May 2004 Vol. 4 Issue 5

An Internet Newsletter publication for all CIM Alumni and friends.

    Clem S. Estrera, Jr., M.D.

    Ma. Belen Rosales, M.D.
        Associate Editor

     Ray Castillejo, M.D.
    Binisaya Section Editor

Editor's Column

"Those who are good at making excuses are seldom good for anything else." -– Benjamin Franklin


Clem S. Estrera, Jr., CIM '72

Testosterones in action
    One of what I’ve considered the best action movies that I have seen the past year is Rundown. This movie was just released the other month on DVD and Video. It is starred by a famous wrestler who has turned out to be a good actor - The Rock. I have seen most if not all of The Rock's movies even his latest one the remake of Walking Tall, but it is in  Rundown  that The Rock has become a real good actor, an action movie actor to be reckoned with.

    Rundown is a whirlwind of non-stop, hard-hitting, head-knocking, high-octane, full-throttle action punctuated by occasional comedy from Seann William Scott who is good at making you laugh even in the most serious situation. Scott has that peculiar smirk that has become his trademark and it's probably what makes him so good, or what has convinced Hollywood to land him on many movies already. Rundown keeps your adrenaline flowing in full blast from the moment the screen opens to the moment it closes. In this movie, The Rock is tough, honest, reasonable, fair and focused, and yes, he also has a soft, warm, big heart.

    The movie opens with The Rock, out of humiliation, is forced to fight huge muscled football players who look like each of them eats a whole refrigerator for breakfast. These huge muscular defensive football players could easily make Rambo look like Danny de Vito. Watching the fight makes you feel like going to the health club to start pumping iron or lifting some heavy weights and then to the drugstore to buy some steroids. Believe me. When I saw the movie last year, I started lifting weights only to realize that I am too old to have the capacity to develop bulging strong muscles. I quit. I was not concerned about muscles achingly tightening, but was worried about potential hernias bulging, not about the inconvenience of sweats soaking, but about the urine that might start leaking, not even about the embarrassment of breaking wind, but about shitting in my underwear. Maka-igit unya ta.

     Rundown is definitely a movie for tough guys or those who love to watch testosterones in action, not for sissies or those who deplore violence in the cinema. The choreography is excellent and the actions are authentic. The fights are an awesome camera shooting feat, utterly original, perfectly directed, skillfully executed. It makes you wince when The Rock is savagely beaten, battered and brutalized, thrown into the air, bumped against a tree, and then hit by a big stick that shattered against his head. You feel his sweat and exhaustion, but surprisingly not the pain. I guess it’s because you have the feeling that The Rock can take everything thrown at him.

Simplifying options
    But what I like in the movie Rundown, is that it gives us an insight that if only we keep our focus on the choices we have and on the ability to narrow down to the best two options available to us in every given situation, life would be a whole lot simpler. The Rock would simply lay out clearly your choices - option A and option B, and advises you not to go into option C. And once he himself makes a decision, he focuses on accomplishing it. He never wavers and he keeps his promise or word of honor like his life depends on it.

    I don’t know about those of you who have seen this movie, but one of the messages I've got from this movie is that only two choices are all we need if we want to be able to come up with a firm, unwavering decision, for if we are given a third choice, we are likely to ask for more, and then more, and more other choices. It would only complicate a situation rather than simplify it, and making decision would only become difficult. If anything, considering or looking for more choices instead of narrowing them down would not only delay decision, it would also promote indecision and more likely regrets later on if the result of your decision turns out to be negative or less than you expected.

     Inability to narrow down choices would pull our mind away from taking any action toward putting it off. More choices give us the excuses for putting things off, push us into the trap of procrastination that some people have turned it into an art form. Just imagine how many college students even after graduation still don’t know what they want to become not only because they lack the ability to narrow down their choices, but also because many of them have become an expert in using their many choices to put off their decision on what they want to be. It's a malady called the perpetual student syndrome, unfortunately, on continued parents' scholarship.

     A clear choice would make us ready to go for our wants rather than get stuck in our wish, and makes us swim to our hopes, not sink in regrets. But many of us, when confronted with a difficult situation, rarely think of what our choices are and most of the time we don’t even choose. Instead, we would only wish the problem would simply go away. Struggling to get out of our predicament, we would rather think of our struggles as the faults of others than take the responsibility and think of choices. It's all too common to see people complaining or rationalizing the situation they are in by saying: "It should have been this. It should have been that. He should not have done it. She should have done it this way." And many other should have and should not have, rather than "This is it. What are my options? Option A ...  Option B ... Ah! Forget Option C!"

