September-October 2006 Edition Vol. 6 Issue 5
A free Internet Newsletter publication for all CIM Alumni and friends.
Clem S. Estrera, Jr., M.D.
Ma. Belen Rosales, M.D.
Ray Castillejo, M.D.
ďYou have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What youíll discover will be wonderful.Ē --- Alan Alda, Actor
The Apple of Discord
One of my favorite Aesopís fables is about Hercules and Minerva. Hercules was once traveling along a narrow road when he saw lying on the ground in front of him what appeared to be an apple. And as he passed he stamped upon it with his heel. To his astonishment, instead of being crushed, it doubled in size; and, on his attacking it again and smiting it with his club, it swelled up to an enormous size and blocked up the whole road. Upon this he dropped his club and stood looking at it in amazement. Just then Minerva appeared and said to him, ďLeave it alone, my friend. That, which you see before you, is the Apple of Discord. If you do not meddle with it, it remains small as it was at first, but if you resort to violence it swells into the thing you see.Ē
Sometimes there is a certain subject of disagreement that for some reason many of us cannot leave it alone. We want to be agreed upon, to be right or to be accepted as being right that all too often any chance that we can again and again bring up the subject we disagree with we would and it often leads to more arguments that sometimes cause anger to flare up. Then as we get angrier we feel justified to say words for the sole purpose of hurting each otherís feelings. As feelings are hurt, the fight gets nastier and nastier, and the disagreement gets bigger and bigger like the Apple of Discord.
Many of us probably have the Apple of Discord in the family. I myself have with my teenage son. My son and I have an unsettled disagreement about ethics and politics. Like many kids educated in liberal colleges, my son has the anti-American sentiment and he blames the U.S. for everything bad that happens around the globe. I guess I sometimes overreact to it because I consider it ungrateful, for I often cringe to imagine what kind of life he would have had if we were in the Philippines. I canít really blame him that much because with the culture of political correctness these days that emphasizes on if not demands more and more tolerance of religious and cultural differences despite religious fanatical violence, the members of the political, media, Hollywood and intellectual elites have continued to coalesce, coagulate, coddle, divert, divide, feud and feed on one another. They have their own agenda and they compete on who can better influence the minds of the majority and shape the minds of the young.
These elitesí agenda promote rampant culture of victimology and grievance, a tendency for other countries especially the poor and developing countries and the militant Middle East to blame the U.S. in particular for the problems these countries themselves create. The culture of political correctness provides moral explanations and justifications for disgraceful and destructive behaviors, moral weaknesses and deficiencies; and encourages blames and excuses as though some people or some countries donít have voluntary choices except violence and other reprehensible acts, or as though they are the victims of some unknown forces that the U.S. has unleashed.
Yet how far do we have to tolerate? Till all our heads are cut off? Till all the tallest buildings in the U.S. are flattened? Havenít we all realized that what we tolerate, we approve; what we approve, we accept; what we accept, we condone; and without imposing moral responsibility, what we condone will be abused? This politically-correct culture has led the majority of the people to a grand delusion that if we leave the militant Muslims alone, they will leave us alone. But Israel, the only country with more experience with these militants, did leave these militants alone few times. But did these militants leave Israel alone? No, never did and never will, because their ultimate goal is to wipe out Israel from the face of the earth and to rule the world by getting rid of the infidels, which means you and me. Thus if anything, political correctness only make the Arab countries doubt the Westís ability to strike back and look down on the West as wimp.
Sad to say, like Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, my son fell for the book of Noam Chomsky and he believes everything in it. He read the book a couple of years ago when his college professor recommended the book for summer reading. Chomsky is a retired linguistic and philosophy professor of MIT and the name MIT itself carries a lot of weight. My son vehemently disagrees when I tell him that intellectual writers nowadays especially the ones writing about government policies and political analysis, can smoothly twist facts and produce convincing analysis and opinions especially to those who simply believe the media and what the majority of the people believe. Some of these elites behave like prophets and thus write their speculative analysis as though the past and present events have given them the power and privilege to see or foretell the future. But because they are actually humans like us and not prophets like Mohammed, there is always a degree of bias and many of them are highly biased. It's unfortunate that almost all of these elites are leftists or liberals that spread the culture of political correctness, and the media is always highlighting the negatives and ignoring the positives while the White House is exaggerating the positives and minimizing the negatives. It's hard to decide who's to believe. Politics is a science of manipulation that should be left to the politicians, not the media.
