Monday, December 16, 2013

Why Christ can never be in Christmas

When this festive season comes, a lot of people go crazy – literally and figuratively. Only yesterday, I encountered once more the most ubiquitous sign of Christmas – traffic jams, both on the streets and in the shopping mall. And I was merely trying to withdraw some cash to get to a Christmas party, which I never got to attend because of the chaotic onrush of people and events at this time. As usual, I wished to myself this holiday season would be over and done with.

Thoughts of a jaded, old Scrooge? Perhaps.

But why are we always caught up in this quagmire created by people who tried to put Christ in Christmas when it is such an impossible thing. For years, I felt the poignant and sweet tug of the “holiday spirit” it was supposed to bring. But for so many reasons, I have realized it is one big misconception, if not a deception.

Honestly, I never met the real Jesus Christ through Christmas. Maybe the tiny, silent, helpless baby that He was, but not the man Pilate pointed out with the words, “Ecce homo!” No, not the bloodied Christ either (we are always looking at appearances of people and things) but the One Who reigns and rules over His kingdom from His throne in Heaven (we often miss the real nature and significance of people and their deeds).

But someone will say, “Christmas is for kids!” Really? How come adults have all the fun? They get more expensive toys than the kids as well. Apple Inc. never developed products (iPhones and iPads) for kids who have no money. Neither did Nokia, Hyundai, Ford, Sony, Prada and BMW. Most, if not all those Christmas concerts featuring foreign and local artists all have adult viewers in mind. Hence, while someone is giving gifts, someone else is getting richer.

Tell me if Jesus is in that kind of equation? But that is the way of the world, of business! Precisely, for the way of Christ is giving and making people richer by our gifts.

I believe in the spirit of giving and loving that God requires us to practice, but as a living habit, not as a tradition or a token deed in relation to a religious feast or cultural event. The whole imbalance or impertinence of how we do things then, especially in relation to this so-called Feast of Feasts, leads us to investigate closely whether Christ is truly in Christmas.

Christmas, first of all, is not a spiritual necessity. Why? Because it is a religious feast set up to replace an ancient pagan feast dedicated to the god, Saturn, during winter solstice. From its inception alone, and as perceived by some denominations which avoid the whole affair entirely, Christmas is not a legitimate discipline or work of grace required or established by the Lord or taught by His apostles to bring us into the maturity of the faith. Meaning to say, it is not a necessary pathway through which we can attain spiritual maturity in our relationship with God and with others.

Sure, so many would use the season as a tool to remind believers and even non-believers of the great gift of Heaven in sending the Savior of the world. But why could we not have that any other day or month, or every month or every day, for that matter? Sure, we also do that; but Christmas is a special occasion.

Indeed, a birth, especially that of the Messiah, is something special and worth celebrating; but that reason is not as important and essential as the fact that He came to suffer and to die for us and that He now reigns triumphant in Heaven. Which is more necessary and vital then: the hype of celebrating His birth with so much gaiety, extravagance and, at times, wild abandon or the urgency of following His will consistently on a daily basis with the same self-sacrificing and faithful obedience He spent His life on Earth?

If it is indeed necessary to celebrate this feast with the idea of giving to and loving others, why do we not celebrate the idea through actual practice without the need to perform a ritual or a tradition which has all but been kidnapped by the money-makers and turned into a big merchandising bonanza not just every December but throughout the whole year?

In essence, we have turned the feast that Christmas is into a big marketplace for people and not a real opportunity for people to devote themselves to the genuine task of spiritual transformation leading to the perfection of our souls and spirits in the image of the Divine Nature. When shepherds knelt down before the babe in the manger, what did they bring? Nothing but their dusty sandals, sweaty cloaks and their joyful hearts. When the magi came, what did they really bring? Not just gifts but the confirmation of a prophecy, their adoration of the King of Kings and the veracity and majesty of divine knowledge working through human science (which today has become a derelict from Universal and Natural Truth). And all of that, lived through the lives of humble and of learned people of the East. Whether led then by angels or divine knowledge, our response to God’s calling in our lives must be genuine and spontaneous, not dictated by religious tradition, human convention or lifeless rules or regulations.

And there is the other common idea or belief that Christmas has the unique ability to kindle or rekindle the spirit of innocence and joy we once felt or experienced as children when we first gleaned the beauty and grandeur of the coming of the son of God into the world. This is a very valid point and one which most Christians can relate to. Many will even argue that God has used Christmas, corrupted and materialistic as it might have become, as a channel for people to appreciate God’s love for sinners.

Granted. But while the Muslim merchants or the Communist-Chinese toy manufacturers hitch a free ride on the wagon to make some profit over this annual holiday, we have mindlessly turned the purity of the Gospel and the simplicity it was meant to develop in our lives into an excuse to, well, party on, make some or a lot of money, splurge, carouse, renew personal ties with howling hoopla or move on to a new chapter in our lives with unabashed merriment.

And so, just like Mary and Joseph trying to find an inn to lodge in for the night, Christ – the suffering worker, the wandering teacher and the forgiving but just Ruler NOW seated in Heaven -- has had a terrible time trying to find a solid day, or a full hour, or even half a minute in our hearts keeping our attention to His real message. Not the message of His birth or the host of angels proclaiming the majestic event (every priest and preacher has a canned sermon for the occasion) but the fact that all has been done and finished (every Christian writer has a load of chapters to show us how to obey Christ).

Yes, God’s part has been accomplished for our benefit; but have we truly begun our OWN work of harvesting souls – beginning with our own – for His kingdom? Do we share the Gospel or write on Facebook or Twitter our own insight into what God is doing in our lives daily? A very easy thing to do. Yet, do we say or write things in order for people to like our posts? Or do we say and write things that truly matter even if they rub against people and make them hate us? Like saying that Christmas has become Christ-mess? And that there is a more excellent way of following Him – such as perfect, unconditional love?

Which brings us to the final reason why Christ could never be in Christmas, which is: Christmas is nothing but history. And like most historical facts, it exists only in the mind and in the images, ceremonies or monuments we have made out of it. And that is what Christmas is all about: a big monument to a finished, factual and established event whose purpose we have not genuinely and generally succeeded in realizing in our own lives.

Who or which among our world leaders, governments, business companies and even religious corporations who claim to uphold Christ’s teachings can truly say they have implemented the true reign of peace, justice, freedom, equality, goodwill and unity that Christ Himself envisioned it? Who among our own leaders can be truly worthy of the calling of the angels as being “men of goodwill”? Who among them and among us shout like children and sing with glee of the birth of Jesus and yet think nothing of transforming our lives and doing what is necessary so that we can help the poor and the oppressed? It might come as a surprise that when Christ returns, these very leaders we look up to might be the very ones at the frontline of those who will reap the condemnation of the Great Judge that Christ is today and upon His return.

