Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Organizing weddings is an inexact science. If there is any exactness about the youngest of social sciences - political science - that's the kind of exactness you will have (and probably less) when you have a wedding.

I wish we could have done some things differently that would have made my sister's wedding more special than it was already. Of course there were some miscues that could have been altogether prevented with more foresight and delegation. However, hindsight, as they say, offers 20/20 vision all the way.

Meantime, take a load of me in this picture. Dang, I look wider than ever! Hmmm... must study old pictures to motivate self to exercise more. This was a great shot care of our eldest brother. Great timing on the shot, and most of all, it included me in it, hahahahahaha!

The experience of this wedding also offers succinct advice to anyone (I mean anyone) who is contemplating making a lifetime commitment such as marriage:

  • All relationships are about roles - you take the role that is required of you in the relationship, and adjust to it accordingly. And, however set or rigid your personality is, you always have to make an adjustment. I'm sure this is a lesson exercised daily by this couple, as they had met in a later stage of their lives. Younger people may have the advantage of growing into a relationship, but they may not have the maturity to make an accurate read and thus make the wrong decisions.
  • It is always better to visualize what kind of life you will be living with your partner. This is both an exercise in creativity and in realism. The creativity entailed is that of projecting the status of the relationship and stretching it over a longer continuum, while the realism, simply, is to limit the idealism and wishful thinking to make such a projection free of sentimentality. Cold-blooded? Not necessarily, but since it is more costly to get into something half-planned and spend your life trying to extricate yourself out of it than it is to refuse getting into it in the first place, a plan almost always works. Which leads to...
  • After holding out so long, if the wish list is too tough or doesn't work, throw it out and start with a new game plan. My ate did this and I'll give it two years before I change my call as "toss-up." Just to be fair to both of them. I don't know exactly what her game plan was given her relationship choices over the last ten years and I didn't pry, but this move, though not exactly sudden, was unexpected and refreshing. I believe they will get along famously, but my natural skepticism creeps in on this one.
  • Keep things simple. Man + woman = love, children, and careers. Begin with the end in mind, which is happiness for both of you. Naturally, one would suppose children is a natural part of the equation, but for some couples, maybe children shouldn't be the norm. In this day and age, the desire for progeny, while natural, isn't necessarily the best choice. Some couples really couldn't cut it as parents. And --- we can all do our part by helping keep the world population in check. As to careers, they just don't cut the mustard on the priority meter UNLESS they were what that brought the couple together in the first place. In this couple's case, careers play a more important role.
  • Savor the journey. Hey, things may not work exactly like you planned, so get ready to suck it up to handle disappointment. We are all on borrowed time, anyway, so make the best out of every situation. As in every situation. Yup, this could be the toughest discipline to maintain.
  • There is no formula to relationship success. I don't want to point out any specific people that I know because they will not be able to offer any defense, and besides, it's just my point of view (okay, stop the disclaimer already --- too defensive!). There is just isn't any way to intellectualize you and your partner to follow a specific plan outlined by the relationship experts. What I've learned in life is that there are no best practices, only best fit. If this is so with companies, more so for one-on-one relationships because they serve as the building blocks of all sorts of relationships. So, before you get frustrated that your partner isn't coming up to spec, it's not necessarily his or her fault.
  • Back to the beginning --- relationships are about negotiation, giving and receiving concessions, and keeping commitments. Of course, in order to keep the relationship moving the partners should be hard enough on themselves as to the commitments they keep to themselves and to one another. The only exception to this and all the other things I've mentioned is that if they are happy and the life they are living is consistent with their own individual and shared values. That's how things will be measured in the end, anyway.
As to me, I also wonder about the inexactitude of attraction. Que sera, sera. She will either come around or not, or another may replace her, or not. I wish she would, because it feels right by me, but then again, in any relationship, however world-girding the unrequited passion may be, it is still unrequited, and the relationship score is ZERO.

That's the only exact score I have right now. Insh'Allah, we will score a few winning points in the next few days. As God wills.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Worshipping Beauty

One author once wrote that beauty is best appreciated by someone, who, upon seeing something beautiful and fully appreciating it, sees the gulf dividing him and it. The true worshipper is the one who gazes on from afar.

(Or so it goes. I can’t claim this to be my original idea, but I don’t want to do the writer any injustice by misquoting him terribly.)

I used to think of this as another aphorism. Now I know this to be true.

I am in love with beautiful things. They can range from the delicate asymmetry of seashells, the careful intricacy of mosaics, or the splash of color in an impressionist painting. I like the contrast of the parched earth and the burning sun, or the lacy contrails of lightning that herald the rain.

I marvel at the grandeur of architectural wonders --- the grandest ones I’ve been in have been the old churches that dot my native land, but I also am intrigued by simplicity by which the function becomes the form in well-designed edifices.

