Making Christmas real again

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated December 26, 2010 12:00 AM

I know I sound like the Grinch or Scrooge, but I must confess that I have developed a kind of aversion to Christmas for many good reasons.

There is the monumental traffic that is already part and parcel of our lives as Metro Manila residents, which doubles or triples in density during Christmastime, making our lives unmanageable. There is the mad rush to shop and spend on gifts that often are given more as an obligation than something that comes from the heart. There is also the never-ending stream of parties and socials, the non-stop eating and merrymaking that are really not always merry.

Sometimes there is this obligation to enjoy or at least to appear like you are having a great time. Lastly, there is the assault of bad carolers who knock on your gate and belt out Christmas carols that sound more like My Way’ evoking homicidal tendencies more commonly found in murder-prone videoke bars.

Christmas has become such a struggle for me that I have largely dropped out of it psychologically these past few years. The whole idea seems put-on. The crass materialism of it upsets me. For quite sometime now, I have stopped giving gifts except to people I am really close to, and then again, not even always. I give material gifts only when I am moved to do so, and to people who I know would really appreciate them.

But before you think that every recent Christmas has been miserable, I have had a number of Christmas moments these past few years that I should maybe look at more closely and adopt as a tradition for the years to come. To counteract the mindless shopping, eating and other clichés of the season, it is instructive to go back to Christmases past, salvage memories from here and there and fashion new Christmas traditions.

To be sure, I still celebrate Christmas with family and

that always feels great. (Actually, any get-together with my family is always fun). And that is one of the few reasons why Christmas still means anything to me. Our Christmas is a combination of enjoying family bonding with bold strokes of creativity and humor thrown in. My brother Raffy, for example, makes it a point to gift each of us siblings with cheap presents that get a lot of comedic bang for the measly bucks he spends.

One time, I got a “Manoling Morato for President” pin that he found in some curio shop. It was such a ridiculous present, it had me laughing all evening, and even now when I think about it.

When I think of Christmas when I was a kid, I recall many wonderful moments. We were a middle class family who had just enough resources to share among ourselves, the household help and a few friends who were considered part of our extended family.

Yet, our house was open to everyone and somehow, there was always something for every person who visited. There was magical abundance amid the limited resources.

When I was growing up, my mom and the school I went to impressed upon me the spiritual aspect of Christmas, which shaped the season for me. The making of the belen, for one, was something special. The bed of baby Jesus at the start of Advent would have no straws at all to soften it. For every good deed, a kind word or action, a sacrifice, etc. that we did through the course of the day, we were entitled to put one straw on the bed.

To a young boy, it was a mission to make sure that Baby Jesus’s bed was ready by the evening of the 24th. It was great spiritual preparation that made Christmas special. The eve of Christmas was a culmination of all our excitement and mindful preparation. It made me feel that I had made the world a better place and thus could rightly share the goodwill I felt towards all men.

The few Christmases my family has spent in Sydney have also had their special moments. Two years ago, we had around eight families celebrate Dec. 25 with us in our home. We had the kids draw lots that assigned them the roles they would play in the Christmas tableau. They had to improvise on the spot with costumes to play their designated characters as shepherds, wise men, angels, animals, the Holy Family, etc. It was fun, creative, interactive and memorable. The kids enjoyed it to the hilt.

After dinner, we all got together in the terrace to sing Christmas carols amid candlelight. The highlight was when we sang what seems to have become the quintessential Pinoy migrants’ Christmas song, Pasko Na Sinta Ko. Not a dry eye could be seen anywhere.

It was quite a moment as we remembered the people we love back home even as we basked in the warmth of new friendships made in our new abode.

So many gifts are given and received during Christmas. And yes, it is great to receive gifts at any age even if the thrill gets less as one grows older. The gifts I remember most are those that were given with some thought — things that answered a need or something I liked which I knew the giver paid attention to.

There are also the gifts that the giver has spent some time making, like handmade crafts, food, etc., that make them special. Such gifts are particularly appreciated since they have that element of time and effort (not just money) that went into them.

Lydia likes giving gifts that she spends time on. Sometimes, she buys generic stuff that she personally decorates with paint, glitter and other elements that make them unique and special.

