Religious or spiritual, it can be said that our lives revolve around a centric figure larger than our imaginable selves, a force so magnetic we can't help but be drawn in -- to which we entrust our faith, for which we sing our prayers, and with which we carry ourselves the moment we leave the comforts of home to attend to our day-to-day jobs, the time when we are basking in our successes that we are so apt to share them with the persons closest to us and with our kindred spirits genuinely backing and pushing us up for us to triumph in our endeavors akin to theirs, and when our idyllic lives roll in on a loop in our sound sleep.
We latch onto the force with grains of truths we don't see -- those we were taught to believe in since the day we said hello to the world and those we've learned all by ourselves, through the books we have secretly devoured and through the people we have chosen to have an impact on our lives -- notwithstanding our being visual beings most of our lives. We believe in an amount of things intangible -- things only the heart can feel.
But it's a gamble -- a difficult, excruciating choice of laying our precious trust on the unseen. To some, we will have to be dauntless, to question institutions without fear to validate our own thoughts, emotions, and all that's written in the quaint book, to fend for our empty, starving selves. In so doing, we hopefully find ourselves thrusting stakes into the ground, drawing the line between truths and falsehoods. We are on a quest for what makes sense to us, for what ultimately brings us true bliss, whatever that may be.
When, finally, we have found the truths -- the deemed truths -- and inner peace, the thought of being alone escapes us. We're left with a happy gamble, knowing that there is a higher being -- the one figure who is around anytime, ready to lend a persevering ear to frustrations others may find petty, anticipations others may dismiss as overreactions, sorrows others may never comprehend, hopes others may ridicule, dreams others may have dashed to pieces to wantonly shove their bloated egos into our little selves.
We talk to the unseen, in the quietest time of day. It's the kind of conversation that shed light on the deepest recesses of our soul. It is uplifting, it is enlightening.
In a park, in Singapore, years back, just when my cousin and I were through with jogging laps, she had noticed a meaningful scene, actually a paradox tickling her heart -- too visceral, too profound not to capture. There was a young girl, a teen perhaps, sitting in near-fetal position on the dike lapped by the morning sea, and then there was a bald, slightly bent, old man quietly seated on a bench. Both of whom were looking, staring at the same faint orange horizon but hooked onto opposite directions. To our minds waxing poetic, the young girl was thinking long and hard about her future, as she grappled with struggles in school and in a judgmental society she's in -- while the aged man was reminiscing about the summers spent with loved ones, his carefree childhood, how handsome he was in his prime, his battles fraught with wins and losses, the fruits of his hard work, thanking all there was and is in his life.
"What am I doing here?" begs the existential question — the everyday affinity for baffling reasons and purpose.
I ask that, out of the blue, whenever I am alone devoid of Facebook slaughtering productivity and of other derivatives of distractions; whenever I am in the womb of a thick forest where the light don’t shine, awaiting the pleasant surprises and the perils the isolation might bring; whenever I am dead exhausted and have unexpectedly found time to drop the nonsense close to the bin and think like a wiser man, a full-fledged grown-up; whenever I catch a whiff of a potpourri of roses and sampaguita that bloom like mushrooms in pouring days, hypnotizing my bones; and whenever I see poverty around and in the eyes of a flimsy-framed child, thin as whisper.
With the entirety of the noble and the baloney in a mad stir up in the face, what am I doing here? I ask. Why don’t I give a damn lift a finger to make a change, a difference, in my life and in someone else’s? Why get stuck in the comfort, or otherwise, of a job?
Convinced of life’s incredulous absurdities and eternally lost in an excruciatingly demanding clockwork, I grill, invariably, the gravity of my existence. How crucial will the answer be?
If living is one fortuitous ride, then it is pointless not living in my deepest hopes and dreams — the heartbeat telling me to go racing my own battle, even in a neck-deep pool of fears, doubts, and bad luck. If what I have been sweating off isn’t self-gratifying, if what I have been working on still feels so much of an empty gut than it should have warmed me to a good night sleep, even if it means rewards of a fatter bank account at the end of a taxing month, then, why deprive myself of what truly enriches my soul?
Ridiculous, insane — yes – utterly foolish, isn’t it? But isn’t the mere act of attempting to fulfill our heart’s desires — even if we have to stumble along the way and fall hard — imitating life as it is, where we try, we fail, we cry hard, we learn, we succeed, in either a modest, paltry manner or in a resounding way? And doesn't a dent into our soul make us soldier on to dear life, shaping us up resilient and fighting fit?
What am I doing here?
I drive the so-called vehicle of life, both exhilarating and mundane, steering it to my destination — the road I have opted and risked to take, behind serious nimbus clouds and threatening thunderstorms.
