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Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Archive for April, 2009


The child in us 4

Posted on April 26, 2009 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes Updated April 26, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – When I watch my grandchild Ananda at play, or just being her curious, inquisitive self, or when I spend even just a few moments with her without any agenda on both our ends and just let things flow, I get convinced beyond any doubt that people are born happy and free.

We are originally wired to be happy, clear-headed and creative. How can this not be so when Ananda and all children seem to be so naturally joyful?

In contrast, in the company of adults, I often get an entirely different experience. There is so much posturing, pretense, gossip, mean-spiritedness, ingratitude, loneliness, bitterness, angst, loss, confusion and often, even hate. I wonder where all that wonderful creative spaciousness we were all born with has gone and why it has been replaced by so much garbage.

In between being born free and alive in a wonderful spaciousness, creatively unshackled and becoming an adult, I wonder what it is that happens to most of us along the way that makes us screwed up and programmed for a life of drudgery and misery.

I suppose many things do get in the way as we grow up. And the effect is we could end up with a distorted sense of self so far removed and unrecognizable from the “original face” we were born with as it is put in Zen. As adults, we embrace the toxicity of guilt, conformity and repression and misplace the reality of our Original Blessing, as the Reverend Mathew Fox says in turn.

I watch Ananda as she creates new worlds with paper and pen, or goes to the refrigerator door and rearranges magnets and I know she is on to something that is good for her. Her face shows it. She is also completely absorbed in what she is doing. She is indulging in the art of playing.

As adults, we lose our sense of play, or being playful in any situation, the way kids can be. It’s not that we lose our desire. We just lose the unconditional way we used to engage in it. In its place, we plan elaborately to “play” by driving miles through traffic, and spending a lot of money for a weekend of golf, scuba, or what have you. What used to be natural can, and to many, has become a chore and so many of us give up even trying to go for those activities that make us feel alive.

It’s just too much trouble. In its place, we vege out in front of the TV, or engage in various activities including substance abuse (alcohol, food, drugs) and addicting activities just to feel alive.

But play is exactly what we need as adults if we want to feel better and live long. “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing,” said George Bernard Shaw. Indeed. We must tune in to our inner child that never stops playing

There are many reasons why we end up being driven out of paradise. It is unavoidable with the civilization and society we have and the way they have been designed. The system works against our awakening to our aliveness and humanness. Instead, we are “educated” to fit into whatever it is that adults are expected to do. We are trained to not ask questions, not make trouble and fit quietly and with little fuss into pre-determined jobs, relationships, roles and duties that society has deemed good for itself and therefore, good for us.

In essence, we are trapped into cookie-cutter patterns and models of ‘ responsible adulthood’.

I used to think that all this Western rebelliousness as expressed in the music of Rage Against the Machine, or the way Pink Floyd sneers at education as “thought control” were just mindless, teenage angst. When I am lost in my own adultness, I still do. But years ago, I began to get the point more and more that our schools and our societies in general do not challenge us enough to awaken to any greatness that we may be capable of.

In Japan, there is a saying that “the nail that stands out gets hammered.” In many ways, it is the same here in the Philippines. Our schools, and our parenting ways are inadequate to deal with kids who are “different.” The way we respond is often to discipline them to fit in the direction of what we think is character formation. In fact, often we send the signal that to challenge anything, to call a wrong, to see things as they really are, like the kid did in the Emperor’s New Clothes, is to get into trouble. And often, it can be big trouble. In the process, we end up killing much of their spirit when we should be recognizing and encouraging their uniqueness.

It is bewildering that these days, many grade school and high school kids, after spending eight hours in the classroom, still need tutoring, and in spite of all that, many still get bad grades. Years ago, with great reluctance, I pulled out my son Mio from the school where he had been studying from prep to first year high school when I saw how unhappy he was in the set up. No matter how hard he tried, he could not see any light to dispel the negativity he was developing about being ‘educated’ in the way the school wanted. I was in a quandary. I could not imagine any other education except the one I went through and yet it seemed not to be working for Mio.