I guess what I am yearning for is a spirit of renewal, a celebration of life, the joy of being with loved ones, the spirit of heartfelt giving and gracious receiving.

These are what produce the magical glow that Christmas can bring which no item bought from a mall, tiangge or can give. Things like iPad, new shirts, and gizmos are great to receive, but by themselves, they do not make Christmas. Not for me. They are all incidental to the feast, side stories that many have mistaken for the main narrative.

The real challenge for modern man living in a thoroughly commercialized world is to make sure that the Christmas checklist includes not just the gifts and the parties but also the following: the family “moment,” community sharing especially with the less fortunate, a spiritual connection with the original Christmas message, the giving of oneself, and the gracious acceptance of others (including strangers) during the Christmas banquet and the rest of the year.

By focusing on such intangibles, we might find that we can enjoy Christmas, regardless of good or bad economic times, because we have traditions that make it meaningful.

There is something depressing but beautiful about how many people feel at this time of the year. “Christmas is a time when you get homesick — even when you’re home,” someone wrote. Some call it ennui. But I think it is the desire for authenticity, a return to what feels true which is heightened amid the commercial frenzy that has taken over Christmas.

To allow the true meaning of Christmas to emerge and rise above meaningless commercial exchange, it might be useful to pay heed to traditions such as those I have listed. To be conscious of the meaning of Christmas means to care a lot for others.

A writer, Hamilton Wright Mabie, expressed the spirit of the season so aptly: “Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love!”

Spread the love!

Stuff from 2010 to take with me to 2011

Stuff from 2010 to take with me to 2011

I’d like to share some finds I made this 2010 that I think will still be good to use for 2011. I came across these and I would like to say that they gave me a lot of joy and amazement throughout the year.

1) IPAD- Got this early when it came out and I really love it. My only regret is I should have gotten the top of the line model, the one with a micro sim for internet access anywhere. I hesitated to get it because I did not think Globe would come out with a micro sim. I also learned later on that even if Globe did not decide on coming out with it (which they did), one could easily cut a regular sim to the size of a micro sim. Damn.

2) Samsung Galaxy S phone— Wow. This is quite a phone. I had always been an Apple iphone guy but when I got this, i just decided to just drop the iphone. Android, though not as seamless as an iphone is exciting for two reasons: it is an open system with lots of free stuff, and one is freed from Apple’s monopoly. The Galaxy S is a big screen gadget with all the bells and whistles you can want. I just love it.

As I said, Apple OS may be more seamless for now, but once you get the hang of it, you will love Android. I imagine that in the next few months, Android’s OS will be so advanced that it may open a bigger world than Apple has.

3) Quincy Jones’ Q: Bossa Nostra Album— Listening to The Dude’s albums is like watching Cirque d’ Soleil. One is always amazed. This guy has been around forever and yet he can be comfortable in any kind of genre. This album has jazz, pop, hip hop, rap in ballad, dance, funk grooves and is laced with great harmony on top of really amazing arrangements. As a listener you can’t help but move your body or at the very least tap your feet.

4) Rediscovered Gary Granada this year in a Songwriting workshop and now I want ALL of his 21 CDs which I hear you can buy at a shop in UP Diliman for 1200 Pesos. Gary Granada, to me is the greatest Filipino lyricist alive. His lyrics affect you in many ways. They are beautiful, honest, searing, funny, smart, disturbing, amusing, amazing. In short, the guy is pure genius. He is the Shakespeare of OPM, no doubt. The guy can write about mathematics and put it in a song and it can turn out to be elegant, clear and poetic. Fantastic.

5) Got a tattoo this 2010. Ha ha.. I should have done it earlier but as they say, better late than never. If you want a good one, ask my daughter Ala ( to make a design for you, then look for Marlon at Vice Ink at the Collective in Malugay St, San Antonio Village, Makati.

6) MBT shoes are something else. They admittedly do not look stylish. In fact they look kinda weird and bulky with the soles in a convex shape, like a smile. The wearer sort of swings forward and backward and it takes time getting used to them. I bought a pair early this year and it is GREAT. It corrects the wearer’s posture and exercises muscles that are not usually exercised with more normal shoes. It also takes away joint and back pain. Look it up on the net.

