February 2003 Vol. 3 Issue 3

An Internet Newsletter publication of the American Society of CIM Alumni, Inc.

Special Edition

"The spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God." --Romans 8:16

Truth and Freedom

from: Vicente Villa Jr., M.D. Class 1968

     You pointed out correctly in a previous issue the sad fact that "we"  - that is us doctors, - oftentimes remember "God" during funerals only. May I invite you to remember this "God" when you write your articles - whether it be on politics, or malpractice, or even your jokes.

    Your jokes this issue were in very poor taste. Do not forget that some of your readers are Catholics and choose to remain so. Therefore your denigration God and those who are called to priesthood and religious life is totally inappropriate and calls for a public retraction and apology.

    Your exaltation of freedom was good, but incomplete. You bought into the media propaganda about the "parasites" among our society - the unproductive, the infirm.  You even advocate the government line about the necessity to "disarm Iraq" without considering the incalculable human suffering of those men and women and children, human being like you and me, on the ground whole will be the unwilling recipients of our bombs and missiles.    

     In the comfort of your home, so far removed from Camotes Island, you have forgotten to make the absolutely necessary connection between freedom and truth, following the biblical injunction, "You will know the truth, and truth will make you free." All freedom is ultimately based on truth - the whole truth about man and the world.


    31. The human issues most frequently debated and differently resolved in contemporary moral reflection are all closely related, albeit in various ways, to a crucial issue: human freedom.

     32. Certain currents of modern thought which have lost the sense of the transcendent or which are explicitly atheistic, have gone so far as to exalt freedom to such an extent that it becomes an absolute, which would then be the source of values. The indivi­dual conscience is accorded the status of a supreme tribunal of moral judgment which hands down categorical and infallible deci­sions about good and evil. To the affirmation that one has a duty to follow one’s conscience is unduly added the affirmation that one’s moral judgment is true merely by the fact that it has its ori­gin in the conscience. But in this way the inescapable claims of truth disappear, yielding their place to a criterion of sincerity, authenticity and “being at peace with oneself”, so much so that some have come to adopt a radically subjectivistic conception of moral judgment.

    As is immediately evident, the crisis of truth is not unconnec­ted with this development. Once the idea of a universal truth about the good, knowable by human reason, is lost, inevitably the notion of conscience also changes. Conscience is no longer considered in its primordial reality as an act of a person’s intelligence, the function of which is to apply the universal knowledge of the good in a specific situation and thus to express a judgment about the right conduct to be chosen here and now. Instead, there is a ten­dency to grant to the individual conscience the prerogative of independently determining the criteria of good and evil and then acting accordingly. Such an outlook is quite congenial to an indi­vidualist ethic, wherein each individual is faced with his own truth, different from the truth of others.

    34. “Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?”. The question of morality, to which Christ provides the answer, cannot prescind from the issue of freedom. Indeed, it considers that issue central, for there can be no morality without freedom: “It is only in freedom that man can turn to what is good”. But what sort of freedom? The Council, considering our contemporaries who highly regard freedom and assiduously pursue it, but who “often cultivate it in wrong ways as a license to do anything they please, even evil,” speaks of genuine freedom: “Genuine freedom is an outstan­ding manifestation of the divine image in man. For God willed to leave man ‘in the power of his own counsel’ (cf Sir 15:14), so that he would seek his Creator of his own accord and would freely arrive at life and blessed perfection by cleaving to God”. Though each individual has a right to be respected in his own journey in search of the truth, there exists a prior moral obligation, and a grave one at that, to seek the truth and to adhere to it once it is known. As Cardinal John Henry Newman, that outstanding defen­der of the rights of conscience, forcefully put it: “Conscience has rights because it has duties”.

    The Church asserts the fundamental dependence of freedom upon truth, a dependence which has found its clearest and most authoritative expression in the words of Christ: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32).

