Finding it to lose it

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes
Sunday, August 26, 2007

I recently watched an excellent documentary called The Rise and Fall of the People’s Church about the charismatic leader Jim Jones and his followers who, from out of nowhere, built a large, powerful socio-political-religious organization in California, and a few years later, committed mass suicide in Guyana.

The documentary showed how the gifted Jim Jones easily connected with people and made so many want to follow him anywhere he went. This man had the ability to get people to devote their every waking hour to him and to turn over not just their time and talent but their riches and wealth as well to the People’s Church that he founded.

As I watched Jim Jones as a young, vibrant leader and listened to testimonies given by ex-members of the cult about how they were so easily drawn to him, I could not help but think that at one point, this man must have come from a good, pure place in his heart. He may have really wanted to help and liberate people. But as the documentary unfolded, it became clear that all the adulation and awe directed at him by his adoring congregation engulfed every good intention he may have had, and enticed the megalomaniac inside him to take over his charismatic personality.

And, horror of horrors, even as his followers testified that they had begun to see cracks in the wall, so to speak — such as inappropriate sexual relations with followers, extreme dogmatism, staged healings, drug use, paranoia, his penchant for maintaining control by making people feel guilty, and his insatiable need to address his followers almost 24 hours a day — no one stood up and hollered. Such was the power of this man. He could make his followers surrender their will to him in exchange for any attention he would throw in their direction.

I think I know some of the feelings Jim Jones went through. In a very small way, I have gone through some of the highs that powerful people such as politicians and preachers experience. And even on a miniscule scale, it can be quite heady — and also destructive and instructive. In 38 years of showbiz, doing concerts and being part of big TV shows and huge rallies, I could often sense the pulse of the masses before me as my own. With the magic wand of celebrity, I found that if I wanted to, I could make them scream, applaud, jump, laugh, cry, stand, wave, give money, risk their lives, and a whole lot more.

It was intoxicating. I remember when I was younger, not being able to sleep usually after doing big concerts. I was just too high and I couldn’t rest or sleep, no matter how I tried. I marinated in the feeling of being loved, adored, worshipped and admired until morning when it wore off. Such was the effect on me of all that attention. I suppose this is a common experience of many public personalities.

I was in my early 40s when I had a memorable awakening in my spiritual journey. I was standing on stage at the Ultra before an adoring standing-room-only crowd that gave the APO a standing ovation. Amid the cheers, I stood there, with Danny and Boboy soaking it all in even though, strangely enough, I was starting to feel great dissatisfaction with the whole thing. I remember telling myself that I had to be totally out of my mind to depend on more of this as the sole key to my happiness. Sure, it was/is/will always be a great feeling to be admired by thousands of people — no question about that. But if my validation as a human being has to come from a source exclusively outside of myself, then I could be setting myself up for deep dissatisfaction and great unhappiness in a frantic and needy life.

It was at this time that I began to be more introspective, trying to know myself outside of how the world identified me — as a singer, a songwriter, an APO member, an Atenean, a Filipino, a married man, a father, writer, environmentalist, etc. It was unnerving to awaken and realize that all I knew of myself were layers of labels that had come to define me. Before all this internal questioning, I had thought and accepted all along that what the world thought I was actually did define me. But when I consciously stepped out of the participation mystique of my showbiz world and other public areas of my life, I caught a glimpse of what I could be.

I saw a free spirit, creative and expanding, with fire and breath coming from itself. It was a “me” that was self-sustaining and not needing anything or anyone. It was extremely intriguing, and wondrous and powerful at the same time.

We tend to live in denial of who we really are, and sadly, sometimes we cannot help it. The idea that we are what the world has defined us to be is so prevalent. The forces of outside expectations, commerce, and our own lack of self-awareness make us depend on the world for our own identity and worth. Thus, every day we are defined by how white our shirt should be, the brand of deodorant we use or the soda we drink, our citizenship, our gender, our earning power, our status in the community. We are constantly “Coked,” “Jollibeed,” “Rexona-ed,” “Red Horsed” into submission to an identity that is shallow and bogus.

