Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


25 questions to ask yourself when life seems crazy 0

Posted on July 23, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 23, 2017 – 12:00am

All people go through a midlife crisis if they live long enough. And to clarify, it is not really just a midlife crisis, but crises. And it can happen earlier than midlife.

Most everyone I know thinks that midlifing is something that happens as a onetime episode in a man’s life. I’ve heard people say, “Oh, my husband bought himself a red beamer when he went through midlife.” It is a time in middle age when a man seems to “lose” himself temporarily. Truth is, he can stay lost for awhile.

I am definitely past midlife, age-wise, but I still feel lost at times and find life and my part in it difficult to understand. It seems like midlife is when the Pandora’s Box is opened, and all the things inside are actually the issues you will be dealing with for life. Some will be easy to figure out. Some will take time. Many will be left unsolved. That’s how it is.

I am sure this is a common experience. No one is happy all the time. No one has figured out life so completely that practically nothing can bother him. Bliss is real, but like loneliness, it too passes. There are people who seem to find happiness easily and there are those who find it elusive. But what we all share is the experience of facing the unknown daily and trying to reconcile ourselves to what shows up.

I thought I’d share somer questions I ask myself occasionally when going through confusing times. They sort of help me get grounded even if I do not get clear answers. If and when I do, the answers change the next time I ask the questions. But at least they help tide me over in life when I need them.

Some questions may be depressing. But I ask them anyway to get deeper and to understand my own fine print. Here they are:

1) What keeps you going?

2) What are you most passionate about?

3) What parts of your life do you like or not like right now?

4) Who are the people in your circle that sustain you? Who are those that deplete your energy?

5) If you had 48 hours left to live, what do you need to do so you could die peacefully? This exercise is really powerful if you do not trivialize it. I’ve done this a few times. I choose a hard, festering issue and try to get over it; I do it for myself. There are rules I follow: I make sure I hurt no one, nor commit a crime while doing it. I do it mainly for myself to be free of it. And most importantly, I come from love. I have no expectations about how people involved will react if I am dealing with forgiveness issues. All I know is I have done my part in solving the issue. I feel very brave and liberated afterwards. And usually, it turns out beneficial for both sides.

6) What are your real values? If you looked at your life and were asked to put price tags on friends, family, health, hobbies, interests, travel, addictions, properties, career, your reputation and standing in society, which would be the most expensive and which would be the cheapest?

7) What keeps you up at night?

8) Do you believe in God? What or who is God to you? Do you believe in a God who believes in you and that God put you here for a purpose? What do you think it is?

9) Look back at turning points in your life. How do you think the decisions you made in the past have affected you today?

10) What do you like best about yourself? What do you dislike most?

11) Have you ever heard a call to action from a source that you suspect was a Higher Being? Did you think you were crazy? Undeserving? How did you respond? Were you dismissive?

12) What would be a priceless moment to you?

13) If you wanted to change anything in the world, what would it be? With your time left on earth, what steps would you take in that direction?

14) What are the things you do that give you joy? When was the last time you set aside time to do them?

15) Do you have a sacred space? A space where you feel you can rest, unwind and put yourself back together again? A place that revives you not just physically, emotionally, but also spiritually? Do you go there often?

16) Have you loved anyone with full acceptance and without expecting anything?

17) Have you ever given yourself to a cause bigger than yourself?

18) What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

19) How would you like to be remembered when you die? What would you like your legacy to be?

20) What have you done to build that legacy?

21) Do you think you are a force of good in the world?

22) When was the last time you made someone happy?

23) Have you had experiences when you felt you had no ego?

24) Have you experienced timeless, transcendent moments? When was the last time?

25) What is more important? To be whole or good? If they were not the same thing, which would you choose?

Do not fear the depths. Explore them. Have an engaged weekend!

Life in real time 0

Posted on July 16, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 16, 2017 – 12:00am

I’ve often wondered why people who once held certain jobs or positions long ago are addressed as if they still hold their former titles. Decades may have passed since they held their esteemed positions. For example, a person who was once a senator will always be addressed as “senator.” And so it goes with governors, justices, mayors, attorneys, doctors, presidents, engineers, etc.

I suppose such positions are held in such high esteem that people who once had them would rather keep the title until their death. In one way, I find this understandable. But I also find this rather strange.

To me it seems rather sad, holding on to some distant faded glory in one’s past especially when the person who once held such a title may have moved on to other jobs, expertise or new directions in life.

You may have been, say, a senator or a congressman, but that was way back in the past. You are no longer that. You could now be in another stage of your life and doing something else.

We were once babies, students, apprentices, single, married, etc. Statuses change. Some of us may have even held lowly occupations or nondescript ones in the beginning, but we do move on to do other greater and more meaningful things.

But then again, for some, their terms as political persons or as professionals may have been the most defining moment of their lives, so even when their reign may be over, they continue to bask in, live and enjoy their former identities.

In my life as an adult, I have been a singer, performer, songwriter, musical arranger, columnist, author of books, teacher, environmentalist, diver, photographer, a political animal, a fighter of causes, a public person. I have also been a son, a brother, a father, husband, grandfather, neighbor, Atenean, Filipino, artist, migrant to Australia, and a host of other things.

When people ask me what I do, I often have a hard time explaining myself. People like to simplify other people and give them a handle. They like to reduce the sum total of who we are into some identifiable, common function or core competency. My consistent answer when asked to fill in a form is to put down “artist” as my occupation. The description is so broad that a person who does not know me will have to ask a few more questions to find out what I really do.

