Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Archive for April, 2008


Announcing the TCU Website! 0

Posted on April 28, 2008 by jimparedes

Am off to the airport in an hour and a half for my trip to Manila. I have a few shows, a workshop, a few photo shoots and lots of writing and thinking to do when I get there. I am quite sad to leave Lydia, Ala and Mio here in Sydney. The weather is turning to winter and I am enjoying the onset of the cold. I never thought I could ever get to like it but strangely, I do.

This will be a short entry. I just wanted to announce that Tapping the Creative Universe Workshop now has an official website, thanks to Jaime Peret of Sydney who attended my last run here. He so kindly put it up for me. Daghang salamat, tocayo!

Anyone who wishes to know information on what actually happens in these workshops can just go here  and get all the info there. It is a site in progress and we appreciate all feedback. Visit the News, FAQ and the Syllabus for all the info you need.

More stories when I get back.

Yes, we can wow the world 14

Posted on April 26, 2008 by jimparedes


HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes
Sunday, April 27, 2008

Consider that almost nine million Filipinos are now living abroad in practically every continent, in every region under every climate known to man, and under different types of political systems. Filipinos have invested their lives, established residence, intermarried with locals, begotten children, put up businesses and built futures in different countries and cultures all over the world. And more will be doing so.

There are more Filipinos living outside the Philippines than all of the people in New Zealand. The number of overseas Filipinos equals half of Australia’s population. It is not hard to imagine that our recent history of massive diaspora should have made some kind of impact on the different cultures of the world.

The Chinese, for example, have made their presence felt in many countries not only through its citizens, but through Chinese restaurants, temples, religion, culture and the numerous Chinatowns that can be found in most great cities. The Indians, on the other hand, have spread their arts, places of worship, food and Bollywood movies which have become recognized, enjoyed and admired everywhere.

But what do we Filipinos have to show for ourselves?

While it seems we may have settled outside our homeland in quieter ways than the Chinese, Indians, Americans and Brits, I am sure that we are also somehow impacting on the world.

Take the world maritime industry. The best, most plentiful and in-demand seamen in the world are our kababayan. Through the years, we have built our reputation in this field, and the world has recognized our competence. Also, consider that during the 1950s and 1960s, many Singaporeans, Malaysians, Indonesians and Iranians were studying architecture, engineering and other professional courses in Manila. It is also a little known secret that the banking industry in Indonesia was professionalized by Filipino expats during the ‘70s.  One only needs to go to these countries to see how well they have learned their lessons. In fact, they learned it so well they have outpaced us in many ways.

In many parts in Asia, the best musicians are Filipinos. Take a look at the nightspots and symphony orchestras in our neighboring countries and you’ll find our kababayan ranked among the best.

In world events, it is hard to imagine that despite our severely flawed politics, our people power experience in 1986 became the template for countries like East Germany, Romania, Ukraine, etc. that moved out of dictatorship into democracy.

But one really has to wonder why it is that despite our numerical presence in many countries, our influence is not as overt as that of other nationalities. There is a dearth of things Filipino anywhere outside the Philippines, such as clear cultural influences, save for a few restaurants, and the crowds of kababayan who get together on Sundays in places where there are Filipino Masses, and Statue Square in Hong Kong that make our presence noticeable.

I venture to say that we have not contributed to the world the stuff that speaks of who we really are. Sure, we have shared our brawn, brains and technology, but we have not given of ourselves except what we have learned from other cultures. We pride ourselves in speaking English well. We have sent our teachers, doctors, nurses, our best and brightest, to other countries and they have done us proud with the universally applicable knowledge they have mastered.

In effect, we have adapted well and blended with different cultures. But we have not, in any big, concerted way like other peoples have done, shared our own original music, cuisine, books and ideas, movies, dances, and our stories for them world to assimilate, enjoy and learn from. When we think of Japan, China, Africa and America, for example, we are bombarded with visual themes that speak of what their people and culture are like. But rarely has the world seen the true face of the Filipino.

When we migrate to any place, we like to blend in quietly, to fit in without fuss and to be “one of them.” That’s not bad in itself. In fact, one can say this formula has worked for us most of the time.

