Priceless

Posted on March 02, 2014 by jimparedes

Priceless
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 2, 2014 – 12:00am

One of the things every person must figure out in his life is his relationship with money. It is important to have a healthy attitude towards money. Too much attachment to it is not good. People can be driven to corruption, addiction and moral decay when they obsess too much about it. Too little concern may prove costly too in the sense that one may throw it all away needlessly and uselessly. The Chinese saying, “A fool and his money are soon parted,” comes to mind.

Everything has a price tag if we look through the value system that runs this world. The system after all is controlled by economists, bankers, politicians, and they all subscribe to the materialistic equation that money is power and power is money. And needless to say, everything from the economic point of view has a price tag. And the more money one has, the greater one can have a life of consumption.

This article is not about the price and value of things, people, etc. In fact, I will be exploring what has not been touched by the value of money. It is about what is priceless in life that is worth pursuing.

“Priceless” means you can’t put a price on it. It can’t be bought, or sold. It is something we can only appreciate if we get out of the realm of economic and material values that dominate our lives.

I was reading an article called “Giftivism: Reclaiming the Priceless” by Pavithra Mehta. It is based on a movement a few people founded to simply do good and encourage its spread. It is called Servicespace. It is composed of successful Silicon Valley people who started by doing websites for free. They believe in people’s natural ability and desire to give and connect to others. What they have set out to experience is the practice “unconditional generosity.”

They have three guiding principles which surely make no logical sense to the business world they live in. For one, everything they do is completely voluntary. No paid staff or employees. The second is, no fundraising is to be done. They rely on their own resources. And the third is, they focus on small acts. No grand schemes or big outcomes expected.

Naturally, people who work with the usual business models have predicted they would not scale, they would not sustain and they would be aimless without a big project. But their reason for doing what they do is to experience for themselves the value of things that cannot be measured. In short, they were searching new experiences and forms of value. They want to discover the meaning of “priceless.”

The idea has caught on with 500,000 members worldwide. They have put up sixKarma restaurants in different parts of the world where the menu has no price. The customers get a 0.0 bill at the end of the meal and are told that someone who came before them has gifted them with the meal and if they want to continue to pay forward, they can donate. Or they could decide not to pay, too.

Let me share here a portion of Mehta’s narrative.

“One time we had a computer scientist serving tables. At the end of the meal one guest who was skeptical about the whole pay-it-forward idea handed him a $100 bill, ‘You trust me to pay it forward,’ he said, ‘Well, I trust you to bring me back the right change.’ This wasn’t part of the plan. Our volunteer ran through a list of options in his head. Should he split the money 50:50? Should he try and calculate the price of the meal? Suddenly the answer came to him. He handed the $100 bill back to the guest, and then opened up his own wallet and added an extra $20. In that moment, both waiter and guest experienced a mini transformation and ‘got’ what Karma Kitchen is about.”

Their idea is to create experiences that are impossible to monetize like acts of kindness and generosity, etc. A few other examples of these are giving one’s time helping others, or paying the toll fees of the car behind. While the time spent and the toll may be measured, the intention of doing it with kindness cannot. The experience of both the giver and the receiver is priceless.

It is not about the money but about believing that people have it in them to be generous. When you experience something like it, you open yourself to the flow of giving and will do your part to continue it.

In the whole process, people develop more trust in each other. And because it is unconditional giving, it stops being a transaction where people are constrained to give each other things of more or less equal value. It becomes a new relationship where people simply experience the spirit of giving without money or worldly value in mind. And that is priceless.

I know some of you dear readers will find this absolutely crazy. Will it work? Here’s another narrative where Mehta talks about her uncle, Dr. V, who did something really extraordinary.

“In 1976 he and his five brothers and sisters started an 11-bed eye hospital in India called Aravind. At Aravind no one who needs care is turned away. They do 60 percent of their surgeries for free. They don’t do any fundraising or accept donations. And yet it is a fully self-sustaining enterprise. How does it work? Patients can choose if they want to pay or not. The revenue from paying patients goes towards covering costs for the others. The quality of care whether you pay or do not is world-class. It’s a brilliant, elegant and breathtakingly compassionate system that really works. Today Aravind is the largest provider of eye care on the planet. Over 38 million patients seen. More than five million surgeries performed. It has redefined the impossible. Harvard Business School has been studying it for years trying to understand how a place that breaks all the rules of business still succeeds. The thing is Aravind doesn’t succeed in spite of the fact that it breaks these rules. It succeeds because of it.”

