Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for July 12th, 2008

Some of the best things are still free 12

Posted on July 12, 2008 by jimparedes

Sunday, July 13, 2008

In an age when many basic commodities we need to live seem to be in worryingly finite quantities, I try to see what remains within the grasp of human power that we can still enjoy almost infinitely, within our physical limitations. Surely there must be some things we can enjoy again and again while we are alive that can keep us sane and happy without fear that someone will overprice, franchise or put a tax on it until it becomes unreachable, and eventually, inaccessible.

Let’s zero in on at least five areas of life that we can still indulge in for free: humor, music, sex, meditation and beauty. While there are those who may be enterprising enough to entice people to buy or own their creative expressions of these topics in the form of performance, ideas, concepts, knowledge, etc., recognizing and exercising our capacity to enjoy these on various levels is still, to my knowledge, free.

Today, I would like to celebrate the joy that these human themes and activities bring to us.

1. Humor. Humor is actually insight, even if deliberately twisted. Often, something is funny because it is unexpected and it barges in on our consciousness spectacularly like a three-point shot. It is a human activity that tricks the brain into enjoying its capacity to wonder by posing strange propositions. An example is when Jerry Seinfeld asks deadpan, “I wonder if illiterate people get the full effect of alphabet soup?”

I appreciate humor most when it mixes and matches or deliberately confuses realities that seem oblivious to each other, or do not connect on an obvious level but do in another, like when Dave Barry advises us to “Never under any circumstances take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night,” or when Steven Wright asks, “Why is the alphabet in that order? Is it because of the song?”

It is not so much that one can make a joke and share it with others that makes humor fun but the fact that we have a sense of humor at all, which makes us capable of finding some things even privately funny — that’s the best thing about it. If you can laugh at yourself, even privately, then you are a pretty  evolved person.

This wonderful capacity to see the lighter side of existence is a saving grace that can see us through anything. Filipino humor is tops in this regard. It has saved us from bloody coups and revolutions. We’ve had Marcos, Erap and coup jokes. Now we have GMA, First Gentleman and ZTE jokes. Good or bad, we literally laugh our way out of the pain brought about by our problems.

2. Music. “Imagine life without music,” the Tower Records billboard once posited. It would be a colorless, stagnant, and sterile existence. There are few things more magical than music. It is amazing that artists can originate something out of thin air, literally, and with the help of skill and some instruments, make it a living spirit. I know that when I am making music, I am opening myself to inspiration from somewhere beyond the usual. I become a divine gateway. There is something heavenly about it. “Music is God’s gift to man, the only art of Heaven given to earth, the only art of earth we take to Heaven,” wrote Walter Savage Landor.

And not only does music take on a life of its own, good music gives life to everyone it encounters. Someone once said that “music is what feelings sound like.”

Everyone needs to have their feelings not just expressed, but also acknowledged. Music does this only too well because it engages us on many cognitive levels. And it’s not only about stirring up our feelings. Music can elegantly capture moments in our lives, and even entire eras, and transform these into golden memories. Music is, indeed, the soundtrack to our lives.

Music has power to move and inspire and make you dance, sing, jump, shout, laugh, cry, make love, and many more. It also bridges people by momentarily making everyone forget their separateness and feel oneness with others. Go to any big concert and you feel there is something larger than yourself. You experience something between tribal bonding and universal unity when everyone is singing, dancing or waving their hands in the air. In this trance, the crowd realizes momentarily that we are the world, and that there is really no “other.” Our sense of hearing fills up all the other senses and floats us upward into an ecstatic oneness.

3. Sex. Sex is at the top of the heap of free thrills. You can pay for it if you wish, as funny man Steve Martin half-jokes when he says that “sex is one of the most wholesome, beautiful and natural experiences that money can buy.” Humor aside, in many ways, we do pay for it because it is also the most misunderstood among the freebies given to us, even if the first law of life is that it is sexually transmitted. For many people, it takes a lot of psychological processing to remove the guilt, fear, unworthiness, low self-esteem, previous trauma, etc., before they can enjoy sex. While sex is a natural urge, comedienne Bette Midler once asked, “If sex is so natural, why have so many books been written about it?”

