• By F. Sionil Jose, National Artist
My novel Sherds, which some consider as my very best, details the poignant relationship between PG Golangco, a rich and accomplished potter, and his poor and beautiful protégé, Guia Espiritu. Beyond the narrative level, I like to consider it as an elegiac meditation on art, truth, and freedom. All these are, of course, beautiful abstractions, inane and meaningless, if they are not given value—social, political, national, and even personal.
What is freedom? What is truth? Are they useful?
Freedom itself, may be the root of injustice. A billionaire publisher, righteously claiming freedom as is beacon may oppress his employees, intimidate his rivals or corrupt officials to protect and enlarge his empire. Freedom then becomes a social menace. Freedom as value as discussed in Sherds. In a major scene, the potter artist, PG Golangco is asked: “Do you believe in art as social protest? Goya and Picasso used their art politically.”
Golangco replies: “I would ask you to permit any artist all the freedom he needs. Art thrives on freedom. The artist is free to determine his purpose.”
The artist is challenged by an academic. “Freedom is a political condition. And you have freedom because you are very rich and can afford to speak your mind, because you do not care whatever the consequences. Mr. Golangco, you are free because you have the influence and the money to buy your freedom. But what about the artists of the people? Who are not pampered like you? Who are denied this precious freedom?
Yes, indeed, how can the poor be free?
By praying, by striving, by revolution perhaps?
In the end, freedom needs no logic, no reason. It is man’s fate, his ultimate destiny.
There is no insurmountable barrier to this desire to be free. No dictator’s lash, no tyrant’s sword can halt this striving for it is man’s pre-determined purpose, entwined with every fiber in his being, a programmed culmination, the butterfly emerging from the cocoon, the sperm and the ovum becoming and the river flowing to the sea to become the sweet air we breathe.
But take care for this freedom is also very fragile and needs constant nurturing. It lives only in the heart where it is often neglected or abused. If it dies there, no power on earth can ever bring it back to life.