If this is all that Christmas is: a shallow recollection of events that does not compel us to see its essence and to utilize its power to bring about lasting change in our society, then what kind of God would want to be part of it? Does Christ truly reign over our lives and our society or are we ruling in His place through our corrupt ways and selfish laws?

History is but a lesson. And history is useless if not lived in the present and for a whole lifetime.

The birth of Christ – as history -- is something that is not only special and glorious it should cause us, if we truly are serious history students, to dig deeper into what His life was and is all about and what His teachings are meant to accomplish in our nation and in this world. Yet, how many of those who raise their wine to Christmas truly believe in the virgin conception of Jesus? How many who gorge on sweet desserts and expensive holiday food truly believe in the miracles He performed and, hence, also in the those He can do for them now and in the future – whether to heal them or save them and their loved ones from danger or sins? How many of us who greet with the words “Merry Christmas” do so to cheer ourselves and others and truly seek to bring happiness in our communities through following the examples of Christ during His ministry? How many of us who sing “Joy to world, the Lord is come!” truly believe it and that He is coming again and, hence, also sing “Woe to the world, the Lord is coming to judge!”

Was Typhoon Yolanda – the strongest cyclone ever -- an untimely reminder of a world gone berserk because of climate change or a timely portent of the imminent return of Christ? Do we give relief and comfort to the victims to show that the spirit of Christmas lives in our hearts or because it is our duty to do so? There is a big difference there. The only reason we should do good is because God has been good to us in giving us the greatest gift of all – LIFE – and to spend that life in spreading His abundant grace.

True, a genuine celebration and recollection of the birth of Christ is a powerful tool to inspire us to obey His teachings. But all of that can be done entirely without any external or material tool to show to others we have done so other than the act of living according to His teachings. The feasts of the Jewish nation (Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles) were accompanied with festive meals, not different from Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year. We all want to have a happy meal (not the fast-food kind) with family and friends. But in spite of the taking away of the regulations of the Law, have we not put in place a new and similar venue for ritualizing the significance and reality of God’s work in our lives and in the process turning it into nothing but a farce and an idolatrous practice? It seems we have. No, it has become such a deceptive show turning our attention to useless and petty things and not on worthwhile and sublime ideas.

Bright lights and dazzling lanterns may somehow remind us of the bright star of Bethlehem. Yes, they may truly remind us of the humble birth of Jesus. Christmas 2013 may, I pray, end up leading many people to consider the life and the teachings of Christ and make them live fully for Him in the years to come. But as long as we see Christmas merely as a seasonal religious feast and as a simple history lesson and not as a spiritual and living power causing us to become the living monuments of eternal divine principles, Christ will never be in Christmas.

In the same way that we have turned Christ’s birth into a shallow, festive spectacle instead of being finally applied through our own accomplished rebirth in His kingdom, we have also made His death-and-resurrection into a continuous, ritual event rather than effectively used to achieve our own death to our sins through a genuine conversion. Hence, whereas we should now dwell between that spiritual-death/spiritual-resurrection (salvation by faith) and our own coming physical-death/physical-resurrection (eternal salvation), we remain as babes caught in the childish games of unnecessary and ineffective commemoration of past events and not living and experiencing the real benefits of divine power working in and through our lives.

For ultimately, Christmas in our hearts is not and will never be the same as Christ in our hearts. Why? Because the former we love to sing and rehearse seasonally while the latter we dare not sing and practice daily as we should. Our inconsistency reveals our hypocrisy.

What did Christ say to the hypocrites? I never knew you.

The real Christ we need to know lived, died, arose and ascended to rule over us. Our own spiritual rebirth, life and resurrection in Christ alone will assure us of our own place in Heaven. Today, tomorrow and every day, from now on, this is the will of Christ, the ruling Savior.

Stop thinking of Jesus as a sweet, silent baby being praised by the poor and the rich – or, as some of us seem to be, by the pretentious king who was really out to murder the infant. Stop picturing Him as a cute doll, as lifeless and powerless as the image of a venerated saint enclosed in a glass case. Think of Him as Jesus Christ – the Living Son of God, Lord, Savior, almighty King of Kings and coming Judge of Heaven and Earth.

If you really know Jesus Christ and desire to follow Him, then celebrate Him in your heart right now without all the distractions people have put before you. Anything else you add to His name and His teachings is a burden -- hence, non-essential and even dangerous.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Fake Sounds and False Images: What do we listen to? Who do we listen to?

When we listen to music, what do we listen to?

The sound of the words, or their meanings, or their deeper significance? Or is it the timbre of the singer’s voice, the pleasing sense of the melody, or the rhythm of the beat behind the vocal performance? Or could it be the heavy thump of the bass guitar, the cadence of the percussion instrument, or the harmony of all the instruments playing together?

When we listen to music, who do we listen to?

The musicians who play silently but express their musicality behind the lead singer, the back-up singers who provide harmony, or the main singer who carries the melody and the lyric? Or is it the arranger who has orchestrated the whole performance into a unified expression of its unique musical character? Or maybe the sound mixer who has cleaned up the whole audio quality of the music? Or could it be the composer who by his or her lonesome created the seed of an idea and worked with others to come up with a full display of artistic excellence?

Perhaps, we do all of these things at one time or another in the process of enjoying music. Perhaps, more of a few things than the rest. Hence, if you are a lead guitarist, you would probably listen more to that instrument than any other. Or, if you are a mere music appreciator, you might probably just listen to the song as a whole without any particular regard to all or any of the parts we mentioned. Some may not even listen to music at all but listen to other things over, above or behind the music that may be playing in an elevator, in a concert hall or in a parking lot.

So, what message do we get from listening then? We could be listening to other things not really that audible to the ears and getting an entirely different message not intended by what we heard. Or, as expected, listening and believing what we were led to hear and accept.

So, when we listen to or watch a TV program, what do we listen to and who do we listen to?

Is it the news anchor reading the news, the comedian delivering his punch line or the interviewer pestering a guest with personal questions? Perhaps, we are hearing what we are watching but not actually listening to the meanings or significance of what people are saying and doing.

We could be somewhere else listening to something or someone else in our mind.

And how many times have we seen a movie scene and then all of a sudden we realize there was a new dimension to what the words were really saying? Not in the context of the movie but in the context of your new and present situation in life. Whereas, as a child you might have admired Mowgli’s bravery in Jungle Book when he said he was not afraid of Shere Khan, the mean tiger; but now you realize he was stupid to feel and think that way.