    John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor


Human Bondage

by Clem S. Estrera, Jr., Class 1972

"There's no need to leave the house for better seeing. No need to peer from window. Instead, live in the center of your being. The way to do is to be.." --Tao

My Appreciation
     I want to thank Dodong Villa, Jr., M.D. of the class 1968, for his comment. For more than a year since we started Brain Waves, there's never been an occasion on which one of its issues has gotten such emotionally stimulating and thought-provoking comment. It is this kind of comment that opens us up to many possibilities. It is also this kind of comment that puts me personally on a journey to the deepest recesses of my mind. It asks penetrating questions that get deep into and disturb your conscience, and thus make you want to find the answers. But it leads you to learn to appreciate the wonders of the human mind and the tenderness of the human heart. It challenges not just the way you think, but also the way you feel. For it produces a moral dilemma that makes you seek for a perfect balance, a moral predicament that you cannot just laugh off, and a moral premise that you cannot just ignore. It humbles you down to solicit for others' ideas and opinions to help you seek and find the answers in the kingdom of the human heart and the convolution of the human brain. Light, not darkness, and light alone, not flame, helps you find your way to a perfect balance; a little sense of humor, not too much seriousness, lets you settle your predicament; tenderness, not righteousness, helps you make sense of your premise.

     Amazingly, this kind of comment also leads you to learn and understand at least some of the amazing human behaviors; their sense and sensibilities, their sincerity and sensitivities, and their strength and structure. You are somewhat surprised to realize that there are wonderful friends you've never thought you had who would simply want to brave the storm and come out in the rain with you, if nothing else. Others would offer to provide an umbrella so you can go on, while still others would want to stop the rain by forecasting the weather like the horizon is going to get brighter, not darker. Somehow they want to give you the sun on a cloudy day. If you had any doubt at all of the goodness of mankind before then, these wonderful friends would blow away the last remnant of that doubt like the final arctic cold front in an early spring being blown to the ocean by the warm Southern wind. These friends make you believe in yourself, and make you reach into your heart to bring out the best in you. I could never thank every one of them enough. But I'd like to say something to every one of them by quoting a lyric from a beautiful song: "I love you even more than I did before…"

Difference of Opinion
     When I decided to start our newsletter, it was my intention that it should be different from any other alumni association's newsletter, or any other newsletter of non-commercial association for that matter that contains only the news or update of its association's activities or its members. I wanted it to be the means for the alumni or anyone who wishes to participate, of expressing their opinions, of writing about their personal stories, experiences or whatever they have in their mind, for I believe that having it that way, we would understand each other better, and our friendship and fellowship would grow stronger. I've never really hoped, let alone expected, that some alumni would help me with the news or information about our fellow alumni, their family, and about the CIM activities in Cebu. Privacy issue is too precious to volunteer any information that involves the family except the news of death that seems to deluge your e-mail like an avalanche at the crack of a gun. It travels like a menacing cloud, fast and furious. I have always believed that understanding would make us all comfortable with each other and thus make us readily develop a sense of closeness with each other. At least we would know when to tiptoe around each other's presence although it has been my hope that perhaps soon we'd all realize that it's not fun having to "walk on eggshells" around the presence of our own kind.

     There are two topics that I am aware of that could easily provoke difference of opinion and unfavorable reaction, and they are: politics and religion. It's not that I'm afraid of unfavorable reaction. It's just that these topics particularly religion is too personal and the argument that you may provoke from it has no hope for a settlement. I have seen too many arguments about religion that have never been settled. The two opposing individuals seemed to measure their points on how loud they could scream at each other. In Camotes, I have seen a couple of individuals killed each other while few more were trying to kill each other for a religious argument that they could not win. In fact, in any religious war, there's never been a hope for a resolution. The irony of all these is that, both sides believe in the Commandment that says: "Love thy neighbor as thyself." And yet, they are willing to kill each other just to impose on each other what they believe is right about their religious belief.

     When moral righteousness and intolerance dominate, all too often it's not enough to disagree with the opinion of others. That opinion must be judged as bad. It's not enough to argue and protest against abortion; abortion must be judged as murder and so the abortion clinics must be bombed or at least closed. Where is love? Where is compassion? Where is tolerance? Where is kindness? It's not enough to believe that God is the ultimate judge; what is believed to be His judgement must be carried, sentence handed down, and punishment enforced, just for a difference of opinion and a desire to impose one's belief in what is to be God's judgment. Human ironies are everywhere and involve every walk of life. But it doesn't mean, however, that we should not include even a touch of religion in our newsletter. Hell, this is a free country. Anyone can write about it and I'll publish it. But I just would want to encourage everyone to be tolerant and open-minded, for they're the only ways to keep our negative emotions in checked.

