The Book of Allegory

allegory visualThis blog has the echo of a prior writing, but we have a lot of new followers, so I’ll tread that ground once more. It may explain a few things.

Let me first note how I came to the topic this time around. It is amusing, I think. Mariano Renato Pacifico did it, essentially, by leveling a blast of critical commentary at the Mar Roxas, Korina Sanchez tandem after I had just penned a wholesome article concluding that they would represent the Philippines well as people of intelligence and character.

There is always a danger when Mariano writes that people will take him seriously, or literally. And, indeed, there are times when he should be read seriously, or literally, and other times when he should be read as allegory. It may seem outrageous, but I believe, under different circumstances, in an era thousands of years ago, he could have been recruited to write sections of the Bible. Well, yes, he would have to be re-wired as to allegiance and experience, but his technique is not much different.

He puts lessons in his words. The words may hit hard, even below the belt sometimes, but they are there. The beauty of allegory is, of course, people can interpret it in various ways, draw off different lessons, and most of them are correct. So those who react to Mariano’s words as literal truth are correct to point out that he is wrong. Those who laugh are correct to laugh at the outrageous expressions and teases and double meanings. Those who shrug and say, “there he goes again!” are correct to do so, and not get worked up by the guy. Those who wonder why JoeAm puts up with this guy are correct to question the place of writing that does not fit with the normally straight, occasionally humorous, and typically non-confrontational tenor of the discussion threads.

Well, I don’t take the Bible as literal truth because the young, bright, charismatic Baptist minister who gave me my foundations through lessons drawn from that great book consistently referred to them as “stories”. I have no trouble with literalists. It is one interpretation, correct for them. But mine is that the Bible is allegory mixed with actual history and the important point is not sorting out which is which, but what it all means.

When we (we who take the Bible as allegory) read the Book of Job and see the horrendous punishments God meted out to an everyday kind of guy, the misery and pain and tragedy, well, we can walk away from Yolanda and not question God, but question whether or not we are faithful enough. Whether or not we have been doing the right things. That is an important question to ask. As it turns out, we were weighed and measured, and came out short on preparation and response.

So I think the Bible needs a new book, right up front, called “The Book of Allegory“. Rather like the instruction manual that comes with our new microwave oven.

Then we won’t waste time arguing whether or not Jonah really lived in the belly of the whale, and if so did he have deep-sea scuba gear like the guy on the Discovery Channel who allowed himself to be swallowed by a Burmese Python. We will just extract the lesson that it is not wise to shirk our duty to God and mankind, lest we be eaten by Global Warming.

Courtesy of dictionary.com:

  • allegory: [aluh-gawr-ee, -gohr-ee] noun, 1. a representation of an abstract or spiritual meaning through concrete or material forms; figurative treatment of one subject under the guise of another. 2. a symbolical narrative: the allegory of Piers Plowman. 3. emblem. Synonyms: fable, parable.
  • metaphor: [metuh-fawr, -fer] noun, 1. a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something towhich it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance, as in “A mighty fortress is our God.” 2. something used, or regarded as being used, to represent something else; emblem; symbol.

These are tools of writers who work away from the plane of factual truth to build a new realm of understanding. It is rather like special effects artists take us into outer space by extending from what we know now to a set of largely intellectual . . . but profoundly enlightening or entertaining . . . new set of truths.

  • Mariano Renato Pacifico: “I did not see that coming. Korina married to Mar? OMG! This is doom! Not for Mar but for the Filipino people if Mar ever gets elected. Korina is intellectually lightweight. She’d spend taxpayers money on skin-whitening, plastic surgery, make-ups, collagen, exotic beauty products including Nepalese Masseusseurs. How in the world Mar got hooked up with Korina? This is not goot. Not goot at all.”

Well, I know for a fact that Korina is not an intellectual lightweight, so how am I to react? I laugh. Especially at “Nepalese Masseusseurs”! (Where did THAT come from? ahahahaha!) Because I agree with Mariano that there is a superficiality, a denial, to this whole trend of whitening creams and the using of knives and chemicals to reconstruct our fundamental looks. And do we want that superficiality in the President’s household? Do we want closets of shoes again?

Well, I’ve learned not to press the point, lest my wife club me with the umbrella she is sure to be toting whenever the sun is up in the hot tropical sky. So I concede, people are allowed their choices. And I am allowed mine, to prefer natural beauty.

