Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Boomers, millennials and the climate apocalypse 0

Posted on November 24, 2019 by jimparedes
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – November 24, 2019 – 12:00am

I have been thinking and worrying about the environment for a long time now. Decades ago, I started educating myself about environmental issues that mankind and the earth would be facing. I joined a few groups that had environmental concerns as their advocacy. I have kept abreast of the latest news and I continue to update my knowledge about it. It hardly occurred to me then that everything we feared about global warming and climate change would be unraveling in my lifetime. Not only is it happening, but it is also occurring at a faster pace and at a scale we never imagined.

The scientists were right all along. We’ve pushed the limits without thinking of the repercussions. Something has to give. The proverbial feces have hit the fan big time.

Mother Nature has become Mama Bitch Goddess.  Don’t expect love and nurturing from hereon. Nature is way too angry and now seeks retribution.

I was having a conversation with my millennial nephews a few days ago. We were talking about random things. Soon enough, we started talking about the environment and how their generation felt about climate change.

I was not surprised that they had an attitude of hopelessness about a lot of things. They said that the past generations have messed up the world so much that their generation and those that will follow will no doubt be facing a bleaker future.

They mentioned the unprecedented floods, droughts, forests fires, typhoons, storms, earthquakes, etc., that have been happening more and more often. By all measurements, environmental degradation is becoming more intense and severe. What we are going through is probably the new normal now, they said. Because of this, they expressed the fear that life would be harder for their generation. As they get older, they would enjoy less and less the same quality of life that they’ve experienced so far. They do not expect mankind to thrive on a planet that is dying of carbon overload. What depresses them most is the indifference of those in power regarding the environment. Greed still rules over the need to act swiftly and decisively to change the trajectory and heal the earth.

I used to imagine the next 15 years of my life in somewhat idyllic terms. In that world, I would still be healthy enough to travel to any place, enjoy the outdoors, and probably live by the beach for a few months every year. But with the air pollution problem worsening worldwide, the rising of the sea levels, the disappearing islands, the comeback of old diseases and germs, etc., I know I will have to reimagine a less optimistic one.

During the conversation, I thought of how different my generation was. Boomers (as my generation is called) lived quite an amazing life. That’s because our parents sacrificed a lot. It is important to point out that our parents’ big defining moment was World War II. They experienced the ugliness of war, hardship, famine, violence, scarcity, and fear. They literally scrounged for food, fought the enemy, suffered greatly and survived through it all. And despite the untold hardships, they overcame, survived and even thrived after the war. They weren’t called “The Greatest Generation” for nothing.

We were born and grew up during the post-war era. There was relative peace. Times were definitely much better. There were many new opportunities for growth. In fact, we were raised during more prosperous times. College was more affordable. We had a higher standard of living that seemed to get better as the world modernized rapidly. We could be anything we wanted to be. And many of us went for our dreams and succeeded.

But even if our generation had it better than our parents, we were still raised to be tough. There were no excuses about not going to school. We had to finish our food. We were taught good manners and correct conduct. We could not argue with our parents. We were subjected to greater discipline than the generations that followed us. We did not harbor feelings of entitlement or privilege.

Most of the psychological conditions that kids suffer from today — like ADHD, ADD, bipolar syndrome, Asperger’s syndrome, depression, and the whole spectrum of autism — were probably already present among boomers then. But these conditions were not clinically identified yet. If we had any of those conditions, no one knew what to call it. Not the schools, our parents, not even us, had any idea it was unusual (except for clear-cut autism). Those who had these conditions were dismissed as weird. They just suffered and toughed it out.

To the millennials, and Gen Z, the imagined future is not comforting. Many millennials are resigned to the fact that not all of them will be able to earn enough to buy their own homes as their parents did. The home will have to be a tiny condo (if they can afford it), or maybe their parents’ house. They will not earn enough to afford new cars, travel and enjoy the finer things in life that their boomer parents were able to enjoy and share with them. They won’t be able to afford that on their own.

I asked my nephews to give their take on why so many kids were undergoing depression and why suicide has become the secondary cause of death among many of the young. I ventured my opinion that we boomers were probably too soft on our kids. We wanted the best for them and gave them everything, so much so that they became used to an easy life. In short, we softened them up too much and spoiled them. We did not make them tough enough the way our own parents made us tough.

My nephews pointed out that the times and conditions now are so different from that of the boomers. There are more social pressures now because of social media. Having access to so many things all at once has caused many of them to have much lower attention spans, less discipline, and patience. And they spend way more time in the virtual than in the real world. Addiction is also more common because of feelings of alienation. I would add a lack of parental care and adult supervision among the reasons why kids today are more screwed up. I also notice that they have serious commitment issues. Too many choices, some studies say, is not always a good thing.

We boomers are at that stage in our lives when we are beginning to plan and prepare for our grand exit.  Many of us are in retirement. Millennials are just beginning to inherit this messy world and shape it into their own image.

What are we to do in response to the environmental tragedy that the earth is progressively hurtling towards? While everything is rapidly descending into an apocalypse, is there time to respond and save the earth? Scientists say we barely have time. But yes, we must do something.

Sometimes, I wonder why I am still adding more causes to fight for than I already have time for. My plate is too full. I am getting too old for this. At my age, I need new ways to cope with the staggering problems we face now. Perhaps having the wisdom to live and accept how things are is what I need at this point. I remember a quote from Joseph Campbell, and while it goes against the grain of the activist life I often live, its truth speaks to me.

“We’re in a freefall into future. We don’t know where we’re going. Things are changing so fast, and always when you’re going through a long tunnel, anxiety comes along. And all you have to do to transform your hell into a paradise is to turn your fall into a voluntary act. It’s a very interesting shift of perspective and that’s all it is… joyful participation in the sorrows and everything changes.”

Maybe we will win and save the earth. Maybe we won’t. But wherever and however everything turns out, we don’t have to lose our spirit and die in hopelessness. May we all live the rest of our lives with joyful engagement to the end.

CLIMATE APOCALYPSE MILLENNIALS

If we live up to 150 years, when do we become senior citizens? 0

Posted on November 10, 2019 by jimparedes
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – November 10, 2019 – 12:00am

During most of the past 5,000 years, the greatest threats to humanity have been sickness, famine, and wars. We have had plagues that decimated millions of people. The Bubonic plague, the Black Death, the Antonine plague in 165 AD, cholera, malaria, etc. reduced entire populations to as much as 1/10 of their former size in a matter of months.