But if we want to move out of the limited image the world has of us, including the derogatory ones like “mail-order brides,” domestic helpers, “Japayuki,” corrupt people, dog-eaters, the “sick man of Asia” and other unsavory epithets, we may have to speak louder and tell our stories with our own voice and walk with a little more swagger and assertiveness.

After all, we do have movies that have won in film festivals all over the world. We do have first-class performers, sportsmen and talents in every field. If we were computers, the Filipino as “hardware” is certainly more than capable. It is our software (culture) that we need to tweak and make available for free download for the world to appreciate.

By “software,” I mean all the good things our culture can offer to the world. All we need is to look at what are  good about us and present these in a bigger way than we normally do. Years ago, the King of Thailand decided to open the palace kitchen and share the official royal recipes with his people, thus setting the national standard that has made Thai cuisine impact on the world in a big way. 

Some of the things Filipino we have wowed the world with tell a lot about who we are as a people — our folk dances through the Bayanihan Dance Company, people power, OPM, the countless choirs that win contests every year in Europe, our cuisine, our hospitality.

But before we can share more of these and become a major cultural force in the world, there is something that we must do: we have to believe in ourselves. We must believe that we have something to share, as other cultures have. We can’t show our stuff to the world if we have not learned to take pride in ourselves.

For starters, we have to be more accepting of who we are as we are. We need not seek approval from others. We must stop bad-mouthing ourselves and our culture, and accept that there is greatness in us. No more bashing ourselves and doubting our capabilities. Let’s start dreaming big. We CAN do it.

Nine million Filipinos abroad have shown their resilience, persistence and determination competing in the even playing fields of the world, and many have won! We just have to apply the same winning attitude in asserting ourselves and showing the world our uniqueness. It’s time to give our bigger contribution to the world which may turn out to be more valuable than our skills and talents, and this our Filipino-ness.

Nick Joaquin liked to chide us Pinoys for our preference for and obsession with small things. An example is we cut our provinces and cities into smaller parts each time they become economically successful. It’s time to think in global terms.

As much as we have been looking outward, let us also look inward and rediscover our literature, music, arts, theater, cuisine, stories, and proudly share these with the rest of the world. We’ve been trying to fit into other cultures for too long. Let us now invite those cultures to our celebration of ourselves.

When we start taking ourselves more seriously, the world will take notice.

* * *

Do you find yourself stuck in between careers, dreams, loves, and can’t even seem to identify the source of the gridlock in your life?  Have you lost the zest for living? Do you feel your life trapped in a routine? Do you suspect you may be mid-lifing?  If you want to know what you can do to get back into “real living,” join the workshop “Tapping the Creative Universe,” the cutting-edge experience that will unblock you and jolt you back to living again, now on its 40th run. This is a potent, live and dangerous workshop that will lead to self-discovery you never thought possible.

The next TCU Workshop will be held on May 12-16, and May 19, 7 to 9 p.m., at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The total session cost is P5,000.

Call 426-5375 or +63916-8554303 for a syllabus or any other queries.

 

If you ran this country… 23

Posted on April 19, 2008 by jimparedes

By Jim Paredes
Sunday, April 20, 2008

I was watching  a video of Al Gore at www.ted.com where he posed a really intriguing question. He asked his audience, “What would you set out to do if the whole world depended on you?’  The question got me fired up and I’m sure my Ateneo upbringing and being my parents’ son had a lot to do with it.  I often ask myself similar questions, especially when I read about the big issues like global warming, world hunger and war. Some people might say I have a messianic complex. But I say it’s a refusal to surrender to such difficult realities.

If last week I was light and flippant in suggesting solutions to national problems, today I will be more serious. But unlike Al Gore, I will peer through a smaller telescope and instead of the global arena, I will focus on a tinier and not necessarily more manageable geographic area — the Philippines. Thus, I will ask and answer the question “If you ran the Philippines and could change anything, what would you change?”

I know there are a million things that are begging to be fixed in our country but for this article I will focus on just a few. I am not a lawyer and so I will not worry about the legal implications of what I intend to do if given the chance. Nor will I flesh them out since I do not have the space to do it. This is simply the idealist in me talking, who, despite all the disappointments, still refuses to give up.

I am not running for office but will support anyone of like mind who will. This is incomplete but it is already  mean list as it is.

