Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Archive for August, 2019


Are these our last days on planet earth as we know it? 0

Posted on August 31, 2019 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – September 1, 2019 – 12:00am

There is a lot to worry about these days. Humanity seems to be assaulted on all fronts. Doomsday seems more impending than at any other time. I worry.

The Amazon, which provides 20 percent of the world’s oxygen, is burning and Brazil’s leader Bolsonado seems not to really care about it. He seems to be of the same mindset as Trump who basically has no grasp of the whole global warming climate phenomenon that 98 percent of all scientists have been warning about for decades. These leaders are climate-change deniers.

The catastrophe is almost a sure thing although some scientists say we have five to 10 years to change our ways. If we do not act concertedly as a whole human race, we will be doomed to suffer in a planet which is increasingly getting hotter and we will struggle to survive all its attendant climatic consequence. As a result, many islands all over the world will be drowned by the oceans as big ice sheets melt into the sea.

There is the trade war that is causing a lot of anxiety all over the world. Markets are jittery. Currencies are shaky.

There are the massive protests in Hong Kong and Taiwan whose people are fighting for their own freedoms amid Chinese threats of total control and hegemony. The countries along the West Philippines Sea are also being squeezed by China to give up territory.

Everywhere you look there seems to be trouble of some kind brewing. Dictatorships are reigning in many countries of the world. A nuclear bomb actually exploded in Russia last month. North Korea is testing missiles non-stop. The divide between the rich and poor, citizens and their governments are getting wider than ever everywhere.

The world goes on even as many wonder how much longer it will take before a massive breakdown of systems happen.

Between the apathetic and those who are concerned about what is happening outside of one’s own world, I find myself among the latter. I have always been interested and concerned about the state of my community, village, city, country and yes, the rest of the world. It has always mattered to me that some people have to suffer greatly. The suffering of strangers, of people I am not even related to can affect me greatly. My empathy and compassion are easily aroused. I can easily identify with them. At the cost of sounding like a cliche, I feel their pain.

I know a lot people who can dismiss suffering very easily. They readily brush it off. When suffering happens to other people they can be very dismissive. Some even make jokes about it. They simply do not care. I do not understand how anyone can be like that.

I remember my uncle who had to endure suffering during Marcos’ time. He said, “Martial law is OK until it happens to you.” Maybe for many people, misfortune has to happen to them first before they can have empathy towards others.

Apathy and indifference are the last things the world needs now. We have to awaken and solve the big problems that threaten every sentient being on earth.

Today I read an article that said that under the regime of cataclysmic climate change, the rich will be spared more than the poor. In terms of countries, we all know that the richest nations were and still are the biggest contributors of CO2 emissions and garbage on the planet. And yet it is the poor who will ultimately and unfairly suffer more.

I really hope I am just exaggerating but I do believe the day of reckoning is just around the corner. The dreaded predictions are happening sooner than expected. The ice sheets of Greenland and Iceland were still supposed to hold from melting until 2050. Two months ago, some of them already started to disappear.

The destructive forest fires are not just in the Amazon but also in Bolivia, Indonesia, Russia, and huge parts of Africa. In a Brahma Kumaris talk I attended about a month and a half ago, an esteemed yogi was asked how people could help Mother Nature recover from climate change. The yogi answered by saying that she is not too worried about Mother Nature because the natural world will adjust and heal no matter what happens. It is mankind that she says will suffer greatly and whose survival is more threatened. I sadly agree.

Sometimes, I imagine that we may be enjoying our last “normal” days on earth before things turn really crazy very quickly. Storms, rains, floods, droughts and other natural weather conditions are becoming more extreme and dangerous and occurring more often. Never has it happened that Alaska had temperatures that were in the 80s Fahrenheit. Yet it did two months ago. Unbelievable.

There is a great battle going on in the world. It is between those who see the world and humanity as sacred and worth saving. They aim for a more sustainable, inclusive way of life. And then there are those who see everything solely from the point of view of generating profit, wealth and accumulating more power for its own sake.

More and more people know that things cannot go on as they have been. We have to transition to something more sustainable. Can the old business model of aiming for unlimited profits above all else continue? Has capitalism reached a point where it is now unsustainable and must transform to something more egalitarian?