Every day that passes, I find myself believing less and less in the value system perpetrated by the world. It is dangerously unsustainable when so many have so little and so very few own so much. Sometimes I ask myself how much I must do for money and how much I should be doing just for love.

In the end, the question is about how I want the world to be. Should I continue to invest my time and efforts to a world of unsustainable, uncaring consumption, or a more sustainable world that runs on kindness and giving?

If we all asked this question, we could really change ourselves, and — who knows? — the rest of the world may follow.
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Forget being perfect

Posted on February 22, 2014 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 23, 2014 – 12:00am

I’ve been on overdrive the past two weeks with too many things that I need to do. It seems like I don’t stay too long being preoccupied with thinking and doing just one thing. I have been multitasking, using my different skills lately to get all my commitments done.

I did an acting stint for a public service video last week. I wrote some music for a documentary last Monday. I also fulfilled my weekly writing commitment for this column. There is also an online project I am involved in now which I will write about soon. I am also in Bali at the moment to attend a Samsung conference as I write this.

On top of that, there is the little house Lydia and I are building at the back of our property which I check on a few times a day. I am also working on a few commissioned songs that are slowly being written inside my head. On Monday, I will be performing a few songs with the AMP band for a tribute to the late musician/arranger Eddie Munji whose contributions to OPM are epic. A few more speaking engagements, photography gigs are scheduled in the next month. I really have my plate full.

Compared to how I was then — and how I used to do these things 25 years ago — I am much calmer now. At that time I would get too hyper and stressed out doing everything I had to. While I had no doubt that I would get them all done, I would practically be running on empty with very little sleep, with a not pleasant disposition until I finished them. But hell, yes, I would get them done and it did not matter to me whatever shape or state I was in after.

Those were the days when I was a dyed-in-the-wool perfectionist. I would leave nothing to chance. I would have all the bases covered. I proudly considered myself as someone who always went the extra mile to get the job done well all because I had said yes to it.

Looking back now, I can see what a thoroughly driven man I was then. And as I go reminiscing about those days, I find myself feeling physically and emotionally tired, with a blur of unpleasant feelings coming back to me. That’s because I was too hard and unforgiving of myself and others.

Perfectionism is a hard master. Things always had to be perfect to a ‘T’ or else it was a failure. I could not stand the idea of being relaxed or cavalier about mistakes being made. I felt that I had to hold the standards up and always made sure that everything was working to a high capacity with seriousness and dedication. I must have been so difficult to work with then.

I was doing a lot of work with APO then and I knew that my drive for perfection was taking a toll on my two friends. I was always pointing out mistakes and hardly recognizing or acknowledging the good and positive things being done by others or myself. I was like this for years.

One day, after some words were exchanged between the three of us, I decided that I would stop being a perfectionist and just let things flow. Just like that, I made a resolution and mostly followed it. I stopped nagging and listened more. It did not mean that I stopped caring or that we would stop rehearsing and allow our standards to go to pot. It just meant that I would stop being obsessive and trust that things would get done without me having to always be the catalyst.

In no time, I noticed a general improvement in our relationship as a group and as individuals. As I got calmer, the atmosphere was more relaxed and creative. I began to notice that more and more, the two other guys took more interest in the music, spiels and the performances we did. And things were more enjoyable because we were more spontaneous about it.

One of the things I learned because of all this is that perfectionism is a crazy thing. I noticed that instead of bringing out the best, it actually brought out the worst in me, and the people I worked with. I became obsessive, unpleasant, and felt I carried an unjust burden because I cared more than the others. At least that’s what I believed I was doing. And carrying that burden must have caused a resentment in me which made me a nitpicker and a fault-finder.

Today, as I find myself being swamped with work, I feel I can be less stressed about it than I used to be. And I can carry it out with more joy and pleasure. Sure, there are deadlines. But I know I will meet them better if I do not worry too much. I work by “watching the flow” and going with it. And the easiest way to be in the flow of things is to simply show up and start the work. By simply being present and beginning the work, my creativity immediately awakens and begins connecting, piecing disparate objects and making new creations. It’s like I can readily summon my powers to do what needs to be done while remaining relaxed.

