Friday, 31 October 2014

I am a Collector.

I am a collector. After 44 years on earth, I have to admit that I am a collector. No, not the bone collector or debt collector. Neither am I a rare stamp collector, an antique collector nor a figurine collector. No, definitely not those kinds or types.

I am actually a collector of life's blunders. I am a blooper keeper. I am a snafu harvester. I am a boo-boo reaper. A mistakes collector. A slip-of-the-tongue, slip-of-the-mind defaulter. If years mark the ageing process and love follows
 a marital oath, then misses, lapses and gaffes shadow my life. For every shadow of error that blights me, I am comforted that a light of learning is not far away. Yet, it is the flaws that are my building blocks of learning and they will be my loyal companion for the rest of my days on earth.

Mistakes often come at the heels of delusional invulnerability and I am quietly assured by life that I have an endless supply of the former (mistakes) at the persistent flourishing of the latter (self-perceived invulnerability). Humility is 
a strange game. It is most abundant when you have made it in life - so you think. Humility overflows when pride is enthroned and that is strange. This humility is almost conspiratorial in nature. It is like a magician's wand that conjures up the illusion of substance but alas, like a fool's gold, it is merely an appearance of form and not of substance.

Pride-bolstered humbleness is the flip-side of arrogance and its symmetry is projected humility. Like a spinning coin, you only see what
 you want others to see and as both sides converge into one face, what is shown is the flashy smile of humility, which hides the desperate scowl of pride.

But then, I have digressed. I have sidetracked with apology. I will leave it to you to make what you wilt of the paradoxical interchangeability of pride and humility. But the fact still remains that I am a collector. A collector of flops, missteps and misjudgments.

If arraigned in the court of life as an accused of such things, I am helpless and hapless to defend myself. I will 
be screwed many times over. It will be better if I just jump bail and remain a fugitive for life. I don't stand a chance. And I don't expect my prosecutorial team to have a tough time looking for evidence of the many faux pas throughout my living years. My past is an indictment enough to put me away in the future for good.

This is a cut-and-dried case where I am guilty even before the ink on the charge sheet dries and you can dispense with that patronizing presumption of innocence.
 Here's the evidence and supporting exhibits all decked out in court.

In life, I have failed many times. Mistakes follow me like dirt follows scum and poop follows fart. As a husband, my errors are aplenty. I am impatient, cocky and grumpy. As a parent, my faults abound like swarm. I am dismissive, short-tempered and apathetic. As a friend? Well, I am judgmental and self-centered. And as a Christian, I think you do not want to go there. My sins numbered the stars in a
cloudless nocturnal sky. The list is almost endless under the preamble "hypocrisy". I am therefore serving a life-sentence of my sins of commission and omissions with no chance of a parole (not in this life at least).

But then, here's my hope, here's my falling-forward. I am no doubt a collector and am still collecting. My collection however is a collection not only of mistakes but of betterment and improvement and every two-step backward advances me three-step forward. I strive to be what I
 am called to be and that is, to be the best that I can be. And if every morning, the sun rises not suddenly and abruptly but gradually and incrementally, then my life will unfold as such - slow and steady, dilatory but surely, and ponderous but firmly.

I guess the challenge of my life is not to be a fugitive from making mistakes but to seek consciously and resiliently to learn from the errors of my ways. And if life and living is a learning process, then I have to appreciate that my mistakes, whether past, present 
or future, are gift of seeds planted in the soil of maturity to remind me that I am only human as I patiently wait for the blooming of enriching experiences.  Cheerz.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Is God happy?

Is God happy? I sometimes wonder, Is he upbeat after watching over us for the last thousands, if not billions, of years? He has been there from the beginning anyway. He saw everything. He had a hand in everything in fact. But is he delighted with what he has seen so far?

You see, God authored the flood, rehabilitated Noah, led a nation, appointed kings, punished rebellions especially his very own, guided prophets, allowed wars and carnage, authorized some massacres, sent his son to be sacrificed, anointed apostles,
 blessed the Pope, cradled the church, watched internal dissension foments into a 30 years’ religious war, nurtured the industrial revolution, engineered modern civilization, inspired technology, watched Y2K come and go, and predicted how his creation will come to an end. He has done it all in his lifetime eternal.

