Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Bridging the gap

Posted on August 22, 2010 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated August 22, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments
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I was talking with a teacher-friend and she remarked about the great gap between the values she teaches in her classroom and what kids have to contend with outside the school. She has been a teacher both in the US and in Manila.

As a parent and a teacher, I have often wondered how to handle the gaping divide between what I want the kids to know, what values I believe they should embrace, versus the stark reality of how things are run in the real world.

No one who is born into this world and lives long enough is spared from this big contradiction. We all have to deal with the chasm between what is, or how things are, and what should be.

There are those who surrender their ideals and values readily because it is inconvenient to go against the ways of the world. One can call them many things, but they like to think of themselves as “pragmatists.” They fancy themselves as realists. I often wonder how readily they can let go of whatever they profess to stand for in the name of practicality.

Many of us adults try to resolve this disconnect between what we teach and how we live by telling our kids to “do as I say, not as I do.” And it is quite foolish of us to believe that our children will be blind to the contradiction and follow our advice.

Even at my age, I find that it is not easy to just give up some of my long-held values. Sure, I have changed some of my attitudes, often quite radically, and I have even abandoned some of my beliefs through the years, but there are values that I hold dear and I will probably not change as I get older. In fact, through the years, I have seen their value grow more and more.

One of the things I’ve noticed as a teacher who works with young people, is that there seems to be a hunger for real values as modeled by adults in real life. Many students have told me quite indirectly during candid moments that their parents have failed them and so they look outside the home or even to media icons for role models.

If I could teach just a few values to my kids that I hope they imbibe and hold on to for the rest of their lives, these would be some of them:

1) The value of education. I am not just talking about finishing formal education, but pursuing learning for the rest of one’s life. I believe that an inquisitive, open mind can constantly adapt to new things and will continue to grow at any age. I am in awe of people past 50 years old who enroll in school to learn something new, or those who discover and indulge in new passions that give them a sense of purpose even in the last quarter of their lives.

It has everything to do with keeping the mind fresh, adaptable and capable of understanding complexity. I’ve always judged the age of people not by the wrinkles on their faces but by how fixed or unbending their minds are. The cantankerous and the old are those who have become didactic and absolutist in thinking.

I am not even talking about the need to be trendy or modern, but about being objective and intellectually disciplined enough to look at the pros and cons of an issue dispassionately. As Aristotle said, ‘It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

2) The value of honesty and accountability. One of the ways I appraise a person is how he relates to money. It’s not so much about how he spends money but how accurately and honestly he can account for it. When my kids were growing up, I would drill into them the importance of giving back exact change and being totally trustworthy when handling money. There is no room for suspicion in this department.

As far as I am concerned, there is no difference between stealing one peso and one million pesos. A thief is a thief. Many relationships between friends, relatives and business partners have gone sour because of money and how it is handled.

3) The value of compassion. Love for one’s fellowman is probably the highest value and compassion is its most active expression. It is not difficult to see that the minimum of love is justice, and the full flowering of it is compassion. I have no problem accepting the value of justice. In fact, living in the Philippines, we have been so deprived of it, we probably will not complain if we have more than enough of it. What I have been trying to work on is being able to love and show compassion for people in general, especially those I am not emotionally connected with.

Compassion is probably the most universal of values found in Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and other religions. I believe that it is the single element that could be the game changer in creating happiness in our individual and collective lives. Compassion breaks barriers and creates space for a more human experience.

There will always be a “disconnect” between our values and those of the outside world, and it is important to try and bridge this gap. The coming together of the opposing edges has been the general direction of man’s historical struggle in the past thousand years. Sometimes, man pulls closer to idealism, while at other times, he is pulled towards practicality.

Our effort to shape the world to our values is probably what spiritual practice should be all about. Forgive me for quoting the atheist Karl Marx, but he did make a lot of sense when he said, “Philosophers have interpreted the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.”

That is what it means to bridge the gap.

* * *

I will be holding three workshops. Two are in Cebu:

1) “Creative for Life Workshop” (one day run) is a cutting-edge course to permanently awaken your creativity. It will be held this Sept. 17 (Friday) 8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. at the Grand Convention Center of Cebu. Registration fee is P1,000 (non-refundable). Workshop fee is P4,000 inclusive of handouts, snacks and lunch.

2) “Basic Photography Workshop (The Second Run)” on Sept. 18 (Saturday) From 1 p.m. – 7 p.m. at Mountain View Nature Park. Registration fee is P1,000 (non-refundable). Workshop fee is P4,000 inclusive of handouts, snacks, shuttle back and forth from JY Square. Call (032) 415-8056 or cell no. 0909-1112111. Or write me at emailjimp@gmail.com for reservations or queries.

3) “Creative For Life workshop” at the Fort (six session run). Sept 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27 at 7 to 9 p.m. Venue is at Meridian International College, 1030 Campus ave., 2F CIP Bldg, Mckinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio. Call 223-6468/ 426-5375. Also 0916-8554303 and ask for Ollie or write me at emailjimp@gmail.com for inquiries.

1 to “Bridging the gap”

  1. There is much here of value. Compassion and love is what we all need more of.



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