Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Hello, God 0

Posted on October 23, 2016 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 23, 2016 – 12:00am

I know I can always talk to you. I discovered this about 15 years ago when I read the book Conversations With God, by Neale Donald Walsch. The book impressed me so much it actually changed my understanding of you. It was such a radical change for the better. I even invited the author to come to the Philippines because I wanted many people to know that they, too, can talk to God.

We have talked quite often the past 15 years. Sometimes I just suddenly call on you, often very early in the morning, and you are always on. Don’t you ever sleep? I know that I can tell you anything. And I do. I have told you things I have not told anyone else. Some of them are quite shocking. But you seem to be cool with them. You don’t get shocked. That’s why I like talking to you.

When I first started having conversations with you, I could not tell if your answers were just coming from me. Were they just my own thoughts? I wondered. I was confused. Your answers seemed too real to come from me. One day, I gave that a long thought and came to the conclusion that it does not matter where it was coming from. What was important was I could feel the love, the affirmation that was coming from you.

I have tried to create a mental construct of what you are like. What can God possibly look like? I have seen many of your faces. Sometimes, you seem like a cool old man. Sometimes, I can’t see any face at all when we are talking. But I know there is an undeniable presence that announces itself clearly. I just sense a feeling that touches my whole being. It is a great feeling of being special. It is a feeling of awe and love that I can almost touch with my hands. God, I must admit you can be so physical, too.

Sometimes when we talk, I must admit I can’t hear you at all. I think I know why. It is probably because the answers I want are not what you are ready to give me. I am full of expectations and so I can’t hear your true voice and will.

During those moments, I close my eyes. I try to quiet my thoughts until it is so still I can sense you are there. When my mind is too noisy or dusty, all I hear is my own ego trying to capture God. But how do you capture someone that is not really separate from you? What a presence you are in my life.

Lately, I have not been praying to you in the way I am used to. I’ve started reciting popular prayers, and even if I feel you answer my prayers affirmatively, I feel that I am not fully present to you. I feel the closeness but I feel there is less certainty on my end that I am actually talking to God.

Maybe it’s because I’ve practically stopped meditating and so I am having difficulty quieting my mind. Lately, there are so many voices in my head that want to destroy the peace of mind I normally have. I think I have unconsciously allowed them in and they are taking too much of my peace from me. I know I have to do something about that. I have allowed too much of the world in that I can’t quiet it down. I want my empty mind back. I must go back to Zen meditation.

I think it was Meister Eckart who said, “God likes to visit when no one is home.” I understand that clearly. I should surrender expectations, concepts, pictures in my mind about you so that you can come in just as you are. I have to be without ego, and free of attachments as much as I can to feel your wonderful defining presence.

Please visit often and continue to have patience with me. I really want to know you! This time- and space-bound creature wants to meet the eternal and everlasting. I have a hunger that can’t be quenched. It is a hunger in my soul that wants to be fed and nourished. Please talk to me. And like a dog toward his master, I will delight in your voice and keep coming back.

A few days ago, I felt quite lucid and connected to you; I actually experienced a great talk with you. It was for no reason that I wanted to talk. No favors to ask. I didn’t want to ask anything from you since I did not want you to feel that all I do is ask. It was merely to open up my thoughts, feelings, secrets to you. I needed to just share them with someone. And just being open to you about them often already solves a lot of things. It is as if problems once stated or confessed point to their own solutions.

Many people come to me asking for advice on many questions about life. I try to answer them. When I can’t, I humbly admit I have nothing to say. When I can give good, inspired advice, I feel good. I feel like you, God.

During one intense Zen meditation years ago, that feeling of being God-like came to me. It was a feeling of intense humility but with searing enlightenment. I described it this way: “I honor God when I claim to be Him.”

I know many people will not understand that, but it’s okay, because I know You do.

Through my eyes, passionately 0

Posted on October 17, 2016 by jimparedes

beach and man1
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 16, 2016 – 12:00am


I’ve hardly written about photography, which is one of my passions. I have been taking pictures seriously since I did my first magazine cover in 1997. I did commercial work, lots of it, many years ago. But mostly, I have taken photos for the pure love of it.

I’ve often tried to write about photography but I have always felt that words are inadequate in describing pictures. The pictures must speak for themselves.These days, almost everyone has a digital camera or a mobile phone that can take decent pictures, which has made many people instant photographers with Instagram as their medium. But that is just not so.We all live in the same world and often look at the same things. We sometimes even take pictures of the same subjects.

Yet the photographer’s eye sees things differently. The subject stands out more coherently, more beautifully, and the narrative of the photo is more focused and clear. There is a compelling quality to the photos.

