Friday, September 26, 2008

How’d I Fared the Marshmallow Test?

This week is what I like to call Petix (Petiks) Week; that is, idle at work – who can blame me, there are no tasks coming from my boss. But it doesn’t stop me from becoming productive. Say I’m just being a wasted company resource of the week; I’m pre-occupied with myself reckoning the things around me nonetheless. And thanks to Yahoo! Messenger and my friend Joya, those things circling around my head finally rendezvoused.

Since our Globe Telecom days (or aptly, the day we became seatmates) Joya and I started a pun on the so-called Marshmallow Test.
“Bagsak ka sa Marshmallow Test nung bata ka noh?”, you’ll hear us throw this line to the other whenever one of us would crack on a seemingly difficult exercise on restraint. Though neither of us underwent this (or so our memories say), it’s an added fun after a burst of half-meant revelation or near-miss remark on our pseudo-secrets. Plus, it relieves the tension on our feet iron-chained to our former job.

Then today (the last of the Petix days, so far) Joya greeted me over the chat line with “Bagsak ka ba ng Marshmallow Test?”. I became numb; wondering if I had made an unintentional comment on some of our recurring email group thread. Then I remember our chat early this week; a virtual conversation (minus the lattes) about
waiting. I should have known better!

Waiting. Marshmallow Test. Seems like two things on each end of the spectrum. But who says impromptu conversations are random? Interestingly enough, this psychological test by Walter Mischel four decades ago is all about waiting: four-year olds being given a marshmallow and promised another, only if they could wait 20 minutes before eating the first one. Some children could wait and others could not. And, as reported, those who waited became successful later in life. Could have I passed the test? Well, I consider myself nearing success but why does it make me think otherwise? Maybe because I'm yet to be halfway on my journey. Maybe because until now I'm haunted by that test lurking behind me. Maybe because I'm yet to respond on my own marshmallow. Darn! My pre-school teacher should have given me the test already.

The test leads us to Sigmund Freud's theory of personality. It reveals that our psyche is composed of 3 parts:

id - pleasure
ego - reality
super-ego - morality; the conscience

He says that id rules our early life. But as one matures, one begins to learn the need sometimes to endure pain and to defer gratification because of the exigencies and obstacles of reality (ego), guided by a higher consciousness (super-ego). Tell me about reality and morality slapping the face! And I like Freud's theory. It explains everything. The test is not a one-time early childhood activity. It is a continuing endeavor for the rest of our temporal life. Id. It is my immature self always whining within me. It is the very thing that is impatient on waiting. So how to get rid of this id? I believe it will never go away just as like childhood memories becoming part of who I am; they form a trinity that defines me. Moreover, I believe that id can be more of an ally than a foe. It is considered my driving force. A force that, in the first place, kept me waiting. But allowing the id to further rule over ends sanity. There should be a balancing factor that would keep me from being sent to a psychiatric ward.

Reality.

And it bites. So why not have reality for breakfast, lunch and dinner until I get stifled? Then maybe, just maybe, I get to have my marshmallow for dessert. Afterall, the rewards of patience is sweet. I now understand that my ego and super-ego should be ruling my life onwards; the physical and the metaphysical; this temporal world and the Kingdom of Heaven. I won't rush. The days are young and I'm stronger than you think.

So how'd I fared? I may have flunked some of the previous tests but there are more to come. Trust me.

They say there will be a surprised test next week.

I'll be waiting then we'll see.

GMT -3 Sao Paulo, Brazil

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Grand Scheme of Things





If the world hates you,
you know that it has hated me
before it hated you.


John 15:18










(click image for larger view)
GMT -3 Sao Paulo, Brazil

Monday, September 22, 2008

Literary # 1

Crossing Lines

I’d like to go to the other side.
Even just for awhile.
Just to know how it feels to be there.
Just to see the things that are afar.

So I did.

And the thing in my chest started to pump out fuel to a morbid flesh.
It felt good and made me live again.
It felt good that I don’t want to go back.
But I know this is just for awhile.

Can I stay?

Then silence.
I have known the consequence of the intrusion.
I should have just enjoyed the moments I’m there.
But I have to know.

No answer.

Just the way leading back to where I stood before looking to this side.


