Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Archive for September 25th, 2018


Nothing lasts forever 0

Posted on September 25, 2018 by jimparedes

Nothing lasts forever

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – September 23, 2018 – 12:00am
I am the type of guy who can really get into things that interest me. And when I do, I like to get really involved. I like to totally immerse myself in the universe of my interests. I learn a lot each time.

I have seen myself give my all to many projects I have committed myself to. As a musician, songwriter, singer, performer, producer, arranger (sometimes), I am 100-percent present in the work. I still know every detail of what went into almost all the recordings I have been involved in. I still remember them even decades after.

As a teacher, I totally immerse myself in the subjects I teach. I try to get to know the lessons inside and out. I anticipate questions that may be asked by looking at the material from many angles. I try to present them in the best way possible.

As a photographer, performer, writer, I do the same. It is not so much about being meticulous. It is about savoring and being one with the experience.

No wonder I get a high with almost every class, show, concert, exhibit, or lecture I do.

Last month, I was preoccupied with Eto na, Musikal nAPO, the hit theater production with a story that revolves around APO’s music. I was totally into the present, as I watched it several times. We have all had this happen with certain experiences.

I used to think that I felt good about these moments because they were special moments. Don’t get me wrong: they are special moments. What really makes them special, though, is not because they were extraordinary in themselves but because I paid attention to them. It is I who made them special. The power to make them extraordinary, wonderful or magical is inside of me. In a sense one might say I determine and shape my own experience. It is I who decides what experience to make “special.”

Before the event happens, you prepare yourself and you have expectations. You do what you have to do. Then it happens and it feels like you are going through it. And then it is over. That’s how experiences go. And for every peak experience, there is that depressing, sad feeling that follows.

My son just got home from a trek to the base camp of Mount Everest. When he arrived yesterday, he was still on a high and brimming with stories. He sat me and Lydia down and excitedly told us about the daily experiences they had during the ascent to the mountain and the descent. He was still on a high. There was so much he wanted to share. He definitely had a peak experience to brag about.

The next day, he was back to work. Back to reality, so to speak.

From the sublime experience of trekking up a mountain, he was back in the ordinary world where he must drive himself to work, earn his keep and attend to responsibilities and duties. That’s how it is.

It’s the same for sad, traumatic experiences. They can frighten, upset and horrify. They can really affect us. Yes, they can be considered peak experiences too. And thankfully, like everything, they too eventually end.

When you strip experiences of labels like “happy,” or “sad,” etc. and just look at them dispassionately as mere events that come and go, it is easier to deal with them after. I am glad I learned that early. Nothing lasts forever.

Writers like Ken Wilber like to call experiences “waves of forms” that appear and disappear. They never stay. They are phenomena that arise and dissipate eventually to give way to newer forms that will arise. That’s why a lot of meditators refer to life as a series of illusions that appear and die. The reason for meditating is to awaken to this reality and get a sense of who we are and what is happening around us. Instead of the fleeting experience, we focus on the one who experiences it. There is an untapped universe inside us to explore.

Accepting the impermanence of things will save us from getting attached to them. We encounter and experience them and move on. We must not get so caught up in the fleeting experiences that we lose a sense of the present. Every new moment becomes old after awhile, and it too passes away very quickly. From the time you read one sentence in this essay and get to the next one, some things may have already changed. That’s how it is.

As I said a while ago, the power to label any experience or “wave of form” is entirely up to us. Robert Pirsig, the writer of the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, wrote that, “The only Zen you find on tops of mountains is the Zen you bring there.”

I think of my son. He did go up a challenging mountain. By his own admission, he said it was hard, punishing, difficult, dangerous in many ways. And yet he enjoyed it so much that he is already planning a more challenging climb to another mountain in Nepal.

One might say it is no surprise he had a positive experience climbing Mount Everest because he is already a positive person to start with. That is true.

But that quote implies more than just being born with a positive attitude. It is suggesting that inside us is the key to practically everything.

Experiences can be hard, easy, wonderful, awful, terrifying, relaxing, etc. They can be anything we want them to be. What is hard is not really the experiences themselves but having the right attitude and mindset to deal with them.