Shakespeare's Hamlet
     One of the Shakespeare's plays that I love probably because it's the one that I could understand well or better than the rest of his plays is Hamlet. I've never really attempted to indulge on the rest of Shakespeare's plays and poetry because I believe that you have to take a special course with a good teacher to learn and understand them. I did not think I could do it with self-study. Anyway, I read Hamlet only because my older daughter who, took Shakespeare's classes in high school and loved to read Shakespeare, kept telling and reassuring me that I would love Hamlet. Indeed I did although I rented and watched the movie first. I also saw the play live in one of our local theaters. I was surprised that I was able to understand the play and its implications in today's real life; at least I believed I did.

    "To be or not to be," is the immortal line from William Shakespeare's most famous character - Hamlet. In this play, Hamlet comes from one of the best families in Europe. He is a thirty-year-old prince of Denmark, well-educated, witty, and has a lot of brains. However, he is pathetically indecisive. When an uncle murders Hamlet's father and marries Hamlet's mother, in the process of usurping Hamlet's throne, instead of making a decision to do something to keep his uncle from getting his throne or at least to counter his uncle's threat, the brooding Hamlet protests and procrastinates, and struggles with indecision and inaction.

     Hamlet is a good thinker, but he thinks too much and it is his thoughtfulness that has become his weakness. For every wisdom his thought brings him, it also seems to bring more hesitations, worries and cowardice that discourage him from acting. His thoughts have a way of creating excuses to justify his deep-seated reluctance to take action or seize the initiative. While many people make blames and excuses for the mistakes they have committed, Hamlet thinks of excuses for not acting and thus not making mistakes.

     Hamlet seems to always see the consequences of his possible decision and thus unable to act. He is like a physician who has a hard time prescribing medications because he keeps thinking of its adverse effects, or a surgeon who can't decide what surgical approach to follow because he keeps seeing the complications. It is as if Hamlet believes in the principle that for every action, there is an opposite reaction. Unfortunately, it's the opposite reaction that he sees and dwells on.

The Hamlets of today
     Hamlet is the embodiment of indecision and inaction. If you are observant, you must have noticed that there are many Hamlets in the world today; in the work place, in the U.S. Congress, in the United Nations, in an organization, in the family, and in the society in general. Many of these individual Hamlets cannot let go their doubts, worries and fears, and so, when decision time comes, their confidence withers, their internal security disappears, their intellect falters, and thus are unable to decide. They would then procrastinate and would want to wait for the right time, the right place, and the right situation, before they would consider making a decision, let alone taking any action.

    Given the choice among negotiation, fight and flight, the Hamlets of today would flee. Otherwise they do nothing, as the consequences of their decision and action dominate in their minds. Reluctant to take risks, they would simply continue the same old ways, doing the same old things, and perhaps wishing to produce different results. They often aggressively argue that there is nothing can be done to improve the situation if what used to work is no longer working. They don't even try something different as if they're certain it would fail. They are also the first who would blame others that fail, and jump on them to proudly say: "I told you so..."

“Que sera, sera…”
     In the movie Catch Me If You Can, Christopher Walken, the father of Leonardo de Caprio in that movie, told this parable before an audience of business associates: “Two mice fell into a bucket of cream. The first mouse, seeing that there was no way to get any footing in the white liquid, accepted his fate and drowned. The second mouse didn’t like that approach. He started thrashing around in the cream and doing whatever he could to stay afloat. After a while, all of his churning turned the cream into butter, and he was able to jump out.” What Walken was trying to tell the audience was that he was that second mouse.

     Indeed it's better to try and fail than to sit around procrastinating and doing nothing. In life, sometimes you take risk and succeed, and sometimes you take risk and fail. But failure tells you what doesn’t work. It provides you an opportunity to change direction or try something new. It simply means you've missed the mark and that it's time to relax and reset your position and take better aim at your target. If you are afraid to take risk all because you are afraid to fail, then you won’t grow or improve beyond your present situation, for your potentials are left unexplored. It would be the circumstances that would determine your life's prospect and progress without your own active participation. Instead of doing something to make things happen, you would wait for something to happen. When place in a tough situation, you would readily become like the first mouse.

    Growth springs from the tension between limits and drive. What determines how you limit your life is what you do after a failure. Each failure we have or each mistake we make, makes us vulnerable to doubting ourselves and losing our faith. But as Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "Our greatest glory consists not in ever falling, but in rising everytime we fall." Thus when you fail, you need to try again… and again, and then again. Each attempt stretches your limits and gives you more faith, freedom and confidence to move on, to experiment and explore. The more you experiment and explore, the more confidence you develop, and the more confidence you develop, the less likely you allow yourself to simply drown in shame and sorrows of defeat and failure. Just consider Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln lost more elections than he won but still became the President. Robert Collier, a writer and publisher wrote: "In every adversity there lies the seed of an equivalent advantage. In every defeat is a lesson showing you how to win the victory next time."

     Hundreds of years ago, life was measured in terms of survival, not in terms of success, comfort and convenience. There was a constant life-or-death pressure and humans responded with strategies designed to maximize their chance of survival. When humans failed, they died or killed by animals or predators to become the animals' lunch or dinner. But they accepted the tragedy as part of their existence, and part of the learning process at least for others that survived the tragedy. Today when we fail, we don't die and yet it's a big deal as if we are being sentenced to die in shame, embarrassment or humiliation.

