Silence

“We are so accustomed to noise, that we are not able to appreciate silence anymore.” Those are the words a very wise old man told me in Lake Shrine, a very peaceful mediation area in Pacific Palisades, just an hour away from the heart of LA.

I agree completely. Every day we are exposed to noise, from conversations, the drones of cars, the ringing of phones. We don’t know it, but we never truly experience silence, and for that reason we have missed a lot of things.

We tend to dismiss silence, branding it as useless, strange, and boring. We look at people who are quiet and think that they are odd. When we are alone in our home, we turn on the TV so that we can hear voices. What we forget is that sometimes we need silence, for it has the power to make us realize a lot of things that are hidden from us.

I have to say that silence actually speaks a lot, teaching us about ourselves. Have you ever been somewhere so quiet, with no sound to be heard, and felt like the silence is very loud? I have, and I can say that it allows you to think. Rather than believing that silence is useless and boring, I’d like to say that it actually speaks to us, telling us about ourselves and the world, making us think more than we are able to when we are surrounded by noise. Through silence I discover parts of myself I have never known before, I find new ideas that have been buried for so long, and most importantly, tells me what is important and what is not. A few hours of silence can help us sort out our problems, because most of our worries are actually not that important anyway.

Of course, I’m not saying that noise is bad, and that we should all stop talking. I like good, interesting conversations more than anything, but sometimes we need a break from all that. Sometimes we need quiet. Sometimes we need a time to think. Sometimes we need to let our worldly problems go and just appreciate life. :)

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Here are some pictures from Lake Shrine. It’s a truly wonderful place. We all know that LA is a bustling, busy city with plenty of stress, and this little sanctuary is a treasure.

 

Phones

I went to Long Beach yesterday, and while at the pier, I realized that everyone, me included, was looking at the beautiful scenery through their phones, taking pictures and videos. It made a very strange impression, and I wonder if this has become the new normal.

Isn’t it weird that we look at beautiful things through lenses? Why can’t we be satisfied with looking at it with our own eyes? While we are trying so hard to capture the moment and make it last forever, we are missing out on the things we could have experienced if only we put our phones down and enjoy ourselves.

I remember the time I was going hiking in Henninger Flats. There were no outlets there and my phone died within hours of getting there. I was very disappointed at first, for I wasn’t able to take pictures to send to my family and friends. However, I also realized that it was actually better. I could focus on the things around me, I could have lots of fun with my friends without the phone distracting me, and best of all, I could see everything as they truly are, without having to pull out my phone whenever I see something beautiful. What I love most was looking down at the city below us in the middle of the night, watching the city lights blinking like stars while overhead, the real stars were spread out across the night sky. It felt magical.

Thinking about it now, I wonder if I had my phone at that time, will I lose the moment? Will I see the things I noticed that night, or will I just be spending half of my time taking photographs?

Phones have become such a huge part of our lives, and I agree that they are very important. However, there are things that it can never capture. Taking pictures and looking at them afterwards is a very different experience from observing things and letting it sit in your memory. Talking to someone face to face is much more intimate than telephoning or texting. The sad thing is that we are getting more and more dependent on our phones. Even when we are surrounded by our friends, we still check our phones often. Is that natural? I don’t think so.

From now on I am going to limit my phone use. I won’t be bringing my charger everywhere with me anymore. I’ll save battery power to get home by not using it for unnecessary things. And I am also going to reduce the amount of data I get in a month, from 2 gb to 600 mb. I think baby steps to overcoming this phone addiction would be a nice change. :D

There goes my rants, now have some pretty pictures I took yesterday. Don’t worry, I didn’t spend all my time taking pictures.

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Poverty

Hi, first of all I would like to apologize for being so inactive for so long. School turns out to be time-consuming after all, but now summer vacation has started, and although I am still going to take summer classes, I hope I can write more.

 

The topic I’m going to write about today is that of poverty. A lot of people see poverty with pity, disgust, even resentment. Some even consider it to be a sin. But is it really a sin? After all, some people cannot help but be poor. What if they are born in a poor family? Is their mere existence a sin? Besides, as long as they do not harm anyone, then that should be okay, right?

