My inner Nostradamus speaks

After Justin Bieber’s surprise visit to Tacloban, a petition will be passed around asking that he be granted Filipino citizenship.

It is late at night. I am fast asleep but my inner Nostradamus awakens me and urges me to write something so important that it cannot wait. And so here I am in front of my laptop picking up “divinations” sent to me from the future. I type furiously.

As I have done during the last five years, I have always ended the year or started the oncoming one with predictions. Some of them may be trivial but others, I assure you, are monumental and life-changing in scope.

In predicting the future, one must be fearless. Like all fortune tellers, I do not wish to dwell on the petty topic of my own accuracy (or inaccuracy) in foretelling the future. But I wish to point out that I have always had the uncanny ability of predicting not so much the future, but the past with 100 percent accuracy. I saw a “vision” of the resignation of Pope Benedict a few days after it happened. It was on CNN.

I also “divinated” the immense popularity of “The Macarena” just last week, a dance craze that happened some 15 years ago. Never mind how late I may be in reporting, but at least I am accurate!

For whatever it’s worth, here are my predictions for 2014. Read at your own peril or salvation.

1. Malls all over the Philippines will officially ban customers and visitors from bringing hammers, wearing caps and all manner of headgear including wigs, sunglasses in response to a wave of crimes inside these shopping centers. Exemptions will only be given to those who bring three IDs, a recent X-ray, and blood, urine and stool samples.

Curiously, all VIPs will also be exempted as long as security guards recognize them. But they should not ask, “Kilala mo ba ako?’” or anything of the sort. They will also be allowed some personal protection via an umbrella over them to be held by their own assistant to signify their “stature.”

2. Kim Kardashan will have another baby in 2014. She will name the baby South East!

3. New scholarly findings will revisit and shed new light on the debunked Mayan prediction about the end of the world occurring at the end of 2012. It will be discovered that scholars have misinterpreted some of the stone carvings. In short, the world will supposedly now end at the close of 2014.

4. After Justin Bieber’s surprise visit to Tacloban, a petition will be passed around asking that he be granted Filipino citizenship. A group will then announce that they are supporting his bid for Presidency. As proof, note that JB has already announced he will be retiring from showbiz soon.

5. In a move seen by many as a brilliant stroke, Twitter and Facebook will merge and form a new religion. Analysts believe it is inevitable since the two social networks’ followers already look like they are praying when checking their sites on their smartphones. Followers will be exhorted to reach out to other people through tweeting, linking, retweeting, poking, liking, DMing, hashtagging, “favoriting,” recommending, and reposting in the hope of creating the most number of followers of any religion.

But like all religions, there will be “thou-shalt-nots” which include trolling, blocking, unliking and not following accepted social media etiquette. Instagram is expected to be converted soon adding even greater numbers of followers to the newest religion.

6. Power shortages all over the nation will continue. But they will find a solution, and it will be in Makati where excessive “power surges” continue to happen. Lately, such a surge was seen at the Banyan Gate in Dasmarinas Village, a posh subdivision where one occurred two weeks ago. Luckily the PNP were called in before anyone was hurt.

7. Kim Jong Un’s execution of his uncle sent shivers down the spines of his enemies and shocked his nation. But in a candid display of kindness perhaps to soften his image, the venerable leader will decide to surprise everyone by showing compassion to his surviving auntie. I predict he will play cupid and pair her with Dennis Rodman.

8. Finally giving in to the increasing pressure to free Tibet and other territories it has occupied lately, China will decide to “secede” from the Dalai Lama’s homeland and the Spratlys and proclaim its own independence ending the ‘imperialism and hegemony’ of other nations over China. Foreign observers will laud this as a major diplomatic coup de grace and will praise Beijing for finding a creative solution while preserving its integrity as a nation.

9. The Olympic ruling body, in a major decision that will stun the sports world, will decide to forego all drug and sex tests for all athletes competing in Russia in the coming Olympics. Adjustments will be made in many sports, among them the weigh lifting competitions where athletes will be expected to lift 3,000 pounds for starters. Experts will expect all existing world records to be broken in spectacular fashion.

10. Finally, everyone alive will get older, swallow, undergo cell division, inhale and exhale, expel gas and grow fingernails.

Please note that there is no need to tweet on Twitter or post on Facebook when any of no. 10 happens.

Happy New Year, everyone.

May you still have a complete set of fingers in 2014 to count how many of these 10 prophecies will come true!