EXPERIENCESLIFEMUSIC

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2018/09/23/1853717/nothing-lasts-forever#OQuFTfrZjB7QSoSI.99

Rearranging the furniture 0

Posted on September 25, 2018 by jimparedes

Rearranging the furniture

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – September 16, 2018 – 12:00am
We have been moving things around the house. Call it spring cleaning. During the last four days, we have been doing a lot of laundry — not only of clothes we have been wearing since we arrived in Sydney; all the blankets, sheets, towels, comforters, scarves, table covers we own were stuffed into the washing machine which ran for practically two days, and then were hung outside to dry.

Luckily we have been having sunny days lately.

Lydia has been cleaning the rooms, carpeted areas, the sofas, bathrooms, and toilets. The vacuum cleaner has been humming many hours of the day. As for me, I have been mopping, sweeping and helping move furniture and chairs.

Some of the furniture had not been moved in years. We moved them all. We had to vacuum, mop, sweep and wipe the spaces they previously occupied to move other furniture into them.

Normally, when you do cleaning like this, some old items, gadgets and things you used to love suddenly reappear. I stumbled upon a very nice, sporty speaker set I bought in Sydney years ago. I remember listening to my iPod on it. I also found some other gadgets — mostly computer accessories that I spent a lot of money on. I remembered feeling then how much I had wanted to own them, only to forget about them after a few weeks.

While we were clearing things, Lydia and I reviewed a lot of old but still working electronic stuff like big scanners, old WiFi stations, mics and camera accessories for old laptops, and bulky disc drives. We could not readily decide to just throw them away.

My kids would have had no problem getting rid of stuff like this. But Lydia and I come from a time when, instead of throwing out stuff, we often reused or “repurposed” the items before they ended up in landfills. Also, maybe our generation put greater value on such things because they seemed like breakthrough buys when we purchased them. These gadgets transitioned us from the analogue to digital age. That was a big change for us. For our kids, on the other hand, digital was the only age they knew.

I remember one time, my son Mio borrowed my laptop and he saw so many files and apps on it that had not been opened for a while. He was shocked. He gave me unsolicited advice to trash anything that I had not opened in six months. I ended up trashing a lot of things but not all. Luckily, I kept some documents that I needed and will still need in the coming years.

Lydia has very strong instincts about how things should be arranged which, remarkably, makes good sense even in terms of feng shui. She can put objects in places where you can sense a more balanced distribution of energy in the area. You get a sense of the “flow” of the room. It seems more vibrant, open and positive after she is through arranging things. The space becomes not just more aesthetically appealing but also more highly functional. It is amazing.

As for me, I am very easy to please. In every house we have rented, owned, remodeled or built, my simple demand was for some private space for me. I am a low-maintenance person. I really do not have strong opinions about how furniture should be arranged. I do not even have preferences about the colors of walls. I just want a place where I can sleep comfortably. I am happy when Lydia is happy about the house. In matters like this, I give her full control. I let her call the shots since she stays in the house more often than I do.

She likes to periodically remodel our house. She likes adding spaces, repainting, rearranging, taking out walls, adding new corners, etc. I am generally open to that as long as they are done quickly. She likes to transform spaces into areas that are not just livable but also conducive to entertain, and comfortable to be in.

Today, we moved a lot of stuff around in our simple home in Sydney. Some things were light. Others, like cabinets and tables, were heavy to carry. After everything was put in in its right place, we decided to get rid of a lot of stuff that did not fit into the new set-up.

It is good to let go. You actually feel lighter. If you haven’t missed or searched for things you own in years, what’s the point in keeping them?

There is something Zen about throwing things away. I am not just talking about worldly stuff. I am referring to the attitude of letting go, which we should apply to other areas in life. Letting go of fixed ideas, concepts, beliefs, opinions, hurts, people, negative emotions, entitlements, the past — things that no longer serve us — can make us feel that our mind and spirit have been “rearranged” somewhat. Life can suddenly seem fresh, new, invigorating, as you let go of stuff and allow new ideas and experiences in.

Imagine life as a dark house with so much furniture. You must navigate your way through the clutter. Many times, we find ourselves bumping into the same furniture. Maybe it is time to bump into new things.

That’s how we grow.

FURNITURE

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2018/09/16/1851776/rearranging-furniture#rOV2JfiLTqm6Er6o.99

Life in Manila is crazy 0

Posted on September 25, 2018 by jimparedes

Life in Manila is crazy

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – September 9, 2018 – 12:00am
It was officially the start of spring last Sept. 1 in Australia. It was not as cold as it was in July at the height of winter. But it can still get cold at night.

