January-February 2006 Edition Vol. 6 Issue 1
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.
The history of human life is the history of each person’s journey from birth to death. Along our own journey, we see wealth and poverty, joy and pain, peace and struggle that have existed side by side. The world has always been like that, rich and varied, and sometimes unfathomable and unforgiving. Nevertheless it constantly gives us something to interpret, argue or simply ignore. When we read or study history, we’re always reading someone’s interpretation or argument, someone’s form of contribution to the world that can only be as good as each of us makes it. We each can tell many true stories about ourselves by selecting facts from our personal histories, and we can always learn from each other’s stories even if we don’t believe them as long as we keep our mind open, for they can illuminate our path, or persuade us of the wisdom of one choice or another. But we can never learn anything from the viewpoint of cynicism.
Now if we look into our own personal history, many of us would find that although there are many crossroads, there is a certain crossroad that is significant if not memorable because after having passed through it, we changed our life for good. It involved hard thoughts – a struggle with difficulties that nagged like a toothache we could not just run away from; uncertainties that sent us to a whirlwind of tension and anxiety; fear and insecurity that rendered us hesitant and helpless. There’s no question that the future can be scary, especially if we try to predict what will happen. If only we knew what will happen, then we wouldn’t have to be afraid of the future. But in our younger days, all too often our imagination had a way of running wild. Probably because of the lack of experience and the almost absence of encouragement and support from family and friends, trusting ourselves was way too hard. Self-doubt was a lot easier to indulge on.
There were questions that demanded mental clarity to answer, dilemmas that called for prudence and practicality to resolve, and so like wild horses, imagination had to be reined in and emotions had to be tamed, tasks that often kept us awake late into the night. We needed a good solid decision based on good solid thinking on how best to dance with destiny. But once that decision was made, we became willing to plunge ahead, daring to cross the gap that separates decision and action. We were ready to face life as it comes, not as we feared it might come so that if life would deal us with a lemon, we felt like we knew what to do – make lemonade.
To reach a dream requires not just desire and deliberation but also a great deal of willingness, commitment and effort on our part. It is not what we hope, wish or fear that makes us a winner – it’s what we decide. Ben Stein said: "The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want." Once we have decided, we have opted for a change and perhaps with hopes and prayers, we are ready to have the skirmishes with life. There is a saying that we cannot make an omelet without breaking an egg. So until we act, nothing will change; until we commit, persist and persevere, no dream is fulfilled.
It’s indecision that makes us lose our options and opportunities – the either this or that; now or later; to be or not to be, should I or shouldn’t I; etc. When we run out of the either because we could not decide, then events would decide for us and we’d end up being forced to settle with the or. Indecision keeps us from having the willingness to struggle to survive and achieve what we want. Our inability to decide is often because we are afraid to look into ourselves to probe our depths, afraid to discover our faults, foibles and flaws. We don’t want to mess with our own perfection.
Beliefs and destiny
Sometimes it’s difficult to accept the choices life offers us. But having faced hardships like a way of life or an essential part of growing up, and having quit college for almost two years engaging in hard labor from one job to another, I consider myself fortunate, for such rough-and-tumble experiences had given me the advantage of having to start wondering seriously early on about my own destiny. Work, although we sometimes curse it especially a hard physical labor, is actually a blessing. It at least makes us think, and we come to know ourselves better. It sparks and fans the flame of self-reliance and independence. It gives us the incentive to plan the next best forward movement. Of course, it can also discourage and depress us, and if we simply accept it as our fate, it would rob ourselves of the chance to discover more than one little slice of our own potential. It would replace self-respect with self-pity and a hunger for self-sufficiency with entitlement mentality.
So I started asking questions early in life - What makes people rich and what makes people poor? What are the factors and forces that drive individuals and even nations to move and push forward and grow rich while others stagnate and stay poor? Are some people destined to be rich while other people destined to be poor? Am I one of those who are destined to engage in rough-and-tumble jobs just to survive? What are my chances of marrying a rich girl and simply waltz my way through life? But with pockets that were almost always empty except for a folded piece of toilet paper as a substitute for a handkerchief, and with looks that could not turn a girl’s head, to consider becoming rich by marrying a rich girl was a fantasy I could not afford to indulge, a waste of time. So it did not take any hard thought to make up my mind that I had to control my own destiny, struggle to make it on my own.
