December 2004 Vol. 4 Issue 10

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

Holiday Special Edition

"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished how much he had learned in seven years."   ---Mark Twain

Stubbornness and Defiance

Cle S. Estrera, Jr.

A struggle with first born
    Ever had a kid, (son or daughter), who does whatever he wants and never listens to you? He defies your every belief, thought or idea of what a good kid should do. It’s like he has a monopoly on stubbornness. When you confront him, he would just look at you like you’re a relic and say: “Dad or Mom, you’re past your time. We’re not in the Stone Age anymore. We’re in the 21st century.” It is as if he wants to demonstrate to you your ancient generation’s sad insufficiencies. It reminds me of the movie On Golden Pond when old Henry Fonda complained of the price of gas for his boat: “During my time, a gallon of gas cost only 12 cents.” The kid in the pier gas station responded with a little bit of sarcasm: “I thought there was no such thing as gas back then.”

    Frustrating, isn’t it? It makes you want to scream at times. No matter how you try to persuade, or dissuade, or even threaten the kid, he would go ahead and do what he wants to do like the world is on a string wrapped around his finger. Then when he screwed up, he’d come to you to ask your help like you want to be around to pick up the pieces.  And yet, he never learns, making you think that perhaps he is a nut case.  But for some reason, he turns out to be someone you can hardly believe, let alone expected – someone with potentials you just never saw. It’s like a nut you thought was empty grew to become an oak tree.

    It’s been said that the first born is almost always the stubborn in the family although nowadays most kids are stubborn, first born or last born. When our older daughter, our first born, was still a little girl, she seemed to always have a way of giving especially her Mom a fit. When she became a teenager, her disagreements and arguments with her Mom seemed endless. She could not be dissuaded on what she decided upon that her Mom thought is not good for her. She could not be persuaded to do what her Mom wanted her to do if she didn’t want to even if it was obvious that it would be good for her. She defies Mom's every thought or idea that concerns her for reasons she only knows why.

    My wife’s struggle to make our daughter listen to her and do what she wants her to do is as futile as good old King Canute ordering the tide back with a wave of his royal hand. I guess early on our daughter wanted to be independent, and she just didn’t want her Mom to tell her what to do, or what choices to make for herself. She and her Mom would drive to the mall or some place to purchase something, and they would come home too early because they disagreed on something, argued and fought on the way to wherever they were going, and decided to turn around and come home instead, pissed with each other.

A spoiled first born
    My daughter’s stubborn behavior made me look into my own when I was a kid growing up, and realized that we were almost exactly the same although I’m not the first born in our family. Our eldest, the first born, was more spoiled than stubborn, and having all the money, he spent his school days knocking down bottles of booze instead of reading books, or studying and doing his homework. His kidneys and liver were processing alcohol faster than San Miguel Brewery, and the booze he consumed in a week was probably enough to float a battleship. Some of those hard drinks that he and his friends were indulging with were best suited to degreasing engines than to drinking. I sometimes wondered whether God looks after fools and drunks, because my brother qualified on both counts. His self-destructive behavior often made me question the purpose of evolution.

    My eldest brother ended up drunk as a skunk every night, torturing and murdering my mother’s houseplants with his brutal and deadly urine by peeing on them, wasting all our parents’ money, leaving most of the younger ones of the eight of us in the family like me down the line struggling, having nothing more than a fart and a pittance. No, it’s not fair, but it routinely happens to so many families in the Philippines, because the family is structured as such that the older ones must do their best at school and finish in order to get a job to help support the younger ones. Otherwise if the older ones abuse their privileges and shirk their implied responsibilities, with limited family financial resources, the family would simply crumble, for the younger ones would be deprived of the opportunities the older ones have.

    The only difference between me and my daughter was that my parents gave up on me early on and left me alone on my own, thinking perhaps that after all, I only have a pea for a brain. But as I got a little older and with more understanding of what life is all about, I began to consider myself a family rebel, but with potentials. So, my daughter’s stubbornness and rebellious behavior did not bother me that much. Having been able to understand what it’s like to deal with a stubborn kid, being used to be one, I found it easy to give up what doesn’t work.