I know the road to success isn’t paved with glitter and gold. The road, it seems to me, is fiery — full of passion in the fever of rush hour. I get going and head safely and boldly all the same toward my destination.
I had never thought of it for many years. Childhood and adolescence were the two that had graced me with an assumed perpetual laughter. I thought that by just being optimistic, nothing bad would somehow ever happen to me. I agreed with myself that I was yet experiencing the best. But I was completely mistaken. After all, that was all I thought.
November 13, at break of dawn, a terrible accident shocked my system that was very severe. Never in my perception did it lurk, hoping someday it would be found and cause me disaster. My world turned to a trash in a split second, and was useless anymore. I was very down and low, forcing my feet to rise and perambulate, but I was crippled. I came believing that the world had betrayed me. And did I lose faith in everybody, traitors! Not a soul came to lift me and be human at once. I could feel their disgust or anxiety, for they cringed, turned their backs on me, and fled to the greener pastures, leaving me behind this nasty world.
Hate, disgust, fear -- these were the ferocious predators devouring my being gradually. I considered suicide a treatment to the wounds where its fangs bore. The erstwhile place I called home was, I didn't realize, one of the many that were sucking my strengths of life. The family where I was, revealed the truth that was more painful -- an adopted member of the family I was. The story of my identity unfolded the answers to the confusion encircling my mind. This had made me more of a wanderer, alone, neglected, and weak.
The world grows smaller and smaller as days consume my earthy hours. I am almost dead. Grave awaits me. Two days is all I am waiting for to leave this place you call earth. Forty-eight hours? Not so soon. I guess this is yet the best time to say goodbye. Goodbye to the good times and, most of all, to the pain, and see what awaits me.
Note: This article first appeared in The Junior Technologian, our high school publication.
Image: Esplanade -- Theaters on the Bay, Singapore
No matter how beautiful a dimpled face or a tropical paradise is, one which could be magazine-property anytime, even with the dictates of photoshop, which may have gone terribly bad, hurting one's eye, or just be perfectly eye-candy, missing the moment frozen in time, is and always will be an empty frame devoid of joy, anger, reason, madness, euphoria, indifference, love, or emptiness; or an empty shell without its meat; or an empty head with but biting cold air alone.
Captured moments, or emotive visuals, make a good story to write about. Those that could inspire dozens in some exhausted, forgetful crowd; those that could trickle down through the impossible cracks of the walls of a monster dam, unapologetic to raging waters; those that could move Everests or Cordilleras; or those that could see a gazillion inflamed stars and tickled pink moon dancing and prancing, in slo-mo, over you.
Revolving around and going about their own sense of time, the old ones, at the ripe age of 70 or 90 or the celebratory 100, gather their silver-haired crowd and find solace in this decades-old, AC-pumped place, stuffed with materials to chew on, or to sleep with.
Ninjas and turtles. They thrived in water, mutually, as if they were in some happy, problem-free symbiotic relationship, or may be not, as the other was already groping for water, but not really. The other just needed water more than the other, I guess.
Wet and poised under the increasingly scorching sun, while sharing the same aerated pond in the park, ninjas and turtles caught my eye one Thursday afternoon. Three ninjas afforded themselves free swimming in a pond-turned-pool, and not only that, fished turtles out of the water using a hand net.
As I went closer to the scene and took my phone out, I had been stopped and warned, or so advised.
'Hey, you, be careful with your phone. It might fall into water,' said the tallest ninja, perhaps the oldest, too, obviously sounding merry and cheery about his own world. The youngest one was all smiles. The other one was scooping something in shallow water.
Good advice. I thought about it for a while, and thanked the concerned ninjas.
I held my phone tightly with my two hands, and confidently snapped pictures: first, of the ninjas, of the turtles next, and then of the unlikely group. Group picture.
I went about my business, leaving behind the young ninjas and their afternoon friends, still out of the water.
Kid, when will you ever learn? I thought I've told you enough, a hundred times over. But if you had to learn the hard way, this way, then so be it. Just calculated risk, my kid. I don't want you going home with a bruised arm, a dislocated joint, a fractured jaw, a bump on the head, or a missing tooth. It's the least I want seeing from you. You don't have to endure all that jumping, flipping, kung fu, or whatever, or that gymnastics. Or that running on clean walls, like a lizard or Spiderman. Leave it to them superheroes.
Hmmm, I heard your mentor, or the two of them, the other day. They made an awesome lot of sense, though. Talking to another student, they said bits of something like a necessary mantra to absorb before going out to battle: When in doubt, tame your fear first. If you are high on surefire Jet Li, fly to upper ground or drop 15 feet, gently, as if you are gliding through the air. I buy it, kid. Sure applies to life, though the latter part was a bit silly. You know the guy, right?
So, go on, and please don't hurt yourself, again.
Here is your second betadine.