Some people say I have the gift of song. No, I politely disagree; I have been gifted to have listened to the songs of others. Or to have the space I inhabit imbued by the music to which my elders loved listening. I have been gifted to be able to know which music could be good and others which are great.

Most others believe I have the gift of words. I never disagree then; but only ask those who give praise to read and try to understand. As to the others who don’t read … I will cast whatever treasures I may to them. Only then could the cycle be complete, for true beauty can never be contained or truly possessed. It must be shared.

Which brings us now to the beauty of the human form --- yes, I certainly could use more of the kind of sultriness that speaks to humans on an animal level --- not just the one-boner, but certainly the two- or three-boner kind. (If you don’t have any understanding of this, just pretend you do… and no, I haven’t experienced beauty of a four-boner variety. My body just couldn’t hack it and I really don’t have that salacious bent that others have.)

But that’s just beauty that speaks only to one sense. I also see beauty that shines from within; something that illuminates the eyes or the gestures of people and make them transcend the boundaries of their bodies. I see this mostly in the eyes of truly devoted mothers, especially the ones who are deathly poor. The love they have for their children simply overwhelms whatever privation they are experiencing. It is nothing short of miraculous.

And what about the beauty that is forbidding, the one I spoke about in the beginning?

I talk about a “beautiful” person and something within that person’s eyes, movements, speech, exact words appeal to me in such a way that I feel awkward, oafish, misshapen, unwanted, unappealing. I am under no illusions as to how appealing a person I am; neither do I allow myself to be oppressed by those who judge me by my looks and find me wanting.

Still, I am overwhelmed by the thought of someone truly beautiful --- whose physical form is shaped by even more powerful forces within. They are a gift of God to the universe, and no matter how the person himself or herself is as imperfect as each of us mortals are, their own failure to realize themselves does not detract anything from the beauty with which they are imbued. In fact, such beauty is magnified by it because it is unadorned or at times unaware.

(Yeah, I am rambling.)

Such beauty then, affects me such that the heart races, and then STOPS.

I am ultimately overjoyed and yet find my own inadequacy soul-crushing.

The composer Rey Valera puts it another way --- such beauty is to be worshipped, not only loved. The Divine, in His complete understanding, cannot help but allow me this conceit for He has allowed such beauty to be its cause.

No matter if the one I behold twists me into a pitiful wretch, into a helpless puddle of protoplasmic slime. No matter if I, forever supplicant, would give in to each and every one of your endless and impossible demands. No matter, that I who have fallen into depravity, will sell my soul that you may quench its very life and leave my husk on some forgotten roadside.

No matter if I am just another step to another of your conquests, that you may lace my life with a slight smile that will burst my spirit into flame, and yet rending that same spirit with guilt of not doing as you please. Forever the memory of your face is imprinted into my brain, and if by some wicked turn of Pavlov you make me jump through hoops of fire or perform parlor tricks for your own amusement, I will go about such business in the most hangdog manner possible.

No matter if my fevered brain churns out words so desperately so that I could just make you keep on talking, that I may revel in whatever tale you spin, however inane or what’s worse, false.

I look at such beauty and only then do I comprehend the true meaning of despair. How can one such as I hold her close to me?

And yet, even one who despairs must harbor even the smallest drip, an iota, of hope. For such devotion, so long as it be true, can never be destroyed. It is the same promise for me that despite the hard road, no more can I reverse the flow of gravity than can I corrupt the meaning of such beauty.

Only God can do that. So I pray, just as I pray to Him, that even as I am betrayed by my own frailty, that He will lead me to my own designated shore, be it hers or some other’s. Though I am almost certain I will delude myself and break my heart again; it is just my nature that I will keep on doing so.

I have seen something, no, someone, truly beautiful and though I have just caught a glimpse of what she could be, I can only despair of how far apart we could be as people, just as I despair that in a few days I will fly away and be bereft of her presence for another year. Not even knowing what she would think. Or much worse, knowing that she can give no more than kind regards.

No one needs to cast auguries to see that this can be purgatory.

May it just lead me to Heaven someday.

(And you, you who have inspired this post, you must know who you are. I have no wish to deny what I feel for to be untrue to you is to be untrue to all that I hold true in myself, and all that I value. Yes, all of this can end badly, especially for me. Even so, hope springs eternal.)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Flips, Flops, Vindication

Willing Exile: I Still Believe

I've just been here in Manila for a few days and usual, feeling my way through is part of the fun as the real fun is. Usually.

Coming back to the house, I was assaulted by color overload! For those of you who have watched "Fools Rush In" remember what Salma Hayek did to the paint job of Matthew Perry's house? Something like that.

