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Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for May 15th, 2016

Facing fear and feeling free 4

Posted on May 15, 2016 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 15, 2016 – 12:00am

I voted early May 9. I felt great doing one of the most important acts we can do as citizens in a democracy. I put the names of my candidates on the ballot. I felt happy. After voting, I went home.

At the closing of the precincts at 5 p.m., I turned on the TV to watch the counting by PPCRV of the ballots. I was so amazed that after just a little over four hours, they were already at 60 percent into the counting. But together with the amazement, I also had that sinking feeling that my candidate Mar Roxas would not win. The gap between Duterte and Mar was worrisome and hard to bridge. A few minutes later, it had become clear that Mar would not be able to turn the tide. It was now impossible that he would be President. The Duterte votes poured relentlessly.

We had worked so hard to make him President. The countless rallies, posts on social media, the fights that even resulted in estrangement between friends and relatives, the engagement with strangers to convince them to switch to Mar’s side apparently were all futile. As I stared at the TV, I knew Mar’s Presidency was not going to happen.

But instead of the frustration and anger which I imagined I would feel would take over me if we lost, something else happened. I began to notice I was in a calm, collected state, and was feeling unattached. I was offering no resistance to this reality playing out before me.

I remembered a phrase from M. Scot Peck, where he said, “The decline in your fortunes can be the start of your spiritual journey.” We had clearly lost. But on another level, I was happy seeing epiphanies everywhere.

Here I was watching the numbers come in, and with every second the dream of having the most decent, capable candidate installed as President was drifting further and further away. But instead of falling deep into disappointment or panic, I felt the transcendent truth of the moment presenting itself. Reality was unraveling. It was as it was.There are things you cannot control and must simply accept. It was brutal but majestic. I almost wanted to kneel out of respect. Deep into the present moment, I did not allow the past nor the future to barge in and contaminate anything,

There was no sense in denying the reality. I let go of all my resistance and allowed the phenomenal moment to happen.

There was no resisting. I told myself I was not going to flinch or turn away from the monitor. Instead I simply watched. Then it began to happen. I felt the tension and stress, the tiredness in my body disappear. There was nothing more to do. I could not change it. All resistance was futile. I remembered a quote from Joseph Campbell about accepting the pain of reality. He phrased it like this: ‘The devil that you swallow gives you its power.’

Facing the fear was liberating!

Then I checked on the VP race. There were over a million votes that stood in the way of Leni becoming no.1. But not too long after, I started to see the numbers change. Marcos’ lead was slowly shrinking. And shrinking. And shrinking some more. By early morning, Leni had turned the tables around, and a few hours later, she already had a a modest lead of around 250,000 votes over her rival.

It was past 4 a.m. went I went to sleep.I was tired and was in dreamland in an instant. Three hours later I woke up and despite a short sleep, I felt quite refreshed.

During the campaign period, I had looked at Duterte as a man whose core values were diametrically opposed to many things I believed in. His crudeness, arrogance and disrespect towards women, the disabled, and his mercurial temper that he directed recklessly towards four countries upset me. I saw him as unfit to be President.

And I worried how people I knew to be smart, educated and good were smitten by this man’s repulsive character.

The whole time during the campaign, I was waiting for a speech from him that would ease my fears about all this. But none came.

Every single day during the campaign, I faced trolls on social media who threatened, insulted me. I received death threats. I tried to counter them with patience, kindness and rationality but they were incorrigible. I realized eventually that it was an impossible task.

Despite all these vexations I faced everyday, my friends would ask me why I seemed unaffected by them. I simply answered that I have become a patient man. At my age, I have learned to be more understanding. I told them that the practice of zen through the years had taught me a lot of things. One lesson was to let go of attachment to anything including opinions, ego, the need to win or be right. “Be like Teflon. Let nothing stick,” I tweeted to one follower.

The truth is, I was not always successful. Sometimes, I would be deeply bothered. Things would get me angry. But learning to let go of vexations to my spirit quickly is a spiritual practice that has helped me a lot.

I do not know where the country is headed with a Duterte at the helm. I am hoping that the wisdom of the people is correct. Vox Populi Vox Dei as they say. I hope it was not Barabas that the majority favored.

I must admit, the mayor has been conciliatory the past few days. That should somewhat help in uniting us. I still have not warmed up to him but will heed his call for unity. I will give him a chance. We all have to if we truly care for this country. We all have to move on from the most bitter, and vicious electoral campaign we have ever experienced.

He has over-promised in the view of many. Let us see. Time will tell. I am hoping that at the end of the day, we will be a richer, stronger, prouder and a happier democracy.

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