There is another quality to Mariano’s work that I like as the editor of this blog. It gives the blog a quality of depth, of difference, of being willing to go where no normal editor is bold enough to go. It is in that way consistent with my own writing, which is not the style you would find in the Inquirer opinion columns, straight-laced. But rather a cross between the carriage of Huck Finn and George Carlin with a little Sancho Panza thrown in for spice.

I love allegory and metaphor and the reaching for meanings that most never find. Sometimes I know I miss the mark, or do the job poorly. But when a sentence or phrase hits the sweet spot . . . well, it’s rather like scoring a home run.

One last point.

Now at times, not very often, I feel impelled to restrain Mariano, and what readers don’t know, but I do, is that he is sharp enough to read my hints and respect them. From that, I can be assured that he knows EXACTLY what he is doing by penning an outrageous paragraph or two. Or twenty when he gets worked up enough.

When other writers are willing to set their own interpretations or facts or opinions on the same page, in the way that is most comfortable for them, that is uniquely THEIRS, then we build a richness to the commentary that does the most to contribute to the well-being of the Philippines. Because it is unrestrained by conventions too tightly strung to allow important lessons to emerge.

And, most importantly, because no one needs to be concerned about whether or not they are writing in the correct manner. Misspellings or awkward English or stretching to make a point . . . that is called “style” in these parts. It is good.

If it is here, it is correct.

And if it is not, we are missing something.

 

Comments
34 Responses to “The Book of Allegory”
  1. sonny says:

    “… I love allegory and metaphor and the reaching for meanings that most never find. Sometimes I know I miss the mark, or do the job poorly. But when a sentence or phrase hits the sweet spot . . . well, it’s rather like scoring a home run.”

    Even Obi-Wan-Kenobi believes: “Luke, fear not. And METAFORZ be with you!!” 🙂

    Live long and prosper, everyone!

    • sonny says:

      “Well, I don’t take the Bible as literal truth because the young, bright, charismatic Baptist minister who gave me my foundations through lessons drawn from that great book consistently referred to them as “stories”…”

      Amen to that, Joe.

      I would like to add: mind the “i”s and “t”s in your exegesis, careful with your eisegesis and always test your hermeneutics, with the Bible and all other things important.

  2. Mariano is an acquired taste. I like to think of him as a bittermelon. Reading his tirades could leave a bitter taste in one’s mouth but he means well and his heart is in the right place.

    Like a bittermelon, he is good for my health, mental health to be precise. He goads me to think beyond his words and see the purpose that lies within the context of his ramblings. Though there may be times that it is wiser to do a Voltaire:

    “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
    ~ Voltaire

    • Joe America says:

      Ha, yes. Ampalaya comes to mind. I love the stuff even a little sour, but when it is over the top bitter, it is a bit too much. Happy New Year, Juana. Thanks for your contributions to make this a stable, rational, thoughtful place.

      • Happy New Year, Joe and family. Thank you for providing a digital Philippines, an alternative universe, for when I want to come “home.”

        Remember “Cheers,” the television show?

        “Sometimes you want to go
        Where everybody knows your name,
        And they’re always glad you came;
        You want to be where you can see,
        Our troubles are all the same;
        You want to be where everybody knows your name.”

        I am sure that this sentiment is shared by a lot of your readers. You bring us home with each and every article you write. You are greatly appreciated, Joe.

  3. macspeed says:

    he he he I like MRP because he made me happy, LOL he he he

    My identity was even question when at first time I joined Cyber Plaza with Raissa and others. I did sided with MRP whom was doing same thing “very clear” expression whom others called a drunken master he he he

    For me, the taste of the food is not perfect of there is no spice or say salad…MRP gives twist to an issue like a director to a movie of passionate crime or what ever he he he

    well happy new year guys, gents and ladies and gays he he he

    life is lovelier when ever blogs are around…

    • Joe America says:

      Happy new year, Mac. The blog is happier when you are around.

    • sonny says:

      Count me in among the readers, JP. The Cheers sentiment is so easy to own, I thought the whole sentiment is worth expressing:

      “Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
      Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

      Wouldn’t you like to get away?