Have yourself a spiritual Christmas

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 22, 2013 – 12:00am

Christmas comes and goes even if there are many ghosts from Christmases past that linger. The present conditions we are living through this Christmas do not augur well for many families severely affected by Yolanda. But not only direct victims of tragedies suffer during the holidays. There are lonely and poor people everywhere who are not affected by Yolanda, but are equally devastated, materially and spiritually.

For people living in big cities, many things stand in the way of making Christmas a more pleasant experience, and it’s becoming more intense. I have felt this happening for many years. We all know the litany of why Christmas is tiresome: traffic, expenses, obligations, etc.

I have complained a lot about these. I have even dared suggest that perhaps we should celebrate Christmas only every other year to keep it from losing its magic and meaning.

But enough of this whining! I am trying a different approach this year.

I am trying to sing a different tune. Note that I use the word “trying.” But in fact, I have gone farther than that. I have decided that, no matter what, I will have a good Christmas this year.

I’ve realized that all this time, I have been cultivating a negative attitude based on a very shallow, myopic view of what the season really is all about. I have only been looking at Christmas from the practical, social, material point of view where my expectations have not been met. In place of the expected Christmas cheer, I have been stressed, broke and with very little good cheer to pass on.

This year, I am saying yes to Christmas unconditionally. This means I will not complain. I will not allow myself to worry about anything and just concentrate on what Christmas used to mean to me before I had the social life, material status and their concomitant obligations. This year, I will have a more spiritual Christmas.

I will not sweat the expenses. Nor will I complain and curse traffic. Schedule permitting, I will even attend all parties and socials and see friends and people who wish to enjoy the good cheer that goes with the season.

I will also not spend on gifts for friends and family but will donate some money, time and effort to helping the less fortunate.

Spiritual means being in the state beyond the tug and imperatives of materialism, and being in the realm where the Great Unseen Spirit (which is no less real) resides. It can be found where the literal reality ends and the symbolic and mystical begin.

It is that domain where the divide between rich and poor, old and young, local and foreign, etc. hardly means anything, if at all.

A spiritual Christmas is the great opening of oneself to love. We open ourselves to love by both giving and receiving. It is allowing vulnerability to happen when we share what we have, not just with our families and loved ones, but also with people we don’t know or even care about. We willingly say yes, where love dictates us to go.

I would like to push this even further by saying we must also open ourselves to looking at people we do not particularly like, or perhaps even hate, in a new way so that we can see them not as caricatures or demons that we have projected them to be in the past, but as the human beings that they are, like you and me. Let us suspend or even banish the issues that separate us from them. Let us wish them peace, and hope that they are also blessed with the same liberating spirit of giving and receiving that we wish on everyone else.

Years ago, I could easily invoke good cheer and warm Christmas feelings by simply playing Christmas carols, seeing bright lights and Christmas décor, or being with loved ones in a comfortable setting. As much as I still enjoy all of these, I do so now in a different way. I used to think these were spiritual experiences of Christmas because they felt good. But they may have been simply mood-altering exercises to experience the season’s merriment with others. I say that because the “joy” I felt then was induced from the outside.

Spirituality is more than a mood. It is an invocation of the spirit, an awakening to its presence and a decision to stay with it. In this special time in our country where sorrow, death and starvation are widespread, it means the resolve to walk with joy through the darkness, a candle in one hand and relief goods in the other, and bring whatever light and comfort we can to those who are having a sad or even miserable Christmas.

In the Christian faith, it is said that God through His Son was born to live a human life and save us from pain and suffering. Whether or not you are sold on Christian meanings and spirituality, Christmas is asking us to be one with our fellow men and women.

It is asking us to celebrate love and all of humanity unconditionally. The Savior is not just the God-Human Baby Jesus we acknowledge as the center of the season. He is also us when we commit to spread the joy and meaning of giving with no conditions, just like the God who took human form to give of Himself totally.

I sincerely wish for everyone a life-changing Christmas. May you discover a generosity and depth of giving within that you may not have known before. And may the spirit awaken you to Christmas’s eternal joy.

Rescuing the feeling of Christmas

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 15, 2013 – 12:00am

It usually happens. I am overcome by this depressing feeling during Christmastime. There’s this sadness that envelops me. It seems ironic that this should happen at this time since Christmas is supposedly the happiest time of the year.

The other day, I was listening to Christmas carols and I felt this wave of sadness, a sense of loss, come over me. Of what? I wasn’t sure. It could be that ghosts of Christmases past are sending a message. Perhaps it dates back to my childhood when I lost my father at the age of five and the feeling of the lonely Christmas that year still lingers subconsciously. I don’t really know.

