Notes & Essays

Sawi Series: So Jollibee, What Happens After Heartbreak?

Alcuin Papa on how Jollibee's tearjerking commercials stirred up frustrations on the difficulties of loving someone.
IMAGE Jollibee
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Valentine's Day is when you're most aware of your loved ones—not just of your significant other, but of your family, friends, the people around you. But it also makes you fully realize the love that you don't have. Hence, our Sawi Series, which we are dedicating to the other, less promulgated side of the love parade. Taking our cue from Alain de Botton's The Consolations of Philosophy (2000), writer Alcuin Papa talks about the post-heartbreak they don't always show in popular media.

“The day I tried to live,

I wallowed in the blood and mud

With all the other pigs”

-Soundgarden

So, dear reader, unless you’ve been off the grid, hiding under a rock or avoiding the internet for the past two days, I will assume you’ve seen those Valentine’s Day ads of a particular fast-food chain. The one that features a wedding is my favorite. But a thought occurred to me after I saw it the third time (okay call me a softie): what did the guy who got friendzoned, that poor unfortunate soul, do AFTER the wedding? Did he get piss-drunk with friends? Did he curl up in one corner and sobbed his heart away? 

A part of me wants to slap him silly and scream “YOU DID ALL OF THAT FOR NOTHING?!” Another part of me wants to console him with “That’s fine and dandy old chap. It wasn’t mean to be.” And another part of me truly wishes he would get on properly with his life.

Tasting the pain of heartbreak means you know you are alive.

***

The anatomy of each heartbreak is essentially the same. It starts off with a sort of cold, dark ennui creeping into one, or worse, both of the parties. Then there is the inordinate interest in the opposite sex. Leading to the inevitable break-up confrontation, usually an ugly affair, characterized by much wailing and gnashing of teeth by one or both parties. Rare is the break-up that goes smoothly. 

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What follows almost immediately are various forms of behavior that may be characterized as destructive, like partying with wild abandon accompanied by but not limited to copious amounts of alcohol, romps in the sack, some with total strangers (the lesser you recognize them the morning after, the better), others with slight acquaintances, Then there’s also the change in your relationship with food. Either you eat too little, or too much. There will also be incessant self-doubt, a firm conviction that it was your partner’s fault, then later an acceptance that maybe it was yours. In which case, guilt kicks in.

At one point, the question arises: when is this self-flagellation and destructive behavior going to stop and how do I get off this train wreck?

In Alain de Botton’s reflections on difficulties contained in his popular Consolations of Philosophy, he discusses Nietzsche’s ideas on facing life’s difficulties in aptly titled chapter “Consolations for Difficulties.” Nietzsche posited that to rise above mediocrity, we must first experience pain on the way to fulfillment. 

De Botton writes: “No one is able to produce a great work of art without experience, nor achieve a worldly position immediately, nor be a great lover at first attempt; and in the interval between initial failure and subsequent success, in the gap between who we wish one day to be and who we are at present, must come pain, anxiety, envy and humiliation. We suffer because we cannot spontaneously master the ingredient of fulfillment.” To reach or attain something of great value in life, we must be ready to suffer. 

Nietzsche, who himself was a victim of several heartbreaks, wished suffering on his friends and those he loved: “To those human beings who are of any concern to me, I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill treatment, indignitiesI wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished.”

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De Botton posits that Nietzsche came upon his reflections on difficulties while scaling one of the mountains near his home, which includes the Piz Corvatsch. A five-hour trek greeted the philosopher. But at the summit, Nietzsche found fulfillment in the stillness of the mountain’s peak.

Tasting the pain of heartbreak means you know you are alive. None of us wants to revel in the pain. It doesn’t seem to be part of human nature, probably because wallowing in the mud of what Nietzsche calls mediocrity is anathema to our existence. There is an innate, built-in instinct to rise above mediocrity towards fulfillment. Truly, when you are down, the only way to go is up.

What we do to elevate ourselves from the mediocrity is the key.

*** 

It’s really how we choose to spend our time living, struggling against pain, moving towards fulfillment, that really matters. Time is but an aid, a means to an end.

Time healing all wounds seems an illusion. It’s really how we choose to spend our time living, struggling against pain, moving towards fulfillment, that really matters. Time is but an aid, a means to an end.

And so with any luck, once we get past the difficult pain of heartbreak and assuming we are still alive, we live and we reflect. And then we give love another try, knowing fully well the risk of another heartbreak. The pain of past heartbreaks prepare you for the fulfillment that love may bring. We can be slaves to love. But first, we must be masters of our destinies.

In a way, we should welcome the pain of heartbreak. After all, as Nietzsche himself once wrote, that which does not kill us, makes us stronger.

So back to Mr. Friendzoned in the fastfood ad. Indeed, he has become the symbol of love’s frustrations. His id and ego is sucked into a vortex of his Other, banging and clashing with the Other’s id and ego. And when the Other is gone, the vortex dissipates, leaving a howling emptiness. Hopefully over time and after much struggle, this painful emptiness transitions into an stillness where we may find fulfillment. 

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Pass the catsup.

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