Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why Manny Pacquiao Should Retire from Boxing

1. As a husband and father, he should preserve his health and use his energy raising his family as a non-boxer, something he is well-equipped to do.

2. As a congressman, he must devote more time (the time he spends in training and fighting which is about three to four months a year) to his constituents in Saranggani. Congress should file a bill (I’m sure Coach Roach would file it if he could) requiring him to quit, for his own good, for his family’s good and for the country’s good. That is, if the Speaker is brave and wise enough to do so.

3. He has nothing else to prove – he already has 8 belts. 8 is a well-rounded and double-rounded figure connoting infinity or completeness. There might be better boxers than him; but he has proven he is the best in all 8 divisions. 9 could be unlucky for him. As they say, stop while you’re ahead.

4. He should stop punishing himself and others, in that order. “Galing ko, aray ko!” (My secret to my greatness is my ouch, to paraphrase the ad) Pacquiao claims, commercially. In reality, genuine “galing” or talent (or literally, wellness) involves keeping yourself “unstained” in this world. So, one might do well in one area but miserably fail in another. Or, more graphically, your face might be stainless (pun intended) but if your body or hands are blood-stained or spotty, you cannot attend the Great Banquet in Heaven. So what’s stain-ful about boxing? Next item please. . . .

5. Manny should stop making himself a tool of those who run gambling shows and joints. Or of those who simply want to gamble. For boxing is one big gambling event. Having the fights in Houston and not in Las Vegas does not make it any less a gambling extravaganza. As they say, in Texas, they do things in big or bigger ways. Back home, I saw one of his constituents in Saranggani say that he was looking for someone to lend him his whole month’s salary which he wanted to bet on Pacquiao. Retiring and teaching his people to make more decent and lasting means of livelihood would make the Champ a real social change-agent and values-reformer.

6. Proof of this exploitation that Manny allows himself to be a tool of is the fact that Margarito was chosen precisely to make the fight more exciting and to sustain the interest of people (and gamblers): a much taller opponent with a longer reach. Before the fight, I had to doubt Manny was going to stop Margarito, not because I knew Pacquiao was better but because I knew what promoters were thinking. (That Manny was up for the challenge made the whole thing more thrilling. And so many bought into it.) You can be sure that they will do the same thing the next time around, whether it is Mayweather or not. It seems now nobody will fit the tab or even dare take up the challenge. I hope that is enough reason for Manny to quit now. Unless the promoters come up with another wild idea, like resurrecting Pancho Villa – now that would be one show indeed. Maybe Manny should just make that dream-movie and make as much money. We can still see him fight and win. The gamblers can still bet if the movie will make money or not. Besides, there are many ways to reinvent boxers. For Manny -- the lawmaker, the singer, the actor and the product-endorser -- the list is endless.

7. Boxing is a cruel sport not so far removed from the bloody gladiatorial bouts in ancient Rome. Everybody loves a winner but not everyone loves a winner who punches peoples’ faces to a pulp. We all love a hero but not all would want to honor someone who makes a living by hurting others. Yes, it is only sports but one that has sent many to death or a coma or dealt them with broken bones, Parkinson’s disease or damaged organs. People who have fun watching boxing, whether they admit it or not, have a degree of sadism in them that allows them to feast upon such a melee. (Manny himself wanted the fight stopped but the referee, who must have been instructed by the promoters to keep the fight on, had no other choice. "Kill or be killed" was the gladiator's motto.) It is among the original reality shows and one that has survived because people feed upon the boxer’s cruelty and vice versa. Without equally bloodthirsty fans, the gladiators in Rome would not have made good money for their promoters. Why would the Romans spend so much for a huge coliseum if there was no money in it? (I like to believe the early Christians kept away from those fight-to-the-death games; but today this Christian nation literally stops to watch Manny’s fights without losing much sleep over it. Nah, it even holds feasts to honor St. Pacman!) If only for this reason, Pacquiao should retire right now.

8. And finally, in the eighth round, Manny has built so much goodwill among his country-folk and throughout the world that he has enough to make him an effective leader and an ambassador of goodwill. Starting from his hometown, he can show what anyone with the guts and talents can accomplish and thereby lead others to make their lives and their communities better. Fighting is all about perseverance and dedicating yourself to your goals in life, one that Manny has shown excellently as an athlete. Manny Pacquiao has attained his goals, he has reached the peak and he has garnered the wreath of honor. All that he needs to do now is to lead others to be where he is now, unparalleled and unchallenged – at the pinnacle of triumph. The Philippines remains in shambles today. We desperately need more people like Manny who can develop the courage and determination among the people to make their country a Victor and not a Loser. How much happier we would all be if the country earned the billions and benefited from them through a productive and equitable national economy and not just one person who regularly wins a boxing fight?

