Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for June 9th, 2007

Recognizing our original face 1

Posted on June 09, 2007 by jimparedes

Sunday, June 10, 2007

I have a confession to make. As of today, I have something in common with the Viva Hot Babes and about half of the sex sirens in show biz.

I am now wearing implants! Yes, two of them — wonderful round ones, except that they are not on my chest area but on my big brown eyes.

After much hemming and hawing, I finally had my premature cataracts removed by the very gentle and skilled Dr. Benjie Cabrera of the American Eye Center and replaced with artificial ones. The lenses I was born with developed early cataracts and instead of opting to wait till they get ripe before having them removed, according to the old protocol, I opted to have them done now. Why wait till I get old and spend years with bad vision?

Thanks to technology, new things are now possible and the procedure is quite simple and painless. I had one eye done one day and another one on the next day, and I feel like a different person looking at a new world. It’s as if I took off a pair of sunglasses that had made my world progressively darker the past few years. It will take a few days for my vision to stabilize but I am sure it will be an improvement from how I saw everything prior to the operation.

Since yesterday, I’ve been thinking about this procedure of having something I was born with like my optical lenses taken out and replaced with an alien substitute. It used to be the stuff of science fiction — of creating part human-part machine creatures. I have been “upgraded.” Do these implants now qualify me as a cyborg, or part-man, part-technological wonder? Have I turned bionic?

More and more, as technology replaces parts of our bodies and functions — our eyes, our hearing, heart, breasts, kidney, etc. — and alters us with implanted machines and stem cell flesh and blood products, we will be forced to redefine who we really are in the modern world. But before we think that people are pondering this for the first time in human history, think again. Zen philosophers have considered this question for centuries.

“What was your original face before your parents gave birth to you?” an old Zen koan asks.

If you shaved your head, used whitening lotion till you lost your kayumanggi complexion, gained/lost weight, had plastic surgery, or whatever else could be done to alter your appearance, would you still be you? Okay, that’s fairly easy to answer since all of the above are mere cosmetic improvements.

But what if you had a face transplant which, incidentally, is now possible? Or an identity change like what people in witness protection programs go through?

And what if what changed was even deeper? Let’s say you were once a shy person with low self-esteem and, over the years, you did your homework in coming to terms with yourself and did what was necessary to build up your self-esteem and you have now become a confident person. Can you say you are still the same person as before?

Or what if it was the other way around? What if you used to be a loving, happy person, but because of something that befell you, some trauma, for example, you have become a withdrawn, bitter and lonely character? Can you say you have changed?

Who are you, anyway? Are you what you look like? Are you what you own or have acquired? Are you your status? Your wealth? Your reputation or educational attainment? Are you the name that you carry, however nondescript, vile or prestigious it may be? Are you, as people seem to think, your personality? Who is it that possesses the possessive word “your” in the previous sentence?

For many or us, it is our life’s work, or our family, or our beliefs that define us. On many levels and in the gross, functional world we live in, perhaps it may be so. But on a deeper but more perennial level, in the reality where the eternals are the only things that ultimately count, none of the above may be a valid definition of who we are.

We cannot be any of the above — our reputation, wealth, name, achievements, life’s works. Why? Because none of them will last forever. They will, as we all know but tend to forget, eventually fade away.

Everything that is ever born must die. This was one of Shakyamuni Buddha’s big realizations. Even as much as we like to remember the dead who were close to us, we cannot even claim that their loving personalities were who they really were since those characteristics went with them when they died. While they live in our memories, our memories will eventually fade to oblivion as well.

And so we ask the question, “What is real?” The Zen answer is it is that which has no beginning and will have no ending. It is that which was never born and never will die. This is the reality of Spirit, the one that was there as God’s artisan before the universe was born. It is that which bares witness as we live our temporary lives with all their fleeting drama and history.

Granted that everything will eventually die, does that mean we are not real? We are not what we think we are. What we really are is what is real. To know ourselves is to go deep into the very source of seeing the countenance of our original face. And what was our original face before the world shaped our identities, our personalities, status in life, etc.?

Before you dismiss all this as a futile exercise in sophistry, or you may even concede the trueness of it but feel that it really has no practical application in our modern existence, think again.

Delving into what is real and what is not can give us a healthy perspective when dealing with losses and gains, happiness and disappointments, and all the other exigencies that govern our transitory existence. But it will only be of help to us if we constantly open ourselves to the grandeur and majesty of the answers we get when we ask the Zen question above.

We may even discover that from the point of view of the only thing that is real, nothing is ever lost and nothing is really ever gained. In the truest sense, however, and however life treats us, literally, nothing in this world can ever blemish, alter, improve, or diminish the timeless beauty that is our original face.

It is perfect as it is. No implants or upgrades needed ever!

* * *

Come join the 32nd run of my cutting-edge workshop called “Tapping the Creative Universe.” Like hundreds who have taken this effective workshop, you will discover aspects of yourself that will surprise, delight and inspire you to achieve the greatness you were meant to in your life.

Sessions are on June 18 to 21, 23, and 25, 7 to 9 p.m. at 31 M. Jocson St., Loyola Heights, Quezon City. Tuition is P5,000. Call 426-5375 or write to emailjimp@gmail.com for further inquiries or a full syllabus.

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