The perfectionist in me used to make things appear harder than they were. For one thing, I never felt completely happy nor content despite all the work I put in. Nothing was trivial. Everything was way too serious. Strangely, even a rough draft had to be close to perfect or I could not continue. Everything just had to be better, or the best all the time. And so I ended up repeating myself quite often, since I followed a tried and tested formula that had delivered before. In the process, I would severely criticize myself for being predictable.

I know a lot of young people who think perfectionism is a wonderful thing. They see it as one trait that separates them from others. Maybe it seems like a good thing to them in their young age. But sooner or later, they will realize it is not a sustainable attitude.

They will soon discover that their best work still awaits them when they discover the inspiration one can get just by being present to the flow. Fresh ideas and spontaneity will emerge, and they will feel a personal joy and satisfaction that is more sustainable.

My simple advice is this: Relax. Pay attention. Work hard but joyfully. However your work turns out is the state of the art of where you are right now. Compared to before, you will either be better, or worse, or just the same. Accept that and make peace with it. There are better ways to do the work than trying to make everything perfect.

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The many shades of love

Posted on February 18, 2014 by jimparedes

Love is one of the most beautiful things one can experience. It can also be the most confusing, frightening, traumatic and foolish emotion that can befall anyone.

It is easy to say “I love you” to people we love. And if we live long enough, we will experience many kinds of love, in different shades, involving many kinds of people and situations. We may experience love in different doses, some too little, others too much, depending on the circumstances and the decisions we make.

Motherly love probably has the most impact on the formation of our personalities. To a mother, loving her child is a primal experience; many women feel totally overwhelmed with an entire gamut of emotion when they have a child.

When the dice were rolled, we ended up with the mothers we have, for better or worse. As humans, we first experience love and also rejection from our mothers. The abundance or lack of love, the nurturing qualities and neurotic dysfunctions of mothers are passed on and leave their marks that their children carry for the rest of their lives.

I can say that I am very happy and grateful to have been born into this world through my mom.

There is also fatherly love, which gives off a love energy, which is nurturing in a masculine way. Unlike the motherly kind, it expresses love by protecting, materially supporting, guiding the children, and showing physical strength. Its affection can be distant but constantly reassuring. While a mother’s love is unconditional, a father’s love expands and pushes you to measure up to something — an ideal, an ambition. Ideally, fatherly love cheers you on as you set out to claim your future, and encourages you when you fall short of your dreams.

Sibling love is a kind of “identity” love. It affirms a sense of connectedness, context and bonding that children feel for each other as the offspring of the same parents. Brotherly and sisterly love can make us feel very much at home and teaches us a lot about sharing, competition and camaraderie. It also promotes the value of loyalty to family in an intimate, comfortable way.

Love among friends is probably the easiest kind of love, if you have the right kind of friends. In such a relationship, everyone gives and receives voluntarily. When it is good, there is no one to impress; it’s a come-as-you-are kind of connection. Such bonding may last a few weeks, years, or a lifetime with people coming and going as they wish.

Love of country is somewhat similar to family love except that the circle is way bigger. It involves a relationship with society and geography, and demands that we subscribe to the myths, values, history and interests of the groups that live in it.

Except for its broad coverage, love of country is hardly different from the love we have for, say, our alma mater or any large organization we belong to. Think of the Ateneo-La Salle rivalry or the EDSA experience. On an emotional level, love of country is felt as the stirrings of nationalism or team spirit. It is a “tribal,” ethnocentric kind of love.

Universal love is experienced by people who have a genuine concern for all of humanity, and all things, living and non-living. People who feel this are the kind who join Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and World Wildlife Fund. They are the environmentalists, mediators, peace advocates, and the likes of Mother Teresa. They go beyond all borders, feeling empathy and compassion for the nameless and faceless suffering masses and working to improve their lot. Their love for humanity is boundless.

I have purposely saved the best and most obvious kind of love for last.

Romantic love is the kind of love we cultivate and offer paeans and unending devotion to, especially at this time of year. To the overwhelming majority the world over, it is the most sought-after experience of love.

To put it simply, romantic love is like all the different types of love described above, but laced with fuzzy, warm, intense and erotic feelings, and the entire range of emotions we are capable of, both pleasant and unpleasant. Romantic love may include different grades of relationships from “puppy love” to the real full-blown deal.