I believe that a photographer must have the mind of a conspiracy theorist. He must be able to see things others do not and make the “connections.” He must be able to edit and present slices of reality as coherent short stories by themselves without irrelevant, extraneous details that could distract the viewer. He must catch the narration and capture it as clearly as possible.When I started taking pictures, I was using film, like everyone else at the time. With film, you have to know the theories and rules since you can’t see an instant playback of your shots.

Screen Shot 2016-10-17 at 8.19.07 AM

‘ Starry Wintry Night’

Screen Shot 2016-10-17 at 8.18.55 AM

‘My Spirit is Stronger than Cancer’

You can only take 36 shots per roll, and even less if you are using a medium format camera. You also pay for every shot so you tend not to be trigger happy with the shutter. You need to plan your shots and hope you get some good ones on every roll. And you have to wait a few days, with bated breath, until the negatives are developed and you can finally see your work in print.

A passion is something that gives one a purpose and an explanation for why one spends so much time, effort and money on it. It also has phases that one goes through while engaging in it. There was a time when I was obsessed with shadows in my photographs. I felt that the darkness highlighted the subject, giving it more depth and character.

dada dega1.1


These days, I don’t think too much about anything when I shoot. I am just happy looking through the lens and capturing stories that appear in their own time and place. Through the years, I’ve taken photos that I am pretty proud of. Here are some of them.

Kensho (enlightenment) around the corner

kensho path1

Lolo goes to cosplay 0

Posted on October 09, 2016 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 9, 2016 – 12:00am

Some cosplayers from CosMania 2016 held at SMX in Mall of Asia
As part of my “Lolo duties,” I had to give up my Sunday last week to accompany my grandchild Ananda to a cosplay event at SMX in the Mall of Asia.

Cosplay events feature people in costume, mostly dressed as Japanese or Korean-inspired anime characters, superheroes and robots, meeting up, interacting and having a lot of fun.

Ananda had been planning on attending CosMania 2016 for quite a while. I accompanied her once before to a smaller cosplay event. Last Sunday’s event was touted to be a big one. She had an intricate costume made, and wore a long, curly, black wig which her Lola Lydia ordered from Amazon.com to complete the look of Celestia Ludenberg, an anime character dressed in school uniform.

We left the house before noon. When we got to SMX, the place was almost full. All kinds of people showed up in their best fantasies. A sea of heads wearing pink, white, black and green hair filled the building. As I looked around at a crowd that seemed to get bigger every minute, I put on my amateur socio-cultural analyst hat and tried to understand what was going on.

Screen Shot 2016-10-09 at 8.08.28 AM

Here was a fun, vibrant subculture parading before me. I remembered readings by Joseph Campbell about rituals, costumes, masks and all things associated with tribes.

People in the olden days used to wear animal skins and paint white spots on their faces to emulate animal markings. They wore masks to look as fierce as the creatures they hunted. It was a way of summoning the power of nature, the spirits in the animal world to be with them.

As I looked at the characters in the room at SMX, I felt that these young people, though in modern garb, were doing the same thing, more or less. They were reliving that tribal thrill of possessing certain special characteristics via costumes, masks and accessories.

When a person wears a mask or a costume, or puts on a physical appearance that is different from what he or she is and that is compelling to look at, it is a way of dictating how that person wants people to relate to him or her. You command the way that people will interact with you. A monstrous or grotesque mask tells people that you are someone to fear. The people who came as Batman, Superman, Green Arrow and the like wanted to feel the awesome power, skills and personae of their idols who can rescue society and mankind.

The people in the robotic attire wanted to summon the awesome power of their destructive capability and potential. They had rockets, light sabers, lasers and weapons of mass destruction on their metallic bodies. It did not matter whether you saw their faces or not. They were not human. But they were dangerous and lethal.

Those who came dressed up to look like cute Japanese anime drawings wanted to embody beauty, youth, sweetness, with a touch of the innocent sexuality of the characters they admired. They put on colorful wigs, intricately designed costumes taken from cartoons and comic books, size-adjusting colored contact lenses that made their eyes rounder, cuter and quite mysterious.

I saw soldiers, Storm Troopers, witches, Pokemon Go characters, Suicide Squad characters, Johnny Bravo.

Famous characters (according to Ananda) were scattered all over the place. In truth, I hardly knew any of them, except perhaps, that yellow Pokemon, Pikachu.