     Afraid of taking risks, the Hamlets of today would want to wait for a perfect situation when nothing could possibly go wrong before they would act. It's like they want to compute their urine trajectory first before peeing. Even then, they would still hesitate because the dribble defies computation. But since a perfect situation rarely, if ever comes, all too often they are saddled with procrastination and are paralyzed by indecision. So they are stuck in yesterday’s lost hopes, following the same old ways, singing the same old blues, while others are moving forward with new ways toward new worlds, whistling a happy tune - "Que sera, sera.. Whatever will be, will be..."


Valuable Tips and Information

"Hard work will not always get you to the top, but you should get pretty near." -– Margaret Thatcher

Health and Medicine
     From UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, 632 Broadway, New York City 10012, Fish oil supplements can be dangerous for some people. They can increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke in people who have bleeding disorders or uncontrolled hypertension and those taking anticoagulants. Large doses – more than three grams per day – can suppress the immune system, increase glucose levels in people with diabetes and cause nausea, diarrhea and other side effects.

     According to Richard P. Maas, PhD, co-director, Environmental Quality Institute, University of North Carolina – Ashville, Showering with and drinking chlorinated water increases exposure to carcinogens. Cancer-causing compounds called trihalomethanes (THMs) form when chlorine reacts with naturally occurring organic matter in water. When you take shower, the shower spray distributes THMs in the air throughout the house, which is then inhaled. Self- defense: Install a chlorine-removing showerhead and a carbon filtration system on faucets to remove chlorine from water that will be ingested. The cost is about $50 - $120. The practical ways without cost are to take shorter showers and let drinking water sit in an open pitcher exposed to air for at least five hours to allow chlorine and THMs to evaporate.

     Anger kills, according to Redford Williams, M.D., director of Duke University Behavioral Medicine Research Center, Durham, North Carolina. We all know that anger strains relationship – but the body takes a heavy hit, too. Blood pressure soars, muscles tighten up, the immune system is compromised. Thus angry people are more susceptible to heart attack, cancer and injury on the job. In fact, chronic anger is more likely to kill you than any other cause. Suggestion: Keep mind open and read Brain Waves’ previous issues.

Useful Websites - If you love blooms and want to have a beautiful garden, this web site is links to thousands of sites on plant care, gardening shows and associations, and many more. - This website gives you information about more than 40,000 golf courses worldwide. - If you want to view the lists of underperforming mutual funds, manager changes and more, so you can decide what funds to invest your money and what funds to sell and when. - This website is for adventure travel worldwide where you can have horseback riding, sea kayaking, fly-fishing, food and wine tours, and more.

Nuclear War Speculation
     According to China Daily, February 23, 2004: "The United States of America uses its B-2 bombers in the year 2012 to launch conventional air strikes to destroy Pakistani nuclear facilities in a bid to prevent the nukes from falling into the wrong hands. The extraordinary U.S. action follows an unsuccessful Indian conventional attack on Pakistani nukes, and a retaliatory Pakistani nuclear strike against Indian border forces. This sparks the disintegration and disappearance of Pakistan, and creation of an expanded Indian Confederation or superstate."
     This scenario would have seemed outrageous five or more years ago. But as we all know, Pakistan has been a nuclear power for years and so has India and there have been many border clashes between the two. Pakistan is also a nuclear proliferator. In fact, its nuclear physicist, Abdul Qadaar Khan, had confessed lately that he has sold nuclear technology to rogue country like North Korea. Pakistan president Musharraf has had at least few assassination attempts and he has to put up with many Muslim militants in his own country. He is a strong ally of the U.S., but if he is assassinated, Pakistan will likely fall to the Muslims that are against the U.S. If that happens, the China Daily speculation would seem more and more possible.


For Laughs Only

"What did the hurricane say to the coconut tree? - Hold on to your nuts, this is no ordinary blow job."

     A blind man walked into a restaurant. "I can’t read the menu," he told the owner, "but you bring me a dirty fork from the previous customer, I’ll sniff it and order from that."
     The owner was baffled by such a request, but went along with it. He went into the kitchen, fetched a dirty fork and handed it to the blind man who smelled it and promptly ordered meatloaf with mashed potato.
     A week later, the blind man came in again and repeated his request for a dirty fork. The owner obliged, the blind man sniffed it and ordered spaghetti Bolognese.
     The third time the blind man came into the restaurant, the owner decided to try and catch him out. He went into the kitchen and said to his wife Angela: "Will you rub this fork around your vagina before I take it to the blind man?"
     The wife did so and the owner took the fork out to the blind man who sniffed it and said: "Hey, I did not know Angela worked here!"

