Thursday, November 14, 2019

El Camino De Santiago

El Camino De Santiago

That is the temporal road, that straddles at least two countries in Europe.  But the spiritual road is Christ.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

And without him, there is no going.  No knowing. And no living.

And he is not limited by any boundaries.

During the time of Christ, the main transport of travel was walking.  And indeed Christ did a lot of walking in the countryside of the Holy Land and beyond.   These exhausting physical exertions in rugged places we are told had made the human Christ an envious picture of sturdiness, hardiness, and physical strength.  Not the effeminate figure with dainty hands we see in current-day images.

Constant trekking from place to place was the one physical exercise that aided men of that milieu in transcending the physical realm into the mystical or spiritual. Like extreme athletes of our times, people then attain natural “highs” or altered states doing the normal routines of their living – walking to get to work, walking to search for their food, walking to learn of things, etc., routines that transformed them into a hardy people.

Today we consider our recreational running and jogging as our camino to better our bodies and minds and or to make ourselves fit for the rigors of our daily living.  But soldiers and armies then went through incessant “forced marches” to prepare for battle.

In all this, walking had the goal of achieving temporal goals for the partakers. For that is what walking does. A draining of physical energy and vigor to lighten the spirits and make them soar to heights.  And that is what is intended.

However, many participants of the Camino de Santiago consider it as a means to attain many temporal goals – like a way to finding themselves, as the possible portal that could lead to finding a worthy mate for life, a saintly venue to meet people who inspire or are agreeable to us, a way to practice a bit of the contemplative life, a way to find help in our individual lives’ many challenges, etc.

But I do believe this temporal way is intended for a greater purpose, and this is to meet and imitate the spiritual or mystical Way, Christ.  And in the singularity of the eye of our intention, no temporal baggage ought to be added to burden that knowledge and following.  We do it for the singular purpose of following Christ because He demands it from his trusty and loyal sojourners.

And taking this route one cannot go wrong, remembering that temporal goals however commendable are fleeting and do not last long.

And is the Camino then the only path that leads to our spiritual enlightenment and guidance?

One doubts that, especially because not all people can possibly have the time or means to travel to that distant place, so one can walk over 800 kilometers.

There are enough kilometers where our own individual lives are, without necessitating any distant travel.

As a species humans are quite unique, as one city week-end runner in the US once remarked:  We drive in our cars for 10 miles so we can get to a park and run around it for 2 miles.

We can define our own camino in the comfort and ease of our own work-a-day lives wherever we find ourselves, and it would be just as effective, rigorous, and acceptable.

I have been routinely jogging and walking for almost 30 years, already covering thousands of miles and wearing away countless sneakers.  At times the journey had been pained and difficult, at other times light-hearted and joyous. I had jogged on sunny days, in the cover of early night, or under pouring rain.   Under a temperate climate or under the blistering sun of the tropics. The journey and route running the entire gamut of human living.

I like to believe that my search for the Camino of Life has led me to a better place than when I started.  Not the ideal place, but a better place.  After all that is all and how much this earthly life promises to each one of us.

Monday, November 04, 2019

God Works In Mysterious Ways

Every time some things happen in an unexpected way that stumps our thinking, we justify by saying that God works in mysterious ways.

This is also true when unexpected things are done by people that we thought could never accomplish such things or amount to anything commendable.  Still, we say that God works in mysterious ways and saves the day.  A passable enough justification to provide logic or reason for such occurrences.

But there are instances when our own preconceived biases prevent us from seeing it that way, and instead dismiss the doer as nothing more than a charlatan or a faker.  Our usual prescription for understanding such unusual events fails to apply, and instead we turn to the other default.  The doer has to be evil, even if the expected results of his actions are exemplary.  Good cannot be eked out from such an inherently evil person.

Very early in his life, Trump had been like the many other billionaires in the world, who are never satisfied with their first million, or their first billion.  They have to have more.  Their coffers are big enough to accommodate almost all wealth in the world.  Their unmitigated craving for worldly successes and the power and influence that go with it, appear to have no limits.  The thirst just gets bigger and bigger.  Think Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc.

But something happened to Trump when he turned his sights to becoming president.  He metamorphosed into something completely different. A completely changed person.  And he must have been sufficiently prescient to realize that becoming president would make him abandon his old ways of wanting more money, or continuing to pursue his hedonistic and wayward ways, or to show complete disregard for his troubled country.  It is conventional knowledge to accede that those who enter politics would actually lose part of their wealth.  Instead he embraced the wholesome changes with will and vigor, even going some steps beyond like actually choosing not to receive his salary as president, which is no chump change.  He could be a millionaire with just his salary.  Not very much, but still a millionaire

Thus, for all discernible intents and purposes, Trump the candidate was a completely different person to the core than Trump the president.  Of course, the innate accidents of his being as a person are still there – he is still irreverent and coarse in speech, he never allows any daylight on negative comments directed at him without a scathing riposte, etc.

