Why Indeed

Possibly the most famous admonition associated with Saint Pio is: “Pray, hope and don’t worry. Worry is useless.” In this day and age of dizzying changes and transformations happening every nanosecond, it is one admonition we who live in the 21st century would do well to take seriously. 9-11, globalization, climate change, digitization, drug wars, Brexit, rationalization, financial meltdown,  Syria, ISIS, Greece…The list is endless. As the classic rocker Don Henley would put it: “In a New York minute, everything can change…” To be sure, given all these,  it is very easy to intellectualize Saint Pio’s counsel.  I propose though that unless and until you are forced into what some existential philosophers call limit situations, you would never fully appreciate what he was trying to drive at when he offered the above advice.

I must say I’ve been blessed to find myself in such a situation a couple of times. It is possible that all this is borne of the challenges associated with entering midlife. Then again, it is equally possible that this is a matter of selective perception – seeing what we want to see in what are objectively random events in one’s life.  Having said that, I’ve been thankfully  blessed to come across some friends who unwittingly offered what to me appears to be the biblical premises of Saint Pio’s reminder.

The first one is from Jeremiah 29:11 and I quote: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” While the original context of this passage was the message of hope and assurance that God wanted to bless the Jewish people with as they had to stay as exiles in Babylon for 70 years, I believe it is not stretching the meaning of the passage that much if we are to relate it to our individual and collective state in the face of various adversities.  More to the point, it easily grounds  the first component of Adversity Quotient which the researcher Dr. Paul Stoltz refers to as control or how one perceives an adversity as either actionable or beyond hope.  One can either look at the problem as a permanent state from which there is no escape  or as a temporary detour from which one could  springboard to better things. Jeremiah 29:11 underpins the latter.

The second one I have been blessed to be gently reminded of is from Matthew 6:26-34  and it goes: “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which if you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  Therefore, do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear? For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father know that you need all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”  Again, while these words were addressed to the crowd that gathered around Jesus during his famous Sermon on the Mount 2,000 years ago, its explanatory power resonates loud and clear  in the 21st century regardless of one’s social, economic and political situation. For indeed, just like that, as they say, you could lose it all. Just like that, one’s life could unceremoniously end. Just like that, a relationship could end. Just like that, the unexpected could happen.

I suggest that it is precisely in the context of these three passages that we could fully appreciate the other half of Saint Pio’s admonition which we don’t often hear:  “God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”  With these three passages written hundreds of years apart, one can more confidently sing along to Annie’s “Tomorrow” and play the air guitar to Bamboo’s “Umagang Kay Ganda.” Why worry indeed!

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When Less is More

Tempus Fugit. Time flies especially if you’re having fun.

It’s practically been 7 years since I’ve been bitten by the analog bug. Thanks to a group of friendly analog enthusiasts whom I met by way of Analog 101 and Wired State.  I can still remember how magical the whole experience was of listening to the vinyl versions of iconic classic rock albums that accompanied my growing up years – from U2’s Joshua Tree to Jackson Browne’s Lives in the Balance, from Yes’s 90125 to the Eagles’ Hotel California, from Suzanne Vega’s Solitude Standing to the Best of Carly Simon. It was the proverbial superb sound as well as the larger than life album art of analog recordings that possessed and compelled   me to convert my sizable CD library into its analog counterpart. So you can imagine how alien the thought of slowing down and taking things easy was to a vinyl convert like myself 7 years ago.  That was the key message I took home with me from listening to a mild-mannered gentleman whose avatar name in Wired State was Pican. Pete Pican, I think, was his full name. He had an easy air about him and he could have easily been my long lost favorite uncle judging by the way he held court as he dispensed hard-earned lessons in record collecting.  At the time that I met him, he had thousands of analog recordings in his library compared to my collection of over a dozen albums I bought mostly from Bebop Records at the Makati Square.  I remember him pointing out how this hobby could prove to be a  hard habit to break  as it promises countless hours of bliss from stumbling  onto your hard to find album to sitting down and listening from that sweet spot in your listening room. Better this than having a mistress, he would explain to his wife.  Better this than disappearing into the night and burning money in night clubs. Better this than gambling. At least, your wife knows where you are.