Mass starvation has been the cause of millions of deaths throughout human history. The Great Irish Potato Famine, the droughts in Russia, as well as many other parts of the world, are all recorded in history. And yes, millions starved to death.

And wars, with all their pillaging, have caused the demise of whole communities, countries, and peoples since the beginning of time.

But something has happened in the past 100 years. Mankind has had great success in eradicating sickness, wars, and famine in truly impressive ways. The acceleration of evolutionary progress is such that we are solving these problems faster (although, admittedly, also creating new ones).

During the last century, there have not been epidemics that have caused deaths by the tens of thousands. The few epidemics and viruses — like SARS, Ebola, HIV — were quashed relatively quickly preventing more widespread deaths. While we cannot say that deadly plagues killing thousands will not happen again, in all probability, it won’t, thanks to advances in medicines, vaccines, and sciences for saving many lives all over the world.

Food supply in practically all corners of the world has greatly increased in abundance thanks to scientific agriculture and modern food production. We are winning the war against hunger. While there are still many starving people in fourth world or war-torn parts of the world, it is a fact that more people suffer more from obesity now than hunger.

The last major war was 80 years ago when millions died during World War II. We still have conflicts happening in some parts of the world. But the whole idea of settling disputes by ravaging and conquering a whole country or continent and its people by military force is largely becoming an obsolete idea. People are actually solving more conflicts today through diplomacy and negotiations.

I have been reading all this in a book entitled Homo Deus: The Future of Mankind by Yurval Noah Harari, and I am finding his examination of history very fascinating.

According to the author, the future of mankind, with sickness, mass starvation and the tendency to wars now under control, is his inevitable movement towards his own immortality. Harari says we already have the science to allow humans to live up to 150 years. It is still a bit costly now, but eventually, it will be affordable. This will happen with genetics and changing replaceable parts every few decades. He predicts that by the last quarter of this century, living 150 to 300 years will be probable and widespread. And if a man can live 300 years, why can’t he live 500 years or more?

I am completely absorbed and fascinated by this book. A bunch of questions keeps flashing through my mind. What would living that long feel like? How old would one have to be before he/she becomes a senior citizen? What would the age of consent be? At what age will one go through certain “rites of passage”? What new rites of passages will there be for people who live that long? What is the future of marriage? Does this mean people will still stay married for, say, 200 years to the same partner? Will people stay married “till death do us part,” or will marriage have an expiry date? Will it be renewable? How often will you be renewing such things as passports and drivers’ licenses? How many years will schooling and education be? Surely, an educational degree a century ago would be obsolete today. How many times will you need to get educated or formally update your education? What about prison sentences? How will they determine how long one must be detained for crimes no that longevity has greatly expanded? How many residences will you live in throughout your life? How many citizenships will one go through in this much longer lifetime? And ultimately: Would you really want to live that long?

Author Harari claims the science of “immortality” is already here. Theoretically, science today can create a generation of babies with designer genes that will give them every advantage to live even longer with the help of gadgets, machines, replaceable body parts and new discoveries.

Many people are upset at the idea that we seem to be going against the laws of nature. They claim man is playing God. It is notable to point out that at every juncture of a scientific breakthrough, issues like these always pop up.

Humans today are not the same types of humans that roamed the earth just 50 years ago. Humans today are, by definition, cyborgs (a combination of humans and machines). We are now routinely equipped with hearing aids, eyeglasses, dentures, knee and hip replacements, pacemakers, manufactured eye lenses, titanium for our bones, and implants of all sorts for a few decades now. This has made our lives easier — and longer.

Can liver, kidney, heart, lungs, bones, brains, tissue and muscle replacements be far behind? More amazing breakthroughs will happen to enhance the human body and prolong life.

Many people today have been granted a reprieve from an earlier death through the intercession of science. And death’s so-called inevitability continues to be pushed further back. You can trust science to solve many illnesses and diseases or immunize humans against them. As an example, one important game-changer is the new class of antibiotics that can fight new evolving forms of resistant diseases.

Even so, the future will certainly create new causes of death. Many of them will be due to the dire environmental crises mankind is facing now. And it will only get worse. Not all will be given the chance at immortality.

Harari also asks questions about what religion would be like in this brave new future. Will religion as we know it today still be around? Or will a new scientific or “techno” religion exist? (Sorry, I have not finished reading the book yet to supply you with his answer.)

Perhaps along with longevity, there will likely evolve a new consciousness and a modern spirituality. It will still grapple with the immortal questions that will probably remain unanswered  forever such as, “Why are we here?” Or “What is the purpose or meaning of life?” Will we ever find the answers?

The fulfillment of man’s immortal yearning for Oneness, transcendence, his longing to meet God (however they conceive God to be) will be a whole new experience. No one, as of now, is ready to speculate on what that will be like.

What it’s like to be working with the best 0

Posted on October 27, 2019 by jimparedes
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Group 1 members are Ebe Dancel, author Jim Paredes, Herbert Hernandez, Yumi Lacsamana, and arranger Marlon Barnuevo

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – October 20, 2019 – 12:00am

MANILA,Philippines — I was intimidated at first, I must admit.

I was invited to attend a songwriting workshop by the Filipino Society of Composers and Songwriters (FILSCAP) two weekends ago in Subic.

I’ve attended many songwriting workshops as a teacher/mentor. Just three weeks ago, I was in Lingayen doing one for PhilPop were 30 kids attended.

But this invitation from FILSCAP was different. I was not going to be a mentor. I was going to be with some of the top songwriters in the Philippines and would collaborate with some of them during the workshops. Weeks before when I got my invitation, I already had my apprehensions and had voiced them out.

How would seasoned and successful artists sit down and collaborate when all of us already have our own tried-and-tested styles and ways of doing what we do? Most songwriters can be very protective o their secrets in writing good songs. Would people be able to set aside their pride and egos and work together and come up with something decent? I was not sure. Besides, some of us were meeting for the first time ever. Would we be able to establish rapport immediately to have enough time to do the work required?

It was called the FILSCAP Master Camp. Sixteen songwriters, plus staff, media to document the event, and officers of FILSCAP all met at Kamana Sanctuary and Spa in Subic. It was a great location to relax and be inspired. We would spend four days writing there. The first morning we all got together, Trina Belamide, a fellow composer and one of the proponents of the project, announced there would be four groups of four songwriters each and one arranger (tracker). For the next two days, each group was required to write and submit at least one song. If we were on a roll, we could write more.