Screen Shot 2016-10-09 at 8.08.14 AM

Famous characters (according to Ananda) like the twins Rem and Ram, Sailor Moon, Fairy Tail, Satella, Naruto, Pikachu, Miraculous Lady Bug, Baymax, Rocket Raccoon of Guardians of the Galaxy, Demon Lady, Gravity Falls; and Vocaloids like Hatsune Miku, Rin and Len were scattered all over the place. In truth, although they are famous to the young generation, I hardly knew or had heard of any of them, except perhaps, that yellow Pokemon, Pikachu.

It was quite an experience for me. I felt the excitement of the young people, and admired their daring to show up as the characters they fancied. They were bold and they indulged their imaginations and fantasies.

I saw the thrill on their faces when people asked to take their pictures. They gamely emoted for the cameras. They preened, posed and lived their adopted personas. Those who came with elaborate flair and style were the most sought-after subjects for photographers.

I must say I was hooked! I told myself that I would join the next cosplay event and come in a really loud, eye-catching costume.

Events like Halloween and Cosplay festivals are venues and occasions for expressing aspects of ourselves we do not reveal every day. Joseph Campbell wrote that when a ritual has stopped moving or touching people, it has lost its energy and capability to transform or lead people to mystery.

To the young, cosplay is a way of discovering and displaying the many aspects of who they are while being assured of mutual acceptance. It is a huge masquerade, a “come as you would like to be” party.

In cosplay, one is allowed to get out of reality and live out one’s fantasies even for just a few hours. For a while, you are allowed some vanity, exhibitionism, indulgence and crazy role-playing.

I think this is something we all need from time to time! Photos by JIM PAREDES

On becoming an adult 1

Posted on September 24, 2016 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 25, 2016 – 12:00am

Often, we look at children and wish they would never grow up. They seem perfect as they are — cute, lovable, with innocence so pure you wish you could protect them from the world so that they remain so forever. We want them kept safe from the turmoil and tribulations of life. We wish it could be possible. But life is not meant to be lived that way.

Every grown-up has a clear memory of when and how their innocence was broken, when their childhood came to an end. We have all experienced that primal pain of being kicked out of Paradise and thrown into the circumstances of our own space and time, our own reality with all its pain and suffering.

I lost a chunk of my innocence at age five when my dad died in a plane crash. Many more events happened after that which made going back to Eden an impossibility.

Something had to “break” us to drive us out of our safe cocoons and force us to be vulnerable to pain. Today, as a much older person, I can say that this is the only way. Otherwise, what gifts we were born with will never come to fruition.

Childhood is a magical place. We all have some good and bad childhood memories. But this stage doesn’t last too long. It gets rougher especially when we inch into adolescence. The teen years escalate our angst and insecurities as we evolve into grown-ups.

But being grown-up does not necessarily mean being an adult. We may look like adults because of the size and development of our bodies, and because we have reached a certain age. But in truth, adulthood requires so much more from us. One of the things it requires is control over our selves. There is an entire range of emotions we must rein in and/or indulge when needed. We also must learn to delay gratification and get socialized, meaning we must learn to live as productive, peaceful, law-abiding and generally good individuals, parents, citizens, bread earners, members of the community and the society we live in.

We must learn important traits like compassion, decisiveness and discernment. There are also lessons like accountability, grasping complexity, humility and the taming of our ego from the autocracy of our infantile stage to a more functional one that does not sabotage our intentions. Many leaders make mistakes when they cannot control their insecurities and their toxic need to have their egos massaged.

Adulthood is about being in control of oneself, and making conscious, well-thought-out decisions that affect others aside from ourselves and taking responsibility for them.

I am in awe of how the most powerful man on earth, Barack Obama, can stay calm and focused and do his job well without being ruffled or intimidated by the cruel politics, crises and problems he must deal with every day, and how he can still manage to smile and stay inspired and inspiring. When he deals with his adversaries, it often seems like he is the only adult in the room.

The modern-day philosopher Ken Wilber wrote that every man must learn to balance and manage five areas of his life. These are: money (earning, spending, saving and being trustworthy and honest, living within one’s means); career or work (knowledge, learning, passion, reliability); bodily intake (food, drugs, alcohol, substances that affect physical, mental health); inner work (character building, self-control, spirituality, esthetic appreciation); and relationships (love, sex, obsession, affection, fidelity, compassion).

Most people are weak in one area but are functional in the rest, which is, generally, still manageable. But when we fail at two or more areas at the same time, our lives become too dysfunctional and we need intervention.

If, for the most part, we can handle all five areas at the same time, one might say we have reached a high level of adulthood.

Everyone goes through the childhood phase, and if we don’t die early, we grow up. But not everyone who grows up becomes an adult. Just look around and observe many grown-ups and older people.

