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Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Sunset of Promise

I continue struggling with the physical pain that has forced me into hospital two weeks ago. Thankfully, my pain wasn't that severe today but it's still early days and there can be good or bad days - depending on whether I wake up early enough to take my medication.

I admit there were hard days when I felt I wished to close myself to the world or even die. However, I knew that this pain, like any other thing, is simpermanent and one day will cease to be. In many ways, it's also an illusion if you think about it. All the pain is an result of the nervous system with no material basis.

This isn't implying that it lacs existence but that it arises out of the senses. In other words, if we had problems with our pain senses, we could be prone to doing ourselves harm or even die. Granted, nobody wishes to experience pain but it's good to know if the cup of tea you're about to drink is boiling before you Stuqrt gulping down its contents. Ouch! Stomach ulcer...

In the same way as pain is a warning mechanism that draws our attention to possible damage, I realise that this might have been how the body wanted to let me know that I needed to take a step back and collect my thoughts once-again and reexamine my life. Indeed, I am aware that part of my suffering arose from thoughts that echoed in my mind. When there was no pain. Even the times I was still a young boy.

I've returned home from hospital just a week ago but my memory fails to recall the details. Yet, together with all the memories and experiences I gathered over the years, I can truly say that I feel truly changed. I feel unsure about the future. Then, again, I had the opportunity to learn about myself and my relation to those around me.

in particular, I also found the support of friends and those close to me. We do forget atTimes how nuch we depend on each other, as individuals, on each other's cooperation to live our lives on this little rock we call Earth. For so much could happen to us in so little time that it's foolish to seek only for oneself.

On that note, I note that sunset has turned the day to night. Little things I've got to do. I need to eat, drink and, I hope to sleep.

Preparing for another day of unknown possibilities, preparing for the good and being open to the worse.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Thing Called Pain

I've been experiencing a sense of pain for over a week. At times, it's as if it won't go away. A thought that I have even when I know nothing in this universe lasts forever.

This fact appears to provide a certain hope that that a future without this pain is certain.
While I wish that this physical pain disappears, so that I can return
to my routine, the fact that it has disrupted the routine gave me the
chance to examine my life and, when the pain is bearable, to force me
to attempt to understand pain.

The world today does well in finding means by which to manage pain. On the other hand, a degree of pain remains an essential sense to ensure
our health and survival. Indeed, feeling pain when putting your hand
on a burning fire can protect us for serious damage. And in so many
ways, pain is such a warning mechanism.

I believe, thus, that this pain I feel today is a result of days when
I failed to pay attention to my body and persisted as the pain
intensified. Eventually, it led to the current situation when I come
face to face with the reality of our human dependency or codependence.

But, if you think about it, pain isn't unreal because science reveals
that the sense of pain results from electrochemical signals
generated in the body. This isn't saying that pain doesn't exist but
that its reality isn't as solid and tangible as it might appear. In
this way, one could say that it's a simulation.

Apart from that, the experience of pain reveals how we are part of the
world and while we are separate in many ways from the world that
surrounds us, such a separation can never be complete but is always
partial and, maybe, artificial.

I appreciate the experience of pain not because I enjoy pain but
because it's giving me a chance to rekindle a sense of wonder.
Breaking up the chains of conventionality and, once more, offering me
the opportunity to pursue new possibilities.

This pain will end. Yet as long as there's only so much I can do at
present, is to learn from it.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Violent Awakening

Last Wednesday, I was admitted to the state hospital soon after I finished breakfast or about twenty minutes. Or so dad would tell me. Apparently, I threw up and lost consciousness. I would wake up again at the emergency department trying to figure out what had happened and where I was. It was as if I wasn't there when all this happened. Even if I was discharged on Saturday, I remain in excruciating pain in my legs and back. It appears that my back had fractures caused by osteoporosis witch I developed later on in my early 20s due to treatment for another condition.

However, the details aren't that important. I found myself in hospital once again. My life, once more, interrupted. An unknown future ahead. Not that there's certainty with any future. But when such a 'violent awakening' occurs, I tend to stop and reflect on where my life is heading and what'll come of me if this will take a long time to improve.was I living the life that truly fulfilled who I was?

And there were I fear that, despite the pain of my current state, I realise that I long for more from life than the path I've chosen so far.a lingering sense of dissatisfaction and emptiness accompany these hours of pain. As if there's an aspect of who I am that I've tried to avoid. A silent calling of the soul. Greater than me and, yet, not foreign. I struggle as I try to express this feeling for language is limited and this state of mind seems to reside beyond language to begin with.

