Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Life of a Conversation. Soul of a Discussion. Sense in a Debate

I ALWAYS enjoyed talking with “older” people who I must concede, people with longer life's experience than me, and people who are knowledgeable about a certain subject—carpenters, journalists, artists, economists, scientists, engineers, teachers, junkyard artisans, doctors, shamans, farmers, veteran soldiers etc. Meanwhile, I also dig talking with activists who are equipped with insights based on documented facts and historical info and not opinions based on personal advocacy or belief, religion or ideology. There is always sweet resolution in talking with the former—since although I may not agree with the person, for sure I could learn valuable facts and figures that I could use to ponder a more objective worldview. However, spending time with the latter who could only give me intense individual take on a certain matter without supporting it with stuff and things that seem logical or shared by 7 out of 10 at least, only slide to senseless argument.  

       Days ago, I listened to a man I call Absolom, a kind of dude who seemed like someone that you may not spend time with because he keeps a dishevelled house and doesn't seem comfortable with a clean shirt, but quick to say what he wants and doesn't want (“I don't do Facebook!”) This man talked and talked and talked yet those technical/scientific info and historical perspectives that he shared in few minutes equalled 5 hours of wikipedia time—and more credible because he didn't impose on me the veracity of such facts. He just talked and let me figure them out based on my own available knowledge. Take `em or leave `em. 
       I'd like to talk to people who got something to say and not those who got a lot to disagree about. That person could be a Jehovah's Witness, Maoist radical, pagan goddess, confederate flag loyalist, Ananda Marga initiate, Filipino, Cuban, Iranian, or redneck. I don't care. Just talk and give me some facts and scientific/physical equivalent of such a talk. For example, this axiom that says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” which is attributed to the Maimonides and the Chinese sage Lao Tzu, founder of Taoism, and also mentioned in The Bible's Ephesians 4:28 and Matthew 14:15-21... That adage exudes a kind of lecture but it also tells me something that I can find concrete benefit from as a person, no matter what my personal ideology or religion is. Such lines aren't dismissive of one's personal or cultural life. Well, unless one vegetarian reader literally defines “fish” as, well—fish fillet. 
       Moreover, I believe that when people talk about other peoples of the universe, we must know why those people act or behave the way they do before we tell them what they need to do just because we believe we know better. Worse, some people conclude weird stuff just because they don't know. I was once told by an acquaintance that she was convinced that a super-delicious meat dish that she ate in China was so unbelievably awesome that she came to conclusion that the culinary offering was actually human flesh! The Chinese chef didn't reveal how it was cooked so she simply dismissed it as cannibal buffet, LOL! There was also another friend who heard about a boy who fell off a boat in India in one religious river festival and drowned when people failed to rescue him. Immediately she concluded that those people in India didn't care about human lives by virtue of their religion. 
       Of course those are the extremes. Yet we will always encounter stuff and things in other cultures that could be revolting or atrocious to our own personal liking. The world isn't one color, you see... But I wish people take time to know. Let us equip ourselves with knowledge because knowledge offers us a sense of respect with/to the other person who is seemingly different from us. Knowing them means we may also learn how to communicate with them better. And if whatever we share them is universally good, then they may listen—but take time to know them first. 

      The root of many wars is because the discussion on the negotiating table fell apart. People don't agree because one or both desire to be on top of the other, telling the other he/she is wrong or needs to be corrected. If people compromise by exploring the benefits of a union between diverse peoples and accentuate the positive points than the negative points, then we have peace. But we can't go moving about telling people we are Christians or Socialists to those who are not and say they are wrong. We ain't gonna go far from that kind of thinking. Yet in time, maybe they will find such new paradigm good—but not at a time when they got priorities to deal with. Historically, if colonizers first offered silk for yam as a friendly trade and it went good, then they could have carried on to a deeper cultural interface. But if the visitor outrightly tells the tribes to quit the “shadow dance” because the Christian church is more civilized. Then there is war.
      I like Absolom because despite me coming from a different world, there was no question or mention that made me feel like I am not American. He talked to me like I am just like him who knows 70s rock `n roll. Simple. When we meet people with "new" lives and cultures from our own, let us not go teaching them what is best to breathe the air or eat Twinkies correctly. Let them be. Maybe their song is sweet, too.  Focus on stuff that you find mutually cool and not those that you find weird or bizarre. Maybe teach them how to sell their produce via the internet or a new irrigation technique but never admonish them about a certain cultural truth or ritual. Culture creates people's soul. You don't want to mess with people's culture. Just be cool and they will be cool. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

25 Things You Don't Know About Me

I FANTASIZE a lot. Like, I am a Hollywood celebrity or a rock star. So here are some of those little things that a celeb are asked (by showbiz magazines like US and People and Oprah). Just makin' life a bit light, you know.

