Working with life, not working for life

The concept of work has mostly been associated with the ability to provide or exceed the giving of bread and butter to oneself or the family. The words profit, business ladder, corporate world, office politics, and so much more echo in the distance of those who are faced and challenged by this competitive industry. While these could serve as motivation for those who wish to enter into the competitive work force, such terms seem to be so devoid of the vibrancy offered by life. The concept of work has been associated with monotonous movement or behavior of humans that separates life from work, almost as if it has taken a life of its own when such should not be the case. Work does not necessarily have to be lifeless when, ideally, it is through work that we are able, or should be able, to experience life. Not what takes the life out of us.

tumblr_nqw7knsND71t0afkvo1_500
From the movie, Silver Linings Playbook, it seems fitting that lifeless work, in the same way that unparalleled love makes all efforts feel wasted, makes anybody feel empty. 

The products of the Industrial Revolution brought not only fast-produced goods, but also goods that have abandoned the craft or life in them. While this age has brought remarkable breakthroughs for humanity, the social impoverishment and economic division cannot be denied. Thus, the scary thought that capitalism has brought an end to the history of humans, as asserted by Francis Fukuyama, serves as a haunting reminder of the continuous separation of life from work. Contrastingly, the Filipinos’ ‘hanap-buhay’ proves to be an anti-thesis to this Western thinking. While the systematic concepts of work are present, the inclusion of life and its search, as its direct translation is looking for life, presents the admirable stress of Filipinos on life.

Admirable even are the Chinese who work not only for their generation, but also for the next two generations. The Chinese probably embody the ‘obsession’ on work through their numerous presence in the various lists of the richest across the globe. Yet, there preference on familial or group order is noteworthy due to the harmony and bonds that it provides. They are indeed careful of their money. Yet, the contract they form and investments they enter are not complete without the formation of appreciation and bonding that creates more than just business partners. This seems to their version of injecting life in work.

Thus, we must be wary of those who have been or are choosing to be sucked by the work vacuum. Lifeless and indifferent just like zombies. These creatures in the work force are rampant and infectious. The possibility of the cure could be the life found within, if only we were to embody such not just in the workplace.

This reflection is based on the Big Lecture entitled Philosophy of Work held last August 12. The speakers, Cadz Malbarosa, Dr. Elaine Tolentino, and Mr. Victor Magno injected life in various perspectives on the concept of work.

Period.

In a physical sense, true awareness of what it was like to be a woman sprouted from various experiences beginning puberty. Like when I was told to avoid wearing spaghetti straps despite me liking the outfit because it was ‘too revealing’ making me self-conscious of my body from then on. Or when I felt weird with having bigger hips compared to some of my friends who can wear shorts without a care. Or when I felt confused that I needed to wear a bra where my first experience of wearing one was one of the most uncomfortable, to the point where I felt the need to cover the hooks with tissue paper. All these might be relevant to some, while obscure to some. But ultimately, at least for me, or so far, the epitome of being a woman was after experiencing my first menstruation.

jess-day-talking-about-pms
Jess, from the TV show, New Girl, could explain the contrasting experience of having a period. (gif not mine) 

After a false alarm a year before my actual first, the daunting realization that I would have to wear an additional piece in my outfit or that I could get pregnant haunted me. At that time, I felt that the confirmation of being a woman was weird considering how other women seemed fresh and put-together. The first two days were the worst as I did not have a clue as to how I would adapt to this new experience. I needed to be a little more conscious of my actions because I met get ‘tagos’ which I did get anyway because I had no clue as to when I would change. But come third day, after being quite adjusted to the feeling, it felt relieving to know that it was the body’s way of releasing the dirt inside my body. I guess that fact made me feel ‘okay’ with having my ‘buwanang dalaw’ knowing that it is a form of cleansing. I was honestly awed that it stopped after the fifth day because it felt like it would not, days before. Now that I think about my first time, coupled with extreme hunger or loss of appetite, occasional abdominal pain, and extreme laziness, I am relieved to have quite adjusted to the whirlwind of feelings and accepted after realizing that I am not alone. This bodily experience is an uncomfortable yet enlightening confirmation of my womanhood.

b738ba8045d32a0e698007cbbb7536e1.gif
From the movie, All About Eve. gif not mine.

While the blood that is released every month is a reminder of me being a woman, I never truly reflected as to what I really am in terms of my body. Usually, the question of my identity is asked in the context of my personality, abilities, achievements – all intangible things that matter more than the tangible ones, or so they say. While I do pay attention to my physical body in terms of my health and fitness, I see it as a mere beholder of the spirit or soul or the things mentioned above which makes you who you really are. After watching the film, Her, the importance of the body reminded me of its increasing irrelevance due to the various alternatives or alterations brought by the advancing technology. While I take for granted my body and its capabilities, some might feel the need to alter their own to be designated as another. Some might even have no control of what happens to their body constrained by the decisions of others. The discussion on the sexualization of the women in advertisements reinforces the question as to the view of others on a woman’s body. These things are what I have realized in reflecting my identity in relation to my body. While nature controls what happens in an anatomical sense, I am able to control what happens to my body – how I look, what I do, and why I do it. Somehow, my body reflects the choices I have made whether pressured by society or by myself. When it comes to womanhood, the determination of such through one’s body may not present a rigid answer as it did before. However, if you were to ask me based on my monthly cycle, the contrasting experience brought by such somehow suffices my being.

isabelle-feliu-12
Work by Isabelle Feliu. The image above in a way describes my identity in relation to my body. The contrast between the colors and shapes of the subjects symbolizes the contrast I feel with my body that identifies me.