     A lonely widow put an advertisement in the newspaper for a dream man. She wanted someone who (a) won’t beat me up; (b) won’t run away; (c) must be great in bed. For weeks, she didn’t receive a single reply and had almost given up hope when there was a ring at her doorbell. She answered it to find a man with no arms and no legs lying on the doormat.
    "Who are you?" she asked.
    "I’m your dream man," he replied.
    "What makes you think you fit the bill?" she asked frostily.
    "I’ve got no arms so I can’t beat you up, and I’ve got no legs so I can’t run away."
    "What makes you think you’re great in bed?"
    "Well, I rang the doorbell, didn’t I?"

     A man complained to a friend about a pain in his elbow and the friend recommended a computer at the local drug store. “It’s amazing,” said the friend. "It can diagnose anything cheaper and much quicker than a doctor. All you have to do is pay ten dollars, feed a urine sample and the computer will tell you what the problem is. Just like that."
     The man like the sound of it and so he went to the drugstore, paid ten dollars and fed in his urine sample. Two minutes later, the computer issued a print-out. It read: "You have a tennis elbow. Soak your arm in warm water. Avoid heavy labor. It will clear up in two weeks."
     The man was intrigued and that evening decided to try and outsmart the computer. He mixed together some tap water, a stool sample from his dog, urine sample from both his wife and his daughter. And to complicate the sample even more, he masturbated into it. The he went down to the drugstore, paid his ten dollars, fed in the sample and waited for the computer’s reply. Two minutes later, came the print-out: "Your tap water is too hard – get a water softener. Your dog has ringworm – bathe him with anti-fungal shampoo. Your daughter is using cocaine – put her in rehab. Your wife is pregnant with two girls. They are not yours – get a lawyer. And if you don’t stop jerking off, your tennis elbow will never get better."



"If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." ---Bruce Lee (1940 - 1973)

Self-Exploration, Discovery and Reconstruction (Part 3)

Clem S. Estrera, Jr., CIM '72

To change or not to change
    Believe me. Anyone of us at any age can re-program our mind and change our self-image to a more positive one. But first we've got to learn to take full responsibility of our own thoughts, attitudes, actions and behaviors rather than succumb too easily to justifying them by blaming, complaining and making excuses. There is no question that permanent change for the better is terribly hard to achieve, let alone keep. It doesn’t happen fast because our brain was not designed to make fast, permanent changes. It is not constructed to jump from one pattern of behavior to another. It is constructed to follow patterns of habit - repetitious thoughts and actions that have gone on for years and have programmed our mind. It's the reason why we are called creatures of habit.

     When we try to make a major rapid change, we are basically asking the brain to do something it is not designed to. It will resist. Thus it takes time and conscious effort to make a major change in our personalities, attitudes and patterns of behavior. Habits, we must understand, are easier to make than break. So why not make the habit of "accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative?"

    No one can change the past so that when you embark on your own re-programming, look out the windshield and do not stare in the rare view mirror. You’ve got to focus on the future because it’s the only part of life that is still up for grabs. If you find it hard to change and re-program your mind because you cannot resist comparing yourself to others or comparing your family to your friends' and neighbors' families who look a lot happier than you do, just keep in mind that there is always a mystery behind closed doors. You don't really know what others are going through behind what you saw unless or until they tell you like what I have been telling you about mine.

Understanding our past
    Many of us grew up with a programming that has been one of stifling conformity; of being forced to behave within the prescribed patterns of our families or within the rules set and strictly imposed by our parents. It leads us to a rigid, stuck behavior that to behave differently is fraught with fear, worry, anxiety and insecurity. So we imposed the same conformity on our children and when the children rebel against such conformity, we get upset, angry, frustrated, discouraged, disillusioned or disappointed. We fail to realize that we are following the same patterns our parents set for us when we were kids. We also fail to realize that change is an inevitable part of life and it is our inability to accept change and change ourselves that are the sources of our frustrations and unhappiness. If we insist on our own self-righteousness, we won't be able to accept change we don't want and what we get most out of life is chronic frustration and discontent.

    We are all products of our family environment most of all, products of our past. Our past family life, together with our schooling, peer-conditioning, social biases, religious-training and superstitious and cultural beliefs play a large part in shaping up our thinking, attitude and behavior. The reward-punishment ethics that many of us had to follow molded us into a level of conformity that those of us who were rebellious saw passivity, appeasement and accommodation as the only avenues to self-preservation. We realized that if we were to win the affection and approval of others, we have to massage their ego, yield to their wants and wishes and thus have to act in ways contrary to our own convictions. Yet a constant conflict between action and conviction would ultimately result in doubts, fears, cynicism, insecurity and oversensitivity - all constitute to a syndrome that brings out the negative attitudes and behaviors in a person.

