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Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Archive for May, 2009


Those sex videos and us 9

Posted on May 30, 2009 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes Updated May 31, 2009 12:00 AM

There is no escaping it. People are riveted by the new sex videos. Everywhere you go, it is what is being talked about. There is even a certain perverse “ownership” about the issue as people express their opinions and wonder who else may be implicated.

Those involved are analyzed, psychoanalyzed, demonized, and in some strange way, even envied. People even have their own take on whether the women in the videos knew they were being filmed and many take a prurient interest in the possibility that the filming was done with their consent.

After I first heard about the scandal and its lurid details, I admit I tried to look for the videos on the Net but I could not find them. The next day, a friend had it on his laptop and asked me if I wanted to watch. I watched, but after about a minute, I turned away and refused to look anymore.

I just could not feel anything good about watching colleagues in show biz, or other people who are friends of some people I am close to, being humiliated by voyeurism. Sure, there are millions who have probably seen them, and what further damage could my watching the videos do, I asked myself. I couldn’t possibly make the situation worse by watching, I thought by way of justification. And yet, something in my gut told me that watching it wasn’t right. It simply went against the grain of what I believe in.

I do not want to sound holier-than-thou, or more Christian, or anything like that. I am no saint, that’s for sure. But my curiosity was outweighed by the compassion I felt for those people whose lives and reputations have been sullied by all this. It was as if they were being raped in front of a cheering, ogling, leering crowd. I simply put myself in their shoes. If I was in their place, how would I want other people to react to my (admitted) naiveté and trusting innocence that what I did privately would never be shown publicly? If I were in the place of the violated, would I want people to do what they are doing now at my expense?

We live in a time where our lives, because of the Internet and everyone’s access to it, can easily be put in the spotlight. Anyone can use the Internet for good or for ill. It’s as if, as denizens of cyberspace, we now live in Gotham City where twisted characters not unlike The Joker can hold our attention, our imagination and yes, our morals, hostage. Reputations, carefully nurtured, can come crashing down like a house of cards.

Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Multiply and others seem to have created a generation of low-level narcissists, exhibitionists and voyeurs. You can count me as one of them. People broadcast their personal opinions and thoughts on anything, upload pictures of events in their lives, share their biographies, birthdays, convictions, trials and secrets, and presume that everyone else would be interested.

And lo and behold, many times, people are interested, especially when the broadcaster is a celebrity and what is being broadcasted to the world has something to do with taboo subjects such as one’s sexual preferences and proclivities, or other deep dark secrets. Everything can be posted — the good, the bad, the ugly. The Internet has provided everyone a venue for their own “reality show.”

The Internet has become our cyber body, mind and nervous system. Everyone is now part of everyone else. And this Internet “mind” we all share, just like the human mind described by Freud and Jung, harbors both our good and bad sides and everything in between. Thus, it broadcasts our activities that are for public consumption and also, when you analyze it, the shadows that live within us.

If it is acceptable to post almost everything in our lives on the Net, then why is it a surprise that our sex lives are suddenly included as well? In no way do I mean that posting anything that violates a person’s privacy is correct or even understandable. But sadly, I think there is a perverse inevitability to it.

Sexuality just happens to be one of those aspects of human nature that most everyone has an insatiable desire to know about, to discover about themselves and others, and to participate in. It elicits limitless fascination and, sadly, is one of the greatest taboos in our society. It is perhaps one of the most personal and private dimensions in anyone’s life. In truth, the latitude of behavior people engage in, sexually speaking, is so wide that society does not or cannot (as of now) acknowledge it fully. Its range of behavior thrives in our shadow world and it will be quite a while before it attains politically correct status or full acceptance, if ever.

Personally, I have more understanding for the “sin” of sex than any other human weakness, because I think sexuality contains one of the greatest forces in our lives, something that expresses who we really are, even as we struggle to tame it.

Much of this prurience that we are witnessing regarding the sex videos is driven by our government officials and their media cohorts who have a distorted sense of “mission” in “investigating” the issue. I take with a ton of salt the media’s mantra that it has the duty to peruse anything in the name of “the people’s right to know,” and the politicians’ knee-jerk response to hold a Senate hearing on the matter “in aid of legislation.” It’s all hogwash. The real reason behind the constant and excessive coverage of the sex video story is simple: ratings, ratings, ratings and for the politicians, exposure, exposure, exposure.

