Before and beyond | Inquirer Opinion

Before and beyond

12:14 AM November 04, 2016

I had a wonderful rest, four days of it, thanks to the Feast of All Saints and All Souls. The rest was not really a physical one although it was part of it. After all, a senior citizen like me has long not been exposed to strenuous physical activity and needs no break from it. Rather, it was a rest of the spirit, a rest of the mind, a rest of the emotions.

Remembering those who had passed on ahead of us can be a cleansing and enlightening process. There are a few we do remember because we actually knew them, we actually lived with them, we actually loved them. I call them a few because, in truth, they really are. And remembering them is only a trigger for us to remember even more, now including those we never knew. After all, even in our own clans, how many generations did we ever know? When we were children and our elders were telling us stories, they were mentioning names of people they knew and loved, but we never got to meet many of them.


For a day or two, or a weekend like the one we just had if we get lucky, we actually have a gentle reminder of things greater than we are, like life, for example, of those millennia before us and surely of the millennia yet to unfold. And when we are able to sense that time is actually timeless, we are brought to a simple realization of how transient we are. Yes, we are alive, as all those who are now gone, and we, too, will soon be gone like them.

In this singular realization of the grandness of everything and our role in it, we may be able to sense what is eternal and what is temporary. It does seem that life goes on, but it is clear that we will not, not in the physical sense, and not even in the permanence of memory of those who will live after us. Only up to a certain period will we be remembered, one, two or three generations, perhaps. And there may be an exceptional few whose legacy can live way after them; they were great kings and warriors, great philosophers and wise men. Outliving them all, though, it seems that their discovered knowledge and wisdom are their greatest gifts to surviving mankind.


During the last four days, I found myself having a blurred view of the present as we usually know it. The past and the future seemed to have fused with it, and time came across as one long moment and continuing process. This was so restful, so deeply contrasting the aggression and toxicity that had enveloped the nation from the political campaign that has extended into unabated partisanship. In the perspective of life with death, what is important changes. When we know we will live only for so long, be it a month, a year or ten years, because health issues, or war, jars us to this reality, we rearrange what is important in our lives.

When what is more or most important becomes priority in our lives, what is less important, or what had been falsely important, simply fades away. In fact, we wonder why it had occupied our thoughts and feelings for so long, and mostly negatively.

Our own personal lives, too, takes on a very different meaning. We remain very important to ourselves, of course, but at the same time, we award to others, especially our children or grandchildren, importance that we know will be more lasting. As we do this, we acknowledge that we can do much, but only some of that will be of great value to those we leave behind. This is where we then tweak our priorities, where we shift more attention to, where we begin to let go of what will quickly become useless in the greater scheme of things in our lives.

Now, I float back to where the present is narrower but also more demanding. I float back to a present where I focus on my health and the health of those I love, on income and economic activities that further squeeze our lives into smaller corners, on relationships that greatly affect our emotions and peace of mind, and on affairs of country that have an umbrella effect on all of us.

And I inevitably reenter the political dimension. Inevitable because the reality is that politics dominates in the Philippines, leadership and governance dominate in Philippine society, and democracy still crawls with a society where a great number are not self-reliant, not contributory to the common good, and where the most powerful and wealthy remain focused on personal interests even at the cost of the whole.

Yet, I am not that condemning. I cannot be when I see the process of democracy in spirit and form is still in its infancy, not in the Philippines, but globally. After all, power and wealth have been centralized in the hands of a few in every society for so long that it is not easy to dismantle a societal pattern.  I am not condemning but I surely wish things would develop much faster towards the empowerment of the traditionally poor and weak. Not that I would like them to be powerful in the traditional sense, but more for a state of life where they have more options, more dignity, more value and respect from those more powerful or rich.

This is my enduring dream, that blessings and opportunities I have experienced can be the blessings and opportunities for most, if not all. Because my life is short but the life of a people, the life of a nation, will be more lasting. Also because all I hold dear who will live beyond me will have to do so within that collective space we call people and nation.

Life in the bigger sense is not really partisan but complimentary and cooperative, each unique part enhancing the whole. How comforting to remember those who came before us because we remember who we truly are.

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TAGS: all saints day, all souls day, death, democracy, life, meaning, politics, remembering
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