasure, death finally lost its sting, and the unknown presented itself as a better reality than what you currently have?

Are you willing to philosophize, to the extent that you’re willing to risk your life?

It sounded cool back in college to think about these things, to spout out names and words about existence and how reality is manufactured and how we’re all part of some system. But when I actually went through the reality of death, the possibility of it, while lying on a hospital bed for the first time because of some stupid sickness, I suddenly felt very small and insignificant. I wondered how fortunate I was to receive medical care, and if other people in the world even had other people tending to them when they really needed help. At this point, pursuing the why of existence came to a halt because mine could possibly come to a halt and that would simply be that– an obituary.

I obviously survived that sickness, making a promise to redeem my pointless angsty life by making a difference in wherever I was placed. It was from that sickness that I also learned that life is not about dwelling on the meaning of it, but making relationships that create greater meaning out of it.

Years later, because I had lost track of my vision and instead made pleasing people my goal, I had found myself at the same dark pit. Only this time, I had myself to contend with. The reality was that I had friends and family, but this was a reality that my distorted mind had presented differently: I did not matter, I never did. Somehow, I believed this, thinking that I only had myself, and that I can only take care of my choices and my life.

It was at this point that I wondered, if atheistic existentialist philosophy was really what I believed in… I really wouldn’t have anything to live for. If it made me happy to just die, then why prolong life? If it made me happy to be alone, then why bother trying to be with others? It was an endless cycle of trying to find some meaning where there was none to be found. A pit of self-pity that I needed to get out of, because I had lost my purpose. I had been betrayed by someone I had trusted, and realized that I did truly know who they were all along. And for some strange reason, the world just did not matter anymore, the only thing keeping me alive was the fact that I had accepted God years ago and it did not make sense for me to take my own life when He said it wasn’t time. I was begging Him to– why else should I be around?

But He stayed silent, and showed me, at my pace, why I needed to live. I wanted revenge, I wanted to hurt, I wanted to throw away everything. But He reminded me each day, through unexpected interactions, through messages from loved ones, about what I was missing out on. He reminded me that, on my own, He had already given me worth.

(If you’re reading this and can relate. Know that you are enough.)

I did not save myself that day, because left to myself I don’t think I’d be here. Thankfully, it wasn’t up to me. Since that day, life has been better– day by day, little by little. Pieces started falling into place, realities were unraveled to me, and I realized that I had almost wasted my life for such a useless thing.

Of course, to say that life is so much better does not mean that it is devoid of difficulties or of rainy days and broke days. But it has been better because I have come to accept all these realities as part and parcel of the journey to becoming an authentic human being. All the darkness and the light, and how I can decide on which one takes over me. I have come to acknowledge my darkness, and if I acknowledge my limitations and ask for help, I can keep it in check.

 

So there you are, a little survivor story. You’ll know it’s a survivor story because it doesn’t use the suffering as a focal point.

Your suffering is not the best part of your story, it’s your determination to improve and recover. And you can’t do that without acknowledging that pain or need for improvement.

 

Spirit · writing

Forgiveness

Today is Good Friday.

In a predominantly Catholic country such as the Philippines, it’s today that feels like a legitimate vacation throughout the entire year. Holy Week is supposed to be solemn, and a time to invite everyone to rediscover their faith. Growing up as a Filipino Catholic, I also had my shares of strict rules during Good Friday:  this could mean from not playing music and being quiet, to not being able to laugh the whole day. It can be easy to say that it doesn’t make sense, but now that I’m older I’m thankful that the silence is part of the necessity of observing the solemnity of holy week. It’s also become a reminder of the small pleasures in life which are overlooked.

Holy Week usually meant going out of town and visiting our home province. It also usually meant catching everyone also doing the same thing and being stuck in traffic for hours. Now that my parents, siblings and I have grown older, Holy Week has become a time of the year when we can enjoy Manila at its quietest, and most traffic-jam-free.

It’s also a great time to catch up with spiritual activities. Like yesterday, we went to Makati to go to the church for confession and for prayers. Majority of the mall being closed, and following the Stations  of the Cross, we eventually found the church which was not completely lit up. A couple of times, the lights would go out and the only light left would be the one on the altar, since the church was just running on generator power. Nonetheless, It was heartwarming to see the many other people who were there to pray and also refresh their spiritual life.  It felt like a real community, and something which I had not always been sensitive to in the past.

The best part was confession. The priest who heard my confession, despite the tiredness in his voice because of the many confessions he had heard all day, really knew what to advice me. I wouldn’t call it inspiration or passion, because the kind of hope that he gave me was a steady and calm kind of hope. Not the kind that burned bright and run out quickly. Maybe it was something I needed to hear again:  that the path towards God was not in bursts of energy and passion, but in a steady, committed daily walk to become a better self. It was consistent, humble, and constantly reminded of how life on earth is a blessing– yes, despite all the evil in it and all the pain in it.

Spirit · writing

The Judge

“Stay your hand,” He said,

as I cried for the hurt in my chest,

for the shame and the anger

and I yelled out, “Avenge me, Lord”

 

I wanted vengeance ten times over,

and I knew He had this power

 

“Stay your hand,” He said,

more a reminder than a command

“When will You avenge me?” I sobbed,

proud and confident that He would–

“I will give you something better,” He said,

and as I felt the weight lift from me–

“I will restore your Life.”