Category Archives: reflection

On this page:
  • Religion
  • Religion, friendship, whatever
  • Rant
  • Upon reflection
  • Reflections
  • Limit

Religion

I’m also coming to terms with religion. After much soul-searching (and an unbelievable amount of Googling), I’ve realized quite a few things about myself.

I’m an atheist. There, I’ve said it. Doesn’t mean I’m going straight to hell (not that I believe in hell). Doesn’t mean I’m going to go and be a nasty person. It just means that I have no particular belief in a god.

I guess I should explain that before my parents start wondering where they went wrong. =)

I came from a Catholic grade school run by Benedictine nuns (they’re really nice), and when I was growing up, I think I really believed in it. I attended mass. I took communion. I eagerly devoured stories of saints and miracles, and wondered if I’d ever be one of the beatas or witness a miracle.

Then again, I also believed in all sorts of strange things back then, like spirits and ghosts and cloud castles and stuff like that. Blame it on people trying to use the supernatural to scare little kids. (Note to self: Never ever do that to small kids.) In retrospect, it was sort of embarrassing. |)

I think I was losing bits of it already in the last part of grade school. I was never really one for retreats. Going to a nonsectarian high school forced me to reexamine many of my beliefs as well.

I was never too comfortable with the somewhat fundamentalist stance that many people took when it came to religion – “I am right, you are wrong. I will be saved, you are damned.” You know, that sort of thing. It’s a good thing my parents were pretty moderate and tried as much as possible to explain to a rather confused girl that not everyone thought that way. On the contrary, many people thought that all the different religions were just different ways to reach one God and one truth.

I think it all started with the afterlife. Haven’t we all thought about death and life after death? While thinking about it, I realized that I didn’t really believe in hell – no fire and brimstone, no eternal boredom or loneliness, no eternal punishment. It just didn’t make sense to me, partly because I have a hard time thinking that anyone’s absolutely and irrevocably evil, and partly because I didn’t see how useful Hell would be as a deterrent.

So naturally I turned to thinking about purgatory. I never really did feel comfortable with the thought of indulgences or souls hanging around in limbo waiting for people to pray for them so that they can enter heaven. Didn’t make sense to me.

What did that leave? Heaven. I was still a little okay with the idea of, well, a heaven with everyone in a perfect society. Utopia. That sort of thing, yes? So heaven remained, and for a while I was okay (although a little unorthodox).

Then a friend of ours died, and I found it strangely acceptable that his corpse was, well, rotting away in the ground, and that was it – finis. End of existence. No flying around in heaven. No disembodied spirits hanging around. No consciousness. No resurrection, no second chance, zip. I didn’t need the idea of heaven to reassure me that everything was going to be all right, and besides – on what had I been basing my idea of heaven on? Just what I’d been taught? So that faded away, too.

One life. One chance. After this, that’s it! Tough luck. Bye. =) No hanging around trying to influence others. No praying for intercession. What makes life worth living? Maybe the difference I can make in other people’s lives – the great experiment that has yet to be performed.

Around this time I was also examining my beliefs about good and evil. I used to actually believe in a literal personification of evil, what with all of the stories told us, but I realized how that didn’t really make sense. I’ve had the luck not to run into anyone I could really call evil, and that also means I don’t quite understand it either. That’s one of the TODOs I should probably get around to resolving. =)

So there’s that – the realization that I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in a god, or some higher power that watches us and loves us. Not that I’m saying that God doesn’t exist – people can believe whatever they want. I’m just saying that for me, well, I don’t strongly believe in that. I’ll still go to church because my parents would like me to, and I’m still going to try to be a nice person because I like being a nice person.

Perhaps one day I’ll emerge from the other side. Who knows? But I don’t want to pretend to beliefs that I don’t have. =) Nice to have things out in the open, yes?

Religion, friendship, whatever

Today I had a rather deep discussion with Paolo Venegas about – of all
things – religion, or my lack thereof.

On another note, this person scares me sometimes (but in a good way).
He’s learning LISP and PHP, absorbing so much information at such a
rate. I find this encouraging. He’ll probably catch up in a short
while, but in the meantime I’ll try to do whatever I can to help him
learn more.

Today, too, I was quite pleasantly surprised. Turned out that I didn’t
actually lose one of my best friends – Eric Vidal. We just had a
slight misunderstanding.

