Thursday, July 06, 2006

Mortality and meaning

I've finished reading Mark Rowlands' The Philosopher at the End of the Universe, a pop philo book that uses science fiction films like Star Wars, The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings to explain Plato, Socrates, Hume, and all the other dead dudes who made my head hurt in college*. One of the chapters in the book uses Ridley Scott's movie Blade Runner to shed light on life and death, and how death actually gives life its meaning. According to the philosopher Martin Heidegger (and apparently Philip K. Dick, who wrote the novel Blade Runner was based on), we are all "being-toward-death", or we live in constant apprehension of death. And it is precisely because our lives must inevitably come to a close that makes our time on this mortal coil so precious. It is this limit, this "horizon" as Rowlands puts it, that makes our lives meaningful: because we will eventually be-- as Rutger Hauer eloquently declared in the movie's famous death soliloquy-- "lost in time, like tears in the rain". Each minute we spend in existence is valuable because we know death awaits us at the end of the line.

These thoughts on death and the meaning of life bring me to something that has been occupying my mind of late: things I want to do before I die, or put in a different way, things I, as being-towards-death, have to do in order to have lived a full, meaningful life. I've already done #1, teaching, so I'm actually better off than most about-to-kick-the-bucket octogenarians who have yet to realize their "Personal Legend", to borrow a Coelho term. Not bad for 25-year-old. #2 is to write a book, and if you've read the comments to my last post then you know that this is still a distant dream. When asked recently by Sam Ang's inquisitive brother what kind of book I'd like to write, I gave him the vague response of "something to do with Chinese-Filipino culture", probably something involving family. Must give this more serious thought.

#3 is to visit Europe, any country in Europe, but preferably Italy, England, Greece, or France, in that order. Choice of traveling companions, any or all of the following: Hanks, Raqs, Abi. #4 is to own a house: nothing overly huge, but spacious enough for entertaining guests (and with sufficient storage space for all my books and shoes, hehe), and situated in a convenient location like Greenhills or Pasig, near good shops, theaters, restaurants, hotels and hospitals. #5 is to watch an Olympic opening ceremony and at least one event live (ideally, it would be swimming, and before Ian Thorpe retires).

If you notice, marriage and childbirth are not among my top 5 (but I estimate them to be in the top 15). When one makes out a list like this, it brings into sharp relief a person's strongest values and deepest desires, because s/he is thinking of the very things that would make his/her life complete (maybe marriage and childbirth will creep up the list as I age). It is for this reason that I find the question an excellent way of getting to know a person. Tell me what you want to do before you die, and I'll tell you what kind of person you are, what and how much life means to you. Death doesn't always have to be a morbid topic of conversation. It can actually be quite... meaningful.

*For those intrigued by Rowlands' brilliant concept, also check out his Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from Television, wherein he uses TV shows like Friends, Seinfeld, and The Simpsons to show us that philosophy can be easy-- and entertaining-- after all.


At Friday, July 07, 2006, Anonymous ange said...

Marriage isn't in your top 5 list? That's sad. No one to share your own house with... :)

At Friday, July 07, 2006, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

You can come sleep over anytime. :)

At Saturday, July 08, 2006, Blogger Peej Bernardo said...

Wow, ails! At least I know that philosophy isn't dead!

I'm glad. Haha.


peej b.

At Saturday, July 08, 2006, Anonymous ange said...

Sleep over? Whee! Haha

At Saturday, July 08, 2006, Blogger sapphire_musings said...

hi ms lim!

just thought u'd might want to read this blog ... it's my older brother's :)


At Monday, July 10, 2006, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

No, Peej, philo isn't dead. And as long as there are brilliant advocates like you and Mark Rowlands around, then I don't foresee its demise in the near future either. :)

Thanks Sel, will check out your brother's blog. Always glad to have more good blogs to stalk, hehe.

At Monday, July 10, 2006, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

Sel, I regret reading your brother's blog. I am now suffering from a serious case of writer envy. Damn. :)

At Monday, July 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

we WILL TRAVEL. HELL YES we will. First we figure out where the dough will be coming from, and then we HIT IT.

kaya nga minsan i dont really feel guilty you know, just WINGIN' life here, because i know that this is the ONLY way. i cant afford to travel FROM the phils. FLIGHTS pa lang talo ka na. Here, it's so cheap. The choices come down to... Should i buy this pair of pants, or just treat myself to a weekend in Stockholm??? E sus, sa atin, pair of pants or TAGAYTAY HIGHLANDS.

Anyhow, i am really really happy i am in your list of favored travel buddies. I will see it through =)


At Monday, July 10, 2006, Blogger sapphire_musings said...

heehee. sory about that! thought you might enjoy stuuf that he writes :)


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