Having said this, he also  shares how he has come to a point in his record collecting where he would rather listen to a handful of records instead of continually amassing more and more. In the end, he says, even if you only have 365 records which he did not at that time, you won’t even be able to listen to all of them even if you target to play one album back to back per day. In fact, that is not what usually happens. What usually happens is that you have a handful of favorite albums which comparatively enjoy more playing time compared to the rest of your collection.  This, of course, is not a new principle. Pareto Principle is how we refer to the 20% that produces the 80% of your analog bliss. It’s the same as how we use the shirts and pants that pack our closets.  And that is why he says at that time that it makes perfect sense to give away or if you will, endorse the rest of his albums to those whom he knows would take care of them either by selling them or even better, by giving them away.  You won’t be able to take them away with you anyway.  A couple of months after that, we were saddened to learn of his passing.

My record collection is nearing the one thousand mark and I must say that now more than ever, his wise reminder resonates strongly with me today. Which is why I have been experiencing my own version of diminishing returns. The drive to be a completist of artist discographies has lost its appeal to me. Rather than collect all of Robert Palmer’s albums, I’d much rather have Addictions Vol 1 in my collection. In lieu of searching for all of Steve Winwood’s studio albums, I’d be happier with his Chronicles compilation.

To be sure, Pican’s wise insight is reminiscent of variations of the same message delivered to me by well-meaning messengers  in the course of my life.

There is the New Testament, of course, where no less than Jesus Christ himself admonishes us that “what does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world but loses his soul in the end.” There is the financial management seminar I once attended where I learned that the healthiest and most productive attitude we should aspire to develop towards money is not the resolve for more  but rather the vocation to be stewards of God’s talents so that we may be able to bless others with it.  And then there is Gabriel Marcel’s Being and Having in which the great existentialist philosopher talks about the tragedy of reducing being to having when having is simply an aspect of being. To be is not reducible to have.

Indeed, we are all just passing through. Naked we came into this world. Naked we shall leave this earth. What matters most is how we lived rather than how we accumulated. It’s a great thought to reflect on as we start the new year.

 

Why This Blog?

My wife who is also my chief blog editor shared this nice quote with me last night: “If you lose your why, you lose your way.” The first assignment of Blogging101 is an apt opportunity to revisit the why of this blog. In the About section of  this blog I initially  wrote that “Notes From My Music Room” (NFMMR) is meant to document my reflections on books, movies and music. This has since included running – a sport that is celebrated both implicitly and explicitly in books, movies and music.

Notwithstanding the expansion of my blog’s focal points, the above preamble to NFMMR still holds true to this day. What I did not articulate then was what compelled me to invest in a WordPress-powered blog. I owe it all to individuals I accidentally met who wittingly or unwittingly encouraged me to write and improve and then write some more.  It is unfortunate that with the creation of one’s blog comes “the pressure” to advertise to create blog traffic.  While such is a nice thing to enjoy, one must not lose sight of what is ultimately essential and primary – to improve, to develop and to grow.

Thank you, WordPress for this opportunity.

Mula Kay Dancel Patungo Kay Marcel

“Lahat ng mga ilog ay humuhugos sa dagat, gayon ma’y hindi napupuno ang dagat; sa dakong hinuhugusan ng mga ilog, doon din nagsisihugos uli ang mga yaon.” 

-Eclesiastes 1:7

Dalawang marahil ay matatawag na ding biyaya ang magkasunod kong nasumpungan nitong Disyembre. Ang una ay isang awit na sa ganda ng pagkakalikha ay dali-dali kong sinipra sa aking lumang gitara. Ang ikalawa ay isang pelikula na hanggang ngayon ay pinag-uusapan pa din ng maraming Pilipino.

Ang pamagat ng awit ay Bawat Daan at  A Second Chance ang pamagat ng pelikula.  Sa unang tingin ay maliwanag na wala silang kinalaman sa isa’t isa. Ang una ay ang “carrier single” at pamagat ng ikalawang “album” ng pamosong mang-aawit, kompositor at gitaristang si Ebe Dancel. Ang ikalawa ay may sariling “soundtrack” at di nito bahagi ang  Bawat Daan. Ngunit, kung pagmumunihan ay may mababanaagan tayong dalawang nibel ng kaugnayan  nila sa isa’t isa.