Christmas traditions are observed two ways: the first, with Christian symbols and their meanings, and the other with gift-giving and hedonistic eating and drinking. Both traditions usually blend well together to make Christmas a special time for families, friends and even strangers.

Going back to what I felt the other day, I am not too sure I can pinpoint which tradition of Christmas was causing that “down” feeling. But it seems more secular than religious or spiritual to me.

Certain songs bring the feeling on. Tunes like Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas sung by Luther Vandross, and An Evening in December by First Call can trigger the sadness.

I must admit that this emotional low with a touch of the dark is not all bad. It’s depressing, yes, but it is a depressingly beautiful feeling. I posted this feeling on twitter and got quite a few responses indicating that there are people who identify with it.

The feeling is so beautiful in its melancholia, it makes you want to utter a deep sigh. It has an element of peaceful, quiet acceptance, somewhere between sadness and a feeling of aloneness, that is felt in the moment.

Definitely, there is an accompanying sense of loss, and it is not always beautiful. The yin definitely has its yang. This year, that feeling of loss is more palpable than ever, and it has a face that I do not want to look at — the face of suffering.

It’s quite possible that all this is caused by the sense of loss I am still feeling since typhoon Yolanda struck. The destruction it wrought scarred me as a Filipino and a human being. Although I am not from any of the areas affected, I feel that a big part of what I call “home” has been severely damaged and changed irrevocably.

As a member of humanity, I have been rudely awakened to the realization that all the chatter about climate change has gone beyond scientific talking heads and is now unmistakably here. One can’t take comfort in the imagery and metaphor of a “Mother Earth” and all the goodness that it implies. Not anymore. She no longer nurtures and cares. It seems she may even have stopped loving her children.

Amid this backdrop of deprivation and suffering, songs that harken to “happy golden days” seem empty and inauthentic. The fuzzy feeling that some Christmas carols used to evoke has taken a bizarre, depressing twist. Boughs of holly, Christmas trees, reindeer and Santa seem terribly out of place. Even the cool weather of December which I always look forward to evokes only a chilly sadness knowing that many in the Yolanda-stricken areas do not have enough clothing to warm themselves. The cool weather, which used to be associated with comfort, joy and a nice cozy feeling is now associated with something life threatening.

I seriously ask myself these days how I can “rescue” Christmas for me and for those I feel compassion for. How do we get back the Christmas feeling?

A lot of companies have canceled their Christmas parties or have downsized them to very modest gatherings, setting aside the savings to give to those who need it more. It just seems inappropriate to spend all that money on partying, or on shopping sprees, or gorging on expensive food when so many suffer.

The situation practically invites us to turn to the religious/spiritual aspect of Christmas. For many, it will not be a Christmas of plenty. Noche Buena will consist of a few relief goods shared around a table or a mat on the floor that was spared by the storm.

With so little available materially, we cannot help but invoke the spirit of Christmas to fill the gap. But the austere spirit does not have to be a joyless one. We can give of ourselves, and it can be the most joyous feeling. I know people who will not be giving gifts this year. Instead, they are using the money to buy essential goods for the nameless who are starving and deprived. They are taking comfort and joy in being one with those who suffer.

People have been on a generous giving spree even before the typhoon, when the earthquake struck in Bohol. Every artist I know has donated at least one gig to help in fund-raising. Usually, December is a month of Christmas parties where entertainers and artists make good money. This year, however, with budgets diverted to relief and rehabilitation, there are few gigs left. Yet despite that, artists are giving generously of their time and talent to the bigger cause.

In this sense, this is a great opportunity to collectively experience a more authentic Christmas. It may be an unusually modest, stripped-down celebration with few material gifts, but there will be more space around the dining table for strangers who will not only be nourished physically by the food we offer, but also spiritually by the kindness we share.

The irony is, giving more will help us counter the sense of loss or the negativity we may be feeling. As the cliché goes, the more we give, the more we truly receive.

Perhaps, if we do this, the sadness may lift and we can again begin to enjoy the music of Christmas.

Short takes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 8, 2013 – 12:00am

I will not write today about one central topic. Too many things have been happening lately that beg some commentary. Today I would like to share my takes on the news that people have been talking about. I am far from being an expert on political commentary. And I hardly ever really write about showbiz. My only justification (or excuse) to write about these things is that I, like the rest of you, enjoy freedom of speech, which I am exercising today. My caveats have been stated clearly. I hope I don’t abuse you too much, dear readers.