Hence, when we pray or read the Bible, what do we listen to and who do we listen to?

Is it our voice reading the text, whether aloud or in silence? That is, do we understand the words spoken as our own ideas or the words and meanings of God Himself? And is our prayer, spoken by us in our hearts and minds, made up of words we have learned to use and are now applying to express our own desire over and against that of God’s and not in accordance and in submission to His desire for us? Or are the words we speak, aloud or in silence, words we have spoken because the Spirit of God, whom we have allowed to enter into our hearts, not just at the moment of prayer but way before we even learned to pray in the Spirit’s control, has given us the ability to select the thoughts and the words that befit the character of one who has given himself or herself up under God’s complete control?

Do we listen then to ourselves or to the Lord, the Holy Spirit? Is the music we play or listen to an extension then of the Spirit guiding us to a level of divine character closer to His very nature or does it lead us gradually away from the initial work He had started in your life when we received the Spirit into your heart? Is the recreation we engage in or the education we are occupied with or is our present work we do a constant reinforcement of what the Spirit is building up in our life as children of God; that is, is everything that we do at every moment an expression of the living offering that God wants us to be and to give?

Do we do things then expecting to hear God say “Well done, good and faithful servant” and not hearing ourselves say “I have done good” without waiting for or even expecting His approval? Or do we just live and leave it up to Him to make the judgment? That is, not judging for ourselves whether we truly hear and see Him (as He has revealed Himself and not as we have conceived Him to be) and strive to follow His ways?

Are we genuinely listening to God in the silence of our hearts and minds, in spite of all the noise and chaos that go around us? Do we truly seek to understand the meaning of life through a continual awareness of the value of seeking the will of God in all that we do by listening to the Spirit’s voice, the voice of Jesus, the still small voice we call our conscience?

Or is our conscience entirely our own and of our own making?

Many have burned their consciences that they no longer feel shame, guilt or regret. They can hear but do not listen. They can see but do not understand. They can appreciate but do not commit their life completely through godly living.

To be a child of God is to keep one’s eyes and ears attentive to His words. To keep our spirit a reverberant image of His Spirit. Listen well and be very watchful. The world is full of so many fake sounds and false images.

(Photo -- taken on Mt. Pulag's peak -- of my former student and fellow photography-enthusiast, Shirley Bernardo of Bantay, Ilocos Sur.)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Why Science is not Enough

It seems rather premature to make personal commentaries on the Central Visayas earthquake disaster while there are still missing persons and suffering victims needing immediate help and physical and emotional healing. Talk is not the need of the hour but mercy and charitable deeds.

However, an article written by two faculty members of Ateneo de Manila (“Lessons from the Bohol Disaster: Part 1,” by Tony La ViƱa and Kristoffer Berse) brings up certain issues which promote “sweeping commentaries” related to the disaster which, if not addressed, will serve to diminish the spiritual values of individuals, of families and of communities.

First of all, the article refers to the idea that disasters are acts of God as an “old belief” – the unexpressed bias and alternative being that science is the “new” and “preferable” belief. Their claim that this “propensity to view disasters as a form of divine retribution for our misdeeds and failings, with God expressing his displeasure through nature…(is) often used to justify lack of action or intervention even in the face of known natural hazards.”

Admittedly, scientific knowledge has come a long way in abridging human ignorance in the ways of Nature and in developing technology to address matters of life and death – and, thankfully, all things in between. But the attitude of many who use their faith as a fatalistic way of living life in the face of such enormous life challenges as “natural” disasters has nothing to do with the apparent inscrutability of God, of Nature and of the exigencies of human existence.

When God established the laws of Nature, it was for the benefit of humans (“Eat good fruits in order to live.”). In the same way, when He established the laws of Morality or Righteousness (“Do not eat the bad fruit or you die.”), it was also for their protection. Knowing then the laws of Nature and knowing the laws of Heaven, therefore, go hand-in-hand.

Unfortunately, this “old belief” – often dismissed as a simple myth -- is no longer that believable or popular. The laws of Nature, appropriated by science, has become the “new belief” and the be-all for understanding life and processes of our earthly environment. Thus, the article states that “this is where science is critical.” The authors go on to say that “what happened in Bohol can actually be sufficiently explained by science.”

Does this mean that the deaths and sufferings of thousands of Visayans were mere results of the quirkiness of Nature which we are hard put to understand or predict as science has not completely deciphered its equally inscrutable system of physical-biochemical processes? Hence, the article claims that “the movement of the fault, regardless of its specific origin, is nobody’s fault -- it is part of the Earth’s natural geologic processes that take place day-in and day-out.” Are we then helpless victims of and hopeless slaves to Nature? Are we inevitably consigned to annihilation by the physiological or biological laws that engender sickness, old age and death?

Secondly, the article seems to tell us that disasters (hence, the evil in this world) could be “explained” but could not be “blamed” – or at least, attributed – on anyone (not on humans, not on Nature and, least of all, not on God). But why should we look somewhere to put the blame on, it may be asked? Is “explaining” life in a rational or scientific manner sufficient to make us truly human or to provide us the compelling reason to want to cling on to it? Or is there a more satisfying and ennobling reason for us to want to understand life and all its accompanying benefits and challenges beyond the scientific point of view?

As the prophet Amos said:

Will a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey?
Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he has caught nothing?
Will a bird fall into a snare on the earth, where there is no trap for it?
Will a snare spring up from the earth, if it has caught nothing at all?
If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid?
If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?
Surely the Lord GOD does nothing,
Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.
A lion has roared!
Who will not fear?
The Lord GOD has spoken!
Who can but prophesy?
” (Amos 3:4-8)

Should we not speak out against this myopic view and juvenile pride of so-called science?

In response to the first point raised, belief in God is a perpetually renewing process. Science, and even religion, may see faith as based on old or traditional patterns of adoring a divine being through rites, feasts and other collective ceremonies. However, essential faith is the very powerful weapon humans need to face the depths of suffering and pain in this world. Earthquakes and floods may kill the human body; but they will not destroy a person’s trust in the mercy and hope in the salvation of God. Hence, whereas geologic realities may seem to attack blindly at any time in any place and throw the lives of thousands into utter chaos and destruction, the eyes of faith see order in God’s desire for justice, renewal and redemption based on His eternal plan.

That the whole Universe is but a dot in the infinite dimensions of divine realities should make us realize that our life is also but a glimpse of the eternal possibilities within God’s temporary finite Creation. Seen in this light, tragedies become stepping-stones and not obstacles toward our appreciation of our own divine nature.