Here goes:

1. End all pork in Congress. I suspect that without the pork perks more than three-fourths of the people sitting in Congress now would not care to be there. In a setup without all that unaccounted money flowing, Congress will most likely attract a different set of people who may actually have the people’s welfare in mind and will hopefully do some serious legislating at far less cost.

2. Totally de-politicize the bureaucracy. In other words, absolutely no appointees, interference, intervention and undue influence should sway government workers in the way they execute their jobs. This way, policemen and military personnel will not be forced to pick up people illegally on orders of some higher-ups, or participate in stealing the elections. An honest guy in government will not be forced to play ball to save his job when he reports on corrupt practices.

3. Install an electoral system that is fair, credible and actually counts the votes. No ifs and buts about it. Election results should not take more than 24 hours to report to the electorate. A whole plethora of reforms should be put in place, including mechanisms for the less-moneyed but qualified candidates to actually be able to run and win. And yes, anyone running for national office MUST be at least a college graduate. There should also be strict rules in curbing election expenses by political parties, including proper accountability on where campaign funds come from.

4. I would impose a national ID system to simplify all transactions, as it is done in many democratic countries. In Australia, every ID is given an equivalent number of points. To rent a house, for example, one needs a 100-point ID. That means a driver’s license and a passport. Activities can be accounted for and everyone is identifiable.

5. Put in place a justice system that is swift, fair and relentlessly carried out until justice is served. People should fear the law. This should include no pardons without serving a minimum of four years, and if pardoned, a convict must make a public apology and show true remorse.

Added to this, I would like to borrow a concept from some European countries that implement proportionate fining. The idea is that all fines and financial penalties should be based on an individual’s capacity to pay in order to make them true deterrents. The poor and the rich violators should both suffer proportionately for breaking the law.

6. Ban all signage that identifies politicians and officials as the source of public works or infrastructure. Politicians should simply do their jobs. Too much money has been spent on self-promotion.

7. End all political dynasties. A public trust is not an inheritance to be passed on to family members. We have to get out of a feudal mindset and into a democratic one. There are many other talented Filipinos that should be given the chance to serve.

8. Accelerate the devolution of power from Manila to the rest of the country.  The planning and progress of local government units should not be dependent on Manila and the president for things to get moving.

9. Offer an aggressive and choice-based family planning program.  This should lower our population growth to half within five years. Abortion should still be illegal.

10. Modernize the economy, commerce, agriculture and lift curbs to economic growth. Cut down bureaucratic red tape to two or three signatures. Simplify and systematize all revenue collection efforts and faithfully execute these. Promote the culture of growth to create employment, competitiveness, productivity and the creation of wealth and value in all endeavors.

11. Revolutionize the educational system so all Filipino children finish high school. A private sector-led corresponding movement in education in the mold of Gawad Kalinga should be initiated to tie up with government efforts. This should include modular curricula that are highly functional and easily transmittable even in the barest of classroom settings. There must be more emphasis on quality and trades training leading to employment.

12. Lead a cultural revolution that will encourage the serious and enthusiastic appreciation of both our traditional and contemporary culture and all types of art forms. Every Filipino should be knowledgeable, proud and have an emotional connection to his past and how it connects to his present. A vibrant culture makes a people secure in their identity and allows them to dream of a future that will take them to a greater plane than where they are now.

This will also mean harnessing media for real nation-building. At present, the media are too entertainment-oriented and exploitative and do not transmit the values that even their owners and operators would wish to transmit to their own children.  Too much airtime is wasted on gossip and trivia. We must look at the BBC in Britain and SBS TV in Australia as models of television that can deliver riveting documentaries and great entertainment that do not demean the public or foster a mendicant sensibility in their audiences.

13. Aggressively protect and nurture the environment. Our biodiversity is the envy of the world and we should be protecting this national treasure. We should also bite the bullet now with regard to pollution because the longer we wait, the more expensive it gets. I also believe that we can re-allocate a lot of our land resources for greater food security.

As I gaze at the presidentiables who are hogging the  media these days, I am more than ever concerned about what is in store for us. None of them seems to be bold enough to deliver the grim message of real change and reforms that will demand sacrifice from everyone before things get better. I believe our next leaders should not be just the usual successful operators from within the system but the discontented outsiders who harbor enough disdain for the system itself to want to change it. And I am confident that our society will produce the leader we will need.