Whether requited or unrequited, romantic love involves adoration, intense physical attraction, a strong erotic desire, and obsession. You can also throw in passion, pain, alienation, extreme pleasure, great calm, contentment, belonging, an unquenchable desire to be with that special someone, and even a fleeting out-of-body experience of being in some kind of heaven.

Romantic love can be a totally powerful physical, mental, and spiritual experience that stretches us in ways that can surprise us.

Love is one of the big deals in life, if not the biggest. We may strive for money, power, fame, health, beauty, and whatever else, but mostly, the motive for these acquisitions is we want to be more attractive, and thus more lovable, to others.

Why do we have such a need to love and be loved? I honestly don’t know, except that it feels good. All I know is, despite the foolhardiness of falling in love, it is way more foolish not to engage in it. Perhaps, despite all the pains associated with it, we were born to love and be loved.

But what do you do when romantic love wanes, as it does, eventually? If you stay around long enough, another form of love takes its place. As the psychologist M. Scott Peck wrote, the death of romantic love can be the start of true love.

We can make love grow deeper through the years by loving unconditionally. Loving truly means to stop searching for, enumerating or finding reasons, justifications or conditions for loving someone. When love moves beyond the original lure of physical, mental, psychological and sexual attraction that started it all, it becomes an act of the will, a decision to love, unconditionally.

You love and continue to love because you have chosen to. No ifs,? and/or buts about it. You have become a true lover. You are love itself. No conditions apply. Nothing else matters.

May all those who are in a romantic relationship reach the stage of True Love.
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Over the hill and picking up speed

Posted on February 13, 2014 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 9, 2014 – 12:00am

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 2.54.26 PM
Illustration by REY RIVERA

“If you think you will be too old when you finish if you take up a new study or course or anything now, well, guess what? You will still get old even if you do not take up whatever it is.. Just effing do it if it needs to be done. Time is slipping by. Maybe some of you needed to hear this.”

I posted this message on Facebook and got immediate positive responses. A lot of people related to it instantly. Many reposted it. Some who are in their 30s, 40s and 50s talked about being back in school or taking online classes, and looking forward to doing something new.

I notice as I get older that as much as I am thinking more and more about my age, I am also thinking less and less about it. While it is true that I take care of my health so that I can live strong, sane and trouble-free for as long as I can, I do not necessarily think of it as a factor when I am pursuing things I like to do. As the creator of Peanuts, Charles M. Schulz, said, “Just remember, when you’re over the hill, you begin to pick up speed.”

That’s exactly how I feel.

Last week, I traveled to two places in five days —Lagen in El Nido and Naga City. I will be going to Bali in a few days. I really enjoy traveling with my camera on hand. I am always thrilled to be in a new place and on the lookout for that scenery and moment that is waiting to be captured digitally and experientially. I can sit with people I’ve just met and get a terrific conversation going. I am totally fascinated by the stories shared by strangers I encounter. I feel that my understanding of human nature and the human condition expands after meeting new people, and I am easily inspired.

There are young people who are of the mindset that if they don’t “make it” early in life, if they don’t get the trappings of success, the good job, the high position, the prestige, etc. before they reach 30, it will be too late to succeed in the greatest possible way. I find it sad that they are so hard on themselves.

I believe that while it is good, or even great, to have a job or a career, one must also have passion for what one is doing. You may have the most glamorous high paying job but if your heart is not really in it, you will not be able to sustain it or be truly productive.

Something will eventually have to give. If it is the job that has to go, it’s a small price to pay in the pursuit of happiness, and being free from something that does not sustain your entire being. But if you keep the job to keep the money coming, it is your soul that you could lose, and that would be a tragedy.

When I was growing up, my mother told me that it did not matter what I wanted to be. What mattered was that I would try to be the best in my field. Together with that advice was the suggestion that if I loved what I chose to do for a living, my passion for it would make me excel.

One of the benefits Australia offers to its people is the availability of education at any age. Aus Study, as it is called, allows anyone to pursue studies later in life. And since returning to school and studying may not be financially easy, they offer a stipend of about 700 Australian dollars (AUD) to help adult enrollees through.

But while that is available, sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a mad rush among Aussies to go back to school, which gives truth to the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t force it to drink.”

Age does not have to be a hindrance or an excuse to avoid pursuing new interests or learning new skills. There are opportunities for anyone who is interested. Everybody will get old physically, but not everyone has to have an old, inflexible mindset.