Science seeks to observe and measure physical manifestations that affect human life -- a noble task that has served so much good to so many people. Seeking the truths of Nature has initially been the primary concern of learned people who also espoused the “old belief” in God. Somewhere along the way, the two became rather unwieldy and the new thinkers rejected faith and embraced and developed the growing popularity and practicality of science. Today, it is generally considered laughable for scientists to believe in a young Earth created in six days. Many people today prefer to believe in the Theory of Evolution. Belief in God has increasingly become unpopular.

And so, the world’s educational system and the media have succeeded in rejecting belief in God as the first and ultimate view for understanding Life and Nature. When disasters and calamities strike, the first official task is to measure the magnitude of Nature’s force (Intensity 7.2 or Category IV cyclone), the amount of damage done (in millions of pesos), the number of casualties or injured victims (in hundreds or thousands of people). Of course, there are the accompanying social, economic, medical and psychological rehabilitation tasks to be undertaken. And, not to forget, the spiritual caring that victims must undergo in order to return to normalcy.

The perceived “vulnerability” of humans to physical, emotional and spiritual damages arising from Nature’s forces indeed requires reinforcing all these dimensions inherent in our basic human characteristics – that of having body, soul and spirit. But discrediting the most essential and the most vital of these facets of the human person – the spiritual – and even discounting it as old and, therefore, useless or obsolete is a great disservice to humanity.

Let science do its work of providing what the body needs and satisfying what the eyes and the mind may desire. Let the human spirit accomplish its goal of reaching toward the infinite and the unseen. The corruption of this world is a clear prediction of the ultimate destruction of the physical condition. The purity of a person’s faith, on the other hand, is an immeasurable reflection of heavenly or spiritual realities and a strong evidence of the incorruptible nature of God.

The primary lesson from the Bohol disaster, as in most major catastrophes, is that the truly old ways of worship and faith done in ancient temples and buildings destroyed by the forces of war and Nature never to rise again, as well as the new incomplete ways of thinking which reject the encompassing role of God, must be replaced by the new, living and eternal Way conceived by our Creator before the beginning of time.

The Richter Scale measures seismic forces; the heart and the spirit measure eternal power. In the end, it is the spirit that will save the body from corruption and death – not science and medicine. This is the foundation and goal of an ever fresh and undying belief in God.

(Photo above: Damaged bridge in Bohol -- courtesy of

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Floods and Other Furies of Nature -- Past, Present and Future

August always brings out the worst in us – and in Nature, as well.

After bad and sad news of Senate pork-barrel misuse (tax money improperly used) and two ships colliding in Cebu (radar and eyes unused), comes Habagat (southwest monsoons) pouring torrential rains over a big part of Luzon. Along with the seething hearts of the masses, ready to pounce on the malefactors in the halls of Senate come Monday, are the thunderstorms and driving rains bringing floods in the most populated areas of the country.

Why? So many reasons have been given for these phenomena.

But the primary reasons are: first, because we humans are corrupt and, second, because our corruption has also corrupted Nature, which now includes part of what we have made of Nature that it is now – mainly, Human-Made Nature. Let us explain.

We will not deal with greed (the Bible calls it “love” because people love to love) for money because we know it is the root of all evil. Otherwise, we will end this article right here. Let us talk about how we have transformed Nature into a monster of our own making.

Sure, there were floods even before the Spaniards came to colonize us, just as there were earthquakes and tsunamis even before anyone sailed into these islands when only the Aetas dwelt here. Which brings me to my theory that an ancient gigantic tsunami(s) once hit and transformed the western coastal areas of Bataan, Cavite and Northern Batangas into what they are now. A comparison of their geologic and topographic characteristics will show evidences of giant waves having carved out possibly once-linear coastal areas into irregular, cove-marked (or pock-marked, as if it were the profile of a human face eaten by acnes) geologic features.

Evidently, periodic, gentle and even strong waves churning for centuries could not produce such formations. Only a cataclysmic, once-in-a-millennium phenomenon could produce them. Compare the before-and-after photos of Banda Aceh during the killer tsunami that hit in 2004 and you will see the uncanny similarities with the coastal features of Cavite and Batangas.

Figure 1 – Banda Aceh, Indonesia, before and after the killer tsunami in 2004. Notice the upper coastline after the tsunami hit and compare with the existing coastlines of Bataan, Cavite and Batangas facing the Western Philippines Sea (below). These formations appear to have been formed by similar catastrophic forces produced by tsunamis. Interior coastlines, in general, do not show such geologic features.

Figure 2 – Bataan’s coastline facing the Western Philippine Sea, near the mouth of Manila Bay (to the right).

Figure 3 – Western coastline of Cavite and Batangas exhibiting the same features as Bataan above.

If this is a geological and historical fact, then it means the prospect of another super-giant tsunami hitting in the present or the not-so-distant future will not only transform those areas again but will also flood and destroy the whole densely-populated National Capital Region, including Metro Manila, in the likes of a Great Flood disaster or catastrophe.

For sure, the sufferings we are going through would be nothing compared to what could happen if such a humongous tsunami hits. The only way NCR can survive such a cataclysmic event is to build a structure across the mouth of Manila Bay that can dissipate any tsunami coming from the open sea. This structure can serve both as a defensive wall against waves and as a highway that will link Cavite with Bataan.

The petty complaints we now raise against our lack of planning, foresight and prudent management of our environment will pale in magnitude to our failure to heed the warnings of Heaven against our corrupt ways, the same reasons that brought about Noah’s crisis.

We all suffer, whether we live righteously or not, in a country that is run by people who fail to abide by the standards of upright and moral governance. Denuding our forests, wasting our resources, destroying our environment and pillaging people’s lands and their rights have brought about this unstoppable descent into chaos in many areas.

Whereas Mother Nature has carved for us the land to teach us how she receives, holds, uses and conveys water back to the ocean to recycle it again, we have stopped her from receiving, holding, using and conveying the water as she has taught us, through our myopic or blind ways of treating the environment.

Hence, instead of keeping our rivers free, deep, wide and stable enough to take into consideration the growth of population, we have clogged, constricted and weakened them by our wanton “progressive” ways. All because Mammon has some of his insatiable minions living in these parts. And so, instead of working with Nature, we have sidelined her and forgotten that she is the mother of us all and the best mentor, provider and sustainer of our lives.

When Nature gives us warnings, small and great, do we cease and heed? Do we do something about what ails her and what causes her to whimper or to growl? For when she cries, we all weep with her. When she gets angry, we all suffer and even die. Beware when Nature strikes and finally takes revenge against our indifference and our recalcitrance! We may escape a tsunami using technology, and, perhaps, a monstrous earthquake. But how do we escape fire coming from a meteor hurled down by the Great Pitcher in the sky?

