Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Kid in the World of Spongebobs

Mornings are busier than the afternoon. Well, in our house at least. Here, people paced from place to place just so that they could beat the clock and make it through their respective schedules. Frantic searches for lost school items are often a scene. Tupperwares left on the round dining table, the owner temporary oblivious at the moment, come recess or lunch they’ll sure wish they took their time. But it’s a different day yay Nieves and my mom were more didactic, more softly spoken about the lessons of my nephew even preparing a special breakfast. This could only mean one nostalgic thing—examination day!
The test taker is Joshua. He’s on kinder now. Having taught him in few of his assignments I know what he’s examination would be like: naming of shapes; naming of colors; the ecosystem. True to my hunch all of these topics were covered. The first part was identification by encircling the answer, and matching type. Yay Nieves—the narrator of the story who fetched Josh on that day—told us that the kid answered the items swiftly with great air of confidence.
The second part was drawing. At home Josh drew a lot (not to mention even on walls) that made me allude that this test would be over in a jiffy. As what he did on the first part of the exam Joshua quickly finished the task. He was free to go earlier. However, the teacher noticed something odd and disturbing about the kid’s drawing that it pushed her to prod for an explanation.
They were asked to draw a picture of their families (a typical task for pre-school kids). While the rest of the kids drew a semblance of their families Josh’s papers were more “bizarre” (for the teacher). When she asked the child what the kid drew Josh replied “si Spongebob po at and kanyang pamilya…” The teacher pointed to another set of characters that were different from the Spongbobs and asked about it. “Ang kapitbahay po nila si Patrick at ang kanyang pamilya.” Josh proudly replied. The teacher hiding her laughter bit her lips nodded and waved goodbye to her student.
At home we all burst into a wild chuckling. We asked yay Nieves to repeat the story whenever there were new arrivals. Each and every time we howled full of mirth with that anecdotal. Josh watched us with his smile while his skin blushed. Yet behind those jokes I somewhat believed that it was not out of misunderstanding nor was it due to the kid’s inability to comprehend did he made such drawing. Josh is a smart kid though he can’t read yet (he could recognize and write alphabets) his intelligence doesn’t come with education—I just can’t put my fingers to it—but it emanates deep inside the core of his being.
Often we find him busy in front of the TV watching his favorite cartoons. But when he speaks out his mind he usually astonishes me with his questions even more his answers. I remembered once when I was so down trodden by the enigmatic formulary of statistics and he spoke, “o hayaan mo nalang muna yan, maya mo na sagutan” he said with great air of concern, “relax ka muna tito baka matulad ka kay Squidward.” Succinctly I was pulled out of the Labyrinthine worries that I have. I felt he was the elder and I am the kid. I flashed a smile of relief and patted his head.
Perhaps, I was a Squidward in their eyes when I seem to direct my attention at paper works, assignment, good etiquette, and social formality. To them that is simply boring. Sometimes we are Mr. Krabbs concerned with money, work, and yes, more money. Or maybe we are Plankton in his egotistical and conceited daydreaming submitting the world into his tyranny, and of course, getting that secret Krabby patty formula. While it is funny and comical on TV it may not be so humorous at real life.
Although, this things are unavoidable because we need to pay bills and abide the social standards these kids (my three nephews) led by Joshua, the eldest, are giving me something of benefit for me. Once in a while I give them lessons: alphabet, reading, counting, and some other things. While them, they teach me to see the world as a child sees them, though I confess I might see it while my eyes were squinting.
Returning to his work, while he drew something that will not be graded in excellence, I find his work authentic and rich with imagination. He was brave enough to show the world who he is regardless of whether people might laugh at him or grade him lowly. And how many times have I caught myself draping myself with an edifice of etiquette for approval or in fear of failure. For a child it is okay to trip and fall there is always tomorrow anyways, wounds heal. They enjoy themselves every moment by being simply the kid that they are.
In Bikini Bottom anything is possible. For isn’t it Spongebob himself, along with Patrick Star, who created wonders out of a box armed only with imagination and believing themselves. Josh has this innately. After all, he is living in the time of Spongebob and other heroes. In their way anything could be done. Impossible didn’t exist. Yes, amidst of their blunders and histrionics they were their own, well, genius.
Whenever I am with the kids I sure do remind myself who the student is and who is the teacher; who teaches and who learns. For children are teachers too without even reading or writing. And while I find it hard to live without worries I know that I could be able to understand the enigmas of their tutelage after all I am once, too, in their world—a child.  