However, I came to understand that poverty is sin, but it is not the sin of a single person, but that of the whole society. As we all know, we live in a world where money is worth more than anything else, and where the rich get their wealth from the less fortunate. And it just goes on: the rich gets richer and more powerful, while the poor’s struggles become even more difficult. Therefore we can conclude that poverty is really a sin, not that of the poor, because most of them can do nothing to get out of the dark pit they’re thrown in, but a sin of the rich, because they can do something but never do. It is especially a sin of those who conquer the world, who turn a blind eye on the suffering of others, and who exploit them instead of helping them, all for the sake of themselves. 

As we all know, most crimes stem from poverty. People will do what they can to survive, even if they have to kill. Moreover, poverty also creates jealousy, envy, resentment, and other negative feelings that would later turn into actions. And this makes me think: if we address poverty, if we tackle them and try to make society more prosperous, would the world be a better place? After all, if everyone is well-clothed, well-fed, and sheltered, there would be less crimes, for people won’t be pushed to doing things they are not proud of just to survive.

I read an article about countering homelessness which really angered me. However, it also shows our mistakes in the way we perceive poverty. Instead of seeing it as a sin of us all, we tend to blame it on the poor. But do they have a voice? No. And that is why we have to be more compassionate, more helpful, and try our best to help, no matter how small the action might be. 

Price and Prize of Love

Here is something I wrote about the essay Joyas Voladoras, written by Brian Doyle. I recommend everyone to read this essay, for it is beautiful and thought-provoking, and emotionally relatable.

It begins with a hummingbird. Them it shifts to whales. And it finally ends with humans. At first glance, we might not see the connection, but once we have finished Doyle’s Joyas Voladoras, everything makes sense.

There is a beautiful message written in this essay, one that I believe we can all relate to. The heart is a mysterious, immeasurable thing. We can never understand how the heart works, and Doyle shows us just how beautifully complex it is.

First, Doyle began with a comparison. There are many kinds of hearts, each one unique, with their own characteristics. Some hearts are like the hummingbird’s: passionate, easy to love, and ambitious, while others are more like the tortoise’s, which burn slowly and comfortably. It shows just how diverse the heart is. Some are small, others are as big as a house. Some are open, while others close their doors in fear of being hurt.

And this brings us to another important point. The heart is a fragile thing, which can easily be broken, and even if we manage to put it back together again, the scars still remain. Doyle wrote: “All hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched with force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore.”

Maybe this is what scares us. Maybe this is why we build walls around ourselves, around the rooms of our hearts where we are the most vulnerable. Maybe this is why we are, to a certain extent, afraid of loving others. Because what if the person we love does not love us back? Or what if they have to go their own separate ways? What if we lose them? Can we cope with the pain, or will our hearts break and crumble?

Some of us are so scared of having our hearts broken that we close the doors to our hearts and refuse to let anyone in, hoping that this will protect us from the uncertainties of life. However, there are things we can never control, and maybe at one moment we are perfectly safe behind our brick walls, but then comes someone who breaks it down in an instant, leaving us naked, exposed, and very, very afraid.

This is not always a bad thing. True, having an open heart that loves passionately means that we are vulnerable to a lot of dangers. We can easily be hurt. We might lose hope. But between these disadvantages, we gain a beautiful, wonderful ability to love, to experience just how far our hearts can go, and to transcend ourselves and become a better person, a person we never imagined we could ever be.

All this is out of reach for someone who hides behind the confines of their own fears. Although they might be safe from the storm outside, they can never see the sun either. And I believe that even when the storm destroys everything in its path, the sun would come out again, because our hearts can always be healed by the touch of love. The scars will remain, that is certain, but when faced with all the happiness life can bring if we only let it, those scars would be nothing more than a nightmare we have conquered, one that cannot touch us anymore, for we are stronger now than we have ever been.

People are Equal

Yesterday at Church, the priest said something wonderful, which I’m going to share here:

If there is one thing we need to change, it’s the perception that one life is worth more than others.

It’s in our nature to differentiate other human beings. Some think that one race is more worthy than the others, some think that men are better than women (or vice versa!), and some believe that people in another religion are worth less than themselves, because they are not on the “right path”.

I personally agree with the quote, that human lives are all equal. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how much money you have, how many friends you have, how good you are at something: it doesn’t give you the right to look down upon others. It doesn’t give you the right to oppress others, and you are not justified in doing so. Not at all.

