A Metaphysical Walk Along the Mountains of Rizal
Truth is always common and plain.
~ Shin’ichirō Imaoka
# The Long Walk: November 14 to 20, 2022
# November 14, Monday
In my forest garden of the mind, I wrote the following note.
Metaphysics and epistemology map out the terrain for the long walk
Metaphysics and epistemology are useful in informing how I can live because they are the only tools that could get me to what is true. Knowing what is true is useful because human beings have been thinking for a long, long time that theories abound about how we should live abound to the point where the terrain is very muddled.
The question that metaphysics answers (What exists?) and epistemology answers (How do I know what I know?) are like a compass. The answers I get from contemplating them allow me to see the terrain and create a map out of it. When the terrain is mapped, it is easier for me to answer the question that I am most interested in: How must I live?
After writing the note, I transferred a draft of a poem I wrote yesterday evening while walking.
_Naiiyak rin ang sansinukob
Malayo pa pala ako
ng daang pinasukan ko.
Lumalalim na ang gabi
at ako’y pagod at gutom na.
at naiiyak ako muli
tumingala sa langit.
Sa aking pagtingala
sa langit na itim na itim
dagling nahulog ang bulalakaw.
Naiiyak rin ata
In the afternoon, while on a call with a friend, I heard him utter these most reassuring words: “Do not feel guilty about your choice not to build community with people you don’t have relationships with. A community is made up, first and foremost, of relationships. When there is no relationship, there is no community.”
# November 15, Tuesday
I consulted the I Ching on a question I asked today, “How do I balance going back to my source and helping others?”
I cast the coins, and Hexagram 46 appeared. In Hilary Barrett’s translation, the reading was as follows:
Pushing upward, creating success from the source. Make use of seeing great people. Do not worry. Set forth to the south, good fortune.
The image associated with the hexagram was that of a small measuring ladle. The ladle was a metaphor for performing small, measured actions one step at a time. According to the reading, this was how the many things that could be done at this time would be done. The task also encouraged meeting “great people” and letting go of worry.
I do not believe in divination; therefore, I could not see the I Ching as a tool. But, as I, along with many other creatives and thinkers, will attest, the I Ching is a useful “uncertainty machine” that could prompt our thinking to get out of our habitual mental boxes.
This reading provided a helpful metaphor for what I could do while navigating my grief and my desire to actively help others at this time. Interestingly, the metaphor coincides with the metaphor of walking and the well, which I explored last week. The way to ensure that we can actively do something for others while at the same time being mindful of our own needs is to strengthen our source (our well, mind, body, etc.) and then leave that source to help others incrementally—walking this distance today, returning to our source, then increasing the distance tomorrow. This incremental walking is similar to what the small ladle in Hexagram 46 does.
# November 16, Wednesday
In the morning, when I woke up, I was welcomed by an unexpected problem.
It broke my morning routine, evidenced by the fact that I started the day re-reading an Aeon article I read way back about the I Ching as an uncertainty machine. After reading, I took a long walk on the campus, resting on one of the benches at the park under the shade of trees where I journaled. In my journal, I confronted the new problem. I berated myself and asked, “Why do I always have to learn my lessons the hard way?”
When I went home, I shared the thought with my partner, and she didn’t like it. She grabbed her phone and had me read one of her favorite newsletter articles. I read the article, and it was about a successful woman who asked herself the same berating question. She noticed that, like me, she always had to go through a tough challenge before she started to change. To stop this cycle, she intended to improve her life as much as she could, but when things started to go south, she would “ask the universe” for two gentle warnings, which she calls “feathers,” before getting a “hard rock”—the disaster. Once those feathers arrived, she promised to respond to either and not wait for the hard rock to come before making adjustments. While I am still unsure how to use it, I find this a good metaphor and an important lesson.
# November 17, Thursday
I started reading the foreword of the book Designing Your Life.
In the evening, Lea and I walked until Viado. She left earlier while I continued walking. The walk was captivating and grounding. It helped me feel that I must go back to my source before making a good decision about the situation.
While walking, the idea came to me: What if I facilitate awe and doubt?
# November 18, Friday
I read the first chapter of Designing Your Life. I made the book’s first exercise, a life design assessment of four life areas: work, health, play, and love. I took the assessment and found that all my areas are half-filled—I have done enough to manage them but not enough to feel fulfilled. Half of the work is left undone.
The book also introduced the concepts of lifeview and workview. Workview is your philosophy of work. It states what work is for you and what it means to you in general. It defines what good work deserves to be. On the other hand, lifeview is similar to what I would call your life philosophy. It is your idea of what the world is and how it works. The chapter introduced questions one can ask to write a short articulation of one’s workview and lifeview. I am answering the questions slowly.
# November 19, Saturday
Today, Lea and I left town to visit Hogar (or Hermitage and Organic Gardens) at Tanay, Rizal, a mountainous municipality in Southern Luzon, for a group retreat. We arrived along with other participants around 3 pm. After eating, I was instructed to go to my cottage and set my things up before returning for the opening program. I was staying by myself in the farthest cabin where I would be sleeping alone tonight.
The path towards the cottage was a muddy grass walk with some large plates of stone followed by a long winding flight of stairs. Before reaching my cottage, I passed by another where a friend who was yet to arrive would be staying. When I saw mine, I was pleased. It had a little porch where one could be silent if the indoors became unbearable. However, the indoors proved pleasing for me, who had just arrived. It had a dining table and chairs, a small kitchen, a restroom, and a bed, which could accommodate a single person. The religious stay here for a few days, even months, as part of their formation. Knowing this made my visit inside a bit inspiring.
