Wednesday, 30 July 2014

If love is a battlefield, these are the rules.

If love is a battlefield and marriage is a foxhole dodging live rounds, these are the 5 checklists or rules to survive it all.

1) A happy wife is a happy marriage. This is the overriding ground rule. When all else fails, when it's that time of the month, when she's touchy or edgy or scratchy or just creepy, hold this rule close to your clueless heart. Don't let go. Husbands are there to make wives happy and Pharrell Williams got the finger
 on the button or the tug on the heart string with his awesomely simplistic song "Happy". Every husbands ought to memorize the chorus in order to dodge all that heat-seeking marital bullets. Here is me giving you a head start. 

Because I'm happy

Clap along if you feel like a head without a clue.

Because I'm happy

Clap along if you feel like happiness' just for her.

Because I'm happy

Clap along if you know that happiness for you is her.

Because I'm happy

Clap along if you feel like that's what you gotta do.

Got it? Still clapping? Now repeat the chorus again and again until it plays in your mind like a splitting migraine and is the only thing you hear when she's in one of those hell-has-no-fury moods. "Check".

2) Say sorry even if you don't entirely mean it. Doesn't that
 make me half a hypocrite you say? Erm...there's a context to that actually. You see, I have discovered that saying sorry may seem to be the hardest word, but not saying it only makes it worse. By holding on to your ego, which unsurprisingly is the cause of all our marital downfall, you're not doing your marriage a favor, not at all. Let's face it, you marry her because you love her. The vows, the crowd of witnesses, and the unrelenting consummation pleasure all adds up to authenticate your love for her. So,
 you would be a full-blooded "hypocrite" if you deny all that. Logical? That is why being half a hypocrite (apologize) is infinitely better than being a full hypocrite (deny you love her by refusing to apologize). Get it? It's simply relative in a tweaked way. If you want to be true to yourself, at least as close to the truth as possible, then just say sorry because not saying it will bring you a lifetime of unwitting hardship. How about sincerity, you ask? Well, I believe if you say it (long enough), they will come (sincerity that is). Don't even try
 to dissect that. Say it and you will be magically surprised that many (trap)doors will be opened for you to escape from a potentially explosive situation. "Check".

3) Saying "I love you" can save your life. If sorry doesn't quite help, then follow that up with "I love you". Whether you mean it or not at that moment is secondary to the unintended consequences that flow from those three words. Biblically, love covers over a multitude of sins. In your case, it covers a universe
 full of it. Even when you think you have a point, or that you are right in some ways, forget about bulldozing your way through. The larger picture is always more mutually beneficial. Defer your point to a later date when you are safely out of the eye of her storm. Because when in the storm, all she is dying to hear is how sorry you are and how much you love her. So go ahead and say them, say them in its proper sequence, and I assure you, immediate peace and a quartet of chirpy birds will descend upon you. And if you
 strain a little, you may even hear a chorus of Pharrell's happy song playing in your head and experience a feet-tapping elevation of your mood. "Check".

4) Silence is golden when you are pissed off. This is the part that is the hardest. In order to keep it all together, I've learned that you have to keep it shut, tight. I know this is counterintuitive. But it is only temporary. Just for that gut- bursting moment, silence beats a shouting match anytime. It is said that the fool is silent
 because he has nothing to say but the wise is silent because he has many things to say. And although wise husbands are hard to come by, they are not ignorant of the fact that when they are pissed off, trying to say anything so laden with their inflammatory mood is as effective as trying to drown a fish in water. The fish will not be drowned and your boat will not float with her. So, somebody has to take a deep breath, give in and endeavor to close the gap. If men are the head of the household, so says the scriptures, then
 husbands are to take the lead on this. It's our sacred duty. "Check".