I have seen a lot of racism, both in my home country and in the US, and it’s rather stupid. What does race have to do with anything? We are all humans, and we are all equal. Skin color, facial features, appearances: they doesn’t determine how much we are worth. We are all beautiful, we are all God’s creations, and we should live side-by-side in harmony and equality.

Next, the rich often doesn’t care about the poor. For example: how many of us care to talk and give money to the homeless? We might have an argument: that they’re not working and that they don’t deserve our money, for they will only spend it on alcohol and drugs, but is that the right thing to do? We don’t know what they’re going through, so we shouldn’t judge. Our spare change might help them live another day. It’s not hurting us, anyway.

And the hardest thing to understand is this: that good and bad people are equal. You might say that it isn’t true, that good people are worth more than evil ones, but I say no to that. Everyone has good and bad in them: it’s our nature as human beings. And so everyone has the chance to change and become good. This is why we shouldn’t look down on them. Who knew what made them bad? Sometimes they can’t help it. After all, circumstances are unpredictable.

 

In the end, the conclusion is always this: love everyone. It doesn’t matter who they are, what they do, how much they have. We are all human beings, and we are created equal. We shouldn’t judge others, shouldn’t make fun of others, no matter how blessed we might be.

Change

Admit it, everyone: there is at least one aspect of our life that we want to change. It could be our appearance, our intelligence, our personality, the friends we have, the job we do, the place we live in; the list goes on.

It is normal to want change, it is good to strive for a better life. We all have things we don’t like, and it’s okay to change, as long as it’s still reasonable.

If you want to change how you look, just dye your hair, work out, wear different kinds of make-up. Tired of your job? Find another one you like (it’s not as easy, but hey it isn’t impossible). Want to be friendlier and nicer? Just smile :)

So now, for our late New Year’s Resolution, let’s change one thing about us one aspect at a time, until we become a better person. Remember, though, that change don’t happen overnight (unless you’re cutting your hair short), so baby steps are important.

Here’s how we do it: First, we write on a piece of paper the things you don’t like about yourself and the things that are unsatisfactory in your life. You will have a long list. But then you should rule out unimportant things that you shouldn’t worry about, like maybe your weight (as long as you’re not too fat or too thin, just be yourself. Don’t let society tell you how much you should weigh) or the things you can’t change anyway (your age, race, etc). There’s no point in trying to change them, and you should try being happy with what you are. But say, you’re easily angered. You can try to change that. It won’t harm yourself or anyone else.

And then, for the next few months, try to change little by little. Look at the list every night before you go to sleep, and make a mental chant that tomorrow you will become a better person with a  life that makes you happy. You will wake up feeling refreshed and optimistic.

By the end of each month, you should cross out the things you have changed, and it will bring you so much happiness to see those scratched-out words. 

 

That’s it for now, folks. :D

School will be starting in a week. Wish me luck!

Ramblings

Hello, everyone. I want to apologize for the perpetual inactivity, but I’ve just moved to the US to study, and there’s very little time to just sit down and write. I won’t be as active from now on, for I will be attending college, but who knows? Maybe I can share my essays here too :)

Just a few days ago, I met someone on the streets. We got talking, and his stories made me think about the world we live in. He spoke about oppression, about how in the course of history, a lot of people are oppressed, with their freedom and their lives taken away from them.

There is a movie, called the Act of Killing, that he recommended. I haven’t watched it yet, but I’m planning to, since it sounds like such an amazing, and thought-provoking story. It’s about the 1965 coup d’etat in Indonesia, and about the people who killed the government officials without batting an eye.

The killers do not feel guilty at all, he said. Only a handful of them did, and even then, they are scared of admitting it. They are actually morbidly proud of it, and speak of their murders as an achievement.This is wrong in so many ways, but the human mind is extremely complex, so I can’t really say too much about them.

After talking about this, the man I spoke to continued talking about his own life. He’s a Jew from Hungary, but his family was forced to move to the US when the second World War broke. He spoke about how the Jews are killed and oppressed without mercy, and how painful it was when his own grandparents were killed.

And then the conversation moved on, to another time in Indonesia. This is something I have experienced, although I was too small to remember anything about it. But my parents told me stories about it, so I know what happened.

