Brain Dead Serious

I Read Sartre and I Think There’s No Such Thing as Forever

Young Filipinos have a popular saying, “Walang forever (translated: There’s no such thing as forever / Forever is impossible).” It’s a decidedly pessimistic and mocking view of love and romantic relationships popular on social media where it’s been expressed through innumerable memes. A girl actually coaxed Bill Nye to answer the question whether forever really existed or not, to which Bill Nye answered, yes, forever possibly exists if by “forever” one means time as a property of the universe. Bill Nye was trolled, of course–like all old folks online. The question was not really about time but the permanence of love.

Thankfully, I think I may have found a better answer from my nightly readings. It turns out, Jean-Paul Sartre, French existentialist philosopher extraordinaire famous for confusing the daylights out of students, had something to say about permanence or rather its opposite–“fragility,” which I think we can extend over our analysis of love and relationships.

Destruction and Fragility

In his book Being and Nothingness, Sartre explained that “to destroy” is human. Without human beings, there would be no such thing as “destruction.” You can’t say for example, that a bolt of lightning destroyed a tree in a forest because without man to define what happened as such, the concept of “being destroyed” wouldn’t exist. In fact, there wouldn’t even be any “change” at all. There would just be Being and outside that, nothing.

In relation to this, “fragility” is also a human thing. Nothing in the world is fragile except those which man defines as such. But if man is the one who posits something as “fragile,” didn’t he, in essence, also cause its own destruction? For if he never defined that something as “fragile” in the first place, then it cannot possibly be destroyed.

Sartre says:

“And what is fragility if not a certain probability of non-being for a given being under determined circumstances. A being is fragile if it carries in its being a definite possibility of non-being… Thus it is man who renders cities as destructible, precisely because he posits them as fragile and as precious and because he adopts a system of protective measures with regard to them. It is because of this ensemble of measures that an earthquake or a volcanic eruption can destroy these cities or these human constructions. The original meaning and aim of war are contained in the smallest building of man.”

I personally love this line: “The original meaning and aim of war are contained in the smallest building of man.” Sartre appears to be saying that once man gave birth to the concept of “fragility,” everything that concept touched was doomed to be destroyed precisely because fragility “carries in its being a definite possibility of non-being.” A fortress–no matter how strongly built, no matter how well-defended, is doomed to fall because as a fragile object, it always had the definite possibility of being nihilated.

Throughout history, men went to war because they knew there were fragile things in the world that they could destroy to achieve their goal. We always knew things are breakable, so we broke them–just as planned.

Sartre continues:

“It is necessary then to recognize that destruction is an essentially human thing and that it is man who destroys his cities through the agency of earthquakes or directly, who destroys his ships through the agency of cyclones or directly.”

Once an object has been posited as “fragile,” it was always going to be destroyed directly or indirectly by man. Earthquakes do not destroy cities; it is man who defines and limits the meaning of destruction, and so he is the one who made that earthquake’s destruction possible. It’s actually just a different way of expressing that old philosophical question: can the color red exist for a blind person? No, because he doesn’t have the capability to create that concept in his mind. How could destruction be possible if we didn’t have the ability to conceive of something as fragile?

This takes us now to the concept of love.

There’s No Such Thing as Forever?

Something always taken for granted dawned on me while I was reading Sartre. To say one “loves” hides an unspoken fact people conveniently forget or fail to discuss; namely, “to love” is only possible because it’s possible “not to love.” That is, loving something presupposes that one does not love everything or one can choose not to love.

You say “I love this person” only because you don’t love all the persons in your life–just this one particular member of the human race.

But the scary thing? The statement “I love this person” is possible because “I don’t love this person” is also possible.

As Sartre says, nothingness lives “in the heart of being–like a worm.”

Not to love” lives in the heart of “love” like a worm.

Love is a fragile thing because we adopt “a system of protective measures” to keep it from falling apart, to keep it from descending into “not loving.” But here is where all lovers, even the most passionate of them all, may have already doomed their relationships if not teetering on the edge of their ruin, because it seems that if we believe Sartre, then to love is to enter into a contract with a disclaimer at the end that says “I can choose to destroy this love if I wanted to because love is a fragile thing and it can and it will always be destroyed by me or someone or something else if they wanted to or if circumstances permitted it to happen.”

Is there no such thing as forever? How could there be one if we’re talking about a thing as fragile as love? It’s a thin sheet of something weak, something that breaks when you pound it with a hammer, or roll it over with a bulldozer, or crush with the weight of the entire world–it doesn’t matter. It is breakable and if it’s breakable, then it’s not a thing made for “forever.” Love presupposes its own destruction.

So we guard against all the forces that could break that “precious” thing apart (love is, in fact, precious because it can be shattered and taken away from you). We do all we can to protect this little magical thing from the pressures of other parties, of our work, our daily lives, the economy, of whatever else in the universe that threatens to annihilate this gift that we have. But the funny thing is that we, ourselves, made it feeble and frail because we posited this thing between us as “love” in the first place–and unfortunately, love is fragile.

Wait, what of “True Love?”

But isn’t there such a thing as “true love?” And isn’t “true love” not fragile?

Adding the word “true” to “love” is more a play on words than anything substantial. It doesn’t contradict the fact that true love is also only possible because there’s a definite possibility not to be truly in love. Thus “true love” itself is haunted by its nothingness, that is, that inside its being lives that worm of “not being truly in love.”