But all I ever wanted my son to do is to be careful with what he believes and to keep an open mind by maintaining a certain degree of suspicion and reading the so-called facts, proofs and evidence from both sides, for beliefs all too often would determine not only his attitude toward something or someone, but also his own dreams and aspirations. He should rather learn to appreciate or be grateful with his life here in the U.S. where freedom is precious, and where dignitaries from other countries can come just to criticize and bash the President. Do it in Iran, and Iíll be begging for his body to be delivered with his head. Do it in China and Iíll have to hire the best International lawyer just to keep him from rotting in jail. But my son has his own agenda so that he never listens, let alone considers my point or advice and thus our argument often escalates. I guess I'll just have to blame it all on his youth.
Birds, bees and butterflies
Starting this summer, I decided to quit arguing with my son and even talking about his plans so that when he starts talking or insinuating on the subject of politics and ethics, Iíd excuse myself to work on my gardens in our back yard. Pulling weeds is a whole lot better thing to do than touching, let alone smiting the Apple of Discord. One good result from it though is that I have become more passionate in watching and attracting birds, bees and butterflies by planting cherry and berry trees and shrubs, flowers and butterfly bushes in our backyard.
Birds, bees and butterflies have always fascinated me. But what fascinate me most are the humming birds. They love to take shower during hot days every time I water my plants with the garden hose sprinkler. I had rescued a couple of them few times because their wings were caught on a spider web and could not fly. They would just jump and constantly tweet to get my attention, looking at me like theyíre pleading, ďPlease help me.Ē They are gone now on migration, but lots of other birds like the cardinals, mourning doves, chickadees, sparrows, goldfinches, etc., are still staying, and so with the bees and butterflies.
Do you know that the humming birds are the only birds that can zip into backward flight? This is possible because their wings actually flip over on each stroke when hovering or going backward, so that the leading edge, which remains facing front in other birds, works either direction. Watching birds is very relaxing. It beats stretching and straining my vocal cord with the Apple of Discord.
Ethics in its simplicity
There is a simple way to guide us into doing what is right. The only thing to understand is that every one of us has the individual inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Donít you agree? So actually itís not society, religion, or the bible, let alone the politicians that forbid a person to kill, but the individual right of another person to live. We have the right to be free, but we have no right to enslave another. We have the right to choose our own happiness, but we have no right to decide that our happiness lies in the misery of others. Thus if you cheat or steal, you are putting someone in misery for your own welfare. Or if you use your intelligence to utilize guilt or threats rather than persuasion, in manipulating someone to do things for your own benefit and happiness because that someone doesnít want to do them, your welfare and happiness lie in the misery of that person and thus you violate that personís right to the pursuit of happiness.
Guilt and threats that have been commonly used in our culture until now are emotional instruments of coercion and manipulation that can ruin especially the childrenís life in the long run. They can have detrimental effects on the childrenís emotional well-being as they grow into adulthood. Worse, they are often used in the family with destructive criticisms that make you feel small and insignificant. Guilt and threats make you feel like you are committing secret sins and risking punishment if you donít obey or follow what you are told to. These secret sins would hang over your head like the proverbial sword of Democles. The fear and insecurity they inflict can immobilize and incapacitate by taking away your desire or courage to take risk to become more and achieve something better. They make you grow out of an inner willingness to strive for anything worthwhile. They keep you from recognizing the need to turn your lives in a better direction, or keep you from reaching beyond the natural and instinctive, past the reflexive and knee-jerk responses in order to refine your soul, explore your true potential, and know yourself within. And by the time you realize that you were negating life you might have had, itís often too late.