So what happens when we get to old age and have not reached the level of adulthood? I am not a psychologist but I see people as either happy or unhappy.

What I observe is this: Grown-ups and old people who have not learned the ways of adulthood become trapped in an unhappy life of their own making, pulled and pushed aimlessly by unsettled personal issues, and uncontrolled emotional outbursts. Where they should have generally made peace with their past and present, they have unexplained bursts of anger, regret, bitterness and a feeling of being lost in a largely unexamined life. They are cynical and angry and often lash out at the world without realizing that in order to control the world, one must first have some degree of self-control.

On the other hand, there are people who seem happy, calm, who have grown in wisdom, age and grace. They have the passion to do things and dreams to accomplish, even at an older age. They are not lacking in purpose. Every day, they discover new meanings and connections that make their lives richer. They have a calm, cool and serene way about them, too.

More importantly, they have a great sense of self-acceptance. They can move on from the past and are at peace and accepting of who they are in the present. They can move on when they commit mistakes and look back at their blunders and folly and embrace them as teachable moments.

It is not easy being an adult. It takes conscious and deliberate inner work. But not achieving adulthood as one gets older guarantees an infinitely more difficult life.

As we age, we realize more and more that we are spending more time alone. We might as well start growing up and learning how to be good, pleasant company.

God’s neatest trick 0

Posted on September 17, 2016 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 18, 2016 – 12:00am

I have attended four wakes since last Sunday.

As one ages, the rate of deaths within one’s circle increases — slowly at first, and then it accelerates as one gets older. But even at age 65, four wakes in one week is pretty much. And as I write, I am told there is still another wake I have to go to tonight. A classmate died of dengue.

The first wake was of a good friend’s mom. She had been sick for some eight years, most of which she spent on life support. Several times in the past, when she was on the brink, the family decided to resuscitate her. For years, she had not spoken and could not even recognize her relatives anymore. Cared for by nurses, she had hardly any engagement with anyone else.

Surprisingly, when she passed away, my friend’s family still went into shock. Even if, at the back of their minds, they expected her to die any moment, the actual moment and the reality of death still caught them off-guard. My friend felt helpless and did not know what to do. It took two days for him to grasp and accept the reality that he had lost his mother.

The second wake was that of comedienne Joy Viado who was in the same mortuary as my friend’s mother. I met Joy more than two decades ago when she auditioned for and got a slot in a performance scholarship program put up by OPM (Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit) for unknown artists. I remember how even when she was new and raw, she was quite funny. She had already honed her performance instincts. Joy suffered from complications due to diabetes, which led to a stroke.

I thought about how relatively young she was. There is no rhyme or reason that explains when someone’s time is up.

On my way out, I saw that another friend’s sister was also interred in a room on the second floor. The circumstances leading to the death of this woman were tragic, macabre even. She died of gunshot wounds in what looks like an execution, an extrajudicial killing. She was left for dead complete with a cardboard sign that claimed she was a pusher.

I entered the room and immediately saw my friend whom I have worked with on acting jobs in teleseryes. I hugged her, expressing my condolences. I tried to imagine how hard it must be to lose a sister under such painful and demeaning circumstances. When she narrated how it happened, I could sense that she was trying to be objective but her rage and sadness shook her composure. It was with great effort that she succeeded in finishing her story. I did not stay long. I hugged her again, whispered comforting words and left.

On another day, I went to visit the wake of the father of a close friend in another mortuary. The scene was more pleasant. The room was big and the chairs and sofas were spread out to look more like a big comfortable living room. There were clusters of chairs surrounding low tables, perfect for entertaining the different groups of people who visited.

My friend’s dad died after heart surgery. He actually struggled hard to keep alive and at times the doctors felt that he would actually make it. But suddenly, like a thief in the night, death came and snuffed out his life.

The love of family was everywhere. Happy pictures and video clips of him singing and playing with his children and grandchildren were shown. The conversation was light, even cheerful, as family members talked with their guests about their dad. Even as my friend said that losing her dad was devastating, she could smile and even giggle as she reminisced over fond memories of her father.

Death is probably the biggest event in anyone’s life. Even while it is inevitable, it almost always comes as a shock to loved ones. And where one goes is an uninsured mystery.

I have always thought of death as the neatest trick God has ever done. For the living, it is one of the greatest mysteries. The questions we ask about death are among what the Buddhists call the “imponderables.”

Billions of people have died yet no one has come back to say what is out there after the great passing. For the one who dies, it is the final, much-awaited unraveling of that mystery.

