Easter awakening

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 27, 2016 – 12:00am

I am passionate about many things. There is music. There is writing. I also teach. There is also the power in me that creates my own daily life in this world. Then there is the passion I have for what I can best describe as being present to life itself. I describe that passion as an “awakened” state of being. I am sometimes an awakened person.

What is an awakened person? What are you awakened to?

If you feel a passion for anything, then you probably have detected that life has a purpose, direction or meaning. These all go hand in hand. And in your life, you feel alive, awakened to entities and forces that are using you to unfurl or unfold wholeness. You feel it. You are the force. You are wholeness itself. You are the Universe. You can’t help it.

In the past few years, I have embraced subjects that hardly resonated with me in the past, such as physics, mathematics, medicine and science itself. These subjects are amazing, governed by rules that you can depend on to work.
The rules and logic of science are there for physical navigation. How their rules and laws were put into some order is nothing short of majestic and mind-blowing. Truly, the universe must be a conscious one.

I am often thrilled, amazed, perplexed or challenged by something. I look at a challenge from the point of view of the physical sciences, and also intuitively and spiritually. I like to be involved and engaged on as many levels as I can.

When you do, you discover not just the world but also aspects of yourself. You come alive in big ways and in ways you do not expect, which can be fascinating though not always pleasant. But they are authentic and true. The more you know about something, the more details you learn. The engagement becomes bigger. And so do you.

This Holy Week, I have been thinking about God in the Christian tradition I was born into. Jesus, the Son of God entered into the world and walked, talked, lived and died like a human person. God, through Jesus, was the abstract Word which wanted to become flesh and blood. He was spirit embodied. He lived in a specific time and place. He entered our history to alter evolution.

All holy books carry more myths than factual historical accounts. They are not by any measure scientific books. Their historical accounts may even be wanting; they are not known for their factual accuracy. And I do not denigrate them in anyway by saying this.

They were written to engage and inspire us in a much deeper way though mystery. Through stories, parables, psalms, they draw us into a discussion of the human condition: sin, suffering, pain, death, forgiveness, faith and redemption.

They offer us the promise of discovering God’s love, which is intrinsic to being human. We are called to the mystery of why God became man, and makes us wonder why we try so hard as humans to be God.

It is as if God and humans are seeking each other out, looking for that middle ground where both can come together.

For me, the “awakening” I mentioned earlier is discovering that we need not do anything, or go anywhere, or search and struggle. We just need to awaken. It’s as simple as that!

Whatever enlightenment you discover anywhere is something you actually brought with you. That is the great find, the awakened state. Nothing is ever lost. We already have it in us. We have never lacked or needed anything. We have always been whole. God has always loved us and has been here, inside us.

This Easter, may we awaken to the holiness and glory of being alive and discover that our capacity for redemption has always been here.

To awaken to both the inside and outside world and shine and feel alive, to celebrate the logic and beauty in everything, to know that God’s life force is with me — that’s what Easter means to me.

The summers of my youth

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 13, 2016 – 12:00am

Summer is almost here.

Like every kid, it was my favorite time of the year. With no school, we had all the hours to play, run, frolic under the sun, and just do whatever we wanted.

We were carefree. Summer was all about fun. We were young and free. What else could we ask for?

At our house on Boston Street, we thought we had everything. We had a modest-sized swimming pool that we dug ourselves. There was a clean creek behind our back fence with huge stones we hopped on to get to the other side. Beside our property was a vacant lot filled with kaimito, mango, santol, kamachile and sampaloc trees. It was a big undeveloped lot that was, for all intents and purposes, our own private playground when we were kids. There were big stones to sit on and lots of shade from the fruit trees.

We would climb every tree and spend hours sitting and lying on their branches. At night, we would set up our tents and camp, sitting and talking around a campfire.

Those were happy times. I played with my younger brother Raffy, my older sister Lory, some cousins and the sons and daughters of our household help. We were always on the go.

I had a dog named Hannibal and an air gun. We went on adventures looking for lizards and birds to shoot. We felt like big game hunters. We also had handmade bows and arrows and we used them for target practice, aiming at cans, bottles and anything else we could shoot at.

Summer was also a time when the young boys were circumcised. I spent around two weeks indoors when I was nine, recovering from this ritual of manhood. I could not wait to heal and run outside and play.

Summer was always magical. It was a time for discoveries, rituals and play. Our street had a huge fire tree. We would collect its bright red-orange flowers and hold our own Flores de Mayo procession. We also joined the church-sponsored ones. We also loved to bike around the wide and uncongested neighborhoods that dotted New Manila.

These days, young kids spend their summers so differently. They are home watching TV, or playing video games, or chatting with friends online on Facebook, and other online time-wasters. Or they are at the mall shopping, skating or just cooling off.

