Is your life’s narrative love or pain?

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 28, 2013 – 12:00am

Illustration by REY RIVERA

In Sydney, we know a family who loves dogs so much that they adopted one from an animal shelter. Linda and Greg, two friends from a suburb on the Northwest side of Sydney, adopted a dog years ago which survived extreme cruelty from its former owners. The dog was regularly beaten and not cared for in any decent way. The former owners must have looked at this otherwise beautiful Golden Retriever with much anger and disgust since they would harm it, often brutally.

Our friends actually had two Golden Retrievers. One was nurtured since it was a puppy and had grown up with them, while the other was the dog from the shelter. The two dogs could not have been more different. When I saw the two dogs for the first time during a barbecue party, I immediately sensed the contrasts between them.

The one that was raised by the couple from puppy till adulthood was friendly, sharp, active and seemed to know his comfortable place in the home and among the family that nurtured him. He always wagged his tail. He liked being touched. When he was called to eat, he devoured the food with gusto nearby.

When the dog from the shelter was called to eat, I noticed that he approached the area hesitantly, ran away, approached it again with a wariness, and took the food and ate it somewhere else. He also almost never wagged his tail and would run away when you tried to pet him. Furthermore, there was a sadness, a deep pain that was obvious when you saw him. He always stayed quite a distance away from humans even if in his eyes, you saw a longing for human warmth and companionship. It was quite sad to see the dog like that.

The shelter dog had been with them for about two years when we first saw him. After about a year and a half, we had a get-together again and the dog still showed aloofness although our host said that there was already an improvement. He stayed around closer to the people more often though still not regularly.

I think of some people I know who act in a similar manner. They show mistrust when acts of kindness are thrown their way. They are suspicious of people and though it is obvious that they seek love deep down inside, when it is showered upon them, they can’t seem to handle too much of it. After an initial euphoria, they begin to feel uncomfortable and an aversion develops. This is probably because they realize and anticipate that pain they are sure would follow. In the end, they turn away from it for reasons they can’t completely explain.

They see love and affection not for what these are but always as part of the sad narrative of pain that defines their lives. And when pain does happen, they feel that their negativity, their distrust of kindness and love were warranted all along. To them, every love relationship MUST end in pain. And with every failed relationship, their view of life and especially of themselves become more and more reinforced. And what they believe to be true of themselves is this: that they are not worthy of love.

We all want love. This I know is true. And as humans, I believe we were born instinctively to give it and want it. But in the process of experiencing any great love is the corresponding experience of great fear. Love is an endeavor that brings a lot of promise but also the feeling of a naked risk, a great vulnerability that could hurt us in a big way depending on how invested we are emotionally.

A mother will feel the great feeling of love as she holds her new-born, but also grapple with the dreadful fear of the possibility of her baby getting sick or dying in some unknown future due to unknown circumstances. Love is contiguous to fear. Both are each other’s yin and yang. As long as we are alive, we will experience the sweetness of love in different ways, but we will also risk and occasionally experience anxiety, rejection and pain. That is just how it is.

If a person gives enough attention to his interior world, sometime in his life, he will probably ponder the meaning of love and life and ask himself whether he has ever really loved deeply. I am not talking here of great feelings of infatuation like the experience of being swept off one’s feet, or having an adrenalin rush or blushing. I am talking of real love, not the Disney version of it where one may seem like he is risking something when in truth, everything has been guaranteed to be safe and pleasant. And when you begin to examine yourself, this is where life asks you what meaning you want to give it.

You must come to terms with love, not just its ecstatic highs and dramas but also its baffling themes like sacrifice, extending oneself to the other, selflessness, surrender, and a lot of ego taming. In short, one must also look at the not-so-pleasant meanings of a life shared in love. Admittedly these are not the easy components one readily embraces.

There are those, after constant examination, who will always recommit to a life of loving no matter how imperfectly they live it, and there will be some who will give up on it. I know people who have grappled with love all their lives, who claim to have given their all without ever realizing that they have lived a pattern of rejecting everyone who ever gave them love. Subconsciously, they have undermined their soul’s true longing by being blind to, or fearful of what love really is. It is as if they can’t handle love when it is real and so reject the things that really nurture them most.