5) Time is the coveted fruit of a resilient marriage. This is my final point and the most serious one. This point is a tad cryptic. Time here refers to passing time and passing time eases all hurts and misunderstanding in a marriage and graciously deepens the marital ties. If we fight for our marriage, especially the husbands, treasure it, and strive to develop it, the foundational roots will invariably grow. With
 deeper roots, and with passing time, the marriage will be resilient and strong enough to face all kinds of weather. While my four mischievous points above relate to in-the-moment, situational scenarios, this last point is about taking the long Len’s view of things. It is looking beyond the here-and-now and into our marital future, the horizon of growth and understanding. Everything has a future if we take the time and put in the effort. A plant, a puppy, an education, a child, and our marriage, you 
name it, they all have a future. We end it when we give it all up. But should we persist, against the odds, putting aside our personal ego and selfish desires, our marriage surely has a rewarding future. This is not plain idealism but it is realizable reality via a passion that never say die. So, give it time, don't give up, give of your best, and watch this gift of love blooms into a future that may very well be a truly HAPPY one for both of you.  Cheerz.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Should an atheist pray...

Should an atheist pray, it would go something like this...
Dear first cause, if you should exist, I just want you to know that you are quite something. I mean it as a compliment. This universe is definitely awesome. I don't know whether it stretches to some limited horizon in space-time or to cosmic infinity, but either way, you are truly magnificent to have singlehandedly created it all. Hands down, I stand in awe of
 your handiwork, your masterpiece. If you are listening, I want you to know that I am grateful to you for designing it in such a way that I eventually emerge as I am, a human being with a searching consciousness to admire it all. Even though life as we know it is short, transient, and even fleeting, but to be able to live and to live in such a time when humanity can confront the deepest mysteries of this universe and understand but just a fraction of it is a privilege that I am indebted to you for a 
lifetime. You are indeed worthy of praise and worship if you are truly the originator of it all. But with unconditional admiration comes undeniable responsibility too, don't you agree? If I may be permitted to say this, I would like you to know that your awesomeness is unfortunately a qualified one. The beauty of your creation also comes with the perplexity of your character. Let's take the subject that is hardest to swallow...erm...suffering as an example here. Let's limit it to human suffering only. This is 
where the divine mettle of your character comes into the sharpest focus. Your power seems to be most sparingly applied here. Sometimes, it seems even most glaringly absent for reasons that is unbeknownst to all except yourself. The contradiction is to me as an atheist most painfully perplexing. Why is the one most worthy of praise and worship and the perfect epitome of goodness, love and power so reticent, reserving and conserving of his attention and intervention in the
 most heart-wrenching issues involving the most gratuitous and pointless suffering in this world? Why is your hand so restraint when babies die the most undeserving deaths, when young girls are made to suffer most inhumanely without end, and when the most despicable and heartless men commit atrocities on innocent masses with seemingly blessed impunity? Surely, your ceaseless love for them should at least compel you to act in a way that an earthly parent would, if not 
exceedingly more so since you had once tasted the most callous torture and would scarce to think that your own weak and helpless beloved creation, especially the young innocent ones, should even taste a fraction of that unspeakable pain, god forbid, the whole nine awful yards of it, right? Believers will be quick to come to your defense here. Now to their credit, their faith in you is really admirable and truly out of this world. Notwithstanding the inexplicable sufferings in this world, and your
apparent hiddenness and enduring silence, your avid defenders have the most creative, and even emotionally persuasive, arguments advanced in your favor. While one or two of them makes some sense, which largely has to do with redemptive suffering and the eventual overall justice to set everything right, as an atheist, I can't help but have this feeling that they all suffer from what I would deem too trite, overused, and even platitudinous.  Sorry. You see, their argument may be fresh and exciting centuries ago 
but it unfortunately gets worn off as the centuries roll by with little to show but the same recycled defense repeated ad infinitum. Somehow I think it's time for you to take things into you own hands, proactively speaking. I think that it would be more expedient if you could make your glory known to all in a more tangible manner to assure the believers, the disillusioned, and the disaffected that their hope and trust in you is still well placed. Because nothing shuts the rabid critics like me better
 than your personal appearance to your creation in one grand worldwide concert-tour-like fashion. Imagine the WOW! factor there. Surely that would put to rest all the rhetoric and polemic of apologetics any believer can ever hope to offer. If a picture paints a thousand words, imagine a moving, larger-than-life one appearing in the sky in all splendor and majesty... But then, I think it is not my place here to make any demands on you since you should know better about such things. Moreover, I can see that faith is a very powerful belief system and many have overcome the worst in their life by anchoring their hope on you. Frankly speaking,
 my envy for them has no end; barring the possibility of a mass delusion of course. So, I guess my prayer to you, assuming your existence is real, is to tell you that you indeed work in mysterious ways. So mysterious in fact that it makes believing in you an almost impossible intellectual feat. It defies all logic to tell another that while you love unconditionally, you seem to care rather selectively, and while your word clearly affirms that you answer all prayers, most of the time, the answers to the prayers
 are not the answers the petitioners have been praying for, and lastly, while your believers strive to give the impression that you are as real as the nose on their face, it often takes much more than a sneeze to know that you are there, if you are really there in the first place. In fact, it invariably takes a quantum leap of faith to bridge what is the unknown (that is, you) with what is simply unknowable (still you). This is the part that I struggle most with to understand and every time I try to do so, you
 appear to be more elusive than before. Maybe believing in you takes more than faith. Maybe it takes a heart that must be prepared to put aside the neurotic need to know the whys of everything before one believes. And in its place, it is a heart of unconditional surrender that is called for. Alas, on that standard, I fail miserably. As an atheist, I do not have the courage to accept things unquestionably or unconditionally. For me, I just need to know that the object of my belief is as tangible as the 
nose on my face. And anything short of that makes a lifetime sacrifice on my part less than worth the time and effort; it may even appear delusional. And should I be proven wrong one day as I stand before you, I pray that you will show me mercy for choosing the wrong road because the road signs planted along the way seemed to be a tad less than obvious. Amen. Cheerz.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes closes the gap for me

