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A PILGRIM’S JOURNEY TO SENG GUAN BUDDHIST TEMPLE

It was my first time to go on a field trip with my students and my first time too to a Buddhist temple in this country with the grandeur and reputation of Seng Guan Temple. I did not know what to expect but I was hoping really hard that my students would see the activity as a pilgrimage and regard the journey as part of the whole experience of the visit. I was surprised and moved by their response; almost all of them wanted to come despite the sketchy descriptions I gave them before the trip. Most of us opted to commute via the LRT.   While we were walking towards the temple, I was silently asking myself if I made the right decision to let them go through commuting as we wove our way amidst swerving pedicabs, jeeps and trucks, and with the intense rays of the sun beating down on our backs. But along the way we encountered blessings—that waft of cold air fromMetropole Hospital where we stopped for a while to cool down our overheated bodies and that brief stopover to sip frozen Tang and Coke.

Seng Guan Temple was everything I imagined it to be.  When I entered its hallowed doors I just knew I made the right decision of bringing my students there, and I, coming along with them. As a firm believer of meaningful serendipity the auspiciousness of my decision, the date of the visit, and the class itself were not lost on me now.   Of course, I am not turning superstitious as some Buddhists are wont to be but I firmly believe that cosmic forces do work in our lives and what we implore with passion towards the heavens are granted. Aren’t all the events in our lives part of the endless turning of the karmic wheel which we are all subjected to, and because we are highly intelligent beings, aren’t we capable of reflecting on the amazing and beautiful connections we make with people or places or animals?  As our guide patiently toured us around the temple, I heard a most tenuous sound. It was like a sigh of a click that fit contentedly but the hum was barely perceptible as if it travelled a great distance, maybe from a distant galaxy or ancient past, summoning with it the colors of gold, red, orange and yellow which bounced all over the great hall where a thousand Buddhas reposed.

I must admit, I teach more from gut feeling than skill so I try always to learn new things that will make me a better teacher.  Teaching is my calling, even if sometimes I struggle against it because it demands so much from me. Yet on this fateful afternoon and as I gazed at the excited faces of my students I resolved to myself that I would be teaching for the rest of my life and I was exactly where I wanted to be.  All these realizations tumbled off of me shortly after that pilgrimage to a temple in the Philippines. I climbed Adam’s Peak, a holy pilgrimage mountain for Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus in Sri Lanka, and it was an experience of transcendence.  Seng Guan though was a homecoming —it acknowledged my deep connection with Chinese culture which has become so deeply integrated into my own Filipino culture. More importantly, it allowed my students to see me in a different light—as one who can be like them. I certainly was, on that temple visit.  I was a fellow pilgrim.

 

 

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Last Hurrah: Gaile Yaneza’s Beautiful Story

Let me cap off this assignment with a beautiful story from Gaile Yaneza of A51.  I love reading your stories and reflections (also knowing a little bit about you):)  I had a blast:)

 

THE WANDERING SOUL

Posted on June 9, 2013

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When I first woke up in this world, I knew for sure that I didn’t belong here. Although I couldn’t remember much about the world I originally came from, I managed to recall a few hazy memories that didn’t involve an unfamiliar and ethereal place such as this one. In my mind, I could see blurry images of a bustling metropolis, a bar and a burning town, but I can’t really recall anything else. The only thing I was sure of was my name. Tifa Lockhart.

Tifa Lockhart

Tifa Lockhart

Everything about this place felt new to me. A massive flat area of crystallized ice was spread in all directions. It seemed to go on forever. The floor felt cool under my combat boots but the place wasn’t so chilly. I kept walking, with no idea at all as to where I’m going. But somehow, it felt as though my own two feet were taking me somewhere.

I reached what seemed to be the center of the whole area. There was a platform in the middle flanked by two shell like structures. It was here I encountered other warriors like me. If you looked at us, we’d look like a really strange bunch of fighters. Most of them were men clad in armor wielding swords and spears. There were two other females, a guy with a tail and a young boy. As we all stopped to look at each other, the man in blue armor walked forward to the platform and told us that this was the beginning of our journey in this world. The beginning of countless battles to end all conflict.

The man called himself the “Warrior of Light” and he began by welcoming us to Order’s Sanctuary – the name of this weird crystal place. He then proceeded to explain the reason why we were here in this world, and the things we needed to accomplish. I was right about identifying this world to be different from the one I came from, wherever that is. I was in a different dimension where time was out of joint.

We were summoned by the goddess of harmony, Cosmos, in order to defeat the warriors of Chaos, the god of discord. Apparently, this was a world created by the two Gods as an attempt to tip the balance. This strange world revolved around these two gods, locked in eternal conflict and the fate of us warriors will determine the victor.  The two beings summoned several warriors from different worlds to battle it out for them. Both of the gods were both equally strong and they both desired to have power over the other.

I was filled with doubt and confusion after the Warrior of Light finished speaking and I knew I wasn’t the only one. The other warriors looked dumbfounded as well, but some of them just nodded and accepted the information. There were nothing but questions going through my head. Is this even real? Maybe I’m just dreaming? If all of this is really happening then why was I chosen by the goddess of harmony? Does this goddess even exist? Can we really win against the warriors of Chaos? Why can’t I remember anything?  One question led to another and I was baffled by my own thoughts.

The warrior sensed our confused state as he glanced at each of us. “I am afraid that is all I can tell you as of the moment. The goddess herself has delegated this task to me, to inform you all as to why you were gathered here” He tightened his grip on his sword and added, “We are to set forth and defeat the warriors of Chaos. In order to do so, we all must collect crystals bestowed with the power of the goddess. If we are successful, we may be able to gain our memories back.”

“I believe now is the time for us to get acquainted, and to plan our course of action.” The warrior who spoke introduced himself as Cecil Harvey. He looked nothing short of a noble warrior, with white armor and a lance. Aside from Cecil and Warrior of Light, the other champions of Cosmos were Firion, Onion Knight, Bartz, Jecht, Squall, Zidane, Vaan, Kain, Laguna Yuna and Lightning. It didn’t take us long to get acquainted, because everyone had something distinct about them that made it easy for us to remember each other. For example, Lightning had pink hair. Zidane had a tail.

The Warriors of Cosmos

The Warriors of Cosmos

Each of us set out to collect our crystals. We travelled in small groups and along the way, we encountered some of the Chaos warriors. There would be a few short battles here and there, but no one really emerged victorious. These fights felt like a prelude to an all out battle between the two sides, and we had to prepare ourselves by collecting the crystals which would make us stronger.

Whenever my companions fought certain warriors of Chaos, they said that they would feel a feeling of.. familiarity. They assumed that they must be fighting someone from their world and slowly they began to regain their memories. At one point, I was separated from the group and I came across a man with long silver hair, wearing a black coat. He had a long katana for a weapon.

As soon as I laid eyes on the man, I felt that tug of familiarity my companions often talked about. But there was something else. I felt like I knew this person. That I was supposed to know him. Every fiber of my body was screaming at me to feel hatred and anger. I couldn’t understand why.

“Did you feel that?” the man said as he walked closer to me. “I was told that if I fight someone from my home world, I may be able to trigger memories” he added.

So this person is from my home world then? I took a fighting stance before asking him, “Who are you?”

“I am your enemy,” he said with a devilish smirk. “And that is all you need to know.” Before I could respond, he lunged at me and I barely escaped the tip of his sword – only by an inch. We were locked in a heated battle and I saw once again, an image of a burning town. The difference was, there were dead bodies everywhere and the silver haired man was walking away into the fire. Was he responsible for that fire and those deaths?

Tifa's vision of the silver-haired man and the burning village

Tifa’s vision of the silver-haired man and the burning village

There’s no point in denying it, he was very powerful. He was stronger than the other warriors I’ve fought. As the battle went on, he slowly began to overpower me. I knew I was losing but I refused to give up. Before he could cut me down, our battle was interrupted.

Tifa battling it out with the silver-haired swordsman

Tifa battling it out with the silver-haired swordsman

A blond spiky-haired man entered the fray to lock swords with the silver-haired swordsman. His intervention gave me time to heal and get myself together. I felt that feeling of familiarity again. This person was probably from my world as well. He’s not a warrior of Cosmos, but why is he fighting someone on the same side as him?

A blond-haired swordsman enters the fray

A blond-haired swordsman enters the fray

They seemed to have forgotten I was there, but I decided it was best not to interfere. I could feel some kind of rivalry going on between the two. Were we all connected somehow? What kind of lives did we live in our home world? The questions just keep piling up.