Bottom of the last inning, bases are full. . . and the slo-mo swing of the bat goes underway. . . . Can you make it home or not? Is Jesus batting for you or are you proudly playing your own losing game?

Be thankful that God, through Nature, gives us small warnings and small sufferings now. They could be our preparation for greater tribulation and ultimate judgment. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. No, to be wise is definitely better than to be foolish; to be upright and alive better than to be crooked and dead.

We know who and what we are, individually and collectively. God does. What we do about it, God responds accordingly, as He does now and forever.

Forever is a scary word. But the shameless are never scared. They love death. No, they are greedy even of their festering, death-smelling riches that fill their bottomless pockets and their numerous mansions, amassed through the hard labor of the dying people and of grieving Nature.

Note in the wake of Supertyphoon Yolanda:

The storm surge reported to have hit Manila Bay in September 2011 and reported to have reached 20 feet, may have been misrepresented, the way I see it. It could have been the height of the wave that breached the sea wall. Otherwise, such a storm surge with that height would have flooded and overwhelmed such areas as Luneta Park or Manila Hotel which are very close to the bay, an occurrence which never transpired.

My theory is this: Manila Bay, being limited in area compared to the size of Leyte Gulf and because of the lower typhoon wind velocity generated by the September 2011 typhoon, suffered a storm surge with a limited volume of water that did minimum damage. With slower winds and smaller sea surface area, a typhoon can produce friction and/or transfer kinetic energy to a smaller degree compared to one with the magnitude of Yolanda over Leyte Gulf. And with the configuration of Leyte Gulf (see Photo below), we can readily see that it serves as a natural funnel for sea waters to collect in and wedge into Tacloban City which lies right at the focal point of that funnel.

But what if a supertyphoon hits Manila Bay? Obviously, its geographic location is one also prone to storm surges that could be disastrous. Hence, tsunami or storm surges, some kind of protection is called for.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Redeeming the Time: Collecting Golden Minutes

What does it really mean to “redeem the time”1?

First, let us define how most people use it. It means transforming or overhauling our thoughts and behavior such that our use of time, energy and resources will be for a good or fruitful cause. That is, whereas we used to spend much time gambling or drinking with friends to have a “good time”, we now spend that time (reclaim or redeem it) for the Lord’s purposes -- studying His word or teaching it to others, going into business or any productive or charitable project.

The whole concept of snatching back time supersedes the predominant attitude of our using time for selfish pursuits or motives. In essence, it rejects the Devil as the beneficiary of our use of time or of our very lives. Getting back that time and offering it to the Lord is the whole point of the teaching.

Some people have the rare gift of knowing how to make full use of their time. Their parents taught them well or they fortuitously went through an experience that taught them early the value of time. A good example was Confucius. At 15, he began his education. At 30, he could say he had formed his character and knew how he stood in the world. At 40, he could confidently say he had no doubts. At 50, he “knew the will of Heaven”, meaning he knew “the correct way to govern and manage”. Certainly, anyone can learn from such sublime wisdom, claim it and apply it in one’s life as well.

But there is a deeper meaning to the principle that we can pursue here. It applies to the consequences of what others have done to us, our history, our culture and our very lives and what we can do to erase and to reverse the effects of what such a corruption or destruction has caused. It could mean changing our beliefs, our way of seeing things, our manner of speaking, eating and even working for ourselves and our families.

Redeeming time then takes a form of subverting the very structure of our social, philosophical, political, cultural and spiritual world and replacing it with something that will suit our newfound faith, ways and perspectives – for the glory of God.

Time is gold. No, it is more precious than all the precious metals in the world. But we do not see it or use it as if it were so. God gave us time but we waste it like we waste water. We clean dishes or wash clothes while the water overflows the basin when we should turn off (or turn down) the faucet and use only the water we need. In the same way, we while away much of our day sitting in front of the PC or the TV or the JW or the SMB (the last two are popular alcoholic drinks).

Wasting a single minute is the very opposite of redeeming time. If you could claim back a minute to be with a dear person who has died, would you not want to do it? Redeeming time can mean merely using the minute we now have the best way we can. It begins with realizing that all that time will run out in an instant. Why wait till you can no longer breathe a minute’s worth of air?

We all want to change and strive to become better. Most people, however, remain where they are or as they are. They find no need to redeem anything for they see only a one-dimensional nature of life. Eat and be merry. Live it up before you die. Or, some people may have subjected themselves to an enslaving idea or way of life that prevents them from reclaiming their very lives for the Lord Who calls them to freedom the same way He called Abraham and the Israelites from idolatry and bondage.

Many of us seek truth and meaning in this life. We strive to make our world better, our lives more meaningful and the future of our children more secure. We cannot sit down and wait for things to remain as they are or go down the drain. We have to redeem time even for those who do not understand or appreciate why they need to.

For instance, in Philippine history, our people lived on this archipelago without foreign masters for centuries, until the Spaniards came and later on the Americans. True, we cannot “reverse” time as a sovereign nation, absolutely free to chart our own course through history. All we can do is to find ways to redeem what that colonial experience might have made us what we are today that we do not want or deserve to be – backward, ignorant, sickly, decadent, corrupt, undisciplined and unprogressive. It could mean, however, wresting from the agents of our enslaved culture (that is, including ourselves) the freedom to reform our lives totally and effectively.

Recently, I discovered to my surprise how Magellan’s journey had made me, personally, a victim of an unhealthy diet, not just of a degraded environment and of a damaged culture. I will use this discovery to illustrate what “redeeming time” can mean. From there, we will see how time can be used to a much greater purpose than what we have used it for and how we value it compared to how the Lord – the One Who dwells in Eternity; that is, Infinite Time -- values it.

To God, a thousand years is said to be like a day. That is how rich God is with respect to time. It is as if He has ten billion pesos which He spends to buy a drink of cool water. (The picture shows how many of us can waste a day away while in the mind of God we might have actually thrown away a thousand years.) A destitute person puts a lot of value on one peso because he has nothing. A rich man will not even think twice about gambling a million pesos away in a cockfight.