Jim Jones, who may have started with good intentions, may have, at a certain point, committed the mistake of “conditioning” his self-worth on the adulation which he constantly sought. When that could no longer cut it for him, he turned to other “kicks” such as drugs, sex, and other highs, and his followers did the same. They had no identity other than what was validated by Jim Jones over and over again. They completely denied what was inside them, and looked for self-worth outside.

For a long time, I could not understand the line from the famous song that went, “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all…” Isn’t love all about sacrifice and suffering, of losing oneself for others? I thought it was the height of selfishness to love one’s self until I awakened to the truth that the first given in being alive should be to be who we really are.

To be defined by who we love is to be validated from the outside. We need to be simply, unconditionally, who we are. And, as to losing ourselves for others as the highest expression of love, we must bear in mind that we cannot lose what we have not found.

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Anonymous
Anonymous
13 years ago

Hi again Sir jim. Just wrote an opinion last night on lessons you have learned from your exes, and thisafternoon found myself reading this article in deeper fashion. Galing, it isnt sad or mushy I dont think. Just representative of what a lotof men think at certain stages of their lives.I was at that stage a few months ago, till I learned to “love myself.” I am sure this article would reassure others like it did me. Cheerio!

cherios888
cherios888
13 years ago

hi sir jim! i just got a copy of kami napo muna ulit! i really love up dharma down’s version of kaibigan! astig talaga!

Jim
Jim
13 years ago

anonymous–thanks. would like to read your opinion.

cherios888–glad you liked it. In still have to get my copy.I liked Radio active’s “Siyotang pa-class.”

Drew
Drew
13 years ago

What you’re saying is true and enlightening.Finding your self-worth inside you is not as easy as it seems but will yield to true happiness.I guess I’m just too lazy, uninspired and too preoccupy defining myself as to what people expect me to be and I have yet to experience that awakening that you had. I hope that I will be ready and capable when that time come.
Thank you for inspiring words.

GreenMangoes
GreenMangoes
13 years ago

Indeed. The hardest part isn’t finding what we needed to be. It’s being contented of who we are.

I see. Now I know the true meaning of that line in a song.. “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.”

—-

Minsan sa sobrang absorb ko ng mga posts niyo dito, Sir jim, I can’t react or typed a comment properly. There’s so much I’d like to ask from you or stories to tell. But there’s always this feeling of “hiya” in me that still contained in a box. Until i know how to open that box, i’ll start to email you soon.

But right now, I’m contented of reading/listening from your posts. It’s like you talking with us in a sari-sari store and having a soft drink plus a bread. 🙂

Salamat po! 🙂

Ccigaux

Jengger
Jengger
13 years ago

Hello Jim,

Thank you for sharig this beautiful experience. Though there are a lot of good writers, few are gifted with the ability to write from the heart. Very inspiring indeed that you could see and share your humanity through writing. Well done!

MOgLI
MOgLI
13 years ago

“We are constantly “Coked,” “Jollibeed,” “Rexona-ed,” “Red Horsed” into submission to an identity that is shallow and bogus.”
Indeed! Abd if there is one belief that has the capacity to go against this, it would be Dudeism.

Ducks
Ducks
13 years ago

Mr. Jim, this is my first comment but I have been reading your blog since last year if I am not mistaken.

Your reflections have never failed to move/inspire/touch me in a way so much similar with your music/songs and their messages/stories, albeit more profound and overwhelming. I sincerely would like to thank you for always reminding me that underneath these dirty working clothes and faded jeans, there beats a human heart and exists a living spirit.

Make no mistake about it, I am really really moved by this post! If only all people could learn to see things as special people like you do, the world could has been a lot better and happier!

Oh how I really wish we could have you in the Bicolano Bloggers Summit that we are dreaming of here in Naga City as VIP/Guest Speaker, as like what I shared

Reply
Ducks

PS — (I accidentally pressed the enter button)

The case I previously mentioned is just – I know everybody knows – but one of the numerous cases when SOME of these “opinion/image/perception shapers/leaders” cheat, lie, and steal just to reach their selfish goals at the expense of the more vulnerable consumers/people who, more often than not, belong to the poorer/marginalized sectors of the society. How many times have we heard of unhappy, sometimes tragic, endings/repercussions for their victims (I being one of them in the past – who once really viewed my own happiness and worth via the expectations of the outside forces that you mentioned – until I learned to question and listen to/be enlightened by people like you. Although “the war”, sadly, is not yet totally won.) who could not cope with the bogus standards that they set just to attain those said goals?