 

Pamamaalam o paglalakbay?

vlcsnap-2017-06-30-00h57m05s609.png

The  movie Departures narrated a peculiar journey of a Kobayashi Daigo  towards his true calling as an encoffiner. After the disbandment of his orchestra, he and his wife migrated back to his hometown of Yamagata to settle anew. Assuming that a job posting on the newspaper was a travelling agency, Daigo was surprised to know that the aid in departures referred to in the advertisement was for the dead. Through his senior, Sasaki Ikuhei, he eventually learns and masters the art or skill of encoffining.

Dying

vlcsnap-2017-06-30-21h46m37s630.png

The movie showed two sides of what happened when a person dies, the sides of the family and the encoffiners. Personally, I do not give much thought on the meaning nor the actuality of death because of the dispirited feelings associated with it. Thus, the view of Shokichi on death as part of a transience were both interesting and confusing. On the first hand, I never viewed death as part of a journey. Rather, death to me is an end to one journey that is life here on earth. And from there, another journey begins. These two is not necessarily part of one process where life after death is viewed as a totally different story than Shokichi’s view as an extension of the life on earth. He offers a perspective where the negative associations of death could be alleviated in the sense that life could go on. Moreover, the interest in his statement could stem from the possibility or mystery as to what the other side could offer.

On the other hand, his statement was quite puzzling because it raises the question as to the reason of the death of the physical body. Is it a requirement for entrance to the other side? If so, is there a soul that continues? Such questions challenged me to think of death as it is than its effects. I think the mysteries surrounding death are because of the end of a communication to a physical person whose life has actually ended. His job was further intensified due to the death of Tsuyako. Through this thinking, it might appear to be a coping mechanism where he finds honor for the privilege of being one of the last to see before the dead leave for the “gateway”. Somehow, their insights from the other side would be helpful in resolving this case. (But I do not wish to be visited by any person who have gone from earth)

Keeping in mind the Buddhist concept of “no-self”, the identity when “I” is uttered is questionable as humans are constantly changing. Perhaps my confusion as to what goes through the journey could be explained through this doctrine.  Firstly, I would agree that humans, whether physical or emotional are constantly evolving. What we refer to as I now, would not be the same I that would be doing or saying the same after some time. It might be possible that the person that would continue on the journey on the other side would only be a part of what he or she used to be. This appears to be a nod towards the metaphor of the flame used by the Buddhists. The old flame may not be the same as the new flame passed to the next unlit candle, yet traces of the old could still be associated to the new.  Thus, whenever I remember a death of a loved one, the pain of their departure is not the only emotion they leave behind. Remnants of their old self remain and soothe their absence. While new flames or memories are made, the moments leading to those are instilled.

Living 

vlcsnap-2017-06-30-21h50m32s924.png

Besides the topic of death, the movie also used different symbolisms that could be associated with both life and death. The scene with the salmon struggling against the current while another dead salmon goes with the flow could represent life in itself or the efforts in trying to lengthen or extend avoiding the inevitable death. Though these efforts are worth the risk, the contrast of the salmon struggling and the dead fish puts into context how inevitable death is. However, it also reflects the kind of life that we go through. Next, when Mika, the wife and Daigo tried to restore the octopus who was supposedly their dinner, is reminiscent of the salmon wherein it could be that the octopus has met its destination, bringing it to its past state would be contrary to what it could serve. Upon entering the house, Mika and Daigo were nostalgic due to the collection of records owned by her dead mother. The records were memories to which the dad was associated. It reminds us of the concept where a person is a combination of parts. In this example, the father was physically gone but some pieces of him still remained. This shows how we are able to leave some of ourselves with others. It was also interesting to see the room of Sasaki where he eats which is full of plants. The plants could be a symbol for life; a reminder that although death could be both be a part of a journey or destination, life makes up the majority of such a process. The blossoms of life might mean his grounding that puts his whole view into perspective. While deaths happen everyday, so does life. The Christmas celebration at their office showed the ironic situation of enjoying a dead chicken for their appetite. This scene was both inviting and thought-provoking as it could constitute the balance that must be maintained sacrificing a chicken, or in a deeper sense some life for others to prosper or enjoy. Though the fried chicken does not automatically mean death, it could symbolize that death too could be somehow celebrated. Lastly, the stone letter of the father of Daigo given to him when he was young was probably the most symbolic. Stones in its literal sense are hard and stubborn. Yet, in this movie, it was given as a token of love defying the assumption that stones are not supposed to be used in love. It was solid and big, just like the father’s love for Daigo. Though it still is a mystery as to why his father held the stone Daigo gave when he was young on his deathbed, it speaks volumes of a father’s solid love for his child.

Stone Letter 

Image result for sedimentary rocks white

After watching the movie for the second time (the first during a recollection back in high school), I have always thought that my parents deserved a stone, rocky in some places yet big enough for them to hold in one hand. Though their methods to mold me is not at all smooth or soothing, the words they have told me are slowly starting to make sense now. I hope for them to retrieve it in my belongings along with some of the things that have sentimental value in them. I was always inspired by how Mia, from Princess Diaries retrieved his dad’s letter, finally convincing her to become a princess. In the same way, his job that he initially doubted, gave way for him to validate that all that has happened in the past was worth it. This movie does make you look at stones and encoffining differently.