Sophia Loren once remarked that, “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”

Understanding and internalizing this is probably one of the best life skills everyone, young or old, ought to learn. There are young “old people,” and there are old “young people,” if you know what I mean. The point is to be ageless, and not let physical age matter too much.

What really matters is becoming alive to your own life, to live and be so interested and absorbed with life that you want more and more of it so that you feel more expanded and see enchantment in everyday living.

Grandma Moses, one of America’s painting icons, started her career as an artist when she was in her 70s. Picasso never stopped painting, and ever so playfully, until he died. Paul McCartney at 71 is still writing songs, cutting records and touring the world doing concerts.

The late radio and TV writer Andy Rooney pointed out, “It’s paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone.”

The world has had a wrong view of what aging is all about. But I personally feel I do not have to live my age in stereotypical fashion. To age does not mean to just slow down one’s intake of life, even if one does not have the health and the strength left to do it. Knowing that “the end” will eventually come makes it imperative that if there is still something you want to do, you must not wait too long to do it.

Time is precious. It is wiser to spend it doing something new than wasting away and not doing anything at all.
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Culture wars

Posted on February 01, 2014 by jimparedes

Almost everywhere I look, I seem to sense a clash of ideas and opinions about a lot of things. In the US, there is a war of values about practically everything. In politics, religion, morals, etc., both the conservatives and the liberals are fighting for dominance as each side tries to win elections and approval so they can shape their society’s agenda towards the future.

Culture wars are when people of contrasting beliefs debate, argue and try to gain political power and cultural dominance in the hope of shaping society’s mores and laws to conform to their own set of values.

In the Philippines, the same thing is happening. There are culture wars being fought in many areas even if some have just started and their intensity is more subdued, at least compared to other countries. Let’s look at some of them.

Religion is a battlefield. This is a wide area where many contentious issues are being fought right now and will be fought even more fiercely in the immediate future.

Firstly, there is a silent competition that has been going on for sometime now between the Catholic Church and the Born Again evangelicals with many Catholics moving away from their Mother Church and joining different Christian congregations. One might say it is a low- intensity conflict but it often erupts when fanatics on both sides try to argue their positions.

There has also been an ongoing very noisy war over the issue of reproductive health which has spilled not just in social media but also in the streets and even inside the church itself. The conservative elements of the society are predictably anti-RH while a great number of citizens and even the President himself are for the RH law. Issues relating to contraception and sex education continue to be fought as we speak. Recently, the anti-RH people filed a TRO against the holding of an international convention on reproductive health in Manila. The courts threw out their appeal.

I am sure even more battles will inevitably be fought over other issues like divorce, acceptance of gay rights including gay marriage, and I will not be surprised if sooner or later it will even extend to abortion rights.

It is interesting to note that within the conservative Philippine church, many sense a reluctance among our bishops to follow or fall in line with the pronouncements of the more liberal Pope Francis on various issues. Many in the clergy seem intractably entrenched in old dogmatic positions. Even the Pope’s austere lifestyle and his views criticizing careerism, materialism among the clergy seem to go directly against the lavish lifestyles and practices of many church leaders. After all, some of these Princes of the Church have not only been enjoying the material trappings brought about by their religious power and influence but have also gotten used to entitlements coming from government and some officials.

Another culture war is being fought over politics and the economy. These are big items where the busiest, most vicious battles are being fought everyday.

Although we are a professed democracy, our leaders have mostly come from within the elite. Dynasties have ruled the political landscape for ages now. But now more than ever, the move towards reform and full democratization is real and more citizen participation in governance is really gaining traction. This, of course, is a direct challenge to dynasties, the elite and the protectors of the status quo.

President Aquino’s reforms, which include decisive steps he has taken against corruption, are already adversely affecting some institutions and a few powerful people. These and other steps towards the leveling of the playing field in many areas of our economic and social life are popular with a majority of people. For the first time, the political status quo is being shaken in quite significant ways.

In the ’80s after EDSA 1, when changes were instituted, the status quo hit back by staging coup after coup against the government though always unsuccessfully. These days, there is definitely more political stability. The shooting war has become a culture war and is being fought between the reformists on the one hand who want a more open, inclusive, just and functioning society against those who continue to benefit from the old way of doing things amid a corrupt system we have been suffering under through the years.