We were once a people who were masters of their land and of their lives. Our ancestors traded with the Chinese, the Indians and the Guamanians as a free nation. When we were subjugated by foreign nations, we lost our freedom, our culture and our wealth. We traded with Mexico and Spain not to make ourselves wealthy but a kingdom on the other side of the globe. We grew plants which did not truly nourish our lives but sustained the whims of aristocratic families living in castles surrounded by well-manicured lawns. We gave up our beliefs in favor of institutions that built lavish cathedrals to house the wealth contributed by the poor souls of the world’s faithful who knelt before many exported golden altars. We labored not to preserve our ancient ways of tilling the land and preserving our health but to support the wanton, wasteful and greedy motives of rulers who overthrew our lives and our identity.

What brought Magellan to these islands? Spices, as the history books say. But that hides more than it reveals. When I was young, I always thought Magellan was a chef who was looking for garlic, onions, cinnamon and pepper to support his culinary arts back home. Those were the spices that I had in mind.

In reality, he and the rest of the western navigators, like Columbus, were looking for basic, money-making “spices of life” that were raking in money for the western potentates: sugar, tobacco, tea and coffee. Sugar comes first because it is used in the other three either for curing or making them taste sweet.

I grew up in Negros Oriental where, until today, much of the arable land is still planted to sugar cane. We lived in a city nursery-farm fronting an hacienda or a sugar plantation with a sugar- milling plant. I never saw the insides of the plantation or the family that lived in the mansion in its midst. I only savored and got to taste the sweet-smelling aroma of freshly cooked cane juice which wafted daily to our house and filled me with yearnings of “tira-tira” (dark brown cane candy which we stretched and twisted while hot until it cooled and hardened – hence, the white, Christmas candy canes) all day long.

We would often walk to the sugar cane farm and break some stalks (when no one was watching) or ask some from the sacadas (cane farmers). We would peel those stalks with our bare teeth and crunched the pith dry as we sucked the sweet juice, spitting the dessicated fiber on the side of the road. We were very efficient mobile cane-millers!

I was unaware of what transpired inside the cane mill. I only knew they made the mascuvado sugar (dark brown sugar) and the refined sugar we used at home. Why we did not use cane juice to sweeten coffee or chocolate, I did not know. It would have been cheaper and more healthful. We never had tooth decay as kids because somehow we exercised them enough with raw cane and fed them with natural cane sugar.

But the industrial revolution was on the move and commercial use of agricultural products was gradually transforming our lives and our way of eating. Refined sugar became the instant calorie-refuge for millions of people who had acquired its taste. Obesity, a sugar/carbohydrate-induced malady, gradually crept in.

Magellan, of course, never lived to see sugar make money for the Queen of Spain. But later colonizers realized this dream of making these islands produce enough “spices” (which now included opium -- as well as gold, or always did but it is an entirely different commodity) to make Spain challenge the supremacy of England, France, Portugal and others. She overran the Americas and added other products to top her riches (cocoa, cocaine, banana and slaves) until she could no longer sustain her empire. The damage had been done to so many countries and so many peoples.

From my childhood, I learned to eat refined sugar in its purified form or as candy, banana dip, bread topping, cake confectionery or softdrink sweetener. (I began to have tooth decay when we moved to Manila.) I never realized until recently2 that it was pure crystal poison having no nutritional value, only calories that went straight to the intestines, giving energy and nothing else. The addiction it produced in me and so many people was enough to make us outnumber by the millions those who succumb to heroin or shabu. Removing it from my blood for exactly one month now has made me feel triumphant and free of this vicious, body-snatching, acquired-taste slavery.

So, why do food manufacturers label their products “sugar-free” now”? Because they know what refined sugar does. Same with refined flour, milled rice and other over-processed foods. They are basically bringing back to consumers what Nature once gave us – natural, organic nutrients minus the toxic chemicals or devitalized substances that the body was not meant to ingest.

No wonder we have diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular diseases, cirrhosis and scores of other illnesses brought about by this centuries-in-the-making corruption of our ancient, healthful ways. One of every five Filipino adults, or approximately 11 million, had either pre-diabetes or diabetes in 2012.3 The country ranked No. 8 worldwide in diabetes prevalence in 2011.4 Is that an accident or a pre-conditioned sickness borne by our lack of knowledge and self-control? A result of our having lost our legacy from our ancient ancestors, having been wrested from us by those who imposed a corrupted rule over us?

Redeeming our health through eating the proper food and preparing our food in the right manner is the first step toward redeeming time. Why? Because it literally adds years to our life. This is everyone’s responsibility. Yes, even in a country that still has sugar-refining as one of the major industries and the sustainer of the wealth of many of our political and business leaders. See how sugar encompasses our lives today and you will see how much the claws of Spain’s and America’s colonization have remained in the present. Will you dare to be free from that bondage?

But a sickly body is nothing compared to an unredeemed soul, a sickly soul. How can the soul redeem its time here on Earth? The same way we do with the sickly body -- eating the right kind of food for the soul.

Today, too many sweet or candy-gospel messages have mesmerized millions to a way of life and faith that falls short of the Lord’s standards. So much of what we hear is sugar-coated to make it palatable to people. The commercialization and devitalization of the message of Christ has led many to lose sight of the empowering value of His true message for the lost. This will not be the kind we can solve by buying sugar-free, organic food from the corner health-food shop.

Redeeming time for the soul and spirit requires going back to the roots of Christ’s message, minus the false teachings and the idolatrous practices passed on to us by the same rulers who gave us “spices” instead of real food, exploitation rather than genuine economic development, and palliative religion instead of truly life-changing and abundant faith.

Redeeming time requires great sacrifice. Christ gave His life to redeem the lives of all people whose time on Earth were spent in servitude to the Devil. Having gotten back that time and then offering it to us, He pleads us to receive it and use it according to His terms. Will you not?

Take hold of the time you have now. Use it as wisely as you can. Take stock of what you have now. Use it for His glory from now on. Look into your heart at this moment. Live your life right and meaningfully as if there is no tomorrow, only today. Today is the only time we all have. You cannot redeem yesterday’s time or tomorrow’s time. Any minute you throw away today is lost time you could have invested in eternal time.

Eternity is what God grants to those who triumph by redeeming time for God. Collecting golden minutes from now on can be the most inspiring, most refreshing and most fruitful thing you can do in your life. Redeem all that wealth!

How rich is God? He owns Eternity which is worth billions and billions and billions of years and even more without end. It can be ours. Yes! Now, that should be worth more than enough to buy each one of us an everlasting mansion in Heaven.

1Ephesians 5:15,16: “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
2Read William Duffy’s enlightening book, Sugar Blues, here:

(Painting above: Salvador Dali's classic surrealistic "Persistence of Memory", 1931)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Holiday Aftermath: A View on Ballistics, Antics and Fanatics

No family should go through the pain and anguish of losing a child from a bullet fired by a mindless person during New Year’s Day celebration. Senseless, irresponsible, wasteful, murderous – no adjective can describe such an illegal and criminal act. We condole with the family and friends of Stefanie Ella who succumbed to a damaged-culture-driven bullet.

