Sunday, February 28, 2010

Seriously? A Thought on Being Serious

I am a man of many faces. This is pretty redundant, since we all are complex beings. However, I like acting all dramatic, so yea.

Now let’s get serious (see what I did there?). Anyway, I want to share some thoughts about seriousness-ness and how it relates to me.

I am a man of many faces. To the outside world, I can appear happy, sad, cold, excited, strong, cowardly, etc. To my friends, I usually show a different side of me. Like I’ve mentioned before, I show my emotions too much at times, and this can be overbearing for the people around me. I have managed to keep those impulses under control more though, and I’ve learned how to better play the social game. But I digress. I try to act as jovial as I can among my friends. Why? One of the reasons is because I do not want to be overbearing with my emotional problems. I would rather work at them alone until I can reach a satisfactory conclusion, and if my problems involve other people, then I go talk to those people. But my problems should not cause anxiety in my friends. I have learned my lessons from freshman year with what it means to be emoting all the time.

However, there is another reason, perhaps a reflection of my cynical side. I am by nature a serious person, and a very paradoxical one at that. I have grown up alone, mostly because I had no friends until high school. I am used to solitude and if left alone, will retreat to it. However, I do feel a pain of being alone, and all those years of loneliness left me somewhat bitter when it comes to social interactions, as well as a craving of being in that social world. If left on my own, I retreat into my own world, alone, and yet I begin to yearn for social interaction. The only way to fight this is to take the poison slowly; that is, immerse myself in society. Due to my solitude, there are many things about people and interactions that I do not yet know (although I am improving!), so it is sometimes hard to have friends, but all in all, I enjoy being in the light instead of hidden in the dark, so to speak.

Being unable to completely express myself causes some problems, so I am frequently misunderstood in my intentions. I don’t mean to, but what can I do, right? This means that I have to pick my words carefully sometimes to get my point across. But it’s such a big hassle. So I decided that I won’t be serious and not try to convey any deep expression; instead, they will see me as a jolly guy who just likes joking around. The types of jokes I usually make (perverted/dirty jokes and a hint of flamboyant gay) sometimes bother people, but it’s how I adapted to my new social atmosphere, and also due to influence from back home. I try to be as non-serious as I can.

However, this isn’t the main reason why I am not serious. I remember when I was younger, when I used to talk to people, trying to talk to them about my likes. I was very passionate, and still am to some extent, although not as much as when I was younger. I talked plentiful about my love for astronomy, my favorite activities, etc. You know how kids can be. This had the unfortunate side effect of making people think I was annoying. Sure, I probably was, and possibly sounded pompous, what with my mouth running all the time. But it was not done out of any negative feeling, but due to being passionate. Still, this rejection left a deep impression on me, and still continues to this day. That is when I began retreating away from my peers. The same thing happened at home. My cousins would have none of that, and my parents were not interested in my ramblings. I became a lonely, sad, angry, bitter kid. I started developing a sort of superiority complex, since all I did was think, and it led me to think about things that can be considered more important than the latest TV show or song, like contemplation of our existence and our role in it. Still, I tried talking to people, but I soon realized that people do not want to think about those things. It’s not something that can be so casually discussed at dinner or remarked at a party. I became more of an introvert, decided that most people were incapable of discussing these types of things, not realizing what I know now. I considered the masses as mere sheep, unintelligent, and not worth my attention. I would not waste my time, I thought, trying to talk to people if they were inferior to me, so I decided to not talk to them about serious things. Of course, I had a serious exterior, hardened by bitterness, but by high school I decided to loosen up. I remember my peers in 8th grade telling me to loosen up, that I was too uptight. If they can only see me now……. Anyway, I managed to abandon my icy exterior, but my previous experiences have taught me not to talk about what I loved talking about most. Of course, I met a friend in HS, and he is still my best friend. I am grateful that he has been there to withstand my silliness and stupidity and has watched me grow. With him I actually can talk about serious topics, even if for just a bit. But for me, that makes me feel so much better. In college too, I have found people whom I can talk to in a serious fashion. However, it is really impossible for me to talk to my heart’s content about philosophy and theology (people’s passions change, right?) so the only one I can talk to about this is my good cousin, whom I consider like my brother.

I feel that if I don’t act serious, then people will just talk to me like a normal person, and that what I say they can interpret as jokes. Some of them tell me to act more serious, but I say no, because returning to my serious ways is something I would rather avoid. I don’t want to act like I used to back then. I still feel that if people don’t want to take the time to talk to me about something serious, why waste my time? I want my thought to, if not to be completely understood, to at least be heard and given some thought. I may seem as a silly person, and I am, but at heart I am serious, to a fault. I have not been able to balance myself, but for now, I am fine. It’s a struggle that will continue on. Till then, I will wait until I can express my serious side alongside my non-serious side.