The two soon began to wear out. Before the silver-haired man took his leave, he turned to face me and said, “I will deal with you some other time.” A lone black wing unfurled from his back as he set his eyes on the blond man. “You are nothing but a puppet, Cloud” then he flied away.

A lone black wing emerges from the silver swordsman's back

A lone black wing emerges from the silver swordsman’s back

I looked at the blond and tried to get a good look at his face. Just like with the silver-haired man, I once again felt like I should know who he is, but I just can’t remember anything. Something stirred inside me and I wondered, was he an important person to me?

“You’re not a puppet” I said as I fixed my eyes on him. I don’t know why I said that. It just came out of my mouth, I swear. He seemed surprised by my words, as if I struck something inside him. Then he looked away, as though he was unsure of what to say. “Thank you.. for saving me, I guess.” I shrugged before giving him a smile.

He looked at me again, eyes soft with a hint of sincerity. “Tifa..”

“How do you know my name?” I asked as I walked closer to him. “Do we.. know each other? I don’t really remember much before all this but.. when I saw you, I.. felt like I..” Before I could even finish my sentence, he cut me off. “No. I’ve.. never met you before.” He looked away, eyes distant. I knew he was lying to me. I’m sure he felt it too. That familiarity. But I decided not to press the issue; he didn’t seem much of a talker anyway.

After a few seconds of silence, I spoke again. “So uh.. you’re Cloud, right?” He nodded. “Yes, that’s right. You’re Cloud. You’re.. you.” I I felt that he was bothered with being called a puppet, so I guess what I was about to say was my own way of thanking him. “Whatever that man says, I don’t think you’re a puppet. You’re a warrior of Chaos, and yet.. you rescued me. I don’t know what your reasons are but you did it out of your own free will, right? That doesn’t make you anyone’s puppet. You’re human and you are your own person.”

Most of the Chaos warriors I fought with were vicious and wicked. But this guy, Cloud, was different. For some reason, he gave me hope. That maybe, he wants to remove conflict from this world just like I do. Just like what the other warriors of Cosmos want.  The warriors of Cosmos fight for harmony and peace. To bring an end to this never-ending cycle of war. On the other hand, the warrior of Chaos fight for the opposite. Strife and chaos. They wanted nothing more than to strike down their enemies in order to bring Chaos to victory.

 

The Warriors of Chaos

The Warriors of Chaos

What if.. Cloud was just forced to fight on the opposite side, like I was? Maybe.. he’s not like the others.

“Human.. huh? What does it even mean… to be human” He asked sullenly.

Was he.. doubting his own humanity? Thoughts of human experiments and cloning entered my mind. Are these memories? Everything’s still unclear, but I guessed that it was probably part of Cloud’s past.

“Hmm… being human is.. about being who you are. It’s allowing yourself to feel all kinds of emotions, whether good or bad. It’s about.. not being perfect. Making mistakes, struggling, falling down and getting back up.. being weak or strong.. selfish or selfless.. these are.. the things that make us who we are. It makes us human. Right.” I replied, as though I was assuring myself and not him. “Our imperfections make us human.”

Cloud pondered on the things I said before I interrupted his thoughts. “I’m sorry.. did that even make sense?” I laughed a little before continuing. “I tend to.. say what’s on my mind without really thinking.” I looked at him thoughtfully before I spoke again. “You must be wondering how I’m sure of all this. Well, I guess it’s because I feel like a wanderer most of the time. A wandering soul. Trying to figure out why I’m really here. Searching for truth. I feel kind of lost sometimes, you know? But I don’t really think of it as a weakness. Everyone feels lost sometimes, don’t you think? It’s one of the things that make me who I am. I get lost sometimes but I always find my way back. And it’s all these feelings that tell me, that uh.. make me human. These feelings that we share with others.. is proof of that.”

“You should go.” He turned his back on me. “I don’t feel like fighting today.” He said without a hint of emotion. “You know that we’re on different sides, right? We’ll have to fight eventually. So go back to your friends. Next time, I won’t go easy on you.”

“Well then, thanks for the warning, Cloud.” I bid him goodbye before walking away. I never really knew how.. but sometimes, I just seem to know things. I could feel it.. in my heart. Cloud is a good person, no matter what he said. I felt it so strongly that I couldn’t bring myself to believe his threat. I don’t know if I could ever see him as an enemy. To be honest, I saw him as a hero. He saved me, after all.

Although I was walking around with foggy and incomplete memories, somehow I knew that no matter how unfair the world, or our own fate gets.. there are still good things and good people around. No matter how harsh the world gets, the struggles, the pain… they don’t last forever. They say that humans are selfish by nature. I guess that’s partly true. I don’t think it’s wrong to want something but there are also selfless people out there. I saw a few faces in my head but I couldn’t remember who they are.

The faces Tifa saw in her head when she thought of selflessness

The faces Tifa saw in her head when she thought of selflessness

I also had a feeling that I would see Cloud again. I stopped walking and looked back to take one last glance at Cloud. He was gone.

Then I remembered.

A water tower and a promise made under the stars.

A promise made under the stars.

A promise made under the stars.

fin.

DISCLAIMER:
I DO NOT OWN DISSIDIA FINAL FANTASY. IT BELONGS TO SQUARE ENIX. I AM MERELY BORROWING THE CHARACTERS FOR MY HOMEWORK. I ALSO DO NOT CLAIM OWNERSHIP OF THE IMAGES USED IN THIS POST.
NOTES:
THIS STORY WAS BASED ON AND INSPIRED BY DISSIDIA FINAL FANTASY, DISSIDIA DUODECIM, FINAL FANTASY VII , CRISIS CORE AND ADVENT CHILDREN. THE TITLE COMES FROM A LINE FROM THE POEM LOVELESS IN CRISIS CORE (‘THE WANDERING SOUL KNOWS NO REST’). THE LINE “TIME IS OUT OF JOINT” IS FROM HAMLET BY SHAKESPEARE.
THIS STORY COULD BE CLASSIFIED AS A FANFICTION STORY OF DISSIDIA. I USED TIFA LOCKHART’S POV TO COVER THE MAIN POINTS OF THE ASSIGNMENT, WHICH IS TO EXPRESS OUR VIEWS REGARDING GOD, WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN AND OUR VIEWS ON THE WORLD OR SOCIETY. I TRIED TO KEEP TIFA IN CHARACTER AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, BUT BEING AN INEXPERIENCED WRITER, I MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE SUCCEEDED. I TRIED TO PUT IN SOME CANON ELEMENTS IN THE STORY AS WELL, AND I BASED SOME OF THE DIALOGUE FROM ACTUAL SCENES IN DISSIDIA DUODECIM.
SOURCES:

 

HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/DISSIDIA_FINAL_FANTASY

HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/DISSIDIA_012_FINAL_FANTASY

HTTP://FINALFANTASY.WIKIA.COM/WIKI/DISSIDIA_FINAL_FANTASY

HTTP://FINALFANTASY.WIKIA.COM/WIKI/DISSIDIA_012_FINAL_FANTASY

HTTP://FINALFANTASY.WIKIA.COM/WIKI/ORDER%27S_SANCTUARY

HTTP://FINALFANTASY.WIKIA.COM/WIKI/TIFA_LOCKHART

HTTP://FINALFANTASY.WIKIA.COM/WIKI/TIFA_LOCKHART/DISSIDIA

HTTP://FINALFANTASY.WIKIA.COM/WIKI/LOVELESS

THE IMAGES WERE TAKEN FROM ALL OVER THE INTERNET. (GOOGLE, TUMBLR, WEHEARTIT, FFWIKIA)

 
ASSIGNMENT 1 PART 2
 

THERE AND BACK AGAIN BY LENI GARCIA

Posted on June 9, 2013

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The main point of Leni Garcia’s article was to show us the relationship of philosophy and myths in various time periods. Philosophy is the search for truth, and at one point, myths were the answers to some of man’s greatest questions. In modern times, myths are popular stories considered as fantasies. In short, people now believe that it holds no truth. However in the past, myths were believed to be true. Over time, philosophy began to sever itself from mythical influences.  It may seem far removed from myths but it still carries parts of it within it. Philosophy, for a long time, has undergone a journey to find itself and now, according to the article, “it is ready to turn back, to be born anew, carrying a face of truth through a new – philosophical – mode of mythic thinking”.

ASSIGNMENT 1 PART 1

Nonexistent WordPress Accounts

Honestly, I cannot fathom why you had to write down a wordpress url address which is nonexistent or which, much later, you decided to drop and did not inform me.  I am already warning you that if it would take me a long time to visit your site or never at all, it is not entirely my fault.