People are more diverse than we imagine them to be. Every life is a work in progress. Everything is in constant flux. Change is always happening. Every description we have of anyone is a mere snapshot. We don’t know where or what anyone is evolving into at any moment.

I find it helpful to try and describe people as audio equalizers —those gadgets that we use to arrange different sound frequencies from lowest to highest to help define how we want to listen to music. Imagine each frequency as some sort of “self-identity.” We push some frequencies higher than others. We “shape” our overall “sound” to represent ourselves to the world. Naturally, some identities will come out “louder” than others.

In the world we live in today where change is always happening, we should always be ready to call on identities within ourselves to be adaptable in every situation. In dealing with young children, for example, being an “attorney” may not mean so much. Perhaps we are better at being “father” in such situations. It takes self-awareness to do that.

In the song That’s Life, by Frank Sinatra, the lyrics go:

I’ve been a puppet, a papa, a part, a poet, a pawn and a king.

I’ve been up, down over and under, and I know one thing.

Each time I find myself flat on my face,

I just pick myself up and get back in the race.

That’s life.

The aim is to move on with grace and skill to face life situations.

Have you ever looked at yourself deeply to discover hidden talents and gifts that you possess? Sometimes, it takes tough situations for them to come out and reveal themselves to you. One of my favorite quotes from Joseph Campbell is, “Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” It is amazing how life is designed to keep us growing and ever changing.

Jimmy Carter, who once served in the US Navy, became President of the United States, then a writer, a humanitarian, an activist and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. He has also just celebrated 65 years of marriage with his wife Rosalyn. He has also given up strongly-held opinions and views about politics, Israel and even his long-standing membership in his church to embrace greater truths as he sees them.

Times and circumstances change. We are constantly in “beta” mode. Trust that we have it within ourselves to go with the flow, and even thrive.

Our greatest contribution to the world is to know ourselves and live courageously as who we are. In real time.

My evolving family 0

Posted on July 08, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 9, 2017 –

When Lydia and I got married in 1977, our plan was to have babies three to five years after marriage. We wanted to enjoy each other and do stuff together first. We figured that a baby would tie us down too early in our marriage. To be honest, I was not too crazy about babies then. I was not in a hurry to be a dad. I knew that once we had a baby, we would have a life-long commitment to care of and raise a human being. We thought we should wait. We were young and we did not like the responsibility of parenthood just yet.

But after just nine months of living as a couple in our small, rented apartment where we cooked, cleaned the house, went out weekly for movies, and did what newly hitched young couples do, we decided to have a baby. We felt that our life together was just too much like “playing house” or, as we say in the vernacular, “nagbabahay-bahayan”. We felt we weren’t really living the “real life.” I guess by then we were ready for a real purpose and direction. And besides, we noticed more and more of our friends were starting their families. We felt it was also time we did.

In 1979, we had Erica. Four years later, we had Ala. Five and a half years later, we had Mio. Lydia actually wanted two or three more kids. I was already content with the three ones that we had. I did not want to work harder than I already was.

In their early years, our life as parents was mostly about raising our kids, feeding them, helping them with school, providing for them and taking care of them in all ways needed.

When Erica started being a teen, parenthood changed a lot for us. It was time to accept that our firstborn was growing up, and fast. Our family was getting older. I could feel a change in our family dynamics. As parents, we used to have easy authority and control over our kids. But now, Erica, being the strong person she has always been, had started to question our parental authority and flex her muscles. She was pulling away from us, but we were also pulling back and also giving her some slack so she would not rush to be independent. Even if we were not strict as parents when they were growing up, we knew this would eventually happen. It was disconcerting but inevitable. The tug of war went on and on during her teen years.

Ala and Mio, our second daughter and only son, went through the same phases but in milder ways. But by then, we had learned a lot about how to deal with teenage angst, thanks to our experience with Erica.

When we moved to Australia, the two girls had already graduated from college while Mio had finished his high school. Mio took graphic design in the University of New South Wales; Ala went back to school and took up an art degree.

In Australia, they were all miserable at first. They all started with jobs they did not like. They felt they did not belong. They missed home. Erica and her daughter Ananda actually returned to Manila after a few months and rethought the move to migrate.

But soon enough, Ala and Mio started to have friends. They also started dating and that changed their feeling about Sydney. They had gotten better jobs and had started earning their own money and doing what they wanted.

It has been 11 years since we moved to Sydney. Ala, now 34 years old, is married to John Buencamino and they have a new baby. She is also an artist-illustrator who has had exhibits and is joining another one in a few months.

Mio is now 29 years old, employed and a motorcycling warrior on the weekends. He has a serious relationship with his girlfriend Kaylee.

While we were in Sydney, I talked to Mio a lot and he told me about his life there and how he much he had changed and surprised himself. He told me that he had never imagined he would ever become the person he has turned out to be in Australia. He was proud.

He figured that if he had stayed in Manila, he would have been living a predictable life, and it would be that of an upper middle class, white collar employee, “just like everyone else.” He had opted for the road less traveled.

In Australia, he learned independence and the value of manual labor and hard work. While he works in an office now, he went through other jobs where he learned a lot and discovered his curious, adventurous side. He is well-read and has learned a lot of life skills. He is friendly, charming and gets along with everyone very easily. He can also be very generous with his time and resources.

After a few months of being with Ala and Mio, Lydia and I returned to Manila a week ago from Sydney.