It takes some getting used to. Don’t wear one and jump straight into a running machine. You WILL most likely injure yourself. Once you get used to it, you won’t want to use anything else. A bit pricey though. There’s a much cheaper imitation of it done by Sketchers but I don’t know if it is as good as the original.

7) Lastly, This year, I rediscovered my idealism. I rediscovered my belief that we as a people can change the trajectory of our history. We CAN do great things. We CAN desire change and achieve it.

We have a new shot at redemption with a President who is not a thief and who clearly wants to change things. At the same time, the old empire still has resouces to strike back and we have seen some examples of this.

It will be hard. But it will be entirely up to us! This is our historic chance to get the momentum going for real reforms. It is now or never. We MUST win!

Have a good 2011!

A Christmas greeting from the year 1513

Within our reach: Joy

I salute you! I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not got; but there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take.

No Heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take Heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in the darkness, could we but see; and to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look!

Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendour, woven of love, by wisdom, with power. Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the Angel’s hand that brings it to you.

Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, or a duty: believe me, that Angel’s hand is there; the gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing Presence.

Our joys, too: be not content with them as joys, they too conceal diviner gifts.

Life is so full of meaning and of purpose, so full of beauty ——- beneath its covering ——- that you will find that earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage, then, to claim it: that is all! But courage you have; and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together, wending through unknown country, home. And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you: not quite as the world sends greetings; but with profound esteem, and with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away!

* Fra Giovanni Giocondo (c. 1435 – 1515) was a Renaissance pioneer, accomplished as an architect, engineer, antiquary, archaeologist, classical scholar, and Franciscan friar. Today,we remember him most for his reassuring letter to Countless Allagia Aldobrandeschi on Christmas Eve, 1513.

Extraordinary stories from ‘ordinary’ people

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated December 19, 2010 12:00 AM

Looking out from my car at the countless people on the sidewalks, or walking through thick crowds in a mall, I am overwhelmed by the realization that every person has a story to tell.

I have met and listened to enough so-called ordinary people to come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as an ordinary person with an ordinary life. In conversations with OFWs, waiters, students, young and old people, I have had been surprised, amazed, and impressed at the stories I have heard them tell.

This article is a tribute to “small” people and the extraordinary episodes in their lives that they have generously shared with me through the years.

Sometime in the late ‘80s, I was in Rome at the Termini, the train station, where many of our kababayans like to hang out on weekends. Many of them stood beside their cars with the trunks open from where they sold various types of Filipino food to fellow Filipinos and a few Italians.

There was one young woman who caught my fancy. She was around 22 years old and had been in Italy for about three years. What drew my attention was not what she had in her car. In fact, she had no car. She carried a basket with a cover, hiding the goods she was hawking. In a voice that transported me to Anywhere, Philippines, she chanted “Balut!” so melodically and with gusto, attracting our countrymen to buy the delicacy.

Thoroughly amused, I went to talk to her about the balut and penoy she was selling. Where did she get them? Where they imported? How much was she selling them for? Was she selling them only to Filipinos?

I can’t remember her name but let us call her “Grace.” Grace was from Navotas and was formerly a balut vendor in Manila. She went to Europe to work and landed in Italy where, she said, she found a duck farm not too far from Rome and made friends with the owner, which is how she was able to make balut and penoy to sell. She said she normally sold her products at the Termini and outside the churches where Filipinos congregate. She always sold everything she made.

At the Termini, vendors are not allowed; their presence is merely tolerated by the police, and so they are not able to sell there all the time. But Grace said the police looked kindly upon her because some of them had actually tried the balut she peddled and liked it. She said she was working hard to send money home to finance her husband’s schooling. She had married early, and vowed to her parents that she and her husband would make it in the world.

I sometimes wonder about Grace. Did she ever come back to the Philippines? Did her husband finish his studies? Is her life better now?

Another person who made an impression on me is a woman who had called to make an appointment to be photographed. She was from overseas. She said she wanted the pictorial to be daring; she was going to give it to someone special.