Now what would explain success and failure in life? What separates the comfortable haves and the insecure have-nots, the powerful and the poor? Is it merely intelligence, the way intelligence is used, or both? How important are the beliefs we have acquired or are inculcated in us since childhood in guiding us to the use of our intelligence? Do we have to follow them just because they are handed down to us from our parents and grandparents even if these beliefs no longer make sense in our own life and are even counterproductive? Is there certain belief that is instilled in every one of us that determines success like the belief that each of us has the power to shape our own destiny and that the future can be better than the present if we learn to use our intelligence appropriately, work hard and grow rich? Does religious belief or belief in God have anything to do with a person’s destiny or a countries’ destiny?
Religion and discipline
Growing up in a family and social culture where religious beliefs were the main basis of teaching and discipline, it was hard to think freely or independently to decide and pursue what you really want, for an open discussion about your disagreement if any, was discouraged and even rebuked rather than encouraged or at least considered and respected. You become motivated by guilt or fear and thus your focus is often shifted toward avoiding setback or mistake because of its consequences, its penalty or punishment, rather than motivated by the desire to achieve. One setback is often enough to make you stop dead on your track. One act considered as a mortal sin can torture you with worry and guilt feeling for the rest of your life.
The problem with religion is that the Bible, Koran and even the Buddhist scriptures carry similar requirements and similar penalties. They claim that if you don’t live by a specific code, you will go to hell. Many of the religious leaders especially during my time or in the past utilized these scriptures as though they are given the power to impose guilt or fear to keep followers in line. I had to struggle to believe that God wouldn’t rule that way, for He is a loving God. Such teaching and basis of discipline if strictly imposed with the use of guilt or fear can demoralize and ruin young minds. They would discourage making decision, taking risks, and self-responsibility. Because of the fear of the consequences of making mistakes, young kids are left with no better choice than to avoid mistakes or hide their mistakes if they make any, or blame their mistakes on someone or something. Kids' emotional maturity in particular gets stunted. The Greeks used to say that we suffer our way to wisdom. Mistakes are often the way to wisdom.
Ironically, I had noticed that many people who profess or claim to strongly believe in God by constantly praising Him end up making God a scapegoat for their problems, blaming Him for their own mistakes, and then whining about their situations that are clearly the results of their own thoughts and actions? Somehow they forget which one of them is God and which isn’t. They talk and want God to listen. They give God list of things to do, and then make deals and promises with Him. And yet, when they are caught with their evil deeds, they are all too ready to claim: “The devil made me do it.” Or when they make mistakes and put themselves in a bad situation, they would say: “It’s God’s will.” But are they not supposed to be fully responsible for what they have done? Further, many of these people also preach love, compassion and generosity, yet caress resentment, grudge and greed as forbidden lovers, tasting them, smelling them, kissing them, sleeping with them, overindulging their senses in them, until they are forced to push them away after they have done something they feel really bad about so they can beg God for forgiveness. Is it irony or hypocrisy?
To me, when it comes to God, ours is not to talk but to listen; not to propose let alone demand but to be grateful, for everything is already there for us to seek and find. Suffice it to say, it’s hard for us to listen to ourselves, to the stillness within us, let alone to feel the divine presence and allow our inner voice to guide, nurture and safeguard us from within when so many leaders and experts of even the same religion are clamoring with different biblical interpretations, advices and ideas to try to get us to conform to their notions of what God should be and what we should do to gain His favor. It’s a lot easier to conform. But each of us must listen to the truth within our hearts; there lies the wisdom we need, and there lies our capacity for love and creativity.