Politics Revisited
     In the previous issue of Brain Waves, I decided to write about politics for a change because I run out of ideas, and I think it's the best topic to provoke intellectual opinions and discussion. Most of the time, I get the idea from the articles of other staff and from someone's comment on our newsletter, but articles have dried up, hopefully temporarily. You may not know it, but I sometimes see something in your message that you may not be aware of that reminds me of another thing and thus gives me an idea for my next article. Was it Lao-tzu or Confucius who said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step? An idea is that single step and is all it takes. As far as I'm concerned, once an idea is formed in my mind, the article is done.

     To go back to the comment above, as I said in the beginning of my article on politics, "my interest in politics is mainly in the principle and philosophy that it caters to because I believe they determine the course of the nation, if not the world." I don't buy into the opinion of the media about politics in particular, but to its principle and philosophy. To me, the principle and philosophy behind disarming Iraq by force if necessary as my position, is to send a strong irrevocable message to every rogue country in the world that if it threatens peace and freedom and doesn't cooperate and comply with the U.N. resolution, it's non-compliance is going to have regretful consequences. But the principle and philosophy that the U.N. has followed all these years is that peace can be achieved by tolerating constant cheating of which Iraq has done and continued to do for the past twelve years. My argument was not about the morality of war, but about the many U.N resolutions that haven't been complied, and actions not enforced. The U.N. is following the principle and philosophy of indecision, appeasement, fear, and fickleness. What's the use of having a resolution if the U.N. doesn't exercise its authority to enforce it? What does that tell you of a leader who won't or cannot lead until everyone would follow him? What would you do if you are Saddam Hussein and you are constantly being allowed to cheat? Would you take the U.N. as the world's authority seriously and respect? If Saddam Hussein is allowed to continue cheating, what do you think other rogue countries' government leaders would do? Just to contemplate on all these is enough for a significant number of people like me to be concerned about what the world is going to be for our children and grandchildren.

     The principle of leadership involves the ability to see things before others do - sometimes see things that others never see. That's why a leader has to lead and "walk on ahead," not wait for others to see things they haven't been able to see. When it's time to decide - decide, not dawdle. That's the principle I'm talking about in a leadership. Since Iraq has not complied with the U.N. resolution within the time allowed because it has no intention to cooperate and comply as has been demonstrated with overwhelming evidence, then Iraq is responsible for its civilian casualties, not the countries enforcing the resolution. Now this is the morality of war. This is not about God's laws and judgments. This is about the laws of the land that God wanted men and women to have in order to govern themselves and maintain peace and order. So to make my point clear, let me paraphrase the movie: "With the wrong kind of philosophy and a principle of indecision, the world will only become as shaky as the Fiddler on the Roof."

Freedom and Truth
     "Know the truth. And the truth will set you free," the Bible says. The problem with these religious truth and freedom is that it's terribly hard to understand them because their interpretation or implication is so vague, not straightforward. I have always wondered why religious interpretations can't be simplified for everyone to understand easily. It takes special men and women to follow what the religious authorities are saying. That's probably the reason of another religious quote: "Many are called, but few are chosen." Ordinary people like you and I can easily get confused. Or is it only me? I don't know about you, but I have read the excerpt above ten times and I'm still not sure if I understand it correctly. But let me give everyone my personal take on this issue. This divine freedom being talked about would take an unwavering faith in God, unrelenting commitment, dedication and determination to serve your life to Him that probably only the Saints can achieve. Me? Nahh.., it's never been in my wildest dream to be running for sainthood. I'm more than happy and satisfied to be just dodging hell.

     It is my personal belief that ordinary humans like you and I may know or may have at least some idea about this divine truth, but we can never achieve this divine freedom. Yet the excerpt above makes it look like it's easy to do it as if when we know the truth, then the freedom is a piece of cake. No, it's not as easy as it looks. It's because it takes complete surrender to God like what Mother Theresa did to achieve this freedom. To have this freedom means your mind or conscience becomes free of all the negative human emotions, so that what are left in it are the positive emotions. You offer yourself to God unconditionally and give your love, kindness, compassion, charity and other human relationship-building emotions to everyone like you and I, and particularly to the least fortunate ones or those in depravity, unconditionally.