Lastly, I wish for leaders who are in a hurry and who look at the opportunity of public service as their one great shot at saving this country, even at the risk of their own lives and treasure, leaders who will act as if the salvation of the Philippines depended on them — entirely.

* * *

“Tapping the Creative Universe,” the cutting-edge experience that will unblock you and jolt you back to living again, is on its 40th run. This is a potent, live and dangerous workshop that will lead to self-discovery you never thought possible.

The next TCU Workshop will be held on May 12 to16, and May 19, 7 to 9 p.m., at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The total session cost is P5,000.

Write me at emailjimp@gmail.com for a syllabus or call 426-5375 or +63916-8554303 for any other queries.

Rice rise, cut dreads, writing, sartorial stuff, etc. 7

Posted on April 16, 2008 by jimparedes
Apr 15, ’08 10:29 AM
for everyone

Got a shock today when I went to the Filipino store near my house called Masagana at Glenwood NSW to buy a 30 kilo sack of rice. Since last week, the price had increased by 8 dollars. Whaaaat the…? I was able to get the rice for 38 AUD since I am a suki. The woman in the store said that rice is going as as high as 42 AUD in Blacktown these days. My God, I thought Australia was inured from the rice crisis. I guess it’s really a world-wide shortage.

Prices here,as in everywhere else are going up too, although much slower than in places like the Philippines. It’s scary when you think that food riots kicked out the Prime Minister of Haiti, and people in other countries are gearing up for riots and discontent too. The idea alone of food riots sounds so quaint. It suggests a time dating back to Marie Antoinette. And yet it is happening in some places again.

A lot of the increase in the price of rice it seems is caused by all these ricelands everywhere being converted to bio-fuels. It’s a crazy world when you think that we are giving up food so we can use ethanol in our cars. That’s why I am not such a great believer in the ‘free market’. Capitalism, while it has its virtues must be consciously directed to benefit everyone. The Right now, the poor are the ones who will suffer the most in this globalized set-up.

In many ways, I get the feeling that fewer and fewer social systems in the world are working well. Perhaps we are in the cusp of a new age where things will have to change dramatically. We have to stop thinking of ourselves as solely being citizens of countries and begin to think of everyone as world citizens who must be clothed, fed, educated, house, and given employment, etc.

* * *
My son Mio came home the other day and asked his mother to cut his long dreadlocks! All I could say was, ‘finally!’ But I guess I spoke too soon. It seems he just cut it a little shorter.

He’s always wanted dreads so badly. He’s had it for about 4 months now but I think he’s finally getting tired of it. Will post a picture when his shorter hair looks more settled!

* * *


Been doing a lot of writing lately. Aside from this blog and my Humming In My Universe column for Philippine Star, and my Travel and Leisure column in Hills News in Sydney, I keep a regular blog going at kamusta.com. It’s a kick-ass site for everything OFW. There are blogs, downloads, forums, free advice on family matters, money, adjusting to one’s new place, etc. and many more. It’s still new but we hope to make it grow really big soon. Do visit.

* * *

The cold is beginning to set in here in Sydney. While officially it is still fall, I am finding myself in a sweater almost all day and heating the electric blanket before I sleep. It is still pleasant now but I am glad I will be back in hot and humid Manila when winter sets in. And from all indications, it will look like an early winter!

When I moved in here, I discovered that one must have wardrobes for almost every season. That’s quite a revelation for a tshirt and jeans guy like myself. People who live under 4 seasons have a more exciting sartorial experience since they get to wear different sets of clothes at different times of the year. In Manila, it’s basically hot or cool, or rainy and dry, and there’a hardly any change in what you wear either way save for a raincoat or an umbrella.

My daughter Ala has boots, and winter stuff which she always looks good in. I’m glad I bought a nice and warm winter jacket in Greenhills before I came here, although it’s still quite early for it. It will be just right for wearing by around mid-June.

* * *

I heard the sad news that a friend of mine Alex Ty, 47, died last Sunday night of kidney cancer. Although I knew he was sick and was purposely not returning calls or texts weeks before he died, it still came as a shock to me. That night, I prayed for him before I slept and still do at different times of the day.