A tool for survival
Some of us may have believed or may still believe that the story of Adam and Eve is a myth. But myth or a true story, let's just say that they existed as God's first human creations for the sake of discussion. Now have you ever asked yourself what would have happened if Adam and Eve obeyed God's command not to eat the forbidden fruit? Do you think the world would have been populated with humans considering that Adam and Eve discovered their consciousness and therefore became aware of their naked body and subsequently became aware of what they were capable of doing or of having like sex, survival, pleasures and procreation only after they ate the forbidden fruit? Why did God forbid Adam and Eve to eat just that fruit in the first place when He knew, being all-knowing, that they would eat it anyway?
You know, this kind of questions had a way of irritating and upsetting the devoted religious folks in Camotes when I was a kid. Yet there is nothing wrong with a little bit of curiosity even when it comes to God. No one knows exactly what God wants from us although I am convinced that if there is one thing God wants, it is our faith and trust that He is with us for better or for worst, a faith like that of a bird that sings before the sun has risen, for that bird trusts the sky will soon lighten, the sun will rise, and the world will come alive again. It’s a kind of faith that makes you believe deep down that there isn’t a problem that won’t have a solution, a teardrop that won’t have a smile, a weary soul that won’t be energized again.
Well, here's my two cents worth of thought. But first, as far as this article is concerned, the use of man as a gender represents a human being, and that means it represents both man and woman. Now here is what I think.
The forbidden fruit represents an opportunity for man to take the risk, and thus eating it represents man’s daring decision to learn and discover the precious and divine gift that God has given to him - his mind or his consciousness - to use as his tool for survival. Taking risk may have its pitfall, but it also has its reward. Notice that the world was never changed by acts of timidity, but by acts of character and moral courage to do what one believes is the right thing to do. The ones who changed the world are those who choose paths of boldness, roads of courage, facing the highest challenges. They satisfy their curiosity, and thus at the end of the day they settle in, rest and relax, knowing they give life their best shot. Even in a small way they know they made a difference and change their world for the better. They didn't want to settle for mediocrity. They were not afraid to fail, let alone of being corrected. Arthur Koestler said: "If the creator had a purpose in equipping us with a neck, he surely meant us to stick it out. "Frederick Wilcox puts it this way: “Progress always involves risk; you cannot steal second base and keep your foot on the first.”
So what else could the forbidden fruit and eating it represent? What is the most precious God-given gift that each of us has aside from our mind? Some of us would probably say - life. Well, what can you do with your life if you don't have the mind to appreciate it, let alone improve, maintain and make it as it is - life?
Life is life only if it's being kept by a constant process of action and that means thinking, using the mind. So I don't think the devil's temptation had anything to do with man's defiance of God's command. The devil was created to represent man’s choice to use it, if he wants to, as an excuse, not a reason, for his inability to think properly. Having an excuse helps reduce one’s disturbing and even paralyzing guilt feeling at least temporarily to give the mind some clarity to think of apology and repentance. Choices make man truly unique, for with choices, men would have to think differently, or they would only become nothing more than a bunch of robots. God did not create robots, and to behave like one is not what He intends for us to do.
The mind is definitely precious, divine and unique. The mind enables man to adjust his environment to himself to survive. Animals use instinct for self-preservation. But animals have to adjust themselves to their environment in order to survive. If a drought strikes, animals perish, but man builds irrigation canals. If a flood strikes, animals perish, but man builds dams. When winter comes, animals migrate to warmer climate, but man invents fireplaces, heaters and heat pumps. When heat wave strikes, animals look for water to cool themselves; but man stays in his air-conditioned room listening to his music or surfing the Internet. If carnivorous animals attack, the weaker ones perish, but man writes laws like the constitution of the U.S., impose the laws to put criminals behind bars and keep them from disrupting the lives of others.
Using the tool
Have you ever wondered about God’s intention for putting nature? Every time I think about it, I believe God puts nature to serve man's purposes. Wealth doesn't grow on trees, or in nature. It has to be made by men. Nature gives us only raw materials or natural elements. Therefore, man's mind has to discover the knowledge how to recognize these raw materials and use them accordingly and appropriately by turning them into food, paper, clothing, shelter, TV, computer, etc. with all other goods that humans require for survival, comfort and pleasure. But if we ruin nature by indiscriminately utilizing and consuming everything in it and not replacing them, then obviously we’d soon be left with nothing, and nature’s useful elements would become vulnerable to further destruction not only by her forces like flood and mudslides, but also by the accumulation of toxic wastes that poison the environment and thus the people who live in that environment. To attribute this destruction to God is a way of blaming Him, and shirking our responsibility.