GMT -3 Sao Paulo, Brazil

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Decisions

Stupor is almost upon me. But then a random thought strikes me.

How will I know the rightness or the wrongness of my decisions?

I always tell friends whenever they seek my advice that there are no right or wrong decisions, just consequences and the way one deals with them afterwards. But am I right or am I wrong with this? Indeed, it all boils down to what is right and what is wrong. It seems that the world is bounded by Boolean logic; of 1s and of 0s. And who says what is? This mere thought of defining the boundaries of rightness and wrongness seems to exceed any of us. It’s futile. I well remember a quote from Albus Dumbledore of the Harry Potter universe regarding a choice between what is right and what is easy. And yes, most of the time decisions I make are the ones that are easy. But does it mean it is wrong? Does it mean right decisions are difficult? So will this just reduce to choices between easy and difficult?

So what now? How will I know? Maybe if it feels right. Maybe if it feels good. Maybe if it makes others around me happy. Then it is right.

Or maybe I stick to my current principle of unbounded decisions. Because having bipolar path begets an end; that is, a perceived wrong decision means ceasing to exist (metaphorically). But if there are no right and wrong, just plain decisions we make and the consequences we are ready to face, life goes on. So it is not all about knowing on choosing. It’s about being a brave soul who knows what he/she is no matter what the outcome will be. Hah! Easy blogged than done.

But who says it’s easy?

GMT -3 Sao Paulo, Brazil

Saturday, September 20, 2008

On Kung Fu Panda, Tortang Talong, Red Wine and Other Ingredients for Surviving Another 'Sloth'-urday

It was another Saturday; idle that is. An excuse for me to wake up at 12nn, take a full meal at 3pm and just bum around the whole day. Well I have to blame it to the wet and cold São Paulo springtime. And I thought spring always brings happy thoughts just like in the list of Maria’s favorite things in the Sound of Music. I guess it wasn’t for me, at least not this time. Good thing that the hotel has free wifi; internet connectivity is considered lifeline for Pinoys away from home. Believe me it is, and see how we frantically confront the front desk whenever there is downtime. It is as essential as the air we breathe and packs of sinigang mix.

And having unlimited connection to the world wide web gives one the perk to access Kung Fu Panda Theatrical Posterdownloadables; essential of which are movies – sometimes cable TV does not give me the pleasure of preferable programming, you know. Thanks to BitComet I had Kung Fu Panda tickle my funny bones today. No, actually, I think it cracked it. That would be better than a happy thought for today. It’s the funniest animation I’ve seen since Shrek. The kind that makes you laugh out loud. Feels good and makes an effective cure to idle sickness. But what makes it “blog-worthy” is the fact that alongside all the laughs and fist-banging on the coffee table realizations made their way to my core, yet again. I don’t want to be a spoiler but on a gist the movie is all about an important lesson in life. Faith in oneself. Yes, a formulaic theme of numerous books, movies, talks and the like but it’s a theme needed to be repeated over and over again so as to permanently assimilate it to our way of life. And as human beings, we tend to linger too much on the past and be anxious of what lies ahead. Like Master Oogway said to an apprehensive Master Shifu on training the would-be Dragon Master, Po:

“You are too concerned to what was and what will be…
Yesterday is history.
Tomorrow is a mystery.
Today is a gift. That is why it's called the present.”

Of course, history teaches us life’s lesson and the future gives us the opportunity to plan the course over mysterious waters. But it all goes down to us, of what we are now and of how we believe ourselves that we have learned it all and have the capacity to chart our future.

And I do.

A question always asked to a successful person is the secret of success. Funny thing is, the movie somewhat made a parody of this. When Mr. Ping (Po’s father) revealed the secret of the family’s noodle soup, he said there is none. He just made it up just to entice customers; a psychological tactic employed even in real life. When Po finally receives the Dragon Scroll that will give him great power, he found nothing in it. It’s just a piece of parchment, reflected in it is the mirror-image of the holder. There you go. Secret to life’s success is overrated. It’s a secret no more yet a lot of people still are in search for the answer where in fact they will find it in the mirror in front of them. Or maybe let’s do away with mirrors. Ask ourselves upfront, sideward, inward… outward. And in an idle day like that was, I always sit in my place of respite and do nothing. Physically I’m idle but my mind wanders, travels. Today is a great day for me because I live yet another day. I survived. I didn’t hang myself or slashed my wrist out of depression. I simply survived. Today.