And his winning the election could be said to be more than surreal, though short of being mystical.  No single pollster thought he could win.  All the pundits laughed at loud at his chances of winning.  Those of his party included.  In hindsight even the now infamous and sinister-looking Peter Strzok was very bold to write that the foregone election would be 100m to zero in favor of Hillary.

And his win did not come because a greater number of voters picked him, though there are pesky questions as to how many exactly of those votes cast came from legitimate voters.  His win came from a selected number of voters who were in strategic states to give Trump the winning electoral votes, which he topped by a very comfortable margin.  Thus, no legitimate question or challenge could be asked about the win.  Simply, another “miracle” attributed to Trump from the founders via the Electoral College.

But this short of miraculous win came with a deadly price, Trump did not spare himself from the rage, anger, and mortified wrath that a committed cadre of disgruntled detractors which had not allowed him to have a moment of peace, or allowed him sufficient time to rule.   They have tried to batter him from pillar to post, unable to hold their mystified rage and rancor, from the first moments of his administration.

And this is where the US is right now.

Being on the right side of history does not assure one tremendous and overwhelming popular support from all sectors of the polity.  Many times one has to stand alone, solitary and lonely with only the godly assurance that what you are doing is righteous and thus one must soldier on, and somehow still yearn to be victorious.

And in this heady milieu of Trumpism, how can one escape the uncanny parallelism between him and another historic figure?  Granted many personal facets from both figures are almost diametrically opposite or different, but still a number of  pivotal details in their rule do jibe and can stand as healthy juxtaposition.

That historic figure was also reviled by all learned men of his time, men who occupied high social status and/or sat in the fearsome hierarchy of the ruling classes and the self-anointed ones who were pre-ordained to dispense with the knowledge and wisdom to impart to the governed.  They mocked and derided him for his unworldly claims and plebian ways.  Even his own people turned their backs on him.

His muted claim as the progenitor of their salvation and renaissance was rudely chastised and derided. And he had also inferred that following him would allow the benighted people of Israel to return to their roots in faith and become great again.  Sounds familiar?

And we continue with the self-same hope that God will continue to work in mysterious ways.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Wisdom blooming late, or simply a late awakening?

As we truly advance in years, certain attitudes and behavior take on understanding and clarity that we feel will tide us over till we die.  It is quite easy to say that the accumulated years of experience have taught us the incalculable lessons we feel we have been vested with.  But still if we scratch deeper we could also claim that there are other things at play that may have triggered their genesis.

Anyway, through our mellowed years many of us find that we have become more tolerant and accepting not only of others’ faults but of the uncertainties and at times cruelties of life.  We find ourselves not only less impatient, but actually more understanding, as to how and why a lot of people we have put trust in have fallen way short of our expectations, however realistic those expectations may be.

We have learned to not expect too much about the temporal desires of life from actually happening, unlike before when our expectations were iron-clad and steadfast.  Now we learn to take things in stride, diminishing the gravity and passion of our desires, and expectations.  We have learned to “make do” with whatever results life may have dealt with us.  With the least of regrets, and more of contentment if not consignment.

And I do not believe that all this is attributed to old age which has dulled or slowed down most things we do or think.  And needless to state, we assume that practically everything we do or perceive has slowed to a walk or worse, as we are in our twilight years, not just the physical pace, but including the mental acuities we have acquired during the growing years.

So why are we as almost default more tolerant, less impatient, and more accepting of the realities which in our younger years, we used to resent with gusto when they do not go our way?

I do believe that the real reason for this world of change is because we ourselves have looked inward and found that in the things we have been doing and planning we have constantly failed not only ourselves, but also the people around.  And this in spite of our darn honest to goodness attempts to try to do better. And this frank realization is easily arrived at if only we are quite honest with ourselves.

We find that failure is our constant companion in this life, our sojourn buddy who has kept with us, unshakable and unwavering.  Neither could we shake it off or leave it behind. Failures not in the things of the spirit, but failures in all the temporal or earthy things that we have hitched our futures on.

Only our spiritual quests will find fruition and realization.  And this we will ultimately realize not in this life, but after we have shaken off our mortal coil.

How do we know?  We simply will have to latch on to our Faith and to what it promises.

And because old age typically does not last long, the waiting may be sooner than we think.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Recalling and Retelling a Long-forgotten Apostolic Work

The careening new technologies disrupting our once rustic life somehow bring us back to the bygone days of youth when things were a lot simpler and coarser.  When life somehow was easier to understand and live.  Now with dizzying speeds we are hard-pressed even at keeping pace with the consumer technologies available out there.