I am back in Sydney. It is great to be here. I look at my stays here as respite from my regular life in the Philippines. By “regular,” I certainly do not mean ordinary, boring or uneventful. Certainly not! Life in the Philippines, especially the past two years, has been anything but that.

Living in Manila is crazy. It means being assaulted by traffic daily. There are the heavy rains that bring flashfloods resulting in hastily declared holidays and cancelations of work every now and then. The never-ending crises foisted by the government on Filipinos can actually put you on perennially heightened mode physically and psychologically without your knowing it. It is like we are always unconsciously expecting bad things to happen.

It is only when I go on vacation that I feel my body fully relaxed. I have been having long periods of sleep since I got to Sydney a few days ago. Maybe it is the weather that relaxes me. Or maybe because I am not as busy here. But the change of scene certainly makes me more detached from the goings-on at home, which can eat me up daily since I am too close to the action.

Our home in Sydney is quiet. I wake up to the sound of birds chirping in the morning. The air is crisp and clean. When the sun is out, the sky is blue as blue. You hardly see people walking in the streets. At night, my neighbors have their lights off by 8 p.m. They do not even leave the front door lights on. Only Filipino homes do. You hear no cars screeching or even passing by. When people are walking in the streets, they talk softly. No loud laughter or conversation.

Right now it is only Lydia and I at home for the next two weeks. We will expect visitors every now and then. I look forward to long walks in the neighborhood parks, visits to art galleries, which Lydia and I love to do. We are also looking forward to weekends with our daughter Ala, her husband John and our granddaughter Zadie. Our son Mio, who is currently on a trek to the Base Camp of Mt. Everest with his mates will be home after Sept.16.

I believe in having places of solace. Silence is getting rare in this modern world where everyone is constantly looking for stimulation and titillation. Life has become noisier and faster paced. Sometimes, all you want is peace and quiet. You want to just sit back and watch dispassionately as the world turns.

It is a quiet joy to sit down and read poetry, or just play the guitar, or even do housework. Cleaning the house, doing laundry, hanging clothes to dry, washing dishes, mopping the floor, preparing meals can be joyful experiences. One can get a sense of quiet fulfillment.

Sometimes, my life can get too “large” since I am a public person. There are people who are constantly reaching out and wanting to talk, shake hands, and have photos with me. This happens in both social media and in real life. As a seasoned performer, I am quite comfortable with crowds. I revel in it. While I must admit that I mostly enjoy the interaction with people and have great satisfaction, “me” time can be wonderfully refreshing, too.

When you are taken out of your usual milieu and put in a place where the scenery and the routines are changed, something happens. It can be uncomfortable and unpleasant if you resist it. The best and perhaps the only good way to deal with the situation is to succumb to it. Settle yourself with it and in it. Be present wherever you are. You can’t be in two places at the same time anyway. When you can accept it, the situation opens its gifts to you.

This morning, I noticed that the leaves of the Jacaranda trees in our frontage are turning yellow. Did they bloom their beautiful violet flowers while I was away? I do not know. The grass has not grown much since July. That’s how it is during winter. Sometimes it turns brown as if it had died. In a few weeks, the grass will look alive again and grow at a faster rate.

It is also good to eat meals slowly and appreciate what has been prepared. Often I eat a meal, and can’t even recall what I had eaten two hours later. That is certainly not a good thing. It means I was not present as I was doing it.

When you get into the silence, your feelings and emotions may express themselves more readily. That’s because you are more in touch with them. No deadlines, schedules or obligations stand in the way. You don’t have to react to so many things.

During moments like these, I can write songs so easily. Inspirations need not be dramatic. Looking through a window or walking in open spaces with so much greenery is enough. With a little coaxing, songs just bubble up to the surface.

Solace is an inner place where you report to yourself and are reminded of where you are and who you have become at the moment. It is an affirmation of basic identity without all the frills and the delusions that modern life tries to make you believe are central to you.

I wish for all of you some solace. We all need it more than we think.

MANILA IS CRAZY

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2018/09/09/1849783/life-manila-crazy#Bu2gEpIy2rcCufyf.99

Habitual pleasures 0

Posted on September 25, 2018 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – August 26, 2018 – 12:00am

When people live past 60 years old, they think that life is pretty much a settled thing. Most of their dreams have been achieved. Milestones have been crossed. They like to reward themselves with simple pleasures. It keeps life going.

Many are already set in their ways and are comfortable with old habits they have acquired through the years. Some of these habits have become part of daily life. It gives them comfort and indulging in them gives them a sense of ritual and structure.