On the privilege speeches in the senate

All this started about three weeks ago when Miriam called JPE many things the day Janet Napoles was summoned to the senate. She called him the PDAF mastermind, and said he had bodyguards with long arms inside the senate accompanying him even when he uses the restroom, among other things.

Last week, JPE retaliated by accusing Miriam of being literally crazy, insane and out of her mind. He also accused her of having been an abusive official when she held previous posts in government. And he belittled her not-so-stellar law bar exams scores, suggesting she is all hype and bluster but not brilliant at all.

Miriam a few days ago counterpunched by accusing JPE of being an illegal logger, a corrupt person, murderer, liar, psychopathic hypersexualized serial womanizer, the prince of darkness, gambling and smuggling king, and “the drama king of corrupt politics.”

That’s quite a mouthful. The only thing Miriam didn’t accuse the former Senate President of was being lousy at playing Bejeweled on his iPad!

After watching both senators deliver their privilege speeches, allow me to comment on their presentation styles.

Miriam always seems like she is in a high school declamation contest. And her intensity can remind me sometimes of Fuehrer Hitler’s impassioned demeanor when delivering speeches. She comes into the ring swinging a bat. There is no finesse nor politeness here. There is every intention to malign, insult, and cut her opponents down to size. She is about as subtle as a kick in the groin, or a root canal procedure.

She is definitely entertaining and theatrical.

On a side comment, I am just so relieved she never became our president. Surely we would have needed the greatest of diplomats to have to explain what President Miriam means when, say, she calls a foreign leader “fungus face,” for example. It is not hard to imagine something of his sort happening if she had become president. We would have probably ended up in a shooting war with some country.

I have seen JPE do better speeches on other occasions. During his last speech, JPE with his snake-like smile was about as charming and endearing as a jock itch. And I haven’t even talked about his negative points yet.

Perhaps the stigma of PDAF has sucked out the last iota of positivity one can spin about the man.

Seriously, this unfortunate Senate episode is a teachable moment about the kind of senators we should not vote into office. The two speeches will probably be best remembered as moments when the whole nation went on a collective cringe.

No wonder some senators have asked that the speeches be stricken off the Senate records. They are too hair-raising to recall and better treated as unfortunate lapses of sanity and are best erased and forgotten.

On the bar incident

People will forgive celebrities and their sex videos. They will forgive mistakes in grammar and etiquette. They will forgive promiscuity. They will forgive political incorrectness, and a whole lot more.

But there is something quite difficult to just simply drop and forget about Anne Curtis’ alleged drunken remarks. I am talking about the incident in a club when she supposedly slapped John Lloyd Cruz and three others, and uttered, ‘I can buy you, your friends. I can buy this club.’

Whoa! I really don’t know if she REALLY said those things since there are supposedly eyewitnesses on opposite sides who contradict each others’ accounts. And personally, I really do not care who is right, or whether it really even happened or not.

What is riveting about it is the short monologue itself. In truth, it sounds quite ‘Napolesque’, or something coming from a badly scripted local B movie. My daughter Ala, after hearing of the incident, predicted that this monologue will now be THE quotable quote to displace the campy but classic, ‘You are nothing but a second-rate ,trying-hard copycat’ line uttered by Cherie Gil in some old movie.

Drunken behavior by itself does not invite ready condemnation. One can be quiet, pleasant or even charmingly drunk. But then, one can also be an obnoxious, ugly drunk who plays it all out dramatically. I know it’s hard but one must think about what kind of drunk you want to be before drinking in excess. Or is that even possible at all? I do not know. I do not drink.

Despite everything, I credit Anne Curtis for the straightforward apology she sent the very next day to the people she hurt, and to the public a week after when news had been publicized. She admitted her mistake and took full responsibility. The truth is, she did better than two old veteran newscasters who after saying offensive, inaccurate things, recently asked for “understanding” but did not really apologize.

Everyone makes mistakes. As a celebrity, Anne’s is 100,000 times magnified. But just as she has surely learned something from it, I hope the public also learns to understand that Anne is a human being like everyone else.

Perhaps, only richer!

* * *

So now China has claimed practically all the airspace everywhere on this side of the world. And it is demanding that every airplane that crosses its unilaterally claimed territory MUST inform China that it is passing by. Basically, it wants every country and its carrier to bow before it.

When I first heard about the “no-fly” zones, I wasn’t sure if I was grasping its meaning correctly. I do not possess a military mind. If anything, my mind is engaged in mischief and irreverence more than discipline. So the term “no-fly” suggested other things to me.

