Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Archive for January, 2012


An accident, an old flame and a new addiction 1

Posted on January 29, 2012 by jimparedes

My son Mio had always wanted a motorcycle which from day one, his mom and I had always had a problem accepting, much less encouraging. At every conceivable opportunity, we would always mention the pitfalls of owning one. But my son Mio persisted. He worked hard to save money and spent hours upon hours online and on the road searching for THE ONE he wanted. It had to be a specific model and cc that conformed to his taste for vintage and for the requirements of the state of NSW for one just starting bike. When he got one, he was so proud and happy. It took him weeks to learn, take the test, pass, practice at night when there are few cars on the road before going on his first ride to the City. He also purchased a helmet, jacket and all the stuff bikers need to be safe.

This afternoon, I got a text from Lydia that Walter, Mio’s best friend had taken the bike and got into an accident. From what I can gather, he slid on some gravel, and ended up under a caravan. My wife and Mio brought him to the hospital where he is at the moment being treated for some injuries. I still don’t know how serious it is but it seems he did not hit his head which is good. The bike, alas, was totaled.

Aside from feeling bad about his friend, Mio is (as my wife described it), ‘beyond upset’ for obvious reasons. I texted him to console him. I said that while I was upset that Walter was hurt, as his father I am somewhat relieved that it was not him who was in the accident. Material things come and go. That can be settled later. I did not have to advice him to be with his friend. Mio has always valued his friendships.

Even when we know things will eventually get better, as a father, I suffer as well when my children are inconvenienced, hurt in any way. But, life happens. They must deal with it. I only hope he gets second thoughts about buying another one after seeing how easily accidents can happen.

Just got a new message from my wife. Mio, though upset, told her, ‘Ma, it’s only a bike. I hope Walt is OK.’

* * *
Yesterday, I picked up one of my guitars after not playing the instrument for over a month. I was in Sydney all that time and even if I have a nice Aussie-made Maton guitar there, I hardly even touched it. Have not been feeling musical these days. But yesterday, here at my house in Manila, I opened my guitar case and picked up my newly renovated Gibson guitar and played it for close to an hour. It was like spending time with an old flame that one’s heart still beats for. It was wonderful, to put it easily. I sang a few songs I used to sing in high school.

I noticed two things immediately though: my fingers hurt from lack of playing for awhile, and it took me some time to warm up vocally to reach the notes I used to reach much easier a few months ago. I must go back to the artists’ credo of ‘practice, practice, and most importantly, more practice.’ It never stops.

* * *

Slept this afternoon. I think I am still jet-lagged. I sleep late and wake up too early. The 3 hours difference between Sydney and Manila is quite hard to shrug off. I can handle the time difference between manila and the US better, strangely enough.

I have also taken to coffee in my 60th year of existence. I have been a non-coffee drinker since I was born. Masarap pala. My wife who is a strong coffee drinker, and my daughter Ala who supervises a Starbucks store in Sydney’s Darling Harbor have been guiding me through the pleasures that caffeine can deliver to the body. How did I miss out on this all these years..

Growing up, I always thought coffee was one addiction I could live without. I also do not smoke and hardly drink. But at age 60, one can begin to allow these ‘vices’.

* * *
1) Basic Photography classes on Saturday, Feb. 18, from 1 to 6:30 p.m. Cost is P3,920. Venue is at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Call 426-5375 or 0916-8554303 to reserve.

2) Songwriting Workshop on Sunday, Feb. 19, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.. Learn the basics and actually write songs during the session. Very hands on! Student must play the guitar or the piano. Venue is at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Call 426-5375 or 0916-8554303 to reserve.

The art of giving and recieving 0

Posted on January 29, 2012 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated January 29, 2012

Giving is difficult. That is understandable because in giving, you give up something. You may even feel like you’ve not just given something away but that you have given up a part of yourself. It may feel like you’ve lost something tangible. And, in truth, you do.

And even when you are very willing to give something to someone, it can be scary. The fear is that your gift will be not be accepted well, or that it will say something about you, the giver, that is unpleasant or not too flattering. For example, nobody wants to be called a cheapskate.

Accepting a gift is also not so simple. It can be fraught with awkwardness. One is not sure how to accept a gift for a variety of reasons. For one, you, the receiver, may feel unworthy of the gift being offered, or you may feel that the giver is greatly inconvenienced because he is parting with a something of great value. Often, the natural reaction is to refuse the gift so as not to be burdened by the inconvenience, perceived or imagined, that the giver goes through.

I believe that both giving and receiving must be done with grace and sensitivity.

