Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Our Tribes

Posted on October 15, 2006 by jimparedes

While attending an artists’ conference on the environ-ment years ago at Robert Redford’s Sundance complex in Utah, I listened to a reading in translation by a Russian poet (I can’t recall his name now) who read a poem about “identity.” His poem started with a description of how he wakes up every day and puts on his clothes before leaving for work. He then noted how he “took off” his house as if it were a piece of clothing when he went out the door. He then “wore” his car and the streets he was driving on. On top of all that, he “wore” his ethnicity, his accent, his job, name, reputation, social status, citizenship and whatever else he thought he was. I was so moved by the imagery I haven’t forgotten it to this day.

I’ve often thought of what we put on, or “wear” – how we are anchored to many identities that give us a sense of who we are. We have loyalties to institutions, organizations, traditions, etc. We are “members” of races, nationalities, societies, families, schools, sports clubs, churches, guilds, political and civic organizations, barkadas, cliques, and more. We are Noranians, Vilmanians, Kapamilya and Kapuso. We are also lumped together in geographic and statistical groupings that give us other identities. In short, we are tribesmen and tribeswomen in many ways and at many levels.

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We feel secure being part of different tribes. We are comfortable, for example, being Filipino, of Ilocano descent, male, married, of such-and-such a clan, a Catholic, an Atenean, a golfer, a Rotarian, a member of a business club, or Couples for Christ. We are defined by these tribal affiliations and, to keep our membership in good standing, we abide by their rules.

Why do we do this and what do we get out of it? Because by being part of such groups, we get a shared experience of truths and conventions about the mysteries of life. The perks are many – from access to a great golf swing, to getting into a good school and making a lot of money, to acquiring a predefined moral code or access to even bigger privileges like how we “know” God. It is in man’s nature to want to connect and get a sense of belonging and stability, which comprise our comfort zone.

Our membership nurtures us and affirms how we see ourselves and the world. We identify with the values and weltanschauung (world view) of every tribe we are part of. We adhere to the rules and respect the elders of the tribes and in turn we get affirmation that we are “good” people. The interconnecting values, relationships and rituals of all the tribes we belong to give us a sense of our place in the world.

But there are times when the contract goes awry. We may wake up one morning feeling we have outgrown or find wanting some of the belief systems that we have been subscribing to all these years. We are no longer content with truth as interpreted by others. We want to learn things for ourselves. We want a greater experience than what the tribe can offer and see what’s behind the fence instead of just being told by the “authorities” what can be found there. We need to bypass the “middlemen” and have a more direct meeting with the great mysteries.

In olden times, Socrates, Galileo, and even Jesus paid dearly for outgrowing their societies’ beliefs.

But these days, people just drop out of the churches they belong to and opt to be “modern-day mystics without monasteries” as described by Carolyn Myss, the intuitive healer. They cease believing in the ethical or business models they once followed religiously. Everything is being questioned. There is a general feeling abroad that the old paradigms no longer work.

According to Carolyn Myss, people who “unplug” themselves from the traditional paradigm of conventional medicine give permission to their bodies to heal in non-traditional ways and not to follow the conventional timeframe for healing. This explains why, despite their doctors’ dire predictions, some patients heal miraculously. They have allowed a new truth to take over their healing process.

From where I stand, the world as I know it is not the same world I used to believe in 20 years ago. I have had to reassess many of the things I took for granted in matters of politics, morals, religion, and even what reality really is.

In religion, I tend to focus more on the liberating and joyful idea of “original blessing,” a concept introduced by Mathew Fox (a theologian the present pope is not too crazy about) rather than on “original sin.” And I am equally at home with the idea of God as Consciousness, or Spirit, or even Emptiness where everything arises and recedes, as I am with a God possessing the familiar familial traits (Father, Mother, Son) I knew as a young boy.

But two characteristics of God introduced to me as a child still ring true – that God is love and that God is everywhere. Much of my present spiritual practice is based on the belief that God is in everything and there is nothing that is not God. If we only open our eyes and look, it is impossible to miss God. And yes, God often likes to cross-dress as people who are unlovable, unattractive, even despicable and morally challenged. And that is why I try to love everyone, or at least see the Buddha nature or Christ in everyone. It’s not easy. That’s why I need to practice it.

My views about the spiritual may not be politically correct in the eyes of many and I may have started a potentially heated discussion here that I really do not wish to pursue. Let’s just say that, to borrow a quote from a recent guest of Larry King, “I belong to the one true church of which I am the only member.”

It is the smallest tribe that I belong to.

Humming in my UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes
The Philippine STAR 10/15/2006

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0 to “Our Tribes”

  1. DatuPanot says:

    hi jim,

    what embodies our thoughts define us.



  2. Anonymous says:

    “I belong to the one true church of which I am the only member.”

    I do too.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m one of many people who seek the so called “truth” too. But I still end up turning to God, I see Him everywhere. ^_^

  4. Jim says:

    Stiletto goddess–marami pala tayo!

    manic psycho–Exactly!!

    amlap–yes, fortunately, and unfortunately.

  5. Tess Termulo says:

    “I belong to the one true church of which I am the only member.”

    Same here.

    I guess there are plenty of people out there who feels the same.

    I’m in a spiritual chaos right now. But I’m not afraid I might get it wrong, questioning the old beliefs. Even if I’m proven wrong, at least I’ll have every right to say that I gained such knowledge by actively pursuing it, rather than passively taking in whatever is shoved at me.

    There are so many untruths that were taught to me. It’s time to unlearn such untruths.

    But if I’m not worthy of such truths, then, at least, I’ll settle for something closer to it.

  6. cruzercrossfire says:

    “I belong to the one true church of which I am the only member.”

    Who said this on Larry King?

  7. Jim says:

    cruzercrossfire–I can’t recall/

    Tess–spiritual chaos is a good thing. That means a larger, greater God is making herself known.

  8. Anonymous says:

    HI! Jim,
    First of all Merry Christmas to all of you there since my age 15 i always listened your very popular song Title kaibigan minsan i forget nga yong assingment ko sa School makinig lang ng music nyo kahit walang ulan o meron kasi i enjoy hanggang sa ngayon enjoy pa rin ako sana sa PDA hope na always listine to Sir Jim kasi he’s the best Guro in our country.

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