After hearing the wise counsel of someone who told me that “the best school for your son is where he can be happy,” I went against the family tradition of insisting on an Ateneo education and put him in a non-sectarian school where he bloomed intellectually, emotionally and socially. In hindsight, it was one of the best decisions I ever made, and my son agrees.

I believe that the raising of children, or even coming into one’s own as an adult, is not so much about aligning their energies, goals and aims with society’s ways of thinking and doing things (although that has its advantages), or aligning society’s ways with ours (which admittedly, can be noble when our ideals are right). The greater goal as I see it, is to align our own body, mind and spirit so that we are awakened to our wholeness as persons.

The awakened mind is a creative being that can traverse the symbolic and literal, the ideal and the practical. To borrow a phrase from Christianity, it is “in the world but not of it.” It can evolve its own consciousness consciously. It is a truly free spirit that can evolve its own will and create anything it desires. That, to me, is what it means to be alive in the fullest sense.

Our uniqueness as whole persons and the way we manifest it is our real contribution to the world that makes life richer, not our denial of who we are to comply with life’s pre-existing ways.

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The time to live is now. No more excuses why life is on hold. The best part of your life is waiting to happen.

The 45th run of the Tapping the Creative Universe Workshop (TCU) is set on May 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, from 7 to 9 p.m., at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Cost is P5,000. Please call +63916-855-4303 (Ollie) for questions or reservations, or write to emailjimp@gmail.com, or visit http://www.tappingthecreativeuniverse.com to see the syllabus, FAQ and other info.

New stuff and new things to do 6

Posted on April 22, 2009 by jimparedes

Here’s a good story.

When we moved to Australia three years ago, I brought with me an acoustic steel guitar I had owned for some 20 plus years. It looked a bit old and used up but it still sounded like a dream. I considered it a prized possession not just for its sound quality but because I had used it in countless recordings and a few shows.

Two weeks ago, I brought it to Bambam Music store in Blacktown to have it fixed since one of the supports inside the guitar seemed to have given way. They were to send the guitar to Maton Guitars, the original maker and would have it assessed and then they would call me for the cost. From there, I would give my consent to continue or not depending on the cost of repair.

Three days before I left Sydney for Manila, I got a call from Adam, the owner of Bambam’s informing me with great regret that the shipping people had mishandled my guitar and had broken it beyond repair. I was crushed, to say the least. He was apologetic and embarrassed. He invited me to go to the store so we could come to some agreement on how to compensate me for the loss. It was there that I saw a picture of the guitar in all its sorry brokeness!

To complicate matters, Adam was in a quandary as to how much to compensate me. When Adam asked Maton Guitars how much my guitar actually cost, they could not give a categorical answer since they had stopped making the model, and their records of twenty plus years back were all gone. Besides, they didn’t even use that type of wood anymore. I told Adam that I had bought the guitar for close to 2K AUD 20+ years back in the Philippines. Maton Guitars speculated that its equivalent now, considering the advances in technology, would be in the range of anywhere between 1300 to 1800 AUD. But then that was just a guess!

To make the story short, Adam added up the cost and threw in about 500 AUD for ‘sentimental value’ and gave me a brand new, great sounding 2,700 AUD guitar with hard case in exchange for 300 AUD which I added since that was the guitar that I liked the most in his store!

I felt so good that, 1) I had a new, great sounding guitar, and 2) that Adam was so easy and helpful in making this customer happy. The whole experience also affirmed my belief that this country I had moved into has a lot of good people.

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Last Saturday, I ran my first Basic Photography workshop with 5 students in Sydney, and i was so happy that it turned out really well. I was surprised at how much knowledge I already accumulated about taking photos and the ease I had in communicating them to my students.
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We covered a whole lot of material and I passed on some techniques and tips that should improve their shots a whole lot. They had a great time as we did exercises indoors, outdoors and inside my studio with a real live model while testing everything they learned hands-on.

