Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Path Less Travelled

Being a relatively fresh graduate with graduate school looming ahead and NGO work not quite having removed its loose threads from me, I am taking the slower road to success than most. However, it can also mean "biding my time," finding out what I really want to do, or even discovering myself as it is. In the capitalist world we've ensconced ourselves in, it is very easy to have our ideals and ethics topple by the wayside, to pursue higher-paying jobs and so on. But then..heck, I dunno, as much as it pays the bills and more, is it really what we believe in? Is that how we--how I--want to project myself? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Again, I am operating from an idealistic perspective. But then again, shouldn't we all shoot for the stars, even if at the back of our heads we know we might still end up falling? For nonetheless, doesn't it make the stars a whole lot closer?
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On Work by Kent Nerburn

I often hear people say, "I have to find myself." What they really mean is, I have to make myself." Life is an endlessly creative experience, and we are making ourselves every moment by every decision we make.

That is why the work you choose for yourself is so crucial to your sense of value and well-being. No matter how much you might believe that your work is nothing more than what you do to make money, your work makes you who you are, because it is where you put your time.

I remember several years ago when I was intent upon building my reputation as a sculptor. I took a job driving a cab, because, as I told people, "I want some job that I will never confuse with a profession." Yet within six months, I was talking like a cab driver, thinking like a cab driver, looking at the world through the eyes of a cab driver. My anecdotes came from my job, as did my observations about life. I became embroiled in the personalities and politics of the company for which I worked and developed the habits and rhythms of life that went along with my all-night driving shift. On the days when I did not drive and instead worked on my sculpture, I still carried the consciousness of a cab driver with me.

Whether I liked it or not, I was a cab driver.

This happens to anyone who takes a job. Even if you hate a job and keep a distance from it, you are defining yourself in opposition to the job by resisting it. By giving the job your time, you are giving it your consciousness. And it will, in turn, fill your life with the reality that it presents.

Many people ignore this fact. They choose a profession because it seems exciting, or because they can make a lot of money, or because it has some prestige in their minds. They commit themselves to their work, but slowly find themselves feeling restless and empty. The time they have to spend on their work begins to hang heavy on their hands, and soon they feel constricted and trapped.

They join the legions of humanity who Thoreau said lead lives of quiet desperation - unfulfilled, unhappy and uncertain of what to do.

Yet the lure of financial security and the fear of the unknown keep them from acting to change their lives, and their best energies are spent creating justifications for staying where they are or inventing activities outside of work that they hope will provide them with a sense of meaning.

But these efforts can never be totally successful. We are what we do, and the more we do it, the more we become it. The only way out is to change our lives or to change our expectations for our lives. And if we lower our expectations we are killing our dreams, and a man without dreams is already half dead.

So you need to choose your work carefully. You need to look beyond the external measurements of prestige and money and glamour to see what you will be doing on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute basis to see if that is how you want to spend your time. Time may not be the way you measure the value of your work, but it is the way you experience it.

What you need to do is think of work as "vocation." This word may seem stilted in its tone, but it has a wisdom within it. It comes from the Latin word for calling, which comes from the word for voice. In those meanings it touches on what work really should be. It should be something that calls to you as something you want to do, and it should be something that gives voice to who you are and what you want to say to the world.

So a true vocation calls to you to perform it and it allows your life to speak. This is very different from work, which is just an exchange of labor for money. It is even very different from a profession, which is an area of expertise you have been sanctioned to represent.

A vocation is something you feel compelled to do, or at least something that fills you with a sense of meaning. It is something you choose because of what it allows you to say with your life, not because of the money it pays you or the way it will make you appear to others. It is, above all else, something that lets you love.

When you find a vocation, embrace it with your whole heart. Few people are so lucky. They begin their search for work with an eye to the wrong prize, so when they win, they win something of little value. They gain money or prestige, but they lose their hearts. Eventually their days become nothing more than a commodity that they exchange for money, and they begin to shrivel and die.

I often think of a man I met on the streets of Cleveland. He was an assembly-line worker in an automobile plant. He said his work was so hateful that he could barely stand to get up in the morning. I asked him why he didn't quit. "I've only got thirteen more years to go to retirement," he answered. And he meant it. His life had so gotten away from him that he was willing to accept a thirteen-year death sentence for his spirit rather than give up the security it earned.