To talk about these things….it takes me back a bit. I am glad I can get my views out through this site here, it affords me a freedom that is otherwise not possible as of yet. So now you know just a bit more about me. But I will remain enigmatic, because it’s more fun to know me as a mysterious wise man. So go on, enjoy your life! Why so serious?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bread and Water [A Story About Lent and The Meaning of Sacrifice]

Today I want to talk about something different.

What is the significance of bread and water? It is one of the most basic meals, simply a bread product and a cup of water, an abundant liquid necessary for life. We usually eat many bread products and drink many beverages with varying amounts of water, but in its purest form, bread and water signifies the meal of the common man, or perhaps more of a person who is willing to sacrifice luxury.
This theme of sacrifice runs deep in our world. We value it as a trait of goodness and yet we are wary of committing sacrifice ourselves. After all, it is very hard to sacrifice something, especially if it carries a lot of sentimental value to you. Sacrifice carries a deeper meaning to Christians, where the beliefs rest on a man who died to save humanity from its sins. For Christians, sacrifice embodies the love that Jesus had for us and the willingness He had to lay down His life for us. To be able to sacrifice your own life so that everyone else may live- that is a powerful emotion indeed. This word of sacrifice is spoken plenty of times in Christian life, and especially during Lent (for Catholics), the forty day period in which we commemorate the fast of Jesus in the desert, complete with temptations. Those forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter are meant to remember the meaning of sacrifice, the sacrifice of Jesus and the sacrifice(s) we must make in order to live up to that standard. During Lent, we reflect on our lives and try to change our ways. It is a time to look back at our sins, to put them behind us and to get ready for the risen Lord. Usually, people give up something, like candy or movie-watching, to show some sort of devotion to change, to experience just a fraction of what Jesus felt during those forty days of isolation and temptation.

For me, sacrifice is a word that almost seems alien. Sure, I’ve had my share of tough times, but compared to many of the world’s citizens, I have lived a privileged life. My parents had sacrificed many things to give me the power to do what I do today. Without that, who knows where I would be, if I managed to live to this stage. I have seen the effects of sacrifice and have thought about it, but I myself have not had to sacrifice much to live. Maybe this is due to my upbringing (as my parents would say, I’ve had it easy) or due to the circumstances around me (not living in bad neighborhoods or around bad people, for instance). I cannot say that the concept of sacrifice is completely foreign to me, and yet it is not something that has defined me as a person. For that, I am both grateful and guilt-ridden. I am glad that I have not had to suffer as much, but at the same time, it makes me feel as though others suffer so that I may not. And why should I live my life untouched by evil while many more suffer? And yet, I can only thank God for sparing me the anguish that others have to go through. But maybe this is not the correct way to think. I cannot say this with complete conviction, but I feel like I am ready to take my share of the suffering, so that others may rest. One day I will be able to do it with certainty.

So what am I doing for Lent? Unfortunately, my Lents have been more or less uneventful. Sure, I’ve reflected on past life choices, but lately I’ve been getting lazy with the whole “give up something” deal. It seems that nothing I can give up can really convey what Lent is about. I can give up video games. I don’t play them much anyway. Give up napping? Ok, I’ll just sleep regular hours then. Some things are too hard to give up. Stop using my computer? What, are you crazy? No more coke? You’ve got to be insane to even suggest that to me! But of course, it does leave me with a tinge of regret, of failing to meet any sort of life-change, just living the same as I always have. What has changed, really? I couldn’t even give something as simple as such-and-such thing to show an earnest change of heart? Weakness. But this year is different. Or maybe not so different, but I am willing to try to change.

I remember freshman year of college, one of my friends decided to go with a bread and water diet for Lent. At first I thought he was crazy, but when I thought about it, it made sense. Lent is all about sacrifice, right? However, I thought it was a bit too extreme, so I decided that I probably would not do it, but thought the idea was good enough that I would keep it in mind for next year. Of course, that year I didn’t give up anything for Lent, so it was pretty much a failure for me in terms of spiritual growth. Then last year, I started to gather up the courage to go about doing this. However, some of my close friends were concerned about the effects this would do to my health. After all, bread and water are not very nutritious on their own. Not to mention that I, an avid lover and consumer of food, would not be able to function at all with only bread and water for nutrient. After all, with my unlimited meal plan, I ate sometimes 5 meals a day. From that to bread and water was too much. I decided to keep their opinion in mind, and so nothing happened that Lent. But I kept the idea in mind and decided to finally try it out the year after that. And so, my junior year in college, I am finally going to enact this plan into action. What is so different? There are several factors. My meal plan is now a 10 meals a week, due to my own choosing (the reasons shall not be disclosed here). I didn’t think I could make it on 10 meals a week, but surprisingly enough, I can. I have also managed to lose weight, although that’s not the reason for the change. I eat a lot less now, so eating only bread and water should not be such a shock to transition into as it would have been last year. I also feel more mentally prepared and emotionally stronger to attempt to go about this. I feel like the time is right and that, while unrealistic for me to go all forty days on only bread and water, I would able to manage at least a week until I would be forced to switch back to regular food (not to mention I don’t want to let the meal plan go to waste).