Be it a bullet fired in the sky, a karaoke song at two in the morning, fireworks exploding in the sky or a traditional event practiced in accordance to one’s beliefs, each is an expression of our inherent individuality within a democracy that is most unique in the world. Each one is a result of celebration, a release of emotional and physical energy and a psychological manifestation of who and what we are as humans, rightly or wrongly.

There are no accidents in this world. Everything is a result of people thinking or not thinking properly of what they do every moment of their lives. Even a gun that unintentionally fires and kills someone does not kill by accident, if we come to think of it. For guns are meant to fire, to hurt and even to kill. Anyone who owns one bought it from someone who made it to fire as it should, when it could. No one can totally prevent such accidents as a guard’s shotgun that falls and fires by itself. But it happens because someone made the gun and someone used it for what seems to be a good intention. Yet it killed unintentionally.

Who do we blame? The gun itself, the maker, the user or all of them? We might as well blame people because they die from gunshots. Or God, because He made all these things possible. But that would be bringing the argument too far. And yet, you’ll be surprised by the number of people who reject God because He cannot prevent such “simple” accidents.

The freedom given to us has many dimensions and it is our responsibility to know the limits of our freedom. Hence, a gun fired, raucous singing, toxic fireworks and even religious feasts are all expressions of our so-called democratic freedom. Each one of them is a religio-socio-cultural right granted by our laws and traditions that cannot be curtailed except by specific laws.

True, a gun fired into the air is clearly a lawless act. Someone has to answer for violating the law. But what led to the firing? Was it not, perhaps, the religious or social atmosphere that led people to violate the law? We have failed to clearly define and effectively enforce the limits of what comprises true religion and what comprises excessive behaviour and so we suffer from the misdeeds of people. Let us explain further.

When September comes in the Philippines, people bring out their Christmas carol albums and play them until the first week of January or so. In the longest-running Christmas season of all, Filipinos go through a ritual that reaches a frenzied height near the end of each year. The build-up of traffic on the streets and the crowds entering the malls becomes palpable and leads to a stressful level that only lets up when people plop down from fatigue after the midnight Noche Buena (Christmas meal). It does not end there though. A shorter but equally riotous build-up repeats and reaches its climax on New Year’s Eve. And that is when people really go crazy partying and eating as if there is no tomorrow.

Whereas Christmas is relatively noisy and festive compared to ordinary days, it has none of New Year’s Eve’s din and excitement. The fireworks and the pollution they bring can almost deafen and suffocate you. And the number of houses that burn down from the mayhem leaps as if to signal that the New Year has arrived – brighter and hotter for some homeless people.

What for? Just to have fun? To blow your horn once in a while? To get wasted once a year?

Along with this physical manifestation of a social and cultural quirkiness that is often taken for granted and tolerated by most people, comes a certain behaviour among many Filipinos that causes them to depart from their normal or sane behaviour. Call it social adaptation or excessive nervousness brought about by uncertainties of the present and the future, it seems to push people to do things that make them want to be noticed or appreciated by others. Why else would they turn up their karaoke machine’s volume if not to be noticed? Why would they fire their guns if not to let the world know they have the power or the courage to do whatever they like? Why would they buy and explode the largest firecracker or ignite the brightest fireworks available if not to show how grand their celebration of New Year is? Why would people raise up the tallest Christmas tree, organize the largest choir or the most well-attended mass or assembly if not to prove that the feast is really what it was meant to be celebrated by the God in heaven?

Unfortunately, all these and many other feasts we hold are signs of missing the whole point of life and salvation in Jesus. A gun kills whether in the hand of a sane or insane user – and so does a baseball bat. It is the culture of death we have embraced through media and the Internet that brings about these things. (Election violence will put all the carnage on New Year’s Day appear paltry, if the past is our gauge.) Loud and noisy singing irritates and keeps many neighbours awake. It is the culture of selfishness that makes us forget the rights of others. Fireworks cause asthma and bronchitis. It is the culture of excessive fun that makes us waste our resources and our lives on inane things. Christmas trees and lights consume electricity and, except for dazzling our eyes, add nothing to the bounty of genuine goodness in the human hearts. It is our misplaced faith that leads us to do things that have no bearing at all on true spirituality.

Choirs singing in malls can never be appreciated for what they are because oftentimes they only add to the noise level inside them. (“Silent Nights” and carols sound best in the stillness of night or in the silence of one’s room. Even then, they may not at all tell the real story of Jesus but of a lonely person wishing to see snow or to have two front teeth.) Most of all, assemblies on Christmas Day are, at best, a sentimental compromise for many season-converted Scrooges who feel shallow goodness or holiness during that one day in the year but relapse to their wicked ways the rest of the year. Yes, it is the culture of ritualism and pretense that drives us to a life that never shows us the true, holy face of God but merely a replica someone made for us to look at once in a while when it is fun and convenient.

Well, alright, it is about being like a child again (justified, it seems, by our making a baby of Jesus and not visualizing Him as the ruling, righteous and mighty King He is in Heaven) and just having some fun. And, yes, we can be fanatics of any tradition we choose to believe and propagate. We can be a bit psychotic in the way we pursue our beliefs and rites. Our democracy guarantees us the right as long as we do not destroy the rights of others. But God requires us to be perfect in the practice of our virtues and our duties to Him. Christ and the early Christians never practiced many of these things we do today. The Apostles would be aghast at the way we use the name of Jesus for many of our hypocritical ways. No, they would be stoned and pilloried again if they were here now crying out against the shameful behaviour we manifest today.

Yes, let the laws deal with excessive and criminal behaviour. People are there ready to do that job. But to be able to stop people from doing these things over and over again, we need a much more powerful deterrent than our laws. We need a greater motivation for doing things according to the fundamental and simple requirements of our Lord.

Religion and society have not done enough to clean up our nation from the wasteful, senseless and useless habits, traditions and practices. On the contrary, we have encouraged idolatrous ways and cheap thrills in the pursuit of flimsy values. We need an overhaul of our minds and hearts if we are to see how far we really are from the basic tenets of plain, simple, joyful and holy Christian living.

Come Holy Week, without fail, we turn another leaf and make another effort at reforming our lives. It is a cycle we go through in our effort to show ourselves and others that we truly love and serve God. Again the fanatics and the insane among us will have a heyday flaunting their mad ways. And even the sane, the holy and the virtuous will go down to their knees to follow the throng in the solemn remembrance of the great deed that has once and for all has been finished and which we continue to rehearse and rehearse without ever being truly converted to Christ’s life-giving ways.