Did China’s rulers mean there would be “no fly” (langaw) in these areas? If so, will they ban bugs, mosquitos, and all insects as well?

Or did “no-fly” mean China was not allowing the cooking of food by “flying” as they pronounce what we call ‘frying’? Did they mean that you can’t cook “fly lice” or “fried rice” (as we call it) in these restricted areas? Is this all a problem of mispronunciation of ‘Rs’ and ‘Ls’?

Of course, you know I am kidding.

But what is there for a small nation and its people to do against a bully like China except to take humorous, irreverent potshots? As for me, I refuse to bow nor be cowed by their arrogant posturing. Wealth and power have never really impressed me, especially when flaunted like this. China is behaving like an inconsiderate neighbor, the kind who rudely occupies all the parking spaces in the street, including the ones in front of your own house, disrespecting your own right of way.

To China which claims the oldest civilization in the world, this Filipino writer, whose country’s history may not be as ancient but no less noble, simply requests you to please show more civility, and act your age!

10 most impolite gifts to famous people

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 6, 2013 – 12:00am

Illustrations by IGAN D’BAYAN

One of the best and worst things about Christmas is gift giving. You’re lucky to get and give the exact right gift. It’s more of a hit-or-miss thing. Fruitcakes of Christmases past are still found inside my ref.

Sometimes, I think it is so much easier to give inappropriate gifts than the politically correct ones.

That being the case, here is my gift list for 10 famous people or institutions. They would probably never forget ever receiving such present as these if I actually had the guts to give them. And if I do muster the courage to do send these gifts, I probably should not expect a thank you card or call after!

1) To Manny Pacquiao, I would gift him with a CD of a never-before-released recording of his own favorite song. But this time, it is a version sung by Kim Henares and the BIR Choir with some adjustments to the lyrics. The song is Sometimes When We Tax

2) To Ambassador Ma of China, I would give a security guard uniform. With the way China has claimed every inch of airspace in this part of the world and demanded all airplanes to notify China when they fly over, the uniform will save her the unpleasant trouble of having to give a lot of diplomatic explanations. She would immediately deliver the right message easily. After all, every Filipino is familiar with the no.1 rule security guards impose on buildings and subdivision gates, and that is, “NO ID. NO ENTRY.”

3) To VP Binay, I would give relief goods with stickers stating, “These are NOT from VP Binay.” This way, he can categorically deny the goods are from him and so he does not have to blame anyone who accuses him of being EPAL.

4) To all politicians planning to campaign this early for next elections, I would like to gift them with a giveaway item this Christmas. It would be condoms with their picture and name on them. At least we are reminding ourselves this early how screwed we are going to get if they win.

5) To JPE and Miriam Defensor Santiago, I would like to give them an SRO night at MOA where they can engage in physical combat. It will be filled with wet soil so they can mud-wrestle all they want. This way, they can go at each other to their heart’s desire.

No more fighting in the upper house. At least while in the Senate, they can concentrate on their jobs as senators and not let taxpayers shoulder the expenses incurred when they deliver personal attacks disguised as privilege speeches.

6) What could I possibly give the NSA (National Security Agency of the US) for Christmas? This is a tough one. Being the seriously stressed people who gather intelligence, I would like to make their lives a bit lighter by gifting them with a compilation of the best jokes ever told via online or cellphone.

The only problem is, they may have probably heard them already.

7) This Christmas, I thought of giving all CBCP members copies of everything Pope Francis has uttered since becoming Pope. Come to think of it, that would have been a more appropriate gift for them to receive last Halloween. It would have been frightful read for them.

8) For Mommy Dionisia, I would like to buy her a full set of ukay-ukay wardrobe, an obviously fake Hermes bag and a ring studded with cheap stones for her to be seen with when she appears on TV. She must, for now, live simply. This is to discourage any new investigations by the BIR against the “rich” Pacquiaos.

9) I like Kim Henares a lot although I would not really want to hear from her or anyone from her office. But this Christmas, I would like to gift her with a joke book and dance lessons just to help improve her timing. I’m sure the Paquiaos would agree with me.

10) Lastly, I do not want to forget Janet Napoles this Christmas. I know it is difficult to give her a gift since she already has everything. Just the same, I actually went out of my way to talk to my connections in government to find a way to ask Janet what she would want for Christmas. They did get in touch with her but she reportedly said, “Hindi ko po alam.” “I invoke my right to self-incrimination.”

I guess she doesn’t get anything this Christmas.

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.