The first group I was in had Yumi Lacsamana, Ebe Dancel, Herbert Hernandez and myself. Our arranger (tracker) was Marlon Barnuevo. We met at Marlon’s Casita by the sea after breakfast where he had his laptop and gadgets that could make any song sound decent enough for a good presentation.

I entered the casita with an open mind. I swore that I would be active but would listen to everyone. I was also a bit scared that these young people I was working with would find my ideas trite or passé. We started by focusing on what we wanted to write about. I suggested we write a love song but with an angle not yet too exploited. I suggested that particular, though random, experience where you have a five-second interaction with a stranger, that it can feel like an eternity has happened between the two of you. We talked about a setting like the Shibuya crossing where hundreds of thousands of people pass daily. Or a huge shopping mall filled with people on a weekend.

Immediately, someone suggested the phrase “Walang hanggang sandali” to describe that moment. We also adopted it as the title. Before we knew it we were throwing melodies and lyrics around, editing and changing words and phrases for better effect. It was an exciting process. We all felt open, and gave way to each other while, at the same time, we were all actively contributing to the creation of the song. Our tracker was playing chords as we were creating the musical phrases. It was like building something brick by brick. After about four or five hours, we knew we had a song.

Marlon played it on the piano while Yumi sang it. It was beautiful. We were all ecstatic. It was a good song. While Yumi was recording her tracks, we were continuing to edit the lyrics. The final outcome was more than wonderful. It felt and sounded like a great song with a powerful recall. We felt so proud and happy. We were even jumping with joy. We were thankful that we bonded well. We formed a group hug and our spirits did the same. Our hearts were full.

We had fulfilled the requirement. We decided to end the day and leave Marlon to arrange the song. There was enough time to make another song the next day.

The next morning, we followed the same process and wrote a fast pop song. It started with Herbert playing a few chords on the guitar and Ebe singing the first line. It was about a couple that can’t seem to get along even when they actually love each other. This one was written in less time. The title was Sige na, Oo na! Very catchy!

On the third day, we were reshuffled again and I ended up with Yeng Constantino, Edwin Marollano and Titus John Monterde. Our tracker was Paulo Zarate.

Again, we asked ourselves what topic should we write about. I told the story of a guy who had an affair that ran for 30 years while he was married. We decided to explore the point of view of the husband. The song would be about him talking to his wife and explaining himself. The title of the song would be Mali. We immediately came up with a melody and a few lyrics. Edwin and Yeng were concentrating on the lyrical phrasing. Titus was taking notes and running all the suggestions by the group. Everyone was excitedly pitching in.

After about an hour, Yeng had this idea and suggested that we change and turn the narrative around. We would take the wife’s position and she would be explaining to her husband why she had an affair. That was an inspired “a-ha” moment. We were getting away from stereotypes. We immediately changed course and came out with a poignantly beautiful song.

On the last day of the workshop, the 16 songwriters, staff and FILSCAP officials listened to all the songs every group made. There were 11 of them written in different genres, styles, and approaches. They were all good and quite outstanding. Everyone was so high after the listening session. There were hugs, tears, and affirmations going around and being passed on.

I was amazed that, in the end, all my apprehensions were for naught. Everything worked like a charm. Everyone just sort of slipped into the right vibe to make everything work well. We were open to each other. We left our egos behind. We were focused on writing great songs without having an attitude of personal ownership. We relinquished control to the collective. It was a group effort through and through. And we built new friendships and cemented old ones.

Between sessions, we would get into discussions about life, death, creativity, etc. It was fascinating to listen to fellow artists. We learned a lot from each other. Personally, I am thankful that opportunities like these are beginning to happen in the music world here. Rico Blanco, FILSCAP president, has pioneered a lot of projects that have given songwriters venues for self-expression. But this was his boldest, most successful endeavor yet. Congrats to the songwriters, FILSCAP, and everyone who was part of Master Camp.

Expect all of this to translate into great songs and music you will hopefully hear soon.

FILIPINO SOCIETY OF COMPOSERS AND SONGWRITERS

Remembering Jojit Paredes & his hearty laughter 0

Posted on October 12, 2019 by jimparedes
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HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – September 29, 2019 – 12:00am

I remember the wake of my grandfather, who died some 55 years ago.  Relatives from all over the Philippines showed up. Many of them I saw for the first time. My cousins and I looked at the faces of our new relatives as they entered the room. Immediately we spotted relatives we had never met who hailed from Pasay. They turned out to be our second cousins. The girls were beautiful, and the guys were good-looking.  And we noticed that they were also staring at us and were whispering and giggling.

We were barely in our teens. My first cousins and I  were immediately attracted to our newly arrived second cousins from the far side of town. In our eyes, they looked gorgeous, exciting. We felt the feeling was mutual. Finally, we guys mustered our courage and introduced ourselves to the girls. They were quite friendly. The rapport was instantaneous. We immediately had crushes on them. The Pasay Paredes guys also had crushes on our girl cousins, too.

Soon after, my cousin Mark and I started going to Pasay where we met more of them. That was where I met my cousin Jojit Paredes, who was always with his good friend and neighbor Ronnie Henares. They both played the guitar and liked to sing and perform. They had great vocal harmony. They were campus idols, especially in Assumption College and LaSalle where they studied.

Before I knew it,  I had joined them in a band called Les Violents, another hobby and outlet they were doing aside from their acoustic duet. The how and why of that awful name becoming our band’s name is still a mystery to me to this day. We still laugh about it.

As the Violents, we were doing gigs in parties, school programs, fairs, etc. Jojit was the handsome guy. He had that matinee idol look. His smile was infectious. I would see girls sigh when they saw and heard him sing. He and Ronnie were friendly and sociable and confident enough to approach the girls and introduce themselves.  Me? I was the shy one then. I was a bluesy, brooding 13-year-old. I mostly just tagged along with the two of them.

My stint with the band did not last long. Pasay was too far from where I lived and so I started going there less and less.  Besides, I had my own singing friends in school. Soon after, they became a duet called the Two of Us. Meanwhile, I hung around with my own friends in school and we formed the Apolinario Mabini Hiking Society.

But Jojit also had a budding career outside of his duet gigs with Ronnie. He did some solo recordings and some movies for a while. He even did one with the biggest star at that time who was  Nora Aunor.

Jojit, Ronnie and I  hardly saw each other anymore. After doing some movies and an album, I heard Jojit got married and went to study at Ateneo  Law School. But his first marriage did not last long. Soon after the breakup, he moved to the US and settled there for good. It would be decades again before I would see him.

