Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Value of Nothing

A.  Nothing.  B.  Something.  C.  Everything.
Which of these three seems to offer the most challenge?  And, indeed, maybe A. Nothing is the answer because it actually offers us an option to go wherever.

      One thing that we may all be scared to be caught at is nothing.  It’s horrific to imagine we don’t have any possessions, we don’t want to be called good for nothing, and we can’t stand idle with no activity or movement for so long.  Is life to be lived so as to avoid what can sometimes be of more meaning and value than just simply having something?
       In mathematics, there are values beyond nothing, those in the negative.  In life, these negatives can translate into something: making the obviously wrong and hasty decision rather than not deciding for the moment while the path to actualizing the right one is still unclear, saying something hurtful rather than keeping quiet if it feels impossible to declare something good, watching bad shows on tv instead of turning it off because there’s simply nothing of any entertainment or moral value that’s on.  It seems, therefore, that even in our realities, there are three classifications to where we can go and what we can do: those in the negative, staying with nothing or the zero, and the positive.  And maybe we have to be conscious that the alternative to positive is not just the negative, but there is also the nothing.  Such that rather than make something worse by doing what can be damaging because it’s not possible to make it better, there is the option to not do anything at all, even if only for the moment.
       Of course, this nothingness is not an excuse to be passive.  There is really still what can be called silent acquiescence when the doing, saying or choosing of nothing can be construed as agreement.  But as nothingness is a much harder state and decision to maintain (just imagine any container that, even if we choose not to put anything on it actively, will still gather moist or germs), we still have to finish our time of choosing it and it necessitates some concrete decision eventually. Nothingness may actually be the crucial crossroad that allows us to choose whether we will go to the positive or to the negative.   Obviously, nothingness can be followed with something good much more easily than if we compared it with going from negative to positive.
      Another truth about nothing is that it's more difficult to know and interpret - which is not necessarily a bad thing.  In the day-to-day, just smiling instead of answering in the affirmative or the negative can arouse more intrigue than if we actually said a direct answer.  Standing still before taking a next step to the left or to the right can mean hesitation, preparation or indecision.  Being jobless or loveless instead of staying in a relationship or work that doesn’t make us grow as persons opens the possibilities to any and all kinds of work and to an assortment of beginnings, middles and ends for our love stories to happen. 
     So, it shouldn't be that scary, after all: having, being, doing nothing just for a while.  Because nothingness means something.  Choosing nothing, in itself, is choosing something.  It’s a choice, it has worth, it’s a phase that can lead to so much more than the value we give it credit for.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


We have all felt it at least once in our lives.  I don't know about you, 
but I love the feeling of being giddy.  It's like there's no possibility that I can be unhappy or that something will go wrong.   And if I could bottle up stocks of giddiness to get me through the days when everything seems blah, I really would. 

       “Good morning, Monday!”  I’ll bet it’s difficult to say this with real enthusiasm.  And maybe it’s not just for the start of the week or for a workday or school day, but somehow, these days, with all the challenges and realities we have to face, it is really rather difficult to be lively and smiling and actually mean it.  But don’t we just miss that feeling of uncontrollable happiness, as if the muscles on our faces were involuntarily making our mouths open into a grin and we feel lighthearted while the birds were chirping and the sun was shining?
       Of course, giddiness is not or may not mean everything.  It can be the honeymoon phase in a love affair or being at the top of a roller coaster ride before it goes into the loop and almost makes us feel like we’re losing all our insides.  To be giddy may just be a feeling.  Or it can simply be a start.  But it does make us know we are alive, and that wonderful and surprising things are possible to us.  That we are persons who can feel and from our emotions, be moved to act and sprint forward…to something even more meaningful and deep than the initial glory of feeling giddy.
      We can look up the meaning of "giddy" and "giddiness" in the dictionary but somehow they don’t seem to capture the exact sensation that it is when we’re actually feeling it.  Maybe the definitions are correct in saying that there’s a “dizziness, a lightheadedness or a sensation of falling” ( but that’s not all there is to it.  Or it’s not necessarily a negative or threatening experience.  Because in reality, being giddy may just be one of the best phenomena we can have as human beings.  When we feel it, it’s just special and amazing.  Probably because we just know that it can usher something momentous and lead us from what can be life-changing for us: whether it be in love, a brilliant idea, or a touching effort from someone.  But whatever the reason, giddiness can never be denied – we just can’t stop ourselves when we feel it.  Also, it’s unpredictable and un-enforceable – we can’t know when it will shake us and we can’t coerce ourselves to become giddy. 
       At the very least, though, even if we can’t contrive ourselves and circumstances to bring us giddiness, we can just always try to be open to that wonderful, unique and lovely state.  Be in the disposition for life’s surprises.  Believe in miracles and magic.  Hold on to the child in us that finds joy even in the simplest of toys.  Accept “romance” from anything and everything.  Stay on the alert for people who smile at us sincerely, who compliment us with honesty and who trust us wholeheartedly.  Treasure and savor the moments when even if unexplainably, we have the conviction that everything will be, that everything is, all right and can be better.  Carry the memories of being loved and cared for that we inevitably collect as we grow up and grow old, even as we grow up and grow old…
       …So, what makes you giddy today? 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