The relationship among humans should be based mainly on trade - an exchange of value for value - and violence against each other should be based solely on self-defense. Trade is done through negotiation the goal of which is the mutual satisfaction and happiness of both parties involved as exemplified by going to the dealership to buy a car. You negotiate the price you are willing to pay that the dealership is willing to sell. Both of you end up happy or satisfied. Youíve got the car you want, the dealership got the money.
Another example, I have a pen and you have a pencil. My pen is obviously expensive than your pencil but I have no use for the pen because I need a pencil. So I choose to trade it with your pencil and you agree. No one cheated the other because we willingly agreed with the exchange. We made our choices voluntarily. No force, manipulation, or coercion is involved. Both of us are satisfied with the trade, for value depends on the satisfaction of the needs, wants and wishes of both parties involved.
What lies ahead
In the field of learning, science and technology never seem to reach the end of the line, so to speak. What we donít know is always so much more than what we do know. Imagine Bill Gates declaring that Microsoft Windows XP is all there is to it and nothing else coming. He would be laughed out of the technology world. That would make about as much sense as NIH considers closing because there is nothing left to be learned and discovered about human diseases. Then there is the outer space to be explored, conquered and inhabited. It appears that our knowledge of planet earth is without limit, and our knowledge of space seems to have barely scratched the surface.
But what does this constant expansion of the frontiers of knowledge is telling us? It simply tells us that being part of creation, our knowledge of ourselves also has no limit. For just as we have only scratched the surface of our comprehension of our planet and the universe, we have scarcely begun to understand ourselves Ė and realize our true potential.
Yet whether we are aware of it or not, many of us have continued to allow our doubts and fears to imprison us, and thus have not even attempted to cross the terror barrier to freedom Ė toward the full use of our intelligence to acquire a new frontier of knowledge for our growth and development. Every time we attempt to make a major move in life, this barrier stands in our way and we do nothing about it. Many of us are still using snail mail to communicate, because they are still intimidated and terrified by the computer. Some cannot send an e-mail message without using oneís message for their reply. Others cannot make their own e-mail address book for all of their contacts. And many of us are unable to do so many things all because of fear of what others might say and think about us. Doubts and fear are the bricks the terror barrier is made of.
Imagine the glorious discoveries that lie ahead of us if only we can pass through the terror barrier every time we plan to make a major move in life. Yet we know and understand that what seems so scary at the beginning, after having been able to cope and master it, leads to confidence, reassurance and more discoveries of the many things about ourselves we never knew we had. Still, many of us have continued to be subjected to our doubts and fears that build and strengthen the terror barrier, keeping us in bondage. The terror barrier casts a long dark shadow over our life and keeps us from discovering the many glorious things inside us, from bringing out the best in us, and from knowing what we truly are.
Getting out of the comfort zone
Now how about contributing something for Brain Waves and start crossing your terror barrier and develop both sides of the brain? Come on. I canít go on with it alone anymore. Not only that Iíve got so many things to do and my interest is shifting to something else, Iím also running out of good thoughts and ideas for our newsletter. After all, would you not want to set yourself free from the captivity of your own limited aspirations; from the doldrums of your own routines and status quo; and from the paralyzing grip of the fear of criticism, of what others might say and of making yourself look bad? Would you not want to channel your energy or use your adrenaline to get out of your comfort zone and see what you can really be? Believe me. Youíre more than you think you are.
†Anyone of us can think creatively and write although we may not be as good at writing as others especially initially. But who does? The first thing to do to be able to think creatively is to stop comparing ourselves with others because if we do, weíd always end up with the short end of the stick, for there are always those who are better than us. Weíd never run out of anyone to compare ourselves with, both up and down, and unfortunately, we all have the natural tendency to compare ourselves with those who are clearly better than us. Nonetheless we can never be good, let alone better unless we try and start doing and keep doing what we should. For any new thing or activity, there is only one thing required to start Ė a willingness to try to allow such thing or activity to become part of your life. And you know what, as you get better, your fear would slowly fade and disappear as if you wake up one morning after a great night out without a hangover.