Whatever happens to “Truth in Advertising” or “Profit with Honor” or “Corporate Social Responsibility” at their most honest sense?

I really do not know, Mr. Jim, but the answer/s, perhaps, is/are blowing in the wind. Sigh, we need more people like you (around and inside or even at the helm of these institutions/companies/groups) — and I hope more people get to know you and “grow” from your wonderful insights.

Dios Mabalos po sa inspirasyon!

I have linked you po pala.

(BTW,my deepest apologies for the long posts; I hope you don’t mind. Na-move lang po talaga ako sobra ng post mo na ito. Could not help but to vent. ‘Sensya na po Mr. Jim.)

Anonymous
Anonymous
13 years ago

Dear Jim,

Again I am humbled and in total sync with the sentiments expressed in this thread last Sunday. It is in finding ones inner self, and allowing that inner being to permeate the outer shell, that is both liberating and a little scary. Having said that though, it is in this space that the true magic and beauty in life exists.

I may not earn as much as I would like, I may not yet have the outward trappings of supposed success by which many grade the significance of your “contribution” or worth to life, yet when I see the inner soul of another being through their eyes or get a rare and unique glimpse into another glorious sunrise, I feel that in that moment, I have achieved. I fulfill the measure of my creation.

It is also in that moment when I feel truly free, and connected to all of life, and grateful that I have the chance to be here as a small and relatively insignificant, yet humble witness of creation. It is here that I TRULY live, EVERY TIME I see through my lens.

You mean a great deal to all of us Jim, Whilst Jim Jones let the adulation take him to a different place, just know that I honour you for recognising that you too are a in a real sense the same as the rest of us. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Long life and best wishes to you dear friend.

Thank you

Craig – Timeline

triccy
triccy
13 years ago

“The forces of outside expectations, commerce, and our own lack of self-awareness make us depend on the world for our own identity and worth. Thus, every day we are defined by how white our shirt should be, the brand of deodorant we use or the soda we drink, our citizenship, our gender, our earning power, our status in the community”

– Amen, Sir Jim..

Anonymous
Anonymous
13 years ago

To the friends, fan, and readers of Jim’s blog, if you do not know it yet, Jim Paredes is now confined at Blacktown Hospital, with suspected Dengue Fever. Let us all pray for the immediate recovery of Jim Paredes.

Obet Dionisio

Anonymous
Anonymous
13 years ago

We thought it’s just flu.

We will pray for your speedy recovery Jim!

Gil & Miles

Tess
Tess
13 years ago

Dear Jim,

Sorry to hear that you are in the hospital right now.

Kate, Cezar and myself will pray for your speedy recovery.

Take care and God bless!

Tess

Ducks
Ducks
13 years ago

Mr Jim —

We are so sorry to hear this news. We pray and hope that you get well soon.

Likay po pirmi asin God bless~!

Ducks (The Quackroom)

orangebloom
orangebloom
13 years ago

it’s daunting, in fact it takes a lifetime to some, but such a comfort to know that there are multitude of us striving towards the same goal of knowing our real selves… thank you sir jim for yet another moving, exhilarating article. praying that you get well soon!

girlie
girlie
13 years ago

hope and pray that you get well soon.

Sugar
Sugar
13 years ago

Hi Sir Jim

I was really inspired by this article. I find it very challenging to live in our world right now. Especially now that I’m in my trying twenties always trying to prove myself to everybody. But this article made me realize that being who you really are is most important. It’s still a long road for me but I’m glad that I have people like you who guides me in a journey to life.

Again Sir thank you.

Darang Sisa
Darang Sisa
13 years ago

Enlightening! I learn a lot from your articles and share them with my husband… You have so much wisdom and I hope many young people will get to read your writings. God bless!

Jim
Jim
13 years ago

To everyone, thank you for your concern and prayers.