“Passing affections easily produce words; and words are cheap; and godliness is more easily feigned in words than in actions. Christian practice is a costly, laborious thing. The self-denial that is required of Christians, and the narrowness of the way that leads to life, does not consist in words, but in practice. Hypocrites may much more easily be brought to talk like saints, than to act like saints.”
-1 John 4.18a
It is interesting that our desire for Love can be as strong as our fear of being loved. In our deepest parts, we know we crave Love–that unadulterated stream of light which we suspect could pierce through our shadowed layers and touch us at the core. And yet, when Love begins to glimmer before us, threatening to burst like fireworks, we recoil in fear and trepidation. We question whether we deserve, or even want, such illumination. We discover that the very glow of Love that can banish our soul’s darkness and emptiness is the same light that can accentuate the rough edges and scandalous caverns of our being. How we covet the former with the same passion with which we evade the latter!
We can make the mistake of stopping there–in that place where we are so close and yet so far–and then start retreating. For just as we begin to delighfully bask in the first rays of Love’s light, we also find ourselves blushing, ashamed of our highlighted imperfections.
What we don’t realize is that if we hold our ground a bit longer, endure the discomforts of this new brightness before us and the ugliness it unveils; if we allow Love to intensify its glow, then we’ll find that Love can and will do the unthinkable: In its own time, Love will radiate a river of powerful, omnidirectional brilliance that will engulf all our shadows–from the grays of our doubts to the deep blacks of our transgressions–leaving only pure, pulsating white in its wake.
Now, this is the kind of Love we must seek; the kind of Love that we should courageously abandon ourselves to! Not the whimsical flicker of infatuation, nor the offensive beam of selfishness disguised as affection. This Love, in its truest and purest, can only shine on us from an otherworldly Source.
who does not change like shifting shadows.
Thoughts sparked by candid conversations by the Manila Bay and at an office corner.
Devoted to the end
Redeemer, Savior, Friend
And I hate that I hate being this way. Which is good.
I lost almost half-a-liter of blood today. Nothing gross or tragic. It all went straight into a pouch, siphoned from my left arm while I squeezed a stress ball in 5-second intervals. The bag containing my Type O blood (not rare, I know) will be used to replace the blood that was transfused into my ailing aunt earlier this week.
For some people, donating blood is an ordeal. The sight of needles and blood is enough to drain the color out of them. (My mother is one of them; she is superwoman but the sight of blood is her kryptonite.) But not me; I don’t have any issues with needles or blood. I’ve had blood drawn from me many times, both for tests and donations. And each time, I relished watching the medtech insert the needle into my alcohol-swabbed skin, and then seeing the first trickles of dark-red fluid ooze out of my arm and into the transparent syringe or tubing. The sight is a reminder for me of life and its wonders; that important things are not always in plain view.
I feel a dull ache in my left arm as I type this, and a slight throbbing behind my left ear. The puncture wound has closed and I’ve disposed of the cotton ball taped over it. There are still things I want to write about–like the candid Q-and-A with friends at Baywalk as the sun set, the lovelife talk over pasta and pizza, the family chat in the FX on the way back– but I feel a bit heady. I’m thinking my body has made a rollcall of its blood supply and found that 450cc is missing. So before my system presses the panic button, I think I’ll lie down and rest, to convince my body that all is well.
I am not one for dispensing tips. But here’s one anyway.
Before you leave the office on a Friday, make sure to empty your coffee mug-thermos of its contents. Why? Because if you don’t, chances are good that come Monday, by force of habit, while your mind is busy with work (ahem) and your eyes glued to your computer monitor, your right hand will reach for that green Starbucks vessel (as it has done countless times before when you’re in deep thought); fingers will involuntarily flip the cover, and you will sip three-day-old coffee.
Not a very pleasant taste, believe you me.
” ‘One learns of the pain of others by suffering one’s own pain,
by turning inside oneself, by finding one’s own soul….
It destroys our self-pride, our arrogance, our indifference towards others.