It was 1998, and there are a lot of Indonesians who are of Chinese descent. During this time, racism was still strong, and in the heights of hatred, some of the Indonesians started violating the Indo-Chinese’s rights by taking over their businesses, killing, raping, and robbing them. True, there are still people who helped the Chinese, but the majority was too scared to speak up that what their friends were doing was wrong.

This made me think about oppression. Why do people always feel the need to dominate others, to put other people under their power? Why can’t people just live in peace? The world would be much simpler if there are no wars, and if everything can be resolved with a level mind. But this is highly impossible, for the human race keeps behaving selfishly and stupidly.

Why do we never learn from past mistakes? We can see from history that violence and hatred can only breed conflicts and chaos, but we keep doing it. Hatred, racism, those kind of things are embedded so deep in humanity that it’s very hard to change they way things are.

And another thing: instead of learning from history, people tend to pretend that nothing happened. They are ashamed of what have been done, and they believe that by pretending it never happened, they can erase the pain and hurt that came out of it.

But here’s the thing: instead of hiding everything, we should raise awareness and prevent future conflicts from happening. We don’t want those events to come to pass again, I’m sure, so why hide? The suffering is part of the world now, and we can never erase it, no matter how hard we try to forget.

I think that’s all of my rambling for now. If it doesn’t make much sense, I apologize. I just need to let this out somehow. If any of you have similar stories to share, just post a comment below. I would like to read about it.

Also, please take a moment to pray for Ukraine. I just saw some very heart-wrenching photos on tumblr, and it’s just very sad. I can’t imagine what the Ukrainians are feeling right now.

Our Earth

The universe we live in is huge, insanely so, with the only the observable part of it as large as 46 billion light years in radius. In there lie galaxies, stars, planets, and all kinds of intergalactic matters and energy. But there is only one place, one small planet in the tiny solar system that has the ability to sustain life (that we know of, of course), and it is called Earth.

The Earth is a unique place, with a special atmosphere and physical conditions that allow living beings to survive. This is achieved mainly through the breathable air and the existence of liquid water, which when combined, is hard-or even impossible- to find anywhere else. Now that’s exceptional, isn’t it?

Sadly, though, we don’t even realize just how lucky we are to have this Earth to live in.

I’ve been wondering what Earth is like when viewed by astronauts in space. Will they simply see what we see in photographs: a beautiful scene of a black void with a blue sphere breaking the expanse? I don’t think so. As the saying goes, we only know the value of things when we are deprived of it. They will see a lifeline, a place where all life exists, and looking at the cold place where they are now, without gravity and plants and other human beings that we take for granted, they will feel scared. At least that’s what I think they will feel. Isolation will bring them to love the planet they belong in even more.

And from that train of thought I began to see just how ungrateful we are. Sure, we are always going on about “Going Green” and “Saving the Earth”, but do we really believe that? Or are those just pretty words we don’t find important?

As we all know, the Earth today is slowly dying. And of course we are doing what we can: using less fuel, planting more trees, donating to causes that we believe will save the Earth. That’s a good thing, but I think we will be able to do more if we realize just how special our Earth is, just how irreplaceable and unique. If we destroy it, where would we live? Maybe in the next century or so humans might be able to colonize other planets, but it won’t be the same.

I’ve reflected on the things I have done to save Earth, and the list is short. That’s why I want to start doing more, and I want every single person who reads this to start realizing the same thing also, and start doing more. Because we all need it.

Just think on the things that we don’t really need, but that we keep doing: using cars and fuel-powered transportation to places that are nearby, using chemicals in our water (really, does our toilet need them? They’re going to the sewage anyway), turning on the air conditioner 24/7, etc. Some of us might think that this is not our business, and that we have no power to stop the Earth from ending (it will end, of course, but we can at least make living conditions more bearable before the time comes), but every little thing we do, if we keep doing it consistently, will accumulate and make this Earth just a little better. And imagine if we get other people to do the same things. It will help considerably. It’s rather wishful, but maybe we can get influential people to stop polluting the Earth too. But we should just start from ourselves.

So, in conclusion, we need to start caring more about the Earth, because there is nothing else like it, and what are we going to do if we destroy it now?

P.S. : Let’s all pray for the victims of the typhoon in the Philippines.