if there’s one word I want to remember today,

August 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

the word will be ‘steward’.

The Passage of Time

Image by ToniVC via Flickr

I was picking up my guitar and intending to play the same repertoire for the umpteenth time today when I realised that perhaps I was not using the time God gave me well. After all, there were more important things like visiting my grandparents or my sick aunt instead of irritating the neighbors and pushing myself to sing ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ without screeching at the high notes.

Everything I have comes from God. My time, my talents… And none of them is really deserved by me. Rather, they are given to be to exercise stewardship over. How am I using what has been entrusted to me?

Aglio Olio philosophy

August 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

Yesterday, I tasted my uncle’s aglio olio (The Verve @ Lock road) and the moment it entered my mouth, I liked it immensely. A while later, I pondered upon the aglio olio. I learned it could be whipped up in a matter of 1o minutes or so and was made from simple ingredients– olive oil, pepper flakes, garlic and parsley. Yet it appears this simplicity is difficult to master, and really good aglio olio doesn’t come by often.

This made me think how simplicity can be hard to master. It is hard to be a simple person when all the forces of the world seem to be directed against that.

The capitalist system appears to strive on making things complicated. Consider the advertisments of beauty services with some woman endorsing the service stating with a big smile that ‘There are no ugly women, only lazy ones’. Beauty is no longer simple. We are instead led to believe that it has to be backed up by a slew of beauty products and maybe facial reconstructions. And all of this, of course, means the woman has to be super hardworking. The woman endorsing the product didn’t mention that the catchphrase didn’t apply to women who were not financially well-off.

It is not news that society tells women they have to fit a certain standard to be beautiful. Women who have cellulite, or pimples, or thin lips, or blunt noses, or round faces, or short hair don’t fit the bill. Intelligent women may choose not to attempt to fit this standard, but they do not go unpunished for it. The fat woman is thought to be lazy and lacking self-control. The normal looking woman who doesn’t like putting on make-up will probably (or so it has been said in articles on how to prepare for interviews) be thought to be unpresentable if she turns up for an interview/work without it. So women scurry after plastic surgeons and beauticians, and spend their income on make up, trying to look beautiful. And this is normal. Yet as women judged as being physically beautiful know, being beautiful does not mean that their feelings are not toyed with. Physical beauty does not guarantee anything at all. Beauty got complicated, but it is not getting us the results we want.

In fact, there seems to have been devastating results. It is quite common to see women who lack self-worth. Afterall, they have been told countless of times (directly or indirectly) by society and men they’ve encountered that they are just not worth it. Some are given the impression that they are not beautiful enough to be pursued. Others think that they are not beautiful enough to be pursued for more than say, a month. Even the girls judged to be pretty by society’s standards, maybe they’re not charming enough for men to want to go beyond kiss and holding hands to happily ever after, forever and ever. Yet women want to be loved, pursued and protected. I think this combination of attention-hungry women and men who just want to have it easy leads to what is becoming, from how I see it, a phenomena of women lapping whatever crumbs of male attention they have because they think it’s the best they can have.

If I were an aglio olio chef and someone who profits from selling say, turmeric suggest I put some into my food to make it taste good, I would consider carefully ruining the already perfect dish. If I did go ahead with the suggestion, I would add a bit of turmeric and see how it tastes before throwing half the bottle in. It is only the aglio olio chef who has forgotten to appreciate the beauty of the simple dish who grabs at the turmeric bottle and empties it all in. Yet it seems some girls do just that, leading me to think that guys have it too easy. Do we really need to give in to them just because they were nice to us for a few days/weeks? When I say give in, I mean that they go beyond the physical boundaries. Why can’t we wait for a few more months/years to see if they were more serious about us or if they were actually more interested in being in a relationship, any relationship and with anyone who’s interested. Is it because we know they will stop the pursuit and we actually like the attention or like them a bit too? But then if they do, then logically, good riddance! Who wants guys like that?

