Reframing the landscape 

I started working on what was, as late as four years ago, an annual practice of an essay to mark Easter. One of the goals then was to attempt, at least at this special time, something of the long-form essay which I’ve decided will become more of a focus from now on, as i take a much-needed step back. I realized that, as Easter is fifty days long, I still have some time, but I intend to finish it within the Octave because I would not want to keep myself waiting.

One of the themes that came to mind as I revisited the writings of Paul Ricoeur last Saturday was how, to put it less elegantly, telling stories helps reframe how we see ourselves. It is the narrated self which, as one of his essays later notes, becomes the locus of conscience and the sense of being called, not only to account (as in the later part of his Oneself as Another) but also to a vocation. The latter requires, in my case, reframing how I see the landscape where I once roamed.

A key insight from last weekend was that part of this calling is to revisit an almost forgotten idea, for me: to ask where one can find something beyond the surfaces of that landscape. Revisiting that won’t take place in the space of an essay, but it will need a course correction of some magnitude. It means, most of all, that I will have to take the torturous path back to something that will not surprise those who’ve met me before 2011.

Good luck to me.


Into great silence 

I’m posting this from the place of one of my mentors, and we are going on a retreat of sorts this weekend.

We have been praying the Daily Office and as we begin Maundy Thursday, the psalms chosen for those days take a darker tone, that of lament and penitence. For one who has recently thought about being down in the depths while on the proverbial heights, such texts remind me that I have never been alone in the darkness.

I am grateful to those few who’ve consoled me and who have given me and many others hope. I promised to remember them in a special way today and over the Triduum.

Hopefully those reading this who commemorate such a time as the Great Three Days may find fruit in their time of reflection.

See you this Easter.

One long footnote

I have been out of commission for a week so I must apologize for the lack of updates. But it did allow me some time to go back and look at what happened the last two weeks.

1. Perhaps Rina was on to something when she offered that tip about approaching art with more selectivity and reflective engagement, especially in big events like an art fair. One reflection that did get some circulation was from a visual artist who felt some unease about how people were treating the art at the last fair and what another, reposting to a social network, commented about a sense of the sacred that was slowly being lost while leaving the question of a cause for it open.

I have a very small circle of people who are concerned about such things–I mean, the loss of a sacred sense–and we tend to be interested in things like liturgy, mostly of the kind that has been around for centuries. Whenever such a topic comes up, I begin to understand why we are drawn, for example, to Western plainchant or the warm solemnity of a Coptic Eucharistic liturgy, or even Eastern Christian iconography. What these bear, between them, is the weight of a sense of the sacred that some cultures, including our urban one, need to rediscover. But this rediscovery might  come with a shift, perhaps a backlash, against abstraction for abstraction’s sake. Perhaps it might follow that art must, for it to be connected to a sense of the sacred, should be part of a common vocabulary that, as Gadamer suggests, must forge a sense of continuity with the past and a responsibility for the future. In short, a sense of tradition.

2. On a more practical note, I honestly wonder whether Art Fair Philippines should increase its entrance fees for next year to cover the costs of insurance against damage from visitors. I’d be willing to pay those fees now, and I think it may be necessary to help people understand that despite its commercial purpose, such an affair is distinguished by an explicit attention to quality which, in our current economic paradigm, requires a premium.

3. Meanwhile I must say that despite the challenges, doing a Fringe event with a very good group of people was better than I expected. Now for all the next steps…