The ebb and flow of passion

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 20, 2017 – 12:00am

There are interests and hobbies we adopt in life at some point and there are those we let go of. I am talking of activities we do with passion and commitment. We spend years doing them until we tire of them. We stop devoting time and effort and eventually abandon them.

Sometimes, we leave them but only temporarily.

I used to love diving. I would be in Anilao almost every weekend to enjoy its many dive spots. I would also go diving in different places around the Philippines. I have gone to Tubataha twice. I was so adept at the sport that I had taken and passed all the tests to be an advanced diver and could have become a dive master if I had wanted to. I opted not to because I did not want the responsibility of taking care of others. I just wanted to enjoy diving with my buddies.

I had three regular diving buddies. One of them had to stop because of back problems. My closest dive buddy, Redford White, eventually gave in to his wife’s wishes for him to stop diving. She was always worried every time we went to Anilao. About six years ago Redford had cancer and died a year later. That hit me hard.

I have done only three dives in almost five years. I still have my gear but I have not gone underwater for a long time. I am not closing the door to it but I have no immediate plans to pick it up again. Maybe I need to meet new people to dive with if I wish to go back to it with the same passion.

For almost 10 years I was totally absorbed with the writings of Ken Wilber. I read every book he wrote. I thought he was one of the most brilliant people in the world. I still do. He speaks about transcendent experiences and states of the mind. He talks about enlightenment and Zen. He is not an easy read but I tried to understand everything he wrote by rereading the difficult passages many times. I even had his audiotapes and I would watch his videos on YouTube. During those years, I felt that my understanding of myself, reality and the world had broadened immensely.

During the past two years, I have sort of slowed down on my reading of his works. I know it is temporary. I still love Ken Wilber. He is still a major intellectual force in my life. I will get back to reading him maybe next year. Right now, I spend too much time on social media and am hardly reading any books.

I have been playing the guitar since I was 11 years old. The guitar was the instrument I adopted to express all the music I have inside me. I learned everything I know about music mostly through the guitar. I have spent a great deal of my life playing it. My love for guitar and music has given me a career and a good life.

There was a time when I could claim I was a very good guitar player. But not right now. During the past seven years, I have not spent time playing it the way I used to. In fact, there would be months when I would not touch it at all.

I used to have a decent layer of hardened skin (calluses) at the tip of my fingers because I played so much. They have largely disappeared. My fingers hurt easily now without them when I play.

Lately I have picked up my guitar again but not yet at the same level of passion I once did. But I have decided to get back to it and play every day. One of the reasons I lost interest in playing was because I have been singing with a live backup band for decades. I lost the need to play guitar. I only do now when I am writing songs. I also feel that today’s music just does not excite me the way the older music did. I am hardly inspired to learn new songs. But I have promised to keep playing and learning and to do more shows where I accompany myself with my guitar.

In school, I never indulged in any sport. In fact I avoided sports. I only began to be athletic in my mid 30s. I started going to the gym, and also took up some jogging and biking. As a jogger, I was quite devoted. I would do low-impact jogging three times a week. I wanted to build up endurance and stamina. At my peak, I could run 15 kilometers non-stop. But some 10 years back, I stopped jogging completely. I was worried that the continuous pounding on the pavement may destroy the remaining cartilage I have left in my leg joints. I replaced jogging with long brisk walking. I’ve been doing that for some years now.

As a biker, I was quite fanatical. I had an expensive racer bicycle. I had the proper clothes and gear including biking shoes that locked on to the pedals. I even joined a bike activity to Tagaytay which I finished in below four hours which was the cut-off time. I biked quite a lot in those days.

I’ve been biking on and off for more than two decades now. I’ve always enjoyed it. About six years ago however, I abruptly stopped.

I had an accident with an electric bike given to me as a gift by a sponsor after a concert. When it was delivered to my home, I gave it a try around the neighborhood just to check if it was in good working condition. I was without a helmet and had planned on buying one the next day. On my way back home, I was going 50 KPH and suddenly braked before reaching a hump. When I did, I flew off the bike landing on the pavement with the right side of my face hitting the road hump.

After a major operation that lasted seven hours and left me with pieces of titanium to reconstruct my cheekbone and left eye socket, I vowed never to bike again. I was physically and emotionally traumatized. It took months for my eye to look normal and years to heal. My electric bike is still at home and has not been touched since.

About two weeks ago, I saw a bike shop in my neighborhood. I went inside just to look around. Before I knew it I was inquiring how much a simple mountain bike would cost. By the time I left the shop, I had bought two bikes, one for my grandchild Ananda and one for me.

When I tried biking again for the first time in six years, my heart was pounding with both excitement and fear. I was in full concentration. The bike wobbled during the first few meters as I hit the pedal. I guess I was still too tentative. Soon I was going slowly but surely. I felt that familiar wind on my face that I used to enjoy before. It felt familiar and wonderful.

I am glad I have picked up biking again. It was something I had always enjoyed. I felt I had conquered a major fear and had overcome a trauma.

At my age now, I would still like to do a few more dives, walk and bike on a few trails with my camera, and do the Compostela pilgrimage. I still want to spend time in an ashram and write a few books. I will also show up more consistently and continue my meditation practice. I also want to take up a new language and travel extensively.

I think I still have enough passion and strength to do all these and a few more dreams. After all, passion begets more passion. If I stop, I may as well retire from life itself.