This is the virtual counterpart of a p-hole where students would just drop off their work expecting their professors to find it themselves.  I DO NOT HAVE it and will never accept work from any of you unless I personally receive it.

I hope I made myself clear on this regard.  Thank you.

 

God made a Hocrux for Everything

God made a Hocrux  for Everything

Malcolm Lim of A53 did a wonderful reflection with beautiful sketches to boot! Go over his site, http://malcolm3drich.wordpress.com/, stat!

NO CLASSES FOR INTFILO A53 AND A51 ON THURSDAY, JUNE 20

Dear Students,In anticipation of the Big Lectures on August 16, we will not have our classes tomorrow, June 20  for both A53 and A51.  Please be guided.  And also, to those concerned, kindly inform your classmates about this notice.

Thank you:)

Sweet Story from Benedict Tamayo EM

Love the original drawings:)

THE ELEMENTS OF THE WORLD

By: Benedict Vincent G. Tamayo

Drawings are also made by me. :)

In a world where everything has a counterpart – light and darkness, good and evil, heaven and hell – Earth used to be plunged into chaos when disasters start to roam around. Houses were completely destroyed, crops and fields left barren, and the sea levels continued to decrease; the people lived a hard life day by day as they tried to find ways of survival. But everything changed after rumors circulated around the world that four children were dead in different areas due to disappearance.

img029

Hey, have you heard of the children who died at the same time? What happened to them? Goodness, gracious, why do these bad things happen? These were some of the questions that the people ask their fellow neighbors and friends. But, the real question is: WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Years passed by and no one continued to search for the answer that they were looking for. Case closed, the four children were concluded dead and everyone accept it as a fact.

——————————————————————————————

Out of nowhere, a voice was heard in the midst of darkness, “My children… Please wake up.” No response was heard and the voice repeated the same sentence until one person managed to wake up.

He yawned and stretched his arms wide. With his eyes half-opened, he wondered, where in the world am I. He saw three other people with him, by the looks of it; they seem to be of the same age as him. Looking around his surroundings, he got up and walked a short distance then back – it was but a vast white space of nothingness except the three children lying still.

img030

He approached one of them, a girl with beautiful, twin pony-tailed hair. He nudged her and said, “Hey, wake up,” but she didn’t respond. So, he continued until the girl’s eyes are finally wide open. “Thank God, you’re awake, I thought you might be dead or something,” he commented and the girl looked at him.

The girl stretched her arms wide and finally spoke to the boy, “Hm? Where am I? And, who are you?” The girl left a puzzled face and the guy replied that he didn’t know where they are. They finally introduced one another: the boy’s name is Inferno and the girl’s name is Aeria.

img031

As they continued talking about themselves, the two other children finally woke up and Inferno noticed them. He ran to them and said, “It’s about time you two woke up.”

One of them, a boy, replied back, “Hey, do you know where we are right now? And, who are you?” He turned his head to the other girl, “And you, who are you and tell me where we are right now,” with an angry tone.

Inferno tried his best to calm him down and the other boy kept his cool. The other girl also asked the same question, as she was flipping her long, wavy hair. They introduced each other: the other boy’s name is Terrence while the latter is Hydra.  Everyone acquainted one another, and they had laughs as each one joke about things that happened in the world.

 
img032
 
 

After a while, the voice suddenly returned, “Ah, you are all awake from your long slumber, my children.”

Inferno became infuriated and asked loudly, “WHO ARE YOU AND WHERE IN THE WORLD ARE WE!?”

The voice answered, “Calm down, Inferno, let us take things hastily. Before I move on to your mission, I need to explain to you about the world you are about to go to.” It made the children confused and surprised, but they all nodded with respect.

The voice continued to speak, “You see…Before, the world was plunged into havoc and chaos that left numerous things come crashing down. And now that things have mellowed down, I am afraid that everything might happen again. This is when the four of you are part of this; the four of you are chosen to be the ones responsible for fixing this upcoming mess.”

Terrence then asked, “But, of all the people who are living this world, why would you choose us?”

The voice replied, “From your good deeds along with you deaths, you all are-“

Hydra interrupted, “DID YOU JUST SAY DEATH?”

From his anger, Inferno shouted, “IS THIS SOME KIND OF A JOKE? WHY WILL YOU SAY WE ARE DEAD BUT WE ARE STILL ALIVE IN THIS VAST WHITE SPACE?” Aeria and Terrence tried to comfort him, while Hydra stood there and blushed.

“My child, please don’t react with violence. Your death is not the issue at hand right now. The reason why you all are sent here is because of one thing. And that is because you all possess the most important thing that everyone needs to have: the good deeds you did for your fellow people,” the voice calmly replied. “It is not because you are all punished, but this is because I am giving you a chance to redeem yourselves as the righteous you are.”

Aeria came close to the voice and replied, “B-but… W-why would you c-choose us?”

The voice only replied three words, “Because you’re good,” no more and no less. Then, the voice was not heard after a short while.

And without further ado, the children were transported to their world and from there on, they tried their best to save the world.

——————————————————————————————

As years passed by, each of them possess a special ability that involves the interaction with the elements of the world.

Inferno became a person who has the ability to gain contact with the fire spirits, but when he gets angry or agitated, volcanoes erupt and forests start to burn.

Aeria became a person who has the ability to gain contact with the air spirits, but when she gets nervous or is under pressure, a tempest will come along its way.

Terrence became a person who has the ability to gain contact with the earth spirits, but due to his hot-temperament, he can create earthquakes by punching on the ground.

And lastly, Hydra become a person who has the ability to gain contact with the water spirits. When she gets angry over a minor issue, a tsunami will be expected to arrive.

Though they may experience hard times as they continue their jobs being the protectors of this world, they learned to control and they were able to keep away the evil spirits away from causing havoc in our world. And, the world is in peace once again.

——————————————————————————————

The voice wasn’t heard as well, but he did left a message for “his children” to read:

I may not be heard by all of you recently and also for five years, but I want all of you to know that by enhancing your powers, I know that all of you did your part to save the world. Yes, there may be times when all of you fought with one another, but bad things remain bad things and that is that. Do not remember the things that destroy, but the things that build you up – the precious memories that you all cherished since the four of you are such good friends to another. Treat yourselves as family members, and though I may not be there to guide you, I know that deep inside you all might have missed me the same way as I miss you all. Every day is always a bright and shining day, from today until the end of time.

SFX: Listen to www.youtube.com/watch?v=moEzt4HhRoE for this portion about the memories that the all cherished as they grow.

 

 

1st Journal Entry (Part 1)

THERE AND BACK AGAIN: A COMMENT

As I read Leni Garcia’s article, There and Back Again: Philosophy’s Journey from Mythos to Logos, and Back, it made me realize about many things regarding mythology from the ancient times (examples of these include: Myths from the East, Norse Mythology etc.).

(Source: http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2012/12/dogmas-of-analytic-philosophy-part-12.html)

Beautiful Work from Kides del Rosario of EJ

It’s raining outside, I’m slowly sipping wine from a glass, and reading fantastic stories such as these!  On another note, I think you should run home as soon as you can to avoid the rains and floods.  I hope that by now you are home where you are safe and dry:)

Journal Entry 1: Reflection on Leni Garcia’s Article

Posted on June 13, 2013

In the world of Leni Garica and her article it talked about how people view how the world came to be in different ways. How these so called “gods” have an affect on the lives of mortals on earth, that whatever happens to them it also happens to us. We all know of the gods Zeus and Poseidon, the reason why we have water is because of Poseidon and we had lightning because of Zeus and so on and so forth, so meaning these so called gods were praised by the mortals. I actually believe that these were all just myths and were made up to create stories for children to read and heroes to look up to like zeus and poseidon. These so called myths give us reason and beliefs that science can’t give us.

The Warrior of The Heart

Posted on June 13, 2013
Maethor

When Maethor was born in the hands of a human and a God, his father knew his life would never be normal. Maethor grew up with one parent short having no father to look up to, this brought great sadness upon him. But nonetheless life would not wait for him and all he could do is move on. While he was growing up somewhere deep in his heart a thought pressed him to think every day. He knew he was not like the others. He knows that somewhere beyond the boundaries of his home, away from the boundaries of his homeland there was something out there –somewhere just waiting for him patiently calling out his name with an eager voice.

Where Maethor and Thalma first meet.