So I live life and thanking God for the present. One thing separates me from those manic-depressive is that I consider regrets my life’s footnotes, taking them out for reference but do not define me. One thing separates me from people fearful of the future is that I’m willing to take risks. Of course, I have a plan – risks are just part of it.

Long term plan: see the world.

Short term plan: survive today.

tortang talong, bacon strips, red wine and my window to the worldAnd I just did. Again. One idle day seems to be worthwhile and it will come to pass before you know it. With tortang talong (it was my first time and I thank Kuya Marky for showing me how when we were in Georgia) and strips of bacon matching red wine, there is no secret ingredient for a sumptuous end-of-the-day meal. Who would have thought it could be a nice dinner combination? Well, it could have been attributed to the fact that there were almost nothing left inside the fridge from last grocery. Nonetheless, it established the idea that it is survival instinct to ultimately rely on oneself. No secret ingredient. No secret recipe of some sort. Just me cooking and enjoying the meal afterwards.

Maybe next time I’m out of stuff in the fridge, I’ll try ketchup soup.

Or maybe I'll just go out to the supermarket.

GMT -3 Sao Paulo, Brazil

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

News from home

It was another weekend in Rio de Janeiro; the 5th time actually. But unlike office routines or movie re-runs on cable TV on an idle dragging weekend, it was refreshing and stress-relieving though the place seems to reduce towards the ordinary due to frequent visits. Pinoys here already made a joke out of it: “Ginagawa lang pagluwas from Laguna to Manila ang Rio” (considering 6 hours of aching butt!). Nonetheless I will still return there over and over – with the Atlantic winds on my face, the powdery sand under my feet and the solace only Rio can give.

So now I’m back to usual hurly-burly that is São Paulo; a contrast to a laid-back Rio. Back to city routine: wake-up at 7am, spruce up, take a 15-min subway ride, get free coffee, boot up my laptop and then read the morning’s online newspaper. Well, considering an 11-hour time lag, the news is far from being hot-off-the-grill. Even so, I am still cognizant of what’s happening back home.

GRP-MILF MOA on Bangsamoro homeland.

Continuing air strikes in Mindanao.

Bribery in the Court of Appeals.

Lacson vs. Villar on C5 case.

Debate on Charter Change.

And the usual problem on corruption, political bickering and social injustice.

It comes to a point that these make me consider applying for residency visa here; pledging my allegiance to a new mother country. But home is still where my heart is. That’s why it saddens me to read news from there; an ironic way of stepping the morning up before work.

Peso tumbles.

This news, I know, can wake any OFW/Pinoy expat around. It never fails to wake me up. Cash-iiing! Thinking of the conversion, raking the rewards of being far from home. I hope it continues to fall. Umabot pa sana ng USD 1 to P 50! Every breaching of the all-month low barrier is good news that seems to dilute the melancholy of the others. It’s like Rio in a way that gives high satisfaction even on a negative premise. But this would be an absolute insult to the place.

Though it would really be glad tidings to every Pinoy expat (most of which are scraping the bottom of the fish tank), I think there’s more to the news that meets the “slot machine” eyes. Not that I am hypocritical but at the end of the day it makes me wonder if this really is the news I’m looking forward; somewhat a primer for my early retirement back home. Not that I am an economist but I understand that as an importing country, we are highly dependent on the foreign exchange rate. We are not like Brazil that is self-sufficient. We import oil. We import raw materials. We import rice even though we were once the leader in rice production (why do you think IRRI is established in the Philippines?). The side-news also reveals that since the fall of the Peso our national debt increased a certain percentage. Even I understand this since the reverse (i.e. Peso appreciation), on the other hand, would loose me some from lower conversion. Lugi! And look at the inflation today. My Php100,000.00 today might not even be the same in the next years! It’s a personal dilemma: choosing between raking in funds for my early retirement or stronger Peso. Actually, no one has a choice on this. I am just a spectator of the news. We all are. But one thing that strikes me is the irony of it all. It’s like during college when a student cheers over typhoons since classes will be suspended but fails to realize effects on flood-infested areas and aftermath such as landslides. Yes, it’s hard to exhort on things that are not beneficial to oneself. It leads me to think that Charles Darwin’s idea of natural selection or, aptly, “survival of the fittest” governs modern society than the idea of Sir Thomas More’s Utopia. But that would be for another blog.