Certainly, there are many activities out there that could be new to you. I recommend writing because itís probably the best cognitive exercise there is and itís readily available to anyone with a little bit of time and a computer. Unlike golf and tennis that you need to spend a substantial amount of money, have to go to some place and find someone to play with, writing is done alone right in your own home. Itís affordable to anyone. And you can even think about what to write while doing your regular physical exercise like jogging and biking. The most you spend is a couple of beers and a slice of pizza every now and then. Computer is definitely essential because it allows you to save your thoughts in writing, and makes you edit or modify them anytime and then save and edit or modify them again and again. And computers nowadays have gotten cheaper and more powerful. Computer is the best investment one can ever have in this day and age. I donít think I would have been able to write anything without it. Computer has revolutionized everything and made things fast and easy. I canít imagine my life now without access to a computer.
Writing makes you utilize your imagination fully and makes you think creatively, analytically, logically and in short, makes you utilize your whole brain. It enhances not just your mental health but also your physical health because it keeps your stress down. Stress often comes from boredom, emptiness, loneliness, or from inability to find something useful to do, from longing to be in another place spending your laziness or doing something you prefer to do but cannot do because you are stuck in one place for one reason or another. But itís hard to get bored while being alone at home when you think and write while listening to great jazz music and songs. Not only that writing massages your mind, it also gives you a sense of purpose. Moreover, this kind of cognitive exercise keeps you from being too vulnerable to an infection that is relatively common as we age, an infection called Ė C-Nile virus syndrome.
You know, what makes it more difficult to start doing something new or embarking on an extracurricular endeavor like writing is that we often contemplate on what lies ahead and our projections often tell us the negative, that we donít have the time, that we donít have the talent, that we are too old to learn, that others donít like what we are going to write, and that itís not really worth it. So why even try? We channel our energy to being creative and imaginative in making excuses for something we are unwilling to do. But suppose you think of just one sentence a day to write about your technique in making your beautiful orchids bloom, for example. In two monthsí time you have 60 or more sentences. Think about it. We eat our meals one bite at a time, we drive to work one mile at a time, and our lifeblood is pumped one heartbeat at a time.
So in case you change your mind and are convinced of activating your right brain and start doing the best cognitive exercise, send what you wrote anytime so we can continue Brain Waves indefinitely. Iíll do some editing and even embellishing if you want me to. Well, Iíll be waiting for it. My ultimate goal in keeping Brain Waves is for five years and this is its fifth year. Unless I get some contribution from anyone of you, this will be its last year. Brain Waves started in October 2001 and so, this is its 5-year anniversary.
Little things that sharpen our sense of appreciation
What often drives people to vices like drugs, alcohol and promiscuities I believe is boredom. Boredom, like loneliness, is a state of mind, a universal sadness that saps the vitality of mankind. It clouds the mind and dulls the senses. To paraphrase the old adage: ďA bored mind is a devilís workshop.Ē Boredom makes you want to do something and anything, to go anywhere but here. Itís one of the underlying causes of infidelity among husbands and wives that leads to divorces. They get bored of life, not just of each other, and not for the lack of activities, but for the lack of appreciation and gratitude for the so many things around, the so many things they are blessed with.
I used to just watch TV years ago when I got bored for not thinking of anything to do to feel better or to become useful. I often ended up drinking beers and eating chips, peanuts and popcorn in front of the TV, neglecting doing regular physical exercise. For a while, I could sense that I was getting dull, tired and lazy, no longer enthusiastic about life and frustrated with my job, frequently thinking about retirement that was so far away while debts were filing up like a CD collection that never goes down. I felt like my life was in a state of spiritual emptiness, and life around me was like a desert drying the very marrow of my bones. Itís when I knew I had to do something useful if not challenging and get out of a boring life that I myself unwittingly chose to create.