     But just because of our past, it doesn't mean that we and our family have to continue maintaining the same level of conformity. It doesn't mean that those who simply express their individualism deserve to be judged and penalized with criticism or admonition, or that those who don't conform should be shunned or despised. We all had different past. We must keep in mind and understand that none of us had the opportunity to choose our parents in order to make it a little easier to accept what we are and to start making some changes. Indeed some of us were not fortunate enough to be born into a family with parents that were highly critical and disapproving particularly of things that don't conform to their wishes, while some of us were fortunate enough to be born into a family with parents that were loving and supportive, parents that encouraged independent thinking and self-responsibility.

     Because we all grew up following different levels of conformity or following the harsh reward-punishment ethics, you must have noticed that there are always others who would like to take a swing at your head if you stick it above the crowd – others who are ready to criticize, shun, despise and even express their hostility on you if, by bringing out the best in you, it makes them feel bad about themselves. Obviously, a certain conformity can make excellence dangerous. In order to play it safe, you have to stick with mediocrity. To get along you have to go along. Bernard Berenson wrote: “Life has taught me that it is not for our faults that we are disliked and even hated but for our qualities.”

Beliefs and you
    When you become aware and understand the influence and control of the past, you’d begin to question their validity, rationality and even sanity, and sooner or later, you’d learn not to simply sit on your power and hide it or not let others see it. You’d realize that excellence is actually an exciting prospect, and that this danger you used to fear is in fact fun. You’d also learn how to deflect the pathetic swings of others coming at you, know how to handle criticisms graciously, let go your mistakes easily and become more creative in what you do. In other words, you’d start dismissing the myths of the past that you’ve been believing. You'd learn to see the world not just one way but in different ways and you'd release or set yourself free from dependency of the programming that came from a dysfunctional past.

    The only difference between you and those in the Ivy League is the past. Those in the Ivy League have been taught creative and critical thinking and they've learned to believe in themselves. They can think and reason intellectually. But why can't you? Is your brain different than theirs? If you believe it is, then there you are - it's your belief that makes it different. It's your belief that makes you look up and look down on others. It's your belief that makes you judgmental and keeps you from treating everyone as equal. But the truth of the matter is, you are more than you think you are and you're as smart as everyone else.

     You don’t have to remain prisoner of your past environment. You don’t have to stay tune in your past programming. But first you need to re-examine your own beliefs for its validity in your life’s situation, for beliefs don’t have to be true to dictate your way of thinking. Beliefs are the origins of our thoughts, philosophies and perceptions. The thoughts we think produce feelings or emotions; feelings dictate attitudes; attitudes determine our actions and behaviors. Therefore, our beliefs are crucial to what we are and who we are as well as what kind of person we want ourselves to be.

     True or not, beliefs can ruin yourself and your relationships with others even that with your friends and family. They can destroy personal responsibility, not to mention character and personality. Consider that if you believe that others are born to win and you are born to lose or are destined to fail, you’d lose your will to exercise personal responsibility to achieve. Instead of learning from your losses and failures, you'd simply justify them. You'd indulge on self-pity because you think of them as parts of your destiny. It’s like you’re given rags and you expect yourself to wear them all the time – thus no chance to go from rags to riches. What if you believe that your husband or wife is cheating on you? Can you imagine what would that belief lead you to?

Beliefs and their awesome power
    You must have heard of someone or a patient in particular who, physicians have been at a loss to explain how such patient with seemingly fatal disease has not responded to the very best medical treatment, and then somehow recovered completely. Indeed there are patients that physicians are baffled about how spontaneous remission from cancer occurs. Their recovery is considered miraculous. But one thing these patients have in common is that they have acknowledged a genuine belief in a Higher Power, or a power greater than anything else. They surrender themselves completely to this Higher Power. They have accepted themselves as they are and become truly grateful for all that they are and all that they have.

     When you believe in a Higher Power or in God, you simply believe Him, period. You don’t ask questions unlike the man in a story who was beset with incredibly bad luck. Although the man was moral, ethical, religious and he went to church regularly every Sunday and holy days, his wife and his friend cheated on him and his children humiliated him. As if that weren’t enough, he was laid off from his job and he came home only to find his house burned down to the ground. His wife had left him and his children had stolen his savings.

     Despite the terrible misfortune, the man went out in his field to pray, trying to keep his faith intact. He flung his arms in supplication and looked up at the sky. Just then, at that precise moment, a flock of birds flew by and a bird’s dropping hit him squarely in the eye. In utter defeat, he wiped his eye, looked up heavenward again, and cried, “Why God? Why me? For other people, they sing!”

     All of us have many different beliefs and most of these beliefs have been with us since childhood or since we can remember, while there are perhaps few that we have acquired along the way to our adulthood and old age. Some of these beliefs may need re-examination every now and then as to whether or not they are still valid, or whether they bring out the best in you …… or the worst. Do they make sense? Could your life have been better or worse without them? Could you have achieved more and have been happier if you simply believe in yourself and your ability instead of someone else like your parents, brothers or sisters? Beliefs, whatever they are even if they are only myths, can be powerful. They are the bases on how we live our lives. It would be ill-advised to take their power for granted.