There is no question that Nature can disrupt our lives by unleashing its forces like hurricanes and earthquakes, but we should not allow nature to dictate the way we live. We've got to think and create a better way of fighting and defending ourselves against such forces. Otherwise we'd end up blaming and criticizing each other in the aftermath like what has been going on after the hurricane Katrina. Blames and criticisms don't solve problems; they not only create more problems, they also foment resentment and animosity. To quote or paraphrase George W. Bush in his State of the Union address, "Hindsight is not wisdom……There is a difference between responsible criticisms and outright defeatism." A wise man of an island was once presented with a dilemma - "In the next three days, what if a tidal wave is going to wipe out your island? What would you and your people do?" The wise man replied: "We'll have to think and learn immediately how to live under water."
We don’t need to look too far back into the past to understand and appreciate the power of the God-given tool. When man needed to travel to long distances and for longer period of time with his horse without hurting his butt bad, he invented the saddle. Then he realized that he could harness his horses and transport others. So he invented the wheel that soon became a wagon. A wagon became an automobile. Then an automobile became an airplane. All originated from his mind, and all because man realized the power of his God-given tool and used it to the fullest in order to provide mankind not just the basic necessities for survival, but also the luxuries, comfort and pleasure for living. Why not just the basic necessities? For obvious reason that man can think better with all the comforts he is having. Try thinking in a room with no air-conditioning unit during summer in Florida or during a heat wave in Texas. Instead of thinking, you'd spend your time and energy wiping your perspiration and trying to catch a cool breeze. You'd wish you could take off your skin too, not just your shirt. (To be Continued)
A new ASOCIMAI web site
Thanks to Brad Tan of the CIM Class 1983, we now have a new and updated CIM alumni web site. Brad has done a wonderful job on our web site that we all can be proud of. Here is the site address: www.asocimai.org
It's a boy!
Another gambler is born in Las Vegas. Just kidding. Congratulations to Ray and Emma Castillejo of the CIM Class 1972. Michael, Ray's son, and his wife Emerlinda just had a baby boy on February 3, 2006 in Las Vegas. The boy's name is Matthew Luka Castillejo. It's Ray and Emma's first grandchild. Well, Ray, you now have a grandson to spoil. You better start collecting quarters so Matthew can stay in the casino playing the slot machines. We've got friends to give the boy lessons in Poker, Black Jack and Crap. How about it Frax, Pompei, Del and Ed? Do you have time to give a good lesson to the boy - win a little, lose a little, but learn more?
After living in the remote wilderness of Kentucky all his life, an old hillbilly decided it was time to visit the big city.
In one of the stores he picks up a mirror and looks in it. Not ever having seen one before, he remarked at the image staring back at him, "How about that! Here's a picture of my daddy."
He bought the 'picture', but on the way home he remembered his wife, Lizzy, didn't like his father.
So he hung it in the barn, and every morning before leaving for the fields, he would go there and look at it.
Lizzy began to get suspicious of these many trips to the barn.
One day after her husband left, she searched the barn and found the mirror. As she looked into the glass, she fumed, "So that's the ugly thang he's runnin' around with."
Due to a power outage, only one paramedic responded to the call. The house was very, very dark, so the paramedic asked Kathleen, a 3-year-old girl, to hold the light high over her mommy so he could see while he helped deliver the baby.
Very diligently Kathleen did as she was asked. Her mother Heidi pushed and pushed, and after a little while CONNER was born.
The paramedic lifted him by his little feet and spanked him on his bottom.
Conner began to cry.
The paramedic then thanked Kathleen for her help and asked the wide-eyed 3-year-old what she thought about what she had just witnessed.
Kathleen quickly responded, "He shouldn't have crawled in there in the first place. Smack his ass again"!
