Enough reason to live
It is settled that as a mature adult, your job in this world is not to repeat the mistakes of the past. This means that you must not do the same thing if it has failed to produce results. In fact, any idea has to be rejected if it is deemed useless due to the bare fact that it cannot be applied to reality. The problem, however, is that people have not changed. We still do the things that have caused so much harm to our fellow humans. We need to ask, therefore: What is so wrong with the world?
A person who still values critical thinking will simply say that the world is broken. “The truth is not a thing,” according to Gabriel Marcel. Indeed, what Marcel is telling us is that the truth is the search for something deeper. Reality cannot be found in the outer layer of one’s skin. The thing that bothers us the most is our relation with people, and for this reason, we spend a huge part of our lives creating that palatable image of ourselves. This reputation, and not who we really are, wrongly defines for us the life that we are to live.
Teaching our children the virtues of love, perseverance and charity is never enough. Now, teachers themselves should be able to motivate. They cannot just rely on their intelligence. The content of their subject matter will not change the hearts of their students. “Mr. Gradgrind” no longer fits the present picture of the world. No person is a vessel of the truth. It is absurd to think that one person can change the world.
We now see the teacher as a technician or one who can manipulate the minds of students so that they are to become conformists and obedient to the truth that society lays down for them. But human beings are not objects. There is an inner truth that defines for each one of us the meaning of happiness. While it will continue to pain every person out there to be schematized into stereotypes, there remains inside of each one the self-determination to overcome a world that has been darkened by pride and greed.
So, must we rely on something that never changes? Plato, after all, is right in saying that certain truths are indestructible. Maybe our own country needs to produce philosopher-kings who possess the courage and the moral integrity. The good life, which appears impossible given our present state of affairs, may finally be attainable if people agree on basic moral principles. And yet, we also realize that even virtue is not enough. People still need to look into the consequences of their actions.
We are living in a world that no longer knows what is human. Karl Marx was of course right in complaining that capitalism has reduced human beings to machines. Yet, what he really wanted to say was that it is human labor that makes us human. But by exploiting human beings, others have demeaned the dignity of each. Labor is a kind of relationship that transforms people, one that produces masters and slaves. Yet, Marx needed to see that every human conquest is not just a question of human creativity; it is also about what it means to live.
St. Augustine taught humanity that “the real evil in any war is the lust for power.” But power is not the enemy. Those people who have become inseparable from the comfort of their thrones and who, by some sort of divine edict, have dictated what must become of others, are the real enemy. Life is not just a question: It is a dilemma that you, as a responsible individual, have the moral burden to carry. Patience is the privilege of people who dwell in the comfort of their purported higher conscience.
Freedom is not about the power to do all things. Human freedom is rooted in the recognition of one’s responsibility in making the world a better place for everyone. We must hold ourselves morally accountable in a world that has forced many among us to abandon life as it is. To a man or woman who values freedom, the pursuit of love and justice is always enough reason to live.
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Christopher Ryan Maboloc, PhD, is assistant professor of philosophy at Ateneo de Davao University.
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