After I asked this question, I answered in my head, ‘quite a number of women’. It was then I realised how lonely I was. Not really because I am single (although it may be part of the reason), but because through my interactions, I realise too few of my female friends think the same way.

So how should women behave? Should they stash their make-up and dress in frumpy clothes? Stash their make-up–maybe. Dress badly–not advisable, if they’re hiding such wonderful curves beneath them 🙂 but sure, if they just want to be comfortable. No, the aglio olio chef can still try to make his food look presentable. Yet ultimately, the food has to stand up for itself, and no amount of good presentation can disguise horrible tasting aglio olio. Perhaps what I’m saying is you still can try to be clean and neat, and express in your clothes your impeccable taste and style. But just like aglio olio, a delicious dish with simple ingredients, there is no need to go to great lengths to look beautiful. Real beauty is not a face with make-up. It is the kind smile, the tender gaze and the helping hand when one is down that stands out as beautiful to me.  

You can tell me to dream on, but don’t tell me it’s not something that you want. Better than telling me to dream on, make it a point to appreciate the inner beauty of those you meet. Be the kind of woman I can admire and emulate. Or, if you’re a guy, you can be the kind of guy who shows through his actions that women are worth the effort, even if he has to spend countless saturday nights alone.  

note: I started out this blogpost thinking about aglio olio. Then it became apparent that the aglio olio philosophy had the potential to express what has been bugging me for a while. It is interesting how maybe my subconscious brought up aglio olio to reveal what I am really concerned about 🙂

Anyway, this looks like a good aglio olio recipe to try, if you only read this post because you were kinda hungry 🙂

source: http://www.parshift.com/ovens/Secrets/secrets051.htm

Spaghetti Aglio e OlioServes four

  • 1 lb. dried long pasta
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 medium garlic cloves
  • Paprika
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 or 2 Tblsp. minced fresh herbs such as parsley, fresh oregano or a mixture (optional)
  • Freshly grated Parmesan (pass separately)
 
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta al dente and drain, saving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. While the pasta is cooking, gently warm the olive oil in a large sauté pan, add the garlic either slivered or minced and heat just until the garlic turns golden. If you are using the red pepper flakes, add them here. Remove garlic or not according to your taste. Set oil aside until pasta is drained. Place oil back on medium low flame and toss pasta, in the sauté pan, with salt until well coated. If the pasta seems dry add dribbles of the pasta water. Add herbs and just heat through. Serve immediately with a good grind of black pepper, and pass the grated cheese at table. I also like to have a cruet of olive oil on the table so diners may add a drizzle if they wish. 

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the preposterous child

July 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

You there, eyes all aglow and a big grin plastered on your face,

You there, holding your Papa’s hand,

and walking with a… bounce!

People work hard for things that think will give them your happiness,

Athletes pay good money for shoes that give a bounce.

But you!

It’s almost preposterous how happy you are!

Why, child, are you so happy?

I suspect you don’t even need a reason to be!

For you joy simply involves holding your Papa’s hand,

and going for a walk.

the different kinds of knowing

June 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

While being upset about a certain matter and staring at the arguments in Orthodoxy (the book I’m reading), I realised what I most wanted to know.

Now, before I move on, perhaps it would be good to explain what I mean by ‘know’. There are, I think, 2 kinds of knowing. The first kind of knowing comes through rationalisation. This one, if you seek hard enough, is quite attainable. Logic is logic, and if prepositions a, b and c lead to conclusion d, then it seems you know d. You have proven it, or came across a very logical exposition of the argument leading to d. It stares you in the face. 

Then, there is a second kind of ‘knowing’, one that is much more elusive, one that I think is more desirable than the first–which in my opinion comes across as a cold hard fact. I speak here of a knowing that often just hits you, like a bolt. It engages you, and you feel something for this knowledge. The hints in your surroundings which lead to this knowing may have always been there. Yet, it is common that we don’t pay much attention to them. It is like suddenly realising that your parents are old. When I think about this second kind of knowing (let’s call it realising for lack of a better term), the irony in it comes to mind. Often, the things which we need to realise are really quite simple facts.