Philosophies and religions have their takes on what comes after death. But no empirical, scientific evidence has been found to tell us what to expect.

It is only faith that can convince one that there is an afterlife, even if many do not need persuading. As for me, the lack of proof notwithstanding, I believe that in death, we graduate to a different plane, sphere or level of being. I am not sure how to describe it but I know that the before and after of the short life we live is book-shelved by eternity. We have existed from the beginning of time and will continue to do so after death.

Life is that brief moment in our specific time and space where we can accomplish our mission.

Death ends time and space on earth. But I believe that we were already in timelessness before birth and will continue to be there after life as we know it has ended.

Keep the light burning 0

Posted on September 03, 2016 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 4, 2016 – 12:00am

Last Monday, I went to my old school, the Ateneo de Manila, where I joined a gathering in front of the Church of Gesu. We were there in response to a call for prayers for the victims of martial law, and for the Supreme Court to be guided in its decision on the President’s plan to bury Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Similar gatherings were also held in different places in the country.

As I was praying with the crowd, I noticed that there were very few people my age who were present. The crowd was composed mostly of young people, students from Ateneo and nearby Miriam College, as well as seminarians, priests and teachers, most of them millennials.

That gave me a feeling of hope. Here they were present, even if they had no direct experience of martial law. I smiled, pleased that these young people had taken it upon themselves to become educated about the past and speak out in shaping the future they want.

After a short prayer, we lighted candles and walked somberly in procession, singing church songs. It was getting dark. It was windy, too. We were having a hard time keeping the candles lit. In my mind, I was asking myself if the flames flickering out was an ominous sign. Were we destined to fail? But I also asked myself what it meant that we kept lighting our candles again and again — which probably spoke more truth about the people involved. In this time of darkness, we were doing our best to keep the light going. I felt hopeful.

While the procession was going on, the names of Ateneans who were killed during the dark days of military rule were broadcast through a megaphone. We prayed for each one of them. I teared up when I heard the names of people I knew, classmates, fellow students on campus in the Seventies. The names Manny Yap, Jun Celestial, Billy Begg and Edgar Jopson brought back a flood of memories of campus life when many of our college classes became sit-ins, venues for discussion on the relevance of our education, and what it ought to be.

It was a time of anger and confusion. Things were changing rapidly. Many of us were not the students our parents expected us to be. We dreamed a different future. We were adopting different values. Many of us were either hippies or activists, or both. We were rebellious and we questioned everything.

We walked along the campus road leading to Gate 3. It was a short 10 to 15 minutes until we reached a little corner near the pedestrian overpass where we stopped. Outside our circle was Katipunan Avenue with cars passing by, oblivious to what we were doing. We said more prayers. By this time, all our candles were lit.

It was a nostalgic moment for me. I have attended many mass actions before. This one felt different for so many reasons. There were more young people than old. They were the organizers and leaders of the event. I felt my age creeping in, not because the procession was tiring. It was not. While I felt hope, I also felt sadness that decades after we got rid of martial law, Marcos is still imposing himself on us with his family’s insistence on giving him a hero’s burial at LNMB.

What a disgrace! What infamy! While we have moved forward in so many ways, our politics is still so dysfunctional that an issue such as this can dominate the headlines and derail us from the gains we have made since EDSA.

We Filipinos have always had a problem with our heroes. Since the days of the Katipunan, we have managed to turn a blind eye to the cads, traitors and villains who have ruined our lives. We always seem to be oblivious to truth and indecisive in dealing with the traitors in our historical struggles.

After EDSA, we also fell short in dispensing justice to the thieves, unrepentant cronies and killers of the Marcos regime. We simply allowed them to return after a brief exile in order to stage their social, political and financial comebacks.

That night, as we gathered, I prayed that the emerging millennial leaders will be more decisive and courageous in correcting the historical injustices in our society.

In a few days, the Supreme Court will decide on the issue of Marcos’ burial. If the justices decide to allow the burial at the LNMB, we know that we must do more to ensure that our interpretation of history prevails. We mustn’t stop. The candle may be snuffed out, but only momentarily. We just have to keep lighting it again and again and continue the march.

Such is the call of vigilance, the prize of which is truth and justice.

The need to connect 0

Posted on August 27, 2016 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 28, 2016 – 12:00am

I want to write about addiction. It is clearly the scourge of our time. Right off, I would like to say that I am no expert on the subject. I only write based on my limited experience.

I first got interested in the topic almost two decades ago when I met people who told me about their journey to recovery from alcoholism and meth use. Their accounts moved me and left me extremely curious about addiction and how to deal with it.