Friday, October 8, 2010

Facing the Petty Tyrants in our Lives: Don Juan’s Encounter

In some point in our lives we encounter a person who tests us beyond limits of our endurance. We view it often as a curse for meeting such person. We avoid. We run away at the very sound of his/her thumping shoes. The very thought of it simply evokes an eruption of negativity.

It is normal I guess to take flight most especially if we are in the disadvantage. Even the emotions of repulsion, fear, gloom, helplessness are justifiable and appropriate for the psyche. It allows us to cope at the danger and even to avoid it.
However, as I read on with Carlos Castaneda’s The Fire from Within I came across a story of Don Juan and a time when he met one of the most violent and vicious individual that delivered him to hell and back (both literally and metaphorically). They were called, in the Toltec’s words, petty tyrants. They are the people who wrought suffering to others without guilt or remorse.
Even though the story happened decades ago before and during Don Juan’s apprenticeship as a sorcerer these petty tyrants, as we could see, exist even today with different faces and statures in our society. As they exist so there would be victims under their dreadful clutches. On the other hand, how Don Juan dealt with the fiend of an individual was astonishing that made me rethink of my own dealings with my so called “villains” in everyday life. It would be a great pleasure to share the story.
Don Juan worked at a sugar mill as a laborer when he was barely twenty. He was not only strong but also well-built for his early age. One day a rich domineering woman in her fifties came by. The woman looked at Don Juan and spoke to the foreman. She left immediately afterwards. Then the foreman called on him and said that for a price he could have a job in the boss’s house. Being, then, a lowly Indian who lives from hand-to-mouth this felt like a grace from the divine as he agreed to pay large amount in installments.

When he got to the mansion he was asked by a huge ugly somber man questions. And he grinned maliciously when Don Juan said he doesn’t have any family. He promised that the pay is sumptuous and he could save some money for he would be eating and sleeping at the mansion. The man then laughed sinisterly, so diabolic that Don Juan was terrorized and run out of the house for he knew he had to escape. But the man out paced him and cocked a gun and rammed it on his stomach. “You are to work yourself to the bone!”

There were men hovering around with machetes making the place look almost like a fortress. Everyday Don Juan was given the most dangerous and toiling tasks without break, and worse he was bullied to no end. “You’ll work here until you die…and when you die another Indian will replace you as you replaced one!” the petty tyrant exalted. He was threatened that if he run away he would be sent to jail for an attempted murder of the Lady as the foreman will falsify everything. He had the leverage in court trial anyway. As he survived a day all it meant the next morning after opening his eyes is that he needed to undergo in the same inferno. It was hell!

What served as the final wick to it all was when Don Juan asked for a time off to pay the other foreman but he was denied and was told that he was already in greater debt for having worked in the mansion. Don Juan knew these traps. He then understood that the two foremen were in cahoots. Their strategy was to work the laborers to their deaths and split their earnings.

This thought made Don Juan exploded with anger and ran inside the kitchen then to the outside screaming. Everyone was surprised but as he went by the road he was shot by the foreman and left to dead.

His benefactor found him and healed him. Upon hearing the story Don Juan’s benefactor urged him to go back at the mansion and face him again. It’s a rare opportunity to be with a petty tyrant he said.

