Inspiring Holiday Moments

26 12 2008

On the way back home to Toronto from Muskoka, I was listening to David Foster’s “Movie Montage” from his album “Rechordings” on my iPod when things broke out of my mind and I thought that it would be a great idea for me to share it here.

I spent Christmas (2008) with my family out of town to Muskoka where a family friend of ours – a retired couple (a Filipina married to a Canadian) who is very welcoming and have been kind to us in the last 6-7 years – owns a cottage that is really close to nature; it’s essentially a perfect place for them who are already retired for a long while now. After a couple of interactions with a couple of people there – one-on-one chats in particular – and especially the revelations that I realised as we went back home, I found that this Christmas became something that I would cherish for the rest of my life.

This occasion was particularly special to me because it was the time when I found myself coming back from the deep hole I’ve been digging in the last couple of months now – that is when I took advantage of the strike at my university by treating it as my hiatus where I did nothing but sleep, work and play games as opposed to actually hitting the books and finishing this final lap of my school life; it’s when I totally lost interest to studying and acquiring any kind of knowledge related to Linguistics, Japanese and Spanish; I lost inspiration to talk with my Peruvian co-worker in Spanish who just left our workplace; I even justified what colourgenics was telling about me; I had that voracity for peace and rest for a long time in order to tell myself what a stupid person I have become and that I should be thinking of ways to solve my problems.

This is what my colourgenics analysis said 3 days ago:

You feel worn out, physically and mentally. Recently the going has been tough and it looks as if there is still a considerable way for you to go before you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. If only you could put a protecting wall around yourself and cut yourself off from the rest of the world – be it even for only a little while – how wonderful it would be, but you can’t – so you need to bear with it. Just when everything will seem at its lowest ebb you will find that there is a turnabout and your problems will seem to find a way of resolving themselves.

You are in need of rest, some peace and quiet. You feel the need to be close to that someone special, that someone who can give you that special consideration and unquestioning affection that you seek. If you don’t find that ’special someone’ and resolve your problems very soon, you are liable to become extremely introverted and cut yourself off from society.

Your confidence has been shattered. There are so many things that you would like to do with your life, so many dreams to be fulfilled – and you know that your hopes and dreams are not just figments of your imagination, they are real and you are looking for reassurance from someone. Basically your fears are such that you may be prevented in attaining your hopes and dreams. Even now you would like to broaden your fields of endeavour but in order to develop your ‘inner- self’ you need peace and solace. You are distressed by the fear that you may be prevented from attaining your goals. What you really need at this particular moment in time is quiet reassurance from someone close to you to restore your confidence.

You are experiencing considerable stress which is essentially the result of on going rejection and hostility. You are in the unpleasant position where offers of trust, affection and understanding are being withheld and you are being treaded with a degrading lack of consideration. You feel that you are being denied the appreciation that you deserve, which is essential to your well-being and self-esteem, but you have to face up to the situation because as matters stand at this time there is little that you can do about it – you feel that you are getting nowhere and the continuous struggle is a lonely one: all difficulties and no encouragement. Whatever you try to say or do is met with continuous hostility and no matter how much you protest you are consistently misunderstood. You need to escape from the situation but you are so perplexed that you cannot find the strength of mind to make the necessary decision.

You wish to safeguard yourself against criticism or conflict and to embed yourself in a protected situation. You are a difficult person to relate to and very difficult to please.

I believed in this analysis and I was planning to lock my doors from my parents from this point onwards. But things really got a lot more interesting when we spent Christmas in Muskoka.

~

First off, I guess the Canadian husband was the first one to make me ponder about life through what he was saying as he went all tipsy after having a couple of drinks.

At first he was ranting about what’s happening in Canadian politics these past couple of weeks telling me that although he didn’t vote in the last election, he still has the right to complain because he’s paying taxes which I respect… He was also talking about the news of the recession and the bail out issue with the big 3 car companies: GM, Dodge and Chrysler.

