The Last Stand


originally written on May 10, 2011
by Pat Nogoy, SJ

“Not grace or zeal, love only was my call, and if I lose thy love, I lose my all.”
Alexander Pope, Eloisa to Abelard

Rain started to fall one March evening. Scores of thunder and flashes of lightning followed; its roar and quickening seemed to prophesy an arriving storm. Instead, the rain simmered down and settled at a gentle and level pace. It gradually poured itself out and vanished under the blade grass and loud choral croak of frogs. The night was perfectly cold, wet, and alive. I went out for a while and smelled the fresh earth. Out for a moment, I felt the earth breathed. I wonder if it is just my imagination.

Manifestations of phenomenon (like my experience of the rain), as described by Fr. Ferriols in Sinaunang Griyego, belongs chiefly to four variants: an undoubtedly clear manifestation, vague manifestation of the phenomenon itself, the vague manifestation due to the limitations of the receiver, and mystery. Here lies the struggle of precision. Fidelity to the truth of the phenomenon is the goal yet the journey in finding the truth (what philosophy is all about) is mired by ambiguity, gray, and misses. Some phenomena are missed because that is what they are. These are other. They will always escape, transcend, and lie beyond. Other phenomena are ambiguous because of the limitations of the receiver or the manifesting phenomenon itself. Searching for the truth is a journey of suspension.

Not far from love. Love is a journey of suspension.

Philosophy is the love of wisdom (philo-sophia) and wisdom is an elusive target, inviting but beyond reach. Similar is the case of the beloved. As written in the first part, the beloved’s history and its present manifestation constitute the burden of the lover. The beloved always escapes. And, at a certain point because of the self whose communication, action, and thinking is framed by his own context, the beloved becomes impossible.

The impossibility of the beloved is seen in her unpredictability that renders “putting myself in her shoes” ineffective. I cannot put myself in her shoes because she is a total Other. The lover can only approximate the beloved and such approximation can easily dismissed as irrelevant given the beloved’s unpredictability. The lover and beloved’s otherness (Levinas) puts them always at the crossroads.

Crossroads

The cross is both the point of clash and concurrence, death and redemption, and departure and arrival. Making it work again means crossroads. This time, both are exhausted. Both admit that there is nothing left to give.

Is there really nothing left to give? Perhaps there is. I give out of nothing. I give that which is not a thing (no-thing) from no-thing that is me. Here, the manifestation of the lover’s giving breaches the realm of invisibility. What is that nothing? is not an important as the lover’s resolve to give. The lover’s fidelity to give, manifested in the madness of a no-thing, earns him the true name of the lover. The realm of invisibility opens up to the lover as he discovers that he still has some-thing to give which is not a thing. This reality breaks grammar and hides behind the lover’s decision to cross the road, to die again, to arrive once more at the footsteps of the beloved.

Finding the lover on his feet, the beloved finds herself at the crossroads. Given the ambiguity and suspension of the relationship and the intricate and influencing histories, the future remains dark. But what is the future really? Does not the future escape, lie beyond, and remain a mystery to be unveiled, else it would not be a future anymore? The future is always uncertain.

Turning to herself, she remembers the past. A past filled with disappointments, clashes, and fighting that gather to make a highly influencing pattern, a sort of mathematical propositions that can almost guarantee a probable future. Some manifestations can be clear. Or so, the beloved thought.

When she chooses to face her lover, she places herself in the gift of the present. The present preserves the conditions of the future as future while also building the context through the reaching out of the past. The present is an open clearing where giving happens, a crossroad where both lover and beloved finds themselves in. What the present presents is a gift unlike any other—choice.

Though the past and future can be matters of reflection important in making a choice, it is the present that matters because it is in the present where choices are made. Love is a decision done in the present than can refute the past and change the future. Saying yes that lifts the lover from his knees is a choice that breaches the realm of invisibility. Nobody can see the present yet the choice to love realized in the now manifest the now. Further, the foundation of the choice to give oneself again in response to the lover’s call is nothing (not a thing). Here the beloved discovers that she has some-thing still to give which is a not a thing and out of no-thing (present).

Is there really nothing left to give? There is still something left to give. Out of nothing comes the saying. I say yes to the Other.

Perseverance

How does one really go about it?

One starts with a Yes; the rest follows.

It is simple and easy to say. Giving can be exhausting at some point. Yet the decision to give creates new manners of giving not tried before. Just like defending a castle or conquering new lands or kingdoms, new weapons are developed, fresh complex strategies are drawn, innovative training are mapped out. What remains constant is the resolve. The resolve to love is the Archimedean point that constructs the framework of future choices. The moment the lover decides not to give, he cedes his title as lover. He abandons the Archimedean point and commences to be vagabond. Once he stops giving, he loses his all. Can the lover be justified for leaving? Justification lies only in love.

The resolve to love is always battered and buffeted by the tempests of lamentations, justifications, and uncomforting suspension. Pain, reason, and fear try to capsize the lover’s resolve. Thus, the lover simply perseveres—to continue steadfastly, despite the frightening, unreasonable, and stranger tides.

The aim is to maintain resolve. The goal, until the end, lies in constant giving. The objective is to persevere.

And this can mean adjusting, yielding beliefs, smashing pride, shedding tears, saying sorry, asking for forgiveness, extending patience, giving space, or even letting go and letting be. What is to be done after is dictated by the framework of love that looks onto the beloved with genuine care.

How long? As long as it takes. As long as the lover chooses to persevere. Perseverance highlights love as a decision. In these toughest of times, what matters is not so much the content as the decision—the persistence of loving. In midst of the grind and toil of persistent giving, happiness also arises. A difficult happiness because perseverance breaks open the clearing of invisibility. It is an invisible happiness, another happiness, a kind of which that escapes and lies beyond feelings or fantasies. A kind of happiness granted out of love.

In the continued and common pursuit of togetherness, the lover and beloved discover an unknown territory. This wide space of suspension and ambiguity reveals a rich path of discovery. Not only do the lover and beloved transcend their boundaries by crossing over in love, they also touch upon the depth of their selves, of loving, and what happiness can deeply mean. This depth sounds in silence and invisibility. The depth is the realm of the divine. To err is human, to love is divine. Love makes manifest the invisible reality of the divine. Love inevitably leads to the divine.

How do we make sense of love opening to the divine?

About Pat Nogoy

Pat was sent to Zamboanga to teach high school students. Despite this mission he shares in the Society of Jesus, he also discovers that philosophy left a trace that continually gives. Time and again, this trace asks him to engage life deeply especially Zamboanga (its cultures, places, and peoples) and prods him to share his reflections. Aside from thinking and writing, he enjoys his other jobs as moderator of the high school choir and of creatively seducing more men to help make God’s dream a reality in the present as Jesuits.

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