Four days ago, as I was lying in bed ready to sleep, my daughter Erica who lives and works in Paris suddenly walked into our bedroom. It was all unexpected. She had come home because of the death of a friend’s relative. While it may have been a sad circumstance that brought her home, it was a welcome surprise reunion between Erica, her daughter Ananda and us.

As I am writing this, I can see a lot of activity going on in our home kitchen. Erica, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu’s famous culinary course in Paris, and trained at the Michelin-starred Robuchon restaurant, is cooking up something with her daughter Ananda.

I can smell delicious, sumptuous food emanating from where they are. My wild, restless firstborn who was our most high-maintenance child seems to have found her bliss in being a chef at age 38. I am happy about that.

Since we are spread out all over the world, events like Christmas can be problematic. Everyone seems to have their own plans right now. It is entirely possible that we may not be together for the first time this Christmas. Lydia and I may have to spend it alone.

Our family may have grown up but it continues to evolve. As our children start living more of their lives and dreams and create their own stories, Lydia and I are moving towards being empty nesters. Our family members may not be living under one roof anymore, and not even on the same continents. But we feel bonded and united as one. More than ever.

As grandparents, we enjoyed helping Ala and John in Sydney take care of their baby Zadie so they could catch up with their sleep. Ananda, now a teenager, is under our care for the moment until she joins her mom in Paris soon.

Our children may have come into this world as undefined humans. We raised them as best as we could and continue to be around to help when they need it. They are all grown-up now. We are grateful to see how much they love each other and actually enjoy each other’s company.

We see them as fine human beings who know how to love, and be loved. They are compassionate and kind people. They will hopefully contribute positively to the world.

Sometimes I feel our work as parents may be over. The kids are grown up and two of them have children of their own. I hope they give us more grandchildren.

Mother Teresa once asked the rhetorical question, “What can you do to promote world peace?” She answered it by saying, “Go home and love your family.”

Funny! This is what we have been doing without expecting to save the world.

The outdoor life 0

Posted on July 02, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 2, 2017 – 12:00am

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Early

I really enjoyed camping as a young boy. One of the most exciting things we used to do was camp in an empty lot near our house. My brother Raffy and I together with the sons of our household help would pitch a tent, build a fire, cook and stay up at night telling stories. I became a boy scout when I got older and learned a lot of cool stuff that were handy for outdoor living.

When I got to high school, I pretty much stopped camping. The next camping experience I had was around March 2013. Lydia and I, together with our “senior” friends, braved Mount Pulag, the second highest mountain in the Philippines. After a five-hour climb, we slept a few hours at the mountain camp before the final trek to the peak early morning. It was super cold and damp, and Lydia told me that it was the most miserable night of her life.

My son Mio and I have always enjoyed outdoor activities. He likes to take me on long drives to destinations that he has discovered his motorcycle sojourns during weekends. We usually go around with our cameras. One night last month, we went to a national park here in New South Wales, Australia to take long-exposure shots of the Milky Way. We drove for an hour and a half, walked briskly in the cold and dark to the viewing deck and looked for the best positions to shoot the stellar attractions. Even if we forgot our tripods, it was a great night. The heavens did not disappoint. We were ecstatic and vowed to do it again.

About two weeks ago, Mio and I planned on taking Lydia, my granddaughter Ananda and Mio’s girlfriend Kaylee camping. We knew it wasn’t the best time to do it. It was winter and the forecast was heavy rain for that day and the following days. We wanted to move it to a better time but schedules had been rearranged and it did not look like we would be able to do it again soon. So it was all systems go!

We drove to a property in Glenworth, a big acreage with lots of tall trees, open spaces and more than 214 horses. We did not have to pitch a tent since we were provided with a big teepee. It was so big 10 people could fit inside. We could stand inside the tent without bumping our heads on anything.

Ananda and Kaylee immediately went horseback riding and son after played Skirmish laser tag. We stayed behind and pitched a portable gazebo beside our teepee so we could have a place to eat and leave our muddy shoes before entering the tent.

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I ventured outdoors with my camera. I could hear birds chirping everywhere, especially the strange-looking Kookaburra, Australia’s iconic bird which gives out a loud laughing sound. I spotted it on a tree about 100 feet from where I was but it immediately flew away. An hour later, it perched on a piece of wood about 50 feet from the tent. I approached it slowly while taking photos.

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I have this theory that if we “talk” to animals in our minds and assure them that we come in peace, they will allow us to get close. This happened to me in Tubbataha reef during a dive. I “talked” to a huge manta and a giant turtle. The manta, which had passed me by, actually turned around and got close enough to be touched. I was also able to hold the turtle, which even took me for a short ride. (I know these are against diving rules but I could not resist. Sorry).

I was inching my way towards the Kookaburra slowly, and soon enough, I was just three feet away, clicking my camera. It did not fly away. Later on, it even went near our tent!

Late in the afternoon, we took photos of the horses running down a hill to an open field on the way to the barns. Then, we returned to camp, built a fire and started heating the adobo and rice Lydia had previously cooked in the house for our dinner. We also had crackers with cheese, prosciutto, dips and chips, marshmallows, strawberries with chocolate dip. Not exactly Spartan or hardcore camping. But we did all these amidst torrents of rain that poured down sporadically.

The toilets were a minute and a half away from the tent. They were provided for by the campsite management. They were basic but clean enough, thank God. If we had to relieve ourselves in the rain, it would have been a disaster.
After dinner and some campfire conversation, we retired to our airbeds inside the teepee. It was hardly a relaxing night. The cold ground permeated the heavy blankets and thick clothes we wore. We were freezing! Not only that, the airbeds kept losing air and I had to pump them twice in the middle of the night.