There is an interesting and enlightening pastime that I started having and that had led me to more challenging intellectual activities, and that one should consider. Make your own private list of favorite things that impact your senses. Not only does it provide a challenging exercise for the mind and memory, it also sharpens your appreciation of these golden moments in time.
Here is my list of my 10 most favorite sounds: The chatters of the different birds that frequent my bird feeders in our backyard while they are waiting for me to fill up their feeders like they are saying Ė ďCome on, Clem. Weíre hungry.Ē; our dogís different bark when one of our children has arrived; the humming birds tweeting on our window when their feeding bottles are empty; the scrunch of leaves on a bright Autumn day; raindrops falling on our skylight; seagulls crying; a crackling fire on a bitter winter day; a mother talking to her new baby; a distant train whistle; the absolute silence of a lake at sunset.
Try the exercise yourself; for example - favorite sounds, favorite smells or favorite sights. Believe me. It is fun and relaxing and you may learn something about yourself you didnít know. You may even shift your focus outside your own limited world and toward others, not just yourself. And most of all, you may quit struggling with life and start really living and enjoying. Whatís more, when you finally acquire the desire to pursue things for the good of yourself and others like sharing thoughts, knowledge, ideas and information, etc., they become like invitations from God to spread your wings. They reflect the contributions we are called on to make in this life. (The End)
From Henry Yu, M.D.'s message, two of CIM graduates are in the topnotcher's list in the recent medical board exam held in August 2006. They are: ERWYN C. NOVILLA, M.D. - 3rd placer - 84.67. JUN MAXIMO F. LASCO, M.D. - 7th placer - 84.00
1,491 out of 2,696 doctors passed the said exam. The national passing average is 55%. CIM is 88%. Overall, CIM ranks number 2, after U.P.
Well, doctors, Congratulations to all of you who now have the Philippine license, not to kill, but to do no harm. You just don't know how proud we all are here in the U.S. with all of you especially Dr. Novilla and Dr. Lasco. But Guys, how did you do it? I thought I was smart when I was in the medical school but I did not get to the top level, probably only just below the middle. Well, make that above the middle. But where did I go wrong? I guess I went with the wrong group, having too much good time even during the exam days, satisfying our youthful curiosities. Or maybe it was eating too much balut being washed down with San Miguel beers that clouded our minds and raised our testosterone level to an all time high. What do you think, Guys?
I'm linking here the web site of the photos of the weddings of the daughters of two of our classmates of the CIM Class 1972. I was not able to attend to both of them because of unexpected events that keep me working.
For the wedding of Jenny Lee, Tony Lee and Hai Chai-Lee's daughter: Jenny and Mike wedding
For the wedding of Marissa Graciosa, Joseph and Elena Graciosa's daughter: Marissa and Jay wedding
Two nuns were shopping in a food store and happened to be passing the beer and liquor section. One asks the other if she would like a beer.
The other nun answered that would be good, but that she would be queasy about purchasing it.
The first nun said that she would handle it and picked up a six pack and took it to the counter.
The cashier had a surprised look and the first nun said, "The beer is used for washing our hair,"
The cashier without blinking an eye, reached under the counter and put a package of pretzels in the bag with the beer saying, "Here, don't forget the curlers."
Father O'Malley, an Irish priest just assigned in Texas rose from his bed. It was a fine spring day in his new Texas mission parish. He walked to the window of his bedroom to get a deep breath of the beautiful day outside.
He then noticed there was a jackass lying dead in the middle of his front lawn and promptly called the local police station.
††The conversation went like this:
†"Good morning. This is Sergeant Jones. How might I help you?"
†"And the best of the day te yerself. This is Father O'Malley at St. Brigid's. There is a jackass lying dead in me front lawn. Would ye be †so kind as to send a couple o' yer lads to take care of the matter?"
††Sergeant Jones, considering himself to be quite a wit, replied with a smirk, "Well now father, it was always my impression that you people took care of last rites!"
There was dead silence on the line for a long moment.†
Father O'Malley then replied: "Aye, tis certainly true, but we are also obliged to notify the next of kin."
