I. The Hand
Gambling, a lot of people will tell you that it’s evil and a lot will tell you that it’s okay. Gambling sets our minds towards what is uncertain yet predictable in terms of statistics. Say, you have a standard card deck and you’re playing poker. You want a full house with three kings and two aces. There are four kings and four aces inside a standard deck of playing cards. There are 52 cards in a deck. You need a combination of five cards and within that set you need 3 and 2 combinations of any suit. In summary, I have 1 in 694 chances of scoring a full house in standard poker game. Of course, the stakes are higher if it’s a “Texas hold ‘em” game. Imagine betting a million pesos in one game then “poof” you get a full house and an instant million peso pay check in your pocket. The game of probability and the psychology of calmness (of course you have to bluff sometimes) baffled me. For that reason, I would love to gamble.
In that case, I played with a little wager on myself. Well, there’s no name for it yet, but let me tell you the needed materials and the mechanics.
1. Genetic pool – Well, I believe that our preferences on things, behaviour and value systems come from the conditioning of the psyche intensified by a mixture of 23 X and Y chromosomes. It doesn’t matter if you’re queer or not. This material is your description or self consciousness of your preferences with the other gender or person. A clear and distinct knowledge of your preferences is even better.
2. A train station – you must do this in a train station. That creates the probability.
This is how I played the game. The first time, I conceived of this game was when an eye-popping Chinese, Korean or Japanese nevertheless, Asian woman rode the MRT North EDSA station. This is not your standard Asian. Imagine, she’s like one of PSY’s backup dancers in the MTV of “Gangnam Style.” So, there I was thinking which carriage to ride. So, upon seeing the woman at hand, I immediately paced up my walking and towards the last carriage. I made it sure that she’s within reach of my eyes. Okay, so as the MRT gates closed. People were now locked together. She was sitting and I was standing just a foot away from her. So, I can definitely describe what she looked like. She wore glasses thicker than the one I’m wearing, her skin white obviously neither Filipino nor Caucasian. She wore a short dress which I presume was cotton or silk so that her legs and thighs were completely exposed. To sum it all, I know and I have to admit it: SHE’S HOT! Just minus the sleepy-like eyes most East Asians have and she’ll be probably okay. So with nothing to do but stand for the rest of the 30 minute trip, I toyed with the idea of “taking the first step.” Let me repeat the words: “the idea.” I’m not really serious but I know I want to take that step. Of course, there are those times that I thought of all things possible with my life. The train runs at 60kph and our life ticks away every 60 second, 60 minutes, 24 hours, and 365 days that move around in circles.
I played with the idea: “where will she stop?” “Okay,” I said to myself, I stop at Ayala station and if she goes down at the same place as I do then let’s work from there. The MRT was filled with people after Cubao station. The concoction of human flesh sticking at each other sweating and struggling seems unimaginable, but, there I was wrestling with them. I lost sight of her and a few glimpses on her reveal that she’s still waiting for the next station. Ortigas, Shaw, Boni, she’s still there. Guadalupe, there was an exodus. People en masse departed leaving a few people standing and a majority of people sitting. Just, two stations away. Then, Buendia station, my statistics tell me that only a number of people go down at Buendia station. I do not know what is up there (it was underground) but that’s moving variable and I was not able to rationalize. She stood up pulled down her skirt and went out and rode the escalator. I just lost my game.
The second time was just a few days ago. This time she’s Filipino and my genetic makeup was incited again. So, I decided to play this game again. This time, there were not much people riding the MRT. So, there I was stealing a second long gaze then turning my eyes towards the window pretending to be stoic. This, time we went down at the same station. NICE!! I was first to go out of the train and ride the escalator. She was a few feet away so thought of a few ways of delaying my pace without being obvious. I stood at the siomai store pretending to count a few coins and contemplating whether to buy pork or beef siomai. Then, she passed by me. My luck turned against me. She went straight for SM Makati bad luck for me because I have to down to the bus station. Time was not on my side.