They talked about the many rehab efforts they went through before they finally succeeded in quitting. Some rehab centers physically harmed and beat up addicts. But there were other enlightened programs that spared them from violence. The ones that worked according to them were the latter.

From what I have gathered, addiction is a multi-faceted problem. It is not just an extreme physical longing for a substance. It also has emotional, psychological and spiritual dimensions to it.

Recently, I watched a “Ted Talks” episode where the speaker told of a lab experiment with rats. They were put in solitary cages and given a choice to drink pure water or some that was heroin-laced. All the solitary rats chose the heroin-laced water and sooner or later became addicted.

In another experiment, scientists put many rats together in a large cage and gave them unlimited food. They also had space, a wheel to run on and a lot of opportunities for sex. The two types of water were also offered. To their surprise, the rats consumed the pure water over the heroin-laced one.

The same speaker also said that during the Vietnam War, 20 percent of the US soldiers were using heroin during their stint fighting the Vietcong. The US military establishment was worried that when the war ended, many soldiers would come home heroin-addicted. But strangely enough, it did not happen. There was no heroin addiction boom that followed. Many went home and merely resumed their normal lives.

In their explanation of why the results are what they are, the researchers concluded that a key factor that prevents addiction is “connection.” When individuals (and rats) live in a community where they were connected with loved ones and friends, they were not attracted to drugs.

It is no wonder then that sick people who are given massive doses of pure heroin in hospitals to fight pain do not turn into addicts when they return home and connect with their loved ones.

Loneliness, boredom, alienation and social deprivation may be central in making people susceptible to addiction. Everyone is looking for love, for peak experiences, and the feeling of being whole. Drugs can delude us into thinking we can get these things chemically.

The few people I talked to who survived addiction affirmed that reconnection was a big factor. And, they added, the struggle also had a strong spiritual dimension.

Going through the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-Step Program was a game-changer. This program is a searingly honest examination of oneself aimed at getting right down to the core of who you are. In the process, you encounter and hack away at all the bullsh*t and delusion that feeds the addiction. It is a severe reality check and yes, it is life-changing.

The AA 12-Step Program has been around for decades and is still recommended by many professionals who treat addiction. It has saved many lives.

Going back to connectedness, it seems to make sense that when people feel secure, loved and in touch with people who matter to them, drugs lose much of their allure. Being connected also means being in touch with one’s own thoughts, feelings, dreams, the sense of what is right and wrong and our deep humanity. In other words, it means staying grounded.

In real life, many of us are not. I often forget or deliberately ignore my inner callings. It is too scary to know oneself sometimes. It is easier to live hiding behind the masks that we wear in the world and believe in the delusion that we are being real.

I do not have the stomach for extrajudicial killings or the willingness to give up due process even if I support the campaign against drugs. I value our hard-fought human rights. I am glad it is not in my hands to decide who lives or dies. I know people who are addicts. I love some of them even if I know how much their families have suffered because of their addiction. I do not wish it on anyone.

A successful recovery is always inspiring because it is a story of redemption. While rehab is expensive and unaffordable to many right now, it is perhaps one of the rescue mechanisms that we really need to solve this huge drug problem. We must do more of this in place of killing people outright. I personally believe in second, third, sometimes even fourth chances. I have seen people recover from drugs permanently.

Look outside our families and into our larger communities. Do you see much connectedness? Are people reaching out to each other? Do we have real personal relationships with people who live near us?

Everyone is going through something difficult at any given time. It is so easy to not care. After all, we do not like to be bothered by problems that do not concern us.

While not all of us are called to actively catch pushers or users, we can volunteer to be our brother’s keeper. We can initiate healing connections with people who need it. Let’s start with our own families, relatives, friends and neighborhoods.

We need to connect with each other now, more than ever.

Answering the call 2

Posted on August 21, 2016 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 21, 2016 –

I watched the movie Ignacio de Loyola a few nights ago. It is a wonderful movie. I was impressed with the script, the acting, direction and the entire production. Needless to say, I loved it. I must confess that it touched me in many ways, both good and disturbing.

As a dyed-in-the-wool Atenista from my first day of school in prep to my college graduation, the Ignatian ethic was always being rubbed on me.

Watching the movie brought back a lot of memories. The letters AMDG (Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam) was something we wrote on top of our test papers. We wrote it on every essay we crafted, every assignment and exam we took. It was written on the blackboard daily. The Loyola crest shown in the movie was painted on the chapel doors, and the Prep School gate. Early on, I memorized St. Ignatius’ prayer for generosity which goes:

Lord, teach me to be generous.