The family wheeled Grandma out on the lawn, in her wheelchair, where the activities for her 100th birthday were taking place. Grandma couldn't speak very well, but she could write notes when she needed to communicate.
After a short time out on the lawn, Grandma started leaning off to the right so some family members grabbed her, straightened her up, and stuffed pillows on her right.
A short time later, she started leaning off to her left, so again the family grabbed her and stuffed pillows on her left.
Soon she started leaning forward, so the family members again grabbed her, and then tied a pillowcase around her waist to hold her up.
A nephew who arrived late came up to Grandma and said, "Hi, Grandma, you're looking good! How are they treating you?"
Grandma took out her little notepad and slowly wrote a note to the nephew.
"They won't let me fart."
There's a parable about a new mother who discovered a butterfly struggling mightily to escape its cocoon through a tiny opening at the top. She became concerned when the creature seemed to give up after making no progress. Certain that the butterfly wouldn't make it out without help, she enlarged the hole slightly.
On its next try, the butterfly wriggled out easily. But the young woman's joy turned to horror when she saw its wings were shriveled and useless. Her well-intentioned intervention had turned out badly because it interrupted a natural process. Forcing the butterfly to squeeze though a small opening is nature's way of assuring that blood from the creature's body is pushed into the wings. By making it easier, she deprived the butterfly of strong wings.
Children are like being in a cocoon, too. If a healthy adult is to emerge, we, parents, must allow, even encourage, our children to struggle, make mistakes, learn from them and pay a price for bad judgments and conduct. We cannot really shield them completely from the real rough-and-tumble world they are going to enter. They have to learn to play real games in life. Sometimes they win and sometimes they lose. Losing is the hardest to take, but take they must if we want them to learn how to play and win.
One of the stories that I love is about a man who was rushing home with a $1,000 bonus check he'd unexpectedly received from work. Before he got to his car, a desperately sad-looking woman with a young baby asked him for a few dollars. She said her child had leukemia and was dying. He reached into his pocket for some loose bills and accidentally pulled out his bonus check. He looked at the check for a moment and then at the woman's baby and spontaneously endorsed it to her, saying, "Use this to do what you can for your baby."
When he told his family what happened, his 16-year-old son said, "I can't believe you gave her our money. You don't even know her. She was probably conning you." His wife looked disappointed and chided him for being naÔve.
The man looked hurt, but said, "I just thought she needed it more than we did."
A week later, his son showed him a newspaper article about a woman with a baby who had been arrested for scamming people in the area. "This is the lady you gave the money to, isn't it?" his son asked disdainfully.
"Yes," the father replied, as he smiled broadly.
"What are you smiling about?" the boy demanded. "You were cheated! She made a fool out of you."
"Don't you see?" his dad replied. "This is wonderful news. It means the baby's not dying."
Only then did his wife get it. Overwhelmed with love for the generous man she married, she hugged her husband and said, "Your dad will earn other bonuses. Be thankful we have each other, our health and a truly good man we can all be proud of."
This story just tells us that it's really hard to feel bad when we feel grateful. Our mind keeps one thought at a time so that if we fill it with gratitude, then there is no room for negativity. In any situation no matter how negative, there is always something to grin, laugh or at least smile at if you look for it and not get yourself stuck in what should have been. And there is always something to be grateful for. Life itself is more than enough to be grateful for.
This poem entitled "The Man in the Glass" by Dale Wimbrow was written in 1934 and published in The American Magazine as "The Guy in the Glass." It's about character as what someone once said: "Character is who you are when no one else is watching." Like returning a shopping cart, for example. I used to just leave the cart anywhere convenient in the parking area until I saw an old woman struggling to push her empty cart to where the cart was supposed to be returned. Since then I returned empty cart properly like somebody is watching me.
The Man in the Glass
When you get what you want in your struggle for self,
For it isnít your Father or Mother or Wife
Heís the feller to please, never mind all the rest,
You may be like Jack Horner and "chisel" a plum
You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years