The logic of love

HINDSIGHT - F. Sionil Jose (The Philippine Star) - February 9, 2019 - 12:00am

It is the most profound of human emotions. It can be as short-lived as a flash, or it can grow from a spark into a flame that burns forever. It is the truest subject for the arts, for literature. It is a desire to possess, to hold close to one’s heart, to live with, a sweet and tender ache that brings tears to the eyes this love for another, for the truth as Socrates did, for gold, for success. It is reaching out for the unknown in the vastness of space and deep within the secret folds of the mind. This is love, and on the other side is another consuming passion, hate.

Almost all human endeavors have a logic of their own. It is when we understand this that we are able to explain why people and institutions fail or succeed, or why things happen as they do.

What is the logic of imperialism? Exploitation. And capitalism? Profit. What is the logic of government? Service. What is the logic of diplomacy? To advance a nation’s self-interest without resorting to war. What is the logic of nationalism?

Love, too, has its own unswerving logic.

Poets and writers from antiquity to this very day have celebrated love and its prism of emotions. I have written about it, too, in my novels and short stories. I am very fond of “Puppy Love” and “Tong.” “Puppy Love” is about two very young people discovering love, how they maintained this love through the years. But in the end, their fidelity could only live as palpable memory. “Tong,” on the other hand is about a love that tried to bridge two cultures and how culture triumphed.

My favorite love story, however, is “Waywaya,” which is also an allegory. Waywaya in my native Ilokano means freedom. This is a very important translation because in literature, there are almost always symbols behind the story, particularly if it is also an allegory.

I wrote “Waywaya” during the martial law years when the word freedom had much more resonance than today. Actually, it is an adaptation of a Papua New Guinea story, as told to me by Georgina Beier, a painter and the wife of Ulli Beier, a German anthropologist who founded the Institute of PNG Studies in Port Moresby.

It is the story of two warring tribes separated by a river. Dayaw, a boy from the Taga Daya tribe, crosses the river and kidnaps Waywaya, who is from the Taga Laud tribe. He brings her to the Daya region as a slave and eventually they fall in love. Waywaya dies giving birth to their son. Dayaw defies his father, follows tradition, and returns Waywaya’s body to her father. As the chief walks him to the edge of the village, Dayaw knows “as sure as sunset, he would not reach the river.”

In my longer works, love acquires a wider, deeper resonance.

If love of country is the logic of nationalism, what is the logic of love?

Mass concludes the five-novel Rosales saga. It is set in 1972. The young Pepe Samson questions his professor, who is recruiting him into the student movement. “What can I get in return? You cannot ask the poor for sacrifices. We are already poor. What can we give? How do you measure the patriotism of the poor?”

Three generations earlier, in my novel, Po-on, which is set in 1872, Pepe’s great-grandfather, Eustaquio Samson, asks the same question. To which the fictional Apolinario Mabini answered:

“If there is no country as such or as you know and recognize, then in your mind you must give it its boundaries. Do this because without this country you are nothing. This land where you stand, from which you draw sustenance, is the Mother you deny. It’s to her where your thoughts will go even if you refuse to think so, for this is where you were born, where your loved ones live, and where in all probability you will all die. We will love her, protect her, all of us – Bisaya, Tagalog, Ilokano, so many islands, so many tribes – because if we act as one, we will be strong and so will she be. I am not asking that you love Filipinas. I am asking you to do what is right, to do what is duty…”

And like the great-grandson who becomes a revolutionary, Eustaquio Samson leaves Rosales for Tirad to defend that pass against the invading Americans.

In its profoundest sense, love is no longer a story but a personification. It is no longer a personal feeling, but a living being, the very life of an individual, an expression defined by that very life itself – and how it is used, and how it ends.

Rizal expresses this love in his “Mi Ultimo Adios,” the poem he wrote before his execution on Dec. 30, 1896:

My motherland beloved whose burden of grief I share
My Filipinas for you this last farewell

Rizal epitomizes love of country first by his writing; he knew that with his first novel critical of the Spaniards, he had sealed his fate. He could have saved his life by living abroad, but he elected to come back to die in his native land.

And, finally, the greatest love of all, as retold in the greatest book of all time, the Bible. When Jesus, whose core teaching is love, arrives in Jerusalem for the first time, he is greeted with hosannas and the waving of palms. Eventually, however, he is reviled, betrayed, and crucified. On the cross, Jesus the man suffers in agony and dies. Today, in the Catholic holy mass, the priest intones what Jesus said at the last supper: “This is my body, which will be given up for you. This is my blood. It will be shed for you.”

For us, for mankind, that we may be saved, for God is love.

The logic of love is sacrifice.

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