So why exactly would I try this? Well, I did think it was a cool idea if I tried it, but that isn’t the main reason. After all, there are cooler things that require less of me to accomplish. However, this idea embodies the core principle of Lent. For me, I feel that I need something as outrageous and bold as this to live up to what Lent means. Not for the publicity, of course. I do not want to brag about it; that is not what drives me. But I sincerely feel that a radical approach can at least show me what I should do. Almost like a tough love kind of deal. This would really help me realize just how much I take for granted, and that is a lot. I’ve always known that I am ungrateful at times, but old habits die hard, so hopefully with this I can at least see with better clarity and try to grow and mature as a person. To tell you the truth, I almost didn’t want to do it because I wouldn’t be able to accomplish it, but I feel now that even though I won’t be able to do it, I should at least try. I’ve come to see that even if I try, and fail, something good may yet come of the experience. I pray that God may give me the strength of heart to follow through with what I am about to do. For now, all I can do is entrust my strength in His hands.

That is it for today, and remember, celebrate Lent with sacrifice in mind. Remember that man who gave His life for you and all of us. Remember your own role in salvation as well. Above all, may you love and in turn be loved. See you later!

***It seems that I will have to start my plans a bit later, since my parents came over the weekend and dropped off some food for me. Of course, I do not want the food they gave me to go bad, as it would be a shame to waste it, so I will have to eat it, delaying my plans for a bit. I will still fast all of today, but also birthday celebrations on the weekend will make this goal harder to follow. Nevertheless, pray for me!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day [some thoughts]

What is Valentine’s Day? Some people say it is the day of love, others say it is a good way for chocolate companies and holiday card stores to make money. You can say they’re both right, in a way. However, that isn’t what I’m going to talk about today.

Valentine’s Day is a bit more special to me for several reasons. I was originally supposed to be born on Valentine’s Day but for some reason I was born a few days later. Whenever I remember that V-day is near, I get reminded of the grim reality of growing older and facing my mortality. Of course, I am happy on my birthday, but at the same time I approach it with caution, since I know that with each passing year my life will change, sometimes in a direction that I am not familiar with or that I don’t want to go down on. I’ve also not had many good experiences on V-day, so to speak. In particular, senior year of high school and freshman year of college were not good years for me. Since I’ve never had a girlfriend, whenever Valentine’s Day rolls around I am constantly reminded about how lonely I am, not only in terms of a significant other, but in terms of people in general as well. I can’t say I am not at least a bit jealous of couples, since it seems that at least some of them found suitable people to share dreams, hopes, fear, joys with.

So why even care about today? I’ve heard people say that today is pointless. Well no, of course you love your significant other every day, or you should, at least. However, you can say that today is an “excuse” to do something special, out of the ordinary. That’s the way I see it, at least. Maybe this holiday shouldn’t be such a big deal, but at the very least it can be a unique twist to your life, or possibly a chance to risk finding love. On the flip side, today should not be the only day to “show love” to your loved ones. There are 365 days in a year, and you should love your loved ones on all those days.

As for what I think? I kinda enjoy this holiday. Sometimes I get random chocolates from mass Valentine card giving, so I’m ok with just eating chocolates. If you go out to eat you can have some nice desserts that they make only today. It’s not SO bad being alone on V-day, since if you’re alone every day, you’re used to it, right? And yet at the same time, you can just risk it and finally talk to that girl or guy that you’ve been crushing on for a while, or perhaps just talk to some chicks/dudes and maybe pick one of them up for a night on the town. Who knows? But it is undeniable that there is a certain magic today, even if it is only self-projected, in which love can happen just because. As for me, I think I’ll just spend today alone, get some chocolate, perhaps do work. Can’t forget about going to church today, it’s a Sunday, after all. For now, I’ll enjoy what I can of these lonely days until the right one shows up.

So for all those couples today, I wish you lots of luck and hopefully you can enjoy your day together. For all the single people, I wish you lots of fun and enjoy the time you have to yourselves while you can. I will see you guys on a later date. To leave a good note, I’ll leave my favorite Bible quote here and I hope you can take these words to heart when dealing with love.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

-1 Corinthians 13