Tools for survival
    Looking back, stubbornness or defiance is actually a tool for survival at an early age. Otherwise if children simply obey and follow what their parents want them to, they would grow up more like robots, and are likely to have a hard time functioning in the real world, playing the real games, dancing against the odds. They may grow up well-armed to attack academic questions, but are ill-equipped to deal with real issues between humans.

    The challenges kids are facing these days are more emotional than physical or intellectual. They need to have the experiences, to learn on their own, so that when confronted with obstacles, they would choose fight over flight, and focus on solutions rather than escape reality. Without the needed experiences, they are likely to have the tendency to choose flight over fight; rancor over reason; blames over self-responsibility. Flight tends to become fright that may only lead to panic and make them become what some Americans called – “pricks without balls.”

    Just imagine how many young hearts broken, lives ruined, all because of puppy love, infatuation or other relationships that fail, to mention just one situation. Incidentally, my son called me two weeks ago telling me that he was having a hard time concentrating on his studies because his girlfriend broke up with him. Poor kid. I told him that it’s going to hurt him bad especially if he liked the girl so much and he is not used to rejection. Rejection is hard to deal with and would make him feel like a loser. It’s a big blow to his self-esteem. I also told him that if there is one good suggestion to consider seriously that is worth his precious time, it is to try to think and understand how his previous girlfriends feel when he broke up with them. A week later, he called back and told me that he got over it, and it was really hard. He had to talk to his guidance counselor who told him about the same thing I did.

    Later on, however, stubbornness becomes a tool for destruction, and in case you haven’t noticed – it is killing us! As adults, we fight just to convince others or our children in particular that our way of thinking is better than theirs, or to demand that our opinions be accepted as right. It destroys relationship. It cuts us off from the people we love, and we become hostile and selfish. It’s fraught with delusions and denials. When we play as “Commander-in-Chief” or “General,” we always want to win the war, and so we struggle, and the longer and bloodier the battle, the more confused and frustrated we become, thinking that the enemy is out there rather than in here – in our own mind - our own sick way of thinking.

    Every war is a murderous and bloody struggle between foes. To win, someone has got to lose. In a military war, stubbornness and defiance are often essential in winning. As a matter of fact, they were the key to the battle against the Germans in the bitterly cold winter of 1944 in Bastogne, Belgium. The American 101st Airborne was about to be overrun by the Germans with their Panzer Division, but the Americans refused to yield. When the German Commander sent a couple of couriers carrying a message for General Anthony McAuliffe to have a chance for a negotiated surrender, the stubborn and defiant American General responded with only one word that became the legend - "Nuts!"

     But even if we constantly win the emotional or intellectual battle, and the children go along with us on the outside just to conform, or satisfy our demands, true conversion is an inside job. Thus as adults, particularly as parents, surrender, not stubbornness; departure from unnecessary skirmishes, not defiance; are tools for survival.

A touch on Greek Mythology
     When my children were still little, I used to read and tell stories to them. As they got older, the role had reversed. My older daughter in particular started telling stories to me about the books she had read that she also recommended for me to read. One of the books she gave me as my birthday present when she was still in high school was The Greek Mythology by Edith Hamilton. But instead of reading it, I put it aside and rented movies about Greek Mythology stories just to be able to relate to her.

    Greek Mythology was a subject I was not interested in when I was in college, although virtually almost all of the subjects did not interest me. I guess it’s because in Greek Mythology, we were under pressure to memorize so many names for the exams. Whether or not the teachers understood the stories themselves, the implications of events were not explained, let alone elaborated, and so there was basically nothing to learn that we could relate to real life. Thus after you’ve memorized all the names, you’d forget them faster than the teacher could check your test paper.

    When I saw the movie Troy last spring and I could not understand a number of events, I'd made it a point to read the book, but I never had the chance to do it until a month or so ago when one of our nurses told me that a computer worm called Trojan Horse destroyed all the programs and files in her computer. The worm reminded me to read the book, and I am glad it did.

