That's just the pessimist in me thinking perhaps.
I still choose to believe that I am the ever hopeful romantic nonetheless.
I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times…
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, it’s age old pain,
It’s ancient tale of being apart or together.
As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge,
Clad in the light of a pole-star, piercing the darkness of time.
You become an image of what is remembered forever.
You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount.
At the heart of time, love of one for another.
We have played along side millions of lovers,
Shared in the same shy sweetness of meeting,
the distressful tears of farewell,
Old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever.
Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you
The love of all man’s days both past and forever:
Universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life.
The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours -
And the songs of every poet past and forever.
Translated by William Radice
by Rev. James Martin, S.J.
Last year I listed 12 things I knew at age 50 that I wish I had known at 25. Now I'm a year older. And if I'm not wiser, at least I'm a bit more experienced. So here are 12 really stupid things I've done that I never want to do again. Maybe you've done some of them, too. But I'll bet we'd both be happier if we didn't...
1. Compare. Ever heard the saying "Compare and despair"? Comparing yourself to someone else usually means that you imagine the other person is better off, more satisfied -- in a word, happier. But here's the problem: We end up comparing what we know about our life, which is a mixed bag of good and bad, with a fantasy of someone else's supposedly "perfect" life. Why do we do this? Because we know all about our own problems, but other people's problems are harder to see. As a result, our real life always loses out. That leads to despair. Besides, there's probably someone comparing his or her life to your supposedly perfect one -- which shows you how ridiculous it all is.
2. "Should" on Yourself. It's devilishly easy to imagine yourself making a choice that would have taken you to a different place in your life. I should have married this person; I should have taken that job; I should have moved; I should have blah, blah, blah. This is called "shoulding all over yourself." (Say it aloud and the negative meaning becomes clearer.) Reflecting on our choices is an important way to grow, but you can't live your real life if you're busy living in your "should have" life. You'll end up torturing yourself. Jesus of Nazareth once said you can't serve two masters. You can't live two lives either.
3. Get People to Like You. I spent all of my teens, most of my 20s, a great deal of my 30s and too much of my 40s trying to get people to like me. But forcing people's affection rarely works. Plus, it takes too much energy to tailor yourself to what you think people will like (which is impossible to figure out anyway). Your true friends like you already. Be open to change and growth by all means; but treasure friends who love you for who you are. St. Francis de Sales, a lighthearted 17th-century saint, once said: "Be who you are and be that perfectly well."
4. Interrupt. We all think we're good listeners. We're not. Many of us are absolutely terrible listeners, impatiently waiting for our turn to speak, confident that our next utterance is the solution to everyone's problems or the most interesting of all the commentary yet offered. But you can't contribute intelligently to any conversation if you're not listening what the other person is saying. Interrupting someone says, "I have no interest in even letting you finish your thought." As my sister tells her children, you have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
5. Worry About How You Look. I cut myself shaving: Is the blood still showing? I have a zit: Is it getting bigger or going away? I need a haircut: Should I get one today or tomorrow? Are these pants too short? Too long? Who cares? Sure, you need to look presentable for your job and a decent appearance is a sign of respect to those around you. But if your friends are overly concerned about your clothes, and judge you on that basis, they may not be the best friends for you. And who in their right mind cares what strangers think about your clothes, unless you're a fashion model? Spend less time thinking about your outside and more about your inside.
6. Work Constantly. We are immersed in a culture of productivity, which says that we are what we do. That's why the first question out of someone's mouth upon meeting a stranger is often "So what do you do?" We also measure ourselves by how much money we have, or make. Thus, discussions about salary are a big taboo. You can ask someone about their facelift or their divorce, but not what they earn. Why? Because it's the default measure of worth, and it ruthlessly places people on a social ladder. If someone makes more than we do, we may feel "less than." Look, everyone's got to work. But if value is gauged by wealth, then when we make less, we feel less valuable as human beings, which is tragic. Nelson Mandela didn't make much money when he was imprisoned in South Africa; was he less valuable? Plus, if we are what we do, when we're not working we're nothing. This kind of thinking creates a skewed measure of "value." Stop driving yourself nuts with the trap of constant work.
7. Fail to Give People a Break. Hey, surly person behind the drugstore counter: Why didn't you say thanks when you handed me my change? Hey, barista, why are you being so rude? Stop and think. Maybe it's because they're underpaid; they hate their low-paying job; their mother is dying. Remember that behind those frowning faces are full lives. Remember too, that all these people all beloved creatures of God, with their own human dignity, and holy in their own way -- yes, holy. When the Book of Genesis said that God looked at everything and said, "It was good," he meant people, too. Even the angry barista. Give them their dignity by giving them a break.
