A Series by Fidel Ala
This was the earliest encounter with fear my memory permits me to remember. It wasn’t with kapres living in our storage area at the back of our garage my brother and I profoundly believe to be there. Certainly was not about the bodega under our staircase at home housing dwendes in the old stack of news papers collecting dust inside. Nor was it about our dear dead uncle, may his soul rest in peace, that our grandmother uses to scare us to sleep with, during siesta hours in the afternoon.
No. It was a fear about being lost – but not quite. For we have been in that church countless times. So I was not really, really lost in a place outside of my recognition. It was a different kind of lost.
It was the fear of being left alone. By myself.
I remember someone told me long ago, that the reason babies cry when they are delivered from their mother’s wombs was because it was the first suffering a human being experiences. The pain of separation. I was separated.
I can’t help but wonder how shallow it probably was back then. Don’t get me wrong, the fear of the possibility of not being found was more than gripping then. But as I look at it now, it was a fear that was based on a lie, a prank, or however you would put it. An assumption that would finally be revealed as unrealistic. My mother would not have left me and not notice. If they had really lost me, which they had not, I was quite sure they would have looked for hours and hours for me as well.
I recall having read Christ’s agony in the garden just recently as I have endeavored to pick up the bible once every day, and tried to read a chapter or two. And as I write this now I can’t help but think, sure I was a child back then and I was warranted at least a couple of tears for the fear of being left alone, but what kind of fear must one suffer, to sweat blood?
He knew he would be betrayed by one of his friends. He knew he would be denied thrice by the man he trusted the most. It was probably not very different when he walked bearing that cross on his shoulders, only to realize a sea of unknown faces. Strangers to his suffering, in the heat of the sun along a dirt road, while his friends abandoned him.
He knew he would be left alone to suffer. He knew.
My dear professor in one of my philosophy classes asked us once, “What is the difference between pain and suffering?” He said. “When you kick a dog does he experience pain or does he suffer?” Almost in unison our class answered “Pain!”
He continued with another question like most Jesuits do, without affirming whether your answer was right or denying and saying it was wrong, “When a person goes through chemo therapy, loses his hair, vomits every night, feels prolonged pain, can’t sleep, does he experience pain or does he suffer?” This time, again in unison, “Suffer.”
He went on, “So what’s the difference between pain and suffering?” No one dared break the silence until one mustered the courage and spoke with uncertainty in her voice, “Prolonged pain is suffering?” And the professor went on, “But if I kicked the dog every day once a day for a year does he experience pain or does he suffer?” We were confused. But finally in unison once more, pain. “So even when you prolong the pain it does not necessarily equate to suffering doesnt it?” He temptingly replied.
Finally when the bell was almost due to signal the end of our session our professor said, almost in exhaustion, “My dear students, when one is aware, of the pain he experiences, he knows where it comes from, who causes it, when he is aware, then he suffers.“
He knew. On the eve of his death, Christ knew who was going to betray him. Christ knew he was going to be denied. He knew he will have no one to suffer with. He knew he was left alone, by himself.
(to be continued…)