After fixing my things and taking a quick shower, I descended from my hill back to the mess hall. All of us participants were gathered for a few words of welcome. After this, we were led outside to be introduced to the surroundings. We walked a stairwell of soil and rocks that crossed a garden called the Garden of Prayer. To my surprise, the Garden led to my cottage above the hill. I taught some participants and showed them my cottage.
After the walk, we gathered back to the mess hall for dinner. Over dinner, I talked with a few participants about the state of education in the country. Two in our group were teachers—one taught in high school, while the other taught at an online university. We all agreed that more schools and teachers need to be given more academic freedom if they are to stir the boat in the right direction. We also decided that young people are being asked too early to commit to a career when they should be exploring as many subjects as possible before making a decision or, better yet, never being discouraged from changing far along the way.
After dinner, we all assembled at another building to introduce ourselves formally, listen to some stories, and make some art. It was raining most of the time, but the sky gave us some two-hour clearing, from 9:30 to 11:30 pm, to lie down on the ground and watch the stars. Through the help of an app and the guidance of a trained participant, I saw Mars, Jupiter, Sirius, and the Aquarius constellation.
By 11 pm, I felt I wanted to be alone and do what I intended for this time—a time for me to think alone in a beautiful geographic space. And so, I said my goodbyes and returned to my cottage while the others were still watching the skies between jokes and stories.
In my journal that night, I wrote the following words:
Whether you believe on a God or not, you cannot deny one thing: you did not create yourself. You were put here by someone or something that is way more powerful than you. And this thing is filled with myster. The answers about its nature are not intuitive. They have to be pondered about—sometimes, felt. And this is enough, this awe, to move one to appreciate everything—every moment while one is alive. But this thing is usually lost to us. My calling, my gift, is to remind people, to call them towards this state of depth.
My vision is to work with people one on one—a life of retreat and communion, of going back to my well by going out to help others. I plan on constructing a purely naturalistic belief system, my house, then from ther, get out. Where this will lead me, I still don’t know. But I ultimately want to walk into the wilderness of compassion.
# November 20, Sunday
I woke up around 6:30 am and immediately started preparing to go out. I was set to walk the trail up to what they said was a cafe above the hill. Before walking, I cannot help but take photos of the hermitage cottage’s surroundings.
Two trails led to the cafe. I took the left trail first. Along the path, several small bamboo trees grew on the side. My feet landed on some stairs made of mud and wood. At one point in the trail, I saw the mountains. Staying here for a couple of months should change anyone.
When I reached the top, I saw a better view of Hogar and its neighboring resorts. I saw the Hogar cafe. It was open, but no one was inside. It began raining, and it was clear to me that I won’t be able to journal or meditate outdoors. So I made my way down using the right trail. I took a short detour to see what was at the end of an okra garden. What I saw was the fence that separated Hogar from a neighboring resort. On my way down, I saw a tiny snail, a baby still growing its shell. It was under a large leaf.
I walked further down to catch breakfast, which was closing in about 30 minutes. After breakfast, we started preparing for the hike to Mt. Kulis. Mini, one of the organizers, led us. The walk towards the entrance of Fresno Agro-Forestry and Eco Tourist Campsite, which houses the trail to Mt. Kulis, was a wide dirt road with mud. Only cars, particularly those with large wheels, could pass. Not even tricycles or motorcycles could make it with ease. We walked on the sides. Some of us decided not to continue. The adventurous at heart pushed on. We were soon rewarded with some of the best views in Southern Luzon.
Along the trail to the summit of Mt. Kulis, we saw what they called Noah’s ark from afar. But it was more like a large balangay placed on top of a mountain.
Meanwhile, the view at Mt. Kulis was breathtaking. It was too much to wrap one’s head around; I almost didn’t leave. While there, my friend Cris shared with me his Baybayin script-inspired ikebana. Cris plays some great music as well. He is a really aesthetically sophisticated individual.
I shouldn’t have left the summit, but through persuasion, I decided to join the crew to walk to the other attractions.
We made our way back by walking again. The walk back needed the same mindfulness that brought us there, perhaps more. We reached Hogar around 12:30 pm, just in time to have lunch. I used my lunch time talking with Reg, the head of the deaf studies initiative at UP Diliman. I left the Deaf community about a decade ago. My conversation with him reminded me that there was a time in my life when I felt that advocating for the Deaf was my calling. While I no longer feel the same passion I had for sign language as I had back then, the Deaf community is still close to my heart, and I am open to doing something, anything, in the future related to Deaf culture and sign language.
While in transit back to Los Baños, I started reading the essays of Shin’ichirō Imaoka on free religion. After reading the first three essays, I learned that Imaoka’s idea of free religion is seeing religion in everything. Religion, to him, is simply making the human being whole. This is the same goal of education. But it also happens in the secular areas of politics and economics. For Imaoka, everything falls under the umbrella category of religion.
I read about his history of religious and spiritual training, which led him to his position as a free religionist. I learned about his precepts:
- I believe in myself.
- I believe in other people.
- I believe in a cooperative society.
- I believe in a universal cooperative society.
- I believe in the church.
I notice the concentric nature of his precepts, similar to my recent meditations on the well and walking. Religion, to him, starts within oneself and extends to the entire universe.
I also read an article about the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Philippines, which made me even more curious about this religion. Imaoka was unitarian. I wonder if anyone in the UUCP shares his ideas on free religion.
From Calamba central terminal, we rode a notoriously slow jeep to Los Baños. At first, I was pissed off at the driver. Then I remembered I just came from a retreat, which was supposed to slow everything down.
Perhaps my training isn’t over.