I remember Jojit as being a kind soul. He was a gentleman, especially to the ladies he met. He would always cause a mild commotion among the girls when he entered a room. He was handsome like his father and he had a presence. It was not surprising that he had a lot of admirers and fans.  That killer smile and his sparkling, eyes made him likable to everyone.  He loved to laugh heartily.  Ronnie, who always had a ton of jokes to share at any time, must have influenced him.

Last year around April, Ronnie called me to ask if Boboy Garrovillo and  I would be interested in being their guests at a planned Two of Us concert in Solaire for September.  It was Jojit’s idea to have a revival show with his good friend Ronnie. He had missed performing so much. In Los  Angeles, he largely kept away from his music passion. He worked for a law firm. Doing a big concert again was high on his bucket list. We immediately said yes.

The days leading to the concert saw the Two of Us,  Boboy and I  get together for rehearsals.

It was great to see Jojit back in Manila. Still, as young and good looking and friendly as ever at age 68, he hugged me. He was clearly happy to be home and doing the thing he loved to do. He was playing the guitar and singing again. We talked and updated each other about our lives. He seemed content, and even happy with his life in the US.

On the day of the concert, Ronnie and Jojit were clearly excited and thrilled that they still could attract a big crowd despite their long absence from the concert scene. They bombarded the audience with old ’60s songs they used to sing decades go. The audience gamely sang along and had a good time.

That night in Solaire after the show would be the last time I would see Jojit. A few days later, he was back in LA.

Last Sept. 24, I got a text from a relative saying  Jojit had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. Things did not look good. The last thing he did before the stroke was to stand up and get water because he was dizzy. He never got up again. He was rushed to the hospital and was put under life support. A few hours later they pulled out the plug and he died peacefully at 12:35 p.m.

Ronnie and I called each other to exchange info. We cried on the phone.  We both had lost a dear friend.

These days, when I see friends, classmates, and relatives who are over 60, I always consider the possibility that we could be talking for the last time.

Jojit, we never got to meet and spend time together again after the concert. But I am so happy, though, that you were able to have that concert you dreamt of having. That was one big item on your bucket list that you fulfilled.

Remembering your smile lifts the heaviness we are all going through because of your demise. Gone too soon. Till we meet again dear, friend and cousin.

JOJIT PAREDES

Taking your audience where they have never been 0

Posted on September 14, 2019 by jimparedes
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – September 15, 2019 – 12:00am

I had a small gig the past weekend. It was held at Parliament On King at King Street in Newtown, the hippest place in Sydney. It’s a tiny venue that can accommodate only 25 people. This was the second time I’d performed there. Proceeds went to an NGO called Asylum Seekers Centre. The first time, we used the money we raised to buy mobile phones for a few refugees.

What I want to talk about is the topic of performance.

I have been performing since my high school days and I still prepare for each gig. Several days before the Sydney performance I had a cough that had been going on for four weeks; I finally took antibiotics, hoping my voice would be well enough to perform.

In addition to trying to keep my voice intact, part of my preparation before each show is planning my repertoire. I am always expected to sing the hit songs I made with APO, so I did that. That’s a given. But I also made sure to play new compositions that I’ve composed since APO ended 10 years ago. I have been writing new music and done two solo albums since. I am still as excited as ever about doing new material for anyone who wants to listen.

Throughout the years, I’ve developed and discovered my own philosophy about what a performance really ought to be.

From National Artist Rolando Tinio, I learned that theater is all about the filling up of time and space. You create content for people to watch. Your content is your material. And you perform the material.

To me, a performance is an artist’s attempt to bring his (or her) audience to a time and place where they have never been. I am speaking about physical, emotional, sensual, spiritual states that they have not experienced. While they may have felt similar emotions in the past, a performer’s unique material will make it a new experience. It is an engagement with the audience’s imagination and a suspension of disbelief.

A magician will arouse wonder and mystery. Dancers will wow the crowd by showing great agility in moving their bodies through the choreography of different successive physical movements coordinated to music. Often, they seem to defy gravity. Singers engage the audience with songs that they know and enjoy. They interpret the songs using their own vocal styles and arrangements, giving a new take on them. Playwrights and actors create and tell stories that engage their audience. Athletes break records of human physical endurance, strength, speed and skill. Religious leaders aim to take you toward spiritual states that give you a feeling of comfort in your belief and a feeling of liberation.

All throughout, through the clever use of surprise and delight, and/or shock and awe, good performers take their audiences to different places and states of mind.

In a little gig such as mine, I aim to bring enjoyment and delight via songs that elicit memories of the past, stories about the songs I have written, and other topics about life that people can relate to. I also sing new material. I know it sounds like a formula that’s been done before over and over again — and on the surface, yes, it is true. But I believe in the power of live performance and engagement. Something wonderful always happens to both performer and his audience when one has the right material and it is delivered powerfully.

A combination of spontaneity from the performer’s end and an audience willing to have fun can bring magic to the situation. A wonderful combustion can happen. Carl Jung once said, “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”

The specificity of any present moment and place and has an inert energy about it. To a seasoned performer, it is ripe for exploitation. He can focus on anything and exploit it. He can seize the moment and instantly make comments or do something that can affect the audience in a delightful way and play it to the hilt.

In comedy, it’s called improvisation — where you go off script and directly ride with the flow of the moment. In jazz, it’s also called improv, or ad libbing. The musicians become completely extemporaneous without any previous preparation. And if they’re good, a magical performance happens.

A performer gives something of himself to every show. A live performance opens you to vulnerability. Your voice may crack. You can lose timing. You can forget lyrics or sing flat or sharp notes. Many things can go wrong. But that’s the thrill of it. That’s what a live performance is all about.

I try to give a new spin or take (no matter how small) to songs I have done countless times and make it fresh and new again. There are many ways to perform an old familiar song and give it a twist. Sometimes, I stretch one note longer, or even just hold the mic with the other hand. Adding even little nuances while performing can make me more present.

During the APO days, I used to imagine myself as some sort of high priest as I put on my costume before a show. I looked at my clothes as vestments that gave me the power to transform the next two hours into a creative moment of entertainment, thrills, magical music and alter the emotional state of my audience to something wonderful and memorable.

It took us years to learn everything we did. These days, I am still trying to find my comfort zone as a solo performer. It is a good stage to be in. I like trying new things. At my age I still look at myself as a student learning many lessons. Sometimes, I think I am getting better.