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We woke up early, cooked breakfast and left camp in the morning in high spirits. We were happy we pushed through with it despite the rain.

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Camping is almost an Aussie tradition. There is so much outdoors — mountains, hills, lakes, oceans, forests, parks to enjoy. There are also many stores where you can purchase tons of camping gear for all types of adventures.

My son and I plan to do more of this. I am so glad I have not become a high-maintenance, sickly 65-year-old, and can still enjoy roughing it a bit. I have not lost my Boy Scout spirit and love for nature. Camping nourishes both my body and spirit.

I have two quotes from Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts movement, to share with you. One is, “The man who is blind to the beauties of nature has missed half the pleasure of life.” The other goes, “A week of camp life is worth six months of theoretical teaching in the meeting room.”

I can only agree. There is so much more living to do out there than just being comfortable indoors!

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Bird calls: Kookaburra

Thirty-eight years of fatherhood 0

Posted on June 17, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 18, 2017 – 12:00am http://www.philstar.com/sunday-life/2017/06/18/1711020/thirty-eight-years-fatherhood

I have been a father for 38 years. I have three children. I remember my entire journey of fatherhood from the very beginning.

It started off as something effortless. I got my wife pregnant which was not difficult at all. It was so wonderful we decided to she should get pregnant two more times.

It was when she delivered our first baby that fatherhood stopped being something abstract and became real. Erica was a colicky baby who was allergic to almost all types of milk. But she was a sprightly kid, super active, who walked very early. She seemed to be ahead of the curve. She also ran and talked in quick succession — a fast learner in every way.

Our second child, Ala, was more relaxed and easygoing, a direct contrast to Erica. She was quiet, unrushed. She fantasized about being a princess and internalized it so that it showed in the way she walked and handled herself as a very young kid. She was sensitive to music and would cry when the chords and melody of something she was listening to turned sad. Early on, it was clear she would be an artist.

Mio, our only boy, was born smiling and had a loud chuckle even as an infant. He was curious about everything and was the most easy-going of our three kids. I’ve always enjoyed our father-son relationship. We seem to be on the same wavelength.

I learned fatherhood skills when they were needed. I helped Lydia put them to sleep. I spent a lot of time reading to them and with them, the classic children’s stories like “Peter Pan,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” etc. I also read poems to them and played music at bedtime.

When they started going to school, I helped them with their homework. I got them into reading, and made sure they loved the written word so they would become readers for life, which they are. And all of them write as well.

Erica is four years older than Ala. And Ala is five years older than Mio. For a time, I had a child in college, high school and grade school. I had to relate to each of them uniquely as they went through the different stages of learning, socializing and self-discovery.

Fatherhood is demanding. Aside from physically protecting, nurturing, educating and taking care of them, I have to be some kind of authority on intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual matters. I am also a disciplinarian, playmate, storyteller, protector, coach, rescuer, friend, someone who can make them laugh, think, and more. I must also earn their respect. And whatever the occasion, I have to be fully present and relevant.

When they were growing up, I liked to provoke them to think and discover things for themselves, experience being the greatest teacher. I gave them ample opportunities to figure things out for themselves.

As they have grown older, I find that many of my traditional roles as father have begun to recede and disappear. Kids grow up and become young adults. They have new sets of problems that require me to step back in spite of my protective instincts towards them. I must learn to listen and allow them the freedom to experience life on their own. I must refrain from imposing on them too much. I must learn to trust them and let go, but still be around to lend advice and empathy when they ask for it or need it.

I am quite pleased that my children feel free to open up to me not just about their careers, or their emotional turmoil, but also about their love lives. We speak very frankly since they know I will really listen and, at that moment, suspend judgment when they tell me their problems. I have had many long, satisfying talks with my three kids.

What I enjoy most these days is the constant affirmation that Lydia and I have raised interesting, intelligent and compassionate human beings who have something positive to contribute to the world. Erica, Ala and Mio know how to love deeply. They are kind and forgiving. They are passionate and independent. They are mostly happy and have a strong sense and appreciation of being part of the family we find ourselves in.

Our kids have had opportunities to travel together, caring and looking after each other. It is a blessing that they genuinely enjoy each other’s company. While they are all on their own in different parts of the world, they work at being together as often as they can.

It is said that a parent’s work is never done. I am not sure about that. To a certain extent, many of the roles I played when they were growing up have ended. Lydia and I raised our kids to be free and independent. I like to think that they will eventually outgrow us, come into their own, and live their own lives. But our presence in their lives continues. I hope we continue to be relevant to them as we all get older.

I like it that they chose their own paths in life. Independence does not mean they will forget us. It just means they can be brave enough to pursue their dreams knowing that they have our support.

Fatherhood has taught me many things, the most important of which is unconditional love. As parents, we may sometimes feel that our kids have failed us when they do not live up to our expectations. But we still love them even as we pick up after some bad decisions they may make. I hope they can also forgive our failures and imperfections as parents. Raising my kids has taught me patience, consistency, discipline, love and compassion. For this, I am grateful to them.

By the way, my kids have made me a grandfather of two — which is an entirely different experience altogether. But that’s a subject for another article.

Be quiet! 2

Posted on June 11, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 11, 2017 – 12:00am

In the big, loud world of men, there is chaos.

