Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A musing on St. Valentine's Day

This is a day in the year that is suffered either in silence or months in advance and, if the night pays off, days after. People who have a conscious cause for Valentine's, usually in the form of someone special, often see themselves planning and preparing for the execution weeks or months ahead (depending on the extent of the person's affection and, in this commercial day and age, budget). This is the kind of people, specifically men, who resolve to condense in one day what they should have been expected to perform the whole year through but couldn't find it in their genes to do: getting her flowers, opening door to restaurant and car, staring across the table with an undivided attention. It's become a day when the guys would say, "Here's what you've been pestering me to do all year... lucky I only have to do it once!" The fact that we need to declare a romantic day to commemorate a history of none of these is ironic and a telling indication of our (specifically the ladies') lowered expectations.

It might seem unfair to the blokes to dispense such a criticism, as if the sole obligation of the day and, in fact, of the whole relationship, lies with us. But since when hasn't that been so down through history from as early as, or maybe even before, the Middle Ages? The warring brutes back then couldn't pick up a fork in the court and the educated scribes would rather spoon their eyeballs than face the battlefields. But it was a special class of men - the literal knights - who were expected to do both with equal courage and grace. Contrary to what we believe, the term "knight in shining armour" is not used loosely nowadays, nor should it be referred to as just a metaphor. The reason why most men today can only put on real acts of chivalry one day in a year (though not a complete act at that, since it often only display the "meek in halls" quality but seldom the "fierce in battles" trait) is because they've mistaken it as a silly idea that only the ladies fancy. We think it's fake because it's unnatural. But as Lewis puts it, "The man who combines both characters - the knight - is a work not of nature but of art; of that art which has human beings, instead of canvas or marble, for its medium." And as Lewis knows best, any true art needs to be attained and strived for.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Thinking about thinking

I was happy today. At least for a brief moment. Four months into my job and I'm stuck with it. It's not the best job in the world but it does more than paying the bills. It makes putting off thinking about the future possible... even in abstract.

But wait a sec... Why do we think about the future anyway? Especially when it never turns out the way we expected?

That's exactly my point... Let's think about it for a sec... How does it work, this business of "thinking about the future"? What's the step-by-step breakdown of this mental exercise? We close our eyes, right? We take a deep breath and concentrate real hard, right? We could lock our brows if it helps while keeping our eyes closed, and try to think forward to a point in the future where... no, wait... we can't do that!

No siree, we could never think about the future. In order to think about the future we need something concrete that is in fact in the future for us to think about. It assumes possession of a definite knowledge of the future, which we don't have. It's a humanly impossible task unless we possess the omniscience of God or a late-night TV psychic.

If we can't really think about the future, why have we heard so many people, including ourselves, talked about it like it's a natural thing to do? We say we "think about the future a lot." Sometimes we even offer it as an advice for others to "start thinking about the future." But the most honest among which has to be, "I can't see my future." Which is not a depressing thing to say, but in fact the only true thing one can say about the subject.

I can't see my future, even as I try very hard. It's time I stop trying to do the impossible. We can't think about the future. We can only live toward it, moment by moment.