Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Intimations of mortality

Posted on September 22, 2007 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes
Sunday, September 23, 2007

I’ve been feeling out of sorts lately. The best way I can think of to describe it is this: I feel emptied out. If I were an ocean, the water would have dried out exposing life forms that are twisting and gasping to keep alive. It’s a strange feeling and it is not pleasant or comfortable. And my curious nature, which thankfully has not evaporated along with my feelings, knows that something is definitely up. I have been observing my own life for too long not to suspect that I must be entering a new phase or something.

Getting downed by dengue and being hospitalized not only left me tired and listless but also made me discover new feelings I didn’t know I had about aspects of my life before I got sick. Where before, I had an effortless, light and happy-go-lucky stance, I now feel heaviness. Where before, I felt energetic and positive that I could do almost anything I set out to do, I now sense that there are limits to what is possible. I know it is the state of my physical body that is responsible for this since I still do not feel that I have completely recovered my strength. But I also feel there is more to it than that.

At a certain point in Blacktown Hospital, when I was close to being delirious and I was not making sense to my doctors, and Lydia had to finish my sentences for me because I would lose my train of thought, I found a part of me that remained quite lucid and clear, watching my feverish, pain-wracked body go through the illness. This part of me calmly watched and I remember it thinking that if I was nearing the end of my life, then so be it. Let it be.

It was uncanny. There was a bigger me that had reduced everything physical and empirically real about Jim Paredes into a third person, an “it,” a phenomenon no different from anything else arising in this space and time called life. There was someone else aside from my mind that was witnessing it all and this “witness” was unaffected and calm. I have actually met this “witness” on other occasions and it has always had that ineffable quality. I knew it was there and that it was also me. Could it be that the “witness” part of us could actually be bigger than our so-called lives?

And what constitutes a life anyway? For many, it’s how much knowledge one acquires, or the pursuit of material goods, or the so-called peak experiences that make us feel alive such as travel, romance, sex, adventure, conquest of the unknown, sensual experiences, overcoming danger, the thrill of acquisition, fame, adulation, progeny, or creating monuments and signposts to our own greatness. I have looked at and lived life in these ways many times, and it’s been great!

The pursuit of all of the above makes sense while I am indulging in them. And while I am alive, they will probably continue to do so.

And yet, when I find myself face to face with mortality, all of a sudden, all of these wonderful life pursuits lose their charm. Life is without color or vitality. In a flash, the amazing human body, the charming personality or the talented instrument that made all of the above possible, delightful and attractive is rendered powerless and pitiful. In my case, I was reduced by a mosquito bite to someone incoherent, pitiful and helpless. I could not even perform the elementary task of explaining to my doctors how I was feeling.

In the logic of the world, the state of sickness and death is meaningless and tragic. But in the eyes of the “witness” who is watching all this, what is happening is simply what is happening. And I am not being redundant here. The witness neither judges nor condemns but simply watches as it has always done.

Which brings me back to what I am feeling right now, this emptiness, this drying up of the ocean that is my life. With the water drained out, what was hidden to me is now exposed. On the dry bed, I see a mishmash of things that I have not given the importance or appreciation that I should have, and things I have wasted my time and resources on. The water, synonymous to unconscious denial, missed opportunities and unheeded callings, had covered everything and gave the impression of a placid peacefulness and balance, which was actually not there.

One of these “denials” and unheeded callings is my relationship with the people I love. The whole dengue episode has made me appreciate Lydia and my family and friends so much more. They are eternal companions in this life journey, and yet I have not been a good fellow traveler who paid attention to their needs and their company as much as I should have. I realize now how much more present I should be to them.

I thought I already knew what love meant and that I was capable of giving it in great big doses, until I was showered with so much more of the real stuff in my time of need. I saw a selflessness coupled with a cheerful willingness to help that really touched me to the core. And for that I am not just grateful but regretful that my capacity to reciprocate may not be as great.

I also discovered that there is so much more of what one can and one needs to do in the limited space of a lifetime. I feel like I should, on a daily basis, make at least one contribution to this world that will cause it to be more expanded, creative and compassionate.

Every day can be purposeful — and liberating. Our encounters with others, casual or otherwise, can make someone’s day. We can improve the way we use our time by doing something meaningful like creating love and giving it away, instead of just sitting in front of the TV and being mindlessly engaged, or flitting from one “kick” to another as if that is what life is all about.

In the coming days, the ocean that is my life will fill up again and I will feel more energetic and actively get into the thick of things once more. But this downtime is something I will make use of.