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Can’t wait to run more of these in Sydney, including new types of workshops for Songwriting, Performance and the like.

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Meanwhile, back in Manila….

I will be running a more extensive Photography course here in Manila spread out in 6 sessions on May 14, 19, 21, 26, 27, 28. Here’s the description below:

“Join Mr. Jim Paredes as he shares his techniques about composition,
lighting, together with practical tips and a creative mindset that
will help you see with new eyes and capture beautiful images. He will
provide an environment for his students to break through creative
boundaries and deepen their photography skills with the ultimate goal
of creating more compelling photographs. This is a very hands-on
course.

This workshop is designed to help you conquer technical barriers and
launch you into a new realm of creating great photographs. It is time
to take the plunge!”

This will be done in a new Photography School at The Fort. If you are interested, please contact Ms. Doranne Lim at yes@dorannelim.com

It will be A LOT of fun and worth your while. I promise.

Battling mediocrity 9

Posted on April 18, 2009 by jimparedes

A friend on Facebook lamented an item about a passably average singer’s newly released CD garnering a gold record award recently while other singers who are immensely more talented can’t seem to get the same break. His sad point was that mediocrity rules in the Philippines.

Why am I not surprised?

While we know that talent is gifted to an elite few, there is also a mediocrity mindset that bestows royalty on some who are obviously lacking in it.

Sure, all of us are mediocre in a few things that we do and it is understandable. But it is something else when many people adapt mediocrity as the gold standard.

I can think of many instances when I have come face to face with the mindset that perpetuates this. It’s the attitude that settles for pwede na in place of doing work that is outstanding. And it’s amazing how the followers of mediocrity can get enthusiastic about its manifestations.

Mediocrity is brought about by many factors, one of which is good old laziness, where one is content with just almost barely fulfilling the minimum requirements. Why? Because it is the easy, convenient, non-challenging thing to do. It is a self-defeating attitude, alien or oblivious to the pride one feels when one does a job well.

Another factor is that often, people just don’t recognize what is special about real talent. They don’t know any better. And here is where the problem becomes more serious.

Mediocrity is everywhere. Has it ever happened to you that you are watching someone being hyped by media as being just great, and you catch yourself wondering what all the fuss is about?

Watch TV, especially the sitcoms, where the actors “brave” their roles knowing that what they do is far from excellent and is at best, mediocre. Not even canned laughter can save them from being dismal flops.

Read the newspapers, magazines and there is so much shoddy work that amounts to blah reporting and writing. Listen to the radio and the music it dishes out. I know I sound like a ranting old man but I feel that years of mediocrity and underachievement or not trying hard enough to be good, has begun to do us in, in a big way.

I once had a conversation with a movie producer who has been coming out with noteworthy films that have a high level of excellence and artistry and yet manage to be commercial. He pointed out an important factor why Philippine movies have not hit the international scene in a big way compared to movies from other countries. He says it is in the stories we tell and the way we tell them. He complained that too many scripts are derivative of Hollywood movies or are too populated with stock characters instead of real people who the audience can identify with. We hardly ever get out of tried and tested formulas in the stories we tell.

I asked him if it was a question of budget, as many filmmakers seem to suggest. Or was it a question of the censors standing in the way of creativity? He shook his head vehemently and pointed out that Iran manages to come out with quality films praised by critics everywhere despite the strict censorship filmmakers there must go through. And if budget is the main constraint, how come a country like Nepal, which makes less than five movies a year, can come up with international winners?

Again, around here, it’s mediocrity rearing its ho-hum countenance.

We seem to be plagued by what I call a “militant mediocrity.” It is evident not just in the lack of boldness in the way we choose, act and do what we do. It is evident in the way we accept the status quo without resistance. As a people, we suffer from a smallness of dreams and thus we settle for what is, at best, lackluster. Our cities are dirty, our infrastructure are built poorly and with little imagination or aesthetic sense. Our schools continue to dish out education that is far from world-class.

