There’s no such thing as universality.

Poets talk of grief and of sorrow and of happiness like they know its very core, unpeeling, slowly, layer after layer, the skin, then after the mounds of flesh, until what is left is the seed of grief, of sorrow, and of happiness. They talk about it in seedy jazz clubs, during conclaves in underground bars, and even on narrow streets under the veil of their billowing smoke, snapping their fingers to the rhythm of their poem talking about grief and how it envelops our most private selves, or clicking their tongues at every end of their sorrow-filled verses of a mother carrying her dead baby around, or leering through those half-opened eyes as they express love for everything benign in their Shakespearean sonnets. Even the birds do not listen.

These writers, scholars, and philosophers, they write about how the weight of sorrow brings us down to ground, or how it clips the wings of a bird trapped in a cage. They write it in journals, in literary folios, in whatever material they may write in, and you can see in their angst-filled, guilt-ridden writing like they know the peak of sorrow that they have the courage to say it eats away the soul… What do they know? Were they molested as children? Were their parents killed in an encounter in Basilan? Did their house suddenly go up in flame? What sorrow are they talking about?

People talk about the universality of all things like they know everything, when in fact the very thing that we thought has been holding us dear, crossing borders of multi-cultural nations, tracing histories in bygone eras, has remained but a myth that which sustains this imagined ties. Universality does not exist. We live in a world bordered by practices, partitioned by religion, and contained by our singularities. We are, after all, unique beings.

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How could we talk of grief, of sorrow, and of happiness if we haven’t experienced all of its apices? I would have to give it to the Tibetan monks and their extreme practice. They are warranted to talk about the ultimate pleasure of carnality. But even they would not dare talk about it.

We claimed the world and modeled it after the image of our own self-centeredness, because we believe all sorrow, all grief, and all happiness resides in our selfish hearts. We declare to know everything, or pretend to empathize the caged bird singing of freedom, the mother walking aimlessly about while carrying her dead child, or the boy crying out to the stars to bring his father home. It is funny how we have the courage to precede our words before our actions, just like how the tide dies before it reaches the shore.

And we are only left with small things, but we dare talk about the big things of which we know nothing. Because we are intrepid men, bold in our own rights and bright as the dawning day. I do not know grief and sorrow, but I only fear for the man in Iran about to be stoned, women being poured acid in their faces, and the many children in Africa dying of disease, helpless and unattended. And what do I know about happiness? My happiness is self-contained, self-serving. My happiness is relative. I guess the right term would be relative, not universal. We only talk about relativity. The feeling of a woman passing her licensure exam is different from a mother’s delight upon seeing her newborn child, although both speak of utmost joy. But in different levels. Even two mothers being handed over their baby in the hospital would display different emotions.

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My point here being is that we are entrenched in different kinds of situations and circumstances and the context of our problems are very different from others. The world did not give birth to us in this one particular space; we are scatted sporadically around the world, have different upbringing that cultured our psyche and morale, have different practices from which we have molded ourselves.

So, tell me, how could we speak of universality when were born to different sets of problems beset by different emotions and feelings that we are not able to contain in itself?

We are not born collectively; we are fashioned to become unique beings with singular thoughts and emotions that no one could subjugate at their will.

I don’t know the universality you are talking about; it does not reach my shore.

Well, although this exposition may sound true, it still does not hold universal to all.



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