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Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Archive for September 10th, 2017


The sound of one hand clapping 1

Posted on September 10, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 10, 2017 – 12:00am

When I was in early high school I had a dream that I remember to this day. I dreamed I was seated at a table with an old fortuneteller playing with a deck of panggingge cards. These cards, also called Pan cards, were popular in the 19th century and are known to be of Filipino origin. This woman was reading my fortune. She asked me to pick four random cards from the deck. I chose the highest card of every suit. She looked at the cards I picked, laughed very hard and brought her face near mine. She then whispered to me that I would experience every good thing in life — and its opposite.

I think about this from time to time. Yes, I have had a lot of the so-called “good things” in life like fame, modest wealth, good friends, love, happiness, personal success, good health. In many ways, I am still experiencing them and I am thankful.

At the same time, I was also once an unknown, a nobody when I started my career. I was a hungry artist trying to get people to listen to me. Those were hard times. But looking back, I can’t really describe that stage in my life as being bad. Actually, I am even grateful I went through certain hardships.

When I started in life, I had little money, and even after I had some successes, there were still times when I suffered through financial difficulties. But even when times were hard, my wife Lydia would always remind me that God always provides. So far she has been right. I hope that she will always be right about this.

I have been lucky in health. Although I was a hypochondriac when I was a teenager, I have always been quite healthy. I may have had sicknesses from time to time and even had a few operations but my physical constitution easily bounces back to a healthy default. My last health examination showed all my vital numbers to be normal. I have no restrictions imposed on me by my doctor, thank God.

As for fame, as much as I have been praised in the past for what I have said and done, I have also been pilloried lately on social media for my outspokenness against the President and the government. I can say that I have experienced both fame and so-called “infamy” right there! I have been adored and I have been hated.

Who knows what other “opposites” I will experience. I don’t know, and I do not wish to speculate nor anticipate it. Life keeps on going and it will always bring good and bad surprises. That’s how life has always been, is and will be.

Sometimes, in the middle of a positive and spectacular experience I am going through, I remind myself that while I am enjoying it thoroughly, the moment, too, shall pass. It is the same thing I do when things are not going well for me. As I suffer, I remind myself of the temporal character of suffering. The thought consoles me.

Ken Wilber, one of my favorite writers, likes to describe anything and everything that happens in the world as “waves of form.” It affects us in various ways and unconsciously; we decide how we want to feel about what happens. Very seldom are we in total awareness of see what is really happening.

Whatever the wave of form is at any moment, whether good or bad, it will not be permanent. It has a duration. Sometimes it is long and sometimes it is short. But it will eventually go away and new ones will always take their place.

There is an old Zen koan that asks, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” To many people, it appears to be a silly question and every time I ask the question, people react by trying to literally clap with one hand and end up laughing. I can’t blame them. On the surface, it is indeed a ridiculous question.

But wait! There is something far deeper to ponder here. Koans are not yes or no exercises. The answers are never cut and dried, nor even definitive, dogmatic. There are no official interpretations or answers.

Koans speak volumes about life. The way I intuit the meaning of this koan is something like this: people spend their lives trying to shield themselves from pain, discomfort, from bad things that cause unpleasantness. But can we really avoid them when they are inevitable occurrences in life? All attempts at sanitizing our lives from pain are futile and ridiculous. Yes! It is as crazy as trying to clap with one hand!

The sound produced when two hands clap happens because opposite forces meet. Isn’t life all about living with both the pleasant and unpleasant, the good and the bad, pleasure and pain? What is abundance without scarcity? What is white without black? What is joy without sorrow?

That dream I had was a prophetic one. The fortuneteller was right. We will live through the best and the worst. Life was not meant to be lived ridiculously or unrealistically, like trying to produce sound with one hand clapping.


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