Perhaps it has something to do with our penchant for moderation, which seems to indicate our aversion or fear of anything that may verge on the extreme. Like Goldilocks, we neither like it too hot nor too cold and so we look for the middle ground. Except that the middle ground is determined not by how high we can reach but by how low “low” is at the moment. And the sad thing is, things seem to be at the lowest they have ever been.

“That, however, is mediocrity, though it be called moderation,” wrote the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

Dan Millman in Way of the Peaceful Warrior, put it less moderately. “Moderation? It’s mediocrity, fear and confusion in disguise. It’s the devil’s dilemma. It’s neither doing nor not doing. It’s the wobbling compromise that makes no one happy. Moderation is for the bland, the apologetic, for the fence-sitters of the world afraid to take a stand. It’s for those afraid to laugh or cry, for those afraid to live or die. Moderation…is lukewarm tea, the devil’s own brew.”

Thus, if the surveys are to be believed, we continue to throw our support behind political figures who are hardly competent and without any vision that challenges us to be better than what we are. And it usually means we just end up choosing the one who can do the least damage.

We admire artists who have no commendable body of work that has defined a higher state of the art or has brought their audience to places they have never been. Our media promote the shallow instead of the profound, the fake instead of the real, the glitzy instead of the substantive.

This “militant mediocrity” is easily threatened by superior ideas and often rejects them outright. Because it is highly invested in being average, it mocks anything that wants to raise the bar. Don’t we often dismiss as pilosopo, a snob, or an elitist, anyone who questions or challenges us with new concepts and ideas and new ways of thinking?

“Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them,” wrote Joseph Heller.

Our media, our leaders and societal authority figures must begin to challenge us to aim for something higher. If they keep up this diet of mediocrity, we will become hopelessly mediocre ourselves.

It was Walter Russel who said, “Mediocrity is self-inflicted. Genius is self-bestowed.” Forrest Gump put it in his own inimitable way, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

While we may blame others for where we are, it is incumbent upon us to get ourselves out of the rut we are in and adopt more winning attitudes.

It’s time to shake up this side of the world and rid ourselves of things that do not do us any good. And one way to do this is to believe that we deserve better. But we have to be militant about it. When we do so, we will realize that when we do better, we are happier with what we get.

* * *

Time to do something daring and liberating this summer! Shed out old skin and awaken to your Creative Self! The 45th run of the Tapping the Creative Universe Workshop (TCU) is set or May 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, from 7 to 9 p.m., at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Cost is P5,000. Please call +63916-855-4303 (Ollie) for questions or reservations, or write to emailjimp@gmail.com, or visit http://www.tappingthecreativeuniverse.com to see the syllabus, FAQ and other info.

View previous articles of this column.

You want to help change things? 1

Posted on April 18, 2009 by jimparedes

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ARTISTS REVOLUTION
…was formed out of a fervent hope and belief that Filipino artists can do a lot to change the despairing socio-political conditions of our country. Pinoy artists have always displayed courage and made significant contributions to advancing the noble ideals of freedom, justice, and pursuit of truth. Time and again, the Pinoy artists have staked their lives and used their talents to recover our national pride in the seemingly endless periods of darkness and adversity.

Artist Revolution continues this tradition of Pinoy artists creating and performing for positive change. Next year, 2010, the Philippines will be at another major crossroads. The opportunity for genuine reform and genuine leadership shall present itself through the national elections in May. Artist Revolution aims to drum up the spirit of hope amidst a time of apathy and cynicism. We aim to encourage and inspire fellow artists and fellow citizens to take it upon ourselves to face the problems besetting our nation squarely and believe that change will happen if we act now.

