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arlan veras payad
arlan veras payad THE MOMENT I entered the cinema to watch The Fault in Our Stars, I was almost instantly fulminating, geared up to try and talk my way through having my movie swapped for another at the counter. I was ready enough for a stereotypical romance that was fraught with the absence of intellectual stimulation. But lo and behold, it was much more. But quite on the wrong side of "much more," or so it seemed at the moment. I got in at the point in the movie where Hazel was shown suffering and then after what seemed then an interval too short to be decent, the storyline swiveled to a bed scene. I figured that the movie was basically not at variance with what I expected, but to top it all I decided it was the canny formula that salaciously stakes a breach of taste if only to ascertain box office profit: cruelly puppeteering the cinematography to manipulate the audience's emotions through the protagonists' diseases, among other afflictions; and for good measure, throwing in the well-nigh immobilizing impropriety of a wayward saunter along carnal lanes for a bit of entertainment.

Since, I reckoned, I myself was not as untainted as driven snow, I opted to go on watching despite my weakening doubts for pure earthy curiosity about how the story would turn out.

I was floored. Admittedly, my prognosis of the movie came much too expeditiously. The young lovers in The fault in Our Stars were "broken" individuals who desired to be in willful pursuit of their wholeness and, eventually, the promotion of others' wholeness as well. The film fittingly reminds us of the words of Luciano de Crescenzo—"We are each of us angels with only one wing. And we can only fly embracing each other." Such was the community shown in the movie, a collection of people needing one another. It was a group of individuals who found completion in being together. And such was their journey: experiencing, as one, a life that was brief yet made as complete as an eternity could ever be by the nobility of the boundless love that was shared within its confines.

The characters were in search of integration. It is the sense of oneness within, as contrasted against a feeling of disunity owing to the disparity between what is perceived as the true self within and the self manifested to the outside world. The young character, Waters, perceived himself as one supposedly made special by the destiny to be an achiever, one who would contribute immensely to the world and therefore be remembered by it in perpetuity. This was his self-perception contrary to external reality, which was marked by a festering disease and the immanent oblivion it heralded. However, Waters—and his girlfriend Hazel as well—found his personal salvation through other-centered love. In fact, Hazel was later on much more concerned about the wholeness of those whom she would leave behind instead of her inability to hang on to dear life. Towards the end, she was more concerned about enriching the short time remaining for the sake of the beloved in her life, instead of feeling sorry for the ever-receding grasp she had of her own existence.

The young couple's fervent search for integration from within was not easy. Such integration required the conquest of the immature ego by the true self, the self set for the individual by higher power.

The two were afflicted with diseases of the body and were at some point struggling with a most unbearable revulsion for being what they themselves thought as an unconsummated bit in the grand scheme of genetic evolution. And these incapacitating doubts were at the onset even egged on by the author they naively idolized for a moment, who gave them a generous serving of his barbed agitation towards despair without so much as a bat of an eyelid. But the couple gave the author a run for his money through their strength of conviction to live. And live they did in the truest sense of the word that rebuked the ascendancy of longevity over the saturation of every bound instant with love. They proved to the author that what he had achieved through his advancement in years and experience was not the postprandial understanding of one who has seen it all, but the ethical ill of one who has not only had his eye for others' needs, blinded by his own loss, but also had his heart's feeling for others' hurts numbed by his own pain.

All the movie's characters were in dire want of healing at some point. The young lovers achieved it through self-sacrifice. That is, the sacrifice of what they perceived their reality ought to be and the acceptance that a higher purpose—a force innate in all—is ultimately in control, not just particular individual wills. More so, this legacy of self-sacrifice sent out reverberating ripples through the lives of people touched by the young lovers. These people's spirits stroked by the lovers' brief life will continue to feel their inspiring courage. Hazel's parents, for one, pitched in the remainder of their lives to become involved in the comforting of others who suffered just like their daughter. The parents' growth also came full circle—from feeling most acutely the limitations put on their lives because of the misery they were beset with to being able to make the impossible possible. And this was demonstrated well when, unmitigated by worldly sensibility, the family rendered the unworkable trip to Amsterdam achievable through sheer will power.

All this would not have been possible had Hazel not taken the first step of trust. Recalling the first encounter with Waters, her shaky trust almost failed to set in. She who never sullied her health balked at Waters. She naturally thought she had to intentionally appear churlish at his bellicose audacity to put a cigarette between his teeth and even appear to profess pleasure about it. However, after making her trenchant opinions known she realized that his act of clamping the cigarette between his lips was indeed his metaphorical stratagem about having a firm grasp of a source of danger and keeping its wick unlit.

Later on, in Waters' embrace, her wide-eyed guard against emotional attachment was at last rendered expendable. She went down from her ivory tower and cautiously allowed herself to be lulled into the comforting somnolence of blissful trust.

At one trying moment, her invective of young Waters' impractical love as she was most keenly aware of her imminent death sentence of sorts was met with equanimity by her father's equable tirade. Her father's riposte that perhaps they, her family, might as well throw her out since she was dying anyway brought home the point through eloquent paradox: that young Water's affection—the parcel of life he was offering—was precious all the more on account of its brevity. From then on, with the help of her family, she had gone from strength to strength in conquering her fear of emotional involvement.

Upon Water's death what assuaged her sense of rebuff by the fates was the last instance of communication by Waters. It was the draft of his eulogy for her. Waters attempted to have the draft edited by the book author who corresponded with him for some short time. This exchange of words happened despite the previous pugilistic encounter in Amsterdam. It was this same message that finally allowed her to make peace with her immanent mortality on the earthly plane, and resign with the bitter pill of loss to convalesce into the acceptance and heightened appreciation of what is yet possessed.

Come to think of it, our diatribe of the unfair quirks of fate that sometimes make themselves so intolerably prominent just when we thought we were having a great day might as well be extinguished at the first accessible opportunity. For as Deepak Chopra puts it—citing one of the oldest branches of Hindu belief, if not the oldest of all established spiritual inclinations—our circumstances on earth are but illusions and the seeming discordances are but still unrecognized harmonic elements of a vast symphony. And it is in moments of humble acceptance of this absolute truth that we encounter that eureka moment when we become cognizant of the melodic patterns as we brush aside our acrimonious resistance to the primordial flow of energy. It is then that we are able to say that we are OK despite the fault in our stars.

[About the author. Arlan Veras Payad is a teacher of English and educational management whose recent researches center on cross-cultural and psycho-social aspects of learning among such respondents as university students in Seoul, South Korea, and high school Aeta students in the mountains of Pampanga. In his rendezvous with the quill, Arlan intends to trace the movements of the Tao in people’s route to success and well-being. In doing so, he is wont to occasionally exhibit the black humor folks use to cope with the Fates’ seemingly indifferent machinations.]

-Posted: 8:30 AM 7/11/14 | More of this author on eK!