      Sometimes you want to go

      Where everybody knows your name,
      and they’re always glad you came.
      You wanna be where you can see,
      our troubles are all the same
      You wanna be where everybody knows
      Your name.

      You wanna go where people know,
      people are all the same,
      You wanna go where everybody knows
      your name.

      You wanna go where people know,
      people are all the same,
      You wanna go where everybody knows
      your name.”

      • Juana Pilipinas says:

        Are we showing our age or what? 🙂 Younger readers may have to Google what we’re blabbing about.

        Happy New Year, sonny. You sure are one of those people I am always glad see here.

        • sonny says:

          Ah, JP. Wishing you also the “bestest” of the coming year! Joe’s watering hole has really been a boon for me – the Filipinophiles who congregate here are really the renaissance men and women whom I have only read about till now. And I’m glad “you know me by name …” as i do you and am glad.

          We will also wish our younger generation the same good will we have seen and felt, in whatever medium they make for themselves. 🙂

  4. edgar lores says:

    *******
    1. Allegory? ALLEGORY?! OMG! This is not GOOT, not GOOT at all.

    2. Where are the affidayvits, the forenshic – HIC! – evidences?

    3. This JoeAM, he says he Amurican but his ENGLISHZTES is – how we say? – PEKYOOLYAR.

    4. He say he study in agricultooral college in Murica. I did not see that coming! I nevah know U.P. LOS BANOS had a branch in the U.S of Ay-yay-yay. Didja?

    5. And didja know that radio-comm- journalism courses were ever offered in agri skool? For what? Mebbe to talk wid the sugar crops? Mebbe to write about the chick’ns that cross the road to brood over ORPHANATED golf balls? That’s right: balls widout MUDDER or FUDDER. Mebbe to BROADCASTED the news that the heifer in the manger has been born?

    6. Aiyee!
    *****

    • Joe America says:

      Ahahaha, okay, Edgar, you have hit a new high. I cannot stop laughing, I get to ORPHANATED and just roll . . . And MUDDER and FUDDER ought not be used in close proximity lest one, being in metaphorical mindset, read it wrongly. Classic. Just classic.

    • Bert says:

      I’m all alone here in front of the pc, the other guys out to buy round and golden fruits for display for the New Year, still trembling with laughter after reading this piece by Edgar scaring my Siamese cat besides me, :). :

    • Juana Pilipinas says:

      Happy New Year, Edgar.

      Your comedic styling is indistinguishable from that of Mariano’s. Thanks for the chuckles.

    • jolly cruz says:

      Bravo ! Edgar. Pure genius. After reading MRP your post is such a breath of fresh air.On the other hand, . Since mr joe cited the Bible, i would like to cite what the baptist. ministers always say about the Bible, that ” the Bible does not need interpretation, It should be taken literally. ” I think mr joe gives too much credit to MRP

  5. Bert says:

    I don’t mind reading a tribute to a great person from time to time, and Mariano certainly is great.

  6. Something I thought is worth sharing and cheering:

    http://www.manilatimes.net/new-faces-new-culture-immigration-counters/152185/

    Professional and courteous Filipinos. Earnest and outstanding customer service from a governmental entity in the Philippines. Eat your heart out, Mariano. 🙂

    • Joe America says:

      You know, I agree with the writer. My last visit through Manila airport immigration was a shockingly favorable surprise. First of all, I was in and out of the payment counter for my visa exit and entry fee in two minutes, then one of the “greeters”, seeing my gray hair and rapidly advancing age, directed me to the counter for the lame, the halt and blind for clearing of my entire family in about three minutes. Then the counter agent knocked me for a loop by actually smiling back at my typically happy (at getting through the gates) thank you. Gadzooks. What is the Philippines coming to?

  7. edgar lores says:

    *******
    1. Seriously, I think Mariano is the archetypal court jester. His utterances are deliberately outrageous, meant to provoke us, and meant to challenge our comfortable presumptions and normal perceptions.

    2. The role of the court jester is an important one. He breaks the solemnity at court, breaks the circle of yea-saying, breaks the attitude of arrogance and self-importance on the part of the king and the courtiers, and, at the very best, introduces a sudden shift of perspective. The reactions to a jester can range from boredom, to irritation, to laughter, to epiphany.