I am not against profit or business. But here’s a thought I picked up on the net  I want to leave you with. When we see people who excessively hoard things in their apartments and can’t let them go, or people who are addicted to substances and can’t stop, don’t we see the same perverse similarity in the excessive and obsessive pursuit of money and power? Isn’t it a form of addiction too? Isn’t it a sickness?

The climate crisis is in large part a psycho-spiritual one. The only solution is to awaken and move the world into a different direction.

The big questions is, can mankind wake up in time to save the world? Or are we living the last days of life on earth as we still know it?

I don’t want to leave you with questions. We all know the answers. If your appreciation of the problem is still in the level of intellectual understanding, bring it down. Feel it so it becomes visceral. Can you feel the sadness, impending loss and the pain?

In your own way, act now. Do something daily in the direction of saving the world. Who else will do it?

DOOMSDAY

Drop virtual living and live a real life 0

Posted on August 24, 2019 by jimparedes
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – August 25, 2019 – 12:00am

Time was when our attention was caught by just a few things. There was news we read in the daily papers, or heard on the radio or watched on television. We thought we were busy enough with the things we needed to do like work, study, worry about the next paycheck, clean the house, raise a family, etc. But there was always time to interact with fellow humans, have good times with friends and family, read books, do some sports and yes, taste our food and enjoy it.

Even when we thought things were already a bit hectic, life was actually way simpler then compared to now.

The creeping  onslaught of life-changing technology entered our lives with the advent of the internet and smart phones. More and more, we have been (perhaps unknowingly and tacitly) allowing the internet to insinuate itself into our lives and rule over  bigger and bigger portions of our activities and our time. Now, it is no exaggeration to say that to a great degree we are all held hostage by technology.

I still remember being in my teens and meeting a girl in a skating rink in Cubao. After one or two visits to her house, I asked her out on a date for the next weekend. We  agreed on a time and place to meet seven days later. There were no follow-up calls; not everyone had a telephone then. Believe it or not, the date actually happened and we had a great time. Life was so simple. People simply showed up when they said they would. We did not need all these present-day gadgets for reminders, confirmation to plan or do anything.

These days, with apps like Facebook, Instagram, Viber, Whatsapp, etc., things have drastically changed. People meet online before meeting in person, stay in touch, maybe even get something going if the vibes are right.

Technology has changed everything. I often wonder how people of my generation lived their lives without smart phones and still got from one place to another sans Waze and Maps and other travel apps. How did people travel abroad and plan their itineraries without booking a hotel a month earlier? How did we live and manage in such an “unsure”  world? Now everything is tracked and documented. Our phones can suggest restos and  destinations based on our past monitored activities.  We can predict travel time, weather  and contact practically anyone anytime.

We can also publicly express our opinions over a wide array of issues. We all have an apple box to stand on and tell the world how we feel. It is interesting to note that the earliest pioneers of the internet predicted then that the open access of millions to online conversation, articles blogs and data would guarantee the end of all dictatorships. How can it thrive when truth and facts can be shared quickly and massively? they asked. In hindsight, they were perhaps way too optimistic.

I’ve always looked at myself as a modern guy and I am up to date with  the latest in technology. But lately, I have not been as excited about it as I used to. Frankly, I go through periods of social media fatigue. I am trying to limit my time on Facebook, Twitter et al. There is just too much noise and too little substance to pick up. And if you are not careful, your smart phone can easily take over your entire day, week, month.

These days, in my own little ways I try not to be too dependent on technology when I can. I am trying to get back to the increasingly archaic habit of reading books printed on paper. And I don’t go online to read reviews and summaries.

Perhaps because I exercise and am into health, I also listen to my body and trust my instincts when it tries to tell me something. Since I started meditating again, I notice how my body clock knows within about 30 seconds when the alarm would ring signalling the end of  a 25-minute silent meditation session. When I do my walks around my neighbourhood  I can tell when I have reached 5,000 steps or when I am close to walking an hour already without having to consult my gadgets.  While technology is helpful in many ways, It is not a always a good thing to be too reliant on machines and gadgets. When you can listen to yourself and your instincts and your own inner wisdom, you can feel a wonderful wholeness and connectedness to things.