I remember talking to a psychologist many years ago who asked me what question I thought God would ask when I met Him face to face. I was dumbfounded. All I could think of was how much I had achieved in this world and I was trying in my mind to connect it to the parable of the seeds and talents. Seeing the confusion in my face, she smiled and calmly raised the possibility that all God might ask is, “Did you love?”

I have never forgotten that.

* * *

I am announcing the 36th run of my Tapping the Creative Universe Workshop. It is where participants uncover, face and overcome the issues that block their productivity, creativity and joy.

The sessions will be from October 1-5, and conclude on Oct. 8. The workshop is from 7 to 9 p.m. at 31 M. Jocson St. Loyola Heights, Quezon City. Cost of the workshop is P5,000.

For reservations, call 426-5375 or 0916-8554303 and ask for Ollie, or write to emailjimp@gmail.com for inquiries and a syllabus. For those who inquired before and who have been waiting for the right moment: Don’t miss it this time!

* * *

22 to “Intimations of mortality”

  1. Craig Peihopa says:

    Dear Jim,

    My thoughts and prayers are with you, and for you presently. It is true, when you say “Our encounters with others, casual or otherwise, can make someone’s day”, you always manage to make mine. I am proud of you Jim. I am proud that when all is stripped away you realise that whilst you may feel a little empty, you are not. I know you know that you are loved, and you are. Some people feel that without the trappings we amass and find some degree of joy in, we are nothing. The objects as you know are in fact meaningless and empty when we are faced with life altering moments.

    I understand the ebb and flow of giving, and recognise the times when we seem to give more than we receive, it is just at these moments when we need to renew within ourselves the feelings of peace and serenity. A lady once said to me that God often comes to a quiet mind.

    I loved the question you were asked, I am fond of asking people, if you could have one wish what would it be? I am often bored and disinterested with almost 80% of the answers that always say more money, but once someone lifted me and said “5 minutes with God.” To which the follow up question from me was, “what would you do in those 5 minutes?” She responded simply; I would ask God what HE thinks I could become!!!! I was moved at such a simple but very insightful question. I dwelled on this for many years. It is true we have feelings about what we could be, what we want, but I suspect there will come a time when we will meet our maker and he will ask us for an accounting of our lives, and I further think that we will be awe struck and humbled at the potential HE believed we had and the genesis of what latently lay within us all the time. If only we could recognise that and embrace the feelings of possibility and deity within us now!

    Take Care my friend, God bless

  2. Alikabok says:

    idol pagaling ka, inspirasyon ka ng maraming pinoy!

  3. Jim says:

    craig–your comments always leave me with insights to ponder on. Thanks.

    alikabok–salamat

  4. HAL05 says:

    Jim,

    I know how you feel. Most of the time whenever I’d get sick, the paranoia immediately sets in.

    A simple flu would make me realize my mortality.

    I find sickness as a very humbling experience and most of the time this occurs when I feel invincible and at my peak. It’s like God says “Hey, not so fast…!” With this I tend be aware of the presence and importance of people I normally ignore or deprioritize on a daily basis.

    Don’t worry you’ll get well soon.

    Bythe way, despite you being weak, you still write well : )

  5. Ducks says:

    Mr. Jim —

    Coincidentally, my sister also got sick due to dengue virus. Boy, I was scared to death. I have the biggest phobia of this dreaded virus, because I have lost a friend before because of it. I was like thinking of our lives together when we were still younger (she’s 21 and single and I am 28, married) and all the moments when all of us siblings would play, and sing, and daydream together for all we care with our loving and beaming parents closely observing us from a safe distance. Then, an unbearable sadness enveloped me when I thought of the missed chances and opportunities where I could have shown her my love, my concern as her big brother especially these days where she lives only with her officemates in Manila (I am currently finishing an employment contract here in Naga City). When I accompanied my mother to the bus terminal as she hastily left for Manila to be with my sister (that time it was only my brother and my auntie who were taking care of my sister in the hospital), I phoned my brother and asked him to give the phone to my sister. When my mother had the chance to talk to her, she cried while asking my sister how she was doing that time. I was filled with a powerful mix of emotions of guilt, pity, and love for my mother, and in the process, for my father, my siblings, my wife, all those I cherish the most who, in my delirious pursuits of the “good things in life” as I know it, have been oftentimes taken for granted. Like you Jim, I “have not been a good fellow traveler who paid attention to their needs and their company as much as I should have” despite their unconditional love for me. One thing I realized about the experience was that I do not have to be the one to be sick or endangered to come face to face with mortality and realize what really matters in life. I realized no matter the distance, the miles that we have already traveled, and all other things that separate or have separated us with our loved ones, we are inevitably connected as our lives, our hearts, and our souls are – forever. Thanks God she is already fine and on the road to recovery. It just amazes me how God teaches us about things. I remember the movie “Evan Almighty”, the lady protagonist came face to face with God who then was ‘disguised’ as a waiter in a restaurant. She was mulling over what has been happening to her family and the quagmire that her family found themselves in. To which God commented: “Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?”