Understanding what was deep in his heart, Maethor left a normal teenagers lifestyle, knowing that the restricting walls of his school would not bring him his ultimate desire. Taking all that he could Maethor stepped out of the comfort of his home and ventured out into the world that awaits him. He passed through forests and cut through mountains but curiosity got him and led him into a place that no one has ever come across. As he entered the small opening he saw this great place, like a whole new world he’s never laid eyes on, as he gazed in the beauty of the mountains and the waterfalls that lead to the beautiful lake that mirrors his image he notices something across the lake. A woman standing on the edge dressed in white, her fiery red hair flowed like a scarlet river gleaming gold and brilliant. Her fair skin was smoothed in the light of the setting sun and though from afar he could see her eyes, violet like an amethyst, unreal and enchanting. Maethor had never been so captivated by such beauty before that he builds up the courage to walk up to her. They meet and Maethor can’t seem to pry his eyes off of her, he asks for her name and she replies with a smile,

“Thalma.”

What grew from a great friendship blossomed something more, time has passed and Maethor realized that he truly loved her as Thalma felt the same way. Meanwhile in the shadows of the Pandaemonium, the domain of where evil was at its greatest lurked in the darkness a being of great power. His name was Galvor, lord of death, and he was not pleased with this union and decided that he would do something about it but because of his pride he would not try to approach him personally. He sends forth a Hellhound which is a canine twisted from dark designs to teach Maethor a lesson. As Maethor and Thalma were walking in the forest they hear a demonic howling that echoed through the woods, taken by surprise the Hellhound pounced towards both Thalma and Maethor. Maethor, feeling responsible for her safety, he jumped towards this beast and landed on the back of its neck. Pinning the beast to the ground and with one fluid motion broke its neck silencing its howls forever. Maethor couldn’t explain what just happened and where his strength was coming from, his mind was baffled with questions. This is where Thalma comes in and unexpectedly explains. “Maethor, when you told me that you didn’t seem to fit in like the others, I think this is why. A mortal having such great strength can only mean you were born the son of a god named, Gaius, god of valor. You ask why I know this? It is because I am Thalma a demi-god just like you.” Maethor was in shock and couldn’t really absorb what he was hearing, “Thalma, it has been 5 years since we have met and we’ve told each other everything…I guess I was wrong.” Thalma felt saddened by what she heard, “I’m sorry Maethor for not telling you this from the beginning, I thought it was better that way, for us to live a life normal. I also have to tell you something since you know about the other world, the gods. A lord of death named Galvor has had a long time fettish over me, he says that I will end up with him no matter what I do. I think that’s why the Hellhound appeared before us. Galvor is trying to send a message to us. I don’t want you to get hurt so I think that I should stay away for the moment Maethor.” Maethor couldn’t accept that and did what he could do to keep her in his life, “THALMA! Will you marry me?!” Surprised by what just came out of his mouth Thalma replies, “Maethor what are you saying? After all of that I’ve just told you, you want to marry me?” Maethor replies, “Even after what you told me, I want you to be in my life, no matter what happens. I’ll protect you.” With awe and a smile on her face, “I want to be with you to Maethor, I love you, YES I will marry you!” With happiness in their hearts they caressed each other and could not believe all the things that just happened.

Hellhounds sent by Galvor

Meanwhile, Galvor underestimated Maethor; he did not know that Gaius had bore a son, this demi-god with such great strength. He had to end things between Thalma and Maethor, but he needed a great plan, after what he just saw and the marriage proposal he needs to stop things and time is not on his side. Galvor decides to go forth the earth as a human being and try to get Thalma for himself.  When doing so, Galvor fails and is rejected, this really upsets him because Galvor doesn’t like to be rejected. This pain and anger causes him to do demonic things on earth, he plans to get revenge on Maethor and Thalma, he leaves earth knowing he will come back. He says with such great confidence, “Thalma, you will be mine!”

All evil Galvor

Watching from above, Gaius, couldn’t keep his eyes from watering because of what was happening with his son and his betrothed Thalma, he had to convince Galvor to stop, but how was the question. He did not want to interfere with the human world let alone let Maethor know the evil plans Galvor created. Gaius had to guide his son.

“Maethor…MAETHOR!” yelled Thalma. With a concerned look on his face, “What is it Thalma my love?” Thalma needed to catch her breath and spoke with a quaky voice, “It’s Galvor, he was here and he tried to take me with him back to his world, Pandaemonium. He said I will one day be his!” Maethor couldn’t control his rage and smashed his fist against the floor creating a big crack. “I must not let you out of my sight Thalma, I need to protect you!” Maethor said. In that moment darkness appeared before them and Maethor could hear the howls of those Hellhounds and the howls were coming closer. Maethor turned his head and three Hellhounds, a lot bigger than they were before, came pouncing towards them. Maethor ready to take them down like before was in his standing position filled with confidence and rage.  Maethor was not well prepared to go up against three Hellhounds, he had no chance.

Thalma watched with scared and worried eyes, she couldn’t help but cry and call out to the gods to help Maethor. No one seemed to show up. Maethor couldn’t handle the Hellhounds and he was going down slowly, Thalma was shouting out, “Run Maethor, get way from them..RUN RUN!” From behind her it was Galvor, “I told you Thalma, you will be mine.” With that said, Thalma seemed to have listened to Galvor, she went with him and didn’t know why this was all happening. Galvor caressed Thalma and they left earth. As Galvor left so did the Hellhounds.

“Thalma! Where are you? Thalma!” yelling out into the mountains and woods, Maethor ended up in the small opening and he entered curious thinking that Thalma might have hid there. Looking around the lake, now only filled with water and its beauty gone along with Thalma. Maethor was losing hope and didn’t know if the Hellhounds or Galvor had taken her away, he couldn’t do anything but crawl into a ball near the edge of the lake and cry and cry till there was nothing left to do but close his eyes and dream of Thalma appearing to him again. “Son…Son you must wake up! Maethor wake up!” cried out Gaius. Awoken with fear and tears in his eyes Maethor mumbled, “Gaius…father?” He opened his eyes wide when he saw what stood in his presence, in front of him, it was Gaius.

Father of Maethor, Gaius

“Son you must go forth and find Thalma, she was taken by Galvor. You must go and be swift and brave my son for where I’m sending you it has no light of good but evil, Pandaemonium. Galvor has put Thalma under a curse, she does not know you and she only knows that Galvor is the love of her life. The curse can be broken my son, you must go to her, show her that love conquers all. Show her that your love is stronger than this curse,” Gauis says to his son and has done his purpose and is just gone in an instant.  Appearing to him with answers about Thalma, Maethor was saddened for he had so many questions about himself. Nonetheless he must go and find Thalma.

Pandaemonium, center of all evil

Maethor has come a long way and reaches Pandaemonium, all but good and happiness lies within the walls of this place. Trenching through the woods of Pandaemonium, he reaches the main core, Galvor’s Mansion, within his house is Maethor’s beloved Thalma. As he discretely enters the house with such bravery and swiftness, he see’s Thalma laying in the bed of Galvor. Galvor is nowhere to be seen so Maethor runs and picks up Thalma and puts her in his arms. Galvor whispers, “Thalma I know you do not know me but I must get you out of this place, come with me!” Frightened by this man, Thalma yells out, “Galvor…..Galvor!” Maethor quietly says, “Shhhh! Thalma let us go, I will explain on the way back home!” Maethor throws Thalma on his shoulders and runs into the thick trees of the woods.

Thalma when Maethor finds her at the mansion of Galvor

“Thalma, please listen to me! I am Maethor, I am the love of your life, not Galvor. We had a love so strong that nothing could break us! Please remember me!” Maethor said with frustration. Days have passed and progress was slow but Thalma seemed to be acting differently. She was starting to remember some things and she would often visit the lake where we first met. One night Maethor had been wandering the forests frustrated and he decided to visit the lake and so he did. Amazed by what he saw, Thalma was there, the same exact place they met, walking slowly towards the edge of the lake where Thalma stood with such posture Maethor whispers, “Thalma, are you doing okay?” With a sudden movement Thalma looks at Maethor, kisses him passionately on the lips and with tears in her eyes pulls away and mumbles, “Maethor, oh Maethor, how I’ve missed you.” Everything in the past has rushed into the mind of Thalma after that kiss. With such enjoyment and relief Maethor caresses Thalma tightly. Maethor crying and could barely get the words out, “I love you Thalma, this will never happen again.” They walked together slowly into the forest and talked about what happened and how much they’ve missed each other.

