Monday, October 18, 2010

What if God Was One of Us?

Joan Osborne had her hit album Relish (1995) with this song One of Us. Her question, what if God was [were] one of us? Undoubtedly no one dare ask these question in fear of blasphemy. For in the Bible it is said, though shall not put the name of God in vain. But such question, to me, is not loaded with heresy and blasphemy, for it intellectualizes on a possibility that happened, is happening and will continue to happen.

What if God was one of us? To the skeptic, this question asks of an unreal condition. Hence, it is with a grammatical flaw, as it should be worded with were and not was since it is in subjunctive mood. As an assumption though, it is correct, but it speaks of the past and not of the present. So still the issue of God's existence here is brought to the past condition, that does not matter in the present nor the future. That's if our cultural view of the time is ageric and not a continuum.

Yet, such is the language of the blues, and therefore, the writer deserves her right to use such language as to her poetic license.

God is one of us. If so, where, how, when, why. How does he look like and what's his name? For the radical feminists, why is God he and not a she? What is the question of God's prior existence called for after all?

The song brings out the question of God's existence in relation to the people today. Rephrased what is God to you, amidst your busy life and where is He amongst you. I am using here personal pronoun He, referring to God because this has been the cultural archetype that humans know in reference to that Supernatural Supreme Being. All religions and mythology glorify the power of that God that is He.

Whereas, cultures around the globe also use he as referent to a person or a human being. My apologies to this politics.But as a writer, I also deserve the right to use the terms and referents that I am more accustomed to for convenient purposes.

The conditional "if God was one of us" tells of a past condition. He was in Christ, in Jesus who was born into form of a man although he is God. To deny this is to debate whatever logic can be found in the Old and New Testament of the Bible. If God were one of us? relates much better to pose a proposition for argumentation.

If God were one of us, what? He would not be against us. He would be teaching us his ways, but He would not interfere with our freedom. He would do miracles to those who believe. He would walk the way we walk. He would talk to us the way we speak. He would eat and drink like us. He would play, laugh and cry. He would take the bus, and get stuck in the traffic. But the the thing is, like what happened before, many of us would not know Him. He would be blasting his message on line. He would be replying to a text message when you pm him. He would be praying for others while helping them in their lives.

If he was able to born into human form, God that he is, he could always set his foot into the world in another human form. The point of question on what if God was one of us, should be directed to the mind and character of each one of us. If God was one of us, then we could profess and express the same love that He has for everyone. He should be one of us, as He is in us, in faith and in Spirit.

Then His love should manifest as we share our lives, time, treasure and talents to others. He is one of us, amidst us when we stand strong for justice, peace, equality, freedom, truth and well-being in this world. He is one of us and amongst us when we love, as to whatever that means.

On the contrary, where there is war, poverty, hunger, disasters, death, tragedy,terrorism, violence, abuse, injustice, dehumanization, inequality, political struggles, division, where do we find God? All these are world problems that God did not impose on us. As I see it, God is not testing us either through these, for he knows whether we will fail on it or not. These are what we created to what was beautiful in the world in our humanity. If God is one of us, then we would try to face and resolve these concerns in a Godly way. That is the sense of God being with us.

Soon the Catholic and the Christian faith will celebrate Christmas. Christmas is that time of remembering that God, who was the word made flesh, was is and forever will be one of us. We can only find Him in us in faith, and our works and deeds will confirm that as tested by His Spirit. God in us as we manifest genuine love to all God's creation.

(Photo: Acrylic on Canvass, Face of God by James Prattas from

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What do Moms Teach Kids?

Last Saturday, I was obliged to take my nephews to Mall of Asia for this Ben10 affair. Joszcef my nephew made kulit to me to take him there on that particular day, because he said, there will be Ben10 freebies. He loves Ben10 a lot. So he negotiated earlier that week that we should go there.

He knew the schedule, its at 2pm at the Mall of Asia, but he didn't have any idea where it would be. So our first stop was at the Toy Kingdom. He would always ask me about the time and check my watch. He would not want to be late.

I took with me four of my nephews there, Bothchok, Bitoy, Dadao and Jozcef. After dropping by Toy Kingdom, we went to the Atrium where the event had started. Kids were so excited to see an alien from the containment unit. But they got dismayed when the unit was opened and the kids were told that the alien escaped.