For a different take on the frenzy about the sex videos, I would like to share something I wrote years ago, my take on the Beatitudes:

“Blessed are the strange, the weird, the people we laugh at, especially the socially wretched and despised. By their presence in our lives, they expand our reality — on our part, reluctantly and on theirs, so painfully — by forcing us to look at them in the hope that we see the God in them.”

Instead of getting lost in this demeaning circus that tempts us to trivialize and even laugh at other people’s suffering, we may want to retain our humanity and spare its victims the inhumanity of all this by simply refusing to watch those blasted sex videos.

Taking a break from being an adult 6

Posted on May 23, 2009 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes Updated May 24, 2009 12:00 AM

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Illustration by Rey Rivera

I came across a funny letter supposedly written by a grown-up resigning from the adult world.

The writer complained that as an adult, he had too much responsibility. Also, he claimed that adulthood made him know and experience so much pain and confusion. As a result, he was resigning as an adult and was accepting the responsibilities only of a six- year-old.

While I laughed reading it, I could readily empathize with the writer. I’m sure many of us would gladly be relieved of the burdens we carry and the things that we adults have to do for other people, and just live our lives pleasing ourselves. It can be exhausting trying to behave as a responsible adult 24/7. I can only imagine what it must be like to embrace the responsibility of leading, say, a nation and committing to all its duties day after day.

Being responsible for one’s family alone can already be daunting. Sometimes, I feel like I am giving too much of myself in assuring everyone’s happiness and well-being, even when I know intellectually that happiness is a personal project and decision, and thus cannot be given. In a bout of self-pity and anger at not feeling appreciated, I once sidetracked an article I was writing and instead wrote a “letter of resignation” — not seriously, of course — addressed to my family. It went something like this.

To my family,

I am writing this letter to hereby resign from all my duties as father to my kids and husband to my wife which include:

1. Paying all the bills for school, house amortizations, food, gasoline, car, house repairs, medical expenses such as medicines, dental, doctors’ and hospital bills, eating out, books, magazines, cable TV, Internet, the salaries of maids and drivers who serve you, electricity, water, cell phone bills, and all the things that hold the sky up for you. This also includes the bills for clothes and gadgets that you buy, luxuries that you enjoy, and other items that feed your vanities and keep you warm, happy, healthy.

2. I also hereby resign from caring to know the whereabouts of everyone, or what time you guys come home, or worrying about how you are in all ways, or adjusting to your schedules so I can be with you, or missing you, or calling or being present or concerned about you in any way.

3. I also hereby resign from all other unmentioned but real duties that have been imposed on me as a parent, husband, or family member. No more commitments, vows of any kind that limit my movement, loyalties, and whatever else. These include promises I have taken upon myself with the intention of fostering greater care, closeness, peace and family bonding.

I wish to be free of all things — obligations, duties, guilt and compulsion to care for any of you in any way whatsoever now and in the future.

In place, I will live life as I totally please, free of any responsibilities, obligations, duties, vows, and spend my remaining time on earth in any manner I see fit. I also wish to spend every cent I earn from hereon in any way I wish.

I have given you enough of my time, patience, attention, love, devotion, resources and everything else. I am sick of caring and trying to be a good husband, partner, loved one, father, pops, dad, provider, adviser, rescuer, and source of any financial fix, and a promoter of your happiness, real or imagined, etc.

I am tendering this irrevocable resignation starting today!

I never sent it of course and that explains why I am still alive and loved by my family.

It’s a nice fantasy not to be responsible, to be able to wake up without worrying about anything or being answerable to anyone but oneself, to go for pursuits and pleasures with impunity and not care about consequences.

But I also know that it can be an impossible and an untenable state of affairs. Too much of anything, be it vice or virtue, can’t be good, especially selfishness and narcissism. In the end, anything, even the most exciting pursuits, when indulged in excess, leads to boredom, ennui and a meaningless existence. I once read that a maharaja in India actually died of boredom amid the unending luxury and debauchery that surrounded him.

One thing I have learned about life is that we keep on growing. It is the natural way of things. The only time we stop is when we die or if we make an act of will to stop growing. In this latter case, we end all expansion and go into contraction mode and engage life in a limited way. It is the beginning of the end.