In place of what is true and real, they settle for fame, power, wealth, various addictions and cling to the approval of other people who have become hollow like themselves. They avoid depth by hiding behind seemingly rational explanations and grandiosity. A deep cynicism freezes their hearts and they become unable to respond with any honesty to anything.

Like the dog from the shelter, they have been traumatized and may or may not recover from it.

But many believe that the cure for this monumental denial is ironically, more love (maybe the tough kind), acceptance and more honest feedback from those who care, until eventually, one can awaken to the reality that we were born to love, by beginning to accept oneself more honestly and unconditionally.

It is a long process, but the important things in life are worth the effort. As I mentioned earlier, love is an endeavor. And I don’t know of a better way to say it but love must be done with great love.

Only then can love overcome pain, and perhaps begin to become the true narrative of one’s life.

Elections, passion nights and a joke

Let me bring you inside my mind. My thinking on who to vote for this coming elections goes like this.

From a whole country point of view, I am of the opinion that the Aquino Presidency has made rather major strides in a lot of things. The economy, peace in Mindanao, anti corruption, etc..We still have a lot of problems. Many more needs to be done. I want more of the reforms to be set in place before PNoy leaves the Presidency. I know the man has a an agenda and I want him to succeed.

So regarding how I look at the candidates running, I am definitely crossing out the entire UNA ticket since I see most of them as remnants of our dysfunctional past. They were beneficiaries of corruption, inertia, political largess and everything bad I see in our entire history of governance and politics. The rest are old politicos who have nothing new to offer. I don’t feel I should give them an extension in their political life. To be fair, I was considering Hagedorn seriously but when I heard him on radio say that his idol of all time was Joseph Erap Estrada, I decided to junk him.

Surveying the Liberal Party, there are a few I am excited about. Bam Aquino is a guy I have known a long time. I have had discussions with him, really frank ones about the country including topics such as Hacienda Luisita, the Aquinos, reforms, alleviating poverty, RH, etc.. and I can tell you he has a firm moral, political, economic understanding of problems and a democratic, pro-poor bias in wanting to solve them. He also walks his talk. His big disadvantage (and advantage) is that he carries the Aquino name and that is a turn off with people who have absolutely drawn the line against dynasties. But if you follow Miriam’s thinking on what a dynasty is (parents and children, siblings both in office), he does not fall into the category.

Risa Hontiveros has always been a fighter. She has courage and morals to stand for RH, women’s issues and has always been a reformist. She is high on my list.

Ramon Magsaysay Jr. is one senator who never got rich through the years. I have sat with him on some occasions during dinners at the Ramon Magsaysay Awards and he is a wise man who works hard but does not trumpet his ambitions and achievements. He has solid ideas. His economic standing despite years of being a public official has remained unchanged. He is honest.

I am considering Grace Poe even if she has little experience. She effectively ran MTRCB and dealt with issues like the Willie Revillame scandals with firmness. She is a loyal daughter who will not sully her father’s name. She will quickly learn the ropes in the senate, I am sure. Experience is good to have. But how does one get experience unless he h/she is given a chance? I think she is intelligent enough to learn fast and do a good job.

Bro. Eddie Villanueva is a person I am also considering. He is a good man and though religious, was broadminded enough to have been pro-RH.

Going back to a macro point of view, the worst outcome this election can have is to bring in guys who will want to restore the bad old days. The next worst thing is to have a gridlock senate that will not pass reformist bills or if they do, they will water them down to make them ineffective. The best thing that I want to see is to get the reform train moving as quickly as it can so that whoever becomes President after PNoy will find reform unstoppable and will not be able to turn things back to how it was.

I still have issues with the rest of the Liberal party but I am approaching it with the thought of whether the candidates will do more good than harm. Political dynasties, where brothers and sisters, or parents and children will be sitting in the senate is a real turn-off, and Angara, Cayetano fall in that category. Though they may be honorable men, I still have not made up my mind whether I should include them. There are also others in the party whom I will not vote for no matter what.

I will probably have at most 9 people in my list. Realistically, it may be 7. That should be enough majority already to give PNoy the laws he wants in place.

My party list vote will go to Ladlad. All over the world, the LGBT community’s time has come. It’s time they are represented.

# # #

Once again, I will be hosting a dinner for 9 strangers. This is the 5th time I will be doing this. If you are adventurous enough to have an evening with people you have never met in a house you have never been, do write me an email at Title it, ‘Passion Night”. Tell me what you are all about and what your passion is.

