These I believe

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 1, 2013 – 12:00am


Illustration by REY RIVERA

By nature, I shun crowds. I know that’s hard to believe since I am a public person, a performer who does a lot of appearances in concerts and other popular activities. Perhaps what I want to say is, I tend to be a snob in what I listen to, the activities I undertake, the authors I read, and the trends and people I pursue.

In short, most of the time, I tend to shun what is popular. I generally don’t go for the well-traveled road, the crowd favorites, the popular stuff, the new big thing everyone is gaga about. Often, I discover something and like it, but when the entire barangay shows up and goes crazy for the same thing, I take a French leave and go look for something else to like.

Sometimes, I wish I was less of a “snob” in this sense, but there is something in me that tends to question things. One of the questions I have been dealing with all my life is, how much I should allow myself to conform to the ways of the world?

But don’t get me wrong. I like a lot of things that many people like — the Beatles, Boracay, technology, to name a few. But while I can detect and understand popular trends, I rarely have an overpowering attraction towards them.

I am not a fan of telenovelas, US Top 40 music, K-Pop, or fashion. I do not like gossip. I am not easily swayed by public taste or opinion. When something goes viral, I almost immediately lose interest in it.

Even as I get older, I continue to be torn between when to be accepting of and when to rebel against the existing order. I realize that the world is imperfect. I also know that there are things I cannot change no matter what I do and I can peacefully accept that. But I am also very much aware there are things that are within my power to change for the better.
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Through the years, I have learned a lot about what to stand up for and what not to engage in, although I know there is a lot more I need to learn. While I see friends and people my age who are quite content with accepting their lives with the least resistance, I choose to go the extra mile and exert more effort to move things up the evolutionary ladder, so to speak.

Meditation, a not-too-popular activity has given me some tranquility and the ability to accept things more easily. But ironically, the more I meditate, the more I discern a value system dictated by my inner voice that seems to go against the grain of how the world and the status quo conduct themselves.

The following is a list of some things I believe, and some that I reject. They may or may not jive with the values of the status quo or of the world order.

I believe that people are generally good.

I believe that, given the right opportunities, people will generally rise to the occasion.

I believe that politics can be an activity where people can express their highest ideals in service to others.

I believe in endeavors that promote compassion, education, economic and social liberation which allow people, regardless of race or sexual orientation, to live with dignity, pursue their passion and be the best they can be.

I believe in art and its power to heal, restore, enliven, inspire, surprise, delight, engage and uplift people to a greater aesthetic, sensual and spiritual experience.

I believe in a spirituality that can help people find meaning and purpose not only in an obscure personal way, but one that redounds to the community in the most positive way. I speak of a spirituality that is deep, engaged, joyful and meaningful and which, when acted out, transforms people and communities. It is a spirituality that leads people to experience the Transcendent.

I believe that each person holds within himself the capacity to awaken to a higher consciousness, which is the reality that he/she is unique, powerful and can contribute to the world just as he/she is.

I believe that gratitude is one of the great sources of human happiness. Without it, we will never see fullness nor experience abundance. Instead, we will always feel acute scarcity and want.

I believe that science and spirituality are two indispensible ways to experience being human. I do not believe that one excludes the other.

On the other hand, the following are things I will probably never be comfortable with.

I reject the overriding value of profit over everything else. While I support entrepreneurship, I do not support businesses that destroy the spirit and the quality of life of communities, exploit the environment in a non-sustainable way, neglect to support their workers’ well-being. I share the conviction of Pope Francis that unbridled capitalism is “the new tyranny.”

I generally reject violence although I know that in certain situations, it may be necessary. But I do not think I can participate in its direct execution, no matter what the situation is.

I reject dogmatism. I believe in the evolution of thought, ideas and an openness that make possible new ways to interpret human experience and knowledge.

I do not believe that any race or group can be called the “chosen people.” This is a remnant of an ethnocentric value system of a bygone age. Today, such belief would be called “exceptionalism,” or worse, reverse racism. I believe in world-centric values that lift all sentient beings.

I do not believe that anything is permanent. Things are in constant flux. Nothing is static. And no entity remains on top or below forever. Power is fluid. Everything and everyone will eventually perish and be forgotten. However, I believe in eternity, and nothing can stop me or anyone else from experiencing timelessness anytime.

I would like to end this on a positive note by stating a few more things I believe in.

I believe that nothing is pre-determined or pre-set. Life is an open invitation to make it anything we want it to be.

I believe in second chances.

I believe in forgiveness.

I believe in redemption.

I believe that love is really the only lasting thing we can leave behind.

Lastly, I believe in the paradox that everything is perfect as it is, but needs improvement.

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