Galvor is watching them and he knows that their happiness will only last for so long, she will still be mine. Galvor is smart he has thought one step ahead because this curse does have a twist to it, if it is broken by Maethor and his love for Thalma, then she will become immortal just like Galvor. So when Maethor has had his time with Thalma, he will still grow old and die, while Thalma is left on earth with Galvor for eternity. There is no happy ending and Galvor is the only person to know this. So he will let them live their life but Galvor intends for Thalma to be his for all eternity. Maethor and Thalma continue their life married and happy and not knowing of Thalma’s miserable future she has ahead of her.

References:

devianart.com (images)

Excellent Story from Jasmine Lalanto EJ

Jasmine is such a fantastic story-teller I deemed it was too good to miss!

Mythology and it’s allure (First Journal Entry INTFILO)

Part 1

Leni Garcia’s Article in the book exploring the Philosophical Terrain is first that Myths and Science during the time of Homer was intertwined. I believe because most of the community then was far from being intellectual about the things that can’t be seen by the naked eye. Human Beings tend to brush things that are unexplained to magic and myths. During those times because of the popular belief in Gods and Goddesses many were hesitant to question things that stray away from the thinking of the masses which solely based on the deities that were never seen or heard. Because of the popular rise of Hesoid and Homer many believe what was written was true and because of this many Philosophers were adamantly against that belief.

It was stated in the article that there is no line that differentiates what is philosophy to what is not, and because of this Thales was considered the first philosopher. The main reason why he was the considered as the first philosopher I think, because he was the first one to object what was beyond the norm of what society thinks about the creation of all the things. He was the first one to question the beliefs of people though many still thought about him paying homage to Poseidon. Though he might seem to move against the current he still had a small inclination to the myths which cannot be explained in words/science before then, but with the start of something small as opposing what is universally acknowledge many have started to question it also which started another bandwagon though of a different nature.

Another point that she raised was how the poems illustrate that of the lives of the heroes which can be seen as colorful, full of meaning and of course note worthy. Like many characters from different myths from across different pantheon there are different stories on how one will portray the changing of seasons or stories of lovers though they have might be distinct to one, they share a common denominator which is the cycle of the hero’s life. The journey of the main protagonist then going into a dark atmosphere or event to having been enlightened and the cycle repeats itself again.

These are I think the main points of Leni Garcia’s article.

Part 2 Own Mythical Story :)

Have you ever wondered why only so little is discovered of the deep-sea? That is because beneath the deep waters lie an unknown population of supreme beings. These “beings” are highly advanced in all aspects compared to humans, so advanced that they regulate the things we know. Only through subtle and seemingly unrelated hints do they show that they DO exist. Despite this, very few human beings have been able to connect these subtle hints. There is a limit to what human beings should know about everything, therefore they have to erase the existence of these unfortunate people. By “erasing” people, it not only means that these people mysteriously disappear but also their identities are completely wiped out from existence. Everything that came into contact with them is perfectly covered up. Needless to say, it’s as if these people never existed. They found out the whole truth and it literally killed them. This we could not confirm, but it’s a fate worse than death (in society’s terms, at least. Death could be seen as something positive by very few others.)
But what of these notes? Doesn’t the author of these notes fear of being wiped out of existence? Or more convincingly these exact notes are just another collection of gibberish of a mad person. You, reader, will never know. It could be one of the subtle hints mentioned earlier being less subtle. Why not expose them a little bit every once in a while? After all, they need more human specimens to “erase”.

Here I stand, ready to illustrate why the people of Atlantis vanished into thin air, never to be seen again.

Let us first talk about the creation, not many have been able to comprehend where the people of Atlantis or like they prefer it Atlanteans really came from, some say they were very powerful beings that was created even before the gods, while some say that the Atlanteans were the gods, while others say that they were the perfect creations of what a Human Being is , but even though with a diverse definition of what an Atlantean is they share a common trait which is the Atlanteans were the Thanatos  Fernei or Bringer of Death in English.

Atlantekonian gods and goddesses were considered more powerful than that of the Greek Pantheon but due to their neutrality they weren’t making any scheming plot to over throw one another and conquer the universe for themselves unlike other pantheons, but instead they chose to live out plans that can make their lives more proficient which makes them more mysterious to other supernatural beings. Due to their strong power and allure most of the different pantheon like the Egyptian, Norse, and Greek were enamored by their presence. See it was very rare to find an Atlantekonian out in the open for they were a very secretive group, and when laid eyes upon only selected beings are immune to the hum and presence radiating from them, that is why many seek out to ally themselves to that said pantheon. The first Atleantean was born when the Atlantekonian Goddess named Apollymi had an affair with the Titan Prometheus, for their romance was only brief but resulted into the first Atlantean. Scared of what the reaction of Prometheus she kept the information of her unborn child a secret to him, instead she searched for guidance from other Atlantekonians. The initial reaction from the members was to kill the child for they will have no use for it and is an abomination to the niche but Apollymi being the goddess of destruction and life couldn’t handle the pressure so instead they all agreed to birth the child though they will cast it away into a realm far away from them.

Acheron was the first Atlantean to ever roam the earth. He didn’t know who his creator was and how he was brought about, the last thing he remember was waking up all alone washed up in an isolated island. He lived alone for 500 years without doing anything except to hunt for food and make shelter. During one of his hunting trips he stumbled across a building that was abandoned, and found it sturdy enough to be his home. One evening Acheron was visited by none other than Apollymi herself, explaining the things that transpired during the time Acheron was brought about, she let the memories of their short time together resurface which made Acheron lurched grabbing his head for information that was slowly revealing itself. At the end of their conversation Apollymi brought about 6 beings in front of Acheron asking him to take care of the children like him, some were half Greek half Atlantekonian, while others were half Atlantekonian half Egyptian but the one that caught Acheron’s eyes was the anomaly which is Soteria. Her lineage was never confirmed but one of the sources says that she was the first woman to be created by one of the Gods from the Greek Pantheon from clay and was given breath to live by none other than Athena herself but was shunned away for being too fragile. After a few more years of living as a family and courtship between the opposite sex, Acheron and Soteria finally fell in love and have given birth to a daughter named Ryssa. The populations of Atlantis grew from offspring of the members or by Apollymi bringing more demigods and human beings. Soon after it was already a booming community which many people live in with different blood lines interconnected though the blood line of Acheron and Soteria was preserved and was thought of as the pure bloodline. Ryssa was considered as the most beautiful women in the Atlantis, and because she was the most loved daughter of Acheron he handed her the amulet of nothingness, which was said to have been capable of erasing one’s identity and or one’s memories and this amulet was one of the main ‘cause for the destruction of Atlantis and plunging it to the depths of the sea.

It all started when the box of Pandora was opened by some audacious and arrogant soldiers of Acheron. Pandora was on a different mission from the Greek Pantheon, she knowing how strong, credible and neutral Acheron was, asked him to look after the box which she secretly give off.  The soldiers of Acheron were considered the best across different places though what made them weak was their desire to get stronger, their inability to be content on what they have. Because of this the soldiers wanted to seize the opportunity by actually opening the box. However what they didn’t expect was for the box to contain emotions and events that were neither used nor wanted in society – lust, envy, gluttony, destruction, wrath, hope, and other what nots that were left mainly because nothing good come out of it. The moment they opened the box was when all the evils came out and wreak havoc in Atlantis, it affected nearly every person and causing mayhem and anarchy between the people. The soldiers were consumed with guilt at what they had done, and soon after every one was taken over by the seven deadly sins the resided in the box all except one, he who was the main instigator and the husband of Ryssa named Zsadist.  He quickly went out to seek Ryssa to see if she was ok and thankfully she was, but soon after Acheron who was away for a few days came back roaring inside the castle demanding answer on what transpired in the land of Atlantis. Zsadist and Acheron fought with all their hearts while Ryssa wanted nothing more than to have them be normal again. As the fight egged on longer Zsadist was blasted off by the power of Acheron crashing down strongly against the floor, he swiftly swooped down and crouched ready to deliver the final blow when Ryssa screamed and used the amulet on her father. A few seconds later Acheron laid limp beside Zsadist having forgotten all the memories of what transpired but the ground started to shake and buildings were slowly caving.  Ryssa wanting nothing more than to save Atlantis couldn’t do anything anymore for after a few seconds the City of Atlantis plunged to the sea never to be seen again, or is it.

Some say Ryssa was the leader of this city beneath the waters and when somebody gets closer to the truth they are taken without anyone noticing erasing their memories, their existence and letting them be fed by her pet the Leviathan.