Today I learned more about Emacs, too. Emacs is fun. Emacs is good.

Sleep is good, too.

I’ll be more coherent when I wake up.

Woke up. Overslept for my class. Oh well!

Rant

I’m here in Legaspi, so far from Makati and from everyone else I know. Got dragged off by my parents.

Looks like we’re not very sure about what date we’ll actually make it back.

I have a hard time dealing with that sort of thing. I would really, really, really like to go home today. In fact, I would really have liked to go home yesterday, or even not gone anywhere at all.

It’s just that I have a hard time dealing with unanticipated plans. This whole thing was an unplanned excursion. We were supposed to attend a wedding in Tagaytay – accepted, planned for, and scheduled around. We were supposed to stay there overnight – again, I had fair warning, so I was prepared for that. Then my crazy dad thought it a good idea to go south to Bicol.

I want to go home. I want to go home.

Now they’re talking of staying until Wednesday.

My family is quick to reassure me that we will find an Internet cafe sometime. As if that’s what’s bugging me. What would I do on the Internet? Check Slashdot? Earn good karma on #linuxhelp?

It’s not about that at all.

I am just not an adventure person. My idea of a good social activity is a quiet conversation over good food, and a nice game afterwards perhaps. I do not like substituting activities for conversation. I do not like going on great adventures.

One of the things I do not feel comfortable with on this trip is that I have no choice but to be here. I have no control. Even if I really wanted to go home – which I do! – I can’t do anything about it. In fact, my family seems to have acquired the idea that this adventure is a Good Thing for me.

I hate it.

I want to go home.

My parents think I have some previous appointments that I want to keep.

I’m used to having plans. I’m used to knowing where I’ll be in the next few days. I’m used to knowing what will happen.

And even if something unexpected happens, I’m used to being able to decide what to do about it. I do not like not having control.

And I just get the feeling that they don’t really care, which makes perfect sense of course because they finally have my two sisters together in one place, and that my parents have taken time out from their ultrabusy schedules. I’d rather that we _didn’t_ have these adventures and that we just regularly got together instead. I’d rather we didn’t have to treat it with such fuss. I’d rather that we didn’t have to make it such a big thing.

Yes, I know my sister will be married next year, and will henceforth probably have little time for our family. How is that any different from now? And yes, we so rarely go out as a family, and that I should value the time we all have together. Why have to guilt-trip me?

I want to be home.

What would I do if I were home, anyway? Nothing much, probably. Play Nethack. Talk to friends. Read the assigned work. Continue with life as usual. It’s not much, I know, but I can choose, and so I am fully present. Here… well… My sisters want to be off surfing and kayaking. My dad is going around taking pictures.

I suppose I resent being uprooted and my plans being changed. I do not like this uncertainty at all. I do not like not knowing where I’ll be the next day, or how long it will be until I get back. I do not like having to buy clothes one day at a time. I do not like it at all.

This is one of the things I will have to learn how to deal with eventually. But it will be hard to counter the effects of an upbringing that has always emphasized planning. You know what it’s like to show talent at an early age. People will have great expectations, and all your life is part of a plan. How unfortunate it would be if you were distracted, if you deviated from the course that had been set! True, the plan may change slightly, but in general you are not supposed to do anything that does not directly contribute to your plan.

Do only that which furthers your goal.

This is something I must change.

Okay, I feel better now.

Upon reflection

A good day of work at IBM and some time to reflect have left me with a
clearer perspective. I think one of the reasons why homesickness hits
me so hard sometimes is that I entertain this notion that if I go back
home, I can still make a big difference even without a master’s
degree. I would need to work harder, but I might not need to stretch
myself as much.

Perhaps I had gotten addicted to the instant payoff of happy people,
to the feeling that I was making a difference in someone’s life. Even
though I was teaching rather inconsequential subjects (as I told
myself every time I messed up a class), each aha! moment validated my
existence. ;) From this distance, it’s easy to gloss over my
insecurity and remember only that I had so much fun teaching. I
remember what I knew how to do and not what I didn’t, but fortunately
my blog has all the stories about emergency chocolate munching under
desks.