I went to watch Dawn of the Planet of the Apes last night and came out of the theater thinking like an ape and walking like a man. The movie is awesome. The characters are strangely believable; and I mean the human side of the apes. If monkey-see-monkey-do, then the apes in the movie have aped us well and vice versa.

Of course the plot was predictable. But the clashes, the violence and the war were all secondary to how realistic the animal-human portrayals were. Although the movie is about ape versus man, that is, animals versus humans, at most times, you can't really tell them apart. The humanness of the apes and the ape-likeness of the humans were spookily uncanny. If anything, we are indeed social animals and
 our primate cousins are veritably social homo sapiens (man the wise). I think the movie delivered that message perfectly. If not for the tweed clothes and baggy pants, I guess the two species, which shared almost identical genetic makeup, were clearly interchangeable.

And the movie cast that you will throw your simian vote for with endearing affection is none other than the leader of the pack named Caesar. He reminds me of Mel Gibson's Brave heart or Marlon Brandon's Godfather. Caesar is hands down a leader of 
substance. You could almost see a human soul looking out of his Solomon-like, piercing eyes. He is also as cool as Will Smith in I am Legend. The only difference is that our very own fresh prince had lesser overall hair coverage. But other than that, both of them had their own demons to fight. Will had to contend with infected zombies who can’t stand light and Caesar had to broker the peace between men and apes who can’t stand each other.

The plot is simple enough. It's about that age-old Darwinian struggle 
to the Herbert Spencer’s coinage of survival of the fittest. And here’s the spoiler alert. No species is perfect, especially the human race. This fight to live and thrive is an instinct as old as our existence. And in comes Caesar’s most trusted lieutenant by the name of Koba to thicken the stewing plot for us. Like Judas who sold out Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, Koba betrayed Caesar for the most hackneyed of all social reasons: xenophobia. You see, he was apparently an experimental lab-monkey tortured by humans before Caesar saved him. This fueled his hatred for humanity even further.