I have friends who can talk about how they like their coffee in great detail. They have cultivated the habit of coffee drinking through decades. They talk about the origins, flavors and how imbibing coffee makes them feel good. They meet together just to drink and enjoy coffee.

Some classmates have formed a group that meets occasionally to enjoy the pleasures of whisky and scotch. No, they don’t go on a drinking binge. They just enjoy their malt.

Some people consume wine with regularity and relish. My wife and her friends just love wine. Wine can be a whole universe in itself to explore and enjoy. There are so many types to choose from. There’s Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Bordeaux, Chiraz, Merlot, etc. Then there are the countries and regions where they come from, and the year when they were put in bottles. For many of my friends and members of my immediate family, drinking wine has become a habit when we get together. Unfortunately, I can only take an occasional half glass and that’s about it. Beyond that, I turn red and experience palpitations.

Some people talk about their spiritual and religious practices. Going to Mass, praying to God and the saints regularly, praying the rosary have become part of their daily habit for years and years. They get a sense of purpose and meaning doing this.

The habits I talk about here are routines of behavior. There are habits you do unconsciously. I am talking about habits that are consciously indulged in which bring pleasure and joy in life. They are meant to be enjoyed and savored. These habits can also become passions.

I have engaged in many habits and hobbies and passions throughout my life. There is music primarily. Playing the guitar and piano, listening to music for hours and hours are things I still love to do. I even sing in my mind sometimes.

In my 40s, I got into scuba diving. It lasted quite a long time. I used to go diving every weekend. When I would not dive for three weeks, I would miss it terribly. I only stopped when one of my dive buddies, Redford White, died of cancer. I can still get into diving but at a slower pace now. Maybe I will continue.

When I turned 60, I took up coffee. Yes, you read that right: I drank my first full cup of coffee when I became a senior citizen. Prior to that, I don’t remember drinking coffee except to taste it. My mom, who was a coffee drinker, told me when I was a child not to drink coffee because, during those days, many believed coffee stunted growth. So I had an aversion to coffee for most of my life. At 60, I figured I was probably beyond any physical phase where I would still grow taller. And I’d always wanted to understand why my wife loves her coffee so much.

About once a week, I drink a cup or two. I take brewed coffee. That’s about as adventurous I am with coffee right now. I still haven’t taken to it enough to say that I have developed the habit.

One habit I have fully embraced in my 60s is eating chocolates. Almost every night now I take a square or two from a Lindt bar and savor them with great relish. I especially like dark chocolate. My refrigerator is full of different kinds and brands. Aside from Lindt, there are Frey, See’s, Royce, Godiva, Toblerone, Cote D’or, Tim Tams, among many others. I hardly take milk chocolate; the milk bothers my stomach. On occasion, I take white chocolates but those can taste too sweet. I like the smoothness and the sweetness of all kinds of chocolate but prefer dark overall. I particularly enjoy chocolate with 85 percent cocoa. Every time I travel, I always buy some to make sure I have chocolates wherever I find myself.

Another thing I have started taking interest in is plants. I have a modestly sized garden with lots of varieties of plants, shrubs, creepers, a few trees and herbs that Lydia is cultivating. We even have a few fruit trees like mango, avocado, mulberry, lanka, papaya and guava. Every morning, I walk around the garden to look at flowers, or notice new buds that have sprung overnight. I love the idea of cultivating and caring for living things and watch them grow and flourish.

Then there is my devotion to exercise. I go to the gym three to four times a week and do one hour or so of stretches, sit-ups, pushups, planks, pull-ups and a few machines. I can say that it has become a habit, because I actually miss doing it when I am unable to exercise. I miss the pain and the sweat, and the endorphins that come with exercise. There is that great feeling of personal achievement, and general well-being after.

Habits like taking coffee, alcohol, smoking cigars are okay in moderation. I like to think a little poison occasionally may be good for you. Some habits are still safe in large doses. But the general rule is do not have too much of anything.

Anything in excess is most likely not good.

It has been said that saints are the hardest people to live with. Even too much religiosity may not be desirable. Too much heaven may not be good for mortals!

In matters that give pleasure, the way to enjoy them is to indulge just enough so that it keeps on giving and giving every time.

HABITUAL PLEASURES

How romantic love was born 0

Posted on September 25, 2018 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – August 19, 2018 – 12:00am

I read a book many years ago by one of my favorite authors Ken Wilber. It was called A Brief History of Everything. It was a fascinating read. It was as much about history and also the evolution of consciousness and spirit that guided and brought mankind to the stages of evolution in thinking and values.