8. Complain About Minor Illnesses. If you've got a serious or chronic illness, you need to share your struggles and frustrations with your physician, with friends and family, or even a therapist. You need support. But do you have a cold that has hung on for days and makes you phlegmy? When you bend over like this does your back ache because you pulled a muscle in the gym? No one really wants to hear about minor illnesses. Everyone gets sick, for Pete's sake. In the words of the great prophets, suck it up.
9. Be a Jerk. You're tired. You're rushed. You've got a cold. You're late. You're angry about something your boss said. Yes, you're miserable. That doesn't mean you have to be a jerk to everyone else. It really doesn't. Sure, share your frustrations and struggles with close friends, but don't make everyone else's life more miserable by passing on your misery. Once, I joked to a friend, "Boy, my life is such a cross!" "Yes," he said, "But for you or others?"
10. Avoid Doing the Right Thing. It's no fun to call a friend who is in a bad mood because she's lost her job. It's no fun to take responsibility for making a mistake. It's no fun to speak out against racism, sexism or homophobia and stand up for those being mocked. It's not fun, it takes effort; but you know it's the right thing to do. Do it anyway. If you don't, you'll feel terrible about yourself, and that's really no fun.
11. Make Fun of People. Nothing brings me lower than a few minutes of mocking another person. (Particularly if the person is not present.) But the snappy putdown has a high value in our culture, and famous snubs (say, of one famous writer to another) are repeated, and treasured like beautiful jewels. Much of our current political climate consists of politicians mocking people in the other party. (That's been a big help in this country, hasn't it?) Malicious speech is an easy way to wound. If you feel like you're powerless against badmouthing someone, ask yourself three questions when it comes to commenting on another: Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true?
12. Be Hard on Yourself. One of my Jesuit mentors used to say, "Be easy with yourself, Jim." If you're reading this list, and taking it at all seriously, you may be beating yourself up about stupid things that you've done in the past. (Believe me, my list is just as long as yours.) But you also want to change yourself, which is good. So be careful to "trust in the slow work of God," as the Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin used to say. (He was also a paleontologist, so he knew about things moving really slowly.) Or if you don't believe in God, trust in slow work, period.
If you ever get discouraged about your rate of change, just think about trees -- yes, trees. In the summer they're green. In the fall they're red. And no one sees them change.
James Martin, SJ is a Jesuit priest, culture editor of America and author of "Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life."
I honestly thought that Christmas this year won't be as happy as last year's. Thank you Lord for making it wonderful, still; for my family and all the blessings. A happy Christmas to all! :)
20 SEC READING: Measuring love
by PAULO COELHO on NOVEMBER 19, 2011
‘I’ve always wanted to know if I was capable of loving my wife as much as you love yours,’ said the journalist Keichiro to my publisher Satoshi Gungi over supper one night.
‘There is nothing else but love,’ came the reply. ‘It is love that keeps the world turning and the stars in their spheres.’
‘I know. But how can I know if my love is big enough?’
‘Ask yourself if you give yourself fully or if you flee from your emotions, but do not ask yourself if your love is big enough, because love is neither big nor small, it is simply love.
‘You cannot measure a feeling the way you measure a road.
‘If you do that, you will start comparing your love with what others tell you of theirs or with your own expectations of love.
‘That way, you will always be listening to some story, rather than pushing your emotions to their limits.’
F. Sionil Jose's simplicity, clarity, and sincerity in writing have always inspired me to write myself.
He is, indeed, one of the best Filipino writers I admire in our time for he is among the few who can tell a story in the most earnest way possible. Allow me to share this piece with you.
OUR ROOTS, OUR RIZAL
Hindsight by F. Sionil Jose
Philstar May 16, 2011
I have this dubious distinction now of being “the old man of Philippine letters.” I am 86; most of my contemporaries the first post-war generation of writers have gone and I am the last to bear witness to what transpired historically and culturally in the last century and on to this new and uncertain age.
The other year, I spoke before literature teachers also here in Santo Tomas as again, invited by Professor Ferdinand Lopez. We honored then the late Paz Latorena who was my favorite teacher here when I was a student in 1946 to 1949. Mila Tanlayco whom we are honoring now was not my teacher I am much older than her. Mila also taught a couple of generations in this university imparting to her brood her vast knowledge of modern and classical literature. Her scholarship was impeccable as was her dedication to her profession. She inherited the mantle which Ms. Latorena had so devotedly worn.