Teach me to serve you as you deserve;

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.

I find much comfort in this prayer to this day.

What disturbed me in the movie was not anything about its technical or artistic aspects. The elements that a good story told in that medium were well executed. What I found troubling was the story of Iñigo himself. He was a man of high social standing, a true knight in the most traditional sense who was willing to fight for the glory of love, honor, and loyalty to his king and country. And he most certainly did all that, until complications set in.

In a battle to protect the motherland, he suffered a broken leg which left him with a limp — a crooked gait that ended his dreams of knighthood and all its attendant glory and pride. Crippled and recuperating in bed for four months, he had nothing to read but the lives of saints and of Christ. There, in the midst of pain, despair, regrets and boredom, he accepted God’s invitation to leave his old life and walk in His path.

Watching the movie, Iñigo’s response to the call made me feel afraid, for my own sake. It was the path unknown, the one less traveled. I felt that if God called me to a life of service, I would probably find every excuse to refuse Him.

Would I be willing to be a foot soldier who would deny all my worldly connections if God demanded it? The answer is, I do not know. If I said yes, I would probably argue with Him every step of the way.

If we truly listen, God is probably calling us to do something, but we are too distracted or cowardly to hear it. Is it something dramatic or earth-shaking? We do not know. But I am sure it is something that will shake our individual lives if we follow it.

Some are called to live big lives that can affect a lot of people and change a lot of things for good or evil. Smaller callings, though not as dramatic, are as important. Touching one life with an act of kindness could set the wheel turning for a series of events that could lead to something bigger.

When you look back and review your life, you will catch themes and meanings that can give you an idea of how you have spent your time, and what is important to you. Or it may suddenly dawn on you how little you have done that matters to you or to anyone.

We moderns like to think life is about the pursuit of happiness. Ignacio reminds us that more than the worldly pursuit of happiness, however we define it, life is about obeying God’s will for us. It demands sacrifice, obedience, and discernment.

It is so simple yet so radical. Are we ready? Many of us are probably not and never will be. Perhaps that is why great unexpected interventions happen in life, like what happened to Ignacio. Fate brings us great disappointments to break us out of our comfortable lives and pursue a new path. It may not be the path of least resistance, but a more challenging one that will make us happy, not with riches but with meaning and purpose.

Learning how to detach 0

Posted on August 14, 2016 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 14, 2016 – 12:00am

I see myself as a more or less easygoing, happy individual. I can live without spending much. I am not really picky about what I eat even if there are certain foods I won’t touch, mostly for health reasons. I don’t need to dress impeccably. I do not need signature clothes even if I am happy when I am gifted with some. I am what I would describe as a low-maintenance person.

I know many people who are the same. We are generally optimistic and adaptable people who can, most of the time, take disappointments and setbacks.

There are people who tend to be the opposite. Mostly, I find that they are unhappy, lonely and discontented with what they have. They are always looking somewhere else for solitude, peace and satisfaction. They are generally pessimistic, expecting the worst in any situation. And not surprisingly, they experience more disappointments than the optimists.

Whichever type of person we are and whatever our default mood is, we cannot be perpetually happy or sad. Being human, our moods change all the time. We are all capable of running the whole gamut of emotional highs and lows.

One of the things I am continuously learning to do is to step back and watch myself as I go through my experiences. Even when I am going through some intense moments, I am often able to watch myself as a third person and I find that I can detach on some level even as I am emotionally involved.

Maybe it is an adult life skill to be able to cope this way and not get overwhelmed by emotions and feelings. It is sometimes good to distance one’s self from one’s moods. Sure, you can be happy, but don’t cling to the feeling. Just enjoy it as long as it lasts. And when in the midst of overwhelming sadness or anger, it helps to be able to tell yourself that this, too, shall pass. You must be able to let it go after

And so it is with every mood we have. They are too transient to own and keep. They are like storms, or a carnival that visits, but don’t stay long. Thank God.

But being able to detach is not the same as being in denial. Denial is pretending an ugly mood you are feeling does not exist. It does.

I remember a woman I met in Zen training who had been a practitioner for years. She told me a story. One night, she woke up at 2 a.m. Her teenage son had come home late driving the family car, which had smashed headlights and a broken fender. He reeked of alcohol. She got angry and scolded him. Her son retorted by asking, after all her years of Zen practice, why was she so angry and livid? Shouldn’t she be calm, collected and speaking to him softly? Shouldn’t she be more forgiving? She looked him in the eye and told him that this ugly mood was where she was at right then, in the moment, and she was not going to pretend otherwise and deny it.