Lovely words to say
    Have you ever listened to Paul Harvey's The Rest of the Story on radio? There is this one particular story I like because it's something that could tenderly touch our heart and soothe the sting of anything that hurts. This story is trying to tell us that love will always remain the most potent healing power, and that when it's expressed in gentle, tender and reassuring words, it could give us pleasant memories to last a lifetime. Now here's the rest of the story:

        "Carl Coleman was driving to work one morning when he had a bump with another motorist. Both cars stopped, and the woman who was driving the other car got out and survey the damage. She was distraught; it was her fault, she admitted, and hers was a new car less than two days out of the showroom. She dreaded having to tell her husband.
         Coleman was sympathetic, but he had to pursue the necessary exchange of license, registration, insurance and police reporting. The lady was so badly shaken that Coleman had to reach into her glove compartment and retrieve her documents from an envelope. On the first paper to tumble out, written in her husband's distinctive handwriting, were these words: "In case of accident, remember, honey, it's you I love, not the car!"

     Overreacting to the accident which was relatively minor because no one was hurt, the woman was badly shaken. She could no longer think what to do, for her focus was probably on the potential negative reactions of her husband like what her parents had reacted to her blunder when she was a child. Her good husband must have loved her very much and must have known and understood all along about her fear, worry and insecurity and wanted to reassure her by writing those beautiful words, words that could heal even the most disturbed mind and keep the magic in their relationship. As Johnson Wolfgang von Goethe said: "Love grants in a moment what toil can hardly achieve in an age."

    It's a basic principle that you can only give what you have. You cannot distribute what you haven't produced, for production comes before distribution. So if you keep your heart open for love to enter and accumulate, you can have lots of love to give away. If you haven't been giving love to others, then it's likely that you have been closing the door to your heart and thus you don't have enough love to give away. Anger, resentment, fear, cynicism, pessimism, envy, guilt and grudges are like substances that even in small amount are toxic to love and happiness. Get rid of them. They are not gifts nor favors to give. They are poisons to destroy. They are not worth even a moment of your life.

A lovely story
    To many of us, and as the saying goes: "Life is a rat race," and some wise guy added that "even if you win the race, you're still a rat." I don't know about you, but I used to wonder why this guy has compared us, humans, to a rat? Why not a dog or a cat? Why it has to be a rat - the most repulsive rodent in the animal kingdom. I've found it something to ponder and not easy to grasp. Nevertheless, I came to guess that perhaps this guy is one of those who got disgusted of the way people busy themselves racing against each other in the relentless struggle for success, power, privilege and money for the affluence they want to have.

     One person by the name of Tony Campolo used the term affluenza – it's like a virus that when one catches it, one would spend endless hours working to achieve more and more and more, and thus have no more time for family and friends. Many in the race are so preoccupied with material considerations that they become oblivious of others’ needs and concerns, and insensitive to others’ feelings. Yet their houses and cars keep trying to teach them that all material objects are in a constant state of disintegration, but they don't want to believe them. So the wise guy who added the phrase “even if you win the race, you’re still a rat” is probably repulsed by such human behavior.

     This story by James Dobson reminds us that life is not built on things, but on relationships, and that unconditional love is the greatest gift we can ever give or receive. It is a gift that God gives us all the time in the form of children's smiles, hugs, kisses and laughters that many of us are not even aware of all because of the busyness that we always manage to get ourselves into. Now here is the story:

        "Some time ago a friend of mine punished his three-year-old daughter for wasting a roll of gold wrapping paper. Money was tight, and he became upset when her daughter tried to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree.
         Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift to her father the next morning and said, 'This is for you, Daddy.' The father was embarrassed by his earlier over-reaction. But his anger flared again when he opened the box and found it empty. He yelled at her, 'Don't you know that when you give someone a present, there's supposed to be something inside?' The little girl looked up at him in tears and said, 'Oh, Daddy, it's not empty. I blew kisses into it. I filled it with my love and I wrapped it up just for you.' He was crushed. Quickly he put his arms around her and begged for her forgiveness.
        My friend told me that he kept that gold box by his bed for years and whenever he got discouraged, he'd take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who'd put it there. In a very real sense, each of us as parents has been given a gold container filled with unconditional love of our children. There's not a more precious possession anyone could hold."

     Now what are you waiting for? Don't just sit there. Pick up the phone, call your kids and tell them you love them. Or, go to them, or to your grandchildren, nephews, or nieces and give them a hug. What about a friend you haven't talked to in years? Give him or her a call. How about an e-mail greeting message? Is it too much to do? No time? If not now, when? So do it now, or you'll only go back to the bad habit of procrastinating it and end up never having done it at all.

A thought to ponder
     The difference between God and everyone else is unconditional love. Unlike many of us who would pluck a flower and start picking off its petals one by one saying, "She loves me. She loves me not," God’s very essence is love and He doesn’t need to decide. Whether we accept or reject it, God loves us, period. He doesn’t have to explain, and even if God explains it to us, we still wouldn’t understand it, anyway.