When I spoke with him I was about twenty. I was young and free; I didn't understand what he was saying at all. It seemed incomprehensible to me that a man could have become so defeated by life that he was willing to let his life die as he held it in his hands.

Now I understand too well. Lured by what had seemed like big money at the time, he had chosen a job that didn't offer him any inner satisfaction. He lived a good life, rolling from paycheck to paycheck and getting the car or the boat that he had always dreamed of having. Year by year he advanced, because businesses reward perseverance. His salary went up, his options for other types of employment went down, and he settled into a routine that financed his life. He married, bought a house, had children, and grew into middle age. The job that had seemed like freedom when he was young became a deadening routine. Year by year he began to hate it. It choked him, but he had no means of escape. He needed its money to live; no job he might change to would pay him as much as he was currently making. His fear for the health and security of his family kept him from breaking free into a world where all things were possible but no things were paid for, and so he gave in.

"I've only got thirteen more years to retirement" was a prisoner's way of counting the days until the job would release him and pay him for his freedom.

Most people's lives are a variation on that theme. So few take the time when they are young to explore the real meaning of the jobs they are taking or to consider the real implications of the occupations to which they are committing their lives.

Some have no choice. Without money, without training, with the pressures of life building around them, they choose the best alternative that offers itself. But many others just fail to see clearly. They chase false dreams, and fall into traps they could have avoided if they had listened more closely to their hearts when choosing their life's work.

But even if you listen closely to your heart, making the right choice is difficult. You can't really know what it is you want to do by thinking about it. You have to do it and see how it fits. You have to let the work take you over until it becomes you and you become it; then you have to decide whether to embrace it or abandon it. And few have the courage to abandon something that defines their security and prosperity.

Yet there is no reason why a person cannot have two, three or more careers in the course of a life. There is no reason why a person can't abandon a job that does not fit anymore and strike out into the unknown for something that lies closer to the heart. There is risk, there is loss, and there likely will be privation. If you have allowed your job to define your sense of self-worth, there may even be a crisis of identity. But no amount of security is worth the suffering of a life lived chained to a routine that has killed all your dreams.

You must never forget that to those who hire you, your labor is a commodity. You are paid because you provide a service that is useful. If the service you provide is no longer needed, it doesn't matter how honorable, how diligent, how committed you have been in your work. If what you can contribute is no longer needed, you are no longer needed and you will be let go. Even if you've committed your life to the job, you are, at heart, a part of the commercial exchange, and you are valuable only so long as you are a significant contributor to that commercial exchange. It is nothing personal; it's just the nature of economic transaction.

So it does not pay to tie yourself to a job that kills your love of life. The job will abandon you if it has to. You can abandon the job if you have to.

The man I met in Cleveland may have been laid off the year before he was due to retire. He may have lost his pension because of a legal detail he never knew existed. He may have died on the assembly line while waiting to put a bolt in a fender.

I once had a professor who dreamed of being a concert pianist. Fearing the possibility of failure, he went into academics where the work was secure and the money was predictable. One day, when I was talking to him about my unhappiness in my graduate studies, he walked over and sat down at his piano. He played a beautiful glisando and then, abruptly, stopped. "Do what is in your heart," he said. "I really only wanted to be a concert pianist. Now I spend every day wondering how good I might have been."

Don't let this be your epitaph at the end of your working life. Find out what it is that burns in your heart and do it. Choose a vocation, not a job, and you will be at peace. Take a job instead of finding a vocation, and eventually you will find yourself saying, "I've only got thirteen more years to retirement," or "I spend every day wondering how good I might have been."

We all owe ourselves better than that.

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So. I started grad school last Saturday, and my schedule is as follows:
0800-1100-Lit251 (Development of Fiction)--Mr. Danny Reyes
*1100-1200-LUNCH--preferably at Blissful Belly, traveled to by foot*
1200-1500-Lit202 (Literary Theory and Cultural Studies)--Dr. Lulu Reyes
1500-1800-Lit201 (Research...something)--Mr. Jonathan Chua

By Mr. Chua's class, I was nodding on and off. Ohmygod. By the end of the class, I think sheer will just forced me to walk to National Bookstore and Aeon Books.