As we grow, we are continuously developing the ability to respond to ever-changing situations. The more we learn to act on complex issues, the more we become able to do even more of them in ever complicated ways and with greater intensity. As children, we learn and acquire skills continuously. And even as adults, we are still constantly challenged to learn.

Responsibility is the ability to respond — response-ability. Because we can respond, we are expected to be responsible. My father–in-law used to say that to get things done, assign them to the busiest people.

I think about that every time I find myself in a situation where I know that my input, if I so decide to give it, can change things. In such a case, my ‘response-ability’ is needed to nudge the situation forward.

Of course, we always have a choice not to respond, or back out from being responsible. In such a case, we consciously decline answering the call. And we can do so for many reasons. One of them may be because we prefer to redirect our energies to other pursuits, or it could be a case of “responsibility fatigue,” or some other reason.

But those who choose to continue to grow cannot help but take on more “responsibility” for their decisions and their lives, and even the lives of others while they experience the thrill of shaping their little corner of the world in their own image and likeness. The person who can say that he/she is totally answerable for everything that he/she experiences is a powerful person. I even venture to say that he/she is God-like.

Some responsibilities can be tedious, daunting even. But the constant exercise of any muscle makes the job easier. Sooner or later, we get better at it. If we live our lives with eyes open, we become more responsible but less paranoid, and complain less. We can do more and hurt less. And when we really look at it, less hurt translates to more pleasure as we enjoy our marvelous ability to respond to and create things.

Thus, responsibilities beget more responsibilities, just like power begets power, wealth begets wealth, happiness begets happiness. But it only pays off if we never tire of it.

And so, the same rule applies to both the responsible and irresponsible. It is good to say no sometimes, only to be able to say yes at other times when you really want to.

And so, take that day off, turn off your cell, be unreachable or even benignly irresponsible, if only occasionally. Let someone else take over in holding up the sky. Indulge in a hobby you enjoy, whether or not your family enjoys it or shares it. You may be surprised that when you do things that are for yourself alone, the less you feel trapped about being responsible, and the more your loved ones will appreciate you since you’ve most likely become a calmer, looser, more fun person.

Daydreaming about the future 15

Posted on May 17, 2009 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes Updated May 17, 2009 12:00 AM

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Imagine that you’ve been asleep for 20 years like Rip Van Winkle, and when you wake up, you see a digital calendar and that tells you the year is 2029! You look around and everything has changed. As you gaze out the window, you swear that you just saw a flying car! And the kids outside in their funny-looking clothes seem to be skating six inches above the ground except that they are not wearing skates!

Incredible!

You have awakened to a whole new world. You see a TV set in the room and you are amazed that it turns on by virtue of your simply wishing it to be on. It’s called iTV, “i” standing for “intuitive.”

Everything is wonderfully new and modern. But suddenly, you get the shock of your life! You see a familiar image of a now old but still elfin woman on TV with the famous mole on the cheek. You are shocked to realize that, lo and behold, she is still president of the Philippines!

I wanted to write a futuristic column but it is difficult to counter the inertia that overtakes me when I try to imagine a radically different future for our country. Nevertheless, I will try to do so, but minus the flying cars and the intuitive TV.

In their place, allow me to daydream and toy with some crazy ideas, impossible as they seem. But then, some pundit once said the day the US had a black president was the day pigs would fly! And now, thanks to a Mexican town named La Gloria, we have swine flew — er… I mean flu.

So, here goes:

Politics

It is 2021 and the situation is dire. Elections are on the horizon and no one is excited about the candidates who have presented themselves to the public, not even the candidates themselves. They all seem half-hearted about running even under a Comelec that is finally computerized and can deliver credible results in only five days. No candidate is charismatic enough to light up a crowd or dangle new social possibilities that can entice and excite a jaded public.

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The Comelec, government and big business are desperate. For the first time, they decide to get together and find a solution. After much deliberation, the businessmen suggest a strategy that has served them through the years — outsourcing!

They suggest that we “outsource” our candidates for president, vice president, the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Why not? It has worked for business. And while we’re at it, haven’t we been “outsourcing” our basketball players, athletes and beauty queens all these years? And haven’t they brought in the trophies and titles for the country? It is, after all, a global world we live in.