All About Hair

 This was what I used to say when I would give team-building workshops in the past: relationships are like hair – it takes so much more time and effort to grow it than to cut.  
Bear with my silliness on this but I recently came to other hair-inspired thoughts as I was obsessing about something I wanted to do with my mane:

Lice can only thrive on our locks if we let them.  Taking these parasites as people who suck our happiness and energy or who give us crap, we have to realize that their presence in our lives is so only if we let them.
Our hair may look shiny and styled but upon closer scrutiny, reveals damage and unhealthiness of the strands.  We can be very conscious of superficial things but we may be neglecting what’s really essential and basic.  Sometimes, we may even sacrifice what we really are on the inside with how we look on the outside.
Put whatever product and do all kinds of service on our hair, but at the end of it all, it’s still just hair.  We may have accomplished many things, we may be adorned with so much of our possessions, we may be educated…but basically, we simply remain to be persons.
No matter how ugly or unsatisfying our hair has come to, it will always grow and have a chance to be re-styled.  Even if we made gazillions of mistakes and booboos in our lives, we always have a chance to move out of them and still make something good of the past.
We have the hair that’s borne to us but at the same time we choose how we make that hair contribute to our over-all appearance.  We all have our givens in life – our family, our looks, our innate skills – but what we do to what we were allowed at the start can only be determined by us and they will make an impact on the ends we want to accomplish in the way that we will make them.
Our hair can keep on growing without necessarily becoming more beautiful or stylish.  As we continue to breathe, we exist.  But continuous existence doesn’t necessarily equal meaning and relevance.
Hair can only be appreciated in the context of a face or a head it belongs to.  Simply put, no person is an island.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


What is the common factor in everything that we do?  It’s us.  And there lies the key to starting the right combination to effect what we want.  We have us in our hands.

 I’ve heard from different people that life is difficult.  I’ve also heard that life is simple.  And sometimes I wonder: how can these two statements be true at the same time? 
     A few days ago, I remembered one of the sayings I learned some years back and which I still find very wise.  It says: Success is when Opportunity meets Readiness.  For some reason, the first line of a Barry Manilow song also popped into my head: We had the right love at the wrong time.  What followed in my mind was a most valuable teaching I learned in school: Faith that does Justice.
      Then, I realized that maybe that’s why life is difficult: everything, especially the good ones, can only be accomplished with the right combinations.  One can’t be successful if the disposition to achieve and the chance to do it in will not occur at the same time.  Someone can be so in love but the circumstances may not be right.  And even personal conviction cannot be enough without the right actions.  Nothing seems possible to happen with just one factor making it so.  There has to be an intersection of several things, an agreement among various parts to bring about a specific whole into fruition.  It may even be a conspiracy as Paulo Coelho put it so poetically and exactly in the book “The Alchemist.”  Life is difficult because we can’t control everything all at once, even if we wanted to.  There are just some things that are beyond our hold.

         But while I know that life can be difficult, I also believe it is simple.  And here is where I will apologize because I will quote something from the book I wrote (which has the same title as this blog): Just do what you can.  Give it your best.  Then at the end of each day, leave space for grace. 

         Life is simple in the sense that we only have to be in charge of ourselves and nothing else.   Because that’s where everything can start for us, somewhere that’s within our reach.  We may not have control over opportunities that come our way, but we can do something with our readiness.  It may be the wrong time, but we can always love right.  And justice will involve other much more complicated things but our faith is ours and ours alone.  And so on, many other combinations may be needed to do things.  But as long as we hold ourselves to doing what we can and giving our best and we have the humility to bow nicely to how the other factors are working or being worked out by grace, by God, by the universe or whatever term it may be, life can be simple, too.

     The right combinations of several factors may indeed be needed to bring about results.  The combinations or the results may not be soon or easy, but at least, we are a part of them and we have a say in them.  In life’s difficulty and in life’s simplicity, we have the crucial share. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Losing the Courage to Say, “I Love You.”