I wish to dwell on a particular time in history which Ken Wilber likes to point out as that moment when romantic love was born. It was around the 12th century in Europe, particularly in France where it started. This was the age of the Troubadours.

The troubadours were poets and artists and knights and they made a big deal about how loving a woman was an ideal to be sought and pursued. It had two elements that they adhered to. The first was the complete and total ‘‘adoration of women.’’ The second was ‘‘the enablement of man through love.’’ It was certainly not about carnal desires. Carnality made men no higher nor different than animals which are unable to overcome their baser instincts. It was about something much more noble. It was about the elevation of women, and how loving them could also elevate man himself. To quote Guillen Montanhagol, a troubadour then from Toulouse, “Truly, lovers must serve with love all their hearts, for love is not a sin but a virtue which makes the wicked good and the good better, and puts a man in the way of doing good every day: and out of love comes charity, for whoever truly gives his mind to love cannot thereafter do evil.”

It is noteworthy to mention that prior to all this, the main ideal that was pursued was complete loyalty and devotion to the king and the Lord. One might say this was the path to glory.

The socio-political power structure then consisted of the royal families and the Church. The feudal system was all about the royals owning and ruling over vast tracks of land and the peasants serving them. The Church was also part and parcel of the power structure. Mainly, it gave God’s imprimatur to kings and queens to rule over their subjects.

At a time when lands had to be populated, and laborers and armies were greatly needed, it was the friars task to broker unions through marriage. Marriages were mainly utilitarian unions. Royals needed vassals for farming. The priests’ role was to find men and women to match and pair as couples, marry them off so they can bear children with the aim of providing subjects to serve the king. A great majority of marriages were arranged by the church.

Even among the royalty, the church brokered the unions by marriage of kings and queens, princes and princesses to consolidate their power and build empires. Obviously, the priests were very powerful in the community.

This is not to say that love did not exist prior to the time of the Troubadours. It did but it was not a top of mind consideration nor a necessity for marriage.

You can imagine how the troubadours with their glorification and pursuit of romantic love would become a major challenge to the powers that were at that time. It was a new idea that not only introduced a more refined relationship between men and women but also changed the rules between subjects and rulers. For one, it diluted loyalty to the king and the Church. The element of choice about whom to love subverted the existing order. In fact, many troubadours were arrested and killed. One might say, they were martyrs who died for the ‘‘glory of love.’’

I find this particular time in the history of man quite exciting. Clearly, it was a step up the evolutionary consciousness that led to the development of greater freedom and the recognition of free will, to say the least.

Some people say that we live in a post-romantic modern world now. The world of the troubadours is over. Chivalry is dead. Perhaps they are right, but not completely. Valency, a troubadour himself described a true lover in those times as a “woman’s lover, her vassal (an agent of her will who serves her like the vassals who served their king), her protector and champion (of her physical well-being and reputation), and her poet.” The last one probably meant that he wrote poems and sang songs of lofty love to honor her.

A lot of modern men still like to do the whole romantic schtick like giving gifts, chocolates and flowers, and writing love letters and singing songs. The major difference between the troubadours of old and the modern lovers is the casual and not-so-strict adherence to the ideal of pure unadulterated love and the element of secrecy which was valued at that time.

Some historians say the the troubadours gave birth to romantic love which by definition and practice was both sensual and spiritual. Of course, the sensual part of it then was not anything like what we mean ‘‘sensual’’ to be today. A romantic glance, a perfumed handkerchief given to a man, a poem sent to a loved one may have been the typical exchanges. Everything was more refined and proceeded in orderly, defined albeit restrained stages, from the act of falling in love to consummation.

Love has gone through a lot of changes through the ages. It certainly has been evolving since time began.

But romantic love, the act of falling in love and placing a loved one in some sort of pedestal lingers on. One cynical way to look at all this is to judge this as an act by someone unworthy trying to find self-worth in another.

I look at it differently. I see it as the power of love that humbles one person to surrender and devote all his attention, powers and capabilities to his adored one.

We can learn from past history. Perhaps it would make our ladies happier if we men would behave like the troubadours once in awhile.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF EVERYTHINGKEN WILBER

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2018/08/19/1843751/how-romantic-love-was-born#TCR4MqQrEQV2kcC0.99


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