The third time was yesterday. Again, a hot looking East Asian rode the MRT. Bad luck for me again she did not go down at the same station.
Oh! I forgot. I played this game with a little variable. I was wearing my black clerical shirt. During the first time, Roman collar attached, but during the 2nd and 3rd times I was not. You can’t imagine me doing that do you? What were you thinking after the first few paragraphs? Maybe, you’ll say I’m a hopeless romantic or just a plain 20 year old maniac hiding in a clerical shirt. Of course, I know you would instruct me with proper values and proper attitudes expected of me. I think we can go for hours just talking about how sinful I am and should confess immediately. The probability of this game is just 1 out of 13. It’s not a really big deal. It’s just a random girl in the MRT. It’s just another human being trying to reach her destination as much as I do.
Have you felt that you were a hypocrite? You preach about chastity, poverty and obedience but then again, you were still at odds with yourself? I was wearing my clerical and I’m girl watching. Is there something wrong with it? I’m acting as my nature dictates it. I cannot deny that I’m a human being with the capacity to desire and want, but what I desire and what I want was already presented to me by my culture and religion. How can I immerse myself on the lived-experience of the world? If I taught myself that I should not live according to the rules of the flesh and accord myself with the rules of the spirit, how then can I feel this spirit if not through the mediation of the flesh? Rules of conduct have already been here even before my birth. They existed already and were followed by my parents. Moreover they taught me not to do this but do that. I was accustomed to believe that there are always two inherent principles in life i.e. good and evil. I must strive to be good and accord myself to those customs that assure you of goodness by following them word per word.
II. The Flop
According ourselves with the will of an omnipotent being, our will is always seen as feeble, week and capable of evil. It was never strong enough always wrong in one way or another. I grew up in the seminary believing in teachings yet alien to myself. I was a secular guy trying to be religious. Maybe, the synthesis is me and my relationship with God. I don’t want to dwell on that matter in this article lest you want to hear religious dictums, quotations from saints, church fathers, church leaders and church documents appended by the endless footnotes from the New American Bible, New Revised Standard version, Jerusalem Bible and if you want to brag about your Sth.D from Biblicum and Augustinianum then cite from the Greek New Testament. If you want, cite them all. I cannot do that. I’ll be very honest. When was the last time you said to yourself, “I don’t need church teaching telling me what to do, think and feel?” There are times that you don’t even follow normal protocol. You took communion, but just a few minutes ago you were looking at a random girl’s legs or thinking about that hot chick a few meters away from you. Probably, you will say to yourself, “well I think the prayer Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed” suffice for a preparatory prayer. I even know some persons who thought that the Confiteor is enough to cleanse me from my sins. There are moments that confession just won’t do. It doesn’t suffice. It makes you guilty and sorry. Emotions that you don’t want to be reminded of are again resurfacing for your consciousness to devour. It destroys your ego, isn’t it?
I remember, I wanted to go to confession. I was contemplating on what to confess. Some of you will call this the examination of the heart or whatever term it may be. I have a practice of contemplating on the seven deadly sins. First on my list, lust, I would confess my few minutes of lone time with “me,” “myself” and “I” and a random girl floating around my mind dancing a mental waltz. Then, greed, I would confess eating a lot. Up to the seventh, I would think of everything. It always makes me sad that the same things that I repeatedly confess were the same things that I confess the next time around. I suddenly discovered that some of them are inevitable acts. To covet a woman was something innate in the mind of man. How can I blame myself if like a programming code it is embedded in my genetic makeup? How then, can I discover my will? How can I discover that the wager was not just a wager but a natural act of the psycho-physiological human being that I am? The vital question then looms as “how do I know that I’m culpable?”