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Ang pelikulang A Second Chance ay tungkol sa unang pitong taon ng pag-aasawa nina Popoy (John Lloyd Cruz) at Basha (Bea Alonzo.) “Sequel” ito ng pelikulang One More Chance na uminog sa kanilang ligawan, paghihiwalayan at pagbabalikan. Simple at payak lang ang kwento ng A Second Chance at marahil ay napanood nyo na ang istorya nito sa ibang teleserye o pelikula. Gaya ng maraming nagpapakasal, masaya ang mga unang taon ng pagsasama nina Popoy at Basha. Matayog ang kanilang mga pangarap at matamis ang kanilang paglalambingan. At gaya ng istorya ng maraming nag-aasawa, sa pagdaan ng taon ay iba’t ibang pagsubok ang dumating sa buhay nila.

Ang dami at tindi ng mga pagsubok na dinaanan nila ay animo’y halaw sa mga testimonya na maririnig mo sa mga “marriage enrichment retreats” na binibigay ng iba’t ibang grupong simbahan mapa-Katoliko o mapa-Kristiyano. Nariyan ang pagtatalo dahil sa pera at pagkaguho ng mga pangarap at plano. Nariyan ang pangungumpara sa ibang mga nakasabayan nila at ang tukso ng pakikiapid upang takasan ang kasalukuyang realidad. Nariyan ang urong-sulong na tampuhan at ang pagdududa kung tama bang nagkabalikan pa. Ika nga ng isa kong kaibigan na tinanong ko ukol sa kanyang reaksyon sa pelikula: “napagod ako sa sineng yun.” Sina Popoy at Basha man ay napagod din sa dami ng kanilang mga bagahe sa isa’t isa. Pero gaya ng tinuturo sa mga “marriage retreats,” hanggang may isang nagpapakumbaba at may puwang ang pag-uusap sa loob ng relasyon,  walang unos o pagsubok na di pwedeng malagpasan. Ito, sa ganang akin, kasama ang husay sa pag-arte nina John Lloyd Cruz at Bea Alonzo sa direksyon ni Cathy Garcia Molina, ang dahilan ng tagumpay na kasalukuyan nitong inaani sa takilya.

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Sapol sa  titik at musika ng Bawat Daan ni Ebe Dancel ang saya at sigla ng isang taong natagpuan na ang kanyang mamahalin ng habambuhay, ang kanyang “raison d’etre,” ang inday ng kanyang buhay. Kung dati ay lutang at walang direksyon ang isang Popoy, salamat sa isang Basha, ngayon ay may “hinuhulugan” na ang buhay nya. Si Basha ang naging mistulang  “true north”  ni Popoy, at si Popoy kay Basha.

Kay tagal  nang lumulutang, walang pupuntahan, walang dahilan. Parang ulap na walang dalang ulan, kamang walang kumot at unan. Bihag ako ng pagtataka, may saysay ba ang paglalakbay? Nahanap din kita.”

Hindi matatawaran ang kahalagahan ng isang “true north” sa ating buhay. Ika nga ng pilosopong si Friedrich Nietzsche, “if you know your why, you can deal with any how.” Kung alam mo kung para kanino ka bumabangon, lahat ng paghihirap ay makakayanan. Kaya sa kabila ng sunod-sunod na naging dagok at pagsubok na dumalaw sa buhay nina Popoy at Basha, matapos ang pagtatalo at di pagkakaunawaan, matapos ang tampuhan at iyakan, sa bandang huli ay nagagawa nilang magdesisyon “patungo, pabalik sa yo.”

“Maligaw man at mawala, umikot man sa kawalan. Sa bawat kailan, sino’t saan, ikaw lamang ang kasagutan. Bawat kanan at kaliwa, kung timog  man o hilaga. Ang bawat daan ay patungo, pabalik sa yo.”

Sa kasamaang palad ay hindi parating kahawig ng wakas ng A Second Chance ang kinahihinatnan ng ibang mga relasyong mag-asawa na nahaharap sa unos at pagsubok. Maya’t maya ay may nababalitaan tayong ang dating masaya at nagmamahalang mag-asawa ay may kanya-kanyang buhay na ngayon. Sa mga “reunions” natin ay magugulat na lamang tayong mabalitaan na ang dating pinakasikat sa “batch” natin  pagdating sa pda (i.e., public display of affection) ay nagpa-“annul” na pala.