    Thank you and be well my friend.

    In your honest disclosure of your own “emptiness”, I know you have filled in so many empty hearts as well with your wisdom, profoundness, and subsequent realizations.

    God bless.

  6. rowena says:

    Hi Mr. Paredes, glad to know you’ve overcome dengue with the Lord’s grace…Like you, when I have migraine attacks, I thought I’m a goner. I would tell my kids to take care of each other then I’ll pray the rosary and recite the act of contrition. I am not afraid of the terrible headaches but am scared to go knowing am not ready to face my Creator. Be well Sir Jim.

  7. Saedel says:

    Sir Jim,

    Get well soon, Sir. My sister also suffered from dengue and survived so I understand how you feel.

    I’m a fan of APO, that’s why I’m happy I found your site and able to communicate with you online.

    Thanks for sharing your insights! The Jim Paredes tattooed in my mind is a singer, that’s why it’s refreshing to read your personal side. I must say you talk (or write) like priest, and it’s a compliment.

    *bookmarks this page*

    Saedel
    http://www.planetsaedel.com
    The beginner’s guide to practical things and more

  8. angel says:

    hi to everyone…

    i have this theory that i would like to share. my theory is that we all feel that we are going to live forever. i mean we KNOW that it’s not really true, but somehow we tend to forget that. until something hits us smack in the head. like tito jim’s dengue, or in my case, the death of my father some years ago. actually that was what made me fully realize and accept that death is a reality.

    so after that unfortunate event, i have somehow renewed myself. i became more forgiving, became more expressive of my feelings. i used to hold them back, for some silly reasons even i couldn’t understand. i also use my time as productively as i can.

    now i’m just glad i have awaken from my deep slumber. i am given a chance to make things right, and i decided not to waste it.

    God bless to you all.=)

  9. Cristina says:

    Hi, Jim! I thank God you are being healed :) Have you read The Secret already, by Rhonda Byrne? There is also a DVD. If you haven’t already gotten your hands on it, I highly recommend it. These are things you already know but it has been so simply put and very well presented that it immediately brings you back to a powerful state of remembrance. It has re-energized and empowered me when I experienced a similar spiritual drought. Oh, and Neale Donald Walsch played a role there, too :)

  10. Anonymous says:

    dear jim,

    the feeling you’ve described of like being an ocean emptied of its water…i have been having these feelings lately. but on my part i think it’s because i have suddenly realized that i am getting old. thoughts of death, life after death come to mind.

    i will have to seriously think about these things one of these days. but in the meantime i just bask in the little joys of life like…talking and playing with my grandchildren…and the big joys like watching the apo hiking society in concert. you really made a lot of cebuanos happy that friday. and i am sure it filled your ocean with more water

    and so would have mine if only my wife were here to watch that concert. she simply adores you guys. but she’s still in sydney doing the usual apostolic work.

    raul

  11. Ducks says:

    Hi Cristina, I hope you do not mind that I reply on your comment. But I just want to support your take on The Secret. I was really blown away by it. I even got a copy of its audio version, and try to listen to it as often as possible. Looking back, I can even attest that its principles have already worked for me in the past. Now, really excited to maximize its potentials in my life in the future.

  12. Jim says:

    hal05–yes, I was humbled by a simple dengue fly. Amazing. But it’s good to get into this mode sometimes.

    ducks–I was touched by your story. That’s exactly how I felt about people close to me. And thanks for sharing the quote from Almighty Ethan.

    rowena, saedel–thanks for your concern

    angel–the irony of life is that only the specter of death will make us truly alive.

    raul–yes, you cebuanos filled up my ocean. Am glad you enjoyed that. I was not feeling well before I cam out but the warmth of the reception buoyed up my spirit. Boboy annd I were both sick that day but thanks to you guys, it was a magical night.

    I do the same–take pics and enjoy my grandchildren. We will all die, but that’s in the future. Meanwhile, the presnt is the only real thing.

    cristina, duks–yes. I’ve readit and seen the DVD. I do believe in the theory of attraction.

  13. Regina J. says:

    Dear Jim:

    Heal you body first then your love for others.