**The stories that inspired me was the book Acheron, the Greek Gods and Goddesses and other are just my fiction of imagination while the names are from characters from different books that stood out for me. I do not own Acheron, Ryssa, Zsadist, Apollymi, and Prometheus.

By: Jasmine M. Lalanto

INTFILO EJ

Excellent reflection and story from Eduardo Cabral EM

Love this for its simplicity and depth of insight!

Journal Entry 1

Image

Made by my friend, Sonny Aranilla

            When I was a kid, I was a huge fan of Greek mythology. I was swayed by their way of life and really find the Greek Gods cool for their existence. There was something in Greek mythology that I think I can connect to on some level. However, I know they are just tales to tell a story about heroic acts of Gods and to entertain people especially young children but I believe their existence is to teach a lesson. People must understand how to weed out the truth from the story and detach it from the fiction. With that being said, this relates to Plato’s parable of the cave. The parable merely illustrates the battle with oneself. It is in the inner being of each one to know when to start evaluating matters of life. People usually don’t see the reality of ideas for they simply blindly follow what the society feeds them and they are only taken out from the world of shadows when they start to question what is happening around them and think beyond what they see. It is only through enlightenment that one is freed from ignorance. Just like when the philosophers start to form queries about reality which displayed the shift from mythos to logos. They began to seek the truth beneath the lies of Greek mythology just like Thales who veered off from the usual idea and asked what the world is composed of. Eventually, logos prevailed but it doesn’t mean that mythos was totally wiped off. I think this is the main point of Leni Garcia’s article. He highlighted that mythos and logos complement with each other. Philosophers use mythos to make logos as a whole. They use it as a way in order for the common people to understand more what logos tries to impart. Alternatively, mythos needs to be substantiated by a reason for stories will just be simply lies without validity. One cannot exist without the other for both are indispensable.

Imagehttp://commonsenseconspiracy.com/2012/06/has-the-big-bang-theory-been-debunked-scientist-claims-entire-universe-existed-before-the-big-bang/

            Garcia’s article grabbed my attention and made me ponder how the world existed and what really is God’s true form. As I imagine the creation of universe, I came to think as well what God looks like. Darkness existed for so long and covered the whole empty space. But one day, there was flickering in one corner and suddenly its intensity started to multiply up until it cannot contain itself. The Light exploded in the outer space and bits of it scattered at every part where every particle was shimmering at their own  place. One speck of Light was Earth and beams of it formed human beings of different races, the sky, the land and the sea and as well as a variety of creatures. With the Light inside of every individual, of every living thing, it can either shine brighter or shrink into the darkness. The Light resembles God. With that being said, every being has a piece of God within themselves. It is on the will of each individual on whether they will accept God’s love or not, who to hold on and keep faith in. Given those who stayed under and let themselves be consumed by dark of shadows, the idea of the devil comes to life. These days, the presence of old and new Gods came into the idea from the intensity of Light formed by each of individual having the same faith. This is where the concept of religion comes into place. There may be a diversity of beliefs, but at the end of the day, each one swears by on one God in union of their distinct convictions.

Let’s Get the Conversation Started: Tell Me What You Think!


Crafting/Slaying/Destabilizing Young Self in Cyberspace: Phenomenological Reflections on Power and Vulnerability

Dr. Jeane C. Peracullo

Philosophy Department

De La Salle University

Introduction

This article focuses on selected students’ reflections in my Introduction to Philosophy, Introduction to Gender Studies, and Philosophy of the Person courses at De La Salle University.  These musings are about their engagement of, with, and in cyberspace particularly through virtual games and social networks using a philosophical method known as Phenomenology.  Through phenomenology, students critically examined their own experience as they navigated cyberspace and how such experiences impacted on the way they have understood themselves, their gender identities, and even sexual orientation.  The activity enabled them to reflect deeply into their own engagement and whether such made them empowered or vulnerable.

Young people, especially in the Philippines, have wholeheartedly embraced cyberspace, have taken to the internet as well as information and computer mediated technologies or ICTs like ducks to water.   Normally sullen and uncommunicative in geographical space, they are hyper gregarious in cyberspace which they considerably and exceptionally employ to creatively express their selves, opinions, feelings and emotions.  It is not a coincidence that a status update in Facebook is called a shout out.  And in the seemingly unlimited vastness of cyberspace, it is exactly as termed, a shout out to announce one’s presence; to render one as significant and important and not at all an unknown or just another face in the crowd.  Ironically, this ability to proclaim one’s presence into the world through the Internet also renders them vulnerable. I take vulnerability as a direct result of violence inflicted on bodies on a regular and sustained manner. Violence as manifested in geographical space is present in cyberspace inasmuch as the stakeholders, players, perpetrators and victims are humans. For David Roberts in Human Insecurity: Global Structures of Violence (2008: 17) violence takes many forms and its definitions range in breadth.  It is traditionally understood as the consequences/s of action or actions of an actor or a result of activities of institution or structures.  Direct violence normally results in visible victims and survivors.  While traditional conceptions of violence emphasized war or armed violence, the manifestation of violence in cyberspace is much more subtle and to some extent sublime. Forms may include cyberbullying, cyber stalking and other acts that emphasize and highlight young people‘s vulnerability and powerlessness.

The Nature of Cyberspace

It is helpful to regard cyberspace as not ontologically distinct from geographical (physical) space.  In Mapping Cyberspace (2001) Dodge and Kitchin consider cyberspace as a metaphor which is used to illustrate a myriad of spaces, of digital interactions created by individual people, communities and corporations to trade information.  In this case, cyberspace’s contribution to information exchange is tremendous to radically alter our way of life—economically, politically, and culturally.  And here lies its true power—its transformative energy (2001: 13). It has a tremendous democratic potential—it fosters a sense of participation that only democracy can provide.

Indeed, the “virtual” nature of cyberspace fosters a sense that it is more accessible because it is not constrained by physical boundaries like mountains and oceans as well as immigration counters or border patrols, and non-physical boundaries like language and culture.  Most people do not understand how information and media content travel to get to them but certainly there is something gratifying with connecting to someone via information and computer mediated technologies or ICTs. The 1 Billion (and counting) members of Facebook can attest to this and the instant comments or queries or status updates by friends and family can either bring about joy or anger or consternation.  These are real emotions albeit mediated by ICTs.  In virtual games for example, players are not required to physically perform the actions being performed by the players’ characters in the game. He/she simply has to press the keyboard and move the mouse. Nonetheless, the term virtual reality implies that inasmuch as it is a mere prototype of reality, it is also experienced as real as when the user is presented with visual, auditory, and even tactile feedback.

But is it really better than real?

Philosophically, what constitutes reality is an on-going debate between the so-called “realists” and the “nonrealists”.  The realists basically hold that reality is objective, that is, it exists independent of the self or human observer; it is knowable and predictable insofar as it works through and is governed by physical laws.  Nonrealists on the other hand hold that what we know as “objective” reality is created or constructed as negotiate complex structures.  As such, there is no reality that exists outside these social constructions.  Cyberspace is a space that offers limitless possibilities. One of these is the creation of truly global communities linked solely by common interests or ideologies.  William Gibson who coined the word cyberspace in his novel Neuromancer (1984) defines it as “a consensual hallucination.”   By the very phrase Gibson here seems to articulate that cyberspace is a simulation of reality but some postmodern thinkers like Jean Baudrillard insists that a basic human experience is already a simulation of reality and to regard a simulation as not “real” is to miss the point on how images, symbols and signs precede what we generally regard as “real.”  Thus, what reality is, it seems, is characterized more by incommensurability rather than certainty.  Cyberspace then is just like any human space constructed by humans themselves and created with the same artifacts (space, city, café, rooms, etc) just like in geographical space and inhabited by the same people we recognize everyday albeit some are in virtual forms.  Social networking sites are created because we are social beings and we have been networking for a long, long time largely for our own survival.  The Internet then is just one medium with which we express our humanness. With these in mind, cyberspace is no less real than geographical space and not much better.

