How to love your enemy

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I am not really sure if it is a poem. You can call it anything you want. But this really hit me.
Artwork by David Mihaly

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – June 24, 2018 – 12:00am
I thought that visiting some of my favorite sites on the net might be a good way to be inspired to write my column this week. I remember saving a screenshot of a page I had encountered on the net years ago. When I reopened it last night, I was again struck by it.

I am not really sure if it is a poem. You can call it anything you want. But this really hit me.

It talks about love, especially how to love your enemies. I like poems, quotes, stories, passages and essays that deal with the harder issues of life. They make me feel more inspired to expand my understanding of the human condition.

For sure, all of us have a few people we secretly wish ill-will on. We disdain and ridicule them. We hate them because of what they had done to us. They have become targets of our hate. We see them as lower than us. These are people we know who want to hurt us or may have actually done so. They have insulted threatened and humiliated us. And often, we dream of the day when karma will bring us face to face with them and we will have the upper hand and we can administer personal revenge in the name of justice.
When I read this, I felt that it cut beautifully into my heart. I thought I should share it with you my readers. Read on.

Another way that you love your enemy is this:

When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy,

that is the time which you must not do it.

There will come a time, in many instances,

when the person who hates you most,

the person who has misused you most,
the person who has gossiped about you most,

the person who has spread false rumors about you most,

there will come a time when

you will have an opportunity to defeat that person.

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Artwork by Richard Day

It might be in terms of a recommendation for a job;

it might be in terms of helping that person

to make some move in life.

That’s the time you must do it.

That is the meaning of love.

In the final analysis,

love is not this sentimental something that we talk about.

It’s not merely an emotional something.

Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men.

It is the refusal to defeat any individual.

When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power,

you seek only to defeat evil systems.

Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love,

but you seek to defeat the system.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote this. It is a testament to how evolved a man he actually was. Amid all the hatred, discrimination and injustice that surrounded him practically all his life, he had the kindness of heart and the wisdom to not just write something so beautiful like this but to actually live it.

It makes me want to kneel in awe. How can strong people not fight back and do revenge or justice? And yet, he tells us not to. Nelson Mandela was also able to overcome his painful past which was full of injustice and racism. He suffered a lot. But he needed to learn this to lead a racially polarized nation. How did he do it? I don’t know but it takes extraordinary character to be able to rise above personal feelings.

I hope someday when I meet the people I loathe and wish ill will on, I can summon the better of me to be more loving.

It doesn’t count too much when we only love those who love us. That is so easy to do. The real evolved human beings must rise above personal feelings to be able to dispense love to their tormentors because that is actually what they need. This is what it means to love; it means learning to love the unlovable, the ugly and respect even the despicable ones in our midst.

Surely karma will kick in at some point. And that is what we call divine justice, and we hope it really happens to those who have hurt us. But at the same time, we also need a greater consciousness and compassion to stop thinking like this. Let karma do what it must without us having to relish their defeat. Otherwise, we as humans will remain stuck in this cycle of hate forever.

Are you ready? How many of us can say yes right now?

As for me, I am open to the concept. It sounds good and right. But to actually practice it, I need to evolve a lot more.


Why being a dad is like shaving

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Dad’s the word: Author Jim Paredes with (from left) Ala, Mio, wife Lydia, Erica, and granddaughter Ananda

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – June 17, 2018 – 12:00am

I have been a father for 39 years now. Let me tell you, it has been quite a ride.

Being a dad is a multi-faceted job. From the time they are newly born up to age three is a very important phase because that’s when kids are most physically vulnerable. You pretty much do primitive nanny work. I do not belittle this. The work is important and crucial. You help clean them up. You rock them to sleep when mama is too tired. You make formula milk, or feed them breast milk from a bottle. You check once in a while if they are still breathing. You take turns with Mama in taking care of them.

You also make sure they are physically safe from insects or from airborne sicknesses. You make sure they are alive and healthy. You buy food, diapers, medicines, clothes, bibs, tiny shoes that they outgrow very quickly. You bring them to the doctor for their inoculations. All these, and much more. The payback for all the exhaustion and sleepless nights you spend taking care of them is when you see them smile, turn around by themselves, chuckle, crawl, stand, walk, run, and learn other physical skills.