     Unconditional love is something we don’t need to understand, let alone explain, but something we simply accept and give. When we accept God’s love, we have something great, if not beautiful, that we can pass it on to others.

     In humans, the difference between a man of faith and a man of doubt is the ability to love unconditionally. A man of faith is capable of developing such ability. A man of doubt isn’t. I don't know about you, but to me, the best way to show God we love Him is to love our family, friends and others around us. God's children we are and God's children we ought to be. Wouldn't you think so that if we love one another, God would be pleased and happy with us the same way as we are pleased and happy with our children who behave well and love each other?

The End


"I care not what others think of what I do, but I care very much about what I think of what I do. That is character. " -- Theodore Roosevelt


Clem S. Estrera, Jr., CIM '72

     I regret to inform everyone that this is the last issue of Brain Waves at least until further notice. Speaking for myself, it’s been a pleasure sharing with every one of you my experiences, thoughts, philosophies, knowledge and wisdom. I haven’t hesitated to tell you all my secrets including those of my family in exchange for nothing more than the simple hope that you may find something to learn from them.

    Honestly, I have struggled for the past few months to make this decision because the number of readers has never diminished but has increased instead as a matter of fact, and so with the number of readers that have expressed their gratitude. I have to believe that Brain Waves is making a difference to at least one, or two, or few of its readers. It’s something that pleases me more than anything else, for the hope of making a difference is the main reason for having started Brain Waves. And what makes the decision even more difficult is that I have truly enjoyed what I have been doing with Brain Waves which to me is a unique newsletter.

     Speaking of making a difference, have you seen the movie Radio? The movie is based on true story. It is starred by Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Radio, and Ed Harris as a great football coach a town in South Carolina could not live without. This movie could tear all your emotions apart, scatter and shuffle them. But what I want to point out in this movie is Ed Harris’ stubborn determination. All Harris ever wanted was to pursue what he believed in and make a difference in just one person – a mentally-retarded young man who loves radio and thus was called Radio. Because Radio is not only mentally-retarded but also black in a school whose students are almost all white, understandably Harris had to put up with people who did not like, much less approve what he was doing. But Harris was not discouraged, let alone deterred by any of the distractions, sneers, threats, and even the possibility of losing his job. Boy, what a difference did he make in that poor mentally-retarded young man who later on became the most beloved and admired football coach of the school.

     I believe that the main reason why many of us fail to pursue what we believe in to make a difference even if we have the desire and the time to do it, is because we could not resist equating our time and efforts with the number of persons whom we may be able to make a difference and the number of people who would appreciate our endeavor. We focus on the maximum number and get readily turned off before we could even begin because we succumb too easily to the negative idea that it’s not worth it particularly if nobody is supportive with what we plan to do.

    As we begin to consider that there may only be one or two persons who would be affected by our endeavor, our attention is shifted to the many who would not even acknowledge, let alone appreciate what we are doing, and the many more who would watch and wait for us to make a blunder or a slight on their sensitivity so they can jump on us and justify their cynism and negativism. Thus we almost always end up putting off doing what we believe in. And without even trying, we conclude that it’s not really worth it. It’s sad for the one or the two who could have benefited from what we could have done, all because of the mathematical equation that readily gets in our way in our pursuit of what we believe in - of making a difference.

     This reminds me of the story of a boy who, one morning went to the beach and was astonished to find so many starfish all over the beach. He thought for a moment and then he started picking up the starfish one by one and threw them back into the water. A man saw him and asked what he was doing. The boy told him that the starfish needed to get back to the water, or they'll die. Seeing the so many starfish scattered all over the beach, the man told the boy that he is wasting his time and that whatever he is doing would not make any difference because there are too many starfish. It would take him weeks and even months, and by that time, the starfish would all be dead anyway. The boy picked up another starfish, threw it back into the water and said: "It would certainly make a difference in that one starfish." The man was struck by the boy’s response. He started picking up the starfish and did what the boy was doing.

     At one time, Mother Theresa was asked by a reporter how could she bear to go on working at such a hopeless task day after day and year after year. As we know, the people Mother Theresa cared for were wretchedly poor, and many of them were very sick. I believe that years before she died, Mother Theresa was also taking care of people with terminal AIDS disease. It was not hard for many people to wonder how could she continue with such dedication, knowing that all the poverty and sickness will still be there long after she's dead. Didn't she realize she couldn't win? Mother Theresa's explanation was simple: Of course she knows the task is immense, but "finishing" isn't her purpose. Her work is what she believes to be God's will for her, and so, she devoted to the task itself, not the completion of it. Then she said: "God hasn't called me to be successful. He called me to be faithful."