One of the things I regret is that I do not possess any material memento from my father who died too early in my life. Even as his sterling reputation has guided me for the most part of my life, I still wish I had something that he possessed, something he valued, that was important to him. He left his family with very little. One of them was his sword, a fine epee which was part of his uniform as a Knight of Columbus. Its handle was of gold and mother of pearl, and it came in a leather sheath with gold trimmings.

When it was my turn to be a dad, I swore that I would give my kids important souvenirs, meaningful items they can cherish after I have gone. I do not mean cell phones, iPads or anything trendy like that. I want to give them valuable things with historical and symbolic significance that they can pass on to their children someday. It will be my way of creating family traditions while I am still a part of their lives.

Eighteen years ago, at the height of my passion for collecting timepieces, I struggled with myself whether or not I should get a Breitling Navitimer watch. It was expensive and the frugal Ilocano in me could not justify the extravagance. I thought of other reasons to justify the acquisition — that it was my gift to myself for working so hard, or it would be more valuable someday. My daughter Erica who was shopping with me at the Shangri-la Mall asked me what was so special about the watch. I replied that it was a watch for life. I explained that it was a finely-crafted watch, and it was valuable and would one day have the status of a family heirloom.

Without any hesitation, she advised me to purchase it pronto since, if it is a watch for life, further dilly-dallying would be a waste of my limited time on earth. Her refreshing take was all the justification I needed. Within a few minutes, I purchased the watch.
I wore the watch off and on the first 12 years after I bought it. But in the last six years, I have worn it constantly. It is an automatic which, if left unused for days, has to be wound. Its hand movement is smooth and consistent unlike a digital watch whose second hand moves briskly and in a jerky fashion. I love it. It looks very manly — expensive but rugged.

It isn’t a conservative-looking gold watch the type that executives wear. This looks like one that active, imaginative and adventurous people like pilots, car racers, sailors, explorers, athletes or hip but serious musicians would use.

On my last visit to my family in Sydney, my conversations with my son Mio revolved around his future plans. He is looking into courses, training that will set him on a career path for life. He has lately been making decisions that are truly his own, sometimes contrary to the parental advice that his mother and I tend to lay on thick. He has a job that pays okay and I know he is enjoying this surge of independence and power that young people feel when they earn their own money and can purchase things. When we went out to eat, he would offer to pay the bill, or at least pay for his own share.

As a parent, I delighted in his independent thinking and persistence in following his dreams. He is really growing up and coming into his own.

For many years now, I had wanted to give him something valuable that would not just bond us as father and son but also something utilitarian that he could use for a long time. And so, during our last lunch together, as we talked about how quickly time had flown since our move to Australia, I took off my Breitling Navigator watch and gave it to him. He was a bit shocked, and he immediately refused, saying that he did not even wear a watch. I told him that it was one reason why I was giving it to him.

“Real men wear watches,” I told him, only half-joking. Besides, it would go well with his new motorcycle which he had saved up for and recently purchased against our advice.

I told him that the watch had kept time for me for many years. It reminded me of my schedules, birthdays, anniversaries and other important milestones, and also less memorable moments like the mere passing of time. It also kept me from being late, and it gave me a sense of urgency. It was now time for this valuable piece of equipment to help another person live his life in a more orderly fashion. “Time is fleeting,” I said, as I gave it to him.

After a while, he sensed my seriousness and the importance of what I was doing. He still balked a little knowing how expensive the watch was. I told him that it was also for that very reason that I was giving it — because it had great value. “It’s not really giving unless the gift is of value,” I told him.

At that point, he smiled and I knew he got the point as he accepted my gift graciously. He was quite profuse in showing his appreciation and gratitude. Within minutes, he already had a picture of it on his Facebook page.

I felt good about parting with my watch. It will be of good use if only to remind my son that youth does not last long; one must not waste much time. Eventually, he must seriously tackle more meaningful pursuits in life.

More than the material value of my timepiece, I felt it was appropriate to give it to one who is on the threshold of life. And I like the idea of passing on something from father to son. It is a memento of sorts for us, something sacred that binds us in some way.

It is true that when one gives, one also receives. Someone once said, “Fragrance clings to the hand that gives the rose.” I felt I received something of value when I gave my watch to my son. I felt his appreciation and the strengthening of ties between us. It was father-son moment and I felt good about how well we both handled it, with grace and sensitivity, traits that are not overtly masculine, but are life skills that are part of the gift of wisdom.

* * *

1) Basic Photography classes on Saturday, Feb. 18, from 1 to 6:30 p.m. Cost is P3,920. Venue is at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Call 426-5375 or 0916-8554303 to reserve.