Most likeley, dinner will be here in Metro manila. But do let me l know if you are game if we hold the dinner an airplane ride away in case I can get free tickets.

I will read every email and weed out the crazies, the stalkers, etc.. Then I will randomly choose nine. If you respond within the prescribed time, you are in. If not, I will choose again.

I have three rules: 1) I do not know you and we have never met. 2) you are not a stalker. 3) you do not have firearms.

Life is an adventure. Take risks!

# # #

(Got this from my classmate Denis Hernandez)

A Catholic, a Protestant, a Muslim and a Jew were in a discussion after a dinner.

Catholic: “I have a large fortune….I am going to buy Citibank!”

Protestant: : “I am very wealthy and will buy General Motors!”

Muslim: “I am a fabulously rich prince…. I intend to purchase Microsoft!”

They then all wait for the Jew to speak….

The Jew stirs his coffee, places the spoon neatly on the table, takes a sip of his coffee, looks at them and casually says,

“I’m not selling!”

A piece of the peace

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 21, 2013 – 12:00am

Violence at a marathon: Throughout history everywhere, man has always done violent acts against his fellowman. It’s hard to fathom. But to the minds of the perpetrators, they always appear justifiable.

The mayhem at the Boston Marathon shook me to the core. I was close to a state of shock as I watched the explosions on TV rip through the crowd of spectators who were by the sidelines cheering the runners on. In my mind ran so many questions. I am sure many of you asked the same things. How can anyone do this? Who in his right mind could perpetrate something this horrible? What could have been the motive? How can anyone hurt innocent people for whatever cause?

Throughout history everywhere, man has always done violent acts against his fellowman. We have seen assaults and muggings, bullying, murders, slavery, massacres, ethnic cleansing, great big wars that sometimes lasted for decades, some even surpassing 100 years. And they are still happening now. The reasons may be many and hard to fathom. But to the minds of the perpetrators, they always appear justifiable.

I was hesitating to write this piece that deals with violence for a few reasons. For one, I am appalled when I witness anyone subjected to violence. I feel an abhorrence and my first instinct is to run away from it and disappear. I want to have nothing to do with it, not even as a spectator.

Another reason, though farfetched is, I have often wondered that if put in a violent situation, will I discover I may become like the violent people I abhor? What if I realize I am not too different from them, and even join in? Maybe that’s exactly what happens to many good people during activities like hazing. One can get caught up by the moment and lose one’s convictions or morals. It could also happen to me. And so I would rather stay away.

I know the scope of the subject is wide and may take volumes to encompass, but I am writing about it even if it is only in my small column because it is something we must try to understand, control and if possible, outgrow as a species.

I am very fascinated by people like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela who were subjected to a lot of violence in all its forms but chose not to retaliate accordingly. Instead, they looked at their tormentors straight in the eye and vowed deep inside not to be like them. They resisted the great temptation to get even as most people would have even if they certainly had enough justification to do so. But in resisting the urge to react violently, they changed the equation. No more tit-for tat. Violence must end.
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The initial scorn heaped upon them by their enemies slowly but surely turned to great respect, and even awe. They converted many of their enemies to become not just their followers but defenders. Such was the strength of their character and convictions.

Dr. Jose Rizal once wrote that, “There are no tyrants where there are no slaves.” I have often observed this to be true in many occasions of human interactions. When one refuses to live the role expected of him, a new dynamic between the participants develops. The “play” itself changes. The codependence ends.

Look at the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes, where the boy had no idea of how he was expected to react, and so candidly called out the emperor’s nakedness. He was unlike everyone else in the town who was into the “play,” or the “trance.” Refusing to play along can be good when the situation is potentially toxic. All it takes is to do the unexpected and the trance is broken. In this case, simply being truthful was all it took.

But how do we handle the instinct of wanting to retaliate? It is so hard to resist the drive to get even. And in one’s anger, a person can lose sight of any shred of humanity the other person may possess and so it is easy to justify why he/she must be “destroyed.

Not as dramatically as the Boston mayhem, was a news item that told of 30 people attending a wedding in Afghanistan who were all instantly killed by a drone. It is no less tragic. A lot of us momentarily pause when we hear of such things, and just simply dismiss it with the statement, “Sad! But what can we really do?”

There are practices one can do to become a more peaceful person or at least have a more compassionate disposition. Let me share some.