Crafting Self through Virtual Games

In geographical space, one may be small or insignificant or unimportant.  He or she may even be socially inept as most teens are wont to be or may be marginalized by society for being different e.g. being gay, lesbian or transgender.  In cyberspace however you can be whoever you want to be!  Cyberspace constructs selves that are disembodied and unfettered by physical and cultural constraints.  Sherry Turkle’s 1995 book, Life on Screen:  Identity in the Age of the Internet reveals how participants in MUD (multi-user domains) chat rooms have become more comfortable assuming identities that are different from the ones they have in geographical space.  Increasing numbers of males in reality assume female identities in virtual reality and children (those who are below 18 years old) navigate these chat rooms expertly by passing themselves off as adults.  Turkle raises concerns about adults having relationships with children unwittingly. Nonetheless, cyberspace has become a place where the self is constructed and the rules of social interaction are built not received (Turkle 1995). This is an interesting insight which seems to reinforce people’s acceptance or regard of cyberspace as “better than real.”  From the study conducted by Turkle, Dodge and Kitchin gather that in cyberspace your body is irrelevant and invisible and nobody need know your race, disability, gender, sexuality or material status unless you choose to reveal it.  Identity is thus conceptualized as constructed through multiple experiences resulting in it becoming fragmented, de-centered and fluid, changing with time and with the situation (2001:53).

Crafting self makes virtual gaming more interesting, according to my students who are engaged in it; in particular, games that are considered as massively multiplayer online role playing games (M.M.O.R.P.G.s).  A male student sumps up the whole process succinctly:

Kill monsters -> Level Up -> Do Quest -> Realize that quests aren’t really worth doing when you could level faster and get much, much, much, much better rewards just repeatedly killing the same set of goddamn monsters 9001 times -> Kill monsters -> Actually Level Up this time -> Rinse and repeat.

The fun is in the ability to be inside a virtual world of role-playing games where one can be anyone he or she chooses to be. The ability to customize characters is one tool that makes the whole gaming experience for the gamers (people who continually play on-line games) more inviting. Imagination is at its peak when presented with 3-dimentional avatars that can range from heroes, heroines, samurais, wizards, monsters and sometimes, culprits. This type of environment that allows self portrayals according to personal preferences had made room for the concept of gender swapping. Virtual gaming knows no rules when it comes to the creation of virtual persona. Gamers are entitled to an ideal “self” that represents them in the gaming world. This gives possibility where a male player can opt for the role of a female character and vice versa.

ragnarok

final fantasy

Ragnarok and Final Fantasy series are examples of MMORPG

A female student reflects on why she opted for a male identity in on-line games and social networks:

I have kept the male identity with my cyberspace friends until they meet me or actually talk to me. One of the reasons I keep my identity male is that the male has the ability to get back, to fight for anything and to raise better opinions than females and it is actually what I have been doing. When there are times that I am in dire need of explanations, facts, I always think that male is the more superior beings than females. In forums, it is very rare that these forum entities are female because a normal female is currently on shopping, swimming or anything that does not pertain to being in the World Wide Web.

A male gamer on the other hand, decided to pass himself off as a girl and is shocked to realize that:

The implication of this experiment is that men in cyberspace, or at least, specifically, a few men who played the Online RPG, Ragnarok during the early 2000s, determined gender, mistakenly, not based on how real men act in the real world, but how they ideally perceived women to act. During those times, it was simple: I acted cute, defenseless and innocent, and they ate it all up. Of course, I benefited a lot from it, and it felt good. It not only worked with men, but I also remember a few specific events when I actually befriended other females (or perceived ones) this way. Of course, this is also in the assumption that those were actual females, but of course, just because I can act the part doesn’t mean that I can distinguish between a good faker and a real one, myself. After all, my mind is already rooted in that same paradigm. This leads me to the next point. Aside from the favors, the second perk of choosing a female character is the ease of garnering popularity. We had a lot of laughs about how there’s a lot of really desperate men in that game (notwithstanding that, at that time, we weren’t really any different – but we were dumb kids back then; we actually had the free time to do stupid things like that, and it was on their expense anyway). I could also hazily recount a time when I made a powerful male character kill someone that I didn’t like.

One male gamer “fell in love” with another gamer through their constant encounters in games but it turned out unpleasant:

I remember when I was playing Tibia, I met this girl and told her that I think I love her, but she said “Dude, I’m a guy”. I was quite surprised and I felt a little disgusted too at the same time.

The highly social and intricate group dynamics in M.M.O.R.P.G.s can be a bane to some young people because they taught them how to be cooperative. One gamer points out:

People may find it funny that I take computer gaming so seriously that I try to form strategies and develop some kind of style of play just for a silly video game. I guess it really is just a case of personal preference. What they don’t know is that throughout this experience in cyber space, I have made friends, many of which from my clan [UDT] which I have come to know personally. This group in the online video gaming world is the gaming “clan”, the set of players who usually team up together and combine tactics and strategies to win or achieve a specific objective. Either the group views you as part of the lower-tier who still needs development or because of how you play or act in the game, or you’re part of the top-class in the group which usually makes the decisions when having organized matches in the game.  I am considered in my gaming community as a highly skilled player.

Similarly, a gamer student likens the satisfaction he gets from constructing virtual selves, worlds and universe “to be Godlike.” He interprets this expression as “a feeling of being able to mold or shift things into how you desire them to be and to set things in accordance to what you perceive to be perfect.” Also that it connotes “to create or construct an environment or a being that a person wishes life could be like, and being able to control the path that you have set upon it. The life one could create in cyberspace has endless possibilities, and to have that feeling of being Godlike in creating such a life in cyberspace is unexplainable.” I think that this accurately captures the intense fascination with virtual games because, as another gamer puts it, “there is no accountability; you can do whatever you want to do without fear of punishment or admonition.”

The Meaning of Self

A male student’s experience in crafting an identity vastly different from his own enabled him to reflect on the meaning of self:

self

 

In the model above, a person has a genuine self, which is how the person really is in the real world. The information about the person is sent through cyberspace in the form of “fragments” of information. Through the process of transfer, these are merely uncategorized fragments, since they are unperceived by anyone. However, as the information is presented to the internet, through hubs such as social networks or MMORPGs, these fragments are perceived and the validity of which is then classified as Genuine, which reflects the true self, and Fabricated, which does not reflect the true self.  The person can then choose which of these he/she wishes to divulge. Through the internet, the perceiver then has several layers of “x-ray vision” through the information. The outermost layer is the Divulged Perception Area, which is mostly made of divulged fragments. The next area is the Deep Perception Area, where some genuine information about the self may be uncovered due to good deduction of the divulged facts and uncovering of character inconsistencies. The innermost area contains the genuine fragments of the person, and I call it the Protected Area, where such information is intently hidden such that perception can no longer penetrate to it and it would require actual knowledge about the person to uncover.

He concludes that while the self can definitely be broken down into bits and re-formed into a new entity as it enters cyberspace, usually, one that is quite distant from the true, core self, these fragments are still subject to both the mediating power of the individual (manifested in one’s choice of information one wishes to share) and of a particular media entity or platform (manifested in stringent requirements to sign up and divulge personal information) one wishes to join into.  I can gather that such realization above is an exercise of self-awareness inasmuch as he is acutely mindful of the hallucinatory nature of cyberspace and thus, what is “real” metaphysically that also includes “genuine’ self is one that is bound by physical (geographical) space.

Power/Powerlessness

In his later writings, Foucault clarifies his notion of power and its attendant freedom in a more positive way.

. . . a power relationship can only be articulated on the basis of two elements that are each indispensable if it is really to be a power relationship: that “the other” (the one over whom power is exercised) be thoroughly recognized and maintained to the very end as a person who acts; and that, faced with a relationship of power, a whole field of responses, reactions, results, and possible interventions open up. (Foucault 1982: 220)

We have established early on that the true power of cyberspace lies in its ability to provide democratic spaces for people to express themselves.  Young people embrace the Internet and ICTs largely for this.  While as mature people, we do not operate any under illusion that cyberspace would be some sort of utopia where people can connect meaningfully in all levels, the reality is, many young people do find their engagement with cyberspace meaningful and life-changing. At this point I deem it very important that we highlight how this engagement of, with and in cyberspace can be empowering to the youth and that it is also in a way a site of resistance against debilitating and death-dealing cultural and ideological standards that render people who are different as an other.  One of my students describes being empowered as:

…the process of increasing the capacity to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes. In my own understanding, being empowered is being confident with the self; people are comfortable with the totality of their beings and are able to express themselves and influence others without being anxious or worried about what other people might perceive, whether positive or negative.

A lesbian student who found her significant other in lesbian dating           website describes her experience as:

a resistance against the idea that as a homosexual, I cannot possibly find someone to love.  I seek to find love and in reality (geographical space) this is something I couldn’t openly do.  It takes courage to announce yourself as a lesbian in real world. So I diverted my attention to the dating world of cyberspace.   In there you can be yourself and tell the whole world that you’re a lesbian anonymously. Cyberspace lets me be who I want to be.