Alex, I am sad that you have left us and i am sure your family is even sadder. I am in Sydney now and will not be able o attend your wake. I know that you are free from pain now and secure in God’s loving arms. Farewell bro! See you again someday.

* * *

Lastly,

Doing an excercise!

Tapping the Creative Universe, the cutting-edge experience that will unblock you and jolt you back to living again, is on its 40th run. This is a potent, live and dangerous workshop that will lead to self-discovery you never thought possible.

The next TCU Workshop will be held on May 12-16, and May 19, 7 to 9 p.m., at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The total session cost is P5,000.

* * *

Write me at emailjimp@gmail.com for a syllabus or call 426-5375 or +63916-8554303 for any other queries!

Beer-inspired solutions to our national problems 6

Posted on April 12, 2008 by jimparedes

Beer-inspired solutions to national problems
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes
Sunday, April 13, 2008

A  musician friend who also happens to dabble in philosophy and politics likes to point out that the two arenas of concern that have killed more people in the history of the world are politics and religion. Which is why he steers clear of such topics.  Many would say he is a truly wise man.

Unfortunately, I am not so wise. I almost always have strong feelings about these two topics and catch myself often drawn into an argument. But while admitting my lack of wisdom, I give credit to myself that I can be quite irreverent about this dynamic duo of topics. In fact, in this article I would like to tackle both of these contentious issues with glee and wicked abandon.

But since I am aware that many of my readers do take these two topics quite seriously (some may even be willing to kill, die, lie, pillage and burn for them), I am announcing here and now that my take on politics and religion is meant to be light, (as in light beer, no hard-hitting lambanogs or Jack Daniels to bring anyone to the brink of insanity and hot-headedness).

My favorite Jesuit told me once when we were talking about religion that, ‘Religion is like salt. You have to take it in moderation.’ So take that as a caveat and apply it also to politics as you continue reading.

If you are not of any religious persuasion or bent, then take a modified advice from No-talk-Neri and simply ‘moderate your reactions’ to my humble suggestions on how to solve our national problems with the least pain and effort.

1. On the Spratly issue.

OK, here’s the situation. There’s China, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines all claiming rights to the sprinkle of islets called the Spratlys. GMA’s solution of ‘sharing’ them with China and commercially exploiting them is such a no-balls solution. Besides, China could easily eat us up.  Considering that the Spratlys are a stone’s throw from Palawan, I can’t imagine how all these other countries can have a claim to them and we just stand idly by.

My suggestion is, we can ‘annex’ the Spratlys by reclaiming the sea that separates Palawan from it. What I mean is, turn  the whole ocean into reclaimed land! We could get Henry Sy who successfully built the Mall of Asia on what was once water, or better yet, Imelda Marcos, to head the project of frenziedly and hurriedly covering all that water with soil in record time like she did on Manila Bay to build the Cultural Center, Folk Arts Theater and the Film Center decades ago. Better yet, throw in the Ayalas, FF Cruz and all the big builders and make it a national project to insure its speedy execution.

If we are successful, before our neighbor-claimants know it, there will be no more Spratlys to be seen or fight over! They can look at the satellite map, turn it upside down and inside out and find nothing.

The Chinese should be particularly happy because now they can gaze at Taiwan and pretend it was the Spratlys all along.

2. ON GMA and 2010.

With GMA repeatedly giving the assurance that she will step down in 2010, many people I know are beginning to get the nagging feeling that, going by how she has changed her mind about running in the past, she may indeed have plans to stay beyond 2010.

But, pray tell, how can she do so knowing fully well that a) the Constitution won’t allow her to, and b) charter change seems impossible given the mood of the people. Of course, she could do what the Dick Marcos did and proclaim martial law. But that would open up for her a host of other problems that will put her economic legacy in jeopardy.

If I were her adviser, I would suggest something so brazen and diabolical that her critics won’t know how to react for days, weeks, months, or even centuries after. I would suggest she issue an Executive Order putting an end to the use of the Roman Calendar and simply switch to the Muslim calendar. In a snap, we would be living not in the month of April 2008, but in the month of Rabu-ul-Awal and year 1429 (as I am writing this now!). Immediately, Gloria would have another 649 years before 2010!! She would be the longest reigning leader perhaps even in world history. Remember that gnomes and dwarfs are known to live for eons.