Noticing beyond just the physical characteristics our gadgets and their almost limitless capabilities to connect us virtually with a world well beyond our physical reach, we begin to realize and wonder about them juxtaposed with the simpler things we had then.

Yesterday, I woke up to the realization that with the smartphones I possess. Yes, I have several yet not one of them is equipped to connect me telephonically with the rest of the world.  Said differently, none has a local SIM card or with load purchase to allow access to other cellphones.

All details aside, this thought brought me back longingly to the time when I was still a college student at XU-Ateneo de Cagayan, which would be in the mid-60’s.  I faintly recall being approached by somebody, am not sure if it was Jesuit priest or a layman, to continue with the practice of broadcasting the 7am Sunday Mass at the XU chapel via the reaches of the local premier AM station, DXCC.  A sweet and serious offer that an avowed Atenean could not refuse.  It was made known to me that the one initially assigned to do it would not be available anymore, so the need to find another.  Okay, I said, and so what is next?

I was handed a brown folder with a few worn pages of script inside.   It was essentially a summary of the typical Mass, from beginning to end, from Entrance Hymn to Final Blessing.  The job was simply to provide audio when the celebrant would remain silent going through the different phases of the Mass.

It was then my responsibility to assess if the documentation was sufficient for my purposes, and more importantly, to present myself to the DXCC technician, who would be responsible for setting up the system to allow the regular broadcast.

Had to rewrite the whole script and armed myself with good reading materials to fill out radio silence during the services.  Met with the DXCC technician who fortunately was already familiar with me, a few minutes before the start of my first broadcast.

So dutifully every Sunday before 7am we both met up at the left side of the XU chapel.  He laid all the wirings and the mikes to be used for the broadcast, while I located myself on the same side close to the altar, holding on to my folder with the script, and the few prayer books I brought along.

This we did with almost no fail for at least a year and maybe closer to more, going to the air at the appointed time and place and reaching to all who tuned in to the radio during that time.  The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and its message of redemption propagated far and wide to the devotees unable to be physically present.

And all that time, we never received any feedback to apprize us of the work we were doing.  Not an iota of comment or emoticon to a Facebook page or other social media.  Complete radio silence.

And just as hazily, this work stopped, and everybody concerned went about their separate ways.  And I am just left to wonder, how crude and limited methods were then to disseminate data and events to the people at large.  Worlds apart from the ways we now handle such things.

That same smartphone that most people, from all strata of society, now possess in their hands, is now capable to do what we once did with great attention and labor, and a lot more, simply with a few clicks, tender taps of the fingers over the screen, etc.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Taking a Fast Boat to Hong Kong

 First we heard of the yellow vests protests in France, a populist movement from the working middle class who took to the streets to vent their frustrations on economic issues.  Now we have the black shirts protests in Hong Kong, going now more than 13 weeks.  Again, another populist movement coming from the middle class ranks.  It kinds of remind one of  a third  populist movement -  in the US during the last election cycle, except that in their instance, instead of bullets, the protagonists used the ballot.

One outstanding thing is how the HK movement has been able to galvanize the citizenry to gather in very large numbers even with a very loose organization whose leaders are not even clearly known.  It gathered at one point 1.7 million people on very short notice, almost a fourth of the total population of the island of about 7 million people.  Tech-savvy residents have created their own networks for communications and dissemination.  Thus we hear buzz words like mesh networks or Telegram, etc.

How could anyone ignore the numbers?  And more importantly how could one not realize the stakes involved?

Among them are:

In the world of finance, HK is the third most important global financial hub,   behind only London and the US.  It cannot afford to be destabilized for long, without deleterious repercussions worldwide.  The tense rumblings are definitely undermining this pivotal role in this Asian locale where English is a primary language.

It is an inevitability that in 2047, HK will truly be molded as part of Mainland China, as per agreement reached in 1997, and it will be ruled by the Communist government like any other part of China.  Once done, HK will lose its financial prominence because the major Western powers will never allow itself to trust in China.  But why should HK be any different from any Chinese city?

But first a little trivia.  Before the ascendency of China as a looming world power, the Communist government had eyed HK with great avarice because HK’s economy or GDP then was comparatively huge compared to that of China. But in the meantime China’s many big cities blossomed and became modernized and prosperous amidst a riotous economy that was burgeoning to the point that now, HK’s GDP contribution would not mean that much, maybe representing only 10 or 15% of China’s total.

But the bigger problem is HK itself.  HK became unique HK because of the uncanny combination of the Chinese people’s intrepid nature and their entrepreneurship genius mixed with the vaunted British Common Law.   That inimitable combination produced HK, and we know this would become untenable once HK becomes part of the Communist regime of China.  Rule of law as known in the West will be alien then, and the HK generations weaned on this cannot survive.

Even with just this, one can easily grasp the mammoth dilemma that HK truly finds itself.