So, is God happy then? Is he proud of his achievements? Is he contented, satisfied? Of course, it is a non-starter here. It is rather irreverent of me too I know. I mean, how am I to know the mind of God, his perfect mind? What’s more, his perfect emotions right? Aren’t I mistaking mine for his? God doesn’t work that way right?

 God doesn't keep a diary about how he feels on any given day. Neither does he blog or Facebook about it. He also doesn't leave loose notes or drop nature-revealing hints to show his feelings like painting an upside-down rainbow in the sky and hang it up there for days to show that he is pleased. I will therefore never know for sure how God is feeling at any given moment.

To be honest, if someone would to ask me the same question, Is God happy? I have to admit that I can't really 
say. That question is kind of broad too. Is he happy with me? Or with the world as a whole? Or with the current Christendom? Or with the tally of people saved as against those unsaved? Or with his plans for us? Or just with himself? I guess I feel like a dog chasing his own tail trying to answer that question.

I would also expect to get different answers from different people. If I ask a prosperity preacher, who is living in a big mansion and traveling 
in a private jet, I would expect his reply to be "God is good." I know it is simplistic but I really don't expect the prosperity preacher to answer off the bat that "God is bad." And if I catch his hint, and seeing from his pair of rosy sunglasses, it is safe to assume that he also thinks that "God is happy". He knows this because God has blessed him abundantly. And you don't bless someone if you are pissed off with him; not God at least.

Please don't give me the wazoo about when God wants to punish you, he answers your prayer. That just doesn't make any sense to the prosperity preacher. To him, God is always good and infinitely happy. He would wax lyrical about God because his praise looks good on him.

But if I would to ask a beggar on the street the same question "Is God happy?" he may beg to differ. Putting aside the real possibility that he may think I am crazy, a
 sensible beggar would hope not. Because he is begging on the street, making ends meet and living from hand to mouth with his life hanging precariously on a thread every single day unlike the prosperity preacher, the thought of a happy God would somehow make the beggar feel even more depressed.

In his mind, with a little imagination, I would think that he sees God as a foxhole buddy, sharing everything together in weal and
 woes, in good times and bad. He sees God as a divine comforter and a close friend in need and indeed. As such, I doubt he would so readily agree that God is happy.

Here I recall a scripture that says we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep. So, in the eyes of the beggar, any suggestion that God is happy in his current impoverished state would not go down well with him. In fact, he may even think privately to himself that a happy God is a gloating one.

So, to a beggar, God is more somber than happy. He would feel that God is sympathizing with him like mirror neurons would resonate when 
confronted with fellow sufferers. The beggar would even suggest that God is melancholic, if not outright sad. I think he would readily agree with Ecclesiastes 7:2, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.” I am quite sure the prosperity preacher would not be so quick to give this scripture a nod.

Well, I guess we all see God differently and our perception may very well depend on our current station in life. The rich would praise the Lord. The poor would be less effusive about it. The suffering would wish for more attention. The lost would stay away from him. The happy would bless God. The grateful would be thankful. The contented would see God as all-sufficient. The deluded would take God for
 granted. The wise would let God be God. The hopeless would want to see him, very soon. And the wicked would rather God mind his own business.

We want God to love us and at the same time, understand us. We want his attention and his blessings. We want God to feel how we feel and put us first always. We also want God to endorse our plans and grant us favors. For this reason, most of us become advocates for him, God's mouthpiece. We all claim we have his exclusive and undivided 
attention. And when we speak and act, we speak and act specifically for him. We are his individually-appointed earthly ambassadors, unavoidably representing conflicting interests of course.

With so many people claiming that they speak for God exclusively, and with so many of them clamoring for his attention and seeking after his favor, understanding and blessings, and fighting over and for him, it just makes the answer to the question "Is God happy?" incredibly and incredulously difficult. It is infinitely complicated at the very least.

After all said, I really wish God is happy because if I were in his shoes, I would be lost, terrified and even depressed. But then, it is just me…thank God. Cheerz.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Here's the true secret of our existence.