    Well, writing for and publishing Brain Waves were originally my idea of nothing to do. I had been devoted to it because I had more free time and I thought I could use my time to do something different, something that would energize the spirit, something that could add dimension to life and put color, shape and substance to who we are. I thought that by sharing my thoughts, philosophies and experiences and expressing them as creatively as I could, I would be expanding my own horizon and at the same time offering light to those who are interested in another ways of seeing things.

    The practice of medicine that is basically the same every day of my professional life had started to lead me to dullness, and I began to realize that dullness would soon lead to boredom, and boredom would lead to an unfulfilling or unrewarding life. I did not want to get stuck in sameness, because when we get so used to the way things are in our life, maintaining the status quo would only become far more important than learning and growing by seeking something new or different, or seeking some kind of intellectual endeavor and spiritual adventure.

Boredom and creativity
     Boredom is the worse enemy of life and it comes to us sooner or later unless we channel our energy into doing something challenging if not enjoyable, or something different and interesting in order to nourish the vital part of our life and keep life's spark and sparkle as well as its glow and glitter. Boredom weakens our spirit and makes our outlook on life lose sight of the good, and we begin to behave as though we see only the bad. As our spirit weakens and wanes, our negative and troublesome attitudes and behaviors would take over and dominate. We’d lose our enthusiasm and excitement for living. Instead of young at heart that we’d rather feel, we’d feel our age in years. As a result, we’d live out the rest of our life in much the same way as we have lived out the years that have already passed – unfulfilling or unrewarding.

     Nevertheless, it was the hope and prospect of making a difference that motivated me to write. It has stimulated and enhanced my creativity. Creativity is an important force in our lives that makes us live our life fully, that makes life more rewarding and fulfilling. It’s the stuff that dreams are made of. It makes you do your best and makes you feel that whatever you do, you want it to be a benefit, not a liability.

     There are many ways of helping others and of making a difference, and many of the good ways would require not just time and efforts but also money. Since money is something that I have been chronically short of, I thought that writing and publishing Brain Waves the way it has been uniquely structured would also be one of the good ways.

    Thus much like Julia Roberts in the movie Mona Lisa Smile who, as an art teacher in a most prestigious school in the New England area, was not motivated to keep her teaching position but to make a difference, I, too, have not cared about the mathematical equation of winning and losing anyone’s approval and appreciation, but about the prospect of making a difference. To me, if I could make a difference in just one person, it would be worth it. And anyone else over one is a bonus.

A shift in priority
     Particularly in someone like me with children that aren't yet capable of making on their own, priority changes and thus devotion has to shift to another priority. As you must have known from the January issue, I have so many things that I need to do these days both personally and for my family. I have family priorities to press and push and to devote my time on at least temporarily. I've been taking extra calls to make extra money, not out of choice, but out of necessity. Also, I've been taking college courses a couple of nights a week and a weekend a month although they're mostly done online or through the Internet. I just want to keep educating myself with different kinds of knowledge. It helps me maintain a positive outlook on life.

    Continuous learning helps us stay young, or at least makes us feel young. When you feel like a beginner in things you want to learn, it opens new doors for humility and it cleanses your ego rather than massages it. You learn to look carefully to find wisdom that actually comes in all shapes and forms. It makes you realize that many of your most important teachers are actually those to whom you came to feel superior. I've learned so many practical things in life from our housekeeping employees, nursing aides, technicians, electricians, etc. The more you acquire knowledge of different kinds, the more open-minded you become, and the less pretentious you are of things you are ignorant of. Your biases and prejudices no longer easily find their way to your inbox, but stay in the trash of your mind.

     Taking college courses or adult education is a lot cheaper hobby than going out taking lessons in sports like golf, for example. It's something I can definitely afford and am enthusiastic about. It beats watching TV anytime. Also, it's challenging to me at my age having to compete with college kids. Youth has the quickness that age must compensate in mental sharpness. We all will lose our quickness at least part of it as we age so that if we don't stay sharp, what do we have left in our old age? A shaky slow body and a dull and confused mind.

     Because of the change in priorities, I could no longer have the optimum mental condition and time to do my best for Brain Waves. I certainly don't want to give our dear readers anything less than the best.

     Again, thank you all so much for reading Brain Waves. If you change your e-mail address, it would be great if you keep me posted.

     My special thanks to the staff of Brain Waves and to its contributors, previous and present. I hope you did not mind that I didn't ask anyone of you to send your article contribution on a certain date or on a regular basis and for a certain edition. It's not my style to put pressure on anyone for something that is completely voluntary. I have absolutely no right to ask or even request, let alone demand to use even a minute of your time for Brain Waves. I may have accepted and published whatever articles you have sent, but I believe I have never asked you to promise to contribute more, because for someone with your integrity, a promise could only become a pressure since you would have to keep whatever promise you make. Hopefully, we can work together again in the future.

     Emmanuel Swedenborg said: “Love consists in desiring to give what is our own to another and feeling his delight as our own.” Believe it or not, I love you all, unconditionally!



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