Performing is something I don’t think I will ever get tired of doing. I had 44 years of it with APO.  Throughout those years, I learned a lot as a songwriter, singer, performer, arranger, director, scriptwriter and, yes, critic. I have also learned to calmly accept criticism. They were great years because they engaged all of my creative powers. What more could I ask for? I just wish to continue doing this.

Sometimes I remember performers I knew who “died” onstage while doing a gig. While it may have been a shock to their audience, I feel in way that they were lucky and blessed. At least they left this earth dressed elegantly, doing what they loved to do.

Are these our last days on planet earth as we know it? 0

Posted on August 31, 2019 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – September 1, 2019 – 12:00am

There is a lot to worry about these days. Humanity seems to be assaulted on all fronts. Doomsday seems more impending than at any other time. I worry.

The Amazon, which provides 20 percent of the world’s oxygen, is burning and Brazil’s leader Bolsonado seems not to really care about it. He seems to be of the same mindset as Trump who basically has no grasp of the whole global warming climate phenomenon that 98 percent of all scientists have been warning about for decades. These leaders are climate-change deniers.

The catastrophe is almost a sure thing although some scientists say we have five to 10 years to change our ways. If we do not act concertedly as a whole human race, we will be doomed to suffer in a planet which is increasingly getting hotter and we will struggle to survive all its attendant climatic consequence. As a result, many islands all over the world will be drowned by the oceans as big ice sheets melt into the sea.

There is the trade war that is causing a lot of anxiety all over the world. Markets are jittery. Currencies are shaky.

There are the massive protests in Hong Kong and Taiwan whose people are fighting for their own freedoms amid Chinese threats of total control and hegemony. The countries along the West Philippines Sea are also being squeezed by China to give up territory.

Everywhere you look there seems to be trouble of some kind brewing. Dictatorships are reigning in many countries of the world. A nuclear bomb actually exploded in Russia last month. North Korea is testing missiles non-stop. The divide between the rich and poor, citizens and their governments are getting wider than ever everywhere.

The world goes on even as many wonder how much longer it will take before a massive breakdown of systems happen.

Between the apathetic and those who are concerned about what is happening outside of one’s own world, I find myself among the latter. I have always been interested and concerned about the state of my community, village, city, country and yes, the rest of the world. It has always mattered to me that some people have to suffer greatly. The suffering of strangers, of people I am not even related to can affect me greatly. My empathy and compassion are easily aroused. I can easily identify with them. At the cost of sounding like a cliche, I feel their pain.

I know a lot people who can dismiss suffering very easily. They readily brush it off. When suffering happens to other people they can be very dismissive. Some even make jokes about it. They simply do not care. I do not understand how anyone can be like that.

I remember my uncle who had to endure suffering during Marcos’ time. He said, “Martial law is OK until it happens to you.” Maybe for many people, misfortune has to happen to them first before they can have empathy towards others.

Apathy and indifference are the last things the world needs now. We have to awaken and solve the big problems that threaten every sentient being on earth.

Today I read an article that said that under the regime of cataclysmic climate change, the rich will be spared more than the poor. In terms of countries, we all know that the richest nations were and still are the biggest contributors of CO2 emissions and garbage on the planet. And yet it is the poor who will ultimately and unfairly suffer more.

I really hope I am just exaggerating but I do believe the day of reckoning is just around the corner. The dreaded predictions are happening sooner than expected. The ice sheets of Greenland and Iceland were still supposed to hold from melting until 2050. Two months ago, some of them already started to disappear.

The destructive forest fires are not just in the Amazon but also in Bolivia, Indonesia, Russia, and huge parts of Africa. In a Brahma Kumaris talk I attended about a month and a half ago, an esteemed yogi was asked how people could help Mother Nature recover from climate change. The yogi answered by saying that she is not too worried about Mother Nature because the natural world will adjust and heal no matter what happens. It is mankind that she says will suffer greatly and whose survival is more threatened. I sadly agree.

Sometimes, I imagine that we may be enjoying our last “normal” days on earth before things turn really crazy very quickly. Storms, rains, floods, droughts and other natural weather conditions are becoming more extreme and dangerous and occurring more often. Never has it happened that Alaska had temperatures that were in the 80s Fahrenheit. Yet it did two months ago. Unbelievable.

There is a great battle going on in the world. It is between those who see the world and humanity as sacred and worth saving. They aim for a more sustainable, inclusive way of life. And then there are those who see everything solely from the point of view of generating profit, wealth and accumulating more power for its own sake.

More and more people know that things cannot go on as they have been. We have to transition to something more sustainable. Can the old business model of aiming for unlimited profits above all else continue? Has capitalism reached a point where it is now unsustainable and must transform to something more egalitarian?

I am not against profit or business. But here’s a thought I picked up on the net  I want to leave you with. When we see people who excessively hoard things in their apartments and can’t let them go, or people who are addicted to substances and can’t stop, don’t we see the same perverse similarity in the excessive and obsessive pursuit of money and power? Isn’t it a form of addiction too? Isn’t it a sickness?

The climate crisis is in large part a psycho-spiritual one. The only solution is to awaken and move the world into a different direction.

The big questions is, can mankind wake up in time to save the world? Or are we living the last days of life on earth as we still know it?

I don’t want to leave you with questions. We all know the answers. If your appreciation of the problem is still in the level of intellectual understanding, bring it down. Feel it so it becomes visceral. Can you feel the sadness, impending loss and the pain?

In your own way, act now. Do something daily in the direction of saving the world. Who else will do it?

DOOMSDAY

Drop virtual living and live a real life 0

Posted on August 24, 2019 by jimparedes
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – August 25, 2019 – 12:00am

Time was when our attention was caught by just a few things. There was news we read in the daily papers, or heard on the radio or watched on television. We thought we were busy enough with the things we needed to do like work, study, worry about the next paycheck, clean the house, raise a family, etc. But there was always time to interact with fellow humans, have good times with friends and family, read books, do some sports and yes, taste our food and enjoy it.

Even when we thought things were already a bit hectic, life was actually way simpler then compared to now.

The creeping  onslaught of life-changing technology entered our lives with the advent of the internet and smart phones. More and more, we have been (perhaps unknowingly and tacitly) allowing the internet to insinuate itself into our lives and rule over  bigger and bigger portions of our activities and our time. Now, it is no exaggeration to say that to a great degree we are all held hostage by technology.

I still remember being in my teens and meeting a girl in a skating rink in Cubao. After one or two visits to her house, I asked her out on a date for the next weekend. We  agreed on a time and place to meet seven days later. There were no follow-up calls; not everyone had a telephone then. Believe it or not, the date actually happened and we had a great time. Life was so simple. People simply showed up when they said they would. We did not need all these present-day gadgets for reminders, confirmation to plan or do anything.