I got dismayed too with what one mom did to my nephew. After the program, the crew started giving out sticker freebies to the kids. Adults mugged the crew, and kids where there squeezed, competing with adults to get some freebies.

When Dadao, my nephew, came out from the throng of adults, he was holding some stickers by his right hand. He was sweating, like coming from a struggle. I was happy to see that he got some freebies. Then there came this mom, with her fat son. She slowly pulled the stickers my nephew got and then give it to her son. She even had him to keep the sticker tucked in the boy's armpits.

Sitting on the stairways, I couldn't stop getting her attention. "Excuse, me miss, I saw that, that's not fair. I saw what you did." She looked at me, but as if she did not hear anything. Deadma. My nephew looked at her.

I stood up, got my nephew in my arms, told that mom frankly. "I just saw what you did to my nephew, you took the stickers from his hand. That's not just fair". I was speaking English, and there that mom appear to be dumb of what I was saying.

My mom told me never to steal anything from others, never to take anything that is not mine or which others own. Freebies are free, they are given for free. To whom it is given first, becomes the rightful owner. What can a kid at 6 do against adults? What would a kid think of adults who take away things from them which they deserve?

For my mom, stealing is next to murder. I knew from my mom, how she defended from one my relative who blamed me for his lost wallet, which was actually stolen by his own son. We were not fed from anything stolen, and she who is a widow from when I was 7 took the responsibility of rearing us to who we are now.

Kids will be kids, but they have to be trained in the way they should go. The adults role in training the child is not realized only by verbal exchange. Kids learn more from modeling. What is noble with the action of taking something from someone, to please your own child?

To spoil the child with material pleasures, without them knowing the pain of work, can only turn the child to be too dependent on their parents, and consquently be a rebel who turn their backs on their parents when what he or she wanted can not be given. Giving your child something you did not work hard for teaches them complacency. Stealing for your child teaches them to become thieves later on.

Moms have a vital role in molding their children. Kids look up to their parents as models, and when they grow they measure the worth of their parents as to how the latter made them.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I Compete with Me so Let I beat Me

Most people think that "first impressions last". Surely they will last when the first time you've known the person is also the last time, because that limited interaction is the only schema you will have about the person for the rest of your life if you did not have any other time spent to know him or her better. To rectify this: "distinct impressions last, whether first or whatever, as figments in human memory".

Competitive, competent, concerned, caring and critical are some adjectives other people use to describe me. On the other hand, a crisis emerges when some people allude these traits to conceit.If I were to describe my self -- I is me, and me is me.I can't force myself to morph to the mold anyone wants me to be. I think and my being depends on my personal choice of how I want my self to be. I don't compete with others, because my competitor is me.

My identity, personality, character, values, thoughts, expressions and actions do not make me. They are parts of me, but I am more than me. I am me. What people sense in me are not all of me, and most often others are not aware of the I in me. I feel that most people who are so insecure of others are not really secure of their selves, and the only business that they can prosper is to mouth about others and not look into their selves.

When I was a child I didn't know of the I in me, and I didn't even know who is me; neither do I have a choice to define who I am and what is me. It was they, who told me things about me, they took care of fashioning me as they thought me to be. Thus, how others find me, is not all that I wanted me to be. The world has no longer hold of me, as I have learned that I am part of creating this world. I am empowered to be in control of not only examining my world but also making it.

I am not a child anymore, in age and in mind. Yes I do want to be childlike as God wants all his children to be. I am an adult,a young adult, But I share the same rights and privileges of making me, as I want me to be. I can choose to be excellent or to be dysfunctional, I can choose to be near or to be far. I can choose to hide, or to expose, I can choose to talk, or be silent. I can choose to help, or be helped. I can choose to affirm, or disagree. I can choose to value the respectable, or ignore the ignoble. I can choose to cooperate,or to be separate. I can choose to work, or to stay idle. I can choose so I can be. I can choose who I want to be.

I can be competitive or passive. I can be competent or incompetent. I can be concerned or pathetic. I can be caring or indifferent. I can be concerned or self-centered. I can be critical or dumb. I can stand tall, but others will think of that as conceit. I can be assertive of my thoughts, but others will think of that as arrogance. I can be expressive of my feelings, but others will see that as extreme audacity. I can think aloud, but others will think of that subversive. I can be what others will like and I can be what others will not like.