The air is full of anger and hatred. People are shouting, arguing, insulting and killing each other. In more and more random places, innocent men, women and children die not through their own making but because of the hatred of some people for others.

Headlines scream tragedy, ignorance, suffering, discrimination, and loathing. Media thrives on all this. Social media, meanwhile, is becoming ground zero for the deadly epidemic called fake news.

At no other time in the history of the big, loud world of men has there been so much confusion. With internet and modern technology, we can easily verify truth, yet many do not. People are so misguided and are easily lured by lies and fakery. Many have become incapable of thinking, much less analyzing.

This is the state of the world of men right now. It is a tragic world of hate and tears, of victims and victimizers.

Meanwhile, there is the quiet world where infinitely more things are happening. But you have to
As I write this, I am looking out of my window. It is a cold winter day. It is also raining. The flowers stand steadfast amid the slight rainfall. If I stare at them long enough, I swear they like it. Their vivid colors bring a smile to my face. The rain is not inflicting violence upon them. It is more like gentle stroking, caressing and bestowing a nourishing wet kiss.

The grass grows slowly in wintertime, like it is in hibernation mode. It looks like it would rather slow down its growth and just watch the flowers and enjoy the rain.

The birds are hiding under anything that will keep them dry. They are in constant conversation. Sometimes, there are only two of them chirping but soon enough, others join in. They make such pretty, lively sounds, like that of friends who enjoy each other’s company.

Some birds brave the rain and fly to another spot, perhaps to be with other friends. They seem to have so much to talk about every day, under any kind of weather. But this time, they are waiting out the rain together before flying out to look for food.

The trees murmur ever so softly; you almost can’t hear it. A leaf just fell right now. I wonder what drama is going on here. Does the solitary leaf hurt because it must leave the tree and the other leaves?
Only a poet can answer that.

In this quiet world of men, everyone listens to everything. And there is a lot going on. The conversation is between the universe, all of its inhabitants and the few silent men present. Yes, everything is alive. Everyone is a sentient being. Everyone is talking to everyone. It has always been like this since time began.

The loud men are the least who can hear and understand what is going on in this silent world. Look around you. Every little detail in the Universe seems to know its place. Buds will bloom as expected. Birds must fly. Trees and plants must grow. The weather is as it is. It is sure of itself and what it is tasked to do.

Time passes on, so sure of itself, it has decreed that you can’t go back to the past to fix or change anything. It is ever fresh and new, and is the only thing we know that is untainted. Every now is a new beginning. Every moment is potentially redemptive.

Meanwhile, in the big, loud world of men, the great majority have forgotten that the silent world also exists. Lost in the din of their shouting, they cannot recall that such a refuge was even present. In fact it has always been eternally there.

Such is the tragedy of the big, loud world of men. They know not what they have, and what they are really capable of experiencing and understanding. They live in a trance, locked in the world of power, wealth, fame, gain, superiority, control, greed, avarice, lust, and the obsession to dominate everything.

It is a high-maintenance world they believe in. They refuse to accept that things pretty much work themselves out, and obsess over the need to completely dominate everything and everyone. They see only themselves as individuals. There are no “others.”

But the world was meant to have so much diversity, and human consciousness must wake up to this. I am talking about diversity in race, opinions, beliefs, religion, lifestyles, and wisdom.

This is why there is this need to rediscover the world of silence. In between the shouting, or in the lull between gunfire, hopefully some will notice the quiet and focus on it instead of formulating the counter-argument, or reloading the ammunition.

I write this not as a politician, or philosopher, but as a simple artist who is capable of creating something out of nothing. You can call me crazy, unrealistic. I am at home with silence.

I therefore call on the world to just pause for a while and be quiet. And listen. Just listen. So much is going on and it is telling us something.

The world as we know it now came out of our collective vision and creation. Today, so much of the world is full of senseless violence, hate and cynicism.

Let us stand back, stop doing what we’re doing even for a moment, and reflect. Bring on the silence and get our innate senses back.

Be quiet!

The importance of ‘being beta’ 0

Posted on June 03, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 4, 2017 – 12:00am

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The author Jim Paredes with Randi Zuckerberg, founder of Zuckerberg Media and sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg; and Daniel Goleman at the World Business Forum in Sydney

SYDNEY — My good friend, Michelle Baltazar, called to ask if I wanted to attend the World Business Forum in Sydney last week (May 31 to June 1). She said I could apply for a media pass to get in free. The entrance was $AUD2700 per person. I scanned the list of speakers and I knew it was a must-attend affair. I wrote the organizers and managed to get a media pass.

The mantra of the conference was intriguing. Everywhere, you could see the phrase, “BE BETA,” which declared that the world, everything and everyone, is in a state of flux. Rather than simply dominating, one must constantly adjust, reinvent, recreate to remain competitive and relevant. It was a full house at the Star Events venue. I listened to every speaker who was a world-renowned expert in his/her own field.

Ken Segall, the creative director who had played a major role in Apple’s resurrection after 1997 and who authored the book Insanely Simple, talked about how people will always choose the simpler path. It was the way Steve Jobs thought. His was the mind behind putting the “i” before iPhone, and every winning creation that followed.

Rosabeth Moth Kanter, a Harvard professor, wowed the crowd with her talk on business strategies, how to lead organizations and companies. She spoke of openness and creativity and advised everyone to not just think outside of the box, but outside of the building — to get out and meet their customers and find out what they really need. She exhorted her audience to expose their companies to new ideas. To get a company to function effectively, she suggested that the leader form a multi-cross-section stakeholders coalition. Build an ecosystem. Think viral. Take risks. “Think of your worst nightmare and invest in it.”

