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Strive to be Extraordinary

From just earlier this month, Em-J Pavia wrote a reflection on being consistent, being better, and smiling here. May you rest peacefully among the stars, Em-J.

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Failures in Infinitives

Bernadette Mayer

why am i doing this? Failure
to keep my work in order so as
to be able to find things
to paint the house
to earn enough money to live on
to reorganize the house so as
to be able to paint the house &
to be able to find things and
earn enough money so as
to be able to put books together
to publish works and books
to have time
to answer mail & phone calls
to wash the windows
to make the kitchen better to work in
to have the money to buy a simple radio
to listen to while working in the kitchen
to know enough to do grownups work in the world
to transcend my attitude
to an enforced poverty
to be able to expect my checks
to arrive on time in the mail
to not always expect that they will not
to forget my mother’s attitudes on humility or
to continue
to assume them without suffering
to forget how my mother taunted my father
about money, my sister about i cant say it
failure to forget mother and father enough
to be older, to forget them
to forget my obsessive uncle
to remember them some other way
to remember their bigotry accurately
to cease to dream about lions which always is
to dream about them, I put my hand in the lion’s mouth
to assuage its anger, this is not a failure
to notice that’s how they were; failure
to repot the plants
to be neat
to create & maintain clear surfaces
to let a couch or a chair be a place for sitting down
and not a table
to let a table be a place for eating & not a desk
to listen to more popular music
to learn the lyrics
to not need money so as
to be able to write all the time
to not have to pay rent, con ed or telephone bills
to forget parents’ and uncle’s early deaths so as
to be free of expecting care; failure
to love objects
to find them valuable in any way; failure
to preserve objects
to buy them and
to now let them fall by the wayside; failure
to think of poems as objects
to think of the body as an object; failure
to believe; failure
to know nothing; failure
to know everything; failure
to remember how to spell failure; failure
to believe the dictionary & that there is anything
to teach; failure
to teach properly; failure
to believe in teaching
to just think that everybody knows everything
which is not my failure; I know everyone does; failure
to see not everyone believes this knowing and
to think we cannot last till the success of knowing
to wash all the dishes only takes ten minutes
to write a thousand poems in an hour
to do an epic, open the unwashed window
to let in you know who and
to spirit thoughts and poems away from concerns
to just let us know, we will
to paint your ceilings & walls for free
Originally posted here.

Patient Trust

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

Originally posted here, lifted from Hearts on Fire.

In Transition

Between work and school and work. It’s been a month since I resigned from my first job at Excel PH. Learning from public school principals while helping in their formation to be better leaders was an enlightening experience, but the reasons I found for leaving are heavier than the combined weight of the reasons I could find to stay.

For the past few weeks, I’ve finally been able to do a number of things: go on a four-day trip with friends to Coron, rekindle more friendships, catch up on Orange is the New Black, hike up Pico de Loro with the HJ team, physically attend team meetings, start reading The Signal and The Noise, submit an abstract to a tobacco control conference in Beijing, attend a jazz night at Mow’s, and take up swimming again. I’m sleeping longer, eating more, and am generally less stressed.

School doesn’t resume until another month, and I’m still considering whether I should work full-time at HJ after working for them part-time for two years, and on what terms. I want to be a full-time student, part-time NGO worker for at least one semester before diving in. Upon receiving my grades for last sem, both Eli and Mama told me, “If that’s the grade you got while working two jobs and studying, you’re more than able to do part-time work and just study.” I think they’re right.

Between apologies. I’ve fought with two important people in my life in the span of three weeks. Resolved one disagreement, unsure about the other. Steffi and I talk only when necessary. I’ve given her her baon for July, and she seemed genuinely thankful. I don’t know how long it’ll be until we’re comfortable talking to each other freely again. I can’t even bring myself to look her in the eye because I’m afraid of what I might see. It’ll be healthier if I stop expecting for an apology.

Eli has forgiven me, but I haven’t forgiven myself yet. The feeling of nearly losing him again served as a reminder, almost as a motivation, to keep me from inadvertently finding another way to hurt him. I told him about this, and he said, “That’s a heavy weight to carry.” He held my hand, and added,

Do good for the good, not to prevent something bad from happening again. It’s more universal.

Pain is not paid back in pain, but in acceptance. I forget to be kind to myself, even when I’m granted the kindness of others. It’s time to remember the more important things.

Dahil po sa inyo

You live out your mission to protect and promote the right of every Filipino to quality, equitable, culture-based, and complete basic education, sa pagiging maka-Diyos, maka-tao, makakalikasan, at makabansa.