Almost immediately, the Philippines will see oil money coming in as a goodwill gesture from oil-rich Muslim countries, thus ensuring her economic legacy.

3. On complying with the Church’s stand while controlling population growth

The very high population growth we are experiencing is a problem for every economist whose dream is for the Philippines to be able to progress enough to get our people out of poverty. How can productivity catch up with runaway population growth?

We all know that the Church is totally intractable when it comes to the suggestions about the use of any method of family planning save for the rhythm method. In effect, the Church’s stand is definitely no sex before marriage, and no artificial control of fertility after. Only the natural method is allowed and only in marriage, and that, in all practicality, simply means abstaining from sex as much as possible so as not to get pregnant.

Here’s the good news: the Government can still have its population growth targets even if it fully supports the Church’s stand. In fact, supporting the Church is the issue. They can do this by taxing people every time they have sex. How? Simple. There’s the ‘honeymoon tax’, the pre-marital coitus levy, the marriage tax, the condom tax, the vehicle sex tax, etc. I am sure that Government will not run out of creative ideas in making new taxes to curb this natural urge. Or they can simplify it by legislating that anyone caught having sex without a marriage license can be fined 20,000 pesos. Victoria Court, Anito Lodge and other motels can be designated as collection point for this rich source of revenues. Talk about  ‘sin taxes!’

In other words, let the government and the Church come to an agreement that sex should be joyless and must be avoided as much as possible, if one wants to save money. For sure, whatever is Caesar’s will be rendered to him, and the faithful will be happy in their suffering.

4. On how we can become a progressive country overnight!

We have all heard about and seen how a vast majority of our countrymen not only survive but thrive in foreign lands. I have met many of our kababayans who left dead-end lives in the Philippines and awakened to opportunity and new-found self-respect and personal esteem living in  another country. They have shown how the Filipino can become a well-behaved, functional and productive citizen abroad.

Haven’t you wondered why this is so? How is it that we become model citizens when we leave the Philippines and move to a foreign country?

Our leaders should take their cue from that and immediately look into the possibility of a law that will declare the Philippines a foreign country! If we all woke up one day and saw the flag of, say, Sweden, suddenly waving above us, wouldn’t it follow that we begin to behave like we do when we are abroad?

We could become a first world country in two months, with everyone following the rules and paying the correct taxes.

5. On why our next President and Vice President will be men.

Loren Legarda, or any other Filipina who may have aspirations for the highest offices in the land can forget about it! As my brother Jesse, who is perhaps the best punster the Filipino race has ever produced, tells everyone who will listen, it is written that no woman shall occupy the most and second most powerful position in the land in two years. Why? Because the next election will be in 2010, which when read cryptically predicts   ‘two u-ten!’

OK. I’m done. I promise to write a more serious article next week!

* * *

Tapping the Creative Universe, the cutting-edge experience that will unblock you and jolt you back to living again is on its 40th run. This is a potent, live and dangerous workshop that will lead to self-discovery you never thought possible.

The next TCU Workshop will be held on May 12-16, and May 19, 7 to 9 p.m., at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The total session cost is P5,000.

* * *

Write me at emailjimp@gmail.com for a syllabus or call 426-5375 or +63916-8554303 for a syllabus or with any other queries!

The inexpressibles 12

Posted on April 08, 2008 by jimparedes


HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes
Sunday, April 6, 2008

I got an e-mail from a friend who said she thought about me during a conversation she had with another friend the day before. They were talking about the meaning of life and its purpose and she wrote to me asking for my take on it. I promptly replied that an immediate, simple answer to the meaning-of-life question is, “It’s up to you.” But I also said that the rest are best tackled over coffee and a long conversation that I’d be happy to have with her.

It got me thinking before I went to sleep last night, and for what it’s worth, here are a few thoughts on the meaning and purpose of life.

These are the big questions that have and will continue to baffle us from time to time. In Zen lore, they are referred to as “the inexpressibles.” Other questions of the type are, “Is there life after death?”; “Where does the soul go when the body dies?”; “Is the world eternal or non-eternal?”; and “Is the world finite or infinite?” Some people will say that such questions are a waste of time but I contend that these are not merely scholarly questions philosophers and sophists like to ruminate over. At some point in our lives, they all beg us to have a go at them.