I laughed because it broke the stereotype of what it means to be on a spiritual path like Zen. The truth is there is nothing special about Zen practice. We don’t walk in the clouds. We are not above others. We are still human, though perhaps a little more conscious about our being human and more accepting of it.

Detachment is also not indifference. You could be involved in a drama, an argument, or whatever the situation is. You can even participate with passion. But you know deep down this is just something you are doing at the moment. Like a movie, it begins and ends sooner or later and has nothing to do with who you really are.

That capacity where you can distance yourself from what you are feeling suggests something intensely profound. For one, it raises the question: Who is the one experiencing and who is detaching? Is there a bigger “you” that no mood, event or experience can affect or alter? Who are you, really, without your moods or feelings? Who are you without your opinions, thoughts, biases? Do you know who you really are?

These questions are something to ponder and can lead to bigger questions. It may take more than a lifetime to find the answers to them.

Ten things I owe the world 0

Posted on August 06, 2016 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 7, 2016 – 12:00am

We breathe the same air. We live on the same planet. Our own survival depends on one another. We are capable of the same feelings. We have the same dreams. We all need food, homes, education, jobs, security, opportunities, human rights, freedom, happiness.

Everything each of us does has an effect on someone or something. It may seem small or insignificant but it does create some kind of ripple in someone’s life. Even when we are alone, our state of mind, our consciousness, the thoughts we have and the things we do, matter somehow. They either make us better or worse than what we are. And that matters every time we engage each other. When we grow physically, emotionally, spiritually, the world is impacted positively, however small. And when we are selfish and irresponsible, the impact is negative.

When a person enters the world, he or she is mainly concerned with “finding him/herself.” Yes, there is a “self” to discover during the early time in our lives. When we get older, we redefine that same self as something bigger and inclusive of more people, until it collectively becomes all of mankind. We lose the small egotistic self and discover that, indeed, “we are the world,” as the song goes.

I have been thinking lately about how things are going in the world, and I have not been happy with what I see. People seem to be more prone to and affected by negativity than positivity. Bad news reigns. More often, pessimism gets more traction than optimism. There is a scarcity of goodwill, tolerance and kindness.

It could be just me. I don’t know.

But since we all live and affect each other, I would like to think that while we, individually, want to pursue happiness, we must also think collectively. The connectivity we share as humans forces us more and more to think collectively and consider the rest of mankind, even when we make many individual decisions. World events, and even social media have shown us how we affect each other. Good and bad things go viral and probably define how we view things on a daily basis.

In short, we cannot live just for and by ourselves. There is no escaping from one another. Here is list of some of the things I believe I owe mankind, if I am to live and love and pursue happiness in a world-centric way.

1) I owe every human being the recognition that he is more than a statistic, a nationality, a part of a race, a member of a social class and gender. Everyone is a person, a human being, unique, with a personal history and a purpose on earth.

2) I owe everyone respect just as I want respect from everyone.

3) It is my duty to honor, promote and defend everyone’s human rights.

4) In choosing between something that degrades humanity and something that uplifts it, I must choose the latter.

5) I must try and love everyone as well as possible. It is important to try and see God in everyone. Even my so-called enemies have what in Zen is called “Buddha nature.” If I cannot love fully, I must at least insist on giving the minimum required, which are respect and justice.

6) I owe it to the world to keep educating myself so that I may understand more and thus deliver the compassion and love that are most needed.

7) I owe everyone, especially future generations, a better, healthier, more sustainable planet.

8) I owe it to everyone to consume less of the earth’s resources and when possible recycle, revive and renew the planet.

9) I owe it to humankind to stand on the side of hope, positivity and, when faced with negativity, hate and hopelessness, to pursue positive action.

10) Lastly, I owe everyone a life of purpose for myself that makes me happy and creative. The happier I am, the more I can give. I cannot give what I do not have. And that purpose that makes me happy, helps me make life better and kinder for everyone around me.

This is not pie-in-the-sky stuff. This is a turning moment in the history of mankind. Values we built through the centuries that promote rationality, human rights, inclusivity, equality, tolerance are being challenged. And once in a while, we have seen that the world has a capacity to go berserk, as history has shown us. The polarization seems to tell us that we must either move upwards in evolution or move backward. Now is the time to consciously be aware and do the right thing.

The world needs help. Sometimes, what is demanded is a big act of compassion. Sometimes, a smile or a “thank you” is enough. We must do what we can to spread more kindness and happiness around.

  • display_thumbnail.php

  • October 2016
    M T W T F S S
    « Sep    

↑ Top