    2.1. For public figures, the function of the jester is crucial. Samuel Pepys, in 1668, called a jester of Charles I as “The King’s fool and jester, with the power to mock and revile even the most prominent without penalty”

    2.2. Because Mariano’s comments are often formulaic, I must confess my responses are usually boredom and irritation. However his Korina comments moved me to laughter. I really don’t know Korina, haven’t really formed a definite opinion of her, but the tide of saccharine comments by JoeAm’s post and most commenters is balanced – overbalanced? — by Mariano’s negative counterpoints.

    2.3. To me as a reader, this is important because it introduces the element of skepticism, healthy skepticism. To Korina, as a potential First Lady, it should also be important because it makes her aware that some people are dubious of her character, and this should inspire her to prove them wrong in the long run.

    2.3.1. And WHAT IF Korina is as Mariano says?

    ***

    2.4. What about TRUTH, you say? I will lay out my oft-repeated mantra about personal criticisms directed at me: If the criticism is NOT true, then what does it matter? But if the criticism is true, then I should take it as an opportunity to change.

    2.4.1. In law, defamation directed at public figures is different. The Philippine public figure doctrine is more liberal than its American counterpart. It imputes that public figures are issues of public interest. (The Cybercrime Law attempted to change this?)

    2.4.2. Two years ago, the UN Commission on Human Rights ruled that the criminalization of libel violates freedom of expression.

    2.4.4. Personally, however, to me the Buddhist tenet of Right Speech is important as a way of a noble way of living. I try to stick it… with the obvious exception of my earlier post.

    I regret nothing. 🙂
    *****

    • sonny says:

      “… Seriously, I think Mariano is the archetypal court jester.”

      Yikes, took the words right off of my mouth, Edgar. He puts all sides on edge and off balance. The proud squirms, the challenger is goaded, the uncommitted is coaxed. Everybody mounts their horses. While the jester takes credit whichever and however the chips fall and knowingly fades from the scene. As Giacomo says: The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true! Right? … Right. But there’s been a change: they broke the chalice from the palace! 

  8. Karl Garcia says:

    MRP…..the original GRP. Get Renato Pacifico. (not original I read it somewhere)

  9. Karl Garcia says:

    hahaha MRP lets you comment in your own blog.
    LOL
    I still follow you silently and I do read the archives..I read that GRP banning episode. I guess I will be the first because I was blocked by benign0 in facebook because i sorta outed him by confirming the nashman’s outing of the man.

    I had a history of talking smack and being rude to him until I learned that i met the guy.
    Speaking of quitting. I almost quit reading blogs until I decided a few weeks back to read your blog. And it took until today to post a comment. I hope it is not too late to greet you a happy new year JOE.

    I also passed by propinoy and see UPNGRad dominate the comment threads aside from that I am yet to check the rest of the blogosphere .hmmm blogosphere ;that is so 2005 of me.

    • Joe America says:

      2005 indeed. Well, it is good of you to stop by, Karl. It is not too late for good wishes, and I wish you the best as well. I’ve persisted with the writing, almost 800 articles in the can now. The benefits are many, the least of which is practicing the art of making words carry meaning, the most of which is getting to know some very sharp, good people. In between we have our little influences . . .

      Cocoy at Propinoy I think is focused on his twitter activities rather than writing. Bong V is still talking to himself at Anti-Pinoy the last time I checked. Benigno and Ilda are holding court amongst their small band of strange people. I’m still an irritant over there, as every once in a while someone whips up an insult toward “that American blogger”. I wear the banning with pride. I was also kicked out by Bong V, come to think about it. I’m such a wild man huh?

      And now Filipino Voices is a singing contest . . .

      • Karl Garcia says:

        BongV, Hmmm

        I remember he wrote about me once on his sanamagan blog because of some misunderstanding and something I did.I did visit that blog before my hibernation he was civil to me thankfully. I already ranted about not taking sides in any blog war. so i guess sometimes having a neutral stance has its merits.

        Wildman..nah I dont think so.. You are one of the most civil bloggers out there.

        FV .. i was thinking of another contest involving dehydration, singing contest it is. Could have been a strong unit if no one messed up with the foundations.

  10. Karl Garcia says:

    I keep on committing grammatical and syntax errors. I wont apologize because I know it will be repeated good thing MRP has something to say about englithczes. (yet he has good command of the english language)

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