Now that I can see it, I realize that intellectual laziness -
fantasizing about something within my abilities instead of daring to
stretch them – is not true to my values. The constant lesson of my
childhood was “To whom much is given, much is expected,” and so much
has been given to me. I am not supposed to take it easy, to be content
with what I know. I would be doing a disservice to my future students
if I couldn’t challenge them with or tell them stories about other
teachers I’ve had, other projects I’ve worked on. I would be doing a
disservice to other people if I didn’t take advantage of the
opportunities I have.

I shouldn’t worry about whether IBM will have a place for me after I
graduate or whether I’ll get into graduate school if I choose to go
for a PhD. I’ve lived all my life according to what I learned from my
parents – make your own opportunities. If I make the most of life, if
I am _here_ while I’m here, then I can choose what would be best for
me.

I have to admit that it’s still scary. I find it hard to imagine life
here past August 2007 not because I hate Canada or my studies or IBM,
but because I’m worried about losing ties to home. I feel guilty at
the thought of being temporarily away from my country because I’m
afraid to be permanently away, to be part of the brain drain, to be
seduced into complacency by personal comforts. I’m afraid to become a
stranger to my friends and my family. I’m afraid that if I make the
sacrifice of being far away from them, I’ll find myself growing old in
an apartment with a computer and several (dozen) cats. ;) (To think
that that was what I dreamed of before, but now I want friends,
too…) Silly thought, I know, but I’m allowed to have silly fears as
long as I can recognize them.

The key, then, is to get over my intellectual laziness and my
irrational fear. ;) I need to dare to imagine a life that pushes me
beyond the demands that anyone at home would make of me. I need to be
confident that the world will support me as it always has, that
everything will dovetail together and even seeming failures will turn
out for the best in the long run. And hey, one or two horror stories
are good things to share with people, anyway.

I don’t know how the future will work out, but I choose to no longer
consider the comfortable obscurity of which I used to idly dream. Now
I am alive. Now I am here.

On Technorati:

Random Japanese sentence: あなたは黒い猫が好きですか。 Do you like a black cat?

Reflections

I haven’t been blogging lately. Things have been a bit confusing, but
I’m glad that I’m starting to sort things out. I’m looking forward to
the weekend. I plan to spend at least a day blissing out near some
lakeside park armed with a journal and my Moleskine, reflecting on
some knotty things. Then it’s back to cramming my reading paper…

One of those knotty things hasn’t really been mentioned in my blog,
aside from oblique references to forks (metaphorical) and
onions (literal). A friend reminded me that a lot of people care about what’s going on in my life, though, so even though I try not to bore you with all the details of my almost-always-sunny life, here’s one of the clouds.

For practical reasons, Dominique and I have decided to no longer be in
an exclusive relationship. I still hold the greatest respect for him
and I hope it’ll work out in the future, but the timing sucks, and
there’s nothing we can do about it.

I’ve learned that life is so much better when I’m in a good
relationship, or at least among good friends. I’m in no rush to get
into a crappy relationship, though. Having tasted what a wonderful,
wonderful thing love is, I won’t lower my standards.

So what happens now?

Well, life goes on. My reading paper is due next week. My research
proceeds. My friends and family are there for me. Life goes on, and
spring brings the sun back.

In terms of people? I don’t know. I really don’t know. I don’t have a
good idea of my future yet, so courtship is out of the question. I’m
not into dating for the sake of dating, and I’m accustomed to more
affection and love than most people know.

Perhaps this is a good opportunity, then, to shower that affection and
love on my friends. I am free, and I choose to remain free so that I
can be where I am needed and wanted, and where _I_ need and want to be.

When I miss the feeling of being very, very special to someone, I can
hug my stuffed toys and remember that I am at least a little bit
special to at least a few people.

On Technorati:

Limit

A limitless future limits the present. What’s my future? Is this home,
is this where I’m supposed to belong? What of my duty, what of the
potential to serve the Philippines, what of all the love and
friendship I’ve left behind there?

I am adrift, no stars to guide me. I can follow the current, but I
must then follow alone… I should keep faith that when I am closer to
shore, I will find what I need. In the meantime, let me do whatever I
can. It is but one of the sacrifices I must make, and it is merely the
sacrifice of something I have so recently discovered. May I have the
strength to live without it!

“Where I am going, you cannot come.”

On Technorati: ,

Random Japanese sentence: あれはネコですか。 Is that a cat?