Take the challenge, Congressman Manny Pacquiao! Be the true leader God wants you to be.

(Painting above: Pacman in action against Diaz, an oil painting by John Murawski.)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Time is Life: When it Begins and How We Must Spend It

If God stopped time, all of Creation will collapse. Time is the seed of the entire Universe. Without time there would be no matter.

Thus, Moses wrote "In the beginning..." and the gospel writers referred to Jesus Christ as the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end (giving reference to His participation in Creation and in the Final Judgment). He is eternal - not subject to time, not material. He dwells in the realm of timelessness or “matterlessness”. This is as much as we can say about God being Spirit.

Time is not what we see on a watch for time is immeasurable. It is merely the passing of life – for instance, the aging of the body or the movement of things or events – as we experience it. It is the very flow or continuum of what God has shared with us through giving us a taste of His glory and His own being. Simply said, this is how we experience or share in His divine character. Anyone who does not recognize this is a self-deluded or self-unknowing person. King David called such a person a “fool” for not seeing God in all of Nature’s essence and beauty. In other words, such a person walks and lives in time but does not realize he does so on borrowed time, literally. He is like a slave who has been freed but does not know how to live as a free person.

Just as a song has a time signature, life has a time foundation. Time defines our very being. Time establishes our material existence and reality. It is not an illusion as some thinkers like to believe but the very image or copy of Divine Reality. How can God create something that is part of Himself and not have real reality as well? He would have to be so deceptive to do so. The fact that humans are sentient or aware of their own existence proves the divinity in us and the very existence of God. What we may call illusion of material reality then is an inkling of and a link to spiritual reality. We exist at a lower level of reality but we do exist. Until we graduate and see the Schoolmaster face to face, we can only think and act like “students” and not as “masters” of Time and Life.

Also, just as a song exists in time, we are because of time. On paper, a lyric is not a song. We cannot hear the melody nor feel its rhythm. Outside of physical reality – that is, in this world of time - we are nothing, we have nothing. We would have no senses, no awareness, no life, no fancy cars, no physical beauty.

Our own seed in us has potential to create time and being, i.e., another human being. This is the Law of Reproduction established by God during Creation. Alone, a sperm cell is like the lonely Adam. Unfertilized, an egg cell likewise wastes away and dies a natural death. The union of the two through sexual intercourse replicates existing life. It does not produce a separate being but a being that is a branch of the proverbial family tree planted by God in the Garden – very near the beginning of time. And the root of that tree is Adam and Eve.

Every one of us then is a carrier or vessel of Time and Life once granted to our very first parents. We share in their divinity and their legacy as heirs of God’s heavenly blessings. If this is not a gift worth keeping and nurturing, then nothing else in life is worth doing.

If people stopped reproducing today, time would still exist. So would matter. Hence, families grow and decay. They may prosper and exist for centuries or so but they may also disappear like nations do. But it would have to take God to say “Time’s up!” for the Universe to fold up.

Controlling birth is a normal and natural function. Just as people die, babies are conceived and may even die from miscarriage. Oftentimes, a tiny twig is broken or pruned to benefit the tree. Hence, some abortions are allowed medically.

Artificial birth control, in general, simply prevents conception. It does not curtail or destroy life. Just as menstruation and wet dreams wash away potential life in a normal process, birth control is a novel (albeit ancient) human option availed of to prevent reproduction.

If babies are pure and sinless, when they die they go to God. If at conception fertilized eggs are destroyed, is that murder? ls it preventing a branch of Time and Life to exist? Maybe it is. Some may passionately defend their belief that a zygote is a complete human being with full human life. Destroying it, therefore, becomes to them an act of abortion and considered a grievous or capital offense. We might then picture a nitpicking God lining up all those who murdered zygotes through contraceptives and taking them to task. Or, perhaps, those infants themselves pointing tiny, angry fingers at their miscreant parents. Is the denial of life or earthly experience enough justification for God to take revenge upon the cursed parents? Is the guilt (and the punishment supposedly imposed) then commensurate to the offense? Or have we been given the freedom and leniency by God to determine for ourselves what is proper in what is primarily a physiological matter? (Hence, Hebrew religious laws regarded a woman pregnant only 40 days after her conception.* Such a law today would make contraception issues irrelevant.)

And what about in cases where there is no conception at all – as in the use of condoms and other means that prevent the union of the female and male cells? Where is murder or abortion there? Where is the wasted life and the unlived time there? Are we, perhaps, taking the argument far beyond the realm of logic and common sense?

