Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Sense of Renewal

"Don't let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love." -- St. Josemaria Escriva

Easter coincides with spring, and along with that, the sense of renewal that follows a long and bleak winter. It's the time when new buds break from the earth, when trees start to sport leaves, when birds return to make their nests. The fact may not be readily apparent to us who live in a tropical country that splits the seasons between wet and dry; but the matter of renewal deserves some consideration.

What happens, after all, when we move into the spiritual springtime of the Easter season? Do we come out of the Lenten experience refreshed and renewed, with new resolutions and new zest for life? Or is it back once more to the daily grind with our old sins and our old grudges. Once more desultory and depressed, the days melt into the weeks and the months on the eternal Sisyphean quest to, well, make a living.

Surely there must be a better way.

Ask your neighbor what he wants out of life. Or better yet, at your most honest moment, ask it of yourself: what do you want out of life? If your neighbor, or you, are like so many others, you will no doubt replay, in your tiny voice, the standard modest Filipino answer: "To earn a living for myself, so I can support my family and help my fellow man."

Now that's not such a bad answer, as far as life goals go. But neither is it a great one. Surely you -- we -- can do better.

It's an answer that bespeaks mediocrity. Behind it is a false contentment that accepts, with a forced smile, the leftover scraps from bigger ambitions and dreams. This is the national malaise, what Nick Joaquin calls our heritage of smallness, ingrained in us since childhood: "Be happy with what you have. Be content. Don't seek to rise beyond your station, else people will laugh at you when you fail."

Surely there must be a better way.

Instead of the myopic vision for a simple subsistence, why don't we shoot for something that sparks the soul? When asked what they want out of life, why don't more Filipinos say: "To write a great novel" or "To compose a musical masterpiece" or "To discover a new planet" or "To cure cancer?"

We may pride ourselves on our surrender to Fate, but that, apparently, is a lie. We are too much of realists to dream of something beyond what is already there. And we then go on wondering why our neighbors are so much better off than we are. Well, here it is: because our dreams are not big enough.

Bigger dreams and grander ambitions won't excuse us from the daily grind; if nothing else, they ought to make us work harder and more passionately. But having a dream, or not, makes the difference whether you approach work and life with joyful enthusiasm or with mere grudging resignation.

May the Easter season find you renewed. And may all your dreams -- your real and joyful dreams -- come true.


  1. You know my childlike kind of innocence when I was younger had me feeling all refreshed and renewed whenever I come out of a new Easter.

    Not so much anymore. There are some guilty pleasures in my life that I simply want to hold on to and that's why I cannot go through that rite of renewal with full-heartedness. There's this denial settling in which I end up saying "You know, it's just gonna be another day..."

    And it doesn't help what with what's happening to this country. Grumble-mumble.

    If you find a better way, let me know.

  2. As an answer to that, I'll have to quote Chesterton:

    Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances which we know to be desperate. It is true that there is a state of hope which belongs to bright prospects and the morning; but that is not the virtue of hope. The virtue of hope exists only in earthquake and, eclipse….For practical purposes it is at the hopeless moment that we require the hopeful man, and the virtue either does not exist at all, or begins to exist at that moment. Exactly at the instant when hope ceases to be reasonable it begins to be useful.

  3. thanks dom. i probably just lost hope on things i used to look on optimistically.

    didn't help either that the decision for the marquez-pacquiao was doubted upon but hey, at least he won right? hehehe. but seriously, i hope Easter will make me shift gears on the way i think of things :)

  4. I have always pondered why generally a Filipino's dreams/aspiration are small.Many times having worked with them,they are afraid to do things out of their comfort level. In fact a lot of times, they have the necessary skills or know how to do the job.

    I agree with you that we are a realtic bunch of people,we have to so much other thing to wrory about rather that write a novel,create a musical masterpiece etc. And imo, people here doesn't have the right infrastructure,resources and time to focus on something like art,music or literature. Unlike other people from western countries that has access to these resources.Our setup here is not ideal for such...sad to say

  5. JTL: If you're going to wait for the ideal conditions in order to dream, then you'll never reach those ideal conditions. It's your defeatist attitude that keeps you thinking small.

  6. Everyone has dreams, but executing them is a different matter. Ideal conditions aren't prerequisite for dreaming,same goes for executing those dreams.

    The opinion that I'm trying to exude here is that we are a very gifted race, we have a lot to offer but due to certain circumstances, we can't reach our peak potential. At the end of the day, its your priority that matters. You may have the dream but circumstances are against you in achieving those dreams. Would you spend x years painting your masterpiece while your child grows hungry and has substandard schooling?Its up to the person to decide...

    The ideal conditions that I mentioned which are nice to have would be support from the government or some sort of inspiration/movement that helps people achieve these dreams and at the same time without neglecting their duties. Think of China and the coming Olympics.

    : >