Navigating through 2013

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

It is now 2013.

Quickly, I watched 2012 fading fast into becoming “yesterday” while watching the fabulous Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks show on TV. I could feel the euphoria in the air as I watched people partying, screaming with delight and applauding as this part of the world welcomed the New Year.

It is quite interesting how the world gets so excited about New Year’s Eve. It is probably because there is something fascinating about endings and the beginnings that follow it. We observe the hand of time doing magic tricks and we are mesmerized by it. We become one with humanity, acutely watching the turning of the earth on its axis while moving us all from darkness into a brand new dawn. We especially feel the spirit of time animating on New Year’s Eve even if the earth actually does this all the time.

Time is passing. It is doing so all the time. Time is like a limitless ocean continuously moving into the past as it flows through the present on its way to the future (which will someday be a present and a past). And calendars, clocks, birthdays, anniversaries like New Year’s Eve celebrations were created to try to box something eternal into something we can measure and talk about.

We are all bound by time. We enter into the field of time and live our lives in that field, enjoy our childhood, grow up and even die there. And throughout our lives, we measure time by the experiences we have while living a life.

There are many reasons why we need to observe the coming of a new year. If the past year was a bad one, we may feel relieved that it is finally over and we are now looking at a new one that will hopefully be better. If we had a good year, we project hope on the coming year to repeat or even surpass the previous one. While feeling all these, we moderate our expectations by believing in things like astrology and Chinese calendars. It’s almost like we fervently

On the first day of 2013, I told myself that this new time lease on life does not have to be a continuation of the previous year. I don’t have to bring all the baggage that slowed me down or made me less happy to this new year; 2013 can be something completely new, exciting, with hardly a trace of the past, especially those moments when I felt unhappy, useless and angry. The past is dead and gone and I don’t have to continue living it.

What a liberating thought!

A new life, a new sunrise happens every day. Philosopher Heraclitus said that we never cross the same river twice. The present is always new, and our circumstances are not static if we examine them close enough. But what makes us perceive them as not so new is an inertia about the past: we can’t let go.

Strangely, we cling even if we both curse and like the past at the same time. We curse it because we are stuck in its miseries and historicity and can’t seem to transcend them. We repeatedly relive old thoughts, old patterns, old ways of doing things even when we feel trapped in them.

But still we choose living in the past even when opportunities for change present themselves because there is comfort in the known. There is a reassurance in the familiar even if you know it can and often does hurt you. And so people stay stuck in toxic jobs, relationships, patterns of behavior that may not be good for them simply because it gives them at least a sense of the familiar. Very few like to stray away from their neighborhood. After all, who knows what dangers may lie beyond what you can see. Better the devil you know than the one you don’t know, as the saying goes.

Carl Jung wrote: “We cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning. For what was great in the morning will be little in the evening. For what was true in the morning, in the evening will have become a lie.” I often think of this when I wake up at certain times in my life and realize I have outgrown certain things, feelings, truths, ideals and even people. Many of the things I used to like a lot, over time, have lost their charm and attraction. Some of the things that used to seem so important which awakened in me a sense of duty and purpose may at times recede in the background, and even stay there.

There is an element of appropriateness we must consider when it comes to asking ourselves what we must keep and hang on to and what we must let go of. There are things that are important early in life but are unimportant later on. To ignore or deny this can be dangerous, and/or at least make us appear silly, if not to ourselves, then to others. There is something toxic, ridiculous or incorrect in behaving out of place, in being in denial or acting out of sync with one’s age, stature or situation in life.

We already know that time is always moving and that circumstances can and most likely will change. And we too change all the time. The deeper we go into life, the greater the demands on us to have a fuller understanding of ourselves and the world. But mostly, the demand to understand ourselves is more important. Many times, we will be helpless in the face of life’s trials, tragedies and sorrows, but we can always fall back on solid ground if we know and accept our own capabilities and limitations with grace and ease.

It is in this context that I look at living out 2013, as I begin to sort out what I will throw away and what I will keep at this juncture in my life. The direction I wish to take is to immerse myself in new things and creative pursuits, explore new avenues of expression, keep fit, while I bring mankind into a higher, more compassionate state in my own little way. I may sound like a Miss Universe contestant but I do mean to embark in these directions. These may sound like generalities, but I am already breaking them down to practical doables. And yes, I also wish to have fun while doing them.

Life will always be complex but I will avoid being overwhelmed and immobilized. I will need more wisdom in knowing when to meet things head-on and when to bend, duck and detour to navigate the path. I will need to know what truly matters and what doesn’t.

We live in a physical, real world. But the maps and the buttons to navigate it reside in our internal world. Therefore, the cultivation of an internal life is important. This means I must also do a lot more reflecting, meditating to be adept at reading those maps and pressing the right buttons to navigate the 2013 and the rest of life.