    Many of the stories in Greek Mythology are really fascinating although it mainly depends on the way you use your imagination. I agree with Edith Hamilton that Mythology gives you a convincing argument that imagination is very powerful if only you allow it to roam freely, unchecked by reason. For, Mythology is solely a product of a poet's or a writer's imagination. The beauty of the Greek Mythology is that your imagination deals not with horrors lurking in the primeval forest, but with nymphs and naiads that are more delightful than horrible. In other words, Greek Mythology transformed a world full of fear into a world full of beauty. But if you allow reason to mess with the imagination, Mythology would not make any sense, would lose its fascination, and the goddesses, nymps and naiads would lose their beauty and delight.

    I guess maturity has sharpened my comprehension that I could easily relate to the Greek Mythology stories well. Understanding the power of imagination, I found it easy to discern that the happiest man was Paris. He had Helen, a gorgeous face that launched a thousand ships. And I could readily see Cassandra as the unhappiest woman. The most terrible thing of all is to know exactly what’s going to happen and not be able to do anything about it, and on top of that, nobody to believe you when you tried to tell them.

The Trojan War
     Cassandra was a daughter of Hecabe and King Priam, the rulers of Troy in Homer’s Iliad. She was a beautiful young woman, blessed with the gift of prophecy by Apollo, who was infatuated with her. But being stubborn and defiant, Cassandra shunned Apollo at the last minute and so Apollo added a twist to her gift – Cassandra was doomed to tell the truth, but never to be believed. Thus Cassandra has always been misunderstood and misinterpreted as a madwoman or crazy doomsday prophetess. Yet Cassandra was a great, intelligent woman, only was cursed by the gods for not playing by their rules. She was stunningly beautiful, but her considered madness repelled most men.

    So countless of times before the Trojan War, Cassandra prophesied that war would come, and Troy was doomed. She was desperately trying to warn her people of the impending disaster. There was an oracle that the child born would be the destroyer of the city. So when Paris was born, she shouted her order to kill him. Because of the oracle, with great sorrow, King Priam and Hecabe, had the infant Paris taken from the city and abandoned in the wilderness. But instead of dying, Paris was suckled by a she-wolf and eventually adopted by shepherds. As a young shepherd, Paris was used by the gods in the famous judgment of the goddesses, in which he chose Aphrodite who promised him he could have Helen.

    The famous judgment was about the golden apple thrown by the evil goddess of Discord, Eris, who, of all the goddesses, was the only one who was not invited to the wedding banquet of King Peleus and the sea nymph Thetis. Determined to make trouble, Eris threw the apple to the banqueting hall marked For the Fairest. All the goddesses wanted it and the choice was narrowed down to only three goddesses: Aphrodite, Hera and Athena. Zeus refused to choose among the three, but advised the three to go to the young shepherd who would make the judgment. Paris was the young shepherd. Hera promised Paris to become the Lord of Europe and Asia; Athena, that he would lead the Trojans to victory against the Greeks and lay Greece in ruins; Aphrodite, that the fairest woman in all the world should be his. Paris, having heard of Helen, gave the apple to Aphrodite.

    Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love, beauty, and sexual rapture. She was a counterpart of the Roman goddess Venus. She was beautiful with soft, smooth white skin and long loose hair, was loved by many gods and mortals. Among her mortal lovers, the most famous was Adonis. The interesting story about Aphrodite was that she was born when Uranus, the father of the gods, was castrated by his son Cronus. It reminds you of Lorena Babitt. But instead of throwing the severed genitals out through the window like Lorena Babitt did with the amputated penis of her husband, Cronus threw his father's genitals into the ocean. Then the sea began to churn and foam about them. From the aphros – sea foam – Aphrodite arose. Aphrodite was the daughter of Zeus and Dione. From her name, comes the word aphrodisiac – Viagra, Cialis, Spanish fly, etc., that some of you maybe taking. Just kidding. But a fantasy of Aphrodite during those times served more than an aphrodisiac. Even Zeus himself would often have a stirring in his groin looking at Aphrodite. Aphrodite was the mother of Aeneas.