       It may still be a few weeks before Valentine's Day but this isn't just about the love fever that comes during February 14.  It's always nice to hear a sincere "I love you," isn't it?  And it's also liberating to say when it's really what we mean.

       None of us go through life without having been rejected or hurt in love.  Whether it’s in the context of friendship, family, or romance, there is always that occasion when our hearts just feel stabbed with a newly-sharpened knife, with the blade having been embedded so deeply and turned a million times to make sure that we bleed with the pain.   And during this time, I can imagine that we think to ourselves that we don’t ever want to love again. 

       But of course, we always do.  We always end up loving and falling in love a second time, a third, a fourth…

       When love returns or when we open ourselves to it once more, we always bring with us a trace or a shadow of what our previous experience(s) in love was.  And that shadow can lead to doubt and hesitation, a defense mechanism that we use to try to prevent any part of the negative experience from repeating or a caution to block ourselves from feeling like, indeed, having a dagger lodged in our heart all over again.  I know that this can lead to people not having the courage to say the l-word, to the object of love or even to admit it to ourselves.  Sometimes, just saying, “I love you” becomes so difficult, even if it’s the truth.  Yet, in many occasions, that’s all that’s needed to be said or heard.

       Try to think: to whom is it most difficult to say, “I love you”?  Is it to family who it can just be assumed already knows that we do love them?  Is it to friends because it just seems too cheesy and corny?  Is it to our “the one” because he or she may not be THE one after all? 

       To lose the courage to say “I love you” tells us many things about ourselves.  Why are we afraid?  For whom are we afraid?  When has it ever been easy for us to say it?

       Of course, there are those who claim that they just aren’t expressive verbally or they think actions speak louder than words.  As long as this doesn’t become an excuse and we know that actions can sometimes also be complemented with the actual saying.  It’s not a matter of being disposed to a certain way of loving but it’s really about being able to express our thought balloons and feeling balloons of love, when we feel it and when we feel the need or desire to say it.

       One thing that I think is true for many of us is that we can come to much unhappiness or uneasiness because we never said what we wanted to say, especially at the moment when we felt it should be said.  Let not “I love you” be that something we have lost the chance of saying or allowing to be heard and known by the person who, if we truly love them, should not be a reason to hold back but instead, should be a source of courage to be honest, free and real about what we actually feel.

Monday, January 17, 2011


As this is my first ever blog entry, I thought it would be fitting to write about two things that have always amazed and magnetized me as well as kept me wondering about them.  They have given me reasons to continue going and to push forward.  I'm thankful that having faith and being hopeful remain to be inevitable and real choices in life.

           Every now and then, we find our faiths being challenged.  Sometimes it can be faith in our selves, faith in the goodness of other people, and maybe even faith in God.  Other times, it can be about hanging on to the belief that things will turn out well, or persisting despite many challenges, or not losing the desires we have kept within our hearts.  Whatever it may be and whoever we are, I believe there is always that option for us to live in faith, with faith.  It may change in intensity, it can waver, it may even be lost sometimes.  But these changes, these shifts and these losses mean that faith can deepen, it can grow and it can be gained and regained.

  I don’t know how intertwined they are but somehow, I can’t imagine faith without hope or hope without faith.   There seems to be a connection between them that makes one very possible, even so strong, in the presence of the other.  That while we have faith, hope also dwells in what we believe in.  And when we hope, there is always faith in the possibilities for which we hope.  

          However, even when they often or they should exist together, there are times when I still do feel some confusion about them and I question what they are, especially in the presence of each other.  Faith seems to be certain, whereas hope is unsure.  Hope may be light, while faith can be heavy with its conviction.  Faith is “whatever may be” but hope is “please let it be.”  So, are they contradictory?  Is hope simply the softer faith and is faith simply blind hope?

       If there is an answer to what may be confusing and contrasting about faith and hope, it may be found in what is real to us:

         -  Where do we put our faith?  What do we believe in?
     -  When do we hope?  Until when do we hope?

  And in the answers to these questions, we know that our faiths and our hopes rely on who and what we are as persons, what we desire, what we aspire for.  That the confusion between the two is drawn by the lines of connection between our hearts and our minds, our openness to chance and our desire to control, and our understanding of the means to the ends and the means to those which may be endless.

  Faith and hope find themselves in the presence of each other.  It may be impossible to tear them apart.  But the good news is?  Even when they may be weakened or lost to us, we are always invited to be in their company because they are actual decisions we can make based on the realities we face and  the realities we want to make.  And while we always are called to have faith and be hopeful, there is a chance that we can find and grow more with them.