A good chef knows by instinct how much or how little to use certain ingredients when cooking particular meals. A good musician must rely more on instinct rather than machines to be able to make a great musical work. Everything is created and defined clearly in his mind before he even goes to the studio. An athlete knows when he/she is on top of his game. Gadgets and devices can merely measure and confirm what the athlete already knows intuitively.

When we turn on our devices, the whole world, or at least what we allow of it, rushes into our consciousness. We hear from and about friends, families, old classmates, enemies and read stories about all types of people, countries everywhere, etc. We sigh, laugh, curse, complain, cry, feel joy and indignation, wonder and fear, and feel so may other feelings.

But even while we feel these emotions, very often they don’t linger long enough for us to go beyond ticking the  “likes” or “share” buttons. We have a moment of empathy, compassion, outrage but actually do nothing about these causes we reacted to. We end up moving from one story to another without doing anything concrete and helpful.

This constant and never-ending assault on our emotions and sensibilities may  have made us inured to any form of commitment beyond our superficial likes and shares, and the occasional comments.

It is so sad.

Day in and out, we are exposed to the tragic goings-on and evils of the world. Sure, we may feel the pain as we read but we comfort ourselves with the pathetic notion that  because we had reposted something or have ticked an angry or tearful emoticon, we have done enough.

The level of commitment we express online often does not match how we would really react in real life situations. As an example, we may vigorously express our anger and disgust at China and the present administration but we will not commit to joining rallies. Real life demands too much effort.

But in real life one has to physically show up. Nothing happens when no one shows up. We have to act and do something. I have been following the events in Hong Kong for a few weeks now. Hongkongers know the value of showing up and doing action. They have been rallying almost every day expressing their sentiments not just online but more importantly in the streets. We in the Philippines still have a lot to learn from them.

In this article, I am encouraging you my dear readers to live a bigger portion of your lives not in the virtual world but in the real one.  It is not easy since we have become so attached to technology. The word is full of problems to solve and causes to believe in and fight for. Life will never run out of challenges.

Once in awhile, it is good to leave cyberspace and allow uncertainty and unpredictability to shake us up. Let’s get down and dirty. Stop wasting time in cyberspace and get into the speed and flow of real life. Our gadgets can only help us so far. By itself, it will not be able to help us have fuller and more meaningful lives. Only real commitment in the battle field of life can give us such meaning.

So let’s take a break from having our heads in the cloud and get down to real living on earth. Let’s take time to talk, laugh, and interact live and in person.

As Irish netizen Paul McGirl wonderfully put it, “Technology is cold. Find a real hand to hold.”

Would you hug a stranger? 0

Posted on August 11, 2019 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – August 11, 2019 – 12:00am

‘Maybe we should stop being automatically fearful of each other. In life, we will all have to ask for help from people we don’t know.’

On a train from downtown Sydney a few years ago, I found myself sitting across from a tall white man. He was unkempt but not menacing. He was dressed like he was a tradesman wearing that signature neon green jacket. Normally, no one minds anyone during train rides. People enter, sit and get on and off without talking to each other. And so I was surprised when the man seated across from me called my attention to say it was his 53rd birthday tomorrow. I smiled and politely gave him my congratulations. I answered but without really meaning to continue the conversation. I remotely considered the possibility that he could be some kind of crazy guy. I avoided eye contact afterward.

After about two minutes, he addressed me again. He complained that his back hurt so much. I answered, “Is that so?” He kept on. And on. It seemed like he wanted a continuing conversation. I realized I was in a situation where I could not dismiss him and so I conversed with this man. I asked him why his back hurt so much. He said he was born with legs too long and so his back had been hurting for years. He opened his jacket to show me and judging from where his belt was, it did look like he had a short torso.

The next thing he said caught me by surprise. He said he wanted to commit suicide. I was stunned. I knew this was an “uh-oh” moment, to say the least. And I felt I was on the spot somehow. I instinctively looked straight into his eyes and said, “Please don’t.” I had hoped that his next words would be less disturbing since I really did not want to get involved. But he repeated that he wanted to end his life.

Here was a man who was clearly and desperately asking for help. This stranger had dropped his guard and exposed his deep loneliness. I was in full attention and heightened awareness.