    Soon after the famous judgment, Paris returned to his home city where he competed in the funeral games and conquered even heroic Hector in the contests. In the ensuing fight over a prize of a bullock, Paris, being a weakling, fled to the Altar of Zeus where Cassandra recognized him as her brother. But being a great contestant and a winner, Paris was immediately accepted as the son of King Priam, and the curse upon him was forgotten.

    When Paris and Aeneas set off for Sparta to kidnap Helen, Aphrodite's promised prize for him, Cassandra warned him of the doom that his voyage would cause, but she was ignored. So Paris came home with Helen and the Greeks dispatched a thousand ships to Troy to get her back. Thus the Trojan War. But in some interepretions, Helen was not really kidnapped because she was attracted to Paris, smitten by him especially that Aphrodite made Paris irresistible to Helen. Helen was stunningly beautiful that every red-bloodied male in Greece who had heard of her gorgeous beauty, dreamed of possessing her. Helen was a daughter of Zeus and Leda, queen of Sparta, but her refuted father was King Tyndarius, her mother's husband. Of all Helen's suitors, King Menelaus, brother of Agamemnon, was the political choice of Helen’s father to marry her, because Menelaus had wealth and power, even if he was relatively old and ugly.

    The Trojan War lasted ten years, for the Greeks could not enter the city of Troy. In the ensuing long battle, their invincible warrior Achilles killed Hector, the most dutiful warrior and brother of Paris. Achilles desecrated Hector's body by dragging it around with his chariot. Achilles later on was killed by Paris with his arrow that hit the only vulnerable part of Achilles - the Achilles heel. To exact revenge on the Trojans for the death of Achilles, Odysseus came up with the idea of the wooden horse to disguise as a gift to Athena that would restore her favor for the Trojans. Athena favored the Greeks in the Trojan War. Athena is also known as Minerva. She was the favorite child of Zeus, who adorned her with the hideous head of Medusa the Gorgon and his principal weapon, the thunderbolt. Athena was the goddess of war, industry, art and agriculture, and then later on, the goddess of wisdom.

    In any event, the wooden horse was the Greek’s only way to enter the city of Troy, a deceptively brilliant strategy. War is often won by disguise and deception. That’s how the computer worm called Trojan Horse enters your computer and destroys your files. It is disguised as harmless and friendly message, text-attachment, picture, or an innocent or attractive-looking web-link. Being unsuspecting, you may click on it and it gets into your computer, and then it burns your computer files and programs beyond recovery. It is often undetected by Anti-virus but can be blocked by Firewall. The inventors of this worm think they are Odysseus.

    It was Cassandra who warned the Trojans about the wooden horse and wanted the Trojan Horse burned. But as always, Cassandra was ignored. And so Troy was burned instead, and plundered. During the siege and plunder, Cassandra was raped by a Greek warrior named Ajax. It's probably where the name of the detergent came from. Ajax, the detergent, rapes and scrubs your dishes, sinks and toilets clean.

Phaeton and the Heliades
     Another story that fascinated me more is the story of Phaeton and the Heliades. It’s a colorful and prophetic story. It's the story that I encouraged my daughter to re-read especially that I had warned her that her choice of OB-Gyne specialty may one day ruin not just her practice, but her life as well, because of the frivolous lawsuits that are directed more against OB-Gyne doctors. And when it comes to the life of an infant, the malpractice award is often horrendous and humongous. It's scary.

     Here is the story for the benefit of those who haven’t read it, taken from the Greek Mythology Book of Edith Hamilton - an account from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

     Phaeton, the illegitimate son of Helios, the Sun God, finally found his father. Feeling guilty, the Sun God granted his son one wish, and the boy immediately chose to take his father’s place for a day, piloting the sun chariot across the sky from dawn to dusk. The father realized his son’s folly and tried in vain to dissuade the boy, but the boy Phaeton would not be deterred. So Helios granted the wish, but warned the boy how difficult the chariot was to command. None of the Sun God’s cautions seemed to mean anything. All Phaeton saw was himself standing in the wondrous chariot, guiding the steeds that Zeus himself could not master.