My three kids started pre-school when they were three years old. They were active, curious kids who were always looking for things to do and learn. I personally taught them to read and write, and do math. Throughout grade school to college, they learned their academics quite easily, for the most part.
All that seemed like many decades ago. My daughter Erica is now 39 and has a 14-yearold daughter. Ala is 35 years old, wife to John Buencamino and is a first-time mother to Zadie. Mio is single, a hard-working man who will be turning 30 this September.

Some 13 years, ago, we moved to Australia. Since then they have learned to become very independent. They all earn their own money and pretty much live their own lives.

The three of them all get along easily, often beautifully, although there are times when they disagree and even have shouting matches. That’s normal. I am glad that, somehow, they are able to fix things.

One of the things Lydia and I had impressed upon them from the start is the sense of belonging to this family. They are close to each other and to us, their parents. Throughout their growing years, we constantly told them to look after each other. And thank God they do watch out for each other. When my eldest Erica went through her depression, we were all available and ready to talk or be there if she wanted to open up to us. I am always happy when Erica takes on her ate role and gives advice to her younger sibs. She can be very reassuring to younger sister when Ala has questions about her baby Zadie’s health, eating and sleeping habits, etc. Ala invites Mio to lunches and dinners at her place just to see how he is doing. Mio can be very protective of his sisters, and delights in being a good uncle to their children.
While they have their own secrets, our kids are pretty transparent and upfront when they express themselves to each other. When one of them goes through a breakup, the other two are there for some emotional support.

Our kids often talk to Lydia and me about their lives, their issues with their partners, their dreams and a host of other things. They like to run their plans by us to hear our comments or seek advice. We always lend a listening ear. I am always happy to know where they are at every moment of their life stages.

Erica is now living in Paris with her daughter Ananda. In a few years, my grandchild will probably be very European in her ways.

Ala and Mio have been living in Australia for sometime now. They almost think, talk and act like Aussies. They know their place in this new country. They work hard and I’m pretty sure they, too, will come up in the world. They are great, responsible and reliable adults.

When they ask for fatherly advice, I listen and readily give them my thoughts on the matter, although I do not expect them to follow everything I say. They know that. They must follow their own paths. If they want help, I will certainly be there. I trust they will decide what is best for them. If they suffer pain, I know they will recover.

I remember the time I was in my mid to late thirties. I felt that life was waiting for me to decide what I wanted to be. I felt fearful and challenged at the same time. I was full of doubts about my capabilities. But I began to notice that when I tried hard enough, I would often get somewhere close to achieving what I wanted. Sometimes, I even exceeded my own expectations. As a parent, I feel that they are in this stage now and are discovering their true capabilities.

I have written two songs for my kids. One is Batang-bata ka pa. The other is called, Live Your Own Life. In both songs I mentioned that they will have to learn and discover their own truth. Here’s a passage from Live Your Own Life:

Don’t take my word or anyone else’s

What’s right for me may not be right for you

I have my own dreams. I live my own story

And someday soon you’ll be living yours, too.

So… Enjoy your own joys.

Gain from your own pain

Dream your own dreams

Dance to your own song

It’s the only way to go

It’s the only road you’ll ever know.

Live your own life (feel it so you know it’s real).

Hold on to your own truth (live life without any fear)

Decide your own fate (with bated breath the world awaits)

Make your own mark (All you gotta do is start)

Everything you need is inside of you

You’re the fire and breath of your own soul..

I knew that when I became a dad that there wouldn’t be a day that would pass when I would not think of my children. Although they are grown-up now, they are still in my thoughts daily. I can’t help it. That’s what being a father is like.

As parents, it is true that we raise our kids in our own image and likeness. We only know what we know and where we come from. We do our best. Hopefully, our own parents raised us well.

Now that they are adults, I delight in watching them become who they are as they create and recreate themselves.

No matter how much I try to detach from them, it seems impossible. I love them too much and so the caring and concern will never stop even when I don’t express these daily to them. I quote writer Reed Markham, who said, “Being a great father is like shaving. No matter how good you shaved today, you have to do it again tomorrow.”

Your children may outgrow you, but you will never outgrow being their father.


…And miles to go before i sleep

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – June 10, 2018 – 12:00am

I have been taking stock of my physical, mental, psychological, artistic and spiritual health lateIy.