This is quite a relief in the movie for me since the way it had developed, you’d think that humans (as usual) were going to act like savage animals and the savage animals were going to act like, well, humans. You can’t really blame me for this since we are always the first species to poke, stir and kick the hornets’ nest. And with the start of explosive clash between the two species (or one if you are a purebred evolutionist), it is all downhill from there; which incidentally, for the human viewers, is the most exciting part of the movie (or all uphill in adrenaline rush thereon). You just have to watch for yourself how the uprising happened and the bittersweet narrative at the end to truly marvel at the cinematographic depth and action.

But there is another side to the movie that gave me cause for meditation as I left the theater. Instead of the theme of the survival of the fittest, it is what I’d call the revival of the finest

It is easy here to see the ugly side of both men and apes. The rottenness in us has all been foretold ad infinitum with religious fidelity and exactitude. There is no need to rehash our unbroken history of war and violence. In fact, Mark Twain had put it so deftly in his characteristic biting wit here, “Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, war. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and calm pulse to exterminate his kind. He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out…and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel…And in the intervals between campaign he washes the blood off his hands and works for “the universal brotherhood of man”…with his mouth.” Mm…(sigh)

But unfailingly, the other side of us deserves some showcasing here; if not more. In the movie, the cooperation between a volunteer group of men (starred Jason Clarke, Keri Russell and Lucky Johnson) and Caesar as the leader of the simian colony was deeply inspiring. You see the trust gradually building up between them and you see the beauty of empathy, understanding, joy, hope, sharing, sacrifice, impartiality, and friendship glowing valiantly from start to end. The scene of the baby chimp toying with the human group at the lake is priceless. If the scriptwriters and director wanted us to feel the humanness of what we once called the savage beast, then they have succeeded most brilliantly.

In fact, I felt a human connection with Caesar (and his tribe, especially Maurice the orangey orangutan) and even harbored quiet admiration for him. Apart from his amazing linguistic repertoire, he spoke rather fluent staccato-like English, Caesar surprisingly epitomizes the best in us. He could have made a very persuasive and credible human leader if not for his ape-like features.

Of course, in the end, it is just a smart movie with a superb storyline packed with 2 hours plus of heart-gripping emotions and heart-stopping action. But there is just something about the movie that leaves an indelible mark on the viewers. And no, it is not the mark of the human beast of course.  It is a mark that leaves you thinking about the beauty of all God’s creation. This revival of the finest is all about our capacity to rise above nature, "red in tooth and claw", and in rising above it, we are then able to overcome the animal in us…or in this case, the savage human in us. Cheerz.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Come share with me my disillusionment.

Come share with me my profound sense of disillusionment. Come sit for a while and see things as they really are. If perception is everything, then perception can be nothing at all. What we see can deceive us. What we hope can delude us. What we lust after can derail us. All that glitters in the end is not gold. It is merely expertly gold-plated. Underneath the veneer of what we thought was gold is in fact nothing but termite-infested wood, rotting
 and breaking down under the weight of wishful thinking, unrealistic longing and ungrounded hope.

Take religion for example. The bitter irony bites real deep here. Leaving aside the question of God, his love and his mightiness, we have been misled by our own contrived sense of piousness. If I get a dollar for the number of times we religiously covenant with God to repent and renounce our sin only to find ourselves going back to the same filth, I would be a very rich man by now.

I don’t
 want to be a sour-grape here, but I sincerely believe that true repentance eludes some of us. I know this sounds weird but I believe the seasons of a man’s life is so multivariate and complicated that for some of us a season of sin stretches to the eve of our mortality (or morbidity).  Repentance is a tall order for us. It is often easy and even convenient to say I have changed but to live out that change is much tougher than words alone can justify. Here is where the disillusionment cuts really 
deep for me. Instead of bringing us closer to God, religion ironically sets us on a treadmill of forward motion without the forward progress.

