The faith chronicles

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Time as kairos (instead of chronos)

"Chew your food well." I learned that from my mother. As a Bio major, I am aware of the chemical and clinical implications: acid in my stomach, or worse, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disorder). Why am I always rushing anyway, like eating has some deadline? Oh, but it does have. I will be late in my appointment if I relished what I was doing. If I will be late, I will not give a good impression; I might even lose the deal. But if I win the deal, will it be worth it if I have ulcer? What is life if I don't enjoy chewing every bit of it?

I rush almost everything else that I do. I wash my own clothes with a mental timer, with advanced or ridiculously premature thoughts. I don't play chess, but I often have the foresight of chess when it isn't needed. Barely have I started washing when I immediately launch into imagining when to rinse, dry, and air the clothes out in the sun.

The rush is making me crazy. I feel like a newborn baby who bawls if he is not given his milk right now. iWhat has become of me when, at 40, I haven't perfected that thing I should have learned in grade school?

There are books and other readng materials whose conclusion or ending I am always tempted to read first whenever I get stuck by tiredness or boredom in the middle. It ruins the pleasure of reading, I know, but many times, I can't resist. If rushing is sickness, then I am ill of something, right? Maybe ADHD? Or just plain boredom? Thankfully, ADHD is now seen as somewhat a badge of honor if you display so much as a kindergarten impatience over something.

One of the things I don't like very much, I've found, is meditating, unless it is forced as in a religious retreat. In my idle moments, I am given to either revisiting the past or fast-forwarding to the future. If only I grew like this, I tend to think back. If only I was like him or her. Or: What will happen from hereon in? What will I become?

These thoughts often end up being morbid, if I allow them to fester: How will I be when I grow up (read: grow old)? Will I end up alone? How will I die, and when? Will I be alone? Will it hurt? Will it be scary? Will it be debilitating and humiliating?

Luckily in recent years, I've learned to get in touch with my feelings, but I think I have overdone it. The chess player's foresight I have is a curse, together with whatever artistic sensibility that I think I harbor inside of me. ...For I tend to get in touch with my inner whatever and get stuck there. Nothing wrong with being honest with oneself, I know, but I tend to imprison myself in the cell of my own fears and anxieties. Instead of transcending all of them by not denying them but facing them squarely, then offering them to the love and mercy of God, or at least facing the other cold side of reality (where or what is the future? can I control or extend a single second of it?), I get stuck in my own self-created blocks.

I remember my ever-nervy mother from whom I suspect I got all these nervousness about the future. She often lived in the future. She used to collect all these exotic recipes she saw in magazines but never got to cook any of them. She often cut out a lot of promo coupons, but some of them never get to be dropped in drop boxes, so she never wins the jackpot. Whenever she sees something in the grocery or shop that she really likes but can't afford, she always says I'll buy it sometime if I will have enough savings. It turned out she never had any because things weren't always enough, so she was never able to buy anything she liked. (She's much improved now.) She also has this habit of keeping all the wonderful dining ware locked up in a cabinet, to be reserved for special occasions, and for everyday use, we are limited to the old and ugly and shopworn.

The one hobby I have in life that I fail to pursue is birdwatching. I always say I'll do it if I will have time. But it turns out I never have enough time, so I am never able to pursue my passion. I am like my mother that way, the way she deals with a nonexistent future by NOT taking action on it.

Why be nervous about the future when I know fully well that I can only control so much, and I can only do that in the present too, limited by what is real in the here and now? Laughably enough, I know the answer as well, but am not keen to heed its warnings: Because I am trying to repair something in the past, making me a slave to my future with the thought that "I can only be happy iff. (that's the symbol used in math for 'if and only if') I get to repair the past.

What went wrong in the past that I am hell-bent of repairing so I'll be happy in the future? Well, maybe that's for a separate time, but I guess there's no better time than now. (Haha.) Maybe I am afraid of failure. Maybe I am afraid of loneliness and being alone. Maybe I am afraid of sadness and pain, especially horrible pain. Maybe I am afraid of existential death -- the thought that I will be no more.

Why do I fear death so much anyway, enough to be called thanatophobic? Maybe it's because I am afraid of God. Maybe I don't really believe God 100%, for where is the lack of faith and trust coming from? Is it because I am afraid of Him because I am afraid of how I'm going to die, afraid that He might take my life all so suddenly the way he took my friend Malou's and Cesar's at the prime of their lives, afraid that it would be so horrible and painful and embarassing, afraid that He might not save me after all the troubles and miseries I endured? What if I lost my mind? What if I lost my cognitive function, my writing ability? Those are the only (imagined) assets I have, and if God also took them away, of what use would I still be? Then again, why do I think of myself again in terms of use, in terms of doing (not being), of pakinabang (serviceability), of gamit (usage)? I am a human being, not a human doing, am I not (to steal a statement from my Evangelical friends)?

Might I even be harboring a secret anger or resentment at God for being so fearsome that way, for taking away lives like that? Have I ever harbored the secret resentment of atheists, such as, "What kind of God would take away life just like that?"

I think I resent it that I'm more afraid and angry at Him and doubtful than loving and trusting Him. But what can I do? That's how I feel; these are my reflex emotions. But I choose to surrender completely anyway, for I have no control anyway. I choose to trust that God's love and understanding for me is far greater than all my fears and hatreds and greater than my understanding of self.

It's embarrassing to admit this, but the underlying truth is shouting from the rooftops: I am deeply insecure, that's why. I am so insecure that's why I am still so full of myself even at this embarrassingly late stage in life. That's the truth I keep on escaping from, that's why I can't live in the now, that's why I always live in the past and the future. I guess the pain is too much for me to bear. (But thank God I came to these realizations at all!)

I can think of a lot of early childhood traumas as possible causes, but the real question is how on earth did I get to carry over all those well into adulthood, when I am fully conscious and have a full choice in my course of action, when I have already ceased to be that traumatized child long ago?

They say that forgiveness does not mean forgetting the past or erasing the past, but forgetting it only because you have seen in it a new, more perfect light and have no longer a desire to keep on reviewing it in the old light. Maybe I keep on going back because I haven't made complete peace with it. That means I will also keep on repairing it into some future of wholeness. I can expect the vicious cycle to keep on going then.

Ah what folly. Let me enjoy each and every moment of my life then, and without any adjustments for the future except for what's reasonable; let me live life to the fullest in the now.

Kairos. I think I am now slowly getting it. It doesn't mean being irresponsible and singing "Que sera sera" each time a problem comes up. It means chewing my food well, giving my best at work in the task at hand, reading each word with relish, using the best cup and plate (with other bests reserved for special ocassion), enjoying life like a game, not because of any other motive whatsoever apart from the desire to chew my food well, give my best at work, read each word with relish, use the best cup and plate, and enjoy life like a game. It means living in the now with no regard for what happened or what will happen next, knowing what happened is what happened and what will happen next is not for me to think about; now is the only thing that's real and mine for the taking. This apartment I am renting right now is my own place in the sun for now. The rare bright bird that just flew by my window is mine to appreciate for now. I will grab hold of it, nay clutch it, possess it, until it becomes the past and I am fully ready to move on to the next now, if it comes, in a future with no regrets.

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