*********************************

This past weekend, went on a shopping spree, ahehe. I swear, if I die one day, my greatest treasure will be my BOOKS! Saturday, I bought Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Flaubert's Madame Bovary at NBS, not to mention getting Spiegel's The Dreaded Comparison, Burton's Vive Le Vegan and Counihan's Food and Body..ish from an aunt in the US; Sunday, bought Edge's Yoga School Dropout, Zola's Germinal, Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Camus' The Stranger at Powerbooks; David's Goodbye, Chunky Rice, Robbins' Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis, Rashid's Design Your Life, Woolf's To the Lighthouse, and an unabridged Murasaki's Tale of Genji! Monday, I got Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and an abridged copy of Bulfinch's Mythology from Powerbooks, and Voltaire's Candide and Milton's Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained from Fully Booked. So YES, it truly has been booklove season *squeal* Aside from books, I also went on a Healthy Options rampage, buying Agave Nectar, Blackstrap Molasses, besides cereal, egg-free mayo, chocolate soy/almond milks, vegan sea vegetable and carrot(!) chips, organic, vegan Mint cream Oreo™-type cookies, as well as bought two reversible Gap pleaty skirts and two unique-ish (as usual) Paul Smith shirts(ON SALE!) last Sunday as well (besides all the books!), so more reasons to squeal and dance ;)

Yesterday, worked from home. Good thing, as I had an upset stomach spewing out...stuff. Bleh.

*need to lose 29 pounds* -->high school weight {HEADDESK} But I love my food...oh well.

Today...lunched with Migs at Oody's for the first time. And we are both extremely chatty, haha.

Danny's class on Thursday, so will be in AdMU again. Will be processing GA stuff by then, too. Blissful Belly for lunch, methinks.

FridayWednesday, because 'twas awkward enough and R said 'twas best--last day in PETA Asia Pacific :( Aw. Time to move on. But I'm hoping the friends I gained will be friends for life.

Monday, June 19, 2006

humdrum matters

How come the people you love most can also be the people you abhor most? Perhaps because they are so deeply ingrained into our feelings, our unconsciousness, because we've placed our TRUST in them. And trust is always a tricky, fragile thing.

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Watched the movie "Take the Lead" and "Munich" (finally!) several weeks ago.

On the topic of Munich
Personally, if comparing Munich to the Da Vinci Code, Munich deserves a higher censoring. Seriously. So the Da Vinci Code is all about the Magdalene theory, putting into doubt Christ's divinity. But wasn't he human and divine? Would the proposal of the Magdalene theory thus bring his humanity and divinity into sharper contrast and yet into deeper communion with humanity--we, who are so Other from Him?

Munich, on the other hand, deals with the Jewish take on Black September (no surprise, it being directed by Spielberg, an enth-generation Jew, himself). It is a bloody, vengeful and righteous film, but still beautiful. Rightly so--and for which it was vigorously protested to for a while by Jewish extremists, I believe. But this movie had a lot of violence, and extremist beliefs.

But perhaps both the Da Vinci Code and Munich had extremist beliefs to a certain point. However, I mainly believe it is more on a more openness to ideas than anything else. But as with all things, such "radical ideas" can be taken to the extreme. Hence the PG-13s and R-18s. But really: an R-18 for Da Vinci Code? That's like saying you don't trust kids nowadays to think for themselves. It's bad enough that our education system is declining (which I believe has to be a prime platform of any political candidate, and MUST be acted on); now we can't even give our kids a chance? Pfft.

And on the topic of Take the Lead
It was a great film, purely for the "movie experience." Not for cinematography, oh no, or plot, but just its message of equality through dance (Pierre Dulaine:"Do you like to dance?" Caitlin: "Yeah..." Pierre Dulaine: "Then you're meant to dance"). I especially liked what Pierre Dulaine (played by Antonio Banderas) said to the parents when his detention/ballroom dance class was to be abolished: that when a boy learns how to dance, he knows how to treat his female partner better, giving respect to her on the dance floor, and in the rest of life--affecting the way he treats all women. And that if a woman knows how she should be treated on a dance floor, she knows how she should be treated in the rest of life. Something like that. And it helps that the moves were hot ;)
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On to environmental issues, which I am quite concerned with, the CEAE will be holding a documentary fest, called Moonrise Filmfest. They are calling for Philippine documentaries; however, on the international scale, I was suggesting Earthlings, narrated by Joaquin Phoenix from the animal rights perspective. Then I also mentioned Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. I personally have Earthlings, but now I want An Inconvenient Truth, as well.