One way to go beyond an instinctive reflex action like immediate retaliation is to have the ability to be more circumspect and deliberate rather than emotional. In short, one must be able to respond more than just react. I personally recommend meditation as a means to help develop this ability.

When you meditate, you learn to control, and to stop controlling at the same time. When you sit regularly on a mat and commit to do so without moving for a set time, you learn to reign in your instincts such as scratching, or looking around, or even entertaining too many things in your mind. The net effect of that is a peaceful stillness you experience within yourself.

You become unperturbed by phenomena going on around and inside you. You experience a detachment, a freedom from things, and even from long held opinions, biases and tendencies. You are still aware of them, but are not at the moment pulled by their orbit. Because of this, an emptying or spacious calm and equanimity is created within. And in this space, one really begins to see options on how to respond and not just react. And with enough practice, this spaciousness inside becomes not just easily accessible but develops compassion as well.

Another good practice is to constantly remind ourselves how to have empathy for people. By this, I mean looking at people as human beings who laugh, cry, love, dream etc., just like we all do. Often, we look at people according to how they function or act — far from the totality of who they really are. On the outside, they are merely, say, Americans, Afghans, young people, oldies, students, workers, politicians, prostitutes, etc. They are an ‘other.’ It is easy to lump them into simplistic labels thereby reducing their humanity to something much smaller. In a war setting, calling the deaths of people “collateral damage” is just one way we reduce their humanity, and perhaps we do so as a way of coping with the heartlessness of the violence we inflict.

A way to peace is to simply practice listening and suspending judgment as much as you can.

Something that will also work for everyone is trying to stop being egotistic all the time. An egotistic person thinks the whole world revolves around him. I try and practice looking at myself as a third person, not always through the lens of my ego, or “I.” As a third person, there is more of the spaciousness I get in meditation. My ego does not occupy all the space. I learn to dismiss big chunks of my egotistic wants and needs and even make light of them until they do not matter. It is good to realistically look at ourselves with all our faults, weaknesses and without being too defensive, and just accept ourselves as ordinary and “not special.”

Not everyone of us will be in a position to unleash war, or inflict violence on people, thank God. But each of us can be instruments or constituents of peace by practicing it in everyday life. And it starts with each one of us. I wish to end this with a few lines I wrote into song in 1988 called Piece of the Peace.

I hold in me a piece of the peace

And inside of you is a piece of the peace

If only we can put it together

A greater peace will come together

The wounds of war are the same everywhere

There is no peace if there’s war anywhere

It’s just one world so let’s keep it alive

Destroy the earth and all of us die

You and I, we must agree

That there are too many problems for us to live in apathy

We must protect this galaxy

Not just for you and me

But for everybody’s children’s children

So they can have a world of harmony

Inside of me is a piece of the key

The key to save humanity

Together we can make it better

So all life can live forever

Everyone must come together as one human family

We must treat the Universe as our responsibility

There can be no talk of changing unless we all change from within

Every father, mother, brother, sister must now lend a hand

On being busy, tattoos, and the lights going out!

I’m a guy who is used to being busy. I love wall-to-wall schedules and although I complain about it, I actually enjoy it provided I have the car to go places and get everything done.

That’s why I have a like-unlike relationship with summer. (Notice I did not use ‘love-hate’ cuz it’s not that a big deal). When this time of the year comes, the weather reigns over everything else and people seem to trim down their schedules or reduce what they are supposed to be doing by about 50%. I am serious. Look at your schedules. When I look at mine, I notice that the people I normally interact with seem to be too lazy to do a lot of things. I get fewer calls for work, even for just fun things. People just like vegetating anywhere there is air conditioning. They would rather just stay somewhere and chill.

That’s enough reason for me to get more busy with blogging.

I used to pose ANYTHING on this blog. Then I decided that I would only put my PhilStar Sunday articles on it. While I get a lot of following for those things I post, the blog has become too serious. So starting now, I am back to mixing the shallow and the deep, the sacred and profane, the fun and the serious in one place.

As it is in life, so shall it be on this blog!

# # #

Last night I attended the launch of the Globe Tattoo Awards 2013. I was asked to be a judge in this years awards. I will mostly be judging entries on the music category.