Everything feels so small. (Because you've gotten so big.) That's what everyone says. Remember that line where you are supposed to perservere no matter what people tell you. The thing is, oftentimes that's true.

Internet connectivity in the Philippines, is astoundingly SLOW, despite our economic managers' assertions to the contrary. Truth of the matter is, the quantity of Internet connections is not yet enough. The quality is also poor.

On the flip side though, I haven't really put in too much money into this whole Internet thing. It's a shame though that my folks had to abandon my old service (it was reliable, and I thought my created e-mail address would last forever). There is still some value in investing.

Just a few observations from my two weeks' stay here in the Philippines ---

Flop: The whole idea of the Da Vinci Code the movie.
Flip: I am now even cooler because I actually read the book before watching the movie.
Vindication: Someone out there is eating crow and it's not me.

Flop: The Miami Heat are down 0-2 in their series against Dallas. While I am not a supporter of each team (I'm a Celtics diehard), I do want to see Shaquille O'Neal get a measure of vindication over the Kobe business and his resultant landing in South Beach.
Flip: That they actually made it to the Finals in the first place. I like the Pistons, honestly; they were the better team, but after reading through several forums, they don't deserve their fans, and Ben Wallace's overrating has just skyrocketed.
Vindication: The Pistons just couldn't kick Larry Brown soon enough, and yeah, Rasheed had more to do with their success than they gave him credit for. And the NBA Finals aren't over yet, Shaq may just get his chance.

Flop: Manila humidity! It's a different creature altogether.
Flip: Just goes to show that there are more things to miss about one's home country. And yeah, it makes living in Saudi Arabia more bearable (and something to look for, I might add.)
Vindication: I somewhat feel a whole lot smarter moving out of the country when I did.

Flop: The power of regular commercial liquor. No real whooping power.
Flip: So what's the use of drinking? (Shudder).
Vindication: I can't think of something clever enough to say. Yeah, I've fried enough brain cells for an army-size luau.

Flop: The probablity of my becoming a hunk. (In the words of my buddy Des, "Asa pa you!")
Flip: That being said, it doesn't detract anything from my life.
Vindication: Having personality does pay off. Now, just to get some eligible woman to buy into this entire package...

Flop: Long-distance relationships.
Flip: I haven't gotten into a real one, so maybe I'm wrong.
Vindication: Jury is still out.

Flop: Rush wedding arrangements. Six months is not enough, especially if you're doing things by remote.
Flip: The seat-of-your-pants feeling is a great way to live life, sometimes.
Vindication: The presentation is one thing; it's the eating that really counts. All the best, Ate Joni and Alan.

Until next, I got to sign off and get some sleep. Chatting and blog-posting is something you can only do with a tip-top system and internet connection (complain, complain! yada, yada...)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Those Simple (But Not Really Simple) Things

Ramblings of a Certified Brat: Simple Pleasures of Life

This link is from Russel, whom I think should blog more often because she's so funny! We-ell, sometimes finding the humor in life is a greater gift than most would give credit for.

Instructions: Name ten of life’s simple pleasures that you like the most, then pick ten people to do the same. Try to be original and creative and not to use things that someone else has already used.

(Let's see if I can follow this to the letter.... I've done some lists of this nature, particularly my "Happiness Is..." series, but it's worth revisiting, anyhow).

1) Laughing out loud at the most nonsensical things, those kinds of laughs where I literally roll on the floor laughing or run the risk of having a heart attack. Twice the value if shared with a friend or a family member. And so on and so forth.
2) Music trips --- any kind will do, and the kind of trip where I get lost in the emotion of the piece and realize in the no-space of the climax what kind of inspiration the artist had. Works best with choral pieces or symphonies. Works least with heavy metal.
3) The same with the written word --- but mostly when I write something that someone says helped them or inspired them, and then reading it all over again and finding myself floored by my own work.
4) The quiet at the table during meals when everyone is in his/her moment, but mostly enjoying the food. Best when hanging out with family members I haven't been with for a long time.
5) Encountering a child for the first time and holding him/her in your arms.
6) The sweet thrill of having someone acknowledge me for who I am and not what I have accomplished (though the latter works, but not on the same elemental level).
7) Kicking back your shoes after a long day and not having to put up with anything else.
8) Solving the puzzle to a person with whom I would like to have a romantic relationship ("falling in love with love" is the more common term, I think, but mine carries less negative baggage)
9) Seeing hope in the sunrise after rending my heart into pieces over some imagined or real faults the previous night.
10) Having someone read this and answer back most expeditiously.

There are lots more, and in any case, finding a "top ten" to simple pleasures is like putting a price on things like the adoring trust a young child has in you. There is no price to that at all.

It's hard to pick ten people, so I'll send this to e-groups and see who responds. Comments back to this link, please!