Let me put it this way: you say you two are “truly in love?” Then that must mean you’re not truly in love with everything and everyone in your life–just this one specific person. That must also mean you’re walking on eggshells; you two are adrift in a sea of people not being truly in love with one another, and you two can drown anytime, sinking into that deep sea with all the others.

So what is one to do in the face of potential doom?

Nothing, really, but to accept the ultimate responsibility of the choice in front of you. You can love but to do so, you must accept the fact that it can be fractured and pulverized anytime. You step into all the wonders of it knowing full well that they can spin around and shape-shift into nightmares.

There’s no such thing as forever or maybe there is but the odds are hopelessly against it. What we do have is a responsibility to keep a fragile thing from exploding into smithereens; and, moreover, a bigger responsibility to deal with the consequences if and when it does.

“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.” — Sartre

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Brain Dead Serious

My Thoughts on Tiffany Uy (Or the Clone War Against China)

I can’t say I know Tiffany Uy that much but nevertheless, I have many thoughts about her because I’ve been seeing her on my Facebook Newsfeed a whole lot these days.

First off, I think Tiffany Uy is smart. Like really, really, really smart. I mean I heard she broke the record for the highest grade in the University of the Philippines that was standing since World War II. She must have been a real hardcore beast of a bookworm for her to nuke that record into smithereens. Like, if it’s true that knowledge is power, she would be nothing less than the Hulk. Or She-Hulk. And she’d be like “TIFFANY UY SMASH!” and she’d be all green and cranky but really, really, really smart unlike the real Hulk.

I know she’s a biology student. Or I guess a full-fledged biologist now, right? And of course, she can now go on and create human clones… because biologists create clones, right? I frankly don’t know of any other function of biologists except to manufacture clones in a laboratory.

So I expect her to manufacture clones of herself within a year of graduating from UP. She’ll have her own hidden laboratory underground their house like Dexter and it will have rows and rows of sleeping Tiffany Uy clones in capsules. These clones will all have her perfect genes that will allow them to break UP grade records for a hundred more years. And they will all be equipped with bubbly personalities… and have her perfect bobbed hair impervious to split ends.

Tiffany Uy will probably have her own army of clones like the Star Wars Galactic Empire except she won’t be on the dark side. Binay and his ilk will be on the dark side as always, and Tiffany Uy will be like the Chosen One destined to bring balance to the Force in this country. With the help of her clone army, the people of the Philippines will be able to EDSA IV (it’s four, right?) Binay’s ass back to where it belongs (because of course he’ll be our next President, just give it up). And then since there clearly will not be any other person more qualified to take the presidency, we will happily make substantial changes to the Constitution, and gladly install Tiffany Uy as the youngest President of the Philippines–the youngest president in the history of the world.

She will make drastic changes to this country, that President Tiffany Uy. Don’t worry; we won’t be calling her PnUy because that would be just dumb. But on the first quarter of her reign of excellence, she’ll drive a same-sex marriage bill into law–and be like “Fuck the CBCP!” because biologists are atheists, right? I mean, how can you make human clones if you’re not an atheist? So President Tiffany Uy will be a kickass liberal atheist president and she will allow LGBT to marry like they should. In return, the LGBT will willingly join her clone army and fight for her in the Philippines’ war vs China.

That would be the defining event of her term–the Phil-China War to finally end once and for all the tyranny in the seas committed based on ancient Chinese maps frankly nobody gives a fuck about in modern times. But since Tiffany Uy is like partially Chinese or something, there will be a controversy stirred by the now marginalized CBCP about where her loyalties lie. But Filipinos will all be like, “Nah, stop with your bullshit, CBCP. We love President Tiffany Uy and know in our hearts she’ll fight for the country as ferociously as she once studied to get a weighted average grade of 1.004 in UP! Besides, we’re all atheists now. We don’t care anymore what you think of national issues.” And all will be good.

So the war will go on but it will be short-lived. China will think they can bomb the shit out of us with their cheap plastic destroyers made in China but they will never see Tiffany Uy’s biologically enhanced clone army descending upon Beijing from the skies. These clones–aside from being equipped with bubbly personalities and split-end-resistant-bobbed-hair–will have the strength of a Tamaraw, our national animal, and large wings of the monkey-eating eagle, our national bird. And they’re all really, really, really smart. So smart they can fashion super weapons out of everyday things like rocks and sticks. So this mutant army will bring China down on its knees and they’ll finally let us keep the Spratly Islands, which will of course be renamed Tiffany Uy Islands and will host an all-female community of Tiffany Uy clones like Amazons.

We will never have a need for any other president again. When the original Tiffany Uy expires, we simply awaken another one from her underground lab and pass the presidential responsibilities to her, which she’ll earnestly take for the pride of our nation. Corruption will end. The Binays will be deported to China where the Chinese won’t give a shit about what they’ll say because they can’t understand Tagalog. Poverty will be reduced to zero. We won’t have to dream of Duterte cracking down on crime because it will be eradicated by the clone army. And Jiro Manio will have a home once more and win an international Oscar after being inspired by Tiffany Uy’s great deeds.

I can’t wait for this to happen. The future shines bright with that kid out there.

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