Ang dami po sa inyo nagpapasalamat sa akin para sa mga nabigay po ng Excel PH sa inyo bilang public school head, bilang Leadership Development Program Fellows ng La Union at ng Pampanga, pero kahit ako ang naging Program Associate at dakilang textmate po ninyo, ako po dapat ang magpasalamat sa inyo.

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Dahil po sa inyo, hindi ako umalis. All throughout our journey together as partners in public education, since we first met during the LDP panel interviews, your stories and your dedication to your job showed me (and they continue to show me!) that hard work isn’t rewarded only with more work, but also with more love. You were my inspiration to keep going even when I wanted to leave my job earlier than I planned. You showed me love for country and love for others flourish most when you struggle, when you feel like you’ve had enough, because we keep fighting anyway.

I am honored to have learned from you, all of you, that there is always more to give. I am honored to have been of service to you, to serve alongside you. We do it for the children, to safeguard their future, to give them a fighting chance at a good life, a great life. In a concrete way, the work that we do—especially the work that you do as school heads—safeguards the future of our country, too.

Patuloy po tayong magmahal sa ating kapwa, sa isa’t isa. Patuloy po ang ating pagbibigay nang ayon sa nararapat, sa paglilingkod nang walang hinihintay na kapalit. Maraming, maraming salamat po sa inyo, aking mga minamahal na public school leaders, sa lahat ng nagawa po ninyo para sa ating kabataan, sa mga ginagawa pa rin po ninyo ngayon, at sa mga gagawin pa ninyo para sa ating inang bayan.

Agyamanak unay, dakal pung salamat.

A question from the floor

I read once that the original language of the Beatitudes was not ‘blessed are…’ or ‘happy are the single-hearted, or those who work for peace, or those who struggle for justice.’ The more precise translation is ‘you’re in the right place if…”. And I like that better, because it turns out the Beatitudes is not a spirituality—it’s a geography. It tells you where to stand.

You’re in the right place if you’re over here. […] It’s about location. You really have to go out. But knowing that service is the hallway that leads to the ballroom – you don’t want service to be the end. It’s the beginning. It’s getting you to the ballroom which is the place of kinship. The place of mutuality. […] It doesn’t happen unless you break out. Fear is just fuelled by ignorance, and so you have to break out of your ignorance. You have to go to a place that frightens us. […]

Look before you leap, but leap.

This is an excerpt taken from a podcast episode from On Being – The Calling of Delight: Gangs, Service and Kinship – where Krista Tippett interviews Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, a priest famous for his gang interventions in Los Angeles. The quote above constitutes a big part of his answer to a question from the floor raised by young woman: “How do you combat the fear of love and compassion?”

Listen to the full episode on the On Being website here.

Addendum: “In the end, it’s about something. It’s about kinship. It’s about [that] Oscar-winning attitude in a waitress. That you may be one. That’s the whole thing. That God has created an otherness, so that you may bump into each other.”

“Kaya ‘di umuunlad ang Pilipinas” is a mentality that has to stop.

Although its popular use showcases a commendable level of observation skills and provides a lively commentary on various social issues, it propagates an abusive level of negativity. “Anong klaseng irrigation system ang mayro’n natin? Palagi na lang bumabaha nang ganito,” “Bakit kasi nila pinapapara ‘yung dyip sa maling babaan?” “Ginagawa namang negosyo ‘yung pulitika,” are among many examples of statements attached to the phrase, and they are more often than not directed outward, towards a person or a phenomenon outside of oneself.

One must then challenge her/himself to look inward after identifying a problem, and to resist the temptation to solely express dissatisfaction about a certain state of affairs. The issue must be explored: Ano na’ng gagawin natin? Ano’ng puwede kong gawin? Invest in agriculture and technology. Familiarize yourself with the safest and already established loading and unloading areas along a specific route. Exercise your right to suffrage. Always ask.

I want to learn how to ask the right questions, to propose a set of solutions, and to identify which solution will be the most appropriate to an issue at hand and the set of circumstances it works within. That then leads to the question: Paano tayo makatutulong sa kaunlaran ng ating bansa? Or: Paano na tayo tutulong? In other words, and as a priest in our parish said, “Mabuting balita ka ba sa ibang tao?” It is not about telling others what cause to believe in, but showing why it is worth believing in through your everyday choices at work, at home, and everywhere in between. It is not about settling for the best, either, because the best is a specific point in time. It is about continuously doing and aiming for the better, because the comparative keeps us moving, always striving.