Goodbye 2020, hello…?

We have lost so much.

We have lost our jobs, savings, a big piece of our lives, our access to streets, restos, vacations spots, destinations, concerts, gyms, our regular schedules, normal routines, physical contacts with friends, communities, and so much more.

We have also lost the world we knew, lived and operated in. We have lost a sense of the continuity of the world, and life as we knew before. Gone are many of the assurances, safety nets that our civilisation had painstakingly through the centuries put together for us to live and enjoy life with reasonable predictability.

Instead, we have seen ourselves stuck in the tiny shrinking spaces of our homes, rooms and domiciles. Everyday, we eat in our same small space, see the same people and try to build a ‘normal’ life around our great fear of covid. We protect our turf and our health with social distancing, masks, face shields and disinfectant.

Our spatial and time borders have changed. We can’t drive or travel too far. Every day and weekends have all become the same. The distinction has disappeared. No more regular and ‘special’ days.

We have been deprived of being with nature and enjoying it. We have not been allowed to go to our spiritual comfort spaces, our churches and places where we used to go for solitude. When was the last time we hugged our friends? Or got hugged back by people who do not live with us?

2020 has been a tragic year for many. We had friends and relatives who had died, and we were not allowed to physically mourn our dear departed. We could not even bury them with love, and honor them by being there.

And while all of this was happening, we have unconsciously buried our emotions in fear and anger. Not many of us have taken pause to see what is truly happening inside ourselves. The truth is, we are in great mourning. We have lost the world we once lived in. We are also in trauma because of the tragedies that have assaulted us almost daily. We may not feel it but we are suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disease.

2020 has been vicious, and it is ending tomorrow. Many are relieved that a new year is ahead of us. But how sure are we that things will get better in 2021? We have so demonised 2020 that many of us actually believe that when it leaves, it brings with it all the ill effects of Covid 19, and that normality will return. But it is entirely possible that this horrible year is just the beginning of a long curse, a pestilence that will continue to inflict pain upon humanity globally. After all, the entire world is in medical, environmental, psychological, moral and spiritual crises.

A man of tribal origins once told me that the Universe was like a table which should be standing on 4 legs. The problem is it has only been standing on two legs for so long and it will take cycles of 25,000 years to acquire its third and fourth legs. And that is why the world is in constant crisis.

Metaphorically, he is correct in explaining how and why things are bad right now. In this eve of 2021, how should we feel? As we gather among remaining family members and very few friends while toasting our glasses to the coming year, should we be hopeful, or pessimistic?

Covid has undermined everything. It is as if all of humanity has been told that we cannot go back to how things were. We have all been kicked out of Eden. The gates have been locked. There is no returning. To survive, we must all think and act as one. We are not separate from everyone. In fact, we already know that a few careless, thoughtless infected people can spread the virus in a home, a whole street, neighbourhood, community, city, country, continent, and the whole world.

To avoid infection, we must always be conscious of his state of our own physical being, where we are going, what we are doing, and plan ahead so that we and every one else we encounter are safe. Casualness produces casualties. In fact, we should wear our masks and take all precautions not just for ourselves but primarily for others. In this new set up, either everyone is safe, or no one is. Their safety is our safety.

In short, and as simple as it can be said, if we want to be hopeful in building a post-covid new world, we must live consciously at all times knowing each one of us holds the key to saving the world from further chaos and destruction.

Friends in Music

We had song we only sang during huge concerts with APO Hiking Society. Since we disbanded more than 10 years ago, I thought we should immortalise this and record it properly. You can go to Spotify. or Apple Music and listen to our new recording.

If this does not open, just go to Spotify and type Friends in Music, or Jim Paredes.
Vid to follow on Jan 4, 2021

A spot-on homily for these crazy times

I am not what you would call a religious man. Far from it. But sometimes, I come across homilies that are very inspirational. Much has been said about Christmas. Many of them are repetitions of what we’ve heard since we were children. Here’s one that was written decades ago that still amazes me with its beauty and deep insights.

Beautiful! A read for these crazy times.

AT the former St. Thomas More chapel of Ateneo de Manila on Padre Faura, the celebrant was a Jesuit priest who had just finished his doctorate at Harvard University….

“Christmas is when we celebrate the unexpected; it is the festival of surprise….
This is the night when shepherds wake to the song of angels; when the Earth has a star for a satellite; when wise men go on a fool’s errand, bringing gifts to a Prince they have not seen, in a country they do not know.
This is the night when one small donkey bears on its back the weight of the world’s desire, and an ox plays host to the Lord of heaven. This is the night when we are told to seek our king, not in a palace, but in a stable.
Although we have stood here, year after year, as our fathers before us, the wonder has not faded; nor will it ever fade; the wonder of that moment when we push open that little door, and enter, and entering find a mother who is virgin, and a baby who is God.
Chesterton has said it for us all: The only way to view Christmas properly is to stand on one’s head. Was there ever a home more topsy-turvy than on Christmas, the cave where Christ was born?
For here, suddenly, in the very heart of Earth, is heaven; down is up, and up is down; the angels look down on the God who made them, and God looks up to the things He made. There is no room in an Inn for Him who made room and to spare, for the Milky Way, and where God is homeless, all men are at home.
We were promised a savior, but we never dreamed God Himself would come and save us. We know that He loved us, but we never dared to think that He loved us so much as to become one of us.
But that is the way God gives. His gifts are never quite what we expect, but always something better than we hoped for. We can only dream of things too good to be true; God has a habit of giving things too true to be false. That is why our faith is a faith of the unexpected, a religion of surprise.
Now, more than ever, living in times so troubled, facing a future so uncertain, we need such faith. We need it for ourselves, and we need to give it to others.
We must remind the world that if Christmas comes in the depths of winter, it is that there may be an Easter in the spring.”
–Fr. Horacio de la Costa, SJ.