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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Roller coasters are definitely not my favorite. I remember when a group of friends visited Disneyland and every one wanted to ride Space Mountain. I had to act brave but held on to the handle so tightly and uttered a few non-sensible syllables to calm myself down. I often tried to look for smaller ones in order to increase my courage. Perhaps it was helpful but certainly a not cured. What a metaphor for life when internally one swings in the extremes in between…joy and sorrow, hope and disappointment, high and low, smiles and tears, fun and pain…and the ride keeps going. Perhaps one way to deal with this roller coaster is to stop and a get out of it so that you can remove yourself and watch the ride. The other way is perhap to just enjoy the ride…taking them all in…the high and the low, the fear and the thrill, and believe that in the end, the very end end of all…one will always come out all right.

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We create meaning through story telling. We tell stories by weaving events into a pattern that conveys a sense of who we are in the configuration of the “happenings” in our lives. Perhaps at the core of each story lies a desire for validation through plots and circumstances of life, or  of being thrown into life itself. However, how is story to be told in the face of trauma. Where is the place of validation of value in traumatic events especially when the trauma takes on a very personal nature. The life of Pi takes trauma to a different level, the level where transcendence is required to be able to even tell stories. And there he was in a small boat after the sinking of a commercial ship with a tiger, a hyena, an orangutan, and a zebra survived to see the hyena killed the zebra and the orangutan. And most importantly, hyena being killed by Richard Parker, the Bengal Tiger. And the rest of the story was just him and the tiger on the boat trying to survive, trying to tame the tiger, trying to negotiate with the tiger, trying to live with the tiger, trying to survive with the tiger on the same boat. How does one tell validating stories in witnessing events of violence? When the evil cook (hyena) murdered his mother (orangutan) and a sailor (zebra) and in anger and through survival mode he killed the cook. He, Pi, was Richard Parker. It is one thing to witness violence. It is another when violence emerges from within oneself. So Pi told stories of how he came to term with Richard Parker and how, finally upon landing on the shore, Richard Parker just disappeared into the forest. When trauma is too damaging, one has to turn to metaphor to convey meaning because facing raw reality of one’s internal violence, especially for a boy, is just too destructive. The story of Pi is the story that helps to sustain a person in the face of deep trauma. It is metaphoric process of meaning making. It is externalizing internal violence into a fantasy that is manageable for the soul.

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For the past 15 years or so the opportunity to reflect on spirituality has been placed before my path. I receive this as a gift in the soul’s journey. The reward has been rich although the path, tumultuous. Numerous individuals intersect on this path through various avenues be it academic papers, publications, conversations, and texts in various forms including narratives. I have witnessed those who claim expertise on spirituality through acquisition of vast knowledge of the field or via vigorous research. It seems ironical in a way because spirituality is the path toward emptiness and it is within the realm of nothingness that spirituality is experienced in variety of dimensions. It is in emptiness that we come to experience God more fully. It is when a self is able to strip itself of all societal affirmations that one can stand before God being truly authentic. Making a name for oneself out of spirituality is an oxymoron. Toward the unknown seems the Divine path toward becoming a full self before God. And so I like to think that my goal in life is to amount to nothing.

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I have seen many villagers who used to have many buffalos, cows, and chickens living on five acres of land. They were once satisfied with life and were named successful. And then there were motorcycles, pickup trucks, mobile phones, and processed food in the market. Then they were told what they really needed in life in order to be happy. Things they needed to have. Processed food was better than their chickens and vegetable in their backyards. Their buffalos were not as good as the pickup trucks and their village ways of communication had to be replaced by cellular phones. And they became less satisfied. And they started to think of themselves as the outsiders. And they felt poor and oppressed. They were once again told that to move into the inner circle, to feel better about who they are, they needed to exchange buffalos for trucks, cows for motorcycles, and chickens plus cabbages for processed food. And they started to feel better about themselves owning trucks, riding motorcycles, speaking through cellular phones, and eating hamburgers. They thought life must be better even though they have sold their animals and lost their farms. From self-employed they have become employees. From owning farms, they are employed to work on their very own farms.

When globalization is driven by market capitalism, the world becomes a poorer place to live in because big corporations will always control the market making it impossible for independent farmers to compete.  Soon we will be faced with the world controlled by few major corporations dictating policies for their self-preservation.