It makes us aware of how frail and tiny we are
and of how much we must depend upon the Master of the Universe.’ “–
The Chosen, Chaim Potok
I have finally finished The Chosen by Chaim Potok. This 284-page novel has been my reading fare for the past two weeks or so—onboard the MRT or bus, while getting a haircut, in coffeeshops, before dozing off at night. Any chance I got to retreat to it, I took. But before that, it had lain under my computer desk gathering dust for many months. Now, less than an hour after I’ve turned its last page, I regret that I took so long to get to reading it.
The Chosen is not a page-turner in the sense of a Dan Brown or John Grisham novel. (Here I risk betraying my literary ineptitude.) This is probably why I didn’t get past Chapter 1 when I first attempted to read it many months ago. The Chosen opens with teen-aged Jewish boys playing baseball. Reading it then, I felt there were just too many new elements to grapple with: baseball (I’m not sports-minded, so the blow-by-blow description of the play didn’t interest me much), the cultural context (the Jewish jargon and tradition were very new to me), the setting (Brooklyn, New York City in the late 1930s did not make for easy visualization). And did I mention that I was a lazy reader?
But the fact that the book was highly recommended and loaned to me by a certified bookworm (who just happens to be the publications director at the publishing house where I work), I just had to give The Chosen a second chance. And I’m glad I did. This time around, I decided that I would at least read through a few chapters—toil through the baseball, the Jewish references—and then decide whether this book was for me.
Forty pages into the novel, 15-year-old Danny Saunders swings his bat and the ball hits bespectaled Reuven Malter, precariously lodging a shard of glass in his left eye. The accident brings these two boys from the opposite poles of Judaism to the common ground of intimate friendship. From that point on, I knew I would finish the book. The next chapters follow the admirable friendship between Danny and Reuven as they weather the storms of religious ideologies, adolescence, intellectual awakenings, and father-and-son relationships. Their fathers, both highly regarded in their respective Jewish communities, are men of conviction who raise their boys the best way they know how.
I have found in The Chosen many themes that tug at the heart. Friendship, with its burdens and delights, is depicted with warmth and almost-palpable reality. The portrayal of fatherhood as a sacred, even frightful, responsibility creates a lump in the throat. A respect for differences in convictions is nobly upheld, but not without a realistic acknowledgement of the difficulty of practicing it, especially in the realm of faith and politics.
The Chosen is fiction that ennobles. It touches the soft parts of our heart—those parts that need to be engaged regularly if we are to remain in touch with our humanity, its intricacies, and its undeniable connection to the Master of the Universe.
Envy has frozen these tapping fingers. I didn’t tap dance in the past few days because of a really, really good blog I had visited, per a friend’s emailed recommendation. As the page was loading, my left eyebrow was already raised in skepticism. Hmmm… Let’s see what this dude’s got.
My eyes passed–no, glided–through skillfully woven words. Without warning my face softened and before I knew it a smile had etched itself in place of the smug frown. Delighted by beautiful and seemingly effortless prose, my arrogant curiosity was easily replaced by sheer admiration. But Envy and it’s equally evil twin, Self-Doubt, just had to take centerstage all too soon.
I don’t deserve to publish a blog! Woe to me! Why did I even think I could write? The insecurity was bordering on being pathetic…
But look at me now, I’m tap dancing again. So I guess I have snapped back to reality (and its humbling truths). I think I can live with the fact that I’m not as good a writer as that jedi blogger, or a host of other writers, for that matter. Hehe. I have mustered enough maturity to enjoy his writing and learn a thing or two… or three from his generous sharing of writing tips and insights. Now that I think of it, my envy seemed a bit ridiculous, not to mention embarrassingly arrogant. (The blogger, as I soon learned, is a prolific writer, well-respected in the Philippine blogging scene, to say the least.)