What these pronouncements reveal is for to acknowledge that every space is discursive; every space offers an opportunity to resist the mechanization of those who render us either as miscreants, subversive or deviants. And this space is metaphorically captured by cyberspace.

A male student apologizes for a “somewhat scatterplot attempt that highlights the relationship of two factors which I perceive is vital in the aspect of empowerment/powerlessness in cyberspace: maturity and involvement.”  Nevertheless, as a commentator I find it noteworthy because of its thoughtfulness.

self2

 

 

 

 

 

 

In cyberspace power strives and thrives. There is a saying, he continues, that water has the power to sustain and provide life but also has the ability to bring about destruction. Similarly, there are many instances that due to the freedom and lack of constraints of individuals in cyberspace people are able to express themselves more freely and get positively recognized for their self-expressions, much more than they could get in geographical space. Those who revel in their power to bring out about responses from other people yet are too emotionally fragile to handle bullying that could accompany thoughtless responses, can get hurt and depressed.  Thus, for this student, only those who are self-aware and have gained enough confidence and maturity can be truly empowered. Being empowered, according to him, enhances life through one’s own action and disposition (maturity), and cyberspace offers a venue for the attainment of that power.

Nonetheless, we are not so naïve as to embrace cyberspace uncritically.  In fact, it is a double-edged sword:  on one hand it is very empowering; on the other hand, it is also a perfect place for undesirable people to thrive in.

A student illustrates his level of engagement and interaction with cyberspace:

            Thought the engagement started out innocently, he realizes that as he engages in it deeper, he is also setting himself up to greater vulnerability in the process.

Cyberbullying Affects Real Lives

Nothing demonstrates this vulnerability more acutely than the phenomenon, cyberbullying. In the Philippines where a large number of the populace owns a cellphone and is actively engaged in social networks, cyberbullying and its accompanying phenomena, cyber stalking, cyber gossiping, and character assassination via spread of false and vicious information against others is considered by experts as a real threat to young people.  Real feelings of terror, loneliness, pain, betrayal and misery are noted in victims of cyberbullying.  In an informal interview done by a group of students in my Philosophy of the Person class at De La Salle University, a 17 year-old victim shares her story:

They hacked into my account, deleted my photos then replaced them with like gross ones…you know what I’m talking about?  And then they placed stuff there…like how I dress and look…that I am gay…though I have nothing against homosexuality, I am straight but do you get it?  They were just giving false information about me.  And that hurt me really because I thought that they were people I can trust.

What makes cyberbullying especially pernicious is that some perpetrators do not identify themselves when they post hurtful messages and insults thus making it harder for the victims to cope because, as a female student puts it, “she would feel more helpless and isolated for not knowing who her “enemy” is.”

Cyberspace excludes, reinforces stereotypes

Most young people think of cyberspace as a largely democratic space which allows them countless ways to construct identities, engage in activities, and even carve out spaces for their interests that may be disallowed in geographic space. How they comport themselves—in cyberspace speak of and manifest their general acceptance of it as a democratic and safe. And it is not so really.  Fact is, cyberspace was created, maintained and sustained by capitalist ideals, more specifically, neoliberal economic ideals. Neo-liberalism is an economic model that emphasizes fair competition, free trades, liberalization and privatization.  The view that cyberspace is largely an egalitarian, democratic, perhaps better than geographical space is challenged by the fact that it is still inaccessible to a great number of people on the planet especially those who are very poor or living in poor countries which lack the necessary infrastructures to access it, despite the United Nations’ estimate that around 2 billion people on the planet are using the Internet for varying reasons.  The Philippines itself has joined the Internet as early as 1994 yet more than eighteen years later, digital divide persists even if some degree of economic boom has been noted by economists worldwide. In a report presented by Yahoo and market research company, Nielsen in 2011 on a study they conducted on the state of Internet use in the country, digital growth only occurred in highly urban centers in the country, namely Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao.[1]  Poverty and lack of infrastructures to access cyberspace continue to prevent a significant number of Filipino youth from joining and participating in global information highways.  The oft-used image of a shrinking world because of Internet acquires an ominous dimension when we factor in digital divide among those who have the means to participate and those who cannot.

Dodge and Kitchin note that while contemporary maps of cyberspace show lines and circles continually intersecting and overlapping thereby giving a picture of a truly unified globe, what lies beneath those interconnecting lines and circles are invisible “geographies of power” and “geographies of exclusion.” (2001: 37)

Space is one of the principal mediums through which power is administered and controlled.  Spatial organization, the demarcation of territories, spatial surveillance and policing, and the expression of cultural ideologies based around factors such as gender, race, disability, all produce complex spatial geometries of power.  Some commentators regard cyberspace as utopian space of individual power while others see it as control space where Big Brother asserts its presence and control.  For others still cyberspace reinforces and deepens current geometries, providing a medium through which hegemony is further reproduced.

The idea of cyberspace as reinforcing status quo is hardly surprising.  This is especially evident in gender dynamics in cyberspace. When we come to examine the phenomenon of gamers constructing genders different from their own, its gender bending/destabilizing/transgressing premise is not entirely good news for us. Students’ reflections on this perpetuate male and female stereotypes but they capture what these young people feel—they are empowered—when they can easily craft a new identity which is something that is extremely difficult to do in real life. However, even in their fantasies, they bear witness to the mechanization of the normalization process by which gender and sexuality are defined. In other words, their understanding of power, demonstrated in their ability to construct gender identities vastly different from theirs, is not really of the kind which emancipates.

Conclusion

Following Foucault, power is always confronted by resistance and resistance is a manifestation of power. Moreover, one characteristic of power is that it is shared by making the disciplinary technologies as pleasurable as possible. With this strategy, cooperation to institutions is deemed acceptable if not desirable as it brings about pleasure. There is no coercion here. Powerlessness on the other hand is mindless cooperation or sets in when the people are put in a situation where choice is impossible; where resistance is futile and only cooperation stands between life and death. Note that this state of being is not pleasurable. The other way power is shared is through negotiation. If young people could negotiate through subversion, noncooperation, defiance, dissent and resistance, then they have power, albeit in micro-ways. So to continue to cling to the idea that young people are forever victims of unscrupulous perpetrators who prey on them is to underestimate the youth and underestimate their ways to resist/subvert in ways that they can, either by strategic cooperation or negotiation. I say this quite strongly to hammer a point that adults sometimes regard young people as totally clueless about the ways and cares of the world.  And this is where we lose them.

A female student reflects on her horrifying brush with an on-line pedophile:

I began with ignorance and ended with awareness. Yes, I became more aware; awareness of a different sort; Awareness that is more practical and more experienced, something truer and closer to the dark side that does comprise the real world. Awareness that there are dangers that lurk beneath even the most innocent of things, awareness that love cannot be found in an electronic box, at least not this way. Awareness which makes you know that there are people who will play on your needs and your desires, your innocence and your youth.  First you learn about the basics of something: how it works, what it does, how to use it. But experience will show you that there are many things that underlie the basics; things are never as they seem, not even in the real world. You learn the hard way sometimes, but hey, at least you learn, and learning this way helps you to never forget. The Internet gives us freedom yes.  But it also gives us choice in the most encompassing sense.  It will be our choice to click this or to ignore that; to listen to consciences and guilt or to play deaf to regret.  It is the ultimate test of our ability to discern what is right or wrong, and better yet, to change what is wrong and do something about it when your spidey senses tingle.

As an educator who spends considerable time with young people, I cannot hope for a better realization which is perfectly articulated above.  It is interesting to note that in a strangely remarkable way, we can learn something practical from metaphysics.  It is metaphysics which tells us that reality is much, much complex than we think and that to naively think of an alternative reality which does not hold us accountable for our actions is to miss the point that there is nothing too fantastical that will help us escape our responsibilities, especially the responsibility to make choices on the life we want to lead.  Young people are vulnerable yes but only through recognizing those points of vulnerability and expertly avoiding them can they be fully empowered, the kind of power which emancipates.  When’s the perfect time to practice?

REFERENCES

Dodge, Martin & Rob Kitchin. 2001. Mapping Cyberspace.London & New York: Routledge.

Foucault, Michel. 1990. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. Vol1. New York: Vintage Books.

Gibson, William. 1984. Neuromancer. New York, N.Y: The Berkeley Publishing Group.

Roberts, David. 2008. Human Insecurity: Global Structures of Violence. London & New York: Zed Books.


[1] Data can be seen at http://tonyocruz.com/?p=3194.  Accessed May 9, 2013.