I recently came across some of my old readings from college. For the most part, I find myself scandalized when I look back at the some of the material I was required to read back then. I can’t help but also feel some sense anger and betrayal at those who required me to read them. Those undergraduate years were, after all, my formative years in that I hadn’t the faintest clue about theology or philosophy and where I took everything in at its face value. Every philosophy and theology reading was almost like gospel truth, since I did not feel the need, nor did I have the capacity, to detect their fine philosophical errors. I took it for granted that I was in a Catholic school. I thought I was safe. Ateneo, yes AdMU, is (or was – are Jesuits still Catholic?) a Catholic school so I assumed that the readings brought people closer to the faith. I was wrong. I can remember some times in my philosophy of religion class where we even talked about Dawkins, Harris and the New Atheists. My professor told us about the idea of “Non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA),” which thinks that science and religion are in constant conflict. Now, I have only anger at my ignorance for those times where I just drank the koolaid, sitting in my armchair without the slightest clue of how to respond. This was pure paganism coming out of the mouth of my professor and I had no idea. When I had naively thought my professor was Virgil, hindsight was the only one so kind as to show me how mistaken I was. The anger comes not so much at having been exposed to so many errors, but also that the presentation seemed to be skewed in their favor – it wasn’t a fair fight. Aquinas, for example, was just a hiccup with an hour and a half of class time for his Five Proofs.
Then there’s theology. In Th151, which has as part of its course description “Through guided study and research activity, the course leads college seniors toward a personal interior assimilation of Christian faith in their lives. This is done through the exercise of developing a personal integral faith synthesis, centered around a core theme, and selected from a plurality of suggested doctrinal, moral, or liturgical prayer topics or themes.” Whatever that means. In that class my professor had us read Timothy Radcliffe’s What is the Point of Being a Christian? Only recently did I see Radcliffe’s name again in the news with the headline “Vatican appointee says gay sex can express Christ’s ‘self-gift’” I promptly junked his book along with Fr. James Martin’s book of finding God in all things.
Apparently, even the theology department has its own dose of the social justice bug. To have a class of young, impressionable men and women at one’s disposal is just ripe for any professor to cram his or her liberal, social-justice agenda down their throats and grade those poor students on how well they can regurgitate the same. It started with liberation theology, then feminist theology, and now queer theology – all trying to mix and match God and some leftist agenda as if it was some damned combo meal at a food court. Looking back only infuriates me since I know I was in that same position – a fresh mind without any formal training who gobbled up all their ideas like a sponge. Meanwhile, God takes a backseat while the car drives off over the cliff of social activism.
More and more I think that the deliberate pushing of the liberal, social justice agenda in subjects like theology is intellectual dishonesty. For example, I remember how one of my theology professors remarked with disdain at the “Pre-Vatican II days” of how it was only because of that council (Vatican II) that we can now see the priest in mass. Back then, I didn’t even know that there was an old rite to begin with, much more question the validity of a rite that I was born into. Then it was only a few days ago when I read Benedict XVI’s Spirit of the Liturgy, and this passage appeared: “The turning of the priest toward the people has turned the community into a self-enclosed circle. In its outward form, it no longer opens out on what lies ahead and above, but is closed in on itself. The common turning toward the east was not a ‘celebration toward the wall’; it did not mean that the priest ‘had his back to the people’: the priest himself was not regarded as so important. For just as the congregation in the synagogue looked together toward Jerusalem, so in the Christian liturgy the congregation looked together ‘toward the Lord.'” (195 of 582, ebook). This was never brought up by any of my theology professors. What a shame. What a waste.
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I has seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our Death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
– T.S. Eliot, Journey of the Magi
It saddens me that the last entry I made was on the 29th of September and it was not even in text. There was a haiku on the 29th of August which I guess can work as a text entry in this blog. Still, it is a shame. Four months of laboring through law studies without any outlet for creativity is too cruel. The thought to write in the middle of the semester was not totally absent from my mind though. There were times when the “itch” came – that splash of inspiration coupled with a slight tingling of the fingers as your mind pictures them running along the keyboard. There were times when that happened, but schoolwork usually gobbles up all those blogs-to-be. Now it is December and here is one entry just to remind myself that this blog is actually alive (somewhat).
School ended almost seven days ago on the 17th. Even as I submitted my last exam and drove home and walked back to my bed and woke up to a day without even setting my alarm, the fact that I was on break had not yet set in. It was almost as if the mind goes ahead of the body in these things. You could tell yourself and tweet about how school was over but you would still crave for some coffee – one cup in the morning and one cup after dinner. It was only after three days did I slow down and comprehend that school was over. And good riddance.
Looking back, it was a hard and bitter semester. The freshman haze of vanity and euphoria had already been lifted, or at least mitigated, and we began to see things and people for what and who they really are. It was by all means neither a quick nor a pleasant process. In the block, cliques were rearranged and consolidated. There were some people who were celebrated and some who were ostracized. There were some who pressed their advantage and others who were taken advantage of. Friendships were forged and some broken. Some enmities as well were reconciled and some intensified. However, there still remains a faint veneer of civility and pleasantries around the block though which can readily and succinctly be summed up by the phrase”a nice environment” which hardly means anything at all but which works perfectly fine.
In some rare moment, my imagination had the chance to flare out. There was one time when I thought about The Cask of Amontillado and thought that maybe that would be a good idea, or I would have that monologue in Tell Tale Heart. Maybe Poe is a more fitting figure in Malcolm Hall than all those highfalutin words of honor and justice. Honor and justice – who are we kidding. Is that required to pass the Bar?
The Bar: another interesting subject. Since when did every professor have a plug that goes “In case they ask in the Bar…” or “During the Bar…” or “For Bar purposes…” where they plug in the answer a student should make? Seriously. Might as well just give a bar reviewer to study for the semester and just give a final exam at the end: that might churn out some “topnotchers” and maybe even give us time to watch a movie. To top things off, there is a departmental MCQ with the most random number of items that just defies comprehension: 55, 68, 61, 71. And if the Supreme Court phases out MCQs from the Bar exams, what now? Time to react again, I guess. Just stop.
At this point, I wonder what idea I had to unite this whole blog. What appeared to be a reflection on T.S. Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi” turned out to be my very own random, rough (to say the least), hectic, and dull journey through the first semester of sophomore year. “A cold coming we had of it” I suppose. If there could be any semblance of coherence here, I guess it would probably be that the whole entry is one big, fat rant. Maybe it would just be more entertaining if it were in verse – a Lamentation maybe. Perhaps at another time. But for now in any case, the words could not be any sweeter: Christmas is here and school’s out.