     But far removed from Camotes, I would venture to say that some ordinary people may have achieved this kind of freedom for a brief moment. I personally believe that the authenticity of this divine freedom is determined only by how we respond to the threat of the inevitability of our untimely death. It's not that if you know the truth, you can achieve this freedom. No, I don't think so. It is that if you achieve this freedom, you free yourself from the human bondage of the negative emotions and thus you are now willing to face and accept the truth.

    Somehow I believe that I had achieved this freedom at one time when I crashed with my bicycle chased by a huge German Shepherd. I was lying on the ground as what I told in the previous issue of Brain Waves on my article Politics in Malpractice Crisis, although I did not tell you everything. Truth be told, looking at the face of the dog staring down at me, I closed my eyes and completely surrendered myself to God and whispered: "Here I am, Lord. Take me, I'm yours." In that brief moment, it seemed as if I was floating on air, my mind was totally free of any negative emotions like fear, guilt, hate, regret, worry, anger, envy, jealousy, etc. I was contented and happy to know that I've loved my family, parents, brothers and sisters, friends, cousins, co-workers and all the people I knew of, and have been nice, kind and tolerant to every one. But only for that brief moment. If you ask me whether I want that kind of moment again, the answer is - Hell, No! I had the worst nightmare in my life with it afterwards that turned my blood to ice and my skin into a sprinkler. I woke up with chills, shaky, but soaked and sweaty. My heart was beating against my chest like I was cycling up the Blue Ridge mountain. It was Cujo coming toward me snarling like one of those Hounds of Baskerville, with blood dripping his mouth, teeth sharper and longer than those of the great white shark, and eyes flaming red like it was the devil himself. It's not the kind of ending I'd like myself to have.

     I didn't and couldn't understand why I just closed my eyes and had that kind of courage and calmness to be able to face death like that and the freedom to willingly accept the truth. Well, it was not really death; it was a deadly dog. But you know what? I thought at one time that perhaps it was God, because if you read the dog backward… well,. .. never mind. I dismissed the thought right away. I'm not exactly the kind of person whom the authority above would bother. I'm a catholic but I rarely if ever go to church and hardly if ever pray. That, I'm not ashamed, let alone proud of. But I have faith in God; only that I see no reason to keep reminding and telling Him about it. I'd rather just do what I believe He wants me to - treat every one as nice and fair as I possibly can whether they are rich or poor, strong or weak, etc.

    This was actually my second brush with death. After the first when I had a blowout tire in the Interstate highway at high speed, I've made up my mind that if God wants me to leave the earth, then I'll leave anytime; no question ask, no last minute prayer for mercy. Heck, that should pay off all my debts and mortgages. My wife covers me with life insurance that would make a millionaire out of my family probably for the rest of their life even after all the debts and mortgages paid. But if there is one last request I'm allowed to make, it will be - No Cujo, please!… Anyway, I'm only hoping that the authority above is always busy with others and thus keeps forgetting when it's my time to go, but doesn't forget that it's not my time yet. I know, some of you might think that how could I consider even the possibility that God could be forgetful? Hey, I'm human, and I'm entitled to hope. Don't I?

A freedom beyond our reach. Why?
     The reason why I say that it's not possible for ordinary people like you and I to achieve this divine freedom is because as humans, we are subjected to the human bondage of the so many negative emotions, the worst of them are - hate, envy, jealousy, anger, resentment - the kind of emotions that destroys human relationship, if not destroys humans themselves. For as we were growing up, we've learned to pass judgment on each other. In other words, we have become judgmental. We have to make judgment all the time like what to eat or what to wear, etc. But being judgmental is different.

     Being judgmental involves making heavily weighted negative judgments without the wisdom and perspective of compassion. It has a high level of negative energy attached to your judgements. It's like; it's not only that you prefer the dress you choose for your daughter, the dress your daughter chooses is bad, and you become angry with her to call her a slut. Not only that you don't like the food, the food is bad and thus you hate the restaurant or you are angry with your wife who cooked the food. Not only that you pass judgment, you often also "cast the first stone." Think how many times you've insulted your wife for nothing more than a poorly cooked food, or how many times you've insulted your husband for nothing more than forgetting to pick up your child. Haven't you heard yourself saying this: "How could you be so stupid?" There, that's the emotional stone being cast.