By this time in the future, Barack Obama of the US and Kevin Rudd of Australia are only in their late 50s but they have served their maximum terms as leaders of their respective countries. They have been highly successful in transforming their societies and are not about to retire. So (this future vision goes) they immediately accept when offered Filipino citizenship under the Dual Citizenship Law and thus become eligible to run for president and VP.

The Obama-Rudd ticket wins by a landslide.

We also pick and choose politicians from the British Parliament, the Knesset, the Duma, and other law-making bodies of successful governments everywhere to fill up our own legislative bodies.

And at last, change comes to the Philippines!

Epidemic Control

A new deadly epidemic hits the world for the fourth time in two years. Everywhere people are panicking as the flu spreads and its victims multiply exponentially all over the world — except in the Philippines. There is not a single case reported here. The world is baffled. The secret seems to lie in the way the Philippines screens incoming visitors in all its ports of entry.

Even if there are no heat-detecting sensors or any other high-tech devices to sift through the passengers coming off planes and ships, the Philippines seems to be successful in weeding out those who are ill.

In place of all the modern gadgetry, everybody entering the country goes through a screening process as they pass immigration where the officer merely feels the visitor’s forehead with one palm and his own neck with the other, to compare temperatures.

It is cheap, effective, low tech and probably indigenous. The Philippines is praised for its simple but innovative approach and the whole world adopts the procedure.

Religion

In the year 2020, the Catholic Church is faced with a dilemma. There are hardly any priests left to care for the spiritual needs of the faithful.

Luckily, for the first time since anyone can remember, the Philippines is blessed with young modern church leaders who decide to be creative in their approach. They know that a lot of the sacraments are harder and harder to deliver since the few priests left are getting old and do not have the stamina to mingle with large crowds, much less administer the sacraments in the traditional way.

They institute the following innovations:
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a) Call centers for confessions. This way, the priests and the faithful can experience the sacrament of reconciliation even if not in the same place. It saves time, transport costs and is more accessible to both sinners and priests, not just in the Philippines but all over the world.

The Bishops, however, ban the use of texting to confess one’s sins for now. But they are mulling the idea of something equally novel — “drive-through” confessions.

b) Masses through TV and homilies via YouTube. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could choose which priest and which homilies to watch over and over again?

c) Baptism, extreme unction and other face-to-face functions are now dispensed through Google video chat, YM or Skype. It is safe, personal and, with the right lighting and décor, can be as emotionally touching and effective as the real thing.

Science

The first trials of the prototype technology which makes possible the delivery of dextrose and all types of transfusions via WiFi and Bluetooth are performed successfully by college students at the Ateneo Physics Department. Except for a small glitch where there is a mix-up regarding which patient gets what medicine and dosage, the trials are promising.

The world takes notice of the Philippines as a new center for scientific innovation.

Weather

With global warming in full swing and the oceans rising and obliterating thousands of low islands everywhere, new vacation places are springing up like the Antipolo and Tagaytay beach promenades.

Gene Technology

Manny Pacquiao, now the biggest boxer of all-time, has allowed himself to be cloned so that the Philippines can keep producing world-class boxers. Scientists are successful in producing Manny Pacquiaos for all weight categories of boxing, making the Philippine dominance in the boxing world complete.

Metro Life

The population of the Philippines has doubled and Metro Manila now has a staggering 50 million people. The MMDA has come up with a radical approach to clear the streets, avenues and sidewalks of traffic and people. The citizens are now color-coded according to their birthdays. If you were born on an odd number day, you can be on the streets on M-W-F. The even-numbered people can go out on T-Th-S. Sundays are free for all, during which you may want to stay home, away from the teeming crowds.

I could go on and on speculating about the future, but I know none of these things will probably materialize — except maybe for that shocking elfin image on my iTV!

* * *

3

Posted on May 15, 2009 by jimparedes

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After a successful first run, it’s time again for my Basic Photography course in Sydney.

I will be giving a workshop on Basic Photography on June 20, 2009 at my house in Glenwood. This will be a hands-on experiential approach which will cover basic knowledge of the SLR camera and its functions, techniques on lighting for outdoors, indoors and including studio lighting, composition, the use of different lenses, portraiture and landscape techniques, motion or action photography, and many others.

