Such is life

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated July 11, 2010 12:00 AM


Today I would like to write about life. Not just life, but Life. I can’t get any broader than that, and that’s its whole attraction. It is not just because Life is so magnificently broad in scope; in fact, it defies the word “scope” itself. It is the king of everything. It is the ultimate context that makes any other sub-context pitifully miniscule.

Talk about anything at all situated in any time, place and any other context you can think of and it is within the purview of Life. It is like Carl Sandburg’s description of grass in his immortal poem of the same title, “I am the grass. I cover all.”

I can’t think of any other topic that has elicited more speculation, rumination, analysis, opinions and what-have-you, all expressed within a wide spectrum of varying depths and shades than Life itself. It’s because we deal with it every day, every minute, every hour. We cannot not have an opinion about it.

Well, there’s also the subject of God, but that’s another topic. Or is it? It can get confusing. Maybe it’s because Life with a capital ‘L” and God are not topics in themselves the way, say, soccer is. And I am not being facetious here. I know I am sounding more confusing but allow me to go on.

We talk about Life, and God, as subjects that cover everything. Everything is within their domain. Like the ad for Agfa film used to say, “Nothing escapes it.” But then, if all is indeed within their domain, how is it that we can refer to them as mere objects to talk and write about? If they are all-encompassing, in reality, we shouldn’t be able to say anything about them with any accuracy because they are infinitely bigger than any attempt to describe them. In fact, the moment we try to put them into words, we make them smaller and thus misrepresent them.

Many writings by mystics and religions recognize this when they talk about God. He/She/It, they say, is nameless, faceless, figureless, without gender and yet is felt and experienced. Thus, the tradition of some religions not to have icons or inanimate physical representations of God, because anything smaller or lower than the unlimited reality that is God would be a defilement.

So it is with Life. We can only make, at best, a trite description of it. But we can still be brilliant in our triteness as Joseph Campbell was when he described life as “like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what is going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends.”

What a great way to describe the inscrutability of Life! Thus, in his or her varying ways, everyone’s take on Life is correct. It’s the same movie we are all watching, but, at best, our descriptions of it are only partial, as philosopher Ken Wilber observes.

An angsty teenager may declare that “life sucks.” Someone else may see it as a bowl of cherries, or a challenge, or a test, a big party, a repayment of karmic debt, or maybe even as punishment. In some strange way, everyone is correct because Life has a way of validating practically anything that we wish to believe about it.

Just listen to people whose opinions you find outrageous and unacceptable. Don’t you wonder how Life makes them arrive at such conclusions? And yet, those views are true for them. Sometimes, it seems that Life is inherently a magician, a prankster, or a trickster. It is so rich and abundant, it can seem to deliver any experience we want it to. If we look hard enough, it will mirror back to you whatever you want it to.

And yet, Life knows that mortals like us can never concentrate hard enough or hold on to any position or conclusion long enough to keep it forever. It will always accommodate our evolving beliefs and even what we think our new calling could be in relation to how we have defined Life. It does this with every new experience that shapes us, that gives us new input that alters and supports our emerging beliefs.

This constant input shapes what we hold to be true about Life, and each new development may seem like the truth — until it reaches its expiration date. For example, some Filipinos may have believed in GMA before and then changed their minds as events played out.

I think about the many wars in history that were supposed to have been launched for all that was good and right and truthful then — the Crusades, the Holocaust, all the big battles in little places and the small wars in far-off settings, Mao’s cultural revolution, Pol Pot’s drive to save Cambodia, ethnic cleansing, etc. When they were happening, these events must have had the ring of truth and righteousness to their adherents within their own life context. But, as a more enlightened age that followed scoured the devastation and lives lost in those endeavors, humankind could only ask in astonishment how people could have been so wrong in believing Life had asked them to do… that.

Life is a trial, and each age will be judged by the one that follows it. But in terms of Life’s ultimate meaning, the jury will be deliberating forever. Meanwhile, all we can do is live it according to how we see it at a given time.

I can go along with it, but only partially, when people talk about God being the guide to living life.

I can go with the whole idea of God touching our lives and caring for mankind. But I wonder about how God seems to allow horrific things to happen. Sometimes I ask myself what kind of God He/She/It is who allows famine, persecution and injustice to reign. I do not have the eternally definitive answer and I probably never will. We will probably never know.

Is God personal? My observation is, we do not always have to experience God as having a personal relationship with us. Perhaps it’s not supposed to be that way.

Often, I look at God not in a personal way but as Life itself unfolding. The infinitely vast intelligence that keeps Life not just afloat but continuously evolving, that which keeps us in awe of Life itself, is God. The idea that some things in life are good and some are bad is something I have stopped subscribing to. There exists side by side in all things both the horrible and the beautiful. One can find beauty in the ugliest situations and vice versa.

All of life is a balance, and walking the path between its extremes is how it is to be lived. Life is the great deck of cards being constantly shuffled, and God is the eternal dealer. To Him, it does not matter what cards He deals. To us, our role in the scheme of things is to play whatever cards we get.

Such is Life as far as I know.

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I have three workshops to announce:

1) Creative For Life: A life-changing creativity workshop for adults. It runs for six sessions on August 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9 from 7 to 9 p.m.

Venue to be announced. Cost: P5,000.

2) Songwriting Workshop: A two-day workshop for budding songwriters which I will conduct.

To be held August 14, 15. Details to follow.

3) Basic Photography Workshop: August 21 from 1 to 7 p.m. at 133 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights QC.

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For all inquiries, please call 426-5375/0916-8554303 and ask for Ollie. Write me at (one word) for questions and reservations.