Three years later, armed with the strategies and teachings he got from his benefactor, Don Juan returned to the sugar mill where he worked before. Nobody noticed him for no one gives a fig about laborers there, especially an Indian laborer. Again the same woman came, looked at Don Juan—who was even stronger than before—and talked to the foreman. He told him that he could get a job at the mansion for a price. But Don Juan refused to pay this time. No one ever rejected such proposition before so the man was taken aback. He threatened to fire Don Juan from his job but retorted that he knew where the Lady lived and would come see her to report about the foreman’s actions, and about the job. In the end, the foreman gave in and paid.

Upon arriving at the mansion Don Juan ran and looked for the Lady, and when he did he dropped on his knees and thanked her for her kindness. The two foremen were livid upon the sight. As it was before, the petty tyrant was an ogre of a man and gave Don Juan the most dangerous jobs especially at the stables where the horses and wild stallions are. The petty tyrant again bullied Don Juan to no end.

As part of the strategy, he has managed to note the weaknesses of the tyrant: he loves his job completely which he doesn’t want to endanger; he is a family man whose shack is near the mansion; the most fatal, he is nauseated by the scent of the horses’ stable. His strongest point would be his adamantine violence.

Meanwhile, Don Juan’s shield from the petty tyrant was the Lady who got him the job. He kneeled and thanked her every time he saw her. He even asked for the medallion of the lady’s patron saint so that he could pray for her health and well-being.

The petty tyrant was shocked when the Lady gave Don Juan the medallion. Even more, when Don Juan assembled all the servants to pray at night his temper become intensified. He decided to kill the vexatious Indian. Sensing this, Don Juan never slept in bed he climbed the roof and saw the murder in the eyes of the man while he twice searched for him. Don Juan’s countermeasure: he arranged all the servants to pray the rosary, which the Lady of the house praised him for and believed he has the elements of piousness. The tables were about to turn.

One day, Don Juan, in front of all the servants, and at the view of the Lady, insulted the petty tyrant. He called him a coward for mortally being afraid of the boss’s wife. The man was so infuriated, but the Indian had already run and was kneeling at the Lady, Don Juan knew that he won’t dare kill him at the sight of the lady nor use a gun due to its noise. Moments later, he was called at the back of the house by the foreman’s friends asking him to do something. He acquiesced but he knew their ploy.

Instead of going to them he ran into the stables in hopes that the horses would make a ruckus sending the owners curious enough to go outside. The petty tyrant white with rage ran after Don Juan. He jumped inside the stable of the wildest stallion. Having blinded by rage, the petty tyrant forgot about the stables stench and the stallions ready to end the fool. However, while he was armed by a knife, Don Juan was hiding at his planks that he made for protection from the brute strength of the beasts something the tyrant never knew about. So with just one kick from the stallion the petty tyrant fell.

The strategy that Don Juan employed was the four attributes of warriorship: control is to be in command of the self, aware at the moment while in fulfillment of the idiotic behests; discipline is focusing on his tasks intended, gathering all the information needed—the weaknesses and quirks of behavior of the petty tyrant; forbearance was the simple joyful holding back to what is due to be given; timing is the essence or quality that regulates what is held back. “Control, discipline, and forbearance are like a dam behind which everything is pooled. Timing is the gate in the dam.”

The literature further adds that what transpires in the chanced encounter was the shattering of self-importance. “Any man who has an iota of pride is ripped apart by being made to feel worthless.” Don Juan said. Truly worthlessness exist upon the presence of pride and vice versa, therefore our own causes of misery. If that self-importance is torn apart we felt victimized, often or not seeking vengeance but Don Juan doesn’t have any a virtue honed in his apprenticeship.

What is more astonishing is that Don Juan in spite of the barbarism of the petty tyrant, even though his tears might be falling, while his blood and sweat dripped at the soil, while he shivered in the stench and dangers of the stables, he didn’t hated the petty tyrant nor did he plotted against him, there he was smiling inside—he was happy!