Let’s take for example, the rather simple fact of God’s perfect love.

Now, as a Catholic, I’ve heard this repeated thousands of time. God is love, and love is his essence. That is for many of us, a taken for granted fact. I myself know this, with the first kind of knowing. But if a man were to look at my life, he would see that I don’t really know this. Knowing it in the first sense does help, but it often makes merely a small impact. But I think, if I realised (meaning know in the second sense) that God loves me, I would place all my cares in God’s hands. I would live, assured with the knowledge that everything will turn out fine because there is a loving God behind all my problems (ok, and joys). I would be praising Him night and day, walking with a bounce in my step and smiling exuberantly at just anyone who crosses my path.

What are these simple facts I really need to realise? Off my head, I think I need to realise that I’m going to die some day. I need to realise the beauty that immerses the ordinary and familiar. I need to realise that God is ever present with me.

Now I return to the beginning– as I was staring at my book, full of witty arguments, I realised that I didn’t need it…at least, I didn’t need it as much as I need to know that God was here with me in my joys and pains. For it came to mind that I was feeling pain, partly because I felt alone in the pain. It felt as if I could tell no human soul of what I was going through, as if even if I said anything I would merely be comforted with platitudes. It wasn’t enough to rationalise that Jesus is with me in all these– I wanted to KNOW.

The problem of evil came to mind.

I began to think that perhaps the problem in the problem of evil is not really that having evil in the world and having a loving God is incompatible. Evil, it is said, is the absence of good. For there to be evil, we must first know what is good. Since the presence of evil means that good necessarily exists, having evil and having a loving God are not incompatible ideas. I think, the real problem is not that God and suffering are incompatible, but that God who claims to be loving seems absent in the suffering.

My intellect says He’s here. But that is hardly a comfort. My heart needs convincing.

At the end of the day, I don’t really care about knowledge. I wonder what people who speak of the innate worth of knowledge are talking about. I could grant the innate worth of knowledge. Yet I remain convinced that the worth of knowledge is severely limited if it is not known by the heart.

look within

April 25, 2010 § 1 Comment

Having consciously avoided being too reflective, for what seems to be quite a long time, a sense of emptiness and lack of sense of self has descended upon me. When I disengage myself from myself, which is simply too easy since I’ve almost forgotten who I am, I look at her and see impenetrability, and a free being more like a feather than a deeply rooted plant.

Why I am this way I do not know, but I wasn’t always so. Is it jadedness? Is is due to the realisation that life always changes and the things I try to hold on to eventually fade away? Still, I don’t want to be a feather, who touches and goes as she wills. I want to be a deeply rooted plant, with the strength to love and live deeply because my roots extend to the streams of life. I think, I want to go back being the child who trusts the world is really immersed in a kind of good and wonderful magic.