But I can not be a mediocre to please two opposing sides.So with these, some people have impressions that I am conceited. That is not me, and that is not who I really am. This is the adult world's crisis. Adults train the child to be independent and confident, and when they have grown to be such, adults think that the younger should find their place lower than them. Socially, hierarchy and caste are constructed to keep the status quo even to the point of tearing the whole system apart.

I am competitive, competent, concerned, caring and critical. That is me, others can think of anything about me. I will think about them also, reflect and examine my self, but anything else beyond what I see my self can not immideately change the way I see me to be. Should I drop these, then what is me? I am not you, nor they nor anyone else, but me. Being so is not in anyway contradicting to my faith in God who wants all that is excellent for his children to be. He knows me, more than anyone else, and little by little I see that revealed in me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love: A Cross Cultural Experience

Elizabeth Gilbert was an unhappy woman, needing balance while desiring control over her life circumstances. After being married for eight years, she found herself divorced from her husband Steve, then sleeping with a yogi named Dave, wishing to have an affair with Giovanni, dancing like a flirt with another guy, and ending up crossing over with a divorced man named Philippe.

This is the biography of a woman who wanted to become a mother after being the best wife that she thought she could be, from years of marriage. A writer, she thought... "I don't want to be married anymore". Such is a decision she made, a decision she painfully had to deal with, a decision that lead her to eat, pray and love across borders, in Italy, India and Indonesia.

I wanted to see this movie because I was intrigued by the plot and theme as I understood it from its trailer, and plus the cinematic locations. I haven't read the book, but I think it is a fascinating read.

It was one night that she prayed, asking the God whom she has not spoken with for so long a time, to tell her what to do, because she felt her marriage was in trouble. Then the decision not to be married anymore, turned her life into a quest.

After the divorce, she went on a quest to find her self.She planned it so well, that she wanted to go to Italy, to learn a new language, to India and end her year in Bali, Indonesia. It was in Italy that she ate and spoke Italian like one eats it. It was in India that she learned to meditate, a sort of prayer to focus her mind and align the elements in the cosmic universe to positive thoughts that could give her the balance in life. It was in Indonesia that she loved, others, her self and another man.

The crosscultural context of this movie is indeed a wonder to examine. Gilbert is a global citizen, someone like having 49 stamps on her passport, someone who is from the borders of the earth, an individual who's identity is of various culture. To understand others would be easier for her, than to understand her self. This personal crises brought her into a quest to find and know her self.

Italians as depicted in the movie, are people who have value for the joys of life and the security in family. Marriage seems to be necessary to make one happy. That if one is not married, he or she is either a queer, or not normal. Indians as depicted in the movie is culture with close connection to the cosmic realm, and bound by traditions and religious beliefs. Their animistic and unorthodox faith reflects to the personal desire of being in control of one's self and circumstances. Irony is seen in the story of one young lass whose marriage was arranged by her family against her self will. Indonesians are shown to be very accomodating to foreigners, welcoming, hospitable and warm to help others, yet still influenced by socio-cultural traditions and beliefs that are strong in them. Love of self is expressed equally as love for others in that place in Bali, and happiness is found in the simplicity of letting go of one's self to love another.

Various emotional elements in the movie kept my interest in wathching it. The narrative is like a bead of pearls or thread of flowers that has continuity without being predictable. It shares quotable quotes for those interested about self, life and living happily. But as this movie presents cultures that are different from what I am accustomed with, I have treat the narrative with openness yet with a critical mind.

Life and love are two facets connected with faith. The main character in the movie has strong faith in her self, but lack faith in God. In her marriage, as she wanted to be the best wife, she lost control of her self, turning that faith to her husband. God in the movie is neither the Christian, the Muslim or the God of Buddha. "God is within you, as the god in you." This is the god who can keep balance, who can bring happiness. Praying in the form of meditation is that unlocking one's power to master the universe, and draw that universe's energy back to one self.