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We reach out to each and every artist, each and every individual, corporation, and organization who believes that change is not only Possible but Long Overdue to support our initial salvo:

365 DAYS TO CHANGE …TODO NA ‘TO!

A concert at the Music Museum, May 11, 2009, Monday, 8 pm, exactly one year before the May 2010 elections. The first of a series of explosions that will rock this nation till May 2010 and Beyond. Every support you make will be funneled to a year’s lineup of activities: concerts, festivals, performance tours, art exhibits, film showings, symposia and conferences for truth, justice, freedom and Change.

Artists Revolution is a non-partisan movement. We refrain from endorsing candidates, political parties, or partisan political agenda while advancing the spirit of expressing outrage against evil and corruption as well as inspiring the spirit of vigilance for truth and justice, reform and good governance.

Your support will go directly to specific cultural activities set up by Artists Revolution. We enjoin you to step out of the gloomy, depressing state of apathy and indifference and stake your claim for a better Pilipinas.

Together we can do this. Maniwala ka.

45! 2

Posted on April 14, 2009 by jimparedes

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Time to do something daring and liberating this summer! Shed out old skin and awaken to your Creative Self! The 45th run of the TAPPING THE CREATIVE UNIVERSE WORKSHOP (TCU) is on!

When: May 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12

Time: 7 to 9 PM

Where: 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC

Cost: 5,000 Pesos

Please call +63916-855-4303 (Ollie) for questions or reservations, or write to emailjimp@gmail.com, or visit http://www.tappingthecreativeuniverse.com to see the syllabus, FAQ and other info.

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Posted on April 12, 2009 by jimparedes

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Hi,

I’ve met a few people who have asked me when I would give this workshop. The answer is below.

I will be giving a workshop on general photography on April 18, 2008 at my house in Glenwood. This will be a hands-on experiential approach which will cover basic techniques, lighting for outdoors, indoors and including studio lighting, composition, the use of different lenses, portraiture techniques, motion or action photography, etc..

This is a one day workshop from 1 to 7PM and so we will proceed immediately to actually shooting pictures as we discuss the theories. I will work with a limited number of students only.

Requirements are, you must have an SLR digital camera capable of manual settings.

TIME: 1PM TO 8PM
PLACE: 4 Harcourt Grove, Glenwood
COST: 100 AUD

Please call 98363494 or email me at emailjimp@gmail.com for questions and reservations.

Nudging evolution forward 2

Posted on April 11, 2009 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes Updated April 12, 2009 12:00 AM

When a cat-erpillar reaches a certain point in its own evolution, it becomes over-consumptive, a voracious eater and it eats everything in sight.

At that same time, in the molecular structure of the caterpillar, the ‘imaginal cells’ become active. While all this gorging is going on, those imaginal cells wake up, and they look for each other inside of the caterpillar’s body. When enough of them connect (they don’t need to be in the majority) they become the genetic directors of the future of the caterpillar. At that point, the other cells begin to putrefy and become what’s called the nutritive soup — out of which the imaginal cells create the absolute unpredictable miracle of the butterfly.

What’s possible is that we’re the imaginal cells on the planet right now. — inspired by Elisabet Sahtouris

Today is Easter, a time of redemption. Easter makes us focus on the triumphs and victories we have had, and the obstacles we have overcome and need to overcome to become better human beings. And as much as I believe there is always something we can work on in our selves, I believe (as I know many others do) that collectively, all of mankind needs some saving.

Which is why I deeply admire those citizens of our world who are intentionally trying to save mankind by nudging evolution forward. It is important work to save the environment, promote human rights, feed the hungry, educate every human being on the planet and awaken people to a higher consciousness than what we now have. Achieving these can only elevate mankind to a higher plane.

I believe that it is the efforts exerted by advocacy groups all over the world that will bring mankind to a better place. Such people have experienced oneness with other people who are outside of their own culture and background and they have recognized that they are other people!

This, above all else, is the pre-requisite for anyone who would help nudge the collective consciousness a few notches higher. It is only when one has felt to some degree this widening of identity outside the personal that one can share in the aching but liberating feeling of the work that needs to be done to lift humankind.