On the day of the photo shoot, I met this rather good-looking young lady in her very early 20’s accompanied by her doting gay brother. I remember watching her hand mannerisms and being so charmed at how womanly she moved them.

We began the session. Soon, she was posing in different stages of undress and before long, she was totally nude. As a photographer, I went for really elegant angles, which I would occasionally show her brother who was quite delighted with them. They were talking throughout the session. Around 15 minutes into the shoot, it dawned on me from snippets of the verbal exchange going on that my very womanly subject was, in fact, not what I thought she was. She had undergone a sex change. She was a transgender.

I giggled inside at the novelty as I realized what was going on. Soon, I got in on the conversation which had turned quite candid and asked her who she was giving the pictures to. She said she was giving it to her Japanese boyfriend as a token of gratitude since he had financed her operation. Her brother explained that his “sister” had always been a “girl” since he/she was six years old. Hers was the classic “woman trapped in a man’s body” story.

Soon we were talking about the more intimate aspects of her new sexuality compared to what it was when she was still a man. She said her physical pleasures were more intense then but she found more psychological authenticity, and felt truer, feelings-wise, in her new body.

It was an awesome moment being with someone who had shown complete vulnerability to me and had asked me to photograph her in her reconstructed beauty and glory. Contrary to how some people might imagine such a situation, it was not in any way funny or even close to anything that invited derision. It was, in fact, an epiphany for me which expanded my understanding and compassion for the complicated human condition.

That was quite hard to forget.

These are just two chance encounters with “ordinary” people. But how ordinary are they, really? Perhaps we merely categorize everyone outside of us as ordinary or regular people because we have not had the chance to know them, and hear their human stories. To them, we are perhaps ordinary as well for the same reasons.

It’s easy and quite normal to classify people and put them in boxes based on their socio-economic class, gender, the school they went to, etc. We do this all the time not realizing that a person is not just a one-dimensional statistic. And when we do, we diminish our chance to hear their real stories and thus deprive ourselves of something that could touch our lives in a real way.

Every person in the world is a carrier of stories. If we just stop and appreciate every person’s uniqueness, we will find that there can never be enough of their stories to enrich our lives. The next time you see some stranger in the street, or the office, or anywhere, remind yourself that he/she has parents who actually have histories of their own. He/she has probably loved and has experienced being loved in turn, has cried and laughed, and has faced troubles just like you.

We don’t have to befriend everyone. Besides, it is just impossible to do so. But by extending the specialness we feel about ourselves to others, we make a world with less strangers and distrust.

That should somehow make for a better planet somehow.

It’s that time of year for fearless forecasts

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

It’s that time of the year when we wrap the mess of the world and throw it some place where we hopefully will never have to deal with it again. We look forward to the new year hoping that it will be a little better than this last one.

To psychics out there, for future verification and accuracy, I dare you to put your predictions for 2011 on Twitter and Facebook before the year ends.

I do not claim to be a psychic, but I claim to have direct access to a fertile imagination. Here are my predictions for 2011. As predictions go, they may or may not come true although I have a pretty good batting average when it comes to picking new restaurants to try, finding parking or predicting how telenovelas will end.

Please, don’t shoot the messenger.

1) Everyone alive will be a year older, blink their eyes, inhale, exhale and eat. All this will cause ecological impact.

2) A baby will be conceived via Wi-Fi. There will be paternity issues because no password was used.

3) Condoms will be made oversized in response to hip-hop users.

4) Global warming will cause the NPA to become the NPV—New People’s Navy

5) Kapamilya and Kapuso will merge and become “Kapusila” and take its aim on ABC 5.

6) Panfilo Lacson will be arrested while hiding in Marlyn Aguilar’s basement.

7) The CBCP will finally allow condom use — as long as the tip is cut off.

8) Mayweather will FINALLY consent to fight with Paquiao — Dionesia Pacquiao, that is.

9) Glutathione will be so popular that our new slogan will be “Pilipinas Kay Puti.” Binay will throw a fit!

10) The country will be shocked at the revelation that Mae Paner of Juana Change and Senator Franklin Drilon are actually one and the same person!

11) All improper tweets or online messages from members of official entourages traveling with the President to foreign countries will be simply referred to hereon as “Travel Advisories.”