I apologize for sounding so patronizing as I will now define what you should do, impressed as I was with Ms. Latorena in the past and in more recent times, with Mila Tanlayco. Bear in mind, too, that I have taught in this university and elsewhere, that I have written criticism but now I am just an old, tired hack.
First, don’t make literature difficult. Do not torture your students with too much mind-bending tests. Make literature interesting; enjoyable. Do not overload your students with literary theory, obtuse explications indicating superior academic honing. In the first place, in a high school or undergraduate class of 60 you will be lucky if you will be able to develop five teachers, critics or writers. Impress upon them that only literature teaches ethics, that with it, we get to understand ourselves and society better and in the process we develop into better members of a community and therefore of a nation. Be highly selective in the novels, stories, poems and plays you assign. And avoid boring verbose writers such as those endorsed by American academe, the likes of Henry James, and E. M. Forster. Do not be uppity and ignore crime and science fiction they will reveal to your students the most important element in writing: the narrative technique. Stories are moved forward by their plots not always, but plots hook readers and make them hang on to a book to the very last page.
Literary theory is important if you are also a critic but a teacher does not need to be an expert on it unless you are teaching a Ph.D. or M.A. class on the very subject of theory itself.
Know then our own literary traditions, aesthetics, but not to specialize in them unless, like I said, you are teaching a postgraduate class. Personally, I don’t bother at all with theory; I rarely attend to critics unless they are writing about my work. Then I read them in the hope that I’ll get a wee bit something that might help me. I don’t need critics because I am my own severest critic. You should be, too.
Craft is knowing the writing tools and using them well. The teacher who can teach craft is a better teacher. Literature workshops are useful when they teach craft and shortcuts to good writing identity, the mistakes young writers should avoid. I never really believed in workshops. The really good that they do is not in the official sessions, but outside it when workshops get writers together and develop in them a sense of communality. And of course, writers and teachers who never earn enough get financial and emotional aid from workshops.
Agood writer is both a teacher and a critic. With apologies to Ms. Venus Raj, I borrowed her phrase, “major, major” to categorize writers. These are the categories Major Major, Major Minor, Minor Major, Minor Minor. The Major Majors are at the top; the best, they are all dead. The Major Minors are the next in line they are still living. The Minor Majors are the best of the second raters and the least appreciated are the Minor Minors. This ranking is, of course, personal it is my word as against all others but then, I have the authority of age, of experience. My ranking may be arbitrary and I may change my mind because some of the writers are still very much alive. But for those who have passed away, my rating stands. Practice using these.
There is a caveat to this system of rating. No matter how learned or solid his reputation the critic is not the final judge of literary quality. Not even the public which is fickle, whose taste changes as easily as the seasons. Time is the ultimate judge. If after a mere hundred years, or a thousand years, a literary work is still appreciated, then it is truly great it is classic.
For this reason, teachers, critics and writers must have a solid grounding in the classics so that they will be anchored on the great canons and will know in their very marrow what is also mediocre. In the Philippines, the absence of a strong critical tradition enables bogus reputations to flourish, awards to be given to counterfeits.
Reading some of the new writing in English by the young, I am impressed by their command of the language, their innovative gimmicks, so much so that I lose the narrative thread and I have to go back to pick it up. Reading them brings back my own youth when I was so enamored with the prolix prose of William Faulkner and, at the same time, conscious of the simplicity of William Saroyan. There were no literary workshops in the ’40s but we were being introduced to the New Criticism in vogue in the United States.
In my teens, I was weaned on the English classics; in grade school, I was introduced to the basics of American literature, the poetry of Longfellow, the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, the essays of Tom Paine, of Lincoln, and to top them all, the novels of Rizal.
In hindsight, I am glad that this was my background for I was to shape my craft with what is aptly defined perhaps as Western technology, while rooted in the mores of my own village.
I say this as an oblique comment on our young writers. They have been attending too many workshops and are too bewitched by techniques and neglecting the most important technique of all which is how to tell a story. They have so much love for words but not enough for thought. If they try to be thoughtful as all writers hope to do, the attempt at profundity is drowned in the diarrhea of words.
Sometime ago, I was with a young writer who asked why, even if writing does not pay, I have persisted to this decrepit old age. I have never wondered about myself and all the others who wrote to the very last day of their lives. NVM Gonzalez, Bienvenido Santos, and of course, Nick Joaquin, and closer to my time, Carmen Guerrero Nakpil; in her late eighties, she had written three books, a two-volume autobiography, and a historical essay.
