Philosophical Christmas Psyche

In this season of giving, am I misgiving or forgiving? Sorry. Wrong undertone. What I mean is, as Sister Ocampo asked upfront the members of Ten-A-Shoes in their capability building seminar, “Are you really into this?” Now, I’m bluntly probing my inner self, “Am I?”

In the Christian world, it is certainly better to give than to receive. Other religious congregations would agree with this, too and perhaps, it might not be applicable all the time. For all intents and purposes, it seems there’s this button in a remote control that when you click on “give,” “receive” flashes on the screen. Another case of twin fates so to speak (see “Death…Catching Up”).

Truly, it has been echoed and re-echoed, time and again, that when you actually give, you will also receive something in return. This is the expectation. You’re not just very sure what’s in store for you after doing this kind deed. On one hand, receiving overflowing gratefulness from the beneficiary would have been enough but surprising generosity from another person will suddenly sprout out of nowhere, making you believe that the universe is made up of a bundle of energies [OURS]; every little spark elbowing each other in a random sequence where anyone can sense anybody at any given moment. On the other hand, a strong sense of entitlement (“Dapat lang magbigay ka sakin.”—“It’s just right that you give me something.”) on the part of the receiver churns out ingratitude and worse, others could brand you as “mayabang” (boastful), accusing you of merely flaunting your riches to the public. So, where do you put yourself now?

To further simplify things, the [old] folks usually blurt this out whenever someone gives something, “Hayaan mo. Babalik din ‘yan sayo.” (“Don’t worry. You’ll get back what you’ve given.”). Does this reaction imply that we really give just to receive? If we’re going to be honest with ourselves, we might as well admit that we, sometimes or most of the time, assume that good things will come upon us after the act of giving. This is the manifestation of the “what’s-in-it-for-me attitude” in all of us (see “Quantifying Quality”). You might defend yourself that you don’t have such a thought but within your subconscious, that type of selfishness absolutely exists. Let’s say this trait has been etched in our DNA for centuries, the same way the “fight-or-flight” response activates in the presence of threats. As spectacular as it sounds, this is all perceptually normal as logic tells us that the receiver, in fact, thinks the same way as the giver. He/She would rationalize from the standpoint of gratefulness or ingratitude. And, the giver? He/She will constantly wrap his mind around the quote unquote attitude given above although always in denial of it. A sure bet why this statement came to life, “You get what you deserve.”

Reality takes us on a ride and leads us to the notion that not all givers receive and not all receivers give. Wait up. There’s something amiss. Even those so-called scoundrels will never give a snake to their loved ones when asked for fish. And, these rascals receive compassion from us however heinous they have assaulted the dignities of their victims since we claim that they are only humans who commit mistakes and humans as they are, they have a right to a second chance at life. These light-hearted feelings may of course exclude the victims with their grieving and fuming families who may never have the heart to ever forgive the cruel crimes that they have suffered. Understandably so, they’re forgiven for not forgiving...yet…since time heals all wounds. In time, there’s a chance that they might be open to forgiveness later on—although the damage has been done. The past cannot be erased anymore. We can only take its lessons moving forward. Otherwise, we can all take our un-forgiveness with us till the summoning of our death beds. Anyway, it’s a free choice. I, myself, could have spent my fortune [wishful thinking] on a time machine if there was one for sale. Hence, I take back what I said in the first sentence of this paragraph. The truth is, every Juan and Juana goes through giving and receiving while forgiving is a connected tune that is sung all over the world especially during Christmastime—granted you have memorized the difficult lyrics [of forgiveness] while on a roller-coaster spin [giving-receiving-gratefulness-ingratitude—giving-receiving-gratefulness-ingratitude going (a)round in sharp drops and curves: This is how life goes, right?].

Ultimately, yearning to strike a chord here and there, Matthew, Chapter 19, verses 16 & 21 speak volumes about the idea of giving and receiving. A rich young man enquired, “What good thing must I do to receive eternal life?” Jesus Christ responded, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven…” The key words are underlined in bold prints. The argument, can humans be perfect? The twist, the Son of God said so. The extra twist, it’s all in the mind.

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