Here, I realized the Buddhist premise, “your enemy is your greatest teacher.” They could teach you something that you weren’t able to learn, they will help you to go far beyond yourself. Like a glass rigid with self-importance placed at the furnace fires, molded into something new.  It all starts at taking a different perception, taking a different stand.
These encounters are either a curse or a blessing. It all depends on the choice that we make, either we choose to be victims or become impeccable warriors. The first leads to misery while the latter to knowledge. And nobody can run away from these we are automatically pushed to decide—we become either one—we will have to inevitably pick upon finding ourselves face to face with the fiend and beast—the petty tyrant.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Fifty-Peso Fraud

The Conductor vs. the passenger! This seems to be the scene as I am riding an ordinary bus home (known for their bullet fast acceleration). Their voices were boisterous and their argument apparently heightened. And, at my guess, it would only be a sudden loss of patience from a nonverbal pose or a provocative word that might send the final wick of this debacle to explode.
People were looking; passengers who were disturbed from their snooze turned their heads towards the two. Sensing a furious exchange of blows or even a flagrant hitting commentary would suffice for these people. Me? I didn’t give a fuss. I was, after all, recovering from the loss of my 700-peso automatic black with green pinstripe Fibrella, which have been one of my few remaining “possession” from my old job; it was stolen from a computer shop were I was just typing an assignment. Who would steal an umbrella for heaven’s sake!
I was more furious than these two combined. However, as their argument came to a long dragging repetitious dialogue, fed up from the irritating persistence of the other fellow to take his money the conductor unable to control his tempering mouth in a high pitch tone― which he might not be cognizant of―blurted, “pare peke ang pera mo!”  Then the bus fell into a deep silence, as if everybody paused and waited for a final verse in a play. That is when my curiosity sprung into life.
While the worker sat on the bus froze to what has been said I asked the conductor  about his conclusions of the fraudulence of the money. “Paano naging peke to?” I asked in an inquisitive manner. He then gave me the money and asked me to hold and feel the bill’s surface. Seriously, when I saw the crumpled money it was like the 50-peso bill that I have. It’s real! But the conductor pointed out that the surface of the bill is smoother and more crisp like an ironed paper while the real one was soft, more defined in its surface. The difference seems to be apparent and if we could detect fraud by that factor the rejected money was truly a fake.
The passenger iterated that it was given to him as a change by another bus line earlier and now, being in a fixed allowance, is now his only money at his disposal. Fortunately, I asked the conductor what he thought of that whether he would ask the man to get out of the bus―we are at the middle of Skyway―or whether, in his kind nature, mark off the fare from the person just for today. Luckily for the passenger the latter choice won out.
My point here is not merely exposing the verity of the existence of forfeited money nor would I be proving any facts delineated by the conductor as a proof of counterfeited money. I would care less about that; the mere fact that both money (real and sham) all had features or expected features of the real one, that crispness and smoothness alone defines it would be even dubious to allude to any conclusion, truly it was head bashing, so let us leave that.
What I am alluding to is the fact that these events (the bogus bill and, yes, my stolen umbrella) to occur is pitiful, downright foul, and a con that takes advantage of the less advantaged many. If a 50-peso bill has even pushed a person to put another into this predicament does it sound too ridiculous? A 50-peso bill, an amount not even too big to buy a 1-piece Chicken Joy has tempted and prompt individuals to forge a life they don’t have, isn’t that saddening? That an umbrella is stolen right at your back in a formal place like a computer shop isn’t that mortifying?
Truly, the adage money is the root of evil is true. But let me add to that, man becomes evil when he allows money to be his root. And there are far worse thieves than those who have done this they sit in an esteemed and respected chair with suites, uniforms, barongs and filipinianas on, while stealing more umbrellas and 50-peso bill from the people―they steal opportunities!
This was written on the 3rd of August now that we are nearing the yuletide season maybe they have populated even more.