I have been paying attention to my body and all its aches and pains and its new gains since I’ve been going to the gym. A few years ago, I also started eating moderately and more sensibly, and have generally been taking care of myself.

I have been sleeping well lately, around seven hours a night and a few naps at different times of the day. I still have bad nights sometimes where I get less sleep because I wake up and can’t get back to sleep. But that is rare.

I go to the gym two to four times a week. I do a lot of stomach crunches of different types — around 500 reps each visit. I do 3:15 minutes of planking followed by 60 pushups and 13 pull-ups. I work out with jump ropes and a few weights as part of my routine.
I would say my gym activity is a light one. What I am aiming for is to get better body definition and a few cuts around my arms, chest and stomach. I also like getting that endorphin high and that feeling of well-being which exercise brings. I also walk to and from the gym which is about a 26-minute walk. Sometimes, I walk further inside the ADMU campus near the gym for an hour.

Mentally, I try to stay alert. I like to read a lot and still like to learn new things. I continue to write a weekly column. Quite often, though, it happens that I forget people’s names and can’t remember certain circumstances when I met them. I notice memory lapses. However, my innate curiosity about everything continues. I also still teach at the Ateneo de Manila University. Teaching young people is as much a learning experience for me as it is for them. It challenges not just my mental skills but my overall ability to pay attention. I am also thinking of taking up a new language.

Psychologically, I feel more or less balanced. Despite the times, I can easily find calmness when I need to. I am generally okay. I am less bothered now by things that used to bother me a lot when I was younger. I can watch my mind processing information and can flag most of my own biases. But best of all, I may even say I am capable of generating my own inspiration or happiness. I like being by myself. I like myself most of the time.
Spiritually, I am still dialoguing with the Universe and trying to ask questions about life. Maybe this will never stop. I talk to God the way I understand God to be. Yes, I hear answers. I try to have a Zen take or understanding of everything. It makes me calm. Sometimes, I become more compassionate. The state of the world and our nation has not dampened my optimism or hope. I am still up to the challenge to change things for the better. The contemplative in me is still there although perhaps I should cultivate it some more by going back to daily meditation.

Artistically, I feel freer than ever to think and do what I want. I have lately picked up the guitar again and started learning new songs and chords. I can write songs easier. I do not fret about whether people will like them or not. I do what I like. I do not need constant reassurance from an audience. I can also be more focused if I have to be. More easily, I am able to synthesize my thoughts and feelings and shape them as presentable musical or literary pieces.

My interest in photography continues although I should be shooting more. I should also do more workshops like I used to.

In short, I feel more good than bad, overall.

I know I am getting older. My hair is thinning. My hearing has deteriorated a bit. Sometimes, I get sudden joint pain, but this disappears just as quickly. I am still working on getting even just a shadow of abs on my stomach. I refuse to accept that this goal may be a losing battle at this point, and yes, it will be difficult to achieve.

The first thing my Zen teacher told me to meditate on some 16 years ago was the phrase, “Every day is a good day.” I mostly believe in this. Every day brings blessings. When it is not a good day, it’s probably because I unconsciously decided it wouldn’t be one.

For this phrase to be true in your life, you must be able to practice self-acceptance on a daily basis. With aging comes diminishing abilities. You will never gain back a 30-year-old body. The past is gone forever. That’s life. But if you can accept that how you are today is the best you can be right now, you will probably congratulate yourself. This is not mind’s play. This is the truth. You may have been more productive, healthier, better when you were younger. You were great then. But you are also great now.

Every day, we are great and perfect.

I will be 67 soon. Some people think that is already a ripe old age. Sometimes, the world can make you feel like that. Some people are retired at this age. I don’t think I will ever retire unless my body makes it impossible for me to move and do things. Maybe I can’t picture retirement because I never had a 9 to 5 job. I did what I wanted and got paid for it. How can I retire from things I love doing?

One of my favorite lines in poetry is from Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” It goes,

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.

While it is not my choice to decide when I will die, I still want to do many other things while I can before I go into the lovely dark and deep woods.


Death of a classmate

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – June 3, 2018 – 12:00am

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Joey, you lived a good life. You were a good person. Your classmates stand proudly and applaud at the idea that you have not just done your mission but have also become one with God.

