The Gift of Death: A Reflection on Death and Dying

by Nestor Ravilas

Humans do not fear death, it is the suffering that comes before death that scares them. This, however, is not true. The prospect of ending this life is what frightened us most. Apostle Paul intones this ingrained fear of death when he said, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death!” From Paul thereon, Christianity has been generally viewed as a religion that is completely insane with the problem of death. As a threat to life, it is actually impossible not to agree with Paul, and the subsequent history of vilification of death in Christian tradition. Gilgamesh on his part provides us the ghastly picture that is lacking from Paul. “No one sees death, no one sees the face of death, no one hears the voice of death, yet savage death is the one that hacks man down,” he said. Mythical stories humanity was able to preserve were marred in one way or another with the presence of death in their story plots. Death is so formidable that most of our cultural wisdom, medicine and religions, are all pursued in search of the meaning, if not solutions, of the problem of death. Philosophy included, on its emphasis on moral life, must not be construed as passive or unaffected of the threat of death. Rather, its stress on justified existence is its best way of making sense of one’s death.

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Poor Joseph: Another Horror of Christmas

by Nestor Ravilas

Whenever I read this part of nativity story (Matt. 1:18-24), I could not help but to sympathize with the plight of Joseph. Not that I claim Joseph suffered and sacrificed more than what Mary had given up just to realize the divine plan. Only that his credulity in some sense flays down the most endeared image of macho Filipino male. I am wondering up to now what moves Joseph to acquiesce to such abject role in that divine drama; whether for the love of Mary or for God, I am not really sure. Since the drama was already done and we are all aware how the story has ended, Joseph was redeemed into heroism or sainthood and the role he played is now recognized as an act of indomitable faith. Prior to that, of course, he was nothing but an idiot easy to fall to such dimwitted narrative of the divine visiting the earth. And there is nothing more enduring, more torturing, than the part of yourself mocking you, saying, “You’re shit, you’re so gullible to believe that Mary is carrying the savior in her womb!” I pity him for that!

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Embedded Violence: President Duterte and the Evangelical Violent Formation

by Nestor Ravilas

In recent exchange between two of prominent public intellectuals, Catherine Mills questioned Judith Butler’s positive stance on non-violence debate. Mills’ pessimism stems from the assumption that there is violence through which a subject is formed, an idea which Butler herself shared with Mills. In a similar vein, Slavoj Zizek, a prolific philosopher, asks how one can repudiate violence since struggle and aggression are part of life. Butler sees a possible break out from this iterable cycle of violence, while Mills and Zizek on the other hand are both skeptics of this “breaking out” since violence is part of humanity’s “constitutive possibilities” and they would naturally conduct themselves in violence that formed and produced them.

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The Night God and Humanity Died

by Fred Laceda

by Elie Wiesel (from a book cover)

The emergence of modernity is the beginning of the end for an old world. The passing of the pre-modern world is hailed particularly by the Enlightenment as humanity’s way to maturity. The religious hegemony was shattered, leaving in its wake the church on a house arrest. Nietzsche declared God is dead. The new secular consensus has shown God the door, exiled to the private longings of the faithful. The optimistic air breathed by 19th century peeps was literally replaced by the acid gas of the early part of the next century. After two centuries, the twentieth seems to be the limit-test of the modern adventure. Fissures, caesurae, crisis, and the collapse of old certainties are reality check to the utopia by modern, enlightened humanity. What seems to be a promising future for collective humanity is turning like a bad dream; a nightmare that up to now haunts the modern period.

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Reviving the Faith: Religious Symbols and Pope Francis

10537800_10152525753111143_8873113901187808554_nby: Nestor Ravilas
Religion is all about symbols. It is the modest attempt to bridge the colossal gap that separates the heaven from the earth; making gods immanent and thus reduced them as our own, walking among us. As in theoretical knowledge, artistic representations of the divine in the same manner are also contextual. Their emergence belongs too to particular occasions that inspired their creation to facilitate this contact between the divine and the profane. It is about meaning; what the symbol diffuses so as to goad its believers to keep the struggle alive, whatever it might be. The symbol or a memorial however is a fixation of the occasion, fossilizing the event into particular epoch in the past, making it as property of history. Meaning however is always alive and fresh within the memory of those who went through the event, and it is always belong to the present. Memorials turn to become public properties, but the memories die with its owner, so as their meaning. What we have in the end were symbols deprived of their significance.

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The Horror of Christmas

by Nestor Ravilas

It is interesting sometimes to imagine how social culture and its supposed “originator” correlate with each other.   It needs some nerves to thread the tedious way comparing robust cultural practices from the original events that inspired them.  In traditional paradigm wherein ontology must always precede practice, a foundation for what we are doing should always be available as its legitimizer.  This implies that we could not have cultural practices just because people agreed to have it.  We always inquire on the efficient cause, factual or fictional, that gave birth to social culture.

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Rethinking our Faith (Reflection on Luke 14: 7–14)

by Nestor Ravilas

Many years ago, one of my professors in theology asked our class with a question that haunts me until now.  He said, “What if there is nothing we could gain from this faith, no heaven or any destiny at the end of history waiting for us and no answers to all our prayers, will you still serve and obey God?”  The class in an instant split up into two: those who were able to compose themselves instantly retorted affirmatively while the others went confused and stupefied simply cringed in silence.   I found myself in the second group, only that my silence probably lingers much longer than the rest.  While some probably scandalized and sickened by the idea of inviting the outcasts and marginalized instead of those we endeared and cherished when you prepare a banquet, I could still, on the other hand, think of it as sane and acceptable idiosyncrasy.   I could still adhere on self-debasement and therefore refrain from becoming so aggressive and so dominating as my natural inclination for will-to-power dictates and therefore just watch others grabbing seats of honor for themselves while I settled in the corner hoping that the host would place me to a better place later.  Rather, I find the reasons for doing such ridiculous self-debasement more perplexing than the revolutionary ethical requirements of Jesus.

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