[1] I wear socks all the time. I have a drawerful of socks, all colors.
[2] I don't like breaded food. I particularly don't like breaded fish.
[3] I don't drink milk at all, it'll turn my stomach upside down.
[4] My extreme phobia? Snakes. I am also slightly claustrophobic. Being kept in a car for hours gives me panic attacks.
[5] I am a huge Bee Gees fan, from the 60s to “Saturday Night Fever” disco days to the last album. Ask me anything about the Gibb brothers, I won't fail you. Really. Seriously.
[6] I collect old, old books. And hats. And cheap shades. And vinyl records.
[7] I am partial to strawberry-flavored food. I am a huge seafoods eater.
[8] I am voraciously following more than 20 TV series.
[9] I am not a very sociable person. Aloof. A contradiction because many know me as events organizer and performer.
[10] I hate driving.
[11] Despite my 101 percent presence on Facebook, I am not a techno geek or electronic nerd. I hate Smartphones and all those apps. I also don't like talking on the phone. But I reluctantly text. I'd rather see people face to face, one on one. I am painfully old-school in so many aspects of life and living.
[12] I like full bodied women. Not turned on by skinny or magazine-profiled women. I am extremely turned on by women who laugh and joke a lot. And deeply bothered and turned off by women who drink too much than they should.
[13] I buy my clothes mostly at Goodwill.
[14] I can't write or work on my desk or whatever until I cleaned the house, even though it doesn't necessarily requires cleaning.
[15] I hate dirty kitchen sinks!
[16] As a child, whenever I got up from bed, I fix it—so I never got up without my bed made up.
[17] I love colorful clothes and shoes etc. I have a closetful of clothes, mostly gifts from friends, relatives and relationships.
[18] I listen to all kinds of music, except rap and hip hop.
[19] I don't watch or listen to talk shows--on TV or radio. But I read a lot of columnists. I read my news on print (local newspaper and New York Times).
[20] My favored snack is ramen noodles.
[21] My two most favorite places on earth: the seafood market and library.
[22] My two most favorite rooms in the house: kitchen and my bedroom.
[23] I like analyzing political matters and economics globally but I am not a follower of any political party, in fact I hate politics. And I suck at budgeting.
[24] The magazines that I mostly read deal with business/economics, politics, showbiz and music.
[25] A US state that I long to visit: Wyoming. I don't know why.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

FAITH in the SYSTEM, FAITH in FAITH (and the discussion about guns)

I AM anti-war, no compromises. But the discussion about guns or stricter gun regulations is an entirely different matter. First of all, I am not totally against guns—as a tool to instill peace and order by law enforcement. I was asked should we arm ourselves in the wake of this series of mass shootings? No. Definitely no. What, engage perpetrators to a gunfight at O.K. Corral like it's the wild, wild west again? Is that the answer? I leave legislators—after community-level forum or citizens plebiscite—how to devise ways and means to impose stricter laws and regulations in the sale and purchase of guns. That's what legislators and leaders are for...

       Meantime, how can we pinpoint a “sick” person when we usually come to such conclusion of one's deadly mental derangement after the fact? A citizen with spot-clean criminal record or a former inmate, a known schizophrenic or a quiet dude with a ready smile in the `hood? Records say that we can never tell who cracks up at the dead of night and start packin' up to mow down humanity with high-powered guns.
       So what could be my proposal, I was asked.
       Increase police presence, hire more cops on patrol in the community, especially in public places—both in uniform and civvies. Improve or upgrade law enforcement surveillance and monitoring. Surely though that proposal may/will invite protest—in the light of a number of complaints about alleged police brutality and abuse of power lately. Hence, a stricter hiring system must also be in place. Which points to exemplary leadership by those who send out orders from the Oval Office down to City Councils.
       But do we still believe in our police force and/or the leadership at hand? That is the problem. Based on what I read and hear, more Americans are disillusioned with the system, in general. According to the latest Gallup Poll, only 8 percent of the citizenry have confidence in Congress, down by 16 points from a long-term average of 24 percent. But there is hope in people's faith in police though, despite recent criticisms. Some 52 percent are confident in the police (57 percent historically). The citizenry offer more confidence in the police than other significant institutions—like the presidency, Supreme Court, banks, big business, organized labor, newspapers, and television news—which are all down. That is the problem right now.
      Loss of faith. The survey didn't state though a graph regarding people's faith in traditional faith or religion. But writings on the wall say many have strayed away from God or the Church. It is an intense issue that I don't intend to discuss here though. Bottomline, people have lost faith in so many things. All we hear are complaints. Meanwhile, the US still ranks as #1 globally in one-person households, not because of circumstance, but by choice. Me myself who was born and raised in a culture that thrives on communal “din,” haven't experienced the kind of loneliness and isolation that I got into in America. It is often not a question of how many people I'd hang out with or how often, it is a more an issue of acceptance in a crowd that sadly rejects and admits based on cliquey requisites. A person's mere choice of food and sexual orientation limit association. This, while people suffice with forums and knowing each other, via social media and all those little e-gadgets.
       Who do we believe? We don't. Hence, to protect us from evil—get a gun? Like it's war time. We don't believe in governance, we don't believe in religion, we don't believe in so many stuff and things yet we always mouth the words “Universal Love” and “Community in Diversity.” Sad. But there is always a way. There is hope. We know it, we just have to see faces and hear voices beyond the four walls of our shell. 