Without this, it would be hard to part ways with the mindset that likes to go to war for purely selfish ends, or progress at the expense of others, or accumulate wealth mindlessly even at the expense of destroying the world’s resources and people.

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself,” wrote Joseph Campbell. Jesus Christ, Gandhi, Gautama Buddha and a few others come to mind. These heroes included every living person in their definition of themselves. They included everyone and everything in their consciousness. They must have been among the “imaginal cells” in human history referred to in the quotation at the start of the article, that will eventually group with others to bring mankind to a higher consciousness.

Looking back at known history, we see that humankind has come a long way, in many respects. Just 2,000 years ago, for example, it was perfectly legal for a father to kill an offspring if he deemed that he was not worthy to carry his name. Take note that this aberrant practice was part of the laws of the Roman civilization, the cutting-edge, state-of-the-art culture in the Western world at that time.

Sure, there are still cultures today that look at women as inferior to men, or as property, or foster different forms of slavery, but the scales are now slightly tipped towards cultures that are aligned with concepts of democracy and human rights, even in their more rudimentary form. That’s certainly progress.

We have indeed come a long way.

And yet I also know that the way of the world is largely still dog-eat-dog and this will probably continue for a long time. One must kill others —literally or figuratively — in order to live. The old give way to the young. The ancient must end so that the new can come in. Death begets life. That is life, and that is also death.

But those who sincerely want to change the world know that somehow, the rules change drastically when they decide to offer their own lives voluntarily that others may live. This point was inculcated in our consciousness by Jesus when he died for humankind. He knew the paradox that death is in fact the prerequisite for new life to begin.

I think of all those who tirelessly work in the slums, or those who strive to save the environment, or those who give a good chunk of their time and effort joining organizations like Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross and other humanitarian groups. They are doing cutting-edge evolutionary work. What motivates them to do this? Most of us may be moved to give a little of our money, or do charity work, if we have time. But these people give so much, willingly and unconditionally.

I met Dr. Patch Adams, MD, when he came to the Philippines many years ago. He was the doctor who was portrayed by Robin Williams in a hit movie. Dr. Adams talked excitedly and with so much heart about how he loved to treat the sick among the poorest of the poor. He said that as a doctor, he would spend as much as four hours in consultation with a patient to know his background because he believed that to know a person is the first step in curing what ails him. He befriends his patients and then writes a prescription for medicines but adding instructions for his “friends” to gaze at the stars at night, or read poetry, or bake a cake! And he does all this not only for free but with endless enthusiasm and good humor. What a guy!

I would like to end with a quote from the brilliant Jesuit, Teilhard de Chardin who wrote, “Love is a sacred reserve of energy; it is like the blood of spiritual evolution.”

Perhaps it really is as simple as what Jesus and many others have been saying all along. Loving others and treating them as we wish to be treated ourselves is how we evolve out of the mess the world is in.

Maybe it’s a simple as this to get to the next level.

Taming the muse 7

Posted on April 05, 2009 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE
Philippine Star

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I am an artist. I have known many other artists in my life and let me tell you, we are not like accountants or lawyers or plumbers or scientists.

Artists are dreamers. We are moved by images, songs, shapes and almost anything and everything, and so we know, understand and appreciate their power. We are also attuned to the unseen, which makes us — in the eyes of non-artists — strange and irrational. To some, artists are extremists — too emotional, too intense, too lofty and too insistent. But because of this, artists are usually held in awe and often in high esteem by others who believe we have the ability to create things out of thin air.

Artists, especially those who succeed in creating a decent body of work, must be able to traverse constantly between heaven and earth. Heaven is where the Muse of inspiration lives, but earth is where the money must be earned to keep the Muse happy.

The Muse is an irresistible Goddess. Sometimes it is a ravishing virgin who coyly beckons; sometimes a demanding mistress who must often have her way, and it can be difficult. Either way during such episodes when an artist is moved by inspiration in a deep way, there is no alternative but to say “yes” to what the Goddess wants. Otherwise, he will suffer deep consequences. Saying “no” is tantamount to creative abortion. And when that happens, the Muse stops calling, and the heaven where an artist resides can dissipate.