Before us, who? Before the universe, how? Before life, what? Before time, when? Before earth, where? Who. How. What. When. Where. Before God, was there anything, or can there be anything? If we think, therefore we are, then when God thinks, henceforth we came?

Imagine God exists before anything could even exist. He is the start of everything. His existence is both necessary and eternal. He roams freely in perceived nothingness, that is, in a reality far less materially perceivable than ours today, but no less imaginatively exuberant or brilliant. Everything happens in his mind. Everything takes flight there. Nothing of what we perceive now has the slightest chance to exist without having been first thought by him. Not even quantum space, a primordial singularity, a resonating string, a wisp of air or a blade of grass could exist without having been first imagined by him.

His thought is the genesis of everything that our perception beholds and marvels today. The soft touch of a fabric, the lust of a desire, the searching depth of an idea, the sore of a pain, the hollowness of depression, the euphoria of joy, and the simple pangs of hunger, all exist in God’s mind before we have the privilege to experience it in real sensorial time. Nothing escapes his focused attention. Nothing that is necessary and sufficient for the existence that our existence so depends and thrives upon could stray away in wanton idleness without object and purpose in the mind of the divine.

He saw everything by imagining everything. Nothing was left to its own devices. Nothing was author-less; without an anchorage. Nothing was without design and purpose. Every piece however trivial or paltry congruously makes up the whole puzzle masterpiece. Like a watchmaker, he had every tick and tock, life and death, nuts and bolts pinned down, regulated and built into the whole edifice of time and the enabling laws of the universe. Perception was the tool upon which the start and the end of all coherently agreeable materiality was born.  

More accurately then, the first chapter of Genesis should not commence with “In the beginning, let there be light”. It should in fact commence with a thought. An idea. A concept. An image. A breast-pocket picture of us and everything around us that makes us possible. In a way, it all started because God had a eureka! moment. And if anything, in the beginning, He had a vision. He had a hope. He had a mental itch that he cerebrally scratched into existence with the handmaiden of time and the cradle-sway of imagination.

Although it all began with the beginning of conceptualizing, there is something here that I think has a far more reaching consequence than I can ever think about God having thought about us gradually coming into focus and being. You see, if you strain a little to imagine beyond there being anything that could even make everything we see now a reality, the true genesis of it all may not even be a thought or an idea. It may not be a flashing image of us in his divine mind. God may not even be thinking about us in the way we would think about an earthly goal, a plan or a vision incubating in our mind before we make them a material success.

I suspect the beginning of everything, the perfect source of his imagination, his main and only motivation for our existing, is none other than love. It is love that undergirds everything. It is love that is the life-source of all. Love is and was the first and the last of all acts of creation. Love nourishes a pioneering idea, which then empowers a vision, and later compels an action and it soon blossoms into reality. Nothing could therefore move God more than his love to conjure, compose and conceptualize us into being.  

Love did the job and completed it most perfectly. Love shapes us. It molds us. It curates us. It breathes life into us. God is love. And love sacrifices everything for us. We are special not so much because God first thought of us. It is therefore not the object of an image of us in his mind that makes us special. But we are special, even unique, because God first loved us. We are therefore the subject of his sacred, unfailing passion. 

And if I may be granted some artistic liberty and somewhat irreverent indulgence, I would not hesitate to revise the first chapter of Genesis so that I could give more prominence to the one passion, one devotion and one sacrifice that had painstakingly weaned me into existence, and that is, His enduring, defining and triumphant love. Without which, I would still remain no more than a thought in his mind. Cheerz.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Making this world better? Just don't be a jerk.

How to make this world a better place? Easy. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t be someone whom others find repulsive, annoying and negative. Don’t be that jerk who is immature, self-serving and inconsiderate. Don’t just think about yourself but spare a thought for others, always. And don’t think that you will see tangible results soon. 

Making the world a better place is not like pulling a rabbit out of the hat. Presto! and the deed is done. The world would not be a better place
 overnight. It would not happen just because you decide to make it happen. So don’t unwittingly put the humongous burden all on your tiny shoulder (or on your humongous ego). It is not a glam race to be popular or adored. If you want to end up a celebrity making the world a better place, then forget about doing it. You will most probably end up more a jerk than a world-impacting icon in the likes of Nelson Mandela or Gandhi. 