While I am honored to have been asked to judge, I feel a tinge of regret since this blog will be disqualified from joining in any category. Oh well.. OK lang! At least somehow, I can influence people about what I think is music worth listening to and supporting in some way.

@ @ @

I’ve been visiting a sick friend who unfortunately will not recover from his sickness. He is suffering from COPD, (Comprehensive Obstruction of the Pulmonary Disease), a progressive disease brought about by smoking. He is getting weaker by the week. I feel so bad for him.

We had prayers for him for 9 days last week. Each night, we had a silent moment, talked and just projected healing thoughts. They were sessions that did the sick a lot of good and also all those who attended. It was great to be with close friends ruminating about life.

Ever since I turned 60, I’ve been feeling that the end of life has become more visible. Young people react with incredulity and think I am morose. But death will come to everyone, for sure. You can count on it. But I go to the gym to make sure I have more healthy days than sick ones in my remaining years.

I am beginning to do more and more of what I want to do. My bucket list is becoming more and more an urgent list of tasks. I now firmly refuse invitations that do not in anyway give me any sense of purpose or fun. Not much time to waste. I must do what I must do.

This lead me to think of the meaning of things which I think about more often now. Money, while important has lost much of its mystique and allure. It is still important to have some, but at a certain point, one must develop a better relationship with it based on the principle that you can’t take it with you.

The things that make me feel alive are more important now. I still like to do a lot of traveling, meet a lot of people, inspire and be inspired, confront and experience life’s great questions and discover for myself the meaning of mysteries. But perhaps the most important of all is to have time for family, friends, all those we love. And it is not just being with them but paying attention to their stories, feelings and where they are in their journeys.

When you are a young man as I was once, there is less time to do these things because one can be so absorbed with ones’ career and the drive to make money, acquire properties, etc.. There is a time for that and it is during one’s youth. Now things are changing for me. As Carl Jung said, and I paraphrase, ‘..what was true in the morning of life may become a lie in the afternoon..’.

I want to know what I have missed out on and do what needs to be done. I also want to impact the world for the better by helping expand the consciousness of others before the lights go out. Now is the time for this.

* * *

On Fate

Kehlog Albran, a spoof of Kahlil Gibran, was the craziest Philosopher I read in College. He had a book called The Profit. Here’s an excerpt.

A priest asked,
What is Fate, Master?

And he answered:
It is that which gives a beast of burden its reason for existence.
It is that which men in former times had to bear upon their backs.
It is that which has caused nations to build by-ways from City to City upon which carts and coaches pass, and alongside which inns have come to be built to stave off Hunger, Thirst and Weariness.
It is that which has caused great fleets of ships to ply the Seven Seas wherever the wind blows.

And that is Fate? said the priest.

Fate… I thought you said Freight, responded the Master.

That’s all right, said the priest. I wanted to know what Freight was too.

New myths for moderns

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 14, 2013 – 12:00am

I’ve often imagined what it must have been like to be present when Magellan and his crew first landed on our shores. Last year, I read the book Over the Edge of the World by Lawrence Bergreen where he elaborately narrates the entire voyage of Magellan’s flotilla in their search of a route to the Spice Islands and back. I was interested in the local point of view when the Cebuanos first met those strange white people who came in heavy gunships that made thunderous noises. The book pretty much gives a great description of how easily the Cebuanos welcomed the foreigners to their shores.

The world has changed so much since then. There probably isn’t any race or tribe or culture left on earth that has remained untouched or uninfluenced by the outside world. With technology, world travel, migration and the relentless drive of capitalism in opening new markets, surely we have all been transformed somewhat by each other.

Every civilization has its own myths and rituals that are developed, encouraged and interpreted by their leaders in the hope of giving structure, stability and meaning to everyday existence. They create “maps of meanings” disseminated through myths, ceremonies and traditions that permeate every aspect of life.

Today, many parts of these maps of meanings, which used to be exclusive to particular civilizations, are shared across all cultural horizons. As an example, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist holidays like Christmas, Eid al Fitr, practices like yoga and meditation are practiced widely everywhere. In music, rock ‘n’ roll and pop music emanating from different cultures find eager acceptance everywhere.

No doubt, western civilization has had a great transformative effect on the planet, for better or worse. It has affected education, law, commerce and economies, religion, governance, climate, and all manner of social interaction. It has also promoted the concept of human rights and equality, and its continuing influence today is helping disenfranchised sectors attain more rights and freedoms.

