Monday, November 19, 2012

Experience and Essence

by Rob Roa

15 November 2012
Discussed Text: Levinas, "Bible and Philosophy," Ethics and Infinity

Experience is a vague word. Sometimes you don’t have experience if all you’ve ever known is “true blue Ateneo”. Others will say you lack experience even if you’ve been around the world contracting business affairs. For some, one game in the UAAP is enough to call experience, where for others, a player needs four years to be called experienced.

Obviously it is true when we call experience “the world of more meanings”. Meaning is essence, and therefore experience is part of the world of more essence. Does this mean the more we experience, the more we discover the essence of the world? Or do we discover the essence of ourselves?

In experience, we cannot separate ourselves from the world, as we are experiencing it, so therefore the essence of the world, is a part of our own essence. What we have experienced of the world, each moment of action that we can be consciously aware of, makes up our own essence. Our own meaning.
At one point in my life, I was a server (a more fancy term for waiter) at an acceptably high class restaurant back home before I came to the Ateneo. In serving food, I was a server. I was being a server. I was experiencing the world of serving and working (almost full time), and because I was immersed in that world, I was discovering my essence, as a person being the server.

Or even more reflective; I came to the Philippines thinking it would be a “good experience for me” and it has turned out to be just that. So as I experienced the Philippines, I was discovering the essence of the Philippines, but at the same time I was discovering the essence of being Filipino.  Now does this mean before I arrived in Manila, I wasn’t a Filipino? Not necessarily, but when you can finally experience the land of your parents birth, there is more essence to be conscious of.

There is just more to experience. Or more to the world of more meanings. More to the world of more essence. Experience is a never-ending chase to know everything, but of course we must pick and choose what we want to be part of our essence. We can’t have it all, nor do we want it all, but there is always an experience that calls us and is ready to become a part of us.

One last question: when we experience more essence, are we simply discovering it in ourselves? Or allowing some essence of the world to become part of what we are being? Or maybe do we just become aware, or conscious of something else in the world, which changes our own essence, or meaning.


  1. On your last question, I think it's the latter -- maybe we become aware of something outside ourselves, but this affects us inside. What I experience is that the essence of the things outside of me, or of those from the world, are different from what goes on with me, though they can affect me. :)

  2. Remember how Doc G told us that while we're still young, to go and travel? This travelling would help us realize that we are only a little part of a bigger whole. I can say that I have had my chances to travel, even though, they are mostly in Asia and more specifically in China.

    I come from an international school and I have been in that school for 10 years. Having been there for so long and having many expat teachers, I have become accustomed to their differences and learned to embrace them instead of finding insult. Now why am I saying all this? I feel that the experiences that I have had in my life are important to help us find the essence in life. They go hand in hand into appreciating what it means to be.

    You ask us if we experience more essence, are we simply discovering it in ourselves? I think that this question is quite weirdly stated because like I stated earlier, experiences help find essence in life. I honestly don't know what question should be asked instead. I do believe that we make a meaning for the things that we experience.

    We are our own philosophy.

  3. I think what you're trying to say here is that we all have different perspectives, even when it comes to experiencing things. Regarding your question, "Does this mean the more we experience, the more we discover the essence of the world? Or do we discover the essence of ourselves?"

    I'm not sure if you're asking the right question here ( In Philosophy, as Doc Garcia taught us, we must ask the right questions). In my opinion, is is when the more we experience, the more we realize the value of things. I remember reading the poem "To Realize the Value of Time" (author unknown), we don't fully realize the value of things until we experience truly needing them. The lesson for us here is to treasure everything and take nothing for granted. We're so used to having everything we need around us that when they're gone, that's the moment when we come to realize the true value of things. Each experience is unique from the other, and there are always more experiences to come, each one carrying a different lesson. But whatever they may be, we have to treasure them and keep these lessons in our hearts and minds.

    -M. Cua, Ph102 A