Issues such as corruption, the delivery of justice, PDAF, DAP, FOI, the present anti-cybercrime law, economic reform, taxation inclusive growth, the peace process, etc. are just a few lines drawn on the sand. And even if the President is not always on stream with the more progressive sectors, he is generally seen as an ally of the reform constituency.

The pressures of climate change bearing down on everyone will soon eclipse many issues as storms, typhoons, etc. become more severe and more people are affected everywhere. After all, the weather affects everyone, rich and poor alike.

The culture wars in the Philippines are being fought in many fronts and in varying degrees. In the sexual arena, save for the topic of contraception, the conflicts are actually still relatively quite muted. That’s because we, as a people have already been quite accepting of LGBTs and so this is not as big a deal as it is in the US. We hardly hear of hate crimes committed against them.

By the measurement of the UN, Philippine society ranks high in women empowerment. And while we do not generally discuss sex as openly as say, the Americans, we have become more open and accepting of unwed mothers, pre-marital sex, separations, etc. in our society.

There are other potential issues that may erupt as full blown culture wars in the future and some of them may actually be about culture. They may seem small and insignificant but they can potential become big. There is the issue of OPM vs foreign music which will be fought in media, on stages and theaters across the country. The emergence of alternative cinema is a welcome addition to the cultural dreariness of commercial cinema. I sincerely hope the movement for better, truer, more commercially independent films becomes a dominant force in the near future.

The last culture war I wish to point out is the one that will dominate the scene in the coming years. It will be all about modernization of almost all aspects of our socio-political and economic lives; how much of it we want, what direction we want to go and how fast we want the pace to be.

PNoy’s Tuwid na Daan may still turn out to be a major impetus towards the start a real modernization movement. Try to imagine the pay-offs that K-12, the peace process, the taming of corruption, openness, transparency and greater citizen participation will have on our society. And the way we are easily adapting to social media and technology is certainly not a hindrance but a big component of modernization itself. Very soon, social media will make it very simple to get national consensus on issues much faster.

Even the tiny improvements on weather forecasting have started to pay some dividends even if we are far from state of the art in weather prediction. Our calamity preparedness and saving lives and property have greatly improved, if the UN is to be believed.

Culture wars release pent up energy and new imaginings of what a nation can be. I am hopeful that many times they result in good things .

I leave you with a quote from American writer Terrence McKenna which goes, “The imagination is the goal of history. I see culture as an effort to literally realize our collective dreams.”

By all means, let’s expound on our ideas and push for values we think will be good for the nation. Let the culture wars continue!
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Thank you world

Posted on January 31, 2014 by jimparedes

Thank you world Please click on this!

The new video of ‘Thank you world’, a song I made for to express my gratitude to everyone in the world who helped us out. Please watch and tick ‘like’ if you are moved by it.

Let’s make it go viral so everyone in the world knows how grateful we are.

Thanks to Jennifer David , Alekz Londos, Mio Paredes, Dorothy Chrizelle Baladjay, Andee Achacoso, Noel Cabangon, Ernesto Baladjay, jr.

If you want to help raise funds, you can purchase the song on Itunes. Type Jim Paredes on the Itunes store and it will appear as Thak you world-Single.
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How to avoid becoming grumpy as we age

Humming in my Universe Philippine Star
Posted on January 18, 2014 by jimparedes

As I go deeper into aging territory, I sometimes wonder what I will be like 10, 15 years from now (if I live that long). I know that accumulating more years will mean I will have less and less time, opportunity and vigor to do the things I like to do.

Living will mean more physical pain, less activity at a slower pace, and more things to complain about. Aging will mean being more sedentary.

It’s a pretty daunting scenario to imagine but I am hoping to slide into it with some grace and positivity. Hopefully, I will find and accommodate the necessary balance to remain productive and happy.

I have eight brothers and sisters who are my seniors (and one who is younger than I) and while they may all have salt and pepper hair, none of them seems to be in a permanent state of pain, unhappiness or suffering. Thank God, I more often see them smiling, laughing, joking around, and still active, enjoying life and family gatherings. My oldest brother Jesse can stay on the dance floor longer than any of us younger folk. All of us are senior citizens now but we still enjoy singing our hearts out, and expressing ourselves in a loud manner like true Paredeses.

But I have met other people my age or older who seem to be going in another direction. Where once they were funny, sociable, positive and engaging, they have become reclusive, aloof, and even grumpy.