A bullet fired straight up into the air will stop for a moment, come back down and regain velocity until it nears its original speed. Our idolatrous or corrupt ways could be that very same bullet we fire at heaven hoping to make God and the angels take notice of our celebration of life as we know it and as we wish it. Until we realize too late that God has rejected that bullet and sent it coming back directly at us at a fatal speed.

The laws and traditions of humans will fail us; but the laws of nature and of God will not.

Friday, January 04, 2013

apat4E (A Place and Time for Everything)

Here's my first blog entry for 2013. Missed writing for so many reasons, main being not so enthusiastic about writing when no one seems to be reading. But writing for fun and not for money is that: fun -- and whether someone reads or not, one gets the satisfaction of learning and being able to share the experience, eventually, I guess.

One of the things I did before 2012 ended was to clean up and organize my tiny studio apartment (an unending task, apparently). I could not believe how a little tidying up, discarding trash, organizing and minimalizing one's world can give so much peace to the mind and relief to the body. For instance, assigning a certain space for a particular use -- say a corner for the TV and sound-system -- and nothing else, removes any possibility of confusing it for other use, such as putting trash on top of the CD player or using speakers as book ends. The latter, I still have to undo. I need another book shelf, I believe, although the red cookbooks look well with the black components.

That led me to a simple general rule for organizing life and a lot of our many mundane concerns. I resolved to. . . ooops! This is not a New Year's resolution. It's an old idea I've had for many years but have not really seriously implemented in a universal scale. Yes, my whole universal significance now depends upon "finding a place and a time for everything" -- EVERYTHING is my whole Universe, if not for everyone else.

In the case of my meager possessions, that means assigning a place for each particular item: a drawer for socks, another for underwear, a night table for night items like a bible, reading glasses, ear plugs and a cup of water, a rack for shoes and a hook for a painting. Duh! Obvious and simple? No! For one who has so much on his mind, the Universe can be a chaotic darkness before order and light come into existence.

I've done a lot of moving from house to house and emptying and filling up bags, boxes and files (both hard or soft) and have not seen the end of it. It takes superhuman wisdom and strength to say once and for all that there must be order and efficiency in one's life before there can be order and life in the Universe. Salvation truly means being perfect before all, if not before yourself. That is, in spite of the Law of Entropy in Physics which states that all things tend to go from order to disorder, we have been given the divine command to be perfect in an imperfect world. To do the impossible in a world cursed with impossibilities.

Cleaning up is truly a godly task.

Women, in general, are trained to be well-organized, meticulous, thorough and clean. Men, on the other hand, are not. We have used this inability as an excuse for our gross ways. Sometimes, to the point that not being so is seen either as being compulsive or gay.

Perhaps, owing to the nature of man's original work as hunter or farmer, he had to deal with the unpredictable or complicated elements facing him in the outdoors. His primary concern was not to put order into his job as much as he had to put efficiency. The way Nature produced "unorganized" forests with fruit trees and lumber and "unmanicured" fields with shrubs, crops, wild herbs and wild animals, all man needed to do was to collect whatever he had to in order to feed the family. It was only much later when more scientific and organized farming and foraging came about.

All the while, woman had to constantly put order into her home and family life early on. It was but natural for her to organize her life and time in relation to the needs of everyone else: her husband, her children, herself and her neighbours. And not necessarily in that order sometimes.

In our modern world, life has become more organized as it grew in complexity. Cities are a testament to the supreme ability of humans to plan and provide for their multifarious needs and preventing so much chaos or strife. Of course, there have been civil wars, revolutions, traffic jams, collisions, city flooding, riots, stampedes and massacres. But these are precisely the things that make our common Universe worth putting order and discipline into on a daily basis. It is an unending task as much as managing a little apartment or any single human life is.

Yes, trash has to be segregated and thrown away at the proper time. And a bed can also be a place to read a book on, to pray on and for so many other things for so many people. (Someone used it once to advestize an album.) We do need to consider, however, if the time we do certain things is the right or appropriate time. Is it time to sit on the sofa and watch a sitcom or is your time better spent reading a book or visiting a friend in need? An engineering student inside a Physics lab is at the right place and the right time, as far as his or her parents are concerned. But, as far as the student is concerned, it may not be his or her idea of the Universe. But what does a young person know about life to make him or her question such things? And what do parents know about the present world that makes them qualified to impose their ancient ideas of the world?

Most of the time, however, we only move from place to place and being carried naturally by time (our self-imposed schedules) that we forget to think about the fact that we have been given by God dominion over "all things" -- pretty much the Universe as we know it. To God, we can be the conquerors He meant us to be.

Or are we victims of place and time? Are we beholden to other people and not self-determined in our vision of our own worth as individuals? Is the Philippines, or any country for that matter, the right place and 2013 the right time for us to make things happen for ourselves, for our family and for our country?

The ring is the right place to put a basketball through at any time possible within a game. Success in that case means making as many baskets as you can. Earning as much as you can in a week or a month is also a determinant many use to measure their accomplishment in life. Others make do with the psychological or emotional satisfaction of doing something that may not be so lucrative.

The place and time (space-time, as Einstein called it) every person finds himself or herself in within the Universe relates with every other person's space-time. A car and bus could not be at exactly the same space and time along EDSA or there will be considerable damage and injury. Managing the order and destiny of the Universe depends upon each one of us managing our small and important visions in our small Universes. Let me rephrase that: For God to manage the Universe well according to His plan, we need to manage our own individual lives well. How exactly? By doing it according to His example.

A forest or a whole mountain way seem wild and unkempt but it is God's way of providing us air, food, houses, phones, clothes, cities, cars and satellites. Wisdom is often derived from all the apparent confusion we see around us. The wisdom we ultimately get from our Creator in this cursed world is meant to be used to have proper dominion over all of this groaning Creation. And that wisdom includes the love and compassion for all of Creation as well.

The Universe, after all, is large enough for everyone to find his or her corner in the cosmos. Borders or boundaries create conflict between individuals and nations. This happens when each person thinks of how big his or her world is compared to those of others. A mansion dweller has a certain pride in his gigantic space; otherwise, he would have built only a cabin. Superpowers naturally want to extend their reach over other territories, physically or economically. Until we learn how small our place is compared to the Universe and how limited our time is in relation to Eternity, we will never see the wisdom of apat4E.

A Place and Time for Everything. Clean up your tiny room, finite human! God gave it to you so He can see if you deserve to live in a mansion in the sky.