Jeremiah 17

The Deceitful Heart

1 The sin of Judah is written down with an iron stylus;  With a diamond point it is engraved upon the tablet of their heart  And on the horns of their altars,
2 As they remember their children,  So they remember their altars and their Asherim  By green trees on the high hills.
3 O mountain of Mine in the countryside,  I will give over your wealth and all your treasures for booty,  Your high places for sin throughout your borders.
4 And you will, even of yourself, let go of your inheritance  That I gave you;  And I will make you serve your enemies  In the land which you do not know;  For you have kindled a fire in My anger  Which will burn forever.
5 Thus says the LORD,  “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind  And makes flesh his strength,  And whose heart turns away from the LORD.
6 
“For he will be like a bush in the desert  And will not see when prosperity comes,  But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness,  A land of salt without inhabitant.
7 
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD  And whose trust is the LORD.
8 
“For he will be like a tree planted by the water,  That extends its roots by a stream  And will not fear when the heat comes;  But its leaves will be green,  And it will not be anxious in a year of drought  Nor cease to yield fruit.
9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else  And is desperately sick;  Who can understand it?
10 “I, the LORD, search the heart,  I test the mind,  Even to give to each man according to his ways,  According to the results of his deeds.
11 “As a partridge that hatches eggs which it has not laid,  So is he who makes a fortune, but unjustly;  In the midst of his days it will forsake him,  And in the end he will be a fool.”
12 A glorious throne on high from the beginning  Is the place of our sanctuary.
13 O LORD, the hope of Israel,  All who forsake You will be put to shame.  Those who turn away on earth will be written down,  Because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the LORD.
14 Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed;  Save me and I will be saved,  For You are my praise.
15 Look, they keep saying to me,  “Where is the word of the LORD?  Let it come now!”
16 But as for me, I have not hurried away from being a shepherd after You,  Nor have I longed for the woeful day;  You Yourself know that the utterance of my lips  Was in Your presence.
17 Do not be a terror to me;  You are my refuge in the day of disaster.
18 Let those who persecute me be put to shame, but as for me, let me not be put to shame;  Let them be dismayed, but let me not be dismayed.  Bring on them a day of disaster,  And crush them with twofold destruction!

condemning the Church

April 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

Sometimes I think, that the reason why people dislike the Catholic Church, is that we attack their actions/thinking too much. And it also seems, we are too much on the high and mighty ground. Just think of the numerous things which a person who is generally regarded as good by his peers can be accused of. Use of contraceptives, an act which some regard as a responsible step in family planning, is wrong. Abortion in the case of rape is also wrong. Being gay is wrong. Divorce is wrong.

When one faces with this list of not-to-dos, it is hard to believe that the heart of Christianity is love. But the thing is, it really is.

Just look at the way Jesus treats the adulterous woman who is being stoned (as I blogged earlier). Now, whatever you should think of homosexuality, or abortion, or contraceptives, I think I can assume safely that you think adultery is wrong. It is going back on one’s marital vows, and an act of betrayal. Yet,  Jesus speaks up for her, not to say that she is right though, but to dare those with stones in their hands to cast a stone if they had not sinned before. Then, after they walk away weighed down by guilt, He tells her that He does not condemn her.

Phenomenal. Even Jesus does not condemn her, what right do we have to condemn those who have flouted the rules that we hold so dear to our hearts?

Returning to my point about why people hate the Catholic Church. Are they justified? To some extent, if our own Catholics have treated them uncharitably. Discrimination against the evil-doer (in our eyes), even though out of a sense of justice, may not have been the best of actions if it was not motivated by love  for the sinner. For love triumphs over justice, as Jesus showed. If He had condemned her, it would entirely be just. But He didn’t even though He is sinless Himself, because He loves her.

If Jesus who was perfect didn’t condemn, it seems that neither should anyone. The Church herself says that it is the sin that She condemns, not the sinner. If it came out any other way, it may be a case of misunderstanding. Admittedly, it may also be due to a lack of love on our part. But perhaps one needs to realise that the Catholic Church is made up of sinners who sometimes fail in their ability to be truly loving. No Catholic, I believe, would even attempt to deny that. But being sinners ourselves doesn’t mean that we cannot uphold the truth that Jesus taught. This truth does not come from us- man. If it did, one should feel free to reject it. A thousand men have a thousand opinions anyway. Sure, it would be a lot better if we could practise what we preach, if there weren’t the sex scandals that the Church is facing now. It affects our credibility as Catholics, but at the end of the day, what is right is right, and what is wrong is wrong, and we still have the duty as Catholics to proclaim the truth. The quality of truth-ness that truth has is not affected by the utterer of truth.

Knowing that a loving and forgiving God is the founder of Christianity, it is important for those who have been condemned to realise that however hypocritical Catholics may sometimes be, myself a very guilty party, it is not Christ whom they should turn away from. For He is the remedy, to hypocritical Catholics, to all guilty sinners.

I think it apt to end off with a quote by Fulton Sheen:

“There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church.”

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