Declaring artificial contraception as contrary to the divine plan is stating that all things man-made or artificial are wrong or sinful. When a couple do the sexual act at “safe” times, they do it for the simple reason of wanting to have sexual pleasure without the “fear” or concern of producing a baby. Or was it, perhaps, God’s plan to give pleasure to couples during the nine months that a woman is pregnant and after that continence is the sole “birth control” method approved by God? That is, the couple must eventually decide and accept the fact that making babies has ended and that they must not have any contact again? (“...some indigenous Australian communities forbade men to have sex with their wives for several months after the birth of a child.**) If we look at the Old Testament people who lived for centuries, this seems to be the case. Most if not all of the patriarchs married (or began to bear children) at the age of about 65 to 180 (most people today would be dead by then), and had only a few children on record. Noah, for instance, had his three children when he was about 600.

Did people, perhaps, have such complete control of their passions then? Or did they have a very efficient birth control technique that we know not of? How can, for instance, Noah have only three children if he lived to be 950? (We know of actors who are less than 90 but have almost as many children as their age.) Many plants and substances have been used by the ancients as abortifacients or contraceptives – acacia seeds, gum resin, carrot seed and silphion or silphium (an extinct herb which the Greeks and Romans swore to for its efficacy). Ancient midwives held the secrets of this medicinal knowledge for four thousand years but lost them when modern medicine came with its haughty “scientific” ways. Diaphragms, vaginal suppositories, spermicides and condoms were already freely used a long time ago. Indeed we are new at this game and yet we are making so much fuss of its religious or spiritual significance for certain selfish motives other than to please God or to fulfil His commandments.

The command is to “go and multiply”. Today, it is more sophisticated: marry and have as many or few children as necessary. In China, the command is to have only two children. Practicality and wisdom, of course, forces us to be wise in “multiplying”. Having dominion over Nature and over ourselves requires self-control of many forms and in many dimensions. Sexual drive is just one of the things we need to control. Birth control, essentially, is not self-control nor sex-control but, well, birth control. For many, it is simply having pleasure plain and simple, moral or immoral. We have not learned to have real self-control (and may never do) that is why we have this issue at hand.

There are those who preach against the use of birth control without giving enough emphasis on how to gain genuine self-control – within and outside of marriage. And there are also those who practice birth control and yet have no self-control at all – within and outside of marriage. The issue encroaches upon the issues of authority, credibility and personal responsibility. Who are we hearing, humans or God? What do we hear, human doctrine or God’s word? Is God in all this talk at all? Is He the one preventing us or allowing us to do the things we want to do with our time, our bodies and our lives? Is the God Who gave us Time and Life also the one telling us to have pleasure? Is He also the one telling us to have self-control? Or are we the only ones telling ourselves what we want to do? How then are we giving back the glory to Him? By mouthing senseless or baseless doctrines or practicing immoral or indecent acts?

The price of enjoying fully and abundantly Time and Life as a gift from our Creator is that of believing Him and following His ways. How that is done or neglected is the very source of all human progress and problems thus far. Yet, it is or should be the ultimate objective of every human being. It is the most “primary education” we must have from childhood to adulthood. Spiritual education begins at home where parents must picture godly living to their children. Faith, in its essential form, once proceeded out of the homes of faithful believers, not in the formal assemblies of religious sects controlled by the priesthood. Hence, with Christ’s death, the temple, the temple worship and the priesthood became obsolete. Worship, the true kind, emanates from the heart of every believer indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Worship, the very application of having faith in God, therefore, must lead a person to spend his/her Time and live his/her Life for God. The final determinant is that person’s conscience as educated by God’s Word through the Holy Spirit and as aided by one’s education in a decent and mature society. Ours today is far from being one. Radio, TV and news commentators, many obviously unqualified, blurt out inane and even insane advice to the youth (often about dating and sex) in general. The dissipation of values is not just wholesale; it is FOR SALE AT ANY COST. Money dictates that anyone can give any advice as long as one has a glib mouth, and plenty of jokes to tell. If the youth of today seem to lack self-control, we have their parents, first, and these media people, second, to be blamed. The latter’s power to influence, in fact, goes beyond that of the parents. (MTRCB must be sleeping because the lewdness stink and toilet smell suffocate daily commuters in buses and jeepneys.) Our dumpsites have nothing compared to the maggots dripping from the mouths of these deejays who are polluting our ears and sensibilities.

But we are only talking about the garbage in media, particularly on radio. Today, as Apostle Paul hinted, we now have many false prophets and teachers. Our individual task is to search out Scriptures and test every spirit whether it is from God. We must even test our very own spirit whether we act and speak from and for God. Reading and discussing these matters openly and freely, benefits us in no small way. Only then can we see what CLEARLY IS, what SEEMS TO BE SO BUT IS NOT and what CLEARLY IS NOT.

Any spirit then that does not come from God must be resisted and contended against. Silence is defeat.


(Painting above: Peter Paul Rubens' oil painting -- The Birth of the Milky Way.)