The transformation from old mythic, superstitious, magical thinking into a scientific one is probably the most impactful change that has affected a big chunk of humanity. It has permeated all of practical life and dissolved many traditional myths, rituals and ways of doing things.

Contraception, for example, has altered not just sexual practice but the relationship between the sexes in more ways than we can imagine. In many cultures, it has brought about the liberation of women from their traditional submissive roles and raised them to a status co-equal with men, not just in the planning of the nuclear family, but also in running their own lives.

The march of modern science continues to create new opportunities to find solutions to problems in new ways. Some 20 years ago, it was simply inconceivable that the concerns of one group of people could one day be addressed in real time by another group living in another culture, continent and time zone. But that’s exactly what call center agents in Manila are doing for many Americans today.

Everything is changing so quickly that the traditional limitations of time and space are no longer there, at least not in the virtual world that is “on” 24/7 and is encroaching more and more into the real world.

What are the implications of all these? For centuries, nothing much changed in the way people ran their lives. Now, it seems like a new generational mindset is born every five years or so with its own technological environment.

One might ask, what happens when there is a dissolution of much of the ways, myths and rituals and belief systems that used to bind people into socio-cultural communities? I believe new ones will come up and simply replace the old ones that have lost their moving power.

The new cultural memes and attitudes seem to be pointing to diversity. In a borderless world where everyone can talk and express himself online and affect others across great distances, the overbearing dominance of one or two cultures over the rest is becoming more and more obsolete. Newer “niche cultures” are being formed and are filling the gap. These are where smaller groups of people bind together and embrace new meanings and interpretations of the world and enact them with revised, modernized or newly thought-out rituals and myths.

We can see it in the splintering of the once-monolithic church into different sects. This is happening in other religions too. We see it in the never-ending diversity of music, arts and lifestyles that scream out new paradigms suggesting how the world is to be understood. There is a robust battle of ideas everywhere. For every issue there are sides fighting for dominance in the cultural, philosophical and ideological marketplace.

The evolution of meaning itself, I dare say, will be more and more “open-sourced,” not unlike the way the scientific method is applied. Meaning, truth, discoveries and breakthroughs can come from anywhere. The only thing they need to go viral is to find commonality and be credibly experienced by others. In the religious spiritual movement, Carolyn Myss writes about people who derive truth not from one religious tradition alone but from many, and more often through direct experience. She calls them “mystics without monasteries,” regular people outside the established religions who seek God not through intermediaries but through personal discovery.

Transcendence, after all, is still the great mystery that, deep down, everyone yearns for. While the endless novelty of modern living may bring surprise and delight, and the pull of nostalgia may comfort us with the familiar in a fast-changing world, it may not deliver to many the experience of the timeless and the holy with deep lasting results. The path to transcendence, while already traversed by many throughout history, is still very much an individual awakening and undertaking. More and more, we want meaning that speaks to us directly and personally.

To stress this point, allow me to quote Joseph Campbell who wrote about the new myths in the modern world: “Each individual is the center of a mythology of his own, of which his own intelligible character is the Incarnate God, so to say, whom his empirically questing consciousness is to find. The aphorism of Delphi, ‘Know thyself,’ is the motto…”

In other words, life’s meaning must be personally and viscerally felt. Campbell adds: “Not Rome, not Mecca, not Jerusalem, Sinai, or Benares, but each and every ‘thou’ on earth is the center of the world, in the sense of that formula quoted from the 12th-century Book of the Twenty-four Philosophers, of God as an intelligible sphere whose center is everywhere.”

Strangely enough, I found the same bells ringing for me when Pope Francis, in a Lenten homily, advised the faithful to “get out of yourselves.” I may be stretching it a bit, but to me, that meant transcending our ego and seeing ourselves and the rest of humanity as indistinguishably one and the same.

We are each other. There is only “One” of us. We all affect each other. The idea of “one humanity” is the relatively new, ascending mythical idea that more and more people are resonating with. Humanity experienced this in a big way when it saw for the first time ever what the earth, its home, looked like from space in the 1960s. And now with the Internet, we get the virtual experience of practically everyone within reach or being in touch. There is also the universal fight against global warming, and the modern ritual of turning off lights on Earth Day that suggest we are buying into the Oneness.

