Saturday, March 17, 2018

Mind VS Reality

As young kids with minds undiluted and uncluttered with life’s many experiences, we took pleasure loading ourselves up with images derived from ...stories told us, from books we read, and from all other sources within reach – from newspapers and magazines. And yes, from movies, too.

Our malleable and active minds created a world of our own, unlimited and unhindered by realities that we still had to experience. In such a world of Technicolor grandeur, reality took on almost surreal qualities. Everything perceived in our minds were heightened to degrees limited only by the blurred boundaries of our childish dreams. In that world, places in the world visited by relatives, or friends, or pictured in magazines and books, were like paradise, and populated by extraordinary people likened to those inhabiting our celluloid world.

And many of us grew up nursing those stupendous memories, mesmerized by the consuming fantasies they conjured in our minds. As layers of real life experiences were inevitably added, slowly the fantasies were stripped from our minds and we began to see the world in its real colors and dimensions. Our blinders removed fleshing out our realities with more mundane tones and details, not much different from the everyday lives who were used to living in our own little world.

So the local places which we visited and had grown to find either quite boring or trivial, or just ordinary, are now installed as equals and could compare grandly with the new and foreign places that we had begun to live in or visited. Our amazing realization that these places or peoples that we had visited turn out to be not much different from those that we were born with and shared the years.
The whole globe after all is not that diversely disparate in its parts. The beaches in Bali, or Hawaii, are no different from the local beaches we had frequented as kids. The skyscrapers in Makati or Manila, or even now in Cagayan de Oro are not really that much more awe-inspiring from the others, even those in differing degrees of development. Size and height are the same anywhere in the physical world.

For the images attached then while still looking majestic or surreal, thanks to the wonders of photography and the various editing tools available, we can look no farther than where we stand and live, all the days of our lives. To savor whatever excitement and grandeur we decide to invest them with.

Wake up! This temporal world satiates our arguably unfathomable thirst and quest for more.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Decisions, Decisions: Sanitized Virtual Reality Vs Ugly Reality of Old Hometown


A debatable subject aptly addressed to us ex-pats, both those who are still abroad and those who have come back for good (or so we thought).

Who can disagree that our cherished memories of the old hometown, rustic, rural, and crude, as it may have been when we departed from it, are worth remembering, revisiting, and reliving with both short visits and resettlement?

Thus for  a good number of us, decisions were made to return and resettle, and to pick up from where we left off.

Years later and after a series of grave disillusionment, comes now the need for re-assessment of that decision to relocate.  Has it been the right one?  Does the ugly reality of living in the old hometown at the present time jibe with our sanitized or hopeful version of it, one that we incubated in our minds through all the years that we were out of it?

So is the actual living in that hometown good enough for us to want to stay further?

Time to sit back and re-think.

 First, we need to re-examine our remaining attitudes and the nagging images we may still foster in our minds about the old hometown.

When we were still abroad, the stubborn thoughts of the hometown were more riveting giving us bouts of extreme nostalgic yearnings of not only getting back there, but also of doing helpful things in our new surroundings to help ameliorate the dire conditions of the beleaguered hometown, since someday that would become home for us anew.

We labored hard to set aside financial resources not only for our future but in aid of the old hometown, with an almost addictive sense of altruism and love for it as inspired by the alluring thoughts of what it meant to us.

Though we now hold very negative thoughts about what it has morphed into, we still like to think that somehow it would not be that bad.  Though in reality in our estimation it is really bad enough for us since if the need arises we would decide against relocating the remainder of our family members and their remaining lives in this now benighted hometown.

The growing disconnect then becomes more apparent, though we may continue to blind our minds to the now harsh realities in the old hometown.

We cling still to our steadfast declaration that we cherish our beloved hometown and that still we would do anything to assist it in its many ugly travails.  But deep down we continue to harbor no plans or inkling to get back to it.  Sounds rather contradictory?  Many would think so.  But I guess our thoughts and longings are beyond rhyme or reason, or logic.

And what about those who may have relocated and are now entertaining similar thoughts?  Is the option to uproot and re-locate one more time still a viable option?

