Driving my own train

My article this week on Humming in my Universe, Philippine Star December 9, 2012

By Jim Paredes

Grasping at metaphors to try and make sense of my life, I have settled on the image of life as as a journey on a train. My life is a train that keeps going and its fuel is time. I don’t know how much fuel there is on my train, but it keeps chugging along, never stopping.

I look out the window and the scenery is changing all the time. There are days, weeks, months and even years when I bask in the splendor of the greenery, of bountiful mountains and verdant hills, of rich varied landscapes in different hues that inspire and make me feel very much alive.

There are also endless days and nights of desert and flat lands when the rich colors fade into the monochrome of arid sand and lifeless terrain. Or it could be insanely boring endless tracts of nothing but snow so white, I can’t tell where the earth ends and the clouds begin.

For most of life, I go with the scenery hoping that the view will be ‘better’ or more exciting, if I am looking at something undesirable; or that, if it is a wonderful view, that it stays that way.

But at certain points, I wake up to the realization that I am not necessarily just a passenger on this train ride. Could it be that I am the driver of the train? Is it possible that I can choose to decide where this train will go?

When I look at my life, I have a great feeling of gratitude for everything that has happened to me, both the so-called good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant, the beautiful and ugly things that I have experienced. Being a passenger on this journey of life has been truly wonderful and life-affirming.

But I am no longer content wih being a mere passenger on this train. I want to drive the train and bring it to destinations that I want to go to. I want to abandon suggested itineraries, recommended destinations and set out to explore on my own. I sometimes wish to go where the train has never been.

As one goes through life and begins to age, individuation, or the call to be the person one was meant to be, rings ever louder. No longer content to take the beaten track, one seeks to meander down roads not yet taken, or the ones without a clear path.

To be sure, I have done some of that in my earlier years. And at my age now, I continue to want to do more.

I have learned a lot about saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to life’s invitations. These days, my ears are attuned to deeper, more meaningful callings, stirrings that suggest new commitments and promises.

The stirrings come in waves. The approaching wave I see now is something I have faced many times in the past, and like a real wave, i have met it head-on. It has washed me to shore, totally powerless and dazed, but yearning for more.

I will go direct to the point. I speak of the quest to know God and life’s meaning. Decades back, when I first heard George Harrison’s song, ‘My Sweet Lord’, I felt it was talking to me about how much I wanted to know and understand God, and all the great questions of life. I knew then that I had crossed a line that few people are comfortable with. I was exploring a spiritual realm outside my religious training. I was having a God experience outside the approved box that religion had put God in. Whoever it was who said that religion is the kindergarten of spirituality is correct. The point is, eventually, one must move out of kindergarten and explore on one’s own.

I don’t know how much fuel is left in my train. But I do not wish to be taken on too many more unplanned trips. I want to deliberately plan the routes to take my train to.

There is still so much to learn, important, life-changing questions to pursue, and the goal is to pursue them.

I often ask myself what I want to do before the ride ends and a multitude of suggestions surface. Many of them are about enjoying more of life, or experiencing what I have not yet done. I must admit that these are, in a way, ‘materialistic’ desires in my bucket list, but I do not belittle them in any way. I would still like to do them. But I also have items on my list that have nothing to do with physical pleasure, comfort or more thrills. They have to do with wanting to make a difference in people’s lives. I want to be able to move the consciousness of people forward to where we can all experience greater and grander versions of what we know about ourselves so far. To put it grandly, I would like to be part of the effort to move the path of evolutionary consciousness on a higher plane.

There are things I can do quite adequately, such as teaching, writing, making music, performing and communicating in special ways. I would like to keep doing these,i but more frequently and more intensely and for bigger audiences.

I like inspiring people. Inspiring others inspires me as well. It’s a healthy symbiosis that ends up blessing everyone involved.

My train is currently running at a pretty good speed as it has been doing for many years now. I don’t know for how long it will keep going before it sputters, loses speed and finally careens to a stop. But hopefully, before it does, I, the train driver, would have taken the train and all its passengers to a higher level of understanding, consciousness and humanity that no one thought existed or was possible.

I have always pursued causes I believe in. But at this age, I know that the world will never run out of problems to solve or cure. One can keep trying to patch cracks, fill holes, or even out things and there is something laudable about that.

But I also believe that there is a viable alternative — to accept the world as it is and make peace with it first, as Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa did. That kind of peace truly inspires. We can throw away the anger that drives us to change things and instead dwell on the peace that comes from that holy acceptance. And maybe, the inspiration we get from all this is what will really change things in an irreversible way.

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