Sadya yatang lahat ng pagmamahal sa mundong ginagalawan natin ay parating bitin. Lahat ng mga minamahal at nagmamahal ay may kanya-kanyang pagkukulang. Bukod dito, lahat sila, tulad nina Popoy at Basha, ay nagbabago. Ang mga bagay na akala mo ay naroon noong simula ay wala pala. Ang mga bagay na talagang naroon ay matagal na palang naglaho. Kung ang sandigan ng iyong buhay ay nagbabago, kasabay nitong magbabago ang direksyon ng buhay mo. Malaki ang posibilidad na madiskarel ang buhay mo at mawala ka sa wisyo. Kaya ang mahalaga, ayon sa manunulat na si Stephen Covey, ay makapaghanap ng sandigang di nagbabago.

May pahapyaw na pagsang-ayon ang pelikulang A Second Chance sa papel ng hindi nagbabago sa paglago ng nagbabago. Kapansin-pansing ang naturang pelikula ay nagsisimula at nagwawakas sa loob ng kapilya at sa harap ng dambana. Hindi kaya ito isang tahimik na pag-amin na ang pagmamahal na alam natin, kahit gaano pa kasidhi sa simula, ay parating kulang at bitin? Na ang pagsasama ng mag-asawa kahit anong saya at enggrande pa sa araw ng kasal, ay hindi isang palagiang “choreographed production number” na naka-DVD? Hindi nga ba ito ang lohika ng pagharap ng magsing-irog sa dambana – ang pagpapakumbaba at paghingi ng biyaya mula sa Pag-ibig na parating siksik, liglig at nag-uumapaw para kasihan ang pag-ibig na parating kulang at bitin?

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Ang pagninilay ng pilosopong si Gabriel Marcel tungkol sa buod ng pag-asa ay magpapatotoo sa kahalagahan ng dambana at kapilya sa simula at wakas ng A Second Chance. Sa mga katagang “I hope in Thee for us” (“Umaasa ako sa Inyo para sa amin”) inilalarawan ni Marcel ang isang pag-asa na bubulaga sa yo sa sitwasyong walang kapag-a-pag-asa – isang pag-asa na walang matibay na pinanghahawakan para umasa pa. Para itong pag-asa ng isang ina na hindi alam kung buhay  o patay ang kanyang anak na napabalitang nawawala sa digmaan. Walang kasiguraduhan, walang katiyakan. Ang “nag-iisang tiyak sa isang libong duda” ni Marcel ay isang pag-asa, na sa kabila ng kawalan ng pag-asa, ay umaasa pa din sa Kanya. Sa sitwasyong mukhang walang ka pag-a-pag-asa, sa sitwasyong lugmok na lugmok ka na, doon masusumpungan ang pag-asa sa isang Ikaw na hindi kulang at hindi bitin. Isang Pag-asa na di inaasahang dumating sa dilim, sa isang madumi at masikip na sabsaban dalawang libong taon na ang nakararaan.

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Sa ikalawang nibel na ito, ang awit na Bawat Daan ni Ebe Dancel ay hindi lamang pagkilala kay Basha (kung ikaw si Popoy) o kay Popoy (kung Ikaw si Basha) bilang “dulo, gitna at simula.” Ito ay nagiging mistulang papuri at pag-amin na nakaugat sa pagmumuni ni San Agustin: “ang aming puso ay hindi mapapalagay hanggang di Ka namin natatagpuan.”

Sa pagkumpas ng iyong kamay, aking landas ginagabay. Nag-iisang tiyak sa isang libong duda, silong sa iyak at pagluluksa. Kung ang puso ko ay imamapa, Ikaw ang dulo, gitna’t simula. Nahanap din kita.”

Maligayang Pasko! image

Begin

“We must never stop from exploring and the end of all our exploring is to arrive where we began and know the place for the first time”

                                                                                                                                                            – T.S.Eliot

Drawing inspiration from Stephen R. Covey’s favorite concluding quote, I decided to create this blog site to document my humble attempts to articulate my reflections and insights on three interests I am passionate about: music, books and movies. To be sure, there are other areas of interest that I am currently pursuing as a beginner. There is not much to write about them at this time, however.

Thank you for visiting.