There is almost nothing more basic in the instincts department than the sex urge. That’s the reason why the matter of sex elicits such strong reactions. It is a very potent brew that can take us in opposite directions — from mystery to the mundane, from the sublime to the pedestrian, from love to hate, from heaven to hell, or vice versa. It has been said that sex is a fantastic servant but a mean master. And you can tell how potent a subject sex is by the number of funny quotes you can find about it. Look up religion, death, and sex quotes on the Internet and you realize that the humor applied to the topic of sex is many times a lot of nervous laughter.

Sex is also an equalizer because one can indulge in it in almost unlimited permutations of position, gender, age, attitude and circumstance. It holds in its allure the rich, the poor, male, female, gay, straight, high and mighty, famous and nondescript, saints and sinners, etc. But the best thing about it is its ability to be a renewable mystery to every human being who has discovered it. You may think you have had your fill or have unraveled its mysteries right after you indulge in it, but wait awhile. Sex has the wonderful ability to refresh, and become beguilingly mysterious and attractive again and again and again.

4. Meditation. Yoga, prayer, retreats, Taichi, zen, etc. — take your pick. These spiritual exercises have been around for ages and will continue to be so for as long as man exists. People need to center themselves, and the more fast-paced the world becomes, the more people need to hold on to things they believe to be eternal.

The other day, I saw on CNN a restaurant in Japan that operates in “slow” mode, as opposed to the concept of serving fast foods. It is an establishment that glorifies the step-by-step, complete process of preparing food, cooking, serving, and for the customer, eating, enjoying and savoring every mouthful of the meal. The business of food preparation and eating takes time, and that is the whole point. The restaurant operates completely in the present mode and it is not for anyone in a rush or with a deadline to meet. One goes there to be alive to the moment and appreciate the nourishment of something as humble as a meal which, when you think about it, is quite extraordinary in itself. Try to imagine that everything present on the table for you is there because it has an “appointment” with you, and every meal becomes a profound spiritual experience. And everything else you encounter in normal days becomes magical as well.

Meditation as a practice is what’s keeping a lot of people feeling grounded, sane, happy and liberated these days. When one is in touch with his/her inner life which meditation does, one feels like a solid ship even in a tumultuous sea. Meditation practice  seems to work even for Billy Joel, the pop singer. He wrote:

They say that these are not the best of times

But they’re the only times I’ve ever known

And I believe there is a time for meditation

In cathedrals of our own.

5. Beauty. Many believe that beauty is a rarity. Some people actually pay big money to acquire it. And yet, to a gifted few, beauty can be found everywhere. It might be more accurate to say therefore that what is really rare are people who are alive to the beauty in everything.

I have met a few who see the goodness in practically everything and they are a peaceful, joyful lot. And as much as they see beauty everywhere, they also seem to have it, communicate it,  and actually create it constantly in their lives, relationships and work. They seem to spread beauty everywhere they go.

If you can develop this capacity to uncover the beauty that is found everywhere, then you are a wealthy man and no circumstances, not even any unfavorable economic downturns, can alter your circumstances. Remember the movie Life Is Beautiful, where the hero could consistently find hope and even joy in the midst of the Nazi occupation of Italy? This is a life skill that will not only guarantee relief from hardship but bring triumph and redemption. And it is absolutely free.

And as simple and unbelievable as it may sound, it may be all we need in these times.

* * *

If you are in a rut, it’s high time to get out of it. Read on.

The 42nd run of “Tapping the Creative Universe (TCU),” a  workshop of “creative awakening,” is on once again. If you are in search of a more empowered, creative and joyful life, this is for you. Get rid of your blocks. You have probably entertained attending this workshop. How long will you wait to wake up to your own life? Now is the time to do it.

The next session runs Aug. 4-8 and conclude Aug. 11.

It will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The cost of the workshop is still P5,000.Please contact emailjimp@gmail.com for a syllabus or call Ollie at 0916-8554303 or 426-5375 for any other queries or for reservations. Visit http://tappingthecreativeuniverse.com for more details.

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