I knew I was now in a serious situation I could not turn away from. I felt the magnitude of his pain. He continued talking. Actually, it was more like rambling. I could see his eyes swell up with tears as he narrated that he had lost his parents many years ago. He had no siblings nor a wife and children to come home to. He was miserably alone in his life. He repeated again that he wanted to commit suicide. At this point, I stood up from my seat and moved to where he was and sat down next to him.

I sat on his right side and put my hand behind his back. He started to sob while he covered his face with his hands. His elbows were resting on his knees. I put my left hand over his back, rubbing it as I said, “Please don’t commit suicide. Everything will be all right, sir.”

I did not know what else to say. He started crying uncontrollably. I pulled him closer and kept saying that everything would be okay. I told him that God was with him. I just kept on repeating the words, “It’ll be okay.” He seemed to be listening.

I caught myself hugging this stranger. Hugging is my instinctive way to give comfort and consolation. I wanted him to know that I was listening to him and was sympathetic to what he was going through. There were many other people on the train but they all avoided looking, much less having eye contact. They ignored what was going on.

I just sat there beside him.

Soon, the train had reached the station. It was where I was supposed to get off and transfer to another train to get home. I stayed seated beside him for a while consoling him as passengers got off and new ones came on the train. But I knew I had to leave very soon. I felt bad when I told him I had to leave. I whispered for the last time that, “God loves you, sir. Please don’t commit suicide.” I reluctantly left the train and went to my platform where the train home was ready to depart. I barely caught it. I entered a few seconds before the doors closed.

On the ride home, I sat quietly feeling a little guilty for not staying with him. It was a packed ride but I was alone in my solitude. I was emotional. It was quite a unique encounter I had just had. My mind was racing. Was it fate that I was put on the same train with this lonely man? I wondered if the man would actually kill himself. I wondered, too, whether I had helped him in any way or had done enough to prevent a stranger’s death by his own hands.

I wept silently and said a prayer for him. I prayed that somehow he could go past his feelings of suicide and make it through. I hoped he would go for professional help. I have helped strangers before but I had never faced a situation like this where I was actually bold enough to intervene in something so serious. I did not even know whether I was acting appropriately, culture-wise. Did I say the right things to make him feel better? I just hoped I did.

The next evening, I watched out for any news on television waiting to hear about suicides that may have occurred in the city. There were none. I felt some sort of relief. I will probably never know if he killed himself or not the following nights, or weeks, or even know what eventually happened to him.

I think about this incident often. It makes me wonder how many strangers out there are actually going through something so desperate that the prospect of suicide becomes an option. There are millions of people who live in big cities, and yet, ironically, one can still feel alone and alienated. So many people but no one to talk to. We are all going through something to some degree. But we are lost in our busy schedules trying to survive in this rat race, and we have unfortunately developed an attitude of not caring for others. And because of this, it has become a crueler world for everyone.

Maybe we should stop being automatically fearful of each other. In life, we will all have to ask for help from people we don’t know. I know many people, including myself, who have been beneficiaries of people’s kindness many times. I have also learned that a smile, offering a handshake, a simple hello can even lead to real, solid friendships.

By simply caring, we can all be more human again.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2019/08/11/1942232/would-you-hug-stranger#FrvWCpJyWxLtiWCA.99

Love yourself 0

Posted on August 04, 2019 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – August 4, 2019 – 12:00am
You can’t give love if you don’t have it. You can’t be running on empty.
When the song The Greatest Love of All came out on the airwaves, I remember being baffled by it.

“The greatest love of all is happening to me.
Learning to love yourself, is the greatest love of all.”

I was intrigued. There was no mention of loving one’s neighbor or anything like that in the song. I actually thought that it was quite a selfish statement. It sounded narcissistic.

Growing up in Ateneo, we were always reminded to be “men for others.” It was the Ignatian way. We were taught to sacrifice and serve others, the nation. In the words of St Ignatius, we were “To give and not to count the cost/To fight and not to heed the wounds/To toil and not to seek for rest/To labor and not to ask for reward/Save that of knowing that I do your will.”