Sometimes, these questions can creep quietly into your mind on a quiet night under starlit skies, or in a defining moment, like when someone you love dies. Their presence can elicit a sweetness, a long heaving sigh, or a poignancy that reverberates throughout your being. And of course, they leave you pondering!

At other times, though, these questions can seem very rude, intruding into your life at a bad time — like say, during a long streak of misfortunes and downturns. And instead of whispering or gently insinuating their presence, they snarl and gnash at you in an in-your-face kind of way, leaving you disturbed, shocked and angry, and yes, pondering uncomfortably while cursing the same dark night as you beg for comforting assurances and answers.

The “inexpressibles” are, of course, not easy to answer. In fact, to answer them, you must leave the arena of words and enter the world of stillness and silence. Some mystics even say that the answers to these questions, even if we assume one can find answers, are beyond what words can convey. Words in these realms are limited, if not deceiving. Nonetheless, the answers are there, and the mystics claim they are transmitted to us via intuition and feeling.

And while no one can give definitive, one-size-fits-all answers to these questions, each person must ask them during the course of his or her life. In fact, none of us can resist asking them not just once but many times throughout life and exploring the answers that may appear. And the moment we do, we knock on the door of the great mysteries. The nature of such mysteries is to beckon and each time we succumb, we are sucked into a vortex and stretched beyond what we know of our own existence and all of life’s correlative meanings as we think we know them. That’s just how everything has been wired.

When you repeatedly ask with openness and earnestness, you sometimes can get answers to the inexpressibles. But the answers are only as good as who, where and what you are at the time you ask them. You may even get different answers at other times. And yes, the answers are non-transmittable or cannot be shared. At least not in the same way you have experienced them. You may pass on to others the answers as you received them — through words and concepts — but they can at best merely describe the shadow of those answers.

To successfully describe anything is to do so by recognizing and comparing it to its opposite. The problem is, the inexpressibles, as ultimate questions, suggest a territory that does not have opposites. Songwriter Bob Dylan asked lesser but similar questions and, as we know, the only answers he got were cryptically “blowing in the wind.”

To put it more mundanely, the answers to the inexpressibles are similar to the ones we get when we ask gossips about the source of all the muck they dish out. Predictably, they say, “Secret!”

But how is it that something so important cannot be shared?

I am of two minds on this. One reason, to my mind, is because the inexpressibles suggest the idea that they are the only real, ultimate things in this world. Outside of the inexpressibles are the relative things we live with, things that have definite historical beginnings and will perish in the end, such as our lives, careers, dramas, ambitions, attachments, possessions, etc. And what value are they if they are not permanent and real?

The other reason lies in the fact that getting to the real answers posed by the inexpressibles cannot help but lead us to experience Oneness. As in experiences like satori, kensho in Zen, or enlightenment, one loses oneself completely. Time and space become irrelevant. There is no me or you, or anything else. No inside versus outside. All differentiation and categorizing stop. There is only One.

I know that even the fact that I talk about Oneness is already problematic. Why? Because, strangely enough, even the word “Oneness” is inadequate since every word implies its opposite — in the case of Oneness, the fragmented and differentiated many. But Oneness has no opposite. And if there is no opposite, there is nothing to experience as different. So, in the end, there is really literally nothing that can be said about it.

But folly and wisdom in this case are not just inseparable twins; they are persistent ones (or twos) and they are aiming at the same thing. It does not matter that we literally cannot share answers to the inexpressibles. We still cannot help but attempt to ask the questions and share what we get. That’s the way it is. Such is the craziness and majestic paradox of being alive.

If it seems like an existential conundrum, it definitely is. In the end, there is no answer to the ultimate questions. Ken Wilber, in his own attempt to answer them, concludes that the only real answer is, “One must awaken.” And each one must do this for him or herself.

* * *

I can’t believe it’s TCU Workshop 40 already. I am talking of “Tapping the Creative Universe,” the cutting-edge experience that will unblock you and jolt you back to living again. This is a potent, live and dangerous workshop that will lead to self-discovery you never thought possible.

The next TCU Workshop will be held on May 12-16, and May 19, 7 to 9 p.m., at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The total session cost is P5,000.

* * *

Write me at emailjimp@gmail.com for a syllabus or call 426-5375 or +63916-8554303 for a syllabus or with any other queries!


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