As modern as all of this sounds, ironically, things have not really changed that much. It is still this very timeless experience of transcendence and its visceral meaning, but now invoked by new myths and rituals that modern man, not unlike his ancestors, is still really yearning for.

* * *?

Capture your great times this summer. Join me in my only summer Basic Photo Workshop on Saturday, April 20. Call 0916-8554303 for reservations and queries, or write to

Call it serendipity, call it a love story

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 7, 2013 – 12:00am

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where everything seemed hopeless, where you had actually given up on life itself, but then help suddenly came along?Call it the answered prayer, a miracle, serendipity, a lucky break or whatever else. When it happens, it can be completely life-changing.

I had a friend who left the Philippines before he finished high school to migrate to the US. I actually knew him for just about three years. We were year mates and it was that time in our lives when we were going through a lot of formative experiences — our first drink, prom, date, girlfriends, teenage angst, fights, and a lot juvenile high school discoveries and craziness.

A big part of our life then revolved around the barkada. Our peer group was our support system in almost all ways. We ran to our friends when we were in trouble or even just for company. We shared our experiences and secrets with our mates. We all asked for each other’s advice in many matters and ways. We also laughed, cried and did a lot of things together.

My friend came back to the Philippines to visit a few years ago. We had more than a great time. But it was only yesterday that I found out how terribly important his visiting the Philippines and seeing all of us again, were to him. It was much more than I, or he, had imagined.

My wife saw him on her trip to San Francisco recently and he narrated to her what it all meant from his point of view.When he left during high school, we had almost lost touch completely. It was some six or seven years later when we heard from him. He was in Washington in 1974, and it so happened APO was touring the US at the time and so we got together but very briefly. After that, he had disappeared completely — or so we thought.

Time marched on, and since ‘74, we had all gotten married, had children and built careers and gotten older with the passage of time.When he came back to the Manila for a visit a few years ago, he had just been through a divorce. He had also lost his job, and was suffering from a bad back injury. He was also broke. He had told us that much. But I learned from Lydia, my wife, that he had come back to literally say goodbye to his past, and to everything else that meant anything to him.

He was down and out on his luck. As far as he was concerned, everything in his life had bottomed out and there was really nothing to live for. He was here to take a last look before he was to bid life farewell.He came here not knowing whether we would even remember him. He had no great hopes about that. After all, in his mind, he felt that we may have forgotten him completely, or would vaguely remember him if at all, or worse, not even care to see him. He had only spent three years with us, and high school seemed eons ago, he thought. From a distance he may have imagined that we were all successful and happy with our wives and families and doing well career-wise while he was down in the dumps with no sign of recovery. And that of course gave him all the more reason to be pessimistic about how this visit would go.

This was his last trip “home,” if he could even still call it that. But aside from seeing us, he also came for another reason, and it was to meet a child he had inadvertently fathered before he had left which he only heard about or discovered a few months before he decided to visit.

But he had a few things coming that he wasn’t prepared for.

To his big surprise and delight, when he came home, we greeted him with open arms. We all went out of our way to throw him a party, and spend a lot of time with him. We even went to Bagiuo. We talked about old times, drank a few, laughed a lot, teared up a bit while remembering the past. He was so happy to know that he had not been forgotten, that he was part of our individual and collective memory, and that the place he left a long time ago had actually not just recorded but treasured the times he was here.

On that same visit, he had asked about his previous high school girlfriend who happened to be my wife’s cousin. To make a long story short, even that turned out extremely auspicious. Meeting again brought them together in matrimony after a few months. They now share a happy life in San Francisico.

That visit which was supposed to be his goodbye to things that mattered to him actually became the turning point where he felt he had rediscovered the important elements in his life — friends, family, and love.Narrating all this to my wife, he said he saw the hand of God rescue him from his pitiful, sorry state of despair and deliver him to a state of new chances and opportunities for meaning and happiness in life. He felt he had been gifted with grace that was completely undeserved. It must have felt like winning some sort of lotto where the prize was something beyond any material value. He had a brand new lease on life itself.

How many of us have experienced something like this? I guess one can only come out of it with, at the very least, an optimism about life, but most likely with an unshakeable faith in a God who loves and cares for us.In life, the cavalry does show up occasionally. In my own experience, God, through many forms, has also intervened for my own good. Life is full of surprises and wonder. At the very least, we can’t write anything off. Anything can happen, and it usually does.

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