We sit by the Philosophy Department in search of the Victor Gojocco, thinking of how to approach him: to be honest, we were a little bit intimidated. We spot him, gray-haired, by his computer, sporting a collared white shirt, beige pants – the aviator sunglasses are the only thing missing in his signature attire.
He greets us with his modulated voice—another signature of the iconic professor. It’s a voice more fitting for radio or movie trailers than general elective lectures. After telling him that we’re looking for an interesting personality to interview, he deflects the comment, saying there are others that are more interesting.
He’s reluctant to be interviewed. “I don’t want this high profile thing. In fact, I just want to be left alone. I value my privacy,” he tells us, before eventually obliging.
“I’ve been featured in The LaSallian in my 28 years of teaching, and it’s always about atheism and all these things and so forth.” He mentions a previous incident that got him into trouble. “Maybe I should be extra careful now. As much as possible, I want to keep low key. I don’t want to be published in these things.”
On religion and atheism
“I’ve got nothing against God. On the contrary, I think there’s a possibility that He might exist.” He recounts separate cases of near-death experiences (NDE) wherein a Muslim and a Buddhist met Jesus Christ, and upon coming back, converted to Christianity. “I don’t know if I could really consider that as a clue, that maybe the correct religion of all religions in the world might be Christianity after all.”
So is he a Christian?
“I was born a Christian, a Catholic… But there were times in my years of philosophy, I was searching for, so to speak, the truth.” He found that there were aspects of Christianity, certain contradictions that left him ‘unsatisfied.’
This search eventually led him to Buddhism. “Suffering is undeniable, according to Buddha,” he shares. “How do you avoid it? It’s the desire that causes suffering… You try to minimize [desire], in a sense that you become detached. And how do you do that? Practice meditation.”
He recounts his baptism by the Dalai Lama. “You fall in line [in] a queue and make a bow, [the Dalai Lama] just snips of a piece of your hair and then he gives you a card at random, and there’s a name on that card, and you’re considered a Buddhist.
“One good thing about Buddhism is compassion,” he notes, without ignoring the difficulty of practicing it. “Sometimes I almost feel like I don’t like people,” he adds with a laugh. “I don’t want to be gregarious; in a sense I could say I am my own friend.” He would at least be friendly enough to offer us strangers a cup of coffee later on.
“So by tradition, I am a Catholic Christian. By practice, I think I’m more of a Buddhist. But then again, as I said, it’s hard to be a Buddhist.”
Still, he is seen as someone who will ‘shake your faith.’
“Because it’s the subject matter.” He points out that the difference between a religion class and a philosophy class is that religion already assumes God’s existence.
“What’s the nature of philosophy? We want to know what the hell we are in. We’re not — philosophers are a bit, I don’t know, psychotic or neurotic — we want to split hairs. It appears that in philosophy, we find out… reality seems to be really actually vague.”
He shares that some students of his have claimed that he has strengthened their faith.
One time on the internet, he chanced upon some profane comments by a student who claimed his/her faith was shaken by Gojocco. “I don’t know. Should I be blamed for that? On the contrary, I think you should be thanking me, at least. The objective is not to lose faith; the objective is to be reflective.”
Of aliens and prophecies
“It’s just a matter of time [until] it might be officially declared that aliens, in fact, do exist,” he claims.
The topic of aliens spans a long discussion that includes ancient Australian cave paintings, confirmations by former defense ministers, a Catholic press release, the possibility of humanity being an alien experiment and a Pulitzer-prize winning Harvard professor that caused a stir for his studies on the subject. “In the States, it’s a wrong career move if you talk about aliens. They will think that you’re nuts.” He is thankful that it is lenient enough here for him to talk about these topics. “And I think the students benefit from it.”
Gojocco is aware that students find it odd when he talks about these topics. “What I try to do with students of La Salle, we broaden your horizons. You’re not just hooked up with your everyday subjects. That’s what philosophy should be. Don’t limit yourself. You ought to go out to UFO’s, to reincarnation, to NDE’s. That’s part of my philosophy. I keep on searching for what the hell we are in.”
On the recent 2012 prophecy, he says he took it really seriously. He didn’t sleep on that day, he had a weapon prepared, and he mentions something about a boat.
“Thank God it didn’t happen.”
He acknowledges how these prophecies often get moved, and he talks about the popular Niburu prophecy. “I just keep an eye on them. You may never know. It’s best that you’re well informed about these things.”
Rumor had it
Perhaps the most prevailing rumor on Professor Gojocco is the one relating to students and suicide.
It was a single note that tied him to the case — not necessarily a suicide note, he points out — but it was the last note she wrote, and if he remembers correctly, it said something like, ‘it doesn’t matter what Mr. Gojocco said,’ or ‘God is dead.’
He suspected the student had already been troubled to begin with. He shares how Nietzsche’s philosophy can be dangerous and how a beginner might have taken these things. “I don’t know. That’s subject now to interpretation.”
“All of a sudden, I was shocked. I just heard that she did it. I said, ‘Wait a minute, what happened?’”
“The parents were up in arms… my superiors then… were asking for an explanation… Well, I can’t remember everything. All I said was that, ‘I was just teaching philosophy.’ I always tell my class, please, don’t believe everything I say’… I always say, ‘at the back of your mind, always doubt what I’m saying.’ ”
Until now, he can’t believe it was a philosophy major. “The more she should’ve at least known.”
“It did give me sleepless nights,” he says. “I mean I’ve got my own conscience too, you see, so I was thinking all along, was I at fault, was I partly the cause? I must admit, I’m only human. In my career, you’re a teacher, so it means you’re an educator, you deal with how to make a human being whole, and all of a sudden I get involved in these things. It’s like, what happened? What did I do?
“If there was a God, God might ask, ‘What have you done?’ All I could say, as far as my conscience is concerned, I don’t know. I didn’t push her to commit suicide… In a philosophy class, the teacher’s job is just to expose the student to a market of ideas. But I’m not out there to tell you which one to buy. This is what Spinoza said, this is what Nietzsche said. It’s up to you how you juggle these concepts. I’m not excusing myself, it’s just I think it was her decision. Whether I was a contributory factor, I don’t know, and I hope that I was not,” he ends on a somewhat somber note.