It is hard to accept that one is actually aging, even if we know it is also happening to everyone else. All around, there is denial of this fact of life. Aging, a natural phenomenon, is looked at almost as a disease, which, of course, it is not. It is one thing to accept intellectually that we all age, but quite another to accept it emotionally.

For many, every sign of aging can cause anxiety. We hang on to every vestige of youth. As we get older, we dye our hair or save what’s left, smooth out our wrinkles, go to the gym. Some go through stem cell replacement, Botox, plastic surgery, magic cures and diets that take out or slow down the creeping signs of aging.

Aging tends to make people grumpy for obvious reasons. There are the physical limitations of aging that one must learn to accept, which is hard to do. One is the limits to one’s autonomy, mobility and youth that no one would readily surrender to. And then there are the irritable aches and pains and illnesses that aging can bring. Surely, these can make one grumpy.

Losing one’s youth is, of course, gradual and each one goes through his own process of dealing with it. As aging gets more pronounced and its effects unravel more and more, the feeling can be compared to identity theft where you find your youthful vision of yourself being taken away and replaced with a less desirable image. While I can still do a real workout in the gym, there will come a day when I will not be able to, no matter how hard I try. And that, among other things, is something I must learn to accept, peacefully, quietly and with great dignity.

Aging is a given. It will happen, as long as we are alive. Which makes me wonder how we can handle aging so that we do not drop out of living and remain happy, productive, engaged, and at pace with the speed of life?

There is a medical condition called Irritable Male Syndrome which, according to Dr. Ridwan Shabsigh, head of the International Society of Men’s Health, is caused partly by testosterone loss that brings about “low mood and irritability.”

In the book, The Wonder of Aging: A New Approach to Embracing Life after Fifty by Michael Gurian, the point is made that in the first 50 years, a male’s body is fueled by testosterone that decreases yearly. But the decrease can be sharply drastic at around age 60. Basically, the grumpiness comes because at that age, the body has changed but our attitude and acceptance of this new reality has not. This can cause perplexing feelings of emasculation and powerlessness. Gurian writes that while generally, women as they age can cry about what they have lost, men prefer to scream and yell.

Activities that used to make us happy are no longer as enjoyable. Our older body can no longer keep up with the rigors of the sports that we love. In fact, many of them have now become physically dangerous. We suddenly realize that he can no longer play basketball or football, or jog as we used to without risking muscle, bone or tendon damage. Also, the thrill of sex isn’t the same as it was in our much younger days.

But actually, it is not only about the loss of testosterone. Perhaps more than the lack of testosterone are the pains we have suffered, such as the loss of loved ones due to death, unhappy or failed marriages, and ended relationships. We have regrets about the road not taken, decisions not made, career misses, lost opportunities for intimacy, and the lack of time or the chance to rectify the situation.

It is easy to imagine how these can make an elderly person grumpy.

Dr. Gurian suggests completely letting go of one’s lost youth, accepting that it is gone forever, never to return. This means letting go of all illusions and accept reality. This way, one can more easily embrace and settle into what he calls “pure elderhood.”

This still sounds pretty depressing. But it does not mean the end of everything. Not if one considers aging as entering an entirely new chapter in one’s life. Appropriate adjustments must be made. Perhaps one can take up gentler sports like walking, golf and recreational swimming. For psychological satisfaction, one can do mentoring, coaching and teaching the young. In fact, one can even go back to school or finally pursue urges one never had time for, such as writing, gardening, travel, photography and other passions.

The idea is to enjoy life as defined by this new balance.

One thing I am grateful for in my senior years is that companionship, love, the gift of laughter, learning new things, and simple joys like the company of grandchildren, pets, and old and new friends, have nothing to do with age. But they have a lot to do with being less grumpy as we age.
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How to be a good boss

Humming in my Universe, Philippine STar
Posted on January 11, 2014 by jimparedes

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 2.39.53 PM
Illustration by REY RIVERA

I wish to share some thoughts on the ranting, complaining, condemning, whining, hating and blaming that’s been flying thick and fast among netizens regarding governance issues. The perception that we, as a people, are perennially on the receiving end of bad governance, corruption, stupidity and insensitivity is shared by many, and with good reason. I would like to share some ideas on how we can get out of this feeling of victimhood and create a new, less toxic relationship between the government and us, its bosses.