You must accept that making this world a better place is about changing yourself first.
 But don’t bang the cymbals or blow the trumpet about it. You don’t send emails out or tweet or Facebook about it. A better world is not about doing big acts (and getting big-time responses of awe) but it is about small consistent efforts. Mother Teresa says that we may not all do great things but we can do small things with great love. She has forgotten to mention the humdrum monotony involved with small things but I think it is implied. 

So, it may very well start with taking out the trash, going 
on on a date with your wife more often, paying more attention to your son, walking your daughter to school, being more patient with the food court queue, being genuinely happy for the successes of your neighbors, or smiling more than usual. It is also a private affair between yourself and, well, yourself. Nobody has to know about it. It is a secret pact you make with quiet resolve and the reward is not instant media or friends’ recognition. 

In fact, it is such a glacial process that it differs little 
from watching paint dry or waiting for a pond to evaporate out. The reward is therefore not immediate. The reward is not even immediately experiential. You will feel nothing. You might receive nothing for the first few years too. Not even a handshake of appreciation. At best, those close to you will sense a change, but they can’t put a finger on what has specifically changed. 

So, have no illusions about making this world a better place. It is more than just an attitude change. It is a change of values,
 habits and perspective. It is a transformation of self by overturning (burying) it, not pampering (elevating) it. 

This is how I see the betterment of this world. It starts with you no doubt. It starts today. Don’t make plans for it. Don’t shoo-it into your diary. Don’t announce it to friends and relatives. It starts with the most trivial differences that often no one notices. It starts with an inner resolve that no one sees. It is a change not for the sake of change. It cannot be fake because the circumstances of this world will
 sooner or later conspire to cause you to fall flat on your face if all your effort and time are just for show. 

There is no rehearsals for you should you desire with beginner's enthusiasm to make this world a better place. You just plunge into it and make the difference. And the difference is how you treat yourself and others. You treat yourself with a healthy dose of self-respect, with modesty and decency, and with restrain, confidence and hope. You treat others the same way you treat yourself, with respect,
 consideration, confidence and hope. You become more understanding, open and forgiving. You let bygones be bygones and view mistakes as lessons to be learned. 

But don’t be too idealistic about it because nasty people and ugly circumstances don’t suddenly disappear just because you’ve decided to make this world a better place. They thrive on making you fail. But they also exist as your target practice. They will try your patience no doubt and provoke you out of 
your skin. They will throw you off your groove and make you curse the day you first decided to change the world for good. This is where the real test comes in. 

How you respond to them will test your sincerity and resolve to make this world a better place. If you are for real, authentic and steadfast, then you will valiantly claim back your groove and you will withstand their relentless mockery, taunts and assaults. In fact, you will even win some of them over with your fortified character and gracious goodwill.
 This is where you may get a little recognition and praise for your changed behavior. 

But if along the process, you find it too inconvenient that giving up seems almost certain and inevitable, then take heart for you have not failed in making this world a better place. No siree. Don't get ahead of yourself. Failure is not the right description for this midstream abandonment. Because, if you think about it, how do you fail in something that you have not even genuinely started? How does one fail a test
 if he did not even sign up for it? So, seen from this angle, you had merely not gotten started, that’s all. Restart all over and try it for real this time round.  

But if you think this “changing the world” stuff clearly cramps your style because it is too unglam and darn hard, then continue on whatever path you were trekking before you first decided to make this world a better place. In any case, changing this world for the 
better is unlike a day's catwalk on the fashion runway. You will not be missed and the world will not suffer any seismic changes just because you have decided to give it up for good. There will always be many others who will and have successfully taken up the task and persisted to the end.  Their collective and consistent effort will make the pivotal difference and it will definitely off-set your half-hearted effort with net benefit to ricochet around for all, even to you. 

So if being a jerk is far easier for you than
 changing the world for the better, than by all means keep it up. It’s your life and it's your business to live your life the way you want it anyway. Just don't stand in the way of those who happen to cross your path in the pursuit of the all-important goal you have given up. Just don't hinder their good effort. Come to think about it, that may just be the tiniest littlest part you play to contribute to making this world a better place. Consider it your consolatory pet on the back I guess. Cheerz.