2) Songwriting Workshop on Sunday, Feb. 19, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.. Learn the basics and actually write songs during the session. Very hands on! Student must play the guitar or the piano. Venue is at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Call 426-5375 or 0916-8554303 to reserve.

Thoughts about maturity (longer article) 0

Posted on January 21, 2012 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated January 22, 2012 12:00 AM

Maturity is a fearsome word. People tend to equate it with suffering. They see the word “mature” and think of people who are “responsible,” lacking in spontaneity and carefreeness — and boring. They see killjoys who think in terms of responsibilities, duties, “have-tos,” commitments, promises.

There are singles who find perplexing couples who suffer in relationships but stay in them because it is the mature thing to do to painfully sort out their issues. They don’t have the patience or the commitment, emotionally and psychologically, for such an effort. And they ask, why not just change partners when the thrill is gone, or when it’s time to change?

They see people working hard to send their kids to school, pay for a house, and they are daunted by the hardship and sacrifices involved. Why not just relax and take it easy? Life is too short. They see such people depriving themselves of instant gratification, even if some of them can afford it.

The world as we know it today seems bent on making life more convenient, easy, attractive, and yes, as pain-free as possible. Every new invention is designed to make things more efficient, less uncomfortable, more pleasurable, and more time-saving for people. “New” and ‘latest’ items often mean they are meant to bring less pain. And people are more and more hooked on to these selling points.

The perception that maturity is scary may have real basis since we see so many “mature” people who live lives that involve suffering. But to be mature, or to have the intellectual, emotional, psychological and spiritual gravitas to navigate through life, demands that we look beyond modern enticements and understand more deeply how life really works. And it starts by accepting that the promise of modern life is an incomplete picture.

The whole idea of being mature is developing the ability to understand reality and deal with it. There are bills to be paid. There are emotional and psychological hurdles to overcome in order to love fully. Life, in its glorious and gory splendor, must be dealt with. Painful decisions and consequences must be faced, and this demands not just the capacity to enjoy life but also to accept suffering.

To be mature is to comprehend and accept that there are a lot of things going on in the world aside from one’s whims and preferences that often do not coincide with the way we want to live. We either become stubborn and reject the world as it is or we adapt to it. To be mature is to accept that one must suffer for a time until lessons are learned and the world is understood. It is the taming of the wild, juvenile and immature spirit in us. It is only after a long while and after great effort that the pain becomes more tolerable, and starts to ease.

Undeniably, there are also moments when reality and all its issues may be downright pleasurable, and we don’t even have to exert any effort in making it so. And we thank God for such strokes of good luck or that things are going our way. To a mature person, much of life becomes pleasurable simply because he has prepared and mastered himself to respond correctly to the situations that may arise.

In other words, we can still get your kicks whether we are disciplined and mature or irresponsible and immature. But I think the mature person, in the end, gets more kicks and in greater quality, than the immature one who will always need to search for more but enjoy it less and less. This is because the immature guy becomes a slave to his pleasures, while the mature one is less dependent on them, and less demanding about how life should show up.

When it comes to suffering, the opposite experience may happen. The mature person who has learned that life is bigger than his caprices, whims and drives may face suffering head-on but actually suffer less and still get some meaning out of it, while the hopelessly immature, in facing the same set of circumstances, may suffer more and find everything a total waste of time.

Mastering oneself is a big part of mastering reality, and that means knowing oneself both subjectively and objectively. It is to be intimate with ones’ inner life and yet have the ability to step aside and see oneself in the third person.

When you know yourself, you become less and less the issue when you deal with life. While we can never really and completely get out of ourselves, life becomes less about our untamed egos. It is not so much about us but about other people and the larger life outside of us.

Maturity involves balance and wisdom. Former US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt put it most eloquently when she said, “A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably.”

Maturity is not just about doing the ‘right’ thing but knowing when we should do it. It is not just about “correcting” the world of its ills even if we sometimes do. It is more about dealing with oneself and others and trying to find the best way to make things easier for everyone. It is certainly not about being perfect or feeling that one has done well. It is about self-acceptance in the deepest sense. It was the theologian and philosopher Paul Tillich who wrote, “The awareness of the ambiguity of one’s highest achievements (as well as one’s deepest failures) is a definite symptom of maturity.”

Sometimes, I wonder how mature I really am and I shudder at what I see. To be sure, I have matured a lot in many ways since my youth. But there is more to learn. Maturity involves life-long learning. One thing I have learned is this: When I was young and less mature, the world seemed to force me into circumstances. I was happy or sad because of how the world was. It dictated my moods. Now, I feel I have a choice on how to feel about life. It does not matter how the cards are dealt. I will choose to live it as best as I can.