     It's mainly because of being judgmental that we cannot get rid of negative emotions and thus can never escape from the human bondage, achieve the divine freedom, and willingly face the truth. Just imagine how many divorces could have been prevented if husbands and wives would only listen and understand each other, instead of passing judgment and imposing that judgment on each other? How many broken-hearted children could have been saved from emotional breakdown or from running away from home if parents simply understand and learn to respect their children's individuality rather than judge them and impose parents' moral standard on them? How many friendly relationships could have been preserved rather than repealed, if friends simply let their friends be themselves? How many fights and even wars could have been averted if people could only accept the way they are and respect each other's differences as long as they don't violate one's individual right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Too many to overwhelm anyone's imagination.

The Risky Business of Jokes
     "I realize that humor isn't for everyone. It's only for people who want to have fun, enjoy life, and feel alive." --Anne Wilson Schaef

     Once again, I want to make it clear that almost all of the jokes in our newsletter are from the e-mail circulation. My only criterion for selecting which ones I use for Brain Waves is based on what I believe that many of the readers may not have read the joke yet. If the same joke is sent to me by 3 or more different individuals, I don't include that joke because what's the use when many of the readers have already read it. For the jokes I select, all I do is just copy and paste them in our newsletter with a little bit of formatting to fit in the web page. Just imagine the work if I have to type them myself. I don't even get a cup of coffee for doing all the things I've done. It's okay. I'm not complaining. So technology has made everything easy and I hope those of you who want to participate, would get into the Internet and E-mail bandwagon, because that's where the fun is in this world that is moving fast and never turns back, leaving you like a cowboy with no horse in the middle of the mountains of Grand Canyon, if you don't get in.

     I am aware that there are jokes that may be funny to some people, but not to others. Also, there are jokes that are told solely to evoke laughter, but there are also jokes that are told as a sneaky way of putting down or denigrating a certain individual or group of individuals, etc., and thus I understand the risky business of jokes. That's the reason why I put the heading For Laughs Only so I don't have to worry about being misunderstood as to its intention. Also, I honestly believe that with such heading, I would have more joke selections, for I don't have to think too much about which joke might offend or insult or denigrate certain individual, because there is absolutely no way of knowing which joke. Individuals' sensitivity and tolerance differ in everyone on everything. Obviously even with jokes, it's hard, if not impossible, to avoid conflict, controversy and disagreement. Yet it is with conflict and disagreement that we learn more from each other and know and understand each other better. As the poet T. S. Eliot reminds us, "Only those who risk going too far know how far one can go." If we keep avoiding the risk of conflict or disagreement, we'll never learn each other's sensitivities, let alone know each other's tolerance and preferences. Would it not be better to know where the land mines are so you can have choices either to avoid them, defuse them, or blow them up?

Restoring Balance with Jokes and Humor
     I happen to believe that with so many of us having serious and stressful jobs and often have to work too hard particularly these days when malpractice insurance premium is out of control and job layoff is widespread, we all need a break. Humor and jokes give us that break. They make us at least forget, if only temporary, our stressful situation or whatever problems we have, and with such break, we may even look at our situation or problem on a different perspective or under a brighter light. "When you lose your sense of humor," says McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) in the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, "you lose your footing." "He knows," says one of the other characters, "you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy." When we lose our balance, it's easy to lose our perspective. And when we lose our perspective, we would take ourselves and the world so seriously and get so caught up with our dilemmas, problems and predicaments that we won't be able to see any way out.

    As many of us must have known already, anti-depressant medications are the number one group of drugs sold just in the U.S. and Europe alone. These are prescription and over-the-counter drugs and do not include those herbal and other home remedies. In fact, meditation and yoga have never been so popular. For stress as we all know, has been linked to many illnesses. Stress creates disharmony of what the Chinese called Yin and Yang. On the other hand, jokes, humor and laughter have a way of harmonizing the Yin and Yang, restore balance and keep us from succumbing to stresses that make us vulnerable to illnesses.

