HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated July 22, 2012 12:00
The APO did a show once for our kababayans in Rome. The hall was full. It was a great show and we all felt good about it. I still remember the curtain calls amid a standing ovation.
The next day, on a train, my wallet containing 600 euros was stolen despite the steps I had taken not be ripped off in that notorious city.
In a second, I descended from a high mountaintop to a deep valley. A sudden steep decline in fortune is how I describe it. It happened so quickly. After an hour frantically calling up credit card companies to stop payment on anything charged to my stolen cards, I just had to laugh at how silly my situation was. A humorous saying played in my mind that went, “Sometimes you are the statue, and sometimes you are the dove.” Indeed.
It happens, and it will happen to everyone at some point and in some form. We have seen the high and mighty fall — dictators, rulers, big businessmen, VIPs — lose everything almost in a snap. Marcos, Khadafy, Noriega, Idi Amin come to mind.
It has also happened to empires, states and even markets. The economic meltdown in the US cost taxpayers close to a trillion dollars in losses. Many who had assumed a life of stability and even prosperity, lost everything practically overnight.
While it is true that losing is a more dramatic and bigger story when it happens suddenly, it is still painful nonetheless, however slowly or quickly it occurs.
One may be hard put to explain why these things happen, but it is easier to see why from a philosophical standpoint. Apart from the immediate cause and effect, or clear and immediate reasons why things happen, there are other elements that may be playing out universally.
Buddhists call it karma, which does not always mean punishment. It is simply the basic law of cause and effect at work. When things, events unravel as they do, they are merely following karmic law. What is reaped is sown and what is sown is reaped. That’s how everything is explained. This belief in karma is the driving force behind the spiritual practice of Buddhism which leads its adherents to compassion.
In New Age circles, the reversal of fortunes would be called an energy exchange or a transfer that occurs between two parties to balance things out. Where energy is needed, it will go.
The fundamental laws of nature point to the same direction somewhat, and this is evident when an animal or being is killed to become the food and sustenance of another, so it may live. Even humans do this. We kill millions of cows, pigs, chickens daily to eat. Evolutionists call it survival of the fittest. From a Darwinian point of view, it is clear what is happening.
The Christian view may not be far behind. There is also the trading of life — where one gives up his life so that another may live. The main difference is in the voluntary quality of giving that it espouses. Christian charity, whether it is doing good acts or giving wealth, time or even one’s life, is done out of the goodness of one’s heart which seems to be outside the imperatives of nature’s laws.
Jesus did exactly that. While every mortal and sentient being will eventually die, very few do so voluntarily. The claim of Christianity is that Jesus voluntarily chose death so that others may live. In one way, He did not defy Nature’s way but went along with the idea of a life for a life. He gave his life in exchange for our liberation. I am not stressing here the quantity of the lives He gave his up for, but the fact that He voluntary did it. That, to me, is significant. It is a game changer.
I follow Bill Gates on Twitter and often he tweets about how his foundation is helping many people fight disease, hunger and ignorance all over the world. I hear of Warren Buffett giving billions and volunteering to pay more taxes to ease the burden of poorer Americans. There are people like Mother Teresa and Gandhi who gave not material things but their lifetimes to help others. There are many others who are doing good things for the less fortunate and it is indeed admirable that they do so.
Call it energy transfer from a yin of abundance to the yang of scarcity, or good karmic deeds that can only produce cosmic good, or plain old Christian charity and kindness where one simply sees God in one’s neighbors. Whatever it is, it is wonderful. It elevates the conditions of those who are in want and relieves the suffering of others.
The basic premise behind why people do good deeds is that it makes things better for the recipient, and yes, for the giver too, even if those who give often do not claim any credit. And indeed it does. If we look at our own lives, we know we have been touched by the goodness done by others, and we have at some point experienced the act of giving. And we know deep down that it is good and right.
It makes me wonder though, given all these realizations, why is that many cling to untold wealth and great excess and find it hard to part with material things which they obviously cannot consume even in three lifetimes? Why are there misers in the world?
As much as there is an impulse to give, there is also an impulse to withhold, or to hoard. And despite my admittedly limited understanding of human nature, I believe that the difference lies in some kind of faith (or lack of it) in the unseen hand of the Divine.
If I went back to the time my first child was born and tried to compute how much it cost me to raise her till age 21, I would surely have balked at the idea of having two more children. Surely, if I had projected then what I had to pay for every single need she had or blessing she received that gave her the opportunity to learn, grow and expand as a human being, I would have been dumbfounded and depressed and left feeling reckless and irresponsible. Clearly, my own resources would not have been sufficient to cover all this.
But it is natural to hope for something better. There is an unspoken optimism we have that life, while unpredictable, can also be blessed. Life is abundant and perhaps even unlimited. And it is serendipitous. And this is where the spirit of giving comes from.
Sad are those who trust only their own resources for their vision is limited and their experience of life is miserly. In their world, grace is hardly noticed nor appreciated when it appears. They have a really small corner of the unlimited sky.