A week after November first, my family visited my grandfather’s, uncle’s, and my mother’s graves. We decided not to go with the heavy flow of human traffic during the holiday, so we went a week after.
At the grave, my aunt and a few family members gathered around the graves to wipe clean a few smudges on the tombstone and took away some clutter along the sides. After which, they lighted candles, and as my other oriental tradition would suggest (Japanese). As all this was happening, I stood from afar, watching.
I didn’t help because there were already too many fixing and cleaning going on and I thought I would only slow the process down by adding my unnecessary hands.
I was reflecting, however, on all the motions happening in front of me.
I am not very traditional. I rarely visit my mother’s grave, and whenever I do, I think of the rarity of my visitations and feel no guilt. I know that nothing’s there anymore. She’s not even there anymore. She’s more alive in my bedroom, or in our living room, especially in our kitchen. But I, of course visit the grave, once in a while, for their sake.
Graves, stones, and memorials are symbols, even anniversaries. They are merely objects or solar revolutions with meanings attached to them. This I understand perfectly. Without the meanings, they are merely objects and solar revolutions. I have held tradition suspect most of my adolescent life, even now. I have always taken the logical and rational stance when confronted with them. In human societies, however, due to the limitedness of our comprehension of reality, we need something to see, to touch. Hence we have constructed symbols. On my end, I participate in the rituals that accompany these symbols because people are drawn to it. Tradition binds people, uniting them. I am no hater of traditions or symbols or people. I’d rather be loving than right, sometimes.
The same feeling I have with religion. I have held religion suspect for quite a long time now. I belong to one, though, but for practical purposes only. By practical I mean it has become a medium by which my expression of the spiritual becomes tangible. My attachments are very loose though. I filter its sermons, creeds, and endorsed practices with logic and love. My consolidated ideologies with Christ at its core has taught me that when you want to understand God more and more, coupled with the reflection of humanity and your own humanity, you seem to seek that truest, purest Essence.
I began as a zealot, a fundamentalist, an apologetic: a “defender of the faith.” In college, I explored Existentialism, Post-modernism, and a lot in between. I’ve flirted with atheism, and at a certain point in my life I became an agnostic. But I had always ended up returning to the Presence. The journey has brought me up to be a man of science (rational and logical) with faith of a kind (non-rational). Both are incommensurable, both express reality, and the Ultimate Reality, differently.
I need both.
Right now, I still have challenges in consolidating many worldviews. Society wants me to think they are contradictory, if not opposing. On my part, having explored a relatively significant amount of ideology, spirituality, and philosophy I have already noticed a pattern, a oneness in what this world has narrated.
All these, while staring at a few members of my family and quietly observing the ground that covered the remains of people I once talked to and held in my heart. I reflected on naturalists and atheists, how they believe in the nonexistence of supernatural planes, such as the nonexistence of a soul, and de facto its non-endurance after death. After that thought, I said, quietly, “I have no proof of souls.”
My grandmother then told her househelp to pour water on the ground. “They’re said to be thirsty,” she noted. I looked at the ground getting darker as the water slowly seeped under it. “No harm done,” I thought. I actually wanted to pour the water myself.
We then left the graves. My dear family said goodbye and mentioned their names, as if to leave them.
I walked with my grandmother, holding her hand as we headed back to the car. I thought again of souls. “They’re with us,” I suddenly thought: first law of thermodynamics: “Energy can be neither created nor destroyed. It can only change forms.”
Then they’re still with us.
“A world without end…”
Fritz Gerald M. Melodi is a graduate of BA Psychology with a minor in Philosophy from the Ateneo de Davao University.