These days, with apps like Facebook, Instagram, Viber, Whatsapp, etc., things have drastically changed. People meet online before meeting in person, stay in touch, maybe even get something going if the vibes are right.

Technology has changed everything. I often wonder how people of my generation lived their lives without smart phones and still got from one place to another sans Waze and Maps and other travel apps. How did people travel abroad and plan their itineraries without booking a hotel a month earlier? How did we live and manage in such an “unsure”  world? Now everything is tracked and documented. Our phones can suggest restos and  destinations based on our past monitored activities.  We can predict travel time, weather  and contact practically anyone anytime.

We can also publicly express our opinions over a wide array of issues. We all have an apple box to stand on and tell the world how we feel. It is interesting to note that the earliest pioneers of the internet predicted then that the open access of millions to online conversation, articles blogs and data would guarantee the end of all dictatorships. How can it thrive when truth and facts can be shared quickly and massively? they asked. In hindsight, they were perhaps way too optimistic.

I’ve always looked at myself as a modern guy and I am up to date with  the latest in technology. But lately, I have not been as excited about it as I used to. Frankly, I go through periods of social media fatigue. I am trying to limit my time on Facebook, Twitter et al. There is just too much noise and too little substance to pick up. And if you are not careful, your smart phone can easily take over your entire day, week, month.

These days, in my own little ways I try not to be too dependent on technology when I can. I am trying to get back to the increasingly archaic habit of reading books printed on paper. And I don’t go online to read reviews and summaries.

Perhaps because I exercise and am into health, I also listen to my body and trust my instincts when it tries to tell me something. Since I started meditating again, I notice how my body clock knows within about 30 seconds when the alarm would ring signalling the end of  a 25-minute silent meditation session. When I do my walks around my neighbourhood  I can tell when I have reached 5,000 steps or when I am close to walking an hour already without having to consult my gadgets.  While technology is helpful in many ways, It is not a always a good thing to be too reliant on machines and gadgets. When you can listen to yourself and your instincts and your own inner wisdom, you can feel a wonderful wholeness and connectedness to things.

A good chef knows by instinct how much or how little to use certain ingredients when cooking particular meals. A good musician must rely more on instinct rather than machines to be able to make a great musical work. Everything is created and defined clearly in his mind before he even goes to the studio. An athlete knows when he/she is on top of his game. Gadgets and devices can merely measure and confirm what the athlete already knows intuitively.

When we turn on our devices, the whole world, or at least what we allow of it, rushes into our consciousness. We hear from and about friends, families, old classmates, enemies and read stories about all types of people, countries everywhere, etc. We sigh, laugh, curse, complain, cry, feel joy and indignation, wonder and fear, and feel so may other feelings.

But even while we feel these emotions, very often they don’t linger long enough for us to go beyond ticking the  “likes” or “share” buttons. We have a moment of empathy, compassion, outrage but actually do nothing about these causes we reacted to. We end up moving from one story to another without doing anything concrete and helpful.

This constant and never-ending assault on our emotions and sensibilities may  have made us inured to any form of commitment beyond our superficial likes and shares, and the occasional comments.

It is so sad.

Day in and out, we are exposed to the tragic goings-on and evils of the world. Sure, we may feel the pain as we read but we comfort ourselves with the pathetic notion that  because we had reposted something or have ticked an angry or tearful emoticon, we have done enough.

The level of commitment we express online often does not match how we would really react in real life situations. As an example, we may vigorously express our anger and disgust at China and the present administration but we will not commit to joining rallies. Real life demands too much effort.

But in real life one has to physically show up. Nothing happens when no one shows up. We have to act and do something. I have been following the events in Hong Kong for a few weeks now. Hongkongers know the value of showing up and doing action. They have been rallying almost every day expressing their sentiments not just online but more importantly in the streets. We in the Philippines still have a lot to learn from them.

In this article, I am encouraging you my dear readers to live a bigger portion of your lives not in the virtual world but in the real one.  It is not easy since we have become so attached to technology. The word is full of problems to solve and causes to believe in and fight for. Life will never run out of challenges.

Once in awhile, it is good to leave cyberspace and allow uncertainty and unpredictability to shake us up. Let’s get down and dirty. Stop wasting time in cyberspace and get into the speed and flow of real life. Our gadgets can only help us so far. By itself, it will not be able to help us have fuller and more meaningful lives. Only real commitment in the battle field of life can give us such meaning.

So let’s take a break from having our heads in the cloud and get down to real living on earth. Let’s take time to talk, laugh, and interact live and in person.

As Irish netizen Paul McGirl wonderfully put it, “Technology is cold. Find a real hand to hold.”

Would you hug a stranger? 0

Posted on August 11, 2019 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – August 11, 2019 – 12:00am

‘Maybe we should stop being automatically fearful of each other. In life, we will all have to ask for help from people we don’t know.’

On a train from downtown Sydney a few years ago, I found myself sitting across from a tall white man. He was unkempt but not menacing. He was dressed like he was a tradesman wearing that signature neon green jacket. Normally, no one minds anyone during train rides. People enter, sit and get on and off without talking to each other. And so I was surprised when the man seated across from me called my attention to say it was his 53rd birthday tomorrow. I smiled and politely gave him my congratulations. I answered but without really meaning to continue the conversation. I remotely considered the possibility that he could be some kind of crazy guy. I avoided eye contact afterward.

After about two minutes, he addressed me again. He complained that his back hurt so much. I answered, “Is that so?” He kept on. And on. It seemed like he wanted a continuing conversation. I realized I was in a situation where I could not dismiss him and so I conversed with this man. I asked him why his back hurt so much. He said he was born with legs too long and so his back had been hurting for years. He opened his jacket to show me and judging from where his belt was, it did look like he had a short torso.

The next thing he said caught me by surprise. He said he wanted to commit suicide. I was stunned. I knew this was an “uh-oh” moment, to say the least. And I felt I was on the spot somehow. I instinctively looked straight into his eyes and said, “Please don’t.” I had hoped that his next words would be less disturbing since I really did not want to get involved. But he repeated that he wanted to end his life.

Here was a man who was clearly and desperately asking for help. This stranger had dropped his guard and exposed his deep loneliness. I was in full attention and heightened awareness.