Mohanbir Sawhney is a scholar and teacher in technology, marketing and new media. He talked about businesses needing to be agile, ambidextrous and collaborative. They must not only be opportunity-focused but also execution-focused, going beyond customer satisfaction to customer delight.

The last speaker for Day One was the founder of Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington, who talked via video conference from California. She got everyone to think about redefining success and how power and wealth alone do not define it. She expounded on quality of life for people in businesses, pointing out that people who are happy and healthy are more productive.

She narrated an incident where one day she just collapsed from sheer exhaustion, breaking her jaw during the fall. She knew she had to change things. She talked about changing habits by taking micro-steps. She advised everyone to prioritize getting enough sleep, to stop being “on” all the time. A bank in the US actually rewards employees by giving them US$300 if they complete the 28-day challenge of getting enough sleep. They are monitored through their fitbit gadgets which record sleep data, among other things.

She warned against too much social media and technology messing up sleep and physical recovery, and about burnout and fatigue. She pointed out that “the worst decisions of our lives happen when we are tired.”

For greater productivity, she suggested creating groups within the company that care for each other. She warned CEOs that “your eulogy is different from your résumé,” and spoke about compassion and meaning. After all, “people are not products.”

Day Two started with Daniel Goleman, the world’s authority on emotional intelligence who expounded on the value of a high EQ in running a business. He said that self-awareness is an important state a leader must always be in. “If you are tuned-out of yourself, you can’t manage others.” He further explained that contrary to popular notion, the brain does not multi-task. It turns on and off quickly. He emphasized the importance of human interaction. The brain is designed for face-to-face human meetings and so a leader must go beyond merely sending memos but must actually connect in person. He said emotional intelligence is more important than intellectual capabilities.

Ian Williamson, from the Melbourne Business School, talked about adapting, surviving and thriving in an atmosphere of external disruptions. He suggested practical strategies for organizations in times of changes in technology, customer preferences and demographics, competitive actions and new regulations. Awareness of the new ecosystem, motivation and capability to respond to them are key.

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, explained how his passion led to the creation of one of the Top 100 websites and how it thrives even without commercial help. He receives no salary. The entries on Wikipedia come from the community. Anyone can edit them.
He also talked about threats and opportunities for business in a globally connected world, and how adapting is so crucial to survival. He emphasized the need for synergy with employees, distributors, suppliers and the public.

The last speaker in the forum was Randi Zuckerberg, founder of Zuckerberg Media that caters to Fortune 500 companies. Yes, she is the sister of Mark, the founder of Facebook. She recently came out with two books: Dot Com, and a children’s book called Dot which encourages girls to be more interested in technology. The second book is now a TV show in the US.

She spoke about her eight years working with Facebook, the lessons she learned there and her contributions to its growth. She was totally engaging with her wit, self-deprecating humor and enthusiasm — she even threw in some singing!

Her years on FB taught her that great ideas can come from anyone. And, yes, it is okay to fail, to appear ridiculous. From failure can emerge success. Her idea of adding the FB Live app seemed like a disaster at first. She tried it and only two people watched — her mom and dad, so it was pulled out immediately. But, out of the blue, pop artist Katy Perry called to say she wanted to launch her new album through FB Live. Her co-workers at FB were thrilled. They relaunched the app, and before she knew it, it became a roaring success. Facebook Live is now available to 1.5 billion users.

She pointed out how technology has completely engaged practically every aspect of our lives, but she also warned that we must take control of it lest it overwhelms us completely. She ended her talk by indulging in a passion she said she has had since she was three years old, but never got to do in public. She sang Part of My World from the Disney movie The Little Mermaid, changing the lyrics to close her speech.

This was an opportunity I just had to grab, even if I had no idea how much I would enjoy the World Business Forum. I learned so much about business, a topic I thought I was not interested in. The brilliance of the speakers won me over. And I can see how some of their lessons can be applied to life in general. Words like “agile,” “open,” “flexible,” “experimental,” “networked,” “curious,” “human,” “personal,” etc., are still swimming in my head as I write this. It’s a changing world and it’s changing faster than ever. So, no matter how old we are, let’s “BE BETA!”

Back to basics 0

Posted on May 28, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 28, 2017 – 12:00am

More and more, I realize how important it is NOT to engage too much in distractions like television and social media. In fact, it is good to divest and let go of a lot of what society and modern life are asking from us. I am speaking of the need to acquire or own “the latest,” the “new and improved,” the “best” whatever. It means ignoring the impulse to buy, or subscribe to the call to consume, own, possess, or be attached to material things.

Simplicity. The basic stuff. That’s what I aim for when I feel the world controls too much of me. I clear out stuff I don’t need or use anymore, like clothes I haven’t worn for more than a year, the exercise machines I stopped using that I keep under the bed, even files and photos on my computer which I haven’t opened for some time. I also let go of trying to be fashionable and cool, and the need to conform. I basically try to live with less.

The world can be so attractive and alluring. It is so easy for a person to be convinced he/she needs something to be happy or fulfilled. I try to fight that mindset and go inward instead of listening to the world.

What I find inward when I am full-on present is a feeling of completeness. I don’t need anything. I have everything I need. I am my own source of strength, fire and inspiration. My sacred space is not a geographical area but rather a state of mind and spirit. I am here where I am meant to be.