12) The government will finally bring the Arroyos to trial for corruption. But to everyone’s surprise, their defense will be “luck,” as they will produce 217 lotto tickets, monetary donations from friends in the billions plus unbelievable profits from partnerships in Nigeria, Djibouti and Somalia through Internet investments. They will also present e-mails showing winnings in lotto draws in Ireland, England and Google even if they never joined. The Ombudsman and Supreme Court will declare them innocent.

13) The relationship between Willie Revillame and ABC 5, like his previous one with ABS-CBN, will sour. In anger, because of lack of stations to go to, Willie will purchase and own the entire Internet!

14) A new, more effective scheme to control traffic and accidents will be introduced and it will be based on one’s Zodiac sign. Only compatible signs will be allowed on the same days to lessen accidents.

15) There will be exposes of state secrets about PNoy’s travels that will plague his administration similar to Wikileaks which will eventually be traced to GMA, who shall be known as the “Mole of Asia.’

16) In a stunning move to improve their public image, the Ampatuans will seem to turn a new leaf and become “pro-life” spokespersons.

17) In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court will unabashedly declare GMA the status of a “living treasure” or deity, free from all earthly lawsuits for all actions past, present or future. But the decision will be found to have been plagiarized from Nepal which has similar laws/practices pertaining to a living deity called the Kumari Devi.

18) Cebu Pacific will introduce pole dancing in-flight, but PAL, not to be outdone, will give free prostate massages.

19) SM will build its biggest shopping mall ever that will occupy ALL of Luzon. Makati will be the gadgets section, Pampanga will be the food court, the Cordilleras will be the Filipiniana section, Bicol will be have the express checkout, etc. To placate customers, parking will be free — in Romblon.

20) In a controversial, novel move, PNoy will appoint Boy Abunda and Annabel Rama as peace facilitators. Abunda will hold a mirror to both the rebels and the GRP panels and ask them what they see. In an unexpected epiphany, everyone will burst into tears. Rama, in turn will succeed in establishing great rapport with all parties by calling them “Dong” in her own endearing way. They will succeed beyond all expectations and peace will finally come to the Philippines.

21) The CBCP will apply for party-list accreditation under the name Damayan ng mga Arsobispong Makikialam sa Sex at Ovulation, or DAMASO for short.

22) Makati real estate will go through the roof as more “oil fields” are found under high rises and in every other corner.

23) The HIV virus will continue to spread which will prompt a health advisory from the DOH urging everyone to wear a wetsuit, a gas mask, baseball gloves and a condom when engaging in sex. At the risk of angering the church further, withdrawal will also be suggested.

24) In a bid to stop student protests from escalating, the DECS will make public demonstrations, placard making, slogan creation, flash mobs, effigy-burning, and other coordinated crowd movements (as done in rallies), etc., required subjects and part of the curriculum. Students in droves will immediately abandon these activities and instead do video games, partying, cutting classes, drinking, etc.

25) The Philippines will send a high-level delegation to Kim Jong Il of North Korea to explain that despite the number of Koreans here, we are not and have never been, and will never be part of South Korea.

26) Lastly, the Supreme Court will finally relent to the creation of the Truth Commission after EO 1 is revised to include the investigation of environmental crimes. It will be known as An Inconvenient Truth Commission.

A night of passion

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated December 05, 2010 12:00 AM

A time with others: With the author Jim Paredes are Jorenz Tanada, Steffi Tad-y, Karen Raagas, Aicca Roxas, Erika Valdueza, Jumax Amellabon, Myles Jamito

I like things mildly dangerous, and sometimes even on the semi-wild side. I like saying yes to things I am not sure about. Sometimes, when I am traveling, I like hopping on a bus, destination unknown, and sometimes end up getting lost. It beats just staying in my room.

In cyberspace, where I spend a lot of time talking with people I don’t know, I sometimes take a few risks. I like to go beyond the comfort of talking to someone from a distance, someone I can opt to respond to or not, and actually meet him or her in the flesh. Once I invited seven random people I had never met for dinner at my house in an event I called, “Seven People You Meet on Earth.” It turned out to be a great evening.