    As we age and nearing our dear maker, we tend to get paranoid about life. I guess that’s normal. I’m 54 and a simple aches and pains, I jokingly tell my husband, “Malapit na! macocollect mo na ang insurance” then we laughed…

    Take good care of yourself…nobody knows what you feel inside. Our love ones only go by what they hear and see from us. Drink a lot of fluid so you don’t get dehydrated…

    Be safe and well,
    Regina

  14. atoy says:

    my second child died of dengue fever back in 1997. mas magaan sana sa aming kalooban kung alam naming nagawa ng doktor at hospital na pinagdalahan namin ang mga tamang paraan pero marami silang kapalpakan.dinala namin yong kid ko ng wala pang fever sira lang ang kanyang tiyan. doon na nilagnat at wala pang isang linggo wala na siya. it was one of the reason why we decided to migrate here in new zealand.
    everytime my 2 other kids have fever halos mapraning na kami sa pag-aalala dahil na trauma na kami.
    its alarming na lalo pang tumataas ang nadedengue sa atin at maging sa mga kalapit na bansa at mukhang nagiging all year round na. may nagsasabi pa na maging ang mga bansang dati ay walang problema
    sa mga sakit na dala ng mga lamok tulad ng dengue at malaria ay maaring magkamayroon na rin dahil sa patuloy na paginit ng ating panahon.

  15. Jim says:

    atoy–so sorry to hear about the death of your child. I’m not too sure how I could personally handle something like that. Lumalala talaga ang dengue–Singapore has it also, and other Asean countries. Sa Wester Aus, meron actually. Global warming will probably make it worse. kamusta ang buhay diyan sa NZ?

  16. Saedel says:

    Sir Jim,

    Sorry for this offtopic comment: I wanted to browse back to older posts but it seems like the Archives link doesn’t work… Is there a permalink to your past entries?

    Thanks,
    Saedel

  17. Anonymous says:

    Dear Sir Jim,

    Life is always a struggle from both extremities E.g. good vs. evil, peace vs. war, abundance vs. hunger. I just want you to know that I do have similar experiences with being on the lowest of the low…spiritual discords. Last week, I was surfing through the channels and saw Dr. Wayne W. Dyer at a PBS special. He has a new book “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life, Living the Wisdom of the Tao.” One statement stuck with me when he said that “always stay true to your own nature” because we came from nowhere, we are now here and we then still return to nowhere. In this world, we are constantly attached to things, emotions, feelings, possessions, etc. Dr. Dyer mentioned” Letting go of our attachments especially our negative emotions and experiences and stay true to our nature.” This is all I can say to you, Sir Jim. I hope I did provide some form of clarity and consolation to your state right now.

    P.S. Forgetfulness of self is remembrance of God.

    Hanggang sa muli,

    Bass Poet

  18. Anonymous says:

    dear sir jim,

    i just got home from the hospital from my own dengue episode…

    i do hope we recover from this mosquito bite soon…

    i do not get sick very often, so what just happened the past week were all foreign and new to me…

    the feeling of helplessness together with the awareness of one’s mortality confused me…
    reading your article, is like putting my thoughts into words (way better than i can)..

    all of a sudden i have this overwhelming appreciation for everything and everyone around me, yet i also feel inadequate…like i should be doing something more relevant to help those in need..
    so much to do, so little time..

    i am only 24, i have a lot to offer life… but i simply do not know where to start…

    whenever i hear your apo song ‘batang bata’ – makes me want to go back to simpler childhood days…

    we will be well sir jim. in body & spirit…

    best regards,
    sumeirasan

  19. Jim says:

    saedel==ayos na.

    sumereisan–yes, we will survive!!!
    Bass poet–I love wayne Dryer too.

  20. atoy says:

    manong jim,
    tahimik, layback plus postercard na views at sariwang hangin dito nz. kung sanay sa city living mamatay dito sa bagot at pagkainip. pero kung nature lover ka at nais mo ng solitude this is an ideal place to be.
    sana someday mapasyal ka at ang yong pamilya dito sa south island ng nz particularly queenstown at neighboring areas. may direct na 3.5 hours international flight from sydney to queenstown.
    i am praying and hoping for your immediate and full recovery and please keep on blogging kasi “liwanag kang tumatanglaw sa mga taong naglalayag sa maalong karagatan ng buhay.” maraming salamat!

  21. Anonymous says:

    Jim,

    I just wanted to say I read your blog regularly and it’s in my favorite center. I’m happy to find someone as confused about life as I am.

  22. BabyPink says:

    assalaamu alaikum, sir jim!:)

    i don’t know, but reading this entry made me think about my own life. and, in some way, i feel like i can relate to it. i don’t exactly feel empty, but i feel like there’s something amiss.

    i’m glad to know that you’re okay, i mean, after the dengue and all.

    ingat po.:)



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