Monday, January 9, 2017


Some days are more stressful than others, and I look back to the days of happiness unadulterated with troubles, and I realize that those blissful days are the privilege of youth and its concomitant ignorance, and arrogance. The needs of youth -- shelter, sustenance, and responsibilities -- are shouldered by parents and, if luck shines, by kindly grandmas too. Then we grow up and we fend for ourselves, and inevitably we have to deal with other people, all carrying burdens and fighting innner battles as we do. That's why the smiles of grownups rarely reflect in their eyes.

And there are days so distressful we feel like bending on our knees (and shouting, but we silence our personal turmoil and tune down the desperation), and we see multitudes beseeching the gods of fortune, the saints, the stars, the cards, tea leaves, and the zodiacs -- to give us our daily bread, to cure our illnesses, to vanquish our foes (who are asking for the same thing), to ease our business problems, to mitigate our dread so we can rise up every day without shrinking and trembling at what lies ahead.

A case in point: I started work this morning and found out that not all functions of my eBay link are working -- I cannot reply to a client's question, the link with my email is gone, I cannot post new listings, and I don't know if the problem is temporary. Then I remitted a payment by Paypal, and this triggered a note requiring me to verify my identity, as required by this country, and send a jpeg photo of either my driver's licence, government ID, or passport; I tried to comply but the cyber form provided would not respond. I washed my face and was locked in the bathroom, because the doorknob chose that moment to declare it's disobedience. Smothered by a doomsday feeling I decided to hide in our bedroom: I was cleaning my ear and the cotton bud said my right ear, from now until further notice, was blocked from high fidelity sounds. I replied, "Eh?!"

I found out loooong before this day, this 9th of January 2017, that in time of deep doodoo -- Mt. Pinatubo closing down my bookstore in Pampanga, three heart attacks, a stroke, loss of beloved parents and friends, massive lifestyle downgrade -- I become very calm, I can think my way out, and, if I fail to get out, I'm ready to accept my fate. It's a grand thing to find out that I have been tested and not found wanting. But I was much younger then and not so reliant upon the intelligence, competence, and honesty of others. It's this reliance on other people doing right, and their failure to do so, that bring so much wealth to the manufacturers of Prozac, Zoloft, and other antidepressants. Every night I hope and pray, this li'l pill may sleep bring my way...

Maybe this stressful setup explains the hermits hiding in caves, rock stars shooting denials up their veins, our crazy president deluding himself that death is the cure for those who can't competently cope with the travails of life and had to drown their fears with drugs. All, in one way or another, is a turning away from the pressure of humanity. I have encountered that pressure many times, and there were times that I cowered, suffered panic attacks, only to be saved by a few good souls, and the innate resilience we all have. Surviving the stroke that disabled and scared me, I finally got over my confusion when I decided that I'd rather die than live cowering in fear. Without self-respect, how can we extend respect towards others?

Still, there are times when I look at cats and wonder if it's worth becoming a cat in order to acquire their good nature, serenity, and peace of mind. Cats purr in content with a few loving strokes and tickles on the chin; they sleep a lot -- like Silver now -- tummy up and legs in full stretch; throw a ping pong ball and cats will chase it around the room until they pant. Ok, they are not immortalized by books they cannot write; by masterpieces they cannot paint, sculpt or erect; by wealth they cannot amass through enterprise or plunder; they have none of the deference extended to high office or exalted birth, but to how many of us humans can any of these distinctions apply? It's the journey through life that counts, doesn't it? Not the conveyance (being a cat or being human) nor even the destination. "Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another," said Pope Francis in his 2005 encyclical, Laudato si', an ancient phrase which means "Praise be to you."

Through all our fears, may we earn that praise.

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