* * *

My first workshop for the year!

If you got a DSLR camera for Christmas, now is the time to learn to use it. Take great pics throughout the year and beyond. Basic Photography is on Jan. 28 from p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Varsity Hills, QC. It’s the street across Miriam College. Fee is P3,920 (includes VAT). Call 0916-8554303 to reserve or write to jpfotojim@gmail.com. See you.

Life starts at 60 1

Posted on January 15, 2012 by jimparedes

It’s a new year and a new beginning. It is a cliché but it is something to ponder. Beginnings are generally good things that bring real, great hope.

My spiritual practice is defined by the idea of focusing on beginnings. There is something fresh about a start, a new experience, or an undertaking. It awakens us to new things and makes us feel alive. Making ourselves available to the unfolding moments in a day is not just a practice in itself, it is the practice. And this practice starts with waking up to a blank day.

I am talking about a day that is not the day following some yesterday, or a day before a tomorrow with a rigid agenda and a set routine. I am talking about something so pristine and practically untouched by anything that has come before it — a day brimming with potential. And I know that is literally possible since I have had days when I have new, seminal experiences, completely unique ideas, or I am doing things I have never done before, and it feels great.

These days, the thought of an entirely new year has me so excited. I am looking at dozens of weeks, hundreds of days, thousands of hours, 525,600 minutes, and so many millions of seconds waiting to be explored, animated, filled up, emptied, breathed life into and lived in any way that I wish. If that isn’t exciting, I don’t know what is.

Some 14 years ago, I had my first encounter with Zen and I immediately embraced its focus on the moment — not some special moment but every ordinary moment we live. These moments become special to us simply because we sanctify them with our attention. I was being asked to pay attention. That was the simple practice. I have learned a lot, but I still have not mastered it.

I have learned and continue to learn that the more you pay attention, the more you become awake, and the more you are awake, the more you become accident prone — yes, accident prone to the gift of kensho, or satori: enlightenment. This is the great moment when, to put it simply and dispassionately, everything in the universe is experienced as being in its proper place.

And yet, there is no difference between a moment of kensho and a moment of mundane living. What makes certain moments different or special is the fact that we make it special. When you think about it, every moment is of infinite potential. There is essentially no difference where one is or what one is doing. The universe and its gifts are in every place you are in, and in whatever you are doing. The ordinary moment is clothed with great invisible power waiting to be recognized by the awakened mind.

At 60, I have much to look forward to this year. New moments and opportunities will present themselves which I will shape to what I want to experience. And at the same time, I will humble myself and accept their gifts, and allow myself be shaped by them.

This year, my musical side wishes to express itself through many shows I would like to do everywhere I can, and new songs that I wish to write, sing, record and perform. I am also excited to do a lot of photography with great passion and dedication while continuously learning new skills. At the same time, I wish to start writing my fifth book and finish it. I once told myself that I wish to write 20 books before I conk out. I have not written one in five years. It’s time to do it again. There are also social concerns to get passionate about which I am sure will make this year a very exciting one for me.

There is so much playing out in life. There are many things that demand our time and attention. Life demands that we multi-task to be able to put things in order. The job, family, relationships, our social lives, our duties and responsibilities to society, faith, home and individual lives are all important. But in the context of beginnings and fresh starts, what is important is how we respond to all of these.

The common response to many of the things we have to do is to simply do them the way we have been doing in the past. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If there’s nothing wrong, why change it? And it makes sense to use a formula that is tried and tested and that works.

But what about the things that do not work too well? There are areas in our lives that do not serve us as well as others, where our responses (or even the lack of it), do not give us positive results or experiences. These need a new approach, a new mindset, clear thinking and fresh takes. These call for new beginnings.
I have always felt that my capacity to jettison old hurts, disappointments and failures and start again has served me well. My wife often gets impatient with me when I can’t remember directions on the road, or have a hard time doing things around the house — things she finds so easy to do. In such moments, instead of allowing myself to become negative or defensive, I focus on learning. The important thing is the moment and that is all I have to pay attention to until I eventually get it. And it is always a beginning. There is always something new to learn. In a Zen frame of mind, there is no such thing as repetition.

Tonight, before I sat down to write this article, I played my iPod and sang to minus-one tracks of some APO songs that I used to sing with Danny and Boboy. When we were still a trio, I hardly sang solo; my instinct was mostly to blend in and make sure that the sound of three was like the sound of one united effort. In a way, it meant holding back, filling in the gaps in volume, and shaping one’s voice to fit the sound we wanted as a group.