"Let there be light.."
     As far as the jokes I have selected that are published in our newsletter are concerned, the answer is definitely - No, I won't delete nor remove, let alone retract or apologize, for any of them simply because they seemed callous to someone's sensitivity. Doing so would send a message to every reader that we have become intolerant, have lost our sense of humor, and thus we are now in the business of censorship even for jokes. We are no longer practicing what we are preaching. To our readers, we would become nothing more than hypocrites and our newsletter would lose its integrity and credibility.

     Never in my wildest moment have I ever imagined myself allowing or even watching our newsletter to lose its integrity and credibility for anything, let alone for a couple of jokes that are intended solely for laughs. Before I'd do that, if I ever have to do that, I would want to be heavily sedated first. Otherwise I'd quit. No! As long as I'm the editor of Brain Waves, I will never sacrifice its integrity and credibility for anything, even for the job of the President of the United States. When I make a mistake, I apologize. But a joke is not a mistake. It's a laugh. In fact, the Saturday Night Lives' TV program has the humor and jokes that if you are not open-minded, they can readily snap your morality like a twig.

     Our readers are our main sources of jokes, and jokes are good sources of humor and laughter. I see no reason to kill the goose just because a buyer or two don't consider one or two of her eggs as gold. Censorship particularly for jokes has never been an effective solution to any moral dilemma. In fact, it only creates more dilemmas, animosity, hatred, and all other human relationship-destroying emotions. We judge someone's opinion or preference according to our own moral standard. It's not only that we don't or cannot agree with one's preference, that preference must be judged as bad to justify ourselves in sentencing it for censorship. But as Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that."

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe one of the main reasons why many of us in the alumni come to attend our reunion is because we want to have fun, to hear all kinds of jokes from our fellow alumni just to have some laughs. For we, Filipinos, are known for our sense of humor and that's why wherever we gather, the place always echoes with laughter. A gathering without jokes and laughter is like a party without music. It's hard to imagine at least to me coming to that party.

     Thus I want to demonstrate what we have been preaching since we started Brain Waves - open-mindedness, tolerance, love, kindness and understanding. This is one of the reasons why I don't hesitate to occasionally use the different "four-letter" words that some of you may have objected, because you read them in so many paperbacks and hear them in TV and movies, etc. But I use them only in an appropriate situation - to catch the reader's attention, to try to highlight a humor, and to make an emphasis. When you write something, there are parts in your story or article that without these so-called "four-letter" words, your line becomes dull and dry. But I won't condone using them indiscriminately just so one can use them as a means of enjoying one's vulgarity. We should flex rather than fortify our morality; bend, but not break our principle; just so that we can learn to tolerate and respect each other's opinion and preferences. One's opinion or preference should not be shunned, or shut up, or censored all because it hasn't met our own moral standard and that we don't like it or don't agree with it.

     This is the real world where the Young and the Restless, the Lady in Red, the Dumb and Dumber, Bevis and Butthead, the Shanghai Knights, the Raiders of the Lost Ark and all the rest of the people regardless of age, gender, race, color or religion, have to learn to accept each other's individuality in order to learn to live with each other in peace and harmony. We are not in Kansas anymore. And let it be known that an editorial writer of integrity, whether a man or a woman, cares so much for what he writes. Open-mindedness, not moral rigidity, determines his integrity. He focuses on how best he can express what's in his mind, not on what he thinks or believes his readers would want to read. He is not concerned what his readers would want to read. All he is concerned of is giving his best, because he believes that that is what every one deserves - the best. And that, he will never compromise. If he is not allowed to give his best, he would rather quit writing than write something less than his best.

    We, humans, have come a long way to learn to live with each other, get along well with each other, laugh with each other - all because we strive for tolerance, not dominance; kindness and gentleness, not moral righteousness; and understanding, not passing judgment; that we are able to accept the way others are and respect their differences. We are not the same because every one of us is unique. God made us that way. That's why we make choices. Some may disagree with our choice, and there is nothing we can do about that. But we should come to light and understand clearly that we are different so we can at least accept an agreement - to agree to disagree.