Then he came into an addling idea about transience. Being an intellectual, an academic, an activist and as someone who struggles to make sure our generation will pass on great things to our descendants through being progressive and changing our world constantly, I was hit hard when he told me that the past generations never thought about our present generation ergo he doesn’t believe in the conservation of the environment which we focused a lot with. He thought that if Canada’s oil will help our economy get back in shape, then we have to drill it tough luck to the animals and trees that will be destroyed because of it.

I was reflecting on this particular idea for a long while even when I was lying down on bed Christmas morning (4am).

I thought that nature and humans definitely are relative. Humans need trees and plants to breathe… Lives will be affected heavily when someone builds a nuclear plant or a factory that will emit toxic substances and either spill them on the rivers or smoke them up in the air destroying the health of ordinary human lives. Why wouldn’t anyone care about what these buildings do when they know it damages not just people who would be considered “collateral damage” but also destroys communities who only wanted to live peacefully?

I guess this is where I find a certain understanding with the original argument. As we realize what the last generation have done to do a lot of damage in this world, our generation have come into this world where we have to live with the vestiges of the past which makes our time particularly an intense one – it’s dangerous to go to certain countries which historians and many hopefuls believe are so rich in history, culture and values; people struggle to achieve peace by first killing people and their cultures in the name of their ideals, their faith, their lands, their survival, their very existence, their political power, their social power, their self-serving interests, their money making businesses, their ideal economic system.

We suddenly start to ask ourselves, why do we have to sweep the mess that the past generations have made? This I guess is where my strong beliefs on “uncertainty” comes in from the idea of accepting “transience”. As the world change, our ancestors could only speculate about what will happen in the future but how do we know it? They were only speaking using their own cultural knowledge which might have expanded by a thousand fold today. Whatever achievements or mistakes they made in the past are something that we can blame at but cannot condemn or even praise directly.

Whatever it is, my Canadian family friend is a nice person who likes to joke a lot. I only caught him in his most cynical moments. Where else would you find a person like that rather than when he drank almost half a bottle of red wine.

~

The second person who woke up my senses was the daughter of a family friend of ours who also stayed in the cottage for the holidays. She should be in her 8th grade and I’m pretty sure high school life is about to enter her life and change her completely.

I was talking to her about the types of music that I listen to and when I said jazz, she thought that it’s music for old people. I told her that jazz has plenty of types and I particularly like Portico Quartet which isn’t merely a saxophone led band but which is fascinating for its introduction of the hang drum to its listeners.

I told her that I also like rock and laid out the various types of rock that I listen to from alternatives to new wave to pop to some metal and even mentioned sub-genres.

She laughed telling me that I had to go through all that just to tell her my favourite music. It made me quite exhilarated to tell her about what she might have to know once she grows up. I told her that at that time, she will also try to pick the type of music that she would treat as her most favourite and most cherished of all time. I guess this one taught me essentially of individuality based on what you like.

What struck me is the realisation that I probably have experienced the same thing as a child and that I should be proud of what I have become to the point that I could actually share it with this little girl who could only sneer at me for being so academic about music.

~

The third person who shook my emotions was the wife of the Canadian who is Filipina. I was trying to search the net about what happened to the Philippines in 1968 when the world was on a transition through activism, school protests, assassinations, changes in the communist system (yes I’m talking about Czechoslovakia), and lunar discoveries. She’s an open-minded person which I really like because I believe that she can have answers to some of my questions.

I first asked her about what happened in the Phils in 1968. She talked suddenly about the martial law under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos and how she was so scared to learn that the streets are empty like a ghost town and the bank where she worked stopped its operations with its vaults safely locked fearing the government’s troops who already confiscated the guns that security guards possessed in order to do their jobs.

Then she talked about an experience in the late-60s when the police went to the bank asking her to open the account of a certain person who made it in the news. She adamantly refused and despite having an issue order, she was able to convince the police that only the client can open his/her personal account.

I was quite inspired by these stories, then she started talking about living in the United States when Benigno Aquino was assassinated at what is now the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. She thought that although New York City was a great place back then where there’s entertainment everywhere, it was difficult to live in because of the crimes being committed everyday. That actually made her move to Toronto and stayed there for good with the impression that Canada is a lot better than the US with its peaceful environment and until now, it still is one of the safest and most peaceful countries in the world.