Curious? Check it out. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you. Hehe. Enjoy! 🙂
Thanks to Sharon F. for referring me to the blog. Interestingly, Sharon doesn’t even have a blog and I feel a little frustrated that my convincing powers haven’t worked their magic with her yet. But I’m a patient man. *wink at Sharon*
The summer heat is torturous. My little bedroom has transformed into an oven. Even at maximum, my stand fan can only do so much; after all, the air it circulates is still warm air. So I grab my backpack and toss in my PDA, its keyboard, and a book. Destination: the mall.
I was silly to think that mine was an original idea. It turns out SM North is jampacked with enough people to stage another People Power. Everyone has sought refuge in the mall’s cool climate. I take a look at the movies list, but nothing strikes my fancy. So I walk to Figaro only to find that my favorite spot has been taken. Sigh. Starbucks then.
At Starbucks, the only empty spot is one by the entrance and beside the trash bin. Well, this will have to do for now. I mark my territory by leaving my bag on the wooden seat. Time to get a frap. This afternoon it’s coffee-based rhumba frap. Frapuccino and a book, in an airconditioned place. Perfect recipe for a sweltering summer afternoon.
In a few minutes, a table farther from the entrance is vacated. I see other people eyeing it, but I’m determined to make it mine. So I stride to the table with my things, hoping that my deliberate and almost cocky maneuver would intimidate competition. It works. Above my new spot is an aircon vent. Nice.
The music from my earphones does not completely eradicate ambient noise. But it’s enough to give me a bit of solitude and privacy.
Solitude is bittersweet, I muse. I like it because it gives me an opportunity to take long, deep breaths, both literally and figuratively. When I have company, I tend to blabber no end, barely catching my breath. By my lonesome, however, no words need to be uttered; just thoughts and feelings to be sorted and examined, prayers to be whispered, deep breaths to be taken.
But solitude is also disconcerting. Because it can be brutally honest. One is never really alone in solitude; he is actually with his Inner Self. It is that part of a person that gets obscured and muffled by the hectic activities of daily life. It is that part which, in solitude, demands an audience.
Right across my small circular table is an empty wooden seat. It’s not really empty. And so I begin a muted conversation.
Two votes were all it took from XX-chromosomed friends for me to once again submit my mane to shearing. Two separate occasions, one question: Masagwa na ba buhok ko? The same curt answer from the two: Oo. With nary a second’s hesitation.
I was mildly disappointed. I expected some cute, friendly answer like, “Ok pa naman… just dry it and comb it well,” or “Cool nga e! Long live the non-conformists!”
Fine, I could see that my hair’s starting to look unsightly, especially the rebellious flips at the nape. And, yes, it’s almost three months since my last snip. But… do I really need a haircut??
Sigh. Okay. Be a man and walk straight into that salon named after the biblical boy who slayed a pagan giant. The blond male hairdresser asked the standard “What do you want?” But instead of the usual “Trim lang” that I habitually blurt out under such an occasion, I opted for “‘Kaw na bahala, basta iklian mo.” Then I bowed and lost myself in the pages of Chaim Potok’s The Chosen, only occasionally glancing up and checking my reflection in the mirror, and brushing aside strands of hair that fell on my book.
Blond hairdresser methodically snipped, combed, and slid his fingers through my hair. After he was done (and, yes, after someone blowdried my hair–not a very manly scene, no doubt), I saw my reflection in the mirror, my left eyebrow raised in disbelief. I couldn’t quite decide then which I regretted more: giving the hairdresser free rein on my mane, or getting too engrossed with my book that I wasn’t able to look up in time to protest the carnage. Both, i guess.
But there’s no use crying over spilled milk–or, more appropriately, whining about ill-snipped hair. This isn’t the first time I have been unhappy about a haircut. Besides, I don’t generally enjoy getting haircuts. My sole consolation is the wonderful fact of nature that hair grows (at an average rate of one-hundredth of an inch per day). Meantime, the alphabet holds no better letters for me than these three: G-E-L.
P.S. I tried W-A-X. Didn’t work. I’m contemplating a reparative haircut.