On to the issue relating to An Inconvenient Truth, my manager and I were talking, and this is how it was: (R=my manager; T=me)

R: It’s strange how for a fanatic misanthrope I can love animals to the extent that I do

T: I see how it is ironical to loving animals, but my Mom told me years ago that when she was growing up, she’d rather have dogs than children. So I understand that (however that runs contrary to the human-animal connection in studies) But what’s being a fanatical misanthrope got to do with the environment?

R: That I don’t care for the environment…if anything the worse the environment the better, cos more animals die :) thus fewer are subjected to cruelty at the hands of people. So no, don’t really care for organics, the environment and such (had an interesting conversation with an environmentalist in NZ about this).

T: Point made. It makes sense: the environment dies, the animals die, less animals live to suffer at the hands of man. But in a way, I believe in sustainability, recycling and all that. I really believe AR is an integral part of environmentalism, that it is a cog in the big wheel. Because silly na├»ve little me believes that if we care for the environment more, so will we care for animals more, too. And as much as people are still not that aware of environmental concerns, so is it with AR issues. Thus I believe they come hand in hand. But again, I believe in sustainability. As much as I support euthanasia to ease suffering, I do not want to kill a being if I don’t have to. Hence I believe in the earth’s conservation—for the animals and for people. I believe in a more compassionate world, and not the “compassionate” label capitalism has banked on (those m*therf*ckers that we tend to be at the mercy of). I’m just hoping I’ll experience part of it in my lifetime.

R: Ah well I’m more simplistic minded than that. I just want to alleviate animal suffering – ta da! Animals don’t care about being extinct.

T: True; point taken. :p But human conservationists and scientists do. Heh. In a way, AR is to a point about conservation. But then again, there can be the anarchist, misanthropic side, too :) About that conversation with a NZ person, was it like this too? ;)

R: AR is never about conservation. You’ll see most/ all ar activists hate conservationists.

Nah NZ boy was talking about honey and bees and organic farming and GE. Very smart boy but not into animals as much as he was the environment (he’s vegan though). Pity. In fact I wasn’t even part of the conversation but I had to interrupt because his idiocy was getting to me.

--never about conservation? Might I be in the wrong organization, then?
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Another thing of concern from another friend was GMA's take-no-prisoners stance on the NPA. Lately, GMA has truly been taking a stand against the NPA "rebels," for lack of a better term. And though my trainer-friend pointed out that this "insurgency problem" (again, for lack of a better term)has been ongoing since the Magsaysay era, post-WWII, and seems to have no end in sight, you never can be too certain, right? So I was thinking of just emigrating from here to the US. Why? Because I can, having been born there (by US law granting me citizenship). But that would mean leaving behind everything I've built my life around. As much as Buddhism believes in letting go, as well as Christianity...wow, man. That's just tough. But truy, it is something to think about. :-s GRE's, US PIN number (for the FAFSA), housing, moving, packing and all that DEFINITELY included.

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Was looking at Lucha Libre (due to office-related concerns), and while it's big in the US (maybe partially due to the huge Latin population), I heard it's only gaining ground here. I looked at some info here. Apparently, Jack Black and Jared Hess (yey: he's vegan!) made a movie adapting from Lucha Libre called Nacho Libre. Looks like something I'd like to watch, if even for fun.

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And a nummy, nutritional recipe to try because it's avocado season:

Quinoa Avocado Stuffing from Naughty Curry:

1 Tb pumpkin seeds or almond slivers
2 tsp oil
3/4 cup quinoa
1 ½ cups water or broth
3/4 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp maple syrup
½ cup coconut milk
1 avocado, cubed
spritz of lemon juice

Masala 1
1/8 tsp asafetida
½ tsp black mustard seeds
1/8 tsp black onion seeds

Masala 2
½ tsp cumin powder
2 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ginger powder

Dry roast the pumpkin seeds or almonds. Set aside.
Get out your medium skillet and heat the oil until it's sizzle-hot. Add Masala 1.
When the seeds are done popping, add quinoa and Masala 2. Saute for 1-2 minutes.
Add the water and salt and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer.
Uncover and turn off the heat. Add the coconut milk, pumpkin seeds or almonds, honey and avocado. Spritz on the lemon juice. Done.