We were told that we live in a global village. And interdependency is a necessity. We have to learn to live with one another, depending on one another, selling and buying products from one another. I think interdependency is a great idea. However there is also that false dependency where mutuality is not the basis for ethical conducts. The more we depend, the less free we become. The less we depend on others for our sustenance, the more free we become. The more we need, the less we have. It seems to me the simpler we live, the more space we have.

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We each have many selves as we live through our lives. There are often random and contextual. We feel a certain way in a certain situation or with certain people. And then our feeling and self-perception change with social contexts and life situation. And often this is how we move along in life. And then there’s alchemy. My son was reading the book The Alchemist and the story was about a man who went in search for a hidden treasure and after all those long journeys through trials and tribulations he finally returned home only to discover that the treasure has all along been hidden right where he belongs. I suspect one’s life journey is this path toward the Self, our very core authentic self. And we all go in search for this and probably find some fragments of ourselves here and there. Perhaps until we are able to find the core narrative of who we are, it is going to be difficult to pull ourselves together. Without the main narrative, we will often be drawn into how others tell our stories. And we will be drifted along with all these different narratives, the stories that are being told about us.  Perhaps life is about the process of discovering this main personal narrative, this story that I am telling about myself and in this story we slowly have to negotiate with how others tell our stories.  It is the challenge of retrieving our sense of self from these other narratives, pulling the fragmented selves slowly together. Pulling them from various sources.  And we will keep discovering these fragments in various situations of our lives. The calling of the alchemical process is to take these other stories we have been told about who we are, and claiming them within the context of our core narrative. The path is the return of the fragmented.

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So I took a general exam dealing with research and statistics while I was in Thailand. I actually took a class and thought I actually learned good stuff while in class.  I thought I was doing alright. After the 2 hour exam I felt like passing was in my reach. Yesterday I was informed that my score was a T-score at 40 percent. Now, that’s 10 percent lower than the mean. How is that possible? A couple of things ran through my mind. First, they must have gotten the wrong name.  Second, I’m done!!!  How can I do so badly. I have been in higher education for over 20 years. This is kind of embarrassing. And then slowly my spiritual dimension spoke to me on a number of possible ways of perceiving. First, failure is one of the best instruments to help us come to a true understanding of who we are. Success does not do a good a job as failure. I makes me wonder what is it that is hard. It makes me realize that I do have a concern of how I’m being viewed. Being viewed as a failure is rather difficult. But should this change anything for me? Probably not. I’m still the same average person and I’m ok. My value does not depend on the T-score. If I were able to come to this realization, I may be the most liberated person. However, it is not as easy as I thought. But I’m getting there. Then there is the realization that there is such a thing as latent hidden curriculum in education. And some time it is the hidden failure that really helps you grow. And in life, the real thing is not about T-scores. I life, it is about living. It is about authenticity. It is also about being able to accept failure without allowing that to taint how you see yourself. So indeed, it is a part of education. And then there is the understanding that all things that happen in life is good along the line of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu and ofcouse the story of the old Chinese farmer and his son and their horse.  You never really know what this failure will contribute or not contribute to you any way.  So after pondering these thoughts, it is still hard but it does give a perspective to hang one’s sense of self and moving toward that authenticity of life which is the peak of the meaning of life. I’m proud of myself for thinking these thoughts!!!

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I love this song. But then I love most CCR’s songs any way. I remember saying I feel spiritual listening to CCR’s and many of my students concur. What is it about this song? There are many interpretations out there but for me it is going into the very depth of every day reality…the paradox of life, the constant need to keep things in tension in life. “There’s a calm before the storm.” Linear thinking would expect the calm to remain and definitely no storms.  “Have you ever seen the rain coming down on a sunny day.” Sunny day is bright. It is just sunny. It feels nice. But then it rains when you expects a beautiful day. Have you ever stumbled upon pain when things are supposed to be bright and sunny? When everything is just looking great, suddenly you could feel the tear drops running down your face. “Where the sun is cold and the rain is hot.” And when you expect something warm, it turns out to be cold. And when you want things to cool down, the temperature rises. Such is life. Such is the reality of life. There is the ‘calm’ and there’s the ‘storm, there is a sunny day and then it rains, there are days when the sun gives you chill and the cold makes you sweat. Have you ever seen the rain coming down on a sunny day? I suppose in our mature years, we have all seen this phenomena and the person who is able to find rhythm in this song, finds what it means to live in the midst of life. I think this is what my students meant when to them this song generates a sense of spirituality.

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