Understanding faith in cross-cultural context does not see neither the oriental nor the western to be true and correct, great or inferior. In this same case, how people feel, speak, eat and heal their selves vary from one culture to another. Love, faith and food are three universal facets that manifest as culturally influenced. Just like a turkey is not the main dish in thanksgiving in Italy, if thanksgiving is celebrated there. While kissing and petting is common in Italy, it is a taboo in Indonesia. While divorce is common in New York, it is not fashion in Bali. While the Balinese can cure wounds with banana leaf, this is not the usual medical practice in New York or Italy. While praying to Saints is common in Italy, animals and the gurus pictures are the icons of worship in India. While coke in New York has less sugar, thumbs in India has five times sugar content.

All these present a kaleidoscop of a rich world culture. This is the beauty of human culture. Wathching this fascinating movie reconnects a viewer like me to my culture and to my self, vis a vis my relationships with the people whom I should care for and keep.

Julia Roberts who played the role of Elizabeth Gilbert, has not loss her flare as the elegant pretty woman who charms men. Director Ryan Murphy gets my thumb up for putting a great ensemble of cinematic elements in a fun, romantic and witty way set in four corners of the world.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fine Thin Line that Dichotomizes Teaching

There is a fine thin line between teaching as science and as an art. Yet, this thin line like a river can present itself as gorge that divides educators in their bifurcating worldviews of teaching. I embrace both the science and art of teaching that experience taught me.

I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication and consequently earned Master of Arts in Communication Management. Contrastingly, I have set my foot on the field of education - mentoring, inspiring, transforming, enlightening, motivating, coaching, helping and teaching learners. Experience gave me a degree in both pedagogy and andragogy as I taught children, young adults, and mature adults while I worked as a teacher and trainer-consultant.

I lacked the scientific knowledge that formal schooling provides for teachers, so I turned to creativity, imagination and reflective thinking to master the competencies of a teacher. Because of this personal limitation, I engaged my self into developing a model for teaching that applies the art and science of communication. I merely modeled my personal approaches to teaching from the best teachers that mentored me, and through pinning my head on literature about education. This model is my personal contribution to the body of knowledge about teaching and learning. It is an imaginative work based on empirical works, and it has applications not only in teaching communication arts, but also in teaching the sciences.

The question as to whether teaching is an art or science, is not a common discourse among college faculty that I worked with. My colleagues never speak of the results of empirical efforts that examine education with scientific lenses. It seems to me that they have their own art and science of teaching. That teaching is rather msytical if not a result of trial and error.

The lack of scientific knowledge and philosophical foundations are merely compensated by a teacher's overboard confidence that she or he can teach. Teaching could be easy, when it is viewed as a mere transmission of knowledge, but when teaching is measured as to the students' learning, it is another story.

I no longer think of teaching, or what to teach and how to teach. Rather, I think of why the students need to learn what and how and they will be able to learn them in the given time allowed. Simply, because I am called to teach for students to learn.

If I assume that teaching is a vocation, then I have to consider it as a mission and ministry. As a mission, I am responsible to help learners achieve learning goals. As a ministry, I am to serve the academe and these younger generation with respect to a higher principled and philosophical goal. A vocation is noble calling that requires the demonstration of high morals and professional standard. A vocation is not a profession, for it finds gratification not in the remuneration, but in the reward of being able to share one's life for another's transformation.

Pedagogy, scientifically, is all about changing behavior permanently. But this should not imply that teachers utilize behaviorist approaches. Rather, it must continuously aspire to find the right means for the betterment of a learner and the learning process. The process that science offers is not fool-proof, and socially, it is unethical to use students as guinea pigs to try out techniques, tools and other things.

Scientifically as well, psychologists have determined that individuals are able learners, who learn by him/her self, in groups and in their social interactions with others, that learners are constructive and they will learn best if schools can provide the needed scaffolds for them to move to a competent state. In this case, the teacher is not central in the process - but also a scaffold.

The latter is an interpretivism, my personal imaginative thought. The art of teaching is not magic, and not pure teacher-performance. The art of teaching, for me is engaging the learners to recognize the value of education and willful commitment to its process for their personal transformation.

Teaching is performance that should enable the students to learn, it does not end as a mere spectacle that learners watch. Teaching is beyond oratory and rhetorics to fascinate learners, but a dialogue in which discourse and authentic knowing would take place. That is the art of instructional communication. As an art, there is no exact or deterministic method, because it is dynamic and evolving.

Since there is fine thin line between the art and science of teaching, there is no pride in claiming that teaching should be approached in one way against the other. Teaching is for learning, and learning is achieved scientifically and artistically.