And more Indian vegan goodness here!

The Phenomenology of Blood

I smell its coppery, metallic smell.
Mal--to my odor,
red red red
color of life coming, going
seeping in
seeping out.
I touch its viscosity
and yet it is liquid
run run run
awayalloveraround
body
system
tissue
heart

bearer, deliverer
taketh, bringeth away
of

life, life, life.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Da Vinci Schmavinci

At my mother's insistence, we watched the Da Vinci Code last Saturday, and I found a tongue-in-cheek review from the New Yorker here.

As for me, I took the movie at face value. And it wasn't bad-bad for a movie adaptation. But it was...flat. As much as I laud Sir Ian McKellen yet again for a stellar chameleon-like performance (you wouldn't suspect he was Gandalf or Magneto!), I was somewhat disappointed by Tom Hanks' performace (and what the HELL was with the hair?!). I agree with previous criticisms that this particular performance was quite washed out and bland for him. Shame, shame. Audrey Tautou's performance seemed wooden, as well. No offense to the Francophiles and polituically-correct folks, but it was as stilted as her English. The cinematography was quite picturesque, and I acknowledge that the "holograms" were to show the audience what Robert Langdon was thinking. Ditto for the flashbacks, or at times, visualizations of bygone eras. And it was nice...but after a while, it just went via the route of MI:2's mask overdose. The ending conveniently left out that Sophie's grandmaman was Sauniere's wife, so either Sauniere married into the Merovingian line, or she isn't Sophie Neveu (nee St. Clare)'s blood-grandmother. Jean Reno, in his portrayal of Capt. Fache, did not make use of his acting prowess, as well. I felt Fache looked like a crazed man, when the book did not make him turn out that way in the end. True, Fache was supposedly brusque...but Reno was a bit abrupt in the potrayal. I admire Paul Bettany's portrayal of Silas, however, if even he was a scrawny Silas. Still, he played the fanatic to a T. Molina more or less did his part justice, as well. He truly makes you hate Aringarosa's character, yet still show the man behind the title.
As much as the movie tied the book nicely together, and made the Magdalene Theory highly plausible, it still left quite a few ambiguities, and shoddy acting more often than not to the point of predictability and (gasp) cheesiness. I thus give the movie a 2.5 out of 4.

Faith-wise, what is the big DEAL about having the Magdalene Theory in the silver screen? It shows that Jesus could have been mere mortal, and that he has descendants who became a royal line. But at the basic level, what makes a prophet, a king different from a commoner? Just a title, just his works. But at the end of the day, we are all of the same specie, so what's the big deal? I think that if we think that way, as much as God was divine, because of Jesus, he was made common man, true, and thus more familiar to the human psyche. Going back to philosophu, because we cannot contain the Other, perhaps the story of Jesus Christ, as much as some parts were real, such as his life, were later magnified to better articulate to us limited beings the idea of the Holy, the idea of the Wholly, Infinite Other, to our finitude. Jesus's "elaborated tale" that is the basis of our belief is thus simply a symbol pointing to an Other. For the idea brought forward in the Da Vinci Code should thus NOT be a big deal to those with a strong and grounded faith.Therefore, to take that as Gospel Truth--to see it as the Holy Himself--as the Church seems to see it as--is already blaspheming the Holy; commiting idolatry. So take that, low-tech dumbasses. It is YE who are of little faith. We never thought THAT in the first place.

B-E-A-U-T-Y

Beauty is in
you, me
(all of us)
.
Beauty is in
providence, fate
unfolding uncurling
(letting things be)
.


Beauty is in
the eye of the
beholder/beholdee

Beauty is
us
all.

Transformation

I want to
change
change you
be changed

mold
twist
shape
(be shaped)
.

Let me be the change
(be my change)



or maybe not.