Inasmuch as writing has always provided me with refuge and sustenance in hard times in my life, such as this, i lack the strength to carry on with this entry. When I feel better, hopefully, I'll be in a clearer state of mind to relate to what is at the core of my deep longing.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pain - Teach Me Life

I'm in pain once again. It's my back and legs now as well. It's hard and I struggle to type this entry in my present condition. So, I'll limit myself to a few reflections.

Of course, it's difficult for me to cope at times. I get to ask the question - why me? After all, I have been through so much over these years that I don't need this. Yet, when I realise how others may be going through much more serious suffering, I am compelled to ask why not me. What makes me so 'special' as to be spared to share in this human experience? Wouldn't be arrogant of me to expect to be spared just because I have through enough pain?

Doesn't this experience offer me the opportunity to Learn about who I am and my relation to others and the world?

Should I consume myself in anger and personal concerns while failing to grow in compassion? Aren't we, humans, all in the same situation? No one can escape this.

I also lay my hope that like everything else, this will end. Even if, at present, it seems hard to believe. I could deny myself the possibility of hope and indulge in self-pity and close my heart to the world. But that wouldn't help me or anyone for that matter.

This is my current reality. Uncomfortable - sure. Unnecessary - perhaps. But, useless it is not.

I witness the present moment. There's pain that comes and goes. But every one of these moments is unique and I must trust and live in the realities that surround me.

There'll be times of hope and others of despair. Successes and failures in how I dealpain. Yet, I refuse to define myself with this temporal pain. My humanity goes beyond that.

I may choose to drown in despair or affirm life by accepting this experience, learn from it and letting go.

Nobody can decide this but me.

I will try to choose to follow the path of hope.

This is a choice that no one can make on my behalf.

But it's a choice that I must make.

Monday, January 7, 2013

On the Dawn of a New Day

I find myself writing this early in the morning of another Monday. The first day of the week. The second week of the new year. All this appears to promise a fresh start to life. But there's no guarantee that life will deliver us the peace and happiness we seek. Nor can we expect that other people can ever solve our problems and lead us to liberation. Nor can we rely simply on faith or belief in our view of how the world works or how it ought to work.

We seek to be individuals and to assert our identity. Yet, we simultaneously wish to form part of the wider humanity. As Donne put it, no man is an island. We are caught in the conflict of human existence. In order to love others, we need to love ourselves. But to truly love ourselves, we need to love others. There doesn't appear to be any resolution to our human condition. However, aren't we in a interdependent relation with the world and others?

Are we not always open to the world that surrounds us in the process of defining who we are? Aren't we mirrors of each other, reflections of each other? And yet, relatively independent of each other? Isn't our very self ever changing and constant

at the same time? Does our temporary existence make us more, or less, real beings?

And, does it really matter? For, in the context of lived experience, engaging into idle speculation carries the risk of distracting us from the life's we should be living in the now. It can rob us of the opportunity to get to know each other better and, as a result, get to know who we are better. Such speculation may lead us even to reduce living beings to mere abstract objects without autonomous being or identity. Speculation may simply fuel our narcissism and confound the distinctions between genuine effort and artificial ones only seeking to glorify the self.

A self, which in truth, remains relative and is never absolute in its reality.

I pause and stop. For I'm thirsty. Neither these words or sentences can ever truly quench my need for nourishment. This is our human condition. Failing to recognise our frailty is an insult to our integrity.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The True Meaning of Charity (Part 3)


As a disabled child, I was angered by people who thought they had the authority to judge who I was. Others who took it upon themselves to define me. To rob me of any claims to individual identity. I know it was wrong of me. However, given the oppressive ideas of who I should be coming from society, I rejected my body and attached myself to a false idea that I was “normal” whatever that word meant. This might be the only way I could escape from sinking into dependence or of submitting to a poor idea of what I could achieve or who I should be. Unfortunately, as we try to deny part of who we are - in my case, the body - we  are also denying to recognise our human reality - choosing instead the safety to an attachment to a fiction that, inevitably, creates dukkha or dissatisfaction.


However, before we can take the step and recognise that what we have taken to be “charity” so far has been largely a monetary exchange to calm our conscience. Our practice of “charity” has often been a way to escape from the reality of life and of human injustice. It may have been a way to avoid facing the person we deem to be “In need”. When, in truth, we are simply distancing ourselves because we think we are better persons and, in some perverse way, may even believe that the people going through hard times somehow deserve it. This isn’t real charity however. It shouldn’t be the intention of performing an act of charity for sure.


What charity means, according to my current understanding, is the act of being there with the other person. Not believing you are in any way better or more fortunate. It’s an act where you give yourself to the other, placing secondary importance to any differences that are imposed by society. It means accepting the person as a unique individual and at the same time you acknowledge the differences where appropriate, charity requires us to look at the other as a human being. Like us, vulnerable to the process of growth and decay, but also singular in his/her expression of humanity. Genuine charity cannot be separated from compassion. For, in a sense, charity and compassion are, in their true sense, manifestations of the human need to love and belong.