THE latest mass shooting in our midst, the 6th or 7th this year alone, is undeniably mindboggling. Horribly bothersome. More than we allow fear to overcome us—we must be more concerned and then ponder and dig deeper beyond what seems to be a “no-brainer” conclusion by so-called experts. “The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world," President Obama told CBS. Hence, it is time that America looks within its house and see that while “outside forces” (eg global terrorism) is an utmost agenda, a growing swath of mayhem hisses like a dragon's ire right in our belly.

       Is it ideology, misguided “faith,” mental derangement, gun proliferation? Certainly, society will provide answers. We all provide our individual answers. But are these answers enough as “bullet-proof vests” when the next carnage pummels again or are these “professional” analyses suffice in convincing the public that—yes, peace and quiet are still possible as each and everyone pursue their own happiness in this beautiful land of promise, freedom, endowments and dreams?
       I do believe we have lost the human ability to LISTEN and instead we readily provide solutions that we feel could fix trouble areas like we are all machines with generic remedies each time we malfunction. We read and stereotype or box people's sentiments—especially anger—as an acronynmed psychobabble that needs instant response. And the only prescription for healing is a scholarly definition of words. Maybe we should listen more WHY a person is angry or sad, or why he/she keeps to him/herself more often than usual—instead of googling words and automatically consigning one's rage as a mental issue that needs to be addressed like its a cosmic freefall or a computer that just conked out.
       Prior to the San Bernardino massacre, the gunman had an argument with certain people—left and returned with his female partner in a hale of bullets. It seemed that the shooting was pre-planned or well-thought of. Which means, this man—relatively young, born in the US and a 5-year employee with a job designation that calls for steady interaction with people—has been harboring anger which apparently evolved into hatred. A kind of hatred that drove him to waste lives, including his and his partner, in deference of their months-old child that they left. Whether it is a “lone wolf” act by a disgruntled individual on a vendetta or mission to excise pain as message to a society/government that he lost trust in or a terroristic act of much wider proportions, still—these people lost the ability or belief in anything except that they hate. They hate so much that the only way to project it—is through killings and deaths.
       No God in any creed or culture admonishes or motivates its people to nurture and nourish anger and then inflict pain unto others and themselves. I don't believe that Jesus Christ or The Allah inspired their children to take lives in order to solve darkness in this world. These individuals who opted to walk the path of destruction simply lost it. Evil gains entry in unattended anger, a hallow vacuum of freezing cold. An anger that we failed to listen to because it is displeasing, loud, and painful to the ears.
       Anger has its roots, it emanates from something—we must address the source to be able to fix the outcome otherwise we may just be applying temporal or wrong remedies to calm down ire. We cannot just say, “Channel your anger!” or “Go seek counselling.” Those help but we need a more intimate understanding WHY a person loses it, what triggers the volcano in our chest to explode, and what is the best way to deal with it.
       I believe the best and most effective way to deal with anger—before it mutates into hatred—is to LISTEN with an intent to understand than hear with a need to reply. We can't do such a thing via texting or emails or phone calls. We must spend time together, be one as community—irrelevant of what we term as diversity. We must look at our common light and beauty than our differences as human beings. Moreover, we must stop our narcissism and self-righteousness that we can fix others by simply providing the “troubled ones” with cures because that's how we see things. Maybe the person concerned knows how to fix it, it's just that he has to be heard and listened to first, to be able to acquire or receive tools how to rebuild peace within.

       America is not Honduras where more gun violence occurs or Beirut where bombs fall in startling frequency. We must stop the comparisons. Deaths need not be compared at all with other deaths. We just have to try harder to prevent them as they happen in our midst. More so, America should look within and around its backyard and find out the root of what's ailing the homefront—instead of summoning experts with meds to cushion the collective pain—and then we look at other nations and cultures with a goal to correct them. We cannot fix others if we ourselves are broken and need fixing. That humility will offer more understanding and love for a better humanity. Love is not pronounced, it doesn't fall from the sky either—it is a working project, it is practiced than said. It all starts with listening—no matter that the voice roars like thunder or sings like a bird. Stay, sit tight, and listen—not with our ear but with our heart.