It is too hot to play outside. Maybe climate change is a bigger factor these days. I don’t remember feeling any discomfort playing under the sun. I did not mind sweating at all. These days, many kids seem to be turned off by their own sweat. They spend their summer days in sedentary activities.

Today’s kids are losing out. They do not have the summers my generation had. There are too many people on the streets and that raises safety issues. There are hardly any open spaces to go camping or kite flying, or run in wild abandon with one’s dog. There are no more clean creeks or rivers in the urban areas to soak in on a hot summer day. Kids also seem to have lost interest in climbing trees.

A lot of things have changed and it makes me sad.

These days, kids pursue summer activities offered in malls, like dancing, theater, singing, Taekwondo, etc. If the family can afford it, they travel around the country or go abroad.

I really wish we could go back and give our kids a summer experience outside the glass and concrete settings that they have grown attached to. How great it would be if they could spend more time outdoors, running in wide-open fields or walking through forests and swimming in lakes, or combing beaches without being self-conscious about being fashionable.

But who am I kidding? The summers of my childhood have long passed and will never come back. But then, the spirit of eternal summer beckons, as it always has. As the writer Oriana Green wrote, “I am Summer, come to lure you away from your computer… come dance on my fresh grass, dig your toes into my beaches.”

Come, children, let us frolic in the sun. And please leave your gadgets behind.

* * *
jim camera
I am offering my first Basic Photography Class this summer.

When: March 19 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Varsity Hills, QC

Cost: P4,000 (VAT inclusive)

Please call Ollie at 0916-8554303 for reservations and all queries.

You must have a DSLR camera.

The importance of small things

The importance of small things
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 6, 2016

I do not mean to be morbid, but there isn’t a day that passes when I do not think of death. Lots of musicians I idolize have recently passed on. Some friends much younger than me have died recently. My generation has started marching towards the sunset. It won’t be long before we speed up the pace and we all get there.

I am still healthy. I have no serious illnesses. My numbers are very good, in fact. My doctors are proud of me. I do a lot of walking and I work out in the gym. I do not overeat. Neither do I deprive myself of rich good food. I never worry about weight gain. I simply do not gain weight no matter how much I eat. It is probably due to my genes. I barely have a tummy. I can do 60 push-ups straight and I can manage 19 pull-ups.

But I also notice that my body does not react as quickly as it used to. I am not as agile. My hands can’t touch each other when I try to reach them behind my back. I have occasional aches and pains that seem to stay longer when they appear. I need to nap every afternoon before dinner.

I try to guess how many more years I have where I will still be strong enough to do what I want to do. I figure I would be happy with 15 more years before I slow down and can no longer travel or just take off on my own anymore. That’s OK. I would be

I feel more than ever that I have a mission. It is an urgency that comes with age.

These days, I am always thinking of what else I want to do. I know I want to do a lot more music. I want to do maybe six more albums. I also want to start writing books again. I have written four books but I feel I should do 11 to 15 more if I want to be considered a real writer.

I also want to travel more here at home and abroad. I have always had wanderlust and I do not think I will lose it anytime soon.

When I look around the world, I feel depressed and pessimistic on some days, and joyful and optimistic on other days. The yin says I should give up, but the yang says there is much I can do to shape it in the image and likeness of how I understand compassion and goodness to be.

When I was much younger, I thought what were important were big, dramatic steps that would solve the problems of the world. We fought a dictatorship that brought our country to a different and better direction. I made songs with my group, the APO Hiking Society that became hugely popular. We were one of the leaders of the OPM movement. We performed for huge crowds in many parts of the world. I liked living a large life.

Because of the scale of the life I was living, I often missed out on opportunities to do small but meaningful actions. I glossed over many things I could have paid more attention to that were equally important. The folly of youth, and my own ego blinded me to the value of small things, giving them less importance.

Time has passed. I am no longer young. A new world has emerged. I am happy to have settled quite well into the smaller life I live now. These days, I am a teacher of 15 students in a songwriting class at the Ateneo de Manila University. I write a weekly column for a major daily. I give small talks here and there, and I do a few solo concerts, and occasionally with Boboy Garrovillo, one of my buddies in APO. I am also still politically involved.

I now I touch fewer people’s lives and in smaller ways. I am comfortable helping when I can to improve little situations or move things forward. I am happy when I open discussions that lead people to adopt a wider perspective.

I’ve always believed I live a charmed life. For many years I thought that it had everything to do with the scale of it. But as I grew older and learned to pay more attention to the small things, I realized that the ‘largeness of life’ came not from what I have encountered and experienced in the outside world, but how much I actually and consciously took in.

It is not about the size of the concert crowds, the popularity, the wealth, or even how many people whose lives I touched, even superficially. It is not the physical size of the universe I live in. It is more about how much and how often I pay attention that matters.

In the end, paying attention is what is leading me to what I should be doing. And what we do consciously however small, what we love and spend time on is what life is all about.