While false charity singles out the person in need as someone external to the ideal of humanity, true charity and compassion recognise that the ideal is flawed as it doesn’t exist in the real world. People are not healthy all the time. People get old. people die. And, as for impairment, many people acquire an impairment as they grow older. Thus, it’s the idea of a perfect, healthy and “normal” body which is, in effect, the abnormality here. No such persons who defy the process of nature exist in the physical world we inhabit. And, it’s time that we change our idea of charity from a means to appease our egos and forfeit our human responsibilities to our brothers and sisters, and really practice a compassion that recognises the singularity and uniqueness of the other and, yet, embraces the other as part of his or her own human family.


The meaning of charity is about being fully human and opening our heart and mind to others. Not for the sake of feeling or looking good. It’s about reaching out to the other without the shackles of prejudice and pride and vanity. It means being there sharing in the experience of life without imposing yourself on the other but listening to the heart of the other as a person first.


As HH the 14th Dalai Lama reminds us:


If you want to be happy, 

practice compassion.

If you want others to be happy,

Practice compassion... 


Only genuine charity and true compassion can guarantee long lasting happiness for us and to the world that surrounds us.


The True Meaning of Charity (Part 2)


I felt that this background information about my past is important in order for one to better understand the other side. That is, the side of the one “supposedly needing charity”. For, unfortunately, while, rightly or wrongly, many praise the efforts of those who help a particular cause, it’s often the case that those who are “in need of help” remain hidden or even distorted to pull at the heartstrings of potential alms giver. And while the media may attempt to reach out to the people that are facing difficult life circumstances, the lives of such people is often misconstrued to fit into the idea that these situations arise only out of misfortune and society appears to have had no part of the play in maintaining a state of inequality or poverty.


As a disabled person, I can speak of my experiences as a disabled person. At the same time, while I share my experience of disability with many other disabled people, my experience is also unique and individual. Not every disabled person may have had the same experience of a boyhood which included a conflict between the ideal of a mind persistently contradicted by for what was, for many, an abnormal body. These are the thoughts and feelings that resurface every time I am witness to manifestations of so-called “charity”. But, on reflecting on my life experiences, I realise that our modern conceptions of “Charity” have seldom to do with the idea of charity as it was originally intended. 


In fact, what “”charity” has come to mean today is a market exchange where people can calm their consciences by exchanging money instead of bothering to look at others (deemed less fortunate) as equals. In this, modern “charity” is diametrically opposed to the original meaning of a charity that doesn’t seek for its own self. Don’t get me wrong, money is an important element that can help people get out of difficult situations and live a better quality of life they deserve. However, what I have an  issue with is the intention behind the modern constructions of charity. Indeed, those society judges in need of charity are, in many cases, put across as undesirables, broken or wretched and “lives not worth living”..



The True Meaning of Charity (Part 1)



Each year, during this time, I feel a feeling of unease and inadequacy as charity events aimed at collecting funds to help the most needy and, alas, “less fortunate” amongst us. I feel this sense that, as a person, I am somehow less than my friends, family and other human beings living in the world. Having an impairment and consequently experiencing the effects of a disabling society, which sometimes chooses to exclude me and pretends  to  be entitled to speak on my behalf, makes me feel like an object to be used for other people’s  ends and a subject to be spoken about and rarely as a whole person. Indeed, so-called “charity” events seem to inflate the false idea that disabled people are not like other human beings.


I regret that I have been uncomfortable to acknowledge my physical reality - my impairment. However, as I have grown to embrace the Buddhist outlook, I acknowledge that my body is part of who I am. Indeed, it has made me who I am today. While some voices in society may dismiss my body as deficient and deformed in some way, the body remains the only means by which I can relate to the world. We are not minds (or souls) trapped in bodies. Both mind and body possess the qualities that make me the persons we are today. Attempting to divide these two aspects of our humanity risks to destroy the value of our integrity as whole persons.


Unfortunately, how society talks of the body appears to put across an impossible ideal of the healthy, permanent and fully functional body. Any other variations to this idea are, at best, put across as incomplete or, at worse, unworthy of life. I learned since I was young that my body was the problem. Sadly, this meant that I grew to hate my body and indulged in a fantasy of a disembodied mind. I sought refuge in applying my mind to learn, think and many a time sought to overstrain my body to please those around me. Don’t get me wrong, any physical achievement gives me pleasure and satisfaction back then as it does today. Yet, at the same time, the moments when my body didn’t deliver could become times of great personal failure and guilt for not living up to the high expectations of others that were often unrealistic and, frankly, unreachable given my physical condition.