First of all, I wish to point out something really obvious that we seem to forget or refuse to acknowledge — that there are, in fact, good people serving us in the different departments, bureaus, offices of government. Some may argue that while there are exemplary public servants, they are not in the majority. But it does not matter whether they are or they are not. What is important is that they are there and they are working on our behalf. And we can actually have a more functional and satisfactory relationship with them that can, in the process, encourage their lot to multiply.

Another thing I wish to remind everyone is that we, the people, are the bosses who are supposed to be served by government. But being a boss carries with it certain responsibilities.

Now let us try to look deeper and examine how we can relate to each other better. If we wish to improve governance, government officials and we, their bosses, must develop trust and synergy to be able to get things done.

There are many ways to do this. We can start by pointing out how not to do it. Sadly, many of us make a blanket condemnation of everyone and everything about government, saying that government is corrupt, inefficient, uncaring, etc. This has to stop because it is not producing positive results. It only makes it more difficult for the good officials to do what they need to.

Let us try and imagine how we citizens can be good bosses. For government officials reading this who really want to serve, I hope they find my suggestions helpful.

To my fellow bosses-citizens, here are some things to ponder:

1) Let’s take the time to read, examine, analyze, think and learn more about what our government officials and employees are doing, or are supposed to be doing. Learn about the details of their jobs, the real live situations they are dealing with, and the arena they are operating in. Context is important. We must learn to appreciate complexity.

There are things that seem ideal on paper but are far from perfect on the ground. When we take the time to understand this reality, we can accurately pinpoint what is wrong and make truly useful and productive comments, suggestions and decisions on how they can be improved.

The hardest thing for a government employee to have to endure is to listen quietly and tolerate bosses who know close to nothing about their work and what really needs to be done.

2) No one wants a boss who screams, curses, shouts, lays blame and generalizes without knowing what is really going on. It smacks of ignorance and bad management. It does nothing to improve the situation and discourages good employees who are lumped together with the bad ones. It also promotes cynicism. But admittedly, this is how most of us have been dealing with government and, as we all know, it has not helped improve things.

3) More than finding fault, a real boss must be a leader who appreciates people doing the right things. Instead of limiting our repertoire to merely cursing and ranting, consider inspiring and encouraging the people who are doing good in government. Let us point out and praise what works well. When we acknowledge and reward certain actions, they tend to be duplicated over and over again. When we do not, they are hardly ever repeated.

This attitude goes a long way with employees who actually want to be effective in their jobs. If you want to motivate your good employees to show up for work feeling good and informed about what they have to do, then establish a relationship with them that makes this possible.

To our good government officials:

1) Aside from giving your best efforts to what you need to do, it also helps if you take time to go an extra mile and discuss in detail the problems you encounter so that ordinary citizens can be enlightened about the problems, processes and protocols you have to go through.

2) With such transparency, we can understand better the context of where you are coming from and we can be more informed and helpful in expressing our ideas and support so that you do not have to suffer in silence.

I have noticed in online discussions that the comments tend to move away from rants and become more rational and helpful when the big picture is presented and explained.

3) We encourage you to ask for help from citizens when you need it. It helps involve people and creates synergy between government and its citizens. It also helps identify individuals and groups whom you can count on for support.

4) As much as you rightfully claim your successes, make it a policy to humbly accept the consequences of your bad decisions or sloppy work. We are all human. A sincere offer to correct your mistakes will be more likely looked at in a sympathetic light than stonewalling.

Sure, there are many things to be angry about regarding how our government is being run. There are forces within it that are bad, even evil. But we can’t have a totally adversarial, even hostile attitude towards government. There has to be a better way to relate.

Let us recognize that there are lots of good people in government, too. Sweeping negative generalizations that everyone in government is corrupt are non-starters. They demoralize the idealists who enter government to render positive service. Let us make sure that good government service is a rewarding experience. This is the only way to entice good people to join.

When we must take the road of condemnation of some government action, inaction or persons, let us do so based not on hearsay alone but on solidly researched data. Very often, people fly off the handle based on something they read on the Internet that often turned out to be a false report. And often, when this happens, very few take back their rants and correct their mistakes.

Good citizens must be more discerning and intelligent. As the crowd of bosses, we must be able to tell the difference between Jesus and Barabas, so to speak, and treat our “employees” accordingly.

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