That is the “to be or not to be” question.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

What It Is To Be An American



After a considerable absence one returns and finds many fundamental and drastic alterations not so much in the physical landscape, but more on the people, their ideals and values spanning many spectra.  Not to suggest that no perceptible changes were being made when I first left.  But more because they are now so unavoidably glaring.

One finds a country almost at war with itself, almost equally divided politically, socially, and more.

Maybe only an outsider who used to be part of it could be able to notice and discern with some clarity and certitude.

Thus the troubled question above is posed.

The above question becomes relevant as necessitated by the hazy picture shrouded in a bit of enigma and mystery when one attempts to conceptualize what an American is.  At times the image coming out is flattering, but at other times deprecating.   Sometimes colored as white, at times as black, and still at other times as an admixture of two ethnicities or more.

This bring us to a rather idle treatise on the subject, inspired by some hope of elucidation.

Simply being or living in American soil does not make one American. The soil does little or practically nothing to make one American.  Thus, a tourist or a new migrant in America cannot hope to fully understand what it is to be American, much less hope to become one in thought and action in a hurry.  Not only because of the short duration of stay but for more involved reasons.

Neither does the color of one’s skin or one’s ethnicity determine whether one is an American.  After all, the entire country itself is composed of very diverse immigrants from practically all corners of the globe.

Being American does not lend to being easily defined or reduced to words.  It is a tangled composite of many different intangible facets accumulated over the many years of its existence.  And it has been likened as the “grand social experiment” by those who founded it.

All these intangibles reside collectively in the people and the revered institutions that make this country whole and recognizable, anchored in spirit and thought
bequeathed by previous generations of families dating back to its very founding.  But the people themselves do not necessarily know what they have that make them American and how others may be informed and clothed to become part and parcel of the body politic.

And because of this seeming paradox or mystery, it is no easy task to be American, maybe not even for those who have lived all their lives in the country.  Because this requires a conscious effort at learning the qualities needed to become one, especially because of the confluence and conflation of many varied cultures and ethnicities in the country.  And all this admittedly coupled with the concomitant grating friction resulting from such coming together.  Likened to tectonic upheavals we are most familiar with. Unique combination and historic union not likely found or present in all other countries in the world.

It rather demands total immersion in this rather complicated and intermingled society we call the US of A.  The same process that countless other previous immigrants have done in the past and continue doing in the present.  And which produced a country like no other in history, most likely because of the kind of body politic created by such.

The immersion medium itself which has been in use innumerable times has undergone dilution and alterations that what comes out may not be totally similar to the previous earlier ones. 

One has to then be very discerning and discriminating to determine which ones are still in congruence with that in the past.

Put differently, it can be likened to clear water that has been used in this immersion process over the years becoming muddled and maybe not as recognizable as it was before.  Thus, it is incumbent to have it regularly tested and maybe cleaned so as to approximate how and what it was when it all started.

As once an immigrant to the country, I too have witnessed the many resultant changes in what it is to be American since the beginning of our stay, and some changes one may judge as not corresponding to the ideals once established by the founding fathers.  This observation materializing in the short span of a few decades.

But at the same time, one also witnesses that though Americans come from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities and cultures, they collectively speak like one, act like one, and more importantly, exhibit values and behavior like one people, cohesive and indivisible. 

At least as gleaned from what its majority believes in.

Friday, November 24, 2017

A Pathology of Doctor’s Visits …. Of the Elderly

 When medical authorities break the news that your eyesight is compromised, then it is time to be hip and cool and get reacquainted with your dark sunglasses, every time you are in the sun.

Recalling a past time when only blind mendicants being towed around the city by their guides wore those dark glasses, all day.
Now it’s considered hip, cool, and even rad, when you see those celebrities wear those outsized dark glasses even when the sun has gone down.  Even our local hipsters have followed the trend, their little faces almost completely hidden by those faddish glasses.

Now it is my turn.  An old clip-on, recommissioned for new service.

As the centenarian lady runner opined, her performances in her races are not getting any better, but only worse because of her advanced years.

The same could be said of doctor’s visits for one who has reached hard to count years.  Like I am?