This is a one day workshop only from 1 to 7PM and so we will proceed immediately to 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 7PM
PLACE: 4 Harcourt Grove, Glenwood
COST: 100 AUD

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

Understanding generations 4

Posted on May 03, 2009 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes Updated May 03, 2009 12:00 AM

Things follow one after another in a logical sequence. I remember telling this to my kids in our talks about the different stages of relationships that they would likely go through in life. In these discussions, I would point out that kids become adolescents, and grow up to be teenagers before they become adults. They fall in love with someone, have a thing going, get married and have kids, with all of these stages happening in that order. Except maybe falling in love, which can happen many times in one’s life, even way into late adulthood.

But that isn’t always how things turn out in life, especially these days. From the point of view of many older people, there seems to be a “disorder” in the way things are unfolding, in the way the young people today are living their lives. If this is the new order, it seems like chaos to us older folks. The stages I mentioned above still do happen but not in the sequence we are used to. In truth, it can get quite alarming.

Many will agree that sex is a bit too casual these days, that it happens too early and too often in courtship. If surveys and news reports are to be believed, it often occurs way before kids get to know each other really well and certainly before they are full adults. More and more, babies are conceived and families are made before marriage — that is, if the relationship even gets to marriage.

Ironically, while we of the Baby Boomer generation have sacrificed a lot to give our kids what they did not have, the world we have created has turned out to be so difficult for them to just enjoy being kids. Notice how many are in such a hurry to do so-called “adult” things and put on the superficial trappings of adult entitlement.

Have we Baby Boomer parents screwed up? If we have, it’s probably from trying too hard to make life easier for our kids. We worried about their not having the best chances in life, the best clothes and the best education. We worried that they would have a hard time at anything.

We worried about things our parents never worried about like lead poisoning, obesity, drug addiction, seat belts and AIDS. Most of all, we developed an overblown fear of the possibility that they may be suffering from low self-esteem and made sure they got a barrage of reassurances. And so we gave them expensive toys, enrolled them earlier in school and got them reading, writing and counting earlier. We enrolled them in after-school activities, and extras like summer camp and travel so they could feel more confident and “get ahead.”

We spared the rod. We were easy on them, making sure we continuously gave them “positive” reinforcement by complimenting and praising them much more than we ever got when we were growing up. We anticipated their needs, often acting before we should have.

While most of these things are actually good, they are not always so, especially when given in extra large doses, or without the kids having earned them, or even before they asked for them. In many ways, the largesse that today’s kids enjoy in the name of our love may have actually hurt them. I fear that all this pampering has made them soft, unfocused and too dependent on their parents.

I believe that the biggest temptation many of us parents fall into is trying to be our children’s “best friend.” This means establishing rapport so they feel free to tell us anything. We do this with the goal of establishing open communication with them which, in our view, can only be for the good.

But by being our kids’ best friend, we often end up surrendering the right to be the parent-disciplinarian that our kids need during their formative years. We give up our power to dispense “tough love” when the kids need some scolding and punishing for bad behavior.

On top of that, by being their closest confidante, we may undermine the necessary stage of rebellion and aloneness that children must go through if they are to become their own persons.

I had a lot of self-esteem issues when I was growing up and I know a lot of other people my age did. But we did not even know what to call it then, and neither did our parents. They thought we were just being overly shy, or we were going through the usual lack of confidence associated with youth. So our parents hardly intervened with the process, and we pretty much solved these issues ourselves.

I often swing from the stance of an old–fashioned “my-generation-was-tough” kind of parent to being an open-minded and perhaps too forgiving and accommodating one. This is one of the great contradictions my generation has to live with, since we were raised in a modern world by old-fashioned parents with old values but became parents ourselves in a postmodern one that demands new ways of coping.

Like my mother did, I often wonder how my kids will fare as parents. I would not be surprised if my mom’s parents also wondered about how their kids would do. Every generation worries about whether their progeny is made of stronger stuff than they are.

It is probably true that this generation is softer than mine but there are intrinsic weaknesses of youth, such as recklessness and impulsiveness that I believe will redeem them. The writer Pearl Buck observed, “The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible — and achieve it, generation after generation.”

Thank God for this, since it is probably what has saved every seemingly impossibly hopeless generation.

* * *

Definitely the last call!

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 for 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.


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