Then I told her about my aspirations to become a writer and a journalist. I told her that I’m starting to read RD (Reader’s Digest) and showed her Granta and Brick which are two amazing literary magazines that I already started collecting for the last 2-3 years already. I even told her about how inspired I am with CBC Radio shows and how I looked up on writers and philosophers that led me to this kind of passion that hopefully doesn’t become a hindrance towards my pursuits in getting my Linguistics degree on 2009.

She told me that I should keep holding on my ideals; she also told me about the potentials that I already have and asked me to use it. She believed in my abilities and I felt so inspired after hearing that. I now have someone who supports me in my pursuits in life and I should thank her for it.

~

No one would inspire me the most but a priest. Having a one-on-one chat with a parish priest was one of the greatest things that I ever experienced on Christmas Day. This priest is from the Philippines who is assigned to the Church at Bracebridge. He have been serving here in Canada for 20 years now and I just couldn’t believe that I was making a lot of dialogue with him.

I thought we started talking about what he does in the Philippines during his one month vacation every year and he starts to talk about helping communities. He started talking about how the creativity of people can bring them forward. He talked of farmers and pig raisers who used to become passive – this meant that they were only hoping for their government to help them survive – but some of them are a lot more successful in producing for their own living. I’m glad the priest knows what makes a successful life and that is through making people think for themselves, taking risks, having a sense of community and living a happy life without any conflict.

I asked some of the tough questions to the priest as to how he brings the community together considering trust in every member that embodies it and what happens to those who become successful.

Then we came into the deeper aspects of ideas such as contradictions between what we believe as Christians and ideas that we see can work well in life and our surroundings. The priest didn’t oblige himself too much about preaching about God but he said that we need to think about other ideas sometimes as long as we know what is right and what can teach the people to act and care for each other.

I thought I went too deep when I was talking about the heavy struggle of the artist in front of religious faiths. I talked about Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verse” and Dan Brown’s “The DaVinci Code” which are both controversial books but the former led to the burning of bookstores and death threats to the author Rushdie by Iran’s “fatwa”. I’m so glad to know that he rooted for ecumenism or understanding common grounds yet making ourselves clear about what the truth is all about. This I think is a very important ideal that university students take into their consideration when they have discussions and debates. Educating about the truth is a lot more respectable rather than burning books and killing.

My mom kept on asking the priest to pray for my brother and I that either one of us would one day become a priest. I really wanted to snap in front of my mom but the priest was present at the time. :D But I guess my mom is always like that, hoping that there would be someone who would be a blessing for the family. I definitely don’t want to challenge her but I sure don’t want to become a priest.

~

After the intellectual discussions and mind-boggling ideas that I got on Christmas Day, I think the best thing that happened was when I told my parents that my aspiration in life is to become an intellectual, an academic.

My parents told me as we were on our way home that the priest thought that my knowledge is something that is good and that he will pray for my success. It’s a statement that I won’t forget. At first, I thought my parents – most especially my mom – would really force themselves to pray that either my brother or I or both of us would become priests.

I think don’t deserve to be a priest because after 7 years, I have become tolerant of the multicultural setting of Toronto and the priest told me exactly that respect towards other cultures, faiths and races is really the most important thing – you will find that someone will always try to mess things up and destroy relationships.

To me personally, I don’t want to be just a leader of the followers of Christianity or Catholicism. I want to lead more people into better lives, into a better point of view when it comes to life and our surroundings, and most of all a better understanding of our own faiths, our own identities and our own beliefs rather than just being submissive.

Considering what my parents told me about what the priest told them, I thought suddenly that my parents have shown me a sign that they are showing their support as well. It may be the case that the priest induced them to think as such but I think I’m so blessed to have encountered these things on Christmas day. I’m motivated once again to live and fight for ideas, for respect, for equality, for life that is so precious, for relationships, for understanding and for a better tomorrow for all of us.

~

Well, as we close the year, I would like to send out this message to everyone… Please do me a favour and listen to a story by a friend, a family member, a leader, a book, a movie… anywhere… find a story and reflect upon it.

What are the things you have learned? What have the story changed in your life? What are the ideas that the story drew you into? How will you use those ideas in your everyday life?

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