Maybe it’s time for me to think out of myself.
Think of the long-term for all of us.

Then maybe news from home doesn’t have to be all bad.

GMT -3 Sao Paulo, Brazil

Friday, September 12, 2008

I am

“Cogito, ergo sum.” - René Descartes

Well, I don’t want this blog to be tagged as if a discourse intended for passing a Philosophy subject; the field is certainly not included in my current CV. But in starting to write my own blog/journal/emotional-stress-outlet (the latter most unlikely; I’m not into ranting-on-a-public-domain thing), I realized that in the 26 years of my existence I never had a concrete idea on what I want to do with my life. You might say that it’s a cliché; a Purpose Driven Life rip-off. I read the book, by the way, and I will admit I’m influenced by it. But the question at hand is not whether the idea of “life’s purpose” is original or plagiarized (actually it has been here for ages). The question is the question itself. A cliché, yes, but has anyone answered it with a firm grip on a sword? An answer anchored on an immovable rock during a tempest? Rick Warren and other authors might have published books on this but for me these are mere guides. Self-help for others. I am still in the dark, nonetheless. One thing’s for sure, I am alive. I exist. I am.

“I think, therefore I am.” So there. The fact that I think, wondering my existence and writing it down now is the proof of my very existence. So what now if I exist? I know 26 years is such a long time and I know there are more ahead (crossing my fingers here). Have I just wasted those years? Is my “What-if” bin being half-full an indication of this? Wasted years? Wasted life? What if. I should have.

One thing I’ve learned as an engineer is that this physical world of ours is bounded by space and time, and that empirical evidences show that this continuum is moving one-way. Well if you want to step up the geek-meter more, one may contend hypothetical warping, but let’s not. Where we are now tells us that we are moving in one direction. No turning back, just regrets. We stumble. We falter, then remorse. But the only thing to do after a fall is to move forward, maybe stagnant for a while, but never try to build a time machine. The funny thing is I give this as advice to friends where my self seems uncertain. You see, I have my own “What-if” bin stashed under my bed. Half-full.

Good thing I finally started this long overdue blog; thanking the almost two-week idle time in the office. After all the browsing, Wikipedia-ing and useless pretending (hey, my boss ought to think I’m working on something) came the realization moment – a moment in one’s life where, like focal point under a magnifying glass, everything tends to be focused into.

Start.

Programs.

Microsoft Word.

And the cursor started to blink in front of me.

I am. The words came to life. The title of my pilot entry on this blog. The only subject in this world that I certainly am an expert of. I am a traveler all this time. A traveler that during some point in his journey stopped, looked at the map and adapted a new bearing. As a kid I always thought myself as a priest, genuflecting on every cross that I see. Then suddenly came the interest in cutting across human anatomy and the love for stethoscope dangling in my neck. Afterwards, why not a priest with stethoscope? But the stage called me and I felt as if it was my own, with all the lights and the applause. With a scholarship grant from Gerry Roxas Foundation waiting after high school graduation I saw myself in politics either as a public servant or one of the brilliant legal minds of the country. Then on a blink, I am now going places rendering my expertise on radio access network. Amusing. Retracing me gives comic relief albeit the regrets that end up banging my head. It’s quite a journey I had. And one thing I realized, my life’s purpose seems to reveal itself after all. Significance. I think I am here to be significant to others. I am here to influence; to make a significant change to them just by sharing my life’s souvenirs. And as a traveler I have with me all the souvenirs I’ve collected. Almost every day of my waking life I ponder on every question that strikes me. These questions seem to be incoherent before but now I think they are all parts of my purpose I long to understand. Anyway I’m still traveling. It’s still a long road for me. Like a Möbius strip, though the path is one-way and one-sided, I know I shall return from where I begin. When that time comes, my purpose shall be fulfilled.

So it’s time to put away that bin under my bed. Those in it are not existing.

I am.
GMT -3 Sao Paulo, Brazil