Going back, there is Jose Garcia Villa, who produced nothing after he was 50 although he created the myth that he had something in the works. In my own old circle, I recall so many who were brilliant but who dropped by the wayside even before middle age.
Then there is Yasunari Kawabata of Japan, Norman Mailer and Saul Bellow in the United States they also persevered to the very end.
In the ’60s the painter Vicente Manansala and I were talking about longevity in art. He recalled that famous story attributed to Rizal, how the turtle and the monkey fought over the possession of a banana plant. They decided to halve it the monkey chose the upper part because it already had fruit and the turtle chose the lower part. Both planted their choices; soon enough the monkey’s upper portion died while the turtle’s choice lived.
Roots our truest, biggest, is Rizal himself they explain why some plants, like men and particularly the artist, endure. Look at the trees some have very short roots and come a strong typhoon, they are soon bowled over. But those whose roots have sunk deep and wide into the earth are not easily uprooted they may be broken, but they survive not just the typhoon but the drought as well.
And what strength! We see some cemented sidewalks broken by the sheer power of roots that make the tree grow. Rocks, inhospitable ground these are not obstructions to the upward surge of trees or of the artistic spirit.
How does an artist acquire such formidable roots? They adapt the mangrove to the salt of the sea, the cactus to the waterless desert, the orchid to God’s sweet air and, of course to the dead bark which anchors it.
And the weeds that die in the dry season, they grow again when the rains start their seeds left on the soil.
This is the miracle of life, and of art itself.
In history, we see the triumph of the hu-man spirit Boris Pasternak and Anna Akhmatova who shone through the gloom of Stalinist tyranny. These writers’ roots were buried deeply in the sacred soil of their native land.
But there are also writers welded to no particular niche in the earth, to a country, or to a place in time. They are the exiles of memory from some trauma of the soul, political persecution; they are tenacious refugees or castaways. Their sustenance and passion whorl from that cosmos called ideal, ideology, religion, faith, whatever that enlivens and perpetuates.
The writer’s own life is now his richest material; he must study himself, shed all sense of pride and be naked to his own creative eye. He knows if he is his own critic that art is the most tyrannical and demanding mistress he has to serve with unblemished constancy.
Ideals also chain a writer to reality. These ideals are different from ideas although it is very possible that ideas may strengthen or at the same time erode such ideals. They may be so lofty as to be unreachable the perfectibility of man, for instance, or equality and justice for all. Such goals are avidly sought; sometimes those who seek to achieve them give up their property, their very lives. The search for a moral order and social justice is difficult if not impossible. In the context of our own society; writing, articulating the ideal, no matter how eloquently and constantly, is never enough. It is in pursuing such an ideal that many writers are often trapped in that most troubling of dilemmas; the rigid requirements of art are just as stringent as the demands of the ideals artists cling to. Art squeezes so much from the sensibility, the mastery of the craft, as against the need for propaganda, for the political inertia which the ideal compels. In espousing social justice, Rizal was a consummate artist; Jose Maria Sison, in espousing the same, was not he used words crudely to advance his cause. This difference should be ingested by those who write and teach.
This year, we mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of our National Hero. His monument is in every town plaza, all the main streets of our towns are named after him. It is to be expected then that even after a century and a half, his novels are still read, his influence pervasive and wide.
It should not be just the ideas, or the work of writers that should be embedded in our consciousness and woven with our genes. Indeed, if Homer, Goethe, Cervantes, Shakespeare if these anointed writers shaped the granite foundations of their countries, so did Rizal for what is Filipinas without him?
All too often, writers are exalted because of what they wrote. It is not just Rizal’s work alone that inspires. It is his life. He conversed with the highest Spanish officials, the Spanish governor general, the Archbishop; if he was not so highly stationed and was of the common clod, he would have been executed sooner. Remember he belonged to the privileged principalia, well educated, socially groomed. But such attributes did not prevent him from serving his people not just as a writer but as a teacher, a medical doctor, a builder.
His class origins did not narrow his perspectives or limit his roots from sinking farther, deeper into the earth. In his novels, he had “two eternal heroes” who suffered, who will always live in memory Sisa in the Noli, and Cabesang Tales in the El Filibusterismo both from the lower classes. I recreated them in my novels, Sisa as Tia Nena the mother of Victor and Luis in My Brother, My Executioner and Cabesang Tales as Ba-ac, the old patriarch in Po-on.