During such moments, the world can move on and I do not care if I am left behind. Being alone is fine and even wonderful. It is a very special moment yet it feels very familiar. It is as if it is our most natural state that we have forgotten.

There are times as an artist when I feel I am in my zone, like I am in my true element. I am in a flow. This is the same feeling, except that I am not doing music. I am not doing anything. I am only being.

In everyday life, I do not always crave certain types of food. Sure, I have my favorite dishes and I enjoy them. If I can’t have them, I do not make a big fuss. I literally eat what is available or what is served at the table. And whatever it is, I find comfort in it. I am thankful I am eating.

When I shop for clothes, I do not buy branded or fashionable styles. I go primarily for comfort. I do not like spending too much on myself. I have some clothes I have been wearing for more than 10 years. And that is just fine.

I do not like feeling entitled because I am a relatively familiar public person. I am aware that life has its disappointments. Just like everyone else, I must manage expectations all the time.

I am always dealing with ego issues. And that is the hardest thing. Ego is hard to kill and when you do, it manages to resurrect in full force. But sometimes I am successful. I can readily stand to be corrected when I am wrong. I have no problem with that. I can face opposition to views I hold. I do not take it personally. I can listen to criticism and not feel diminished by it. But I will not waste time with people of ill intent on social media. Life is too short to try and push my point of view or find the rhyme and reason in what they are saying. I just block them. When I am asked how I should be introduced during a talk, which is what I often do now, I say to just introduce me as an artist, or however they want. I am not big on titles, or bragging about achievements. Many times, I feel overrated and uncomfortable when I am introduced glowingly. I feel like I am attending my own funeral.

What I like is sharing my experiences and the little knowledge I have and getting people’s reactions. I go for “aha” moments, which I try to give my audience, and the reactions they elicit in me.

I am a performer whose career peaked years ago. I can accept not having as strong a presence on the radar screen as my group had during our heyday. When we do perform, I enjoy it more now because it does not happen as often as it used to. I am aware that fame, wealth and influence are fleeting. It is as it is. That’s the way of the world. And I find comfort in not having to act the way famous people are expected to. I just engage people as the person that I am.

It is not so much about rejecting the world, although more and more, to be real and whole persons, we must often say no to it. As the Bible puts it, “Be in the world, but not of it.”

It is a good mantra to remember.

The opposite side 0

Posted on May 21, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 21, 2017 – 12:00am

I am in Sydney as I write this. I have been here two weeks.? Prior to this visit, I was home for close to 10 months with only one foreign trip, to Taiwan. I have been, for the most part, home in the Philippines.?

Australia is where I have two children who have become citizens and who have chosen this country as the place where they will live, work, raise a family, build a home and a future. I have been to Australia many times, especially in the past 10 years. More than at any time, as I live here from day to day, it does not escape me that Australia and the Philippines are like two opposite worlds. I am not talking of these two nations as apples and oranges, although objectively speaking, one can argue that they are. I am talking as a Filipino who has spent most of his life living in my home country and occasionally experiencing life Down Under.?

The weather is a good place to start the comparison. Back home, we have two seasons: the dry and wet seasons, also known as the warm and the cool times of the year. As I write this, it is winter in Sydney, the temperature is nine degrees Celsius, while it is summer in Manila with the temperature hitting the high 30s. While Filipinos are suffering through the sweltering heat, we are enjoying manageable cold weather in Sydney. ??Where we look forward to enjoying a cold weather Christmas in the Philippines, here, it is “tank top” weather during Christmas. It is the height of summer and the temperature often goes past 40 degrees. People wear shorts, T-shirts and slippers. Definitely no sweaters on Simbang Gabi.

?Another striking difference here compared to back home is how Australia values the dignity of manual labor. I am talking about tradesmen such as plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, painters, gardeners, etc. To become a certified tradesman, one must go to school for proper training, then through years of apprenticeship before one can be licensed. A tradesman is expected to do a good job or a customer can take him to court and he could lose his license. ?When you need a tradesman, you have to make an appointment and pay lots of money for the consultation and the actual work done. Years ago, when we had a problem with our toilet here in Sydney, we called a newly arrived immigrant who was an unlicensed plumber to fix it. It was our way of helping him get established in Sydney. A few weeks later, the toilet broke down again and we finally called a licensed plumber. He pointed out that the replaced parts of the toilet (which had been repaired earlier) were of poor quality and were not even installed correctly. ?Before you get your car’s registration renewed, it must be inspected by a licensed mechanic (if it is over four years old) who must certify that it is road-worthy. After registration, if your car gets into an accident due to, say, faulty brakes, the government will go after you and your mechanic who will probably lose his license. ?Back home, we are still far from this level of professionalism where people are held accountable if they do not do their jobs well.?

We also fall very far behind in the delivery of justice. Down Under, politicians have been booted out of office for simple infractions such as not reporting an upgrade they enjoyed during a flight, or not reporting receiving an expensive bottle of liquor as a gift. A judge lost his job, pension and reputation for lying to the police about who was using his car that was caught speeding. He said it was driven by an American friend who had left the country. When the police investigated, they discovered that the judge’s American friend had died two years earlier. I think the judge also served jail time. Many years back, popular Prime Minister Bob Hawke was waving to people on the street from his car when he was called out by TV viewers who said he was not wearing a seatbelt. He ended up paying a fine. ?Big politicians, businessmen, famous people are routinely arrested when they commit crimes. No big deal. Police routinely order drivers to pull over for alcohol and drug tests. Driving violations are fined heavily. You can actually lose your license depending on the violations you commit.?