Thus, those visits may not be welcomed, but rather dreaded a bit and to be avoided if possible.

Anyway, in my case the choices are next to nothing, especially if I want to continue to live.  So doctor’s visits have to be scheduled and observed.  And because we now live over 7500 miles away from our health provider, the visits take on the nature of one-stop shops.  Examinations covering from head to toe, especially for a case like mine whose medical rap sheet runs in pages, are called in covering various appearances on different occasions.

Expectations on these visits are rather modest and the bars are set very low.  Just hoping that the conditions discovered during the last visits had not worsened, or that no new alarming conditions have in the meantime cropped up.

But like the centenarian lady runner, we foreknow the results to be expected.

And these last visits are no different.  Existing conditions have dipped even lower, and new ones are discovered, expected from an aging body that is on the inevitable road to its own junkyard.

So now know that your buddy pacemaker has to work harder to maintain that normal heartbeat, like 96% of the time.  By the way, your thyroids are not in synched so will now have to lower the daily doses you have been taking.   Also, with the new guidelines, your elevated BP will have to be attended to even more.

And the new findings?  A double whammy.  A slew of quick vision care exams show invasive cataracts on both eyes, and presto, you are now considered a “glaucoma suspect”.  And thus a battery of exams will have to be scheduled.  If you have the time.  And please keep your eyes protected from the blistering sun in the tropics.  So advised to wear sunglasses. As usual, your total cholesterol level is at best borderline.  So….  Etc.…. 

A little glimmer of hope.  Your eyeglass prescription has not changed since the last examination which was years ago.  A significant enough good tidings to celebrate?

While the overall prognosis may not be exhilarating, one continues to be of the thought that life is still bearable and livable.  Continued physical exercise is still allowed and continues to be a  tolerable routine that produces some uplift not only in physical fitness, but more importantly in mental alertness and acuity, part and parcel of what is called the “runner’s high”, or the “second wind”.  This does the late Jim Fixx proud, the father of running who died doing the best thing he liked to do, running.






Monday, November 06, 2017

Life Reduced to Arithmetic Calculations, from Start to Finish.


Exactly 9 months after being conceived, a man is ushered into the world, a world of consuming uncertainties and unknowns.

Where the only certainty is that life is finite, but as to how and when exactly that is the riddle.

Still, man plods through life making arithmetic calculations and planning, based on dog-eared standards refined through the ages

From the age of reason, that man learns to use Arithmetic to plan and live his life.  He plans for the years of elementary, secondary, etc. schooling, the monotonous cadence interspersed briefly with some levity and idleness known as vacations, holidays, etc.

Then he plans for his productive working life, including the idea and feasibility of creating a family of his own.  All this, amidst the uncertainty of the length of his life, but guided essentially by the life expectancy table again honed over the ages, taking into account all other elements which may make that life shorter like accidents, sickness, disease, etc.

Past the peak of his mature life, typically human parts start needing attention.  Some start becoming bothersome and maybe life-threatening, and thus requiring professional help.

As he approaches closer to his expected life span, tweaked by the many enhancements and modifications that blazing science and technology can offer, his arithmetic calculations take on more certainty, and shorter duration.

In my instance, the most hardy and robust of human organs, the heart has required special and customized attention. It has the close assistance of a pacemaker, or more technically an ICD, implanted cardioverter defibrillator, and for my particular case, a dual-chamber unit, with two leads, one attached to the upper right atrial chamber, and the other to the lower ventricular chamber.  Each lead provided with an electrode that will provide the spark when necessary to keep the heart beating normal.

The upper lead will provide the electrical spark that is typically provided naturally by the sinus node in the heart.  Absent the spark, the heart may not beat at all and life will be no more. 

In my case, my beating heart now uses the pacer for the spark needed 98% of the time, while the lower lead is being used only 6% of time.  Per last examination/reading the implanted pacemaker I have still has an expected usefulness of 13 years, taking into account its current usage.

All these details put into context, the more or less exact length of my life.  Until and unless a new pacer is installed to replace the depleted one.

This therefore as one can clearly see, puts an arithmetic certainty to the end of one’s life.