HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 21, 2018 – 12:00am
No one is exempted. We will ALL die.
Everyone should be thinking and talking about death even before it happens. For one, it will make us feel more comfortable about it when it finally happens to someone close to us. And it surely will. Even if we die first, we will have prepared our friends and loved ones better for our death.
We will not know how we will die. No one knows unless you are on your deathbed. There are infinite possible ways to die. That is not so much my concern. We can’t help it anyway. It is not our choice.
I am writing this article to ask a specific question about death. Answering it may give us clearer direction in our lives. It may even make life more meaningful and purposeful.
The question I am asking is this: if you had to, what are you wiling to die for? Are you willing to die for something?
This thought has been on my mind for the past months. I keep wondering why some people choose to voluntarily risk life and limb for causes, for other people, for principles. I think of soldiers, patriots, missionaries, first responders, workers and doctors in refugee camps, teachers and humanitarians in war-torn places, etc.
Why do they do it?
Almost nobody wants to face death even if it is inevitable. But to walk towards death voluntarily for causes bigger than oneself is admirably and defiantly heroic.
Many people say that the first law of life is self-preservation. But Joseph Campbell, one of my favorite writers, says that is only the second law. The first law is that all life is One.
Ironically, life goes on because there is death. Death, though involuntary, is a necessity. Creatures must die for other creatures to live. When Jesus voluntarily chose death and willingly sacrificed his own life, He was doing it for very important reasons. He was willing to die to save mankind. One might say He saw a collective Self that was bigger than his own self! A hero always dies for something greater than himself.
When I ask myself what I am willing to die for, I think of people, things and values that are important for the world and for mankind to continue to evolve. If human life needs to be sacrificed to save these, then so be it. Some of my reasons are very personal. Others may seem too ideal for some of you readers. To me, they are not.
1) If I have to, I am willing to give up my life to save any member of my immediate family. When my children were still babies, I was understandably very protective of them. During those times, I would constantly make sure they were safe and I would imagine what I would do if they were suddenly in great physical danger. What would I be ready to give up? I knew that I would gladly give up a limb without question to save them. I would even give my own life if the need arose.
I still feel that way except that I know they can take care of themselves now that they are already fully grown. But if a situation came up that required me to give up an organ, or even my life to save theirs, I would still do it.
2) In 1986, many of us who were at EDSA were more than willing to face tanks, soldiers and, yes, even death to fight for what we believed in. I remember those moments. Before leaving the house with Lydia to go to rally, we would hug and kiss our kids with the thought that we may never see them again. Politically, push had come to shove. The line had been drawn and crossed. We all heard THE CALL, and we responded. Thoughts of personal safety were set aside. We knew that we were needed in the fight. It was our defining moment. We were willing to die for our country.
Would I be willing to die for this country again? Now that we are moving closer to another dictatorship, I ask this every day.
I am very bothered about a lot of things happening these days since the new regime took over. I was never the type to just stand by the sidelines and just watch as things go to pot. I am a dyed-in-the-wool liberal democrat. I believe in respecting human rights, democracy, justice and truth, and value them enough to fight for them. Maybe my weakness is I often care too much and so I take it upon myself to do something.
Sometimes, I feel like copping out. It is so convenient to say that I am too old for this. I can also say that I have already done my part in the past. The duty to fight for this nation is now in the hands of the millennials. It seems like a sound rationale and a good excuse. Except that it is not true for me.
As a Filipino, I can’t find real excuses or any rationale that says I am excused from fighting the evil that confronts us today. I am a Filipino, an artist and expressing myself is a huge part of what I do. My nature to speak out will always defy any force that stifles or limits my self-expression.
3) I believe that art is worth dying for.
I admire people who live their lives in pursuit of their art especially during times of persecution. Art can save you from losing your authenticity during such times. As Joseph Campbell put it, “Art is the set of wings that will carry you out of entanglement.”
I admire people like Rizal, Picasso, Charlie Chaplin and many Brazilian and Latin American artists who were exiled because they spoke their truth. They were poets, singers, painters, writers. Through their art, they challenged the existing order at a time when their governments were highly intolerant.
I also watched a movie on the plane (I can’t remember the title) about a prominent and well-admired European painter who stood his ground against the Communist takeover of his country decades ago. The Reds were forcing all artists to abandon their own views and embrace socialist art “in the service of the people.” He refused. As a result he was stripped of his prestige, privileges, and even his livelihood. He struggled on until he eventually died sick and starving. His art was his life’s work. It was his vehicle to express his truth and he never wanted to give up. In the end, his lonely stand was validated by history.
I know I have never faced anything as hard as this. The closest thing to this I have experienced was in 1985. We were banned from radio and TV, and were not allowed to use government owned venues for concerts.
Before the ban, there were also attempts to win the APO over to the Marcos side through lucrative sponsorships and endorsements from crony establishments. The dictatorial regime was desperately trying to win the propaganda war around the time before the elections. We were young and famous. We were also building our own homes and securing our future. We thought about the generous offers. They were tempting. We discussed and even argued among ourselves. It would have been a big boost to us financially if we had accepted it.
In the end, we said no. Our music and career and personal lives at that time were closely linked to the struggle against the dictatorship. We were fighting on the side of the Filipino people to regain our freedoms. And we weren’t going to sell out.
We live in brutal times once again. I feel events will eventually lead us to some sort of showdown between forces of tyranny versus the forces of freedom and democracy. I know this time around, people on opposite sides may not be as polite as the players were in EDSA. There may be real danger of violence.
And so I ask you: Are you willing to make great sacrifices and maybe even die for this country?
As or me, I will be honest. I do not know the answer until I am literally faced with the situation. I ask you to open yourself to the question as I continue to find my own answer.