Editorial: Finding meaning post-Typhoon Odette

·2 min read

Christmas Day happens two days from now. This is the second year that a major Christian holiday is celebrated amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

In parts of Cebu and in other areas in Visayas and Mindanao devastated by Typhoon Odette (international name: Rai), the Christmas atmosphere could be subdued, with gatherings limited only to immediate family members. The noche buena on Christmas Eve could happen at a candle-lit table.

For family-loving Filipinos, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are the holidays during which some families hold reunions. Other major holidays that Filipinos meet up with their relatives include New Year’s Day, the Lent and Kalagkalag, the Cebuano collective term for the observance of All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1 and All Souls’ Day on Nov. 2.

Natural disasters like typhoons and earthquakes, and health crises like the pandemic can really upend humans’ social interactions, including family reunions.

Human existence is not an isolated island. A person’s life has multiple bridges linked to relatives, friends, work colleagues and events around the globe.

People can be affected by emergency situations at their homes, social unrest in their communities and in the world.

Unpleasant events, no matter how big or small in magnitude, can certainly bring suffering to people.

“All is suffering (dukkha),” so says the first of the Four Noble Truths, Buddhism’s fundamental doctrines.

Life is suffering, indeed. All people with different social statuses have their own troubles.

The rich have their burdens. In dealing with their wealth, they could be burdened on how to maintain it or on how to gain more, or they could be burdened on how to spend it. Some could be burdened on how to carry their wealth in the afterlife.

The poor have worlds to carry on their back. To beat hunger, the poor must seek money to buy food. Desperate ones could resort to stealing.

After seeing the devastation brought about by Typhoon Odette, a reflective person could ask why life is always shadowed by suffering, not only happiness.

Human existence could be seen in the story of Sisyphus, the royal in Greek mythology condemned to roll a boulder to the top of a mountain in the underworld. Sisyphus’ punishment was eternal.

Of Sisyphus, one could ask if he was suffering. Perhaps, one could say that even in the afterlife, Sisyphus’ life was tragic.

French philosopher Albert Camus does not find Sisyphus’ predicament as tragic.

“If the descent is thus sometimes performed in sorrow, it can also take place in joy... The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus,” Camus wrote in his book, “The Myth of Sisyphus.”

In one way or the other, people are like Sisyphus. People have their own boulders to roll, not in the underworld for eternity, but in their own lifetime.

This boulder is human suffering, which is not an entirely tragic experience because it teaches one to be human.

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