Honesty and integrity
According to legend, an old Sultan, known as a wise and just leader, was to choose his successor from among his nine sons. He gave the sons each a single seed and directed them to plant and nurture it. "In one year," he said, "I will judge the results of your efforts and choose the next Sultan."
At the end of the year, the Sultan examined each pot and found eight healthy plants and one barren pot presented by his youngest son. He asked what happened and the son replied, "Despite my greatest efforts I could not make my seed grow. I think I was chosen to serve rather than lead."
"My son," the Sultan said, "you have been chosen to serve, but you shall do so as the next Sultan. You alone among your brothers are a man of honor." He then revealed that all the seeds he had given were dead, and he banished his other eight sons for dishonoring his name.
What goes around comes around (My good friend did not mention the name of the author of this story in his e-mail.)
He almost didn't see the old lady, stranded on the side of the road, but even in the dim light of day, he could see she needed help. So he pulled up in front of her Mercedes and got out. His Pontiac was still sputtering when he approached her.
Even with the smile on his face, she was worried. No one had stopped to help for the last hour or so. Was he going to hurt her? He didn't look safe; he looked poor and hungry.
He could see that she was frightened, standing out there in the cold. He knew how she felt. It was that chill which only fear can put in you.
He said, "I'm here to help you, ma'am. Why don't you wait in the car where it's warm? By the way, my name is Bryan Anderson."
Well, all she had was a flat tire, but for an old lady, that was bad enough. Bryan crawled under the car looking for a place to put the jack, skinning his knuckles a time or two. Soon he was able to change the tire. But he had to get dirty and his hands hurt.
As he was tightening up the lug nuts, she rolled down the window and began to talk to him. She told him that she was from St. Louis and was only just passing through. She couldn't thank him enough for coming to her aid.
Bryan just smiled as he closed her trunk. The lady asked how much she owed him. Any amount would have been all right with her. She already imagined all the awful things that could have happened had he not stopped. Bryan never thought twice about being paid. This was not a job to him. This was helping someone in need, and God knows there were plenty, who had given him a hand in the past. He had lived his whole life that way, and it never occurred to him to act any other way.
He told her that if she really wanted to pay him back, the next time she saw someone who needed help, she could give that person the assistance they needed, and Bryan added, "And think of me."
He waited until she started her car and drove off. It had been a cold and depressing day, but he felt good as he headed for home, disappearing into the twilight.
A few miles down the road the lady saw a small cafe. She went in to grab a bite to eat, and take the chill off before she made the last leg of her trip home. It was a dingy looking restaurant. Outside were two old gas pumps. The whole scene was unfamiliar to her. The waitress came over and brought a clean towel to wipe her wet hair. She had a sweet smile, one that even being on her feet for the whole day couldn't erase. The lady noticed the waitress was nearly eight months pregnant, but she never let the strain and aches change her attitude. The old lady wondered how someone who had so little could be so giving to a stranger. Then she remembered Bryan.
After the lady finished her meal, she paid with a hundred dollar bill. The waitress quickly went to get change for her hundred dollar bill, but the old lady had slipped right out the door. She was gone by the time the waitress came back. The waitress wondered where the lady could be. Then she noticed something written on the napkin.
There were tears in her eyes when she read what the lady wrote: "You don't owe me anything. I have been there too. Somebody once helped me out, the way I'm helping you. If you really want to pay me back, here is what you do: Do not let this chain of love end with you."
Under the napkin were four more $100 bills.
Well, there were tables to clear, sugar bowls to fill, and people to serve, but the waitress made it through another day. That night when she got home from work and climbed into bed, she was thinking about the money and what the lady had written. How could the lady have known how much she and her husband needed it? With the baby due next month, it was going to be hard....
She knew how worried her husband was, and as he lay sleeping next to her, she gave him a soft kiss and whispered soft and low, "Everything's going to be all right. I love you, Bryan Anderson."
There is an old saying "What goes around comes around."
Love Poem by Rolando Carbonell (With thanks to Purie Onate for providing the name of the Author)
I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you.