HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated September 04, 2011
After a talk I gave at an event in the University of the Philippines, I and the two other speakers were asked questions by members of the audience in an open forum. One question I remember quite clearly and got me thinking since I attempted to answer it; posed by their teacher, Ms. Data Canlas, it went something like this: “Are you familiar with Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture? If this was your last lecture, what would you like to impart to the audience?”
Randy Pausch was a college professor in the US who was diagnosed with cancer and given only a few months to live. When his doctor told him this, he immediately went around to different schools and audiences, giving his now famous “Last Lecture” series of talks, where he expressed what he thought was true and important enough to share.
When Ms. Canlas asked us the question, we were stumped. This wasn’t your regular Ms. Universe question that one can answer by merely skimming the surface or by being cute and poised while answering. I tried to give my take on it and, to be frank, I must have done so with only passable eloquence.
This article is my second chance at coming up with clearer and better-thought-out answers as I retry tackling this most intriguing and important question, without the urgency or the wisdom that comes with knowledge of one’s impending demise. Here it is:
If I were to go very soon, I would like to share with you what I think this thing called life is all about. My answers will not be unique since there have been others who have stumbled on these same insights. And hopefully you find in them the ring of truth.
1) I believe in the whole Oneness thing — that we, humanity, and all sentient beings and the entire Universe are really One. The great tragedy of living is thinking we are all separate from each other, and sadly, the whole world and its values seem to be anchored on this. But we are lucky to occasionally experience short epiphanies from time to time brought about by random things that make us stop in our tracks and find ourselves in awe of this truth. These are the moments when we see the humanity and commonality we have with other people, even with those we do not like, or even condemn. They stop being the “other” and in many ways begin to be part of us. It stretches us and makes us bigger when we can see through the walls that divide us. When we can identify ourselves with all of life, then we have realized the Oneness.
Don’t we often feel empathy when we see others suffering? Don’t we feel uplifted when we see people break world records? And don’t we resonate with the words and actions of others when they act with noble purpose and pure intentions? Our yearning to connect, in person or even through the Internet, is testimony to the truth that we seek the physical Oneness we all feel deep down.
2) The only time is NOW. The present is always new and fresh if it is experienced in the now. And every present moment is in fact a “now” point. It’s as simple as that. Yet many find this complicated because they unwittingly bring in the past and future into the present and thus end up contaminating its unsoiled reality. Now is the only time we have. To speculate that the future will be better, or to bring up the past, is to create pain and devalue the only real thing we have.
But it is also true that we must understand and accept the past to deal with its consequences. In fact, not to do so is unwise. But to overly stress on the past is not the answer. The answer lies in the present and the full acceptance of it. It is the only thing that can free us from the past or change the course of a future we do not like. The gift of being in the present means constant renewal and creativity to experience a reality we truly desire.
3) Happiness is self-generated. We do not need anyone to “complete” us. Sure, we love other people and find great happiness being with them. And we love our precious objects of desire. But to make them “responsible” for our happiness is to diminish the definition of love that we give and receive. Love is not “trade” wherein we love someone only if we are loved back. Love is unconditionally given and accepted. To make our giving love dependent on whether it is accepted or not is to reduce it to a deal or contract of mutual benefit, no different from a common business transaction.
In the world today, it is difficult to believe this truth because so many commercial lures and media narratives about what love is deny this reality. We have been led to believe in the idea foisted on us that we “need” certain things and people to make us happy. Everything we need is already inside us. We are the fire and breath of our own souls.
4) Every spiritual quest is doomed to fail. Before you shout and throw invectives my way, let me explain. How can you find something that is already “here”? It has always been and it will always be here. To go on a quest for it is to deny it. God is here, there and everywhere. To say that God is not where you already are, is to deny the reality of God and insist in a deity that will answer our self-created needs.
Contrary to what some believe, heaven is not a place we go to when we die. Eternity is not something that starts upon death. Heaven is the experience of the timeless and eternal that we mortals, though bound by time and space, are capable of. It can be experienced in every “now” and we do not have to die to get there. Heaven does not wait; it is we who delay experiencing it.
The spiritual quest therefore is not really a quest but more of an “awakening” to transcendence in everyday living. It is the discovery of both our human and divine capacity to experience in a fresh, untainted way what is already here — the world as it is.
5) When all is said and done at the end of life, I would venture that the only important and worthwhile question to answer is, “Did you love?”
Everything we do on earth is an attempt to love ourselves or someone or something. And all throughout life, we are endlessly trying to understand what love is.
Our attempts at love that create wealth, stature and everything physical however will not last another second to serve us after we die. What will remain is the love we gave with authenticity and truth. It is those moments when we felt a loss of personal borders because we opened ourselves totally to love. It is the love we made, and the people whom we felt the Oneness with, that will keep the love alive beyond our mortality.
And it is the love for others that answers the eternal question of why life was even created in the first place. I believe life was created because the Oneness is love and Love is the Oneness. It’s as simple and as profound as that.
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