I knew I was now in a serious situation I could not turn away from. I felt the magnitude of his pain. He continued talking. Actually, it was more like rambling. I could see his eyes swell up with tears as he narrated that he had lost his parents many years ago. He had no siblings nor a wife and children to come home to. He was miserably alone in his life. He repeated again that he wanted to commit suicide. At this point, I stood up from my seat and moved to where he was and sat down next to him.

I sat on his right side and put my hand behind his back. He started to sob while he covered his face with his hands. His elbows were resting on his knees. I put my left hand over his back, rubbing it as I said, “Please don’t commit suicide. Everything will be all right, sir.”

I did not know what else to say. He started crying uncontrollably. I pulled him closer and kept saying that everything would be okay. I told him that God was with him. I just kept on repeating the words, “It’ll be okay.” He seemed to be listening.

I caught myself hugging this stranger. Hugging is my instinctive way to give comfort and consolation. I wanted him to know that I was listening to him and was sympathetic to what he was going through. There were many other people on the train but they all avoided looking, much less having eye contact. They ignored what was going on.

I just sat there beside him.

Soon, the train had reached the station. It was where I was supposed to get off and transfer to another train to get home. I stayed seated beside him for a while consoling him as passengers got off and new ones came on the train. But I knew I had to leave very soon. I felt bad when I told him I had to leave. I whispered for the last time that, “God loves you, sir. Please don’t commit suicide.” I reluctantly left the train and went to my platform where the train home was ready to depart. I barely caught it. I entered a few seconds before the doors closed.

On the ride home, I sat quietly feeling a little guilty for not staying with him. It was a packed ride but I was alone in my solitude. I was emotional. It was quite a unique encounter I had just had. My mind was racing. Was it fate that I was put on the same train with this lonely man? I wondered if the man would actually kill himself. I wondered, too, whether I had helped him in any way or had done enough to prevent a stranger’s death by his own hands.

I wept silently and said a prayer for him. I prayed that somehow he could go past his feelings of suicide and make it through. I hoped he would go for professional help. I have helped strangers before but I had never faced a situation like this where I was actually bold enough to intervene in something so serious. I did not even know whether I was acting appropriately, culture-wise. Did I say the right things to make him feel better? I just hoped I did.

The next evening, I watched out for any news on television waiting to hear about suicides that may have occurred in the city. There were none. I felt some sort of relief. I will probably never know if he killed himself or not the following nights, or weeks, or even know what eventually happened to him.

I think about this incident often. It makes me wonder how many strangers out there are actually going through something so desperate that the prospect of suicide becomes an option. There are millions of people who live in big cities, and yet, ironically, one can still feel alone and alienated. So many people but no one to talk to. We are all going through something to some degree. But we are lost in our busy schedules trying to survive in this rat race, and we have unfortunately developed an attitude of not caring for others. And because of this, it has become a crueler world for everyone.

Maybe we should stop being automatically fearful of each other. In life, we will all have to ask for help from people we don’t know. I know many people, including myself, who have been beneficiaries of people’s kindness many times. I have also learned that a smile, offering a handshake, a simple hello can even lead to real, solid friendships.

By simply caring, we can all be more human again.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2019/08/11/1942232/would-you-hug-stranger#FrvWCpJyWxLtiWCA.99

Love yourself 0

Posted on August 04, 2019 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – August 4, 2019 – 12:00am
You can’t give love if you don’t have it. You can’t be running on empty.
When the song The Greatest Love of All came out on the airwaves, I remember being baffled by it.

“The greatest love of all is happening to me.
Learning to love yourself, is the greatest love of all.”

I was intrigued. There was no mention of loving one’s neighbor or anything like that in the song. I actually thought that it was quite a selfish statement. It sounded narcissistic.

Growing up in Ateneo, we were always reminded to be “men for others.” It was the Ignatian way. We were taught to sacrifice and serve others, the nation. In the words of St Ignatius, we were “To give and not to count the cost/To fight and not to heed the wounds/To toil and not to seek for rest/To labor and not to ask for reward/Save that of knowing that I do your will.”

It was a bit close to the end of the ‘80s when I had an epiphany about the song. I was attending a human potential workshop and the facilitator asked us what we were most proud of among the things we had done in life and to write them down. It was a quiet moment of intense self-reflection. As I thought of my achievements and personal bests, the great moments of my short life paraded before me as well as the pains I went through getting there. It was a mixed feeling. I realized I had paid a price for everything I had done. I began to feel the pain and sacrifice I had gone through. While I felt that, I also felt proud that I had the courage and fortitude to do them all. I knew I could not have achieved what I had done if I did not love or motivate myself enough to write songs and express the gifts God had given me.

Then the facilitator asked us to put the list close to our hearts in the dark room while we relived what we had gone through in our lives. The song Hero by Mariah Carey played. It was a moment like no other. I was so emotional. My life flashed before me and I saw my strengths and also how vulnerable I was. I realized what the song The Greatest Love of All finally meant.

It’s been at least two decades since then and my understanding of self-love has grown deeper. We need to love ourselves completely and that includes all our pluses and minuses, our innate goodness and weaknesses. We need to unconditionally accept and be comfortable being who we really are. We need our own love and self-acceptance first to be able to love anyone. The truth is you can’t give love if you don’t have it. You can’t be running on empty.

To be an evolved human being is to know oneself so well that you are acutely aware of your own fine print. It demands constant self-evaluation and introspection. You must establish contact with your deep self so it can tell you how you have been living and what you actually want to do in life. It requires an intimate self-audit. It means we have to honestly look inward and ask the truth about ourselves: what really motivates us, what makes us tick, what are we passionate about, what is integral about us that we will never give up, what is important and meaningful, what are we ready to live and die for, what makes us happy. These are questions we will keep asking ourselves throughout life.

Before you can love yourself, you must accept that you are not perfect. Look in the mirror and embrace all your brutalities, anomalies, your shadow side and aspects of you that you are ashamed to admit. You must deal with them. Believe it or not, your shadow side actually bears gifts for you. Instead of suppressing them you must recognize their energy, and accept them fully and integrate them with the rest of you. You will discover that instead of sabotaging you, they can actually make you stronger and more authentic. That is the miraculous transformation you need to be able to do to generate love for yourself before you can share it with others.

Anger, for example, is not always a bad thing. Anger can remind you that your boundaries have been crossed and violated. It can actually protect you. It also reminds you that you have been allowing certain things to go on repeatedly and that it is time to stop.

Passion, libido are energies that can be used for artistic pursuits or building a legacy. They make you feel alive and productive and spur you to action.