Last Friday, I hosted another such event that I called “Night of Passion.” Through Twitter and Tumblr, I posted an invitation to anyone who was interested in talking about their passion over wine after dinner. I said I was looking for people from certain types of professions or backgrounds — travelers, lawyers, businessmen, scientists, etc., but I also said I was open to junking the rules depending on the responses I got. I asked them to email me their stories from which I would chose eight people. I got close to 80 replies.

Most of the people who wrote in were very interesting and seemed like the type I would actually want to meet. But I had a limit of eight and so after I weeded out the applicants who did not seem “right” for one reason or another, I randomly chose eight people, making sure that both sexes were adequately represented.

When Friday, the 26th came, all eight showed up at my doorstep for the after-dinner tête-à-tête on the topic of passion, and everything else.

After everyone said their tentative hellos, we sat down around a table and I asked that each one of us talk about what we were individually passionate about.

It was interesting being in the presence of Jorenz, a lawyer, who was animated about his passion for stereo equipment, his recent acquisition of old and rare vinyl records, and his love for biking. And there was Karen, a call center supervisor who shared with us the many facets of her work, which include giving advice, inspiring, firmly disciplining, mothering among other things, the diverse personalities who work under her. She also mentioned that her real passion is film and that she plans to enroll at the UP Film Institute next year.

There was Steffy, 22 years old and an advocate of child education, who radiated her love for her students in the GK center. She went through quite a number of twists and turns deciding what she wanted to study in college, changing courses until finally deciding on education. Her idealism was refreshing. Erika, an astronomy buff, talked about her rather obscure favorite topic with much passion, telling us about how photos she took with her telescope were shortlisted among 2,000 entries in an international contest.

Myles, a businessman, techie and graphic designer shared the joy of his creative process making designs for small and big businesses. He described the “marinating” process in his head which leads to something good enough to present to clients, sometimes just hours before the deadline.

Aicca is a nurse doing part-time work for a music promotions company, a place where she feels may have found her real calling. More than nursing, she loves everything about her work and is quite conflicted about whether she should still pursue nursing as a career. There was also Jumax, a Cebuana mother of two who works all week in Manila and goes back to Cebu where her partner and their children live, on weekends.

Lastly there was Sanndra, a traveler who relishes every place she visits. She has traveled in many modes — from first class to tightly packed provincial buses. She has hiked up mountains, swum with the butanding, earning enough credentials to talk about the joys of travel with some authority. What struck me was her sharing that she finds inner peace, a kind of centering amid all the movement and action, when she is on the road.

Throughout the evening, we flowed seamlessly from one topic to another — from the possibility of extra-terrestrials being real to transvestites in Bangkok, to photography, Steely Dan, Zen, living in other places, climbing mountains with the elderly, life in Cebu, our Ondoy experiences, earthquake fault lines, global warming, my bizarre adventures in Kathmandu, creativity, spirituality, etc.

In the midst of the animated conversation, I glanced at the clock on the wall and saw it was already 1:30 in the morning. How quickly time flew! None of us realized the late hour because we were all lost in each other’s passion-telling.

But I had to end the party because I had an early meeting in Makati the next morning. I thanked everyone profusely for showing up, hoping hey did not find it to be a waste of their time. It certainly wasn’t a waste of mine. In fact, I was giddy at how well everything turned out.

What are the chances that eight people who don’t know each other and whose only common ground is that they share the gift of passion, can come together around one table and affect each other’s lives by talking about their interests?

When they were leaving, I felt that I had been with a great group of people who could actually become my real friends. A few minutes later, the nine of us were tweeting about the fun we had being part of this experience. Jorenz, the lawyer, offered to host another gathering if everyone was up to it. The others tweeted in agreement.

This experiment tells me that that there are lots of people out there who are “friends-in-waiting” and who could be our real friends if we made the effort to seek them out.

Jumax and Karen, in separate tweets and messages, expressed how the “Night of Passion” made them come alive, as passion is wont to do. The great Dr. Albert Schweitzer put it so well: “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”

I thank my eight new friends for a great night of magic, wonder, and the contagion of passions shared.

I will definitely do this again… and again.