Monday, March 05, 2007

To See and Hear…Understand and Believe

I begin a series of short reflections on a few key events that colored my two month Philippine sojourn. These events tell the story of a country and her people still struggling to find and recover her soul. Have we lost our soul? Where is she? Who took her? Where has she gone? What have we done to lose her?

These are questions I hope to find answers to as I begin this series of reflections on events and encounters that unfolded before my very eyes.

I am fortunate to have more than the usual two week visit given to many OFWs. What can one really see and understand in two weeks? I spent my first two weeks just looking, listening and allowing the sights and sounds to awaken a sense, a sensitivity to what is both perceptible and imperceptible. I was literally overwhelmed, even shocked by the avalanche of data vying for attention. I have been away for almost a year, about eleven months since I left last February 11, 2006. Things do seem the same: the pollution still thick and choking, the traffic just as heavy and unruly, the noise of honking horns everywhere, peddlers immediately flooding the highway towards vehicles coming to a stop before a red light. Everything does seem the same at first glance. But are things really the same? Or are they worse or better?

I spent the last two months looking at what goes on: in the streets and sidewalks, in posh Malls and ordinary markets, parks and various public places, historical landmarks and Government buildings, skyscrapers and shanties, artificial lakes, ponds with expensive ornamental fish and stinking esteros (waterways) lined up with ramshackle barong-barongs (makeshift houses), etc. I did see a lot but have I really seen what was behind the myriad images and objects that merely concealed something more?

Besides passively looking at objects visible to my eyes, I began looking more deeply and carefully. I began listening more intently and discerningly. I had to look and listen not only with my physical eyes and ears. I had to look and listen deeply with the eyes and ears of my soul.

Leaving home for almost a year, leaving what I used to do most of the time if not all the time gave me a chance to suspend belief, orientation, opinion and even prejudice. There was time to cleanse and clear mind, heart and spirit. There was space to move beyond the narrow and constricting confines of immediate experience.

Gardening, repairing my parents house, meeting family, friends and colleagues, reflecting, meditating and praying, giving talks and workshops to a few priests, sharing my story of healing and renewal with a few trusted and loyal friends constituted a gentle and gradual process of re-entering into a reality in which I was totally immersed and perhaps even, overly soaked. The two months were more than just a visit. They were a prolonged retreat so full and replete with grace that demand serious and genuine reflection and even documentation.

The ancient Greeks knew the importance of memory and more. They insisted on something more than remembering. “The unreflected life is not worth living,” they said. Clearly, more than collecting data and information about the past and present which can be contained in regular libraries and the more increasingly popular electronic memory saving and storage devices, the world of contemporary women and men need more. We need more than memory and remembrance. We need genuine, vibrant and life-giving memory, a memory that understands, a memory that nourishes and revitalizes belief that leads to an empowering and liberating faith.

Many years ago, Krishnamurti gave a reminder:

“Most of us merely survive, we somehow drag along, and therefore life becomes a dreadful thing. Really to live requires a great deal of love, a great feeling for silence, a great simplicity with an abundance of experience; it requires a mind that is capable of thinking very clearly, that is not bound by prejudice, or superstition, by hope or fear.” (cf. Krishnamurti, “Think on These Things,” ed. By D. Rajagopal, 1989, Perennial Harper)

They say and many of us are beginning to believe that Filipinos are a people with short memories. We forget so easily and fast. Why and how so? Could it be that we spend very little time to critically and lovingly reflect on memory? Could it be that our shortage of critical and loving reflection weakens belief and undermines faith?

My short two months sojourn in my beloved country after a year of absence seems to point me towards an answer. Join me as I share my journey towards understanding and belief.

Fr. Roberto P. Reyes
March 5, 2007


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