Envy can motivate you to do better by pushing yourself more. If you explore hate, you may even discover a few things you hate about yourself. You will also notice compassion growing within you as you learn to be more accepting, to love and be at home with yourself. Self-acceptance actually makes it easier to accept others.

The thought of being kinder, or treating yourself like you would a precious object is what I mean. With self-love come self-confidence, self-forgiveness, and healing. When you respect and love who you are, you may even find yourself not being defensive about criticism anymore. There is much more to you than your perceived faults. You are not easily shattered to pieces by what others think of you. In fact, it may not even be worth your while to care about what people think. There are more important things to do than tumbling for other people’s approval.

“Self-care is never a selfish act — it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others,” said American author Parker Palmer in his inspirational books. You are a unique human being with the task of being who you are in this world.

When my daughter Erica finished her high school, I gifted her with a song that summarized all I wrote above called Live Your Own Life:

“Don’t take my word or anyone else’s/What’s right for me may not be right for you/I have my own dreams/I live my own story/And someday soon you’ll be living yours too/So enjoy your own joys/Gain from your own pain/Dream your own dreams/Dance to your own song/It’s the only way to go/It’s the only road you’ll ever know.

“Live your own life/Feel it so you know it’s real/Hold on to your own truth/Live life without any fear/Decide your own fate/With bated breath the world awaits/Make your own mark/All you gotta do is start.

“There are no two people in this world who’ve got the same point of view/There’s no one else who’s gonna live your life better than you/So cry your own tears/Believe in your own cause/Don’t be afraid if sometimes you feel lost/It’s the only way to go/It’s the only way you’ll ever know.

“Live life without any fear/Decide your own fate/With bated breath the world awaits/Make your own mark/All you gotta do is start/Everything you need is inside of you/You’re the fire and breath of your own soul.”

GREATEST LOVE OF ALL

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2019/08/04/1940285/love-yourself#0ER3IfJjHoP0w4eM.99

Why we need an inner life 0

Posted on July 28, 2019 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – July 28, 2019 – 12:00am 4 shares

I am amazed at how some people never seem to lose it. I am talking about people who always seem to be in control of their own personal situations. You never see them lose their temper. They know when to engage in an argument and when not to. And yes, they also know when to end it. They are not ruled by their own emotions.

They have a calmness about them that seems to permeate the room. People often defer to their presence. They almost always dictate the mood, and many times, also the topic when they speak without being forceful about it. People look up to them as leaders they respect.

I am not talking about big CEOs who intimidate others with their position and power. I am certainly not talking about some corrupt political and religious leaders — these temporal and so-called spiritual warlords who wield great influence and rule over the lives and consciences of their weak and ignorant subjects.

I am talking about people who seem capable of holding everything together in a way that inspires confidence and inspiration. I use the word “seem” because we do not see them 24/7. I am sure they also have their bad and weak moments just like everyone else. But what they do have that many do not possess is that inner strength, calmness, confidence and strength of character. They are centered on values they hold dear. All this while remaining humble.

Such people are special. I have met some engaged in different fields of endeavor and I know they spend time doing inner work, knowing themselves in all aspects and accepting themselves as who they are. People gravitate towards them because they emanate a wisdom and a bearing that shows they understand what is going on. They are also good listeners. That is why people are attracted to them.

I don’t know of any great person who does not have an inner life. Leaders in different fields such as sports, business, the arts, politics, religion etc. invest in quiet time, meditation, contemplation, prayer, tai chi, yoga, journaling, or just enjoy their time alone. They reflect a lot on what they do and what they want to achieve. They are guided by an inner compass.

They need this solitude. Life has too many illusions and delusions. Egos can easily be tempted and make people feel entitled to so many things. They need this balance between their inner and outer worlds. With this right balance, they can be as comfortable in solitude as they are in a crowd without losing themselves.

A person with integrity must not just walk the talk but learn to walk a fine line. Learning balance is so important. One must know when and how to adjust. As the late entrepreneur-writer Jim Rohn pointed out, “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.”

A leader who does not have such skills rules by division and intimidation. He likes to instill fear. He bullies his enemies into submission. And he brings out the worst in people.

In today’s world, there are so few leaders who are willing to do the right thing. Populist leaders will say anything just to play to the peanut gallery or to fit the mood of the times. They will exploit the people’s basic fears and convince them that they alone can save the country. In reality, they end up making a mess of things. Their proclaimed love for their country and people is a lie. The weaker ones buy into their rhetoric.

More than at any other time, we need leaders who can challenge and inspire people to be and do better. Leaders who are not afraid to say what is true and right at the risk of their own popularity. “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” This was articulated by former US First Lady Rosalyn Carter. In short, he/she must not just be an astute leader who can recognize consensus; he/she must also be able to inspire and sell their vision. And we need this now more than ever.

There are tough issues that must be faced squarely and with resolve. It takes moral courage to do so. Angela Merkel allowed a million immigrants into Germany because she believed it was the moral thing to do. Whether you agree with her or not, one can’t call her a weakling for doing this.

Obama, despite a hostile and racist senate and congress that blocked practically all of his legislative initiatives, was able to inspire his country to move forward. Mandela was able to lead a nation whose racist government once saw him as a very dangerous man. And yet he was the one who put an end to apartheid in South Africa.

I have sat with Vice President Leni Robredo a few times. I have never seen a calmer person. No, she is not “laid-back” at all. In fact, she is always actively listening, connecting, and diving into a deep pool of personal experience to answer questions. She has a lot of practical knowledge about governance. Before she was chosen to be the vice presidential candidate, I witnessed her impressively respond to 35 questions about governance and politics before a group of about 40 people. Her answers were not general at all. They were specific and nuanced, implying that she had been thinking deeply about the problems of our nation for years. She did not play to her audience with flattery or motherhood statements. It was amazing to see up-close a genuine leader with knowledge, strength of morals and conviction.

There is a Zen saying that goes, “What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.” The superior man/woman knows where the levers of power really are and how to use them without losing oneself. There are too many small men in the world who have not invested in their inner life and believe that materialism and the acquisition of wealth and power are all that matters. That is very sad.

Sometimes, I like to gaze at the local political landscape looking for new leaders that will lead this nation into a better future. I see some promising ones who have started quite well. I hope they do not burn out too quickly.

And I do hope they cultivate an inner life. May their compassion awaken. May their strength of character, conscience and noble ambitions translate into good governance.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/travel-and-tourism/2019/07/28/1938344/why-we-need-inner-life#Z1f1uWBTOuW38I16.99

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