    Once airborne, though, Phaeton quickly discovered that his father’s warnings were correct, and he lost control of the chariot. The horses darted to the top of the sky, and then plunged close enough to the earth to set the world ablaze. Zeus, having no choice, unleashed a thunderbolt that destroyed the chariot and killed Phaeton. The mysterious river Eridanus received him and cooled the flames that engulfed his body. The Naiads, in pity for one so bold and so young, buried him, and carved these words upon his tomb:

    Here Phaeton lies who drove the Sun-god's car.
    Greatly he failed, but he had greatly dared.

    Phaeton’s sisters, the Heliades, came to his grave and mourned. Zeus, taking pity on their sorrow, turned them into poplar trees that sprouted sadly murmuring leaves on the bank of the river.

    Where sorrowing they weep into the stream forever.
    And each tear as it falls shines in the water
    A glistening drop of amber.

    The stories are fascinating, aren’t they? The book that my daughter gave me is also the book that has given her the idea that it’s probably more prudent or wiser to listen to her Dad’s warning, and consider her options seriously before it’s too late. She quit OB-Gyne and is going to Internal Medicine.

An afterthought
     It’s okay to be stubborn and to disregard others’ thoughts, ideas or opinions in order to chase what we wish. But sometimes we’ve got to consider seriously possibilities that come from those ideas or opinions, especially warnings from someone who knows better and had the experiences. And it’s okay to warn our children of our concerns, worries and fears, but I don’t think it’s okay to impose our warnings on them all because of our worries and fears unless it’s a life and death situation. Even the Sun God himself did not impose his warnings on his son Phaeton.

     Oftentimes, it takes mistakes and failures to humble a person down, and to make him realize the folly of his ways. Kids who speed would never slow down until they get enough speeding tickets. You might as well provide them with a good radar detector if it’s not illegal in your state, or simply tell them that when they speed, make sure there is another car speeding in front of them.

How about a New Year's Resolution?
     As you approach a New Year full of potentials, at least try to resolve to let your good deeds and kind words brighten days especially for the people in your life. Think of learning to forgive and forget regardless of your hurt and your hate. Maybe in the years to come, you’d find it so easy to discard resentment and grudges like old and overgrown pants and shirts, and to embrace love and kindness like a brand new Lexus or Mercedes.

    Happy New Year to you and your family!


“Our prayers are answered not when we are given what we ask but when we are challenged to be what we can be.” ---- Morris Adler

Let's have some laughs

"I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph." -- Shirley Temple

     Christmas is a celebration of life, not a mourning for death. It's a time for joy, love and laughter. So, let's have some laughs.

    A history teacher had been taking a lesson about the kings and queens of England. “Do you know who followed Edward VI?” she asked.
    “Mary,” replied a boy at the back.
    “That’s right, “said the teacher. “And who followed Mary?”
    “Her little lamb,” said the boy.

    A honeymoon couple stayed at the Watergate Hotel in Washington. The bride was worried in case the place was still bugged, so she asked her new husband to search the room thoroughly. He looked behind the curtains, under the bed, in the wardrobes, and finally under the rug. And there, beneath the rug, he found a mysterious disc with four screws. Using his Swiss army knife, he undid the screws and threw the disc out of the window.
    The following morning as they checked out, the hotel manager asked: “How was your room? How was the service? How was your stay at the Watergate Hotel?”
    “Why so many questions?” said the groom, getting paranoid.
    “Well,” said the manager, “the room under you complained that the chandelier fell on them.”

    A teenager had just passed his driving test and asked his father, who was a church minister, whether he could borrow his car.
    “Yes, you may borrow my car, if you study the Bible, work hard at college and get your hair cut.”
    A month later, the lad asked again whether he could borrow the car.
    His father said: “I’m very proud of you, son. You’ve been studying your Bible and your college results are excellent. But the only thing is, you haven’t had your hair cut.”
    The lad replied: “I’ve been thinking about that. You know, Samson had long hair, so did Moses, Noah and even Jesus.”
    “That’s very true,” said the father. “And they walked everywhere.”