We are seldom aware of our own roots, how fathomless and far they cling, until we unravel and identify with them. Beyond this simple identification, we can then belong to the community such roots nourish. Our fealty develops, our commitment deepens and we then learn to love not just the emblems of this community but most important, its Sisas and Cabesang Taleses as well. Thus Rizal instructed us with the literature he wrote. Jose Maria Sison produced propaganda. After a hundred years Rizal’s novels are still read because art endures. Jose Maria Sison’s writings are soon forgotten except by his acolytes because they are propaganda.
Rizal epitomized the logic of love sacrifice.
Today, the truest heirs of Rizal are not the arty farty poets, not the wayward dreamers who crave awards, or those wishy-washy campus upstarts blindly imitating the bestsellers in the West and imbibing in their innards the transient vagaries of literary fashions. Nor those writers who divorced themselves from their environment. Rizal scorned them.
Rizal’s truest heirs are writers like Manuel Arguilla, Eman Lacaba, the engagee in our vernaculars who are the staunchest critics of society, those who tapped into the roots of our native culture like Nick Joaquin, all of them committed to this land so loved and yet so willfully betrayed.
In the twilight of Spanish domination, from among the Spanish rulers themselves, there were those who thought that killing Rizal was a grievous mistake. But from the perspective of those who held absolute power, they were correct in doing so. Rizal had attacked them mortally with the most powerful instrument that man has in his handsa weapon which we often do not recognize. This is truth the shining and noble truth that can only be best molded by the artist affectionately rooted in the reality of that truth itself. This truth touches, graces the deepest sensibility of man, his mind, his heart where all emotions start. This truth which art adorns and bears high is made even stouter and permanent precisely because it is the purest quintessence of our humanity.
Now, I ask: can this truth be acquired in the classroom by a generation which has ignored Rizal, but is now besieged by the same corruption, decay and apathy which he battled in his time?
I am not too sure, but at the very least, those of us who teach and write can try. We must if only to prove that we are.
* * *
F. Sionil Jose delivered this speech at the recent national conference of teachers of literature at the University of Santo Tomas.
It is perhaps true that seldom does one meet a man who does not fear marriage. It is usually the case with people I know of the opposite sex that marriage remains to be a pipe dream, or an elusive matter that would rather be put aside for discussion in the far future. For the unconventional, it is simply something that is not for them. For some, the value of marriage is measured by how it cuts life of something. It is defined by restraint rather than an opportunity to open up possibilities.
I have read once that we live on the verge of poetry and practicality, and the real life of the heart resides in the poetic. In our time, it is easy to be drawn to the literal and the practical, until both persons grow further apart—in separate worlds—where they get used to just sharing the business of life and never touch each other where the heart truly lives and dreams. I have seen unsuccessful marriages close to my heart— couples who, at best, live together in silence, enduring days in disagreement and struggle. I could just not imagine myself coerced to live such life. If there was one thing I feared, that would be living in a nightmare for the rest of my life. Such scenario may easily bring out the cynic in me or anyone for that matter. Yet there are still those who inspire and give hope. Those who choose well and leap to a lifetime of faith and love. I have recently been invited to come to a wedding, and though I did not know the couple too well, it was evident that one of the things that bind them together is laughter. These folks indeed know how to enjoy themselves and make fun of themselves and not at the expense of others. Even the hosts—friend and relative of the couple— were such comedians and throughout the rest of the program, everyone’s laughter resonated through the walls of the room. I can only remember a feeling of hopefulness and bliss that night, and from what I can recall, some sense of satisfaction from the dessert selection. But going back, indeed marriage leads a relationship into something richer and more complex than just living with someone and sharing the pleasure of being under one roof. It is in moments like this that tells me not to fear marriage, just as how I shouldn’t rush into it for the wrong reasons.
Yes, we undergo a lot of experiences that will make us fall in love, and will have our hearts broken. But the end of the day, we choose how to look at it—to still be hopeful or cynical? I believe we will always be at a turning point, at a crossroads, where we determine that perspective in life, that one thing that pushes us to wake up every day and choose to be in love. We do not actually follow our hearts, we lead it. And in turn, it opens our imaginations and deepens our humanity. And if I may quote this from an essay by an author whose name escapes me, marriage.. is an act of faith and it contains within it the power of transformation. If you believe in your heart that you have found someone with whom you are able to grow, if you have sufficient faith that you can resist the endless attraction of the road not taken and the partner not chosen, if you have the strength of heart to embrace the cycles and seasons that your love will experience, then you may be ready to seek the miracle that marriage offers. If not, then wait. The easy grace of a marriage well made is worth your patience. When the time comes, a thousand flowers will bloom...endlessly.