Grounded on truism, my literature professor back at MSU-Iligan, Mr. Anthony Tan, once lectured that there are only three things to fulfill before one ceases to live: first is to write a book; second, to have children, and third is to plant a tree. Of course he was talking about leaving behind something to be remembered for, a legacy – so one could continue “living” even after life. I find this rather odd because the idea contradicts with what my mother preached when I was young: “once you’re dead, you’re nothing” – a mantra which, for me, meant that she sees no mystery in death but its inevitability.
In a film about death, Les Invasions Barbares, it seemed to me that the characters Rémy and his friends arrived on a final idea that no amount of isms could resolve the meaning of life, and that perhaps answers to questions of existence do not even matter. On the other hand, American author, Henry David Thoreau, justified his choice of living in the woods to live deliberately and “suck out all the marrow of life". He did not want to face death and discover that he had not lived.
Even I find it stimulating to mold and slowly polish my own take on the idea of death and meaning of existence. However, I believe that accumulating experiences to fine tune my beliefs requires moments of contemplation only gained when given the luxury of time to exist. A personal philosophy, like all things, is a constant flux – like a craft polished over time. It is this blank slate where we carve our own story during our lifetime. It is this exercise to train ourselves to look at things the way we see them.
For now, at twenty two, I believe in merging of great ideas and molding it to become one’s own, unique philosophy. I believe in the uniqueness of our own experiences that is dependent on the context we are in and the paths we choose to follow. Surely, Rémy and friends, Mr. Tan, Henry David Thoreau, and my mom attained their respective philosophies not necessarily because they subscribe to a great idea of existence, but because they feel life differently.
For me, isms are just general thoughts to constantly stir our consciousness. They exist mainly to be affirmed. I consider myself as merely subscribing to ready-made ideas of Atheism, Agnosticism, and Epicureanism (devotion to sensuous enjoyment) – recognizing, affirming, merging, and tailoring these philosophies to suit my own idea of living. However, I believe those who weren’t able to stumble upon existing ideologies and philosophies – such as people who are in straitened circumstances or deprived of education – are the ones who genuinely craft their meanings of existence. I find mystery in knowing how people crushed by misfortune and grief mold their personal philosophy. I aim to know how old people living in shelters dwell back on their past and come up with their almost final view of existence. I can almost envision the emergence of a field exploring individual conception of life.
In all these wonders about the richness of individual philosophy, I consider the subscription to a belief in God(s) to be the weakest form of personal philosophy. For one, it is a kind of belief instantly passed on from parents to children, further dictated by society and existing traditions. Another misfortune of theism is that it provides the easiest answer to the almost incomprehensible complexity of our existence. I cannot fathom how one can narrowly attribute everything to one stranger in the sky, to an ancient book, or to an oracle. This dependence of a ready-made conception of God can be equated to a lack of attempt to wonder, question, and create a genuine personal philosophy fit for an individual.
This leads me to ponder that perhaps the reasons why majority of people on earth subscribe to religion do so because it is an easy belief to digest and a comfortable idea to take hold. Most of all, it is widely available – seen through a symbolic representation of a church or a logo or a statue and practiced through prayers, songs, dances, and worships. It is this ease and comfort in providing an easy answer to existence that makes most people succumb to a theistic belief.
Most often, one of the attempts of my friends to shake my belief of non-believing is to tell me to look around and see how vastly wonderful things around us are. I agree, indeed beautiful, I’d tell them. Almost predictably from there, I would then be asked: so, do you ever wonder how all these have been made? I wonder of course, I’d answer, but because of the complexity of its beauty, I cannot give a fair easy answer. The thing is that my lifetime is not necessarily built on finding out how everything was made but why I am presented with such grandeur and what I should do to devour this privilege to exist.
My problem with theistic belief is that comfortably wearing one ultimate, tailor-made idea wears off easily overtime. It may be a comfortable dress to wear, so to speak, but ease deteriorates when one later realizes that he actually does not own his clothes. In this world, we started out naked but are normally capable of choosing our own clothes. We choose, mix, fit, and match from among the existing colors, designs, and styles of wardrobes in our closet. We pick our clothes depending on our surrounding conditions. Believers are comfortable in their uniformed attires. Subscribers to an ideology suit their attire based on what exist in their closets. Non-believers make their own clothes.
From this wardrobe philosophy, I’d say: I currently wear different tones of green; meaning I see life manifesting itself in music and nature. Morning walks, for instance – I love to smell the wounds of freshly cut grasses and feel heavy fogs brushing against my skin, while I hear classical music coming from the earmuffs of my mp3. For me, existence is painted in the sky – seen through how it changes colors with every step I take.
This is how I dress myself for now – in different tones of green.