It was a bit close to the end of the ‘80s when I had an epiphany about the song. I was attending a human potential workshop and the facilitator asked us what we were most proud of among the things we had done in life and to write them down. It was a quiet moment of intense self-reflection. As I thought of my achievements and personal bests, the great moments of my short life paraded before me as well as the pains I went through getting there. It was a mixed feeling. I realized I had paid a price for everything I had done. I began to feel the pain and sacrifice I had gone through. While I felt that, I also felt proud that I had the courage and fortitude to do them all. I knew I could not have achieved what I had done if I did not love or motivate myself enough to write songs and express the gifts God had given me.

Then the facilitator asked us to put the list close to our hearts in the dark room while we relived what we had gone through in our lives. The song Hero by Mariah Carey played. It was a moment like no other. I was so emotional. My life flashed before me and I saw my strengths and also how vulnerable I was. I realized what the song The Greatest Love of All finally meant.

It’s been at least two decades since then and my understanding of self-love has grown deeper. We need to love ourselves completely and that includes all our pluses and minuses, our innate goodness and weaknesses. We need to unconditionally accept and be comfortable being who we really are. We need our own love and self-acceptance first to be able to love anyone. The truth is you can’t give love if you don’t have it. You can’t be running on empty.

To be an evolved human being is to know oneself so well that you are acutely aware of your own fine print. It demands constant self-evaluation and introspection. You must establish contact with your deep self so it can tell you how you have been living and what you actually want to do in life. It requires an intimate self-audit. It means we have to honestly look inward and ask the truth about ourselves: what really motivates us, what makes us tick, what are we passionate about, what is integral about us that we will never give up, what is important and meaningful, what are we ready to live and die for, what makes us happy. These are questions we will keep asking ourselves throughout life.

Before you can love yourself, you must accept that you are not perfect. Look in the mirror and embrace all your brutalities, anomalies, your shadow side and aspects of you that you are ashamed to admit. You must deal with them. Believe it or not, your shadow side actually bears gifts for you. Instead of suppressing them you must recognize their energy, and accept them fully and integrate them with the rest of you. You will discover that instead of sabotaging you, they can actually make you stronger and more authentic. That is the miraculous transformation you need to be able to do to generate love for yourself before you can share it with others.

Anger, for example, is not always a bad thing. Anger can remind you that your boundaries have been crossed and violated. It can actually protect you. It also reminds you that you have been allowing certain things to go on repeatedly and that it is time to stop.

Passion, libido are energies that can be used for artistic pursuits or building a legacy. They make you feel alive and productive and spur you to action.

Envy can motivate you to do better by pushing yourself more. If you explore hate, you may even discover a few things you hate about yourself. You will also notice compassion growing within you as you learn to be more accepting, to love and be at home with yourself. Self-acceptance actually makes it easier to accept others.

The thought of being kinder, or treating yourself like you would a precious object is what I mean. With self-love come self-confidence, self-forgiveness, and healing. When you respect and love who you are, you may even find yourself not being defensive about criticism anymore. There is much more to you than your perceived faults. You are not easily shattered to pieces by what others think of you. In fact, it may not even be worth your while to care about what people think. There are more important things to do than tumbling for other people’s approval.

“Self-care is never a selfish act — it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others,” said American author Parker Palmer in his inspirational books. You are a unique human being with the task of being who you are in this world.

When my daughter Erica finished her high school, I gifted her with a song that summarized all I wrote above called Live Your Own Life:

“Don’t take my word or anyone else’s/What’s right for me may not be right for you/I have my own dreams/I live my own story/And someday soon you’ll be living yours too/So enjoy your own joys/Gain from your own pain/Dream your own dreams/Dance to your own song/It’s the only way to go/It’s the only road you’ll ever know.

“Live your own life/Feel it so you know it’s real/Hold on to your own truth/Live life without any fear/Decide your own fate/With bated breath the world awaits/Make your own mark/All you gotta do is start.

“There are no two people in this world who’ve got the same point of view/There’s no one else who’s gonna live your life better than you/So cry your own tears/Believe in your own cause/Don’t be afraid if sometimes you feel lost/It’s the only way to go/It’s the only way you’ll ever know.

“Live life without any fear/Decide your own fate/With bated breath the world awaits/Make your own mark/All you gotta do is start/Everything you need is inside of you/You’re the fire and breath of your own soul.”

GREATEST LOVE OF ALL

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2019/08/04/1940285/love-yourself#0ER3IfJjHoP0w4eM.99

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