The Philippine Star
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE
April 8, 2007
‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid?’
This was the question asked by Brian Johnson, CEO of zaadz.com, a cutting edge internet site that boldly states its goal ‘to change the world’. This question, which came in an email a few days ago really hit me since I’ve been feeling a bit down lately. I felt really sad leaving my family in Sydney and returning to Manila to prepare for an APO tour in the US and Canada. I fear being physically away from them and the loneliness it brings, and losing touch, missing out and being irrelevant to their lives.
Indeed, what would I do if I had no fear of any kind, like fear of failure, or fear of loss of approval or money, fear of losing a loved one, fear of being embarrassed, judged, condemned, etc. Even just imagining what could happen to us if we could only overcome all these blocks is invigorating to the soul. At this time when I can honestly say that I no longer have as many fears as I used to and that I continue to consciously confront whatever fears remain, the question is still a good one.
There are a lot of things I would like to do but what stops me is the belief that no matter what I do, they will not happen. I must admit that, in a way, this is fear masquerading as cynicism and ‘practicality’. A corollary question is, what would we BE, if we were fearless? Ralph Waldo Emerson knew that to go against one’s fear was the main antidote to fear. He said, ‘Always, always, always, always, always do what you are afraid to do.’
Since Easter is a time of renewal, I have prepared a list of things that I know would liberate me in ways that I would like, if I had the courage to pursue them. Some are important while others are just vanities. I don’t know if they would pass for fearlessness, or just plain hubris or bravado. Call it anything you like. Here’s a list that excites me.
1) Risk big money in a line of business that I am passionate about without paying too much attention to what the almighty market dictates. In other words, to boldly pursue my dreams without worrying about money. For example, I would like to have a music label and record stuff that few would want to touch like jazz, the classics, old Kundimans and Filipino folk songs. I would include all the non-commercial but great compositions that my musician friends play to themselves when they want to be in touch with their own musical integrity.
2) Start a movement in the field of education that would impact on our society the way Gawad Kalinga has. I would like to start a school that would become a template for education with humanist values and a high degree of competence. It will be affordable to poor but deserving kids who otherwise will not be properly educated. The template will aim to produce proud and educated graduates well-versed in Filipino culture and who can express themselves in an intelligent way in both Filipino and English.
3) Own a TV station and create programming that I enjoy. To give you an idea of what I watch on TV, I like BBC, Discovery Channel, intelligent talk shows like Larry King Live and Hard Talk, the History Channel etc. (Ok, so I’m not a fun guy when it comes to TV). It will offer no gossip and will not resort to mediocrity, ridiculousness and toxicity just to earn revenues. TV has been called the third parent, in place of moms and dads who are working or are abroad. When you think about it, it is probably the most influential among all three parents. It is only right that TV rises to the occasion.
4) Take dance lessons. This IS a biggie for me. I would like to overcome the idea ingrained in my brain that I cannot dance. If I can’t dance well, I can at least dance better!
5) Spend on re-recording my music compositions but this time with a full orchestra. Also, continue to write and record new stuff till the day I die.
6) Become a world teacher. I would like to dialogue with the world through my writing, my music and my presence. I would like to give talks, workshops, write books that will appeal to a great number of people all over the world and touch them in ways that will expand their sense of who they are. To put it in lofty terms, I would like to help propel everyone I meet a few rungs higher in the consciousness evolutionary ladder.
7) Call on and talk to the movers and shakers of the world the way U2 singer Bono does. I believe artists have much to say to them about how they can make the lives of people on earth more fulfilling and creative.
8) Run for public office. I have actually attempted this in the past and it remains a truly great fear and challenge. In the mid 90s, I actually ran for Barangay Captain and lost. But I felt no regret about losing since I did not want it that much anyway. But as I approach the last few decades of my life, I want to do something worthwhile. It is counter-productive to just talk about our national problems to death or complain the way we love to do. It may be the last idealistic thing I may ever do—that is, if I can truly muster the decision to do it. Running for public office is a scary and challenging thought and if I ever do, it will be done with a lot of preparation (I will study), deliberateness, thought and purity of intentions.
I have realized that there is nobility in descending from the high horse of vicarious involvement and tackling issues in effective down-to-earth ways that truly liberate people. I would like to affect policies in the field of culture, education and the media to bring our national consciousness into a clearer, higher, more functionally creative level so that we can develop a liberating culture that will actually serve our needs.
9) Leave my family, my work and all my concerns for six months to a year and live as a monk somewhere. There is a side of me that is contemplative and takes seriously the big questions that introspective men have attempted to answer through the ages. These are questions like, who am I? What is my mission in life? What is my true nature? I want to tread fearlessly into the heart of such intriguing questions even if it means entertaining doubts about what I have been taught. In short, I want to meet God without a middleman and get the answers straight from Him.
10) Go sailing for three months by myself. There is something grand but equally dreadful about being alone in the open sea. It will bring me face to face with both fear and courage. I was terribly impressed with this young Aussie boy who at 16 sailed around the world alone for several months. It took every ounce of bravery and strength for him to do this.
11) Have many photo exhibits, including daring ones showing erotic nudes that are beautiful and artistic. I’ve actually had one serious exhibit that I spent for. The fear factor in holding one is not just losing money but also, what if no one comes? Thank God, it was successful both artistically and financially.
12) Do a cage dive with great white sharks. This is in my to-do list together with my dive buddy Redford White.
13) Show unconditional kindness and generosity to the underprivileged by sharing what I own. However, the fear that I will run out of my own resources always comes in and prevents me from doing it.
14) Bet a crazy sum on one roll of the dice at the casino. It would not be about the thrill of gambling and winning but an exercise in non-attachment. The challenge here is mustering the willingness to accept whatever happens. It isn’t too different from the Tibetan practice of making elaborate designs on sand (mandalas) and erasing them after.
Fear is something we will always have, and it is not a hanging offense to recoil when we are faced with it. But I try to live by the title of a book I read a few years ago called ‘Feel the Fear But Do It Anyway’. It’s a great strategy that works. After all, as the New Agers cryptically put it, ‘What we resist persists. But what you look at eventually disappears’.