As a solo artist now, I find a new thrill singing to the music of APO’s hits. I phrase the words the way I want to without having to blend in. I also push notes upward or inflect and bend melodies in ways I find interesting. I feel like a fresh new artist singing new songs, even if, in fact, I have done these songs with APO thousands of times.

We have all lived our lives, and I may have lived longer than most of you, my readers. But you may be able to relate when I say that there are many ways to “de-routinize” life and make it fresh, new and exciting — a new beginning always.

And even when things do come to an end, just as the last effort comes to a halt and things stop, the moment is merely a pause while it waits for us to begin something new.

Since we are fated to be perpetual beginners, it makes sense to learn the art of it by always beginning our lives anew — fresh, blank and unsullied by the past.

* * *

My first workshop for the year!

If you got a DSLR camera for Christmas, now is the time to learn to use it. Take great pics throughout the year and beyond. Basic Photography is on Jan. 28 from 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Varsity Hills, QC. It’s the street across Miriam College. Fee is P3,920 (includes VAT). Call 0916-8554303 to reserve or write to jpfotojim@gmail.com. See you.

Thoughts about maturity 1

Posted on January 12, 2012 by jimparedes

Maturity is something a lot of people fear. I think know why. They equate it with suffering. They see ‘mature’ and think of people being ‘responsible’ and they do not like what they see. They see killjoys. They see responsibility. For example, they see people suffering in a relationship but staying in it because it is the mature thing to do to painfully sort out issues. Why not just have partners and change when the thrill is gone, or when it’s time to change? They see people working hard to send kids to school, pay for a house because it is the mature thing to do when you raise a family. Why not just relax and take it easy? They see people depriving themselves of instant gratification even if they can afford it.

And the perception may have real basis because they see so many ‘mature’ people suffering in the world.
But I would like to say, what people are seeing is is an incomplete picture.
The whole idea in being mature is to develop the ability to understand reality and deal with it. There are bills to be paid. There are things to hurdle emotionally, psychologically in order to love fully. Life has to be dealt with. Painful decisions must be faced. And that demands some sort of suffering.

To be mature is to comprehend and accept that there are a lot of things going on in the world aside from one’s whims, likes and preferences. It is to suffer for a time until lessons are learned and the world is understood. It is the taming of the wild, juvenile and immature spirit. After a while and with great effort, it becomes less painful, more tolerable and then the suffering eases a great deal. And then, there may even come episodes where reality and all its issues may become a downright pleasurable experience.

It is true you can get kicks whether you are disciplined and mature or irresponsible and immature. But I think the mature guy in the end gets more of it in greater quality while the immature will need more but enjoy it less and less. Why? Because he becomes a slave to his pleasures and likes, while the mature get less dependent, less demanding on how life should show up to ease the pain of living and to experience joy.
Mastering oneself is a big part of mastering reality. When you know yourself, you become less and less the issue when you deal with life. Whatever presents itself, you can deal with it.

Thoughts about God today.. 5

Posted on January 05, 2012 by jimparedes

Have you ever wondered why bad things happen to good people? That must be one of the big questions of all time. Some people will say it’s because He has something better for us after. Others will say it is punishment. I don’t buy either.

The truth is, we will probably never know. We can only speculate. I can’t pretend to be sure of my answer but the only thing I can think of is this: God does not value the material world, our health and material bodies included. It matters not to God if they all come or go. Look how quickly fortunes of men change. Observe how physical beauty fades. If they were of utmost importance, God would treat them with greater care. One monsoon, earthquake or any natural disasters and they all disappear.

It seems the only thing that matters is what is indestructible, what is eternal–and it is that which has no beginning, was never born, and will never end. The eternal aspect of who we are–Christians call it the soul, other religions call it something else, is what I am pointing to here.

Notice how our conversation with God qualitatively changes when bad things happen. We immediately ask for material deliverance. There is no logic to how God decides about who gets spared and who doesn’t. But one thing sure is, God seems to want to crack you open and tell you that you are bigger than what you think. Concentrate on things that last–eternal stuff. That’s the real stuff you are made of, not your possessions, not even your body.

* * *

If God made a survey and asked how many bothered to see the sunrise today, I think She would be severely disappointed. I don’t think 1% of people on earth cared about the morning light show yesterday or today. And they will probably not care tomorrow.

And yet God continues to keep these things going–glorious sunrises and sunsets, blue skies, marvelous life forms in the oceans, stars at night, a nice soft wind, just to name a few.. Why?

Hmm.. My guess is, God is God and that’s how a God behaves.

God simply can’t help being marvelous.

* * *


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