During the first year we moved to Sydney, I woke up to a knock on the door at 2 a.m. It was the police. Before I opened the door, I asked my wife if our son was home. I thought he might have gotten into some trouble. He was asleep in his room. When I opened the door, the police asked me how many cars I had. I said I had one. He then said that I had left my garage door open, and advised me to close it. I was impressed at how much effort the police took to make our neighborhood safe.?

Traffic is a monumental problem in Metro Manila. People complain of traffic here in Sydney too, but it is nowhere near what we go through back home. If you define heavy traffic as not having moved forward for at least 15 minutes (as often happens in Metro Manila), I don’t think I have experienced “heavy traffic” here at all. By Philippine standards, traffic is non-existent in Sydney. People call it traffic if their car is the fifth or sixth vehicle before the traffic light. ?

Lastly, I must say, it is more fun to spend your money in the Philippines because it is far less expensive there than here. Your usual McDonald’s meal back home of a burger, fries and a soda is four times more expensive in Australia. To get a car registered with insurance will cost close to P50,000. Council fees (the equivalent of barangay fees which we don’t pay back home) cost P60,000 per year. The cost of houses and rent keeps going up to ridiculous heights and there seems to be no end in sight. They say that properties in the Sydney area double in price every 10 years. A real concern is that a great majority of young people are not able to afford owning a home.

I have learned to love living in both Manila and Sydney. Each has its charms and its downsides. While my roots are in the Philippines, I like the different pace and dictates of living in a place where rules are more clearly defined and observed. I also love how much open spaces there are in Sydney compared to the density of Manila. I feel comfortable with and assured by the peace and order, and the predictability of life here. I love the snow-less winter. I also love the new friends I have made here. ?However, I enjoy the freedom of living back home. Sometimes, life in Sydney can feel too regulated. There are so many rules. It is great to have access to both worlds. I am reminded of a Zen saying that goes, “The opposite side also has an opposite side.” That’s fine by me.

A new mom speaks 0

Posted on May 13, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 14, 2017 – 12:00am

Author Jim Paredes’ daughter Ala Paredes Buencamino and her baby.

For this Mother’s Day, I decided to ask my daughter, Ala Paredes Buencamino, to write her feelings down about being a new mom. I thought first-time mothers out there would resonate with this since most Mother’s Day articles will probably be talking about older mothers and how they have successfully raised their children.

* * *

How are the first weeks of motherhood?” That’s what your friends who don’t have children ask. The correct answer is to paint a picture of a cuddle-filled existence that manages to be fulfilling even with very little sleep and having to change a hundred dirty diapers per day.

Here is a real answer: motherhood is fragile, physically and emotionally. While I found that I was prepared to endure birth without pain relief, I was unprepared for how long and slow postpartum recovery would be. I felt strong during my 10-hour labor, a mighty force of nature; but I felt flimsy and helpless when, two weeks later, my knees were still wobbling, I couldn’t sit up unassisted, I could barely walk, and I had this new, unfamiliar body covered in aches and pains. They say postpartum recovery takes six weeks; true, but only if you are Wonder Woman.

Early parenthood is full of doubts and perceived failures that have the power to shatter you and reduce you to a blubbering mess. One such “failure” was when my newborn lost too much weight in her first few days of life due to a delay in my milk supply. While I knew intellectually that this was not a “failure” on my part, it certainly felt like one, as though I couldn’t fulfill my basic duty of providing for my hungry baby. As I bottle-fed her with formula to get her weight back on track, I would collapse into emotional sobs. “She’s starving! My body has failed her!” I cried as my husband tried to console me.

Eventually, I learned to stiffen up and keep these imaginary failures in perspective. I was doing the best I could with what I had at that time. Being gentle and forgiving with yourself.

And while you learn to let many things roll off your back, you cry and feel a little resentful when you see your partner have free time to enjoy hobbies, something that is denied to you in the meantime. You feel sorry for yourself because you’re exhausted, unwashed, and barely have time to even put on a complete set of clothing, then immediately feel guilty about experiencing any amount of self-pity. Shouldn’t you be acting like a mature adult by now? You chose to have a kid so suck it up and deal with it, honey.

Still, you cry because so much is on you, you, YOU. You’re the mom. You carried this child in your womb for nine months, and you mean the world to this tiny, little person who can often only be comforted by your heartbeat, your smell, and the sound of your voice — nobody else’s! If you are breastfeeding, you are your baby’s irreplaceable, round-the-clock giver of life. All that responsibility on someone who feels so fragile.

mothersday

Fragile because the transition into motherhood is an extreme chemical change in your identity, one that cannot ever be undone. For the first time in your life your heart truly feels its own depth and freedom as you’re overcome with a sublime love that feels almost too big to contain. You feel a heightened sense of time passing, watching your infant change faster than you can love each amazing version of her. You watch moments of heartbreaking beauty fly past you, never to be repeated. Oh, the joy you feel over that miraculous first smile, those heavenly hours you spend watching her as she sleeps, marveling at the wonder of her existence; and all you can do is pray that your memory will not fail and that those memories will keep your heart warm throughout the years.

So many big emotions rolled into one incomprehensible, beautiful mess. No wonder it’s easier to just stick to clichés when people ask you what motherhood is like. But here’s my answer in a nutshell: you have to be either crazy or naive to want to be a mom. I guess I’m both.


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