The cards are dealt and set. Three cards lie on the table face up showing itself on me, the player. There are three choices. I could raise my bet, I could fold or I could call. It depends on me the player who holds two cards against the dealer’s three. I could win, lose or back down, but I cannot remove that I would lose something in this round. A few pesos maybe or even more will be drawn out of my pocket and then to the table. Suddenly I discovered myself in a dark room. I man in a silk suit holds the deck of cards and all I have are a few chips. I sat on the chair and he gave me two cards saying: “in this game you can call, raise, fold and bet ‘all-in,’ however the moment you back down and give up and want to leave the room...” He took a revolver inside his jacket. “You should give up your life.” He dealt the flop; the first three cards.
What would I do? What would you do? I have a losing hand. I do not want to lose and it seems that the easiest way is to give up. So, I surrendered, losing a few chips, but I never backed down.
What if I find myself in that same situation? What if one day, it becomes a reality? What would I do? Perhaps, I would cry my lungs out and beg to be awoken in this strange dream. I would probably renounce everything I believe in. It is natural to fear as much as it is natural to desire. I was gambling with myself, but what were the stakes? There were not stakes in the game of girl watching by the MRT. Only a reality will be unearthed. I may not know what that sort of reality is, but I’m sure it’s part of a disappointing return to my tattered self.
What if however, the converse happened? What if I got that 1 in 13 chance and the thousand page love story begins in a random situation with a random person. It proves something isn’t it? It sounds as a perfect story. Screenwriters will write about it and directors will make it into a great blockbuster hit. Sometimes, I wish life was a movie with action, background music and a favourable ending. On the contrary, endings were simple. You are either tied on a bed or unconsciously aware of something else and in flicker of the light you are gone. The person inside the body is gone and what remains are the remnants of that body you sustained all your life feeding it, satisfying it etc.
III. The River
The dealer dealt the last two cards. It was the river the final round and I would either lose or win. Indeed, I lost. I ran out of chips and I was crying on the table begging the dealer for more chips. He stood ad holstered his revolver. “You lost,” he said. “But it is obvious that you won something.”
“You’re delirious aren’t you?”
“What have I won?”
“The consciousness that you lost, a few people know that they lost something. They keep on desiring to win and win and win. When they lose, it hits them hard. They gave up and lost their lives. I’ve seen them shot their brains as they pulled the trigger on their head. You know that you lost. You want to continue even if you don’t have chips.”
“I don’t understand.”
He disappeared. The room was alit again. It was my study room.
I was taught to think in logical neatness. Systematic thinking was taught to me by teachers seeking to improve my character by organizing the chaos that is my mind. You want to succeed then organize. That is the battle cry of the 21st century. The values of old are returning. The free thinking practice of the past slowly dies away as men start to surrender their freedom for an ideology worth dying for. I know my desires. I could have stopped the little wager but what pushed me to play are the probabilities it gave me. It’s not about the women. It’s about the will. It’s about how I can negate my own. It’s about how I’m capable of abandoning everything I worked for. It made me appreciate what I have. To see the abyss below makes you aware. It makes you think. That is the time that the contradictions that I’m afraid to commit when I argue were not really serious offences. If my life is governed by that systematic and rigorous treatment making every event a variable deducible to an elementary equation, I would lose my mind. I would rather be mad and locked up in a mental asylum.
Ideas are positive things we construct. We make them because we know we can’t impress everyone. We construct ideas to understand the world. We need it to understand our actions. When the flop is laid down and all you have is a hand, what will you do? Don’t wait for everything to be laid down. Don’t wait for the river. I come to view now that in our age. Man lives as a contradiction. When ca he discovered himself? The moment, I start the little wager wearing my clerical shirt what will happen to me? I enjoy the game of probability. I enjoy it. It makes me aware of the abyss. The abyss which is the inherent contradiction living within. That abyss is the yearning; the yearnings that people do not mind. It is inherent in our genetic makeup. Live with it, know it, accept it befriend it. There is no other way. Live the contradiction.