Here is where perception plays an insidious role too. We think we have progressed by paying lip service to repentance but we have only tacitly given ourselves the immunity (or impunity) to sin even further; this time under the guise of religion. By hiding under the refuge of
 religiosity, we are merely replacing one sin with another. It often takes a more religious sin to cover the less religious sins of humanity.

The illusion of piousness is so powerful here that it can even make us believe that we are a new creation when the only thing new about us is that we have put on a new cloak of self-righteousness while discarding the old one of open rebellion. We therefore looked white-wash from the outside when the only change within is an astute rearranging of the sins we 
have disingenuously sought to renounce. This apparent self-avowed exercise is as futile as trying to diligently tidy up a messy room by rearranging the clutters in another way instead of throwing all of them out.

If religion is all about the perception of change, then it has done eminently well with its believers. We see the change in them no doubt but alas, it is unfortunately only a change of context and not content, so to speak. If putting an unrepentant believer in a Church and giving 
him some pious ministry to serve in is a sign of transformation, then sleeping in a garage would by the same self-serving logic transform one into a mustang or standing still in a living room long enough would turn one into a recliner.

Indeed the love of God covers over a multitude of sins. But the problem here is that we constantly misapply this love to make us feel good about ourselves when we continue our double-minded lifestyle of self-justifying transgression. What makes it even worse is the recent
 doctrine of hyper-grace; which is really a godsend for many believers. You can’t expect the believers not to exploit this doctrine for all its unintended consequences.

My soul-gnawing disillusionment here is how anyone with half the mind can ever think for a second that the believers will not take advantage of a doctrine that assures them that all their sins are forgiven unconditionally under the auspices of God’s unconditional love just because human gratitude will do well to
 effectively ring-fence their fleshly appetites. Imagine the floodgates! We will milk it for all its perverted worth. We will go berserk with the idea that God loves us too much to ever want to condemn us or judge us or reprimand us or discipline us. With that kind of love, however misconceived by us, only losers end up in hell.

I can go on with this marathon of disillusionment if you have the time. I can bemoan the illusion of invulnerability, control and certainty of humanity. I can lament about how cocksure we 
are about what we know with a little knowledge gained from ivy-league institutions only to find that the higher we climb the totem-pole of knowledge, the clearer we show our intellectual derriere to the world at large.

I can tell you about the empty boasting of men as they parade their worldly toys around for all to marvel but alas, their life is in shambles because their endless striving came with a price that they can scarcely afford without knowing that they can scarcely afford until it is too 
late. And such ill-afforded price-tag reads, “the narcissism of the insignificant”.

I can tell you that there is no certainty in this world except for men who are glowingly cocksure about things. I can share with you about the persistent disappointments of a devout pining her hope on a miracle that never came or the deafening cries of children clinging on to the hope that life would be better in the long run when it is more probable than not that in the long run, we will all be dead. I can go on and on about 
the meaninglessness of what most of us think is meaningful and the hopelessness of what most of us think is hopeful. But that would be an overkill on my part as this world sadly lacks neither the resources nor inspiration to fuel my disillusionments. And more pertinently, I guess I have said enough.

I greatly appreciate your time with me to muse about things most soul-bitingly ironical that our mortal eyes have obstinately refused to see for the utmost reason that hope, even
 the deluded ones, is infinitely better than giving up. If I had unraveled too much in this one sitting, I apologize for being a wet blanket of humanity. This is my bucket list of disillusionment that I have served up on you. 

And in a strange way, this list somehow keeps me hopeful of the one thing in life that I guess makes it all worth waking up for. It is the hope that maybe, just maybe, all this bottled-up disillusionment really comes from a place of empowerment and realization that we are not as bad, helpless 
or irredeemable as we first thought we were after all.  Cheerz.