The message I saw on Viber a few mornings ago was a rude awakening. Our classmate Jose Biglete Zuñiga had suddenly passed on. Everyone in our class was shocked. We still are. We haven’t stopped talking about Joey’s demise since.

Joey Zuñiga seemed healthy and strong. In fact, he was one those classmates who still looked very youthful. His gait was that of a young man. To me, he did not look any different from 45 years ago when we finished college. He did not even have white hair. You had to look hard to find any wrinkles on his face. Classmates say he jogged every morning. He looked fit. He did not seem to have any of the physical pains many of us in class are already feeling due to the onset of old age. During class parties he was one of those who danced a lot.

And then came the terrible news that he had suddenly died. Soon after the announcement, we learned that he had had cancer of the lymphatic nodes a few years back. He underwent chemotherapy and it seemed he had conquered it. Apparently, it made a vicious comeback. He had kept the news about his condition to himself mostly. Except for his family and a few classmates, no one knew.

Hearing of someone dying, a relative, a classmate, or anyone we know and have had pleasant interactions with is always devastating. But for our class, it was more than that. We are all going into our late 60s and it is beginning to really dawn on us that time is fleeting fast as we march towards our sunset years. This reminder seemed especially cruel to hear. Many of my classmates already have health issues. Some are moderate while some need more medical attention.
Even for those who are still fit and healthy and who exercise regularly, the news of Joey suddenly dying hit hard. It can happen anytime, to any of us. And yet, no matter how often we are reminded, the reality of death is so shocking and abhorrent that it shakes us every time someone dies.

Prior to hearing about Joey’s death, the topic in our viber discussion thread was death itself. Before that, it was religion, the meaning of life, God, etc. The death of our dear classmate made me think about my own life and how tenuous and fragile it actually is. I am sure everyone had the same thought.

A lot of us posted about our last interaction with him. The last three times I saw him, he asked how I saw the political landscape. He seemed worried and upset. He was close to angry at how things were unraveling. After the conversations, he cautioned me to take care of myself since I can be very vocal about things. “Ingat, pare,” he said to me each time.
Our Viber group has been a beehive lately. Many have been sharing their feelings, their grief. Names of classmates who had passed on before have been reposted several times. We remember them with fondness. We still feel their loss in our lives.

I sense that we have mostly been showing up on Viber not just to express our shock at Joey’s death but also to comfort each other. There is genuine concern, fondness among our classmates. Our friendships are decades old. The bonding and camaraderie are wonderful and healing. Thanks to technology, even those who have migrated to other parts of the world are brought into the conversation.

My eldest brother Jesse, who is 15 years ahead of me, has been attending wakes more often these days. The death count is expected to increase more frequently. Their class is much older and the latest census shows that 72 of his classmates have passed on and 72 remain.

While our class is still in a more optimistic situation, I know we will also get there.

Captain Hook in the movie Pan by Spielberg called death “the final adventure.” No one knows what is out there. And yet, we will all go though it.

We are suffering and grieving the death of Joey right now. Death is indeed a thief in the night. But perhaps its sting may really be overrated.

Maybe we might even be completely wrong about death. I don’t know. But since no one really knows anything about it firsthand, I am suggesting a coping way to look at death. It is this: Joey is finally free from all physical, emotional and psychological suffering and pain. His mission on earth has ended. He now rests eternally.

And let me push the envelope a bit more. Could it be possible that the day we die may actually be the happiest day of our lives? Why, you may ask?

Well, why not? For those who have faith, it has to be THE event of events. It has to be that since the whole search is over and we finally meet our loving God and experience unconditional love, and get to answer all of life’s greatest mysteries and questions.

If this is indeed true (and personally I believe it is), then maybe we should mourn less and instead honor the journey of each soul that leaves the earthly plane and joins eternity. We celebrate it the way we do with every passage in life.

Joey, you lived a good life. You were a good person. We, your earthly classmates, stand proudly and applaud the idea that you have not just done your mission but have also become one with God. That is the greatest thing we actually all strive for.

‘Til we meet again, Joey. And I wish the same for all who have gone before, and for all of us who will surely follow. The heavenly reunion that awaits will be the happiest one and will have complete attendance.