I have always been a busy artist. I write music, books and articles and I perform. I also do photography. I have known the Goddess for quite some time now.

About 12 years ago, when I was weary of writing songs that catered to the taste of recording companies, or the so-called “market,” I felt like I was dying a slow death. I felt less and less like an artist and more and more like a trained animal performing tricks to get a few crackers.

While I knew that physically I could keep doing this, I felt empty. My heart was not in it. I was getting depressed and felt alienated.

It was at that point that I decided to finance a project where I would simply write music as I pleased, arrange the songs to my taste, and record them by myself and for myself. I titled the album, “Ako Lang.”

To hell with the market, I thought. It was a personal album and I wrote songs that did not necessarily conform to radio play formats; the aim was simply self-expression. Some of the songs on the album are so personal, I am the only one in the world who can probably sing them with honesty (e.g., a song about my own family with their names on it). I had a great time working with musicians I liked and admired and who I allowed to get creative when they interpreted my songs.

The effect of this project on me was therapeutic. If I hadn’t done it, I believe I would have fallen into a deep emotional hole, alienated from my own creativity. And since then, I have vowed to do things by and for myself once in a while. I owe it to myself to feed my own soul. I learned one thing from that episode and it is this: when the Muse is happy, I am happy!

Throughout the life of an artist, there are streaks of inspiration and these can run for a long while. Thus, there are years when an artist can be very productive, where he or she produces a great body of work. But there are also dry periods when an artist feels that the Goddess has stopped calling and no longer wants to engage in creative romps.

For others, the creative run can be a flash that burns out in a short period. But the euphoria brought about by that streak, short as it is, is too good to forget. Thus, an artist resorts to many different ways to get the juices flowing again. Alcohol, drugs, sex and the insatiable quest for peak emotional experiences somehow help make some feel alive. For many, to be emotionally moved in a great way, or be dramatically and physically “altered” by peak experiences, is the only way to feel the presence of the Muse.

I do not belittle that, even if it is not the only way to summon the Muse, and it is hardly my working style, but many artists do subscribe to it. Edgar Allan Poe was a drunk, and it sure helped him become a great artist! Paul Cézanne said, “A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art.”

The big events that artists go through in life do inspire them to produce great work. Anytime an artist feels alive, it is food for his creative soul. It is not surprising, therefore, that many artists have produced their best work during times of great turmoil, whether social or personal. An artist who died recently wrote the most beautiful love songs even if his love life consisted of a string of romantic disasters. My political involvement in the ‘80s led me to write many songs with social content.

Over the years, my Muse has learned to adjust to me as I have learned to adjust to her whims. My muse knows I do not like alcohol or drugs or anything that screws up my mind. She knows which buttons to press with me.

At one time in my youth, she may have been like a wild, demanding woman who needed a lot of emotional attention before she gave me the inspiration that I sought. But now, we have come to a modus vivendi. She has promised to keep the tryst going for as long as I am eager to do so.

Am I saying I have trained my Muse? In a way, yes, but I still wouldn’t count on her to be consistent. After all, my Muse is a woman. And like with any woman, I must continue sending her flowers, talking to her, and keeping the music playing if I am to keep having my way with her.

There is a way to keep the music going and that is the constant practice of art. Through the years, I have known that the Muse does respond when I am persistent. Henry Mancini played the piano every day. And so many artists do their thing on a daily basis. It’s called “showing up.” Thus, I am not intimidated too much by deadlines because I just need to show up and do the work, and most of the time, the Muse provides what I need.

It’s the first rule of creativity, and an important factor for the courtship of the Muse to succeed. It is also the first rule on how to live life, whether one is an artist, a lawyer, an accountant or whatever.


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  • April 2009
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