On Purpose

“Ma, do you think you were able to fulfil your life’s purpose?”, I asked my mom.

Without any hesitation, she answered, “Yes. Our purpose in life is to be.”

“You know what I’m saying.”, I rolled my eyes.

“Why? Our purpose in life is to be – to be what you were made to do. Which is to love. It’s really simple. Why do you make it complicated?”, she replied.

I got her, but I suppose I associated purpose with doing great things for the world. I’m not really sure what answer I  expected, but it certainly wasn’t that. Something more specific perhaps.

To love….how easy and yet so difficult. How ambiguous yet ever so certain. So attainable yet seemingly elusive. 

Hmmm…Ive realized that my question is both simple and complex , depending on our own stages of life, where priorities and dreams vary. I know for sure that things get simpler when one has experienced much of life. But knowing is the shallow end of being. One needs to experience life. To experience its borders is to be well acquainted with our own sense of mortality, and this ultimately unfolds a deeper understanding of our raison d’etre. As any gem of wisdom is to be attained, I have yet to live life further and fully. Maybe I should just take the words of my mother and simple BE. Easier said than done. (I will need the assistance of meditation and yoga. Oooommmmmm….Lol!)

On a serious note, as someone who constantly asks and questions if I am in fact fulfilling my life’s purpose, I have found temporal peace through this quote:

“They say: ‘Find a purpose in your life and live it.’ But, sometimes, it is only after you have lived that you recognize your life had a purpose, and likely one you never had in mind.”― Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed

Sometimes, finding one’s purpose is as unanticipated as my mother’s response. And as unanticipated as an act of kindness. And maybe, it’s all really as simple as love, unfolded in many a form. 

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The Human Heart

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(written February 22, 2013 and edited February 25, 2014)

“Mrs. Corpus has cancer.”, my mother told me as she opened the door and stepped inside the room.

“Terminal. Stage 4. Lung.”, she sighed as she settled down .

Shocked, I immediately bombarded her with a series of questions, hoping to find relief with any of her answers. But my mother’s responses only gave clouded hopes, which prompted me to finally ask, “how long is she going to live?”

“Could be 3 months. Or 6 months. You can’t really tell.”

We both became quiet, allowing the buzzing of the aircon to wrap around whatever it was we felt.

Mrs. Corpus has been our widowed neighbour in our townhouse compound for the past 15 years. She went to our house occasionally and chatted every now and then with my mom about health, politics, people, family. She attended many of our family occasions such as my recitals, fiestas and celebrations, she loves dogs and my fondest memory of her was when she gave me piano scores when I was younger because she used to play the piano too. Every now and then when I’d pass by her garage, I’d find her seated on her garage sofa and she would greet me with a smile and say, “pumapayat ka.” (yeah, I really liked her! hehe)

“3 months or so”, I thought to myself. I wouldn’t even be in the country in the next three months. Who’s to say if I would still see her again. 3 months is an awfully short time for me but for anyone who is faced with terminal illness, only the longest of days await. Gauging your life in months, in days, in hours, how does that work? What do you do? What do you say? How would you feel? Scared? Regretful? Remorseful? In denial? Angry? Depressed? Accepting? Thankful? Sorry? Hopeless? Helpless? Loved? Relieved?

I look at the time left for Mrs. Corpus and I look at mine. Here I am, planning my life literally one day at time, as though I have infinite days and years ahead of me. The possibility of having cancer, or diabetes, or high blood or high cholesterol and the other health issues of “wiser”adults have seemed very far-fetched, though I know at the back of my in-denial mind, anything could happen. I guess when we are confronted every now and then with our own mortality as humans, we are driven to reflect and think about our own fleeting lives.

So many questions surface at this pivotal point in my life, but the core of all the searching is this very archaic but substantial question – what am I meant to do with my life? Or the more profound timeless question would be – what is the meaning of my life, of life itself? These questions have made me feel stuck. Perhaps its because I feel stuck that these questions surfaced to begin with. For some time, I have felt like a heavy rock in the middle of flowing rapids, unmoved despite a forceful stream. You’d think after your whole life of studying, you’d actually know the answer to these persisting philosophical pursuits; but the truth is, as one grows older, one is only confronted with more and more questions. Some die, simply passing life by, not knowing the answers.

In my quiet instrospection, I have discovered one snippet among the myriad of secrets of the human heart: beyond the need to feel loved and accepted, there will always be a haunting desire to offer ourselves to something, be it to someone, a family, an audience, a passion, a cause, a group or a country. We are all meant to give something to this world. Our soul calls us to be part of something beyond oneself, to connect to the world around us and contribute a mark, however and whatever it may be. Our heart constantly urges us to ask, “What am I willing to give myself to?”, “What more can I give?” and “What does the world need?”. I realized I shouldn’t worry too much about hastily finding the answers as part of our journey in life is largely made up of our continual quest for such answers that may also change  with time.

I hope that despite fear, pain and uncertainty of what lies ahead, Mrs. Corpus would face death with full surrender and fulfillment, knowing that she has served her purpose well in this life and has done what she was meant to do. I pray that however short or long her time is left, she is with a happy heart.

I’d like to end this entry with a poem that inspires me over and over again on how to live life lightly and successfully, and hopefully, it will leave me with a smile on my face when I am on my deathbed one day.

SUCCESS

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

(Right before I left for the airport to head to the USA March of last year, I dropped by Mrs. Corpus’ house and told her I’d be gone for a couple of months and I’d be back in June. Knowing that it might be the last time I might see her, I kissed her on the forehead and wished her well. She passed away that April. I am glad and grateful to have met such a person as you. Until we meet again. Rest in peace, Mrs. Corpus.)

In Search of Light

For those  of you who have happened to randomly read my blog entries and for those who followed me, hello! I figured it is only proper for me to introduce myself to you. My name is Cel. I am 26 years old. I graduated from the University of the Philippines with a degree in music, specializing in piano performance. Now, I mainly sing and travel around the world with the national choir. As part time job, I also teach an all-female liturgical high school chorale. Like any other artist, my lifestyle is quite different from those who work in corporations and institutions. My days are comprised of rehearsing 3 times a week, performing every other day and teaching. In certain parts of the year, I am out of the country with my choir doing concerts in different corners of the globe. So far its been an incredible experience to have music, travel and outrageously talented and amazing people all rolled into my life. I can never be too grateful for it.

In between those activities, when I am alone and doing particularly nothing, (yes i still have so much free time I sometimes don’t know what to do with it) I have a good relationship with my laptop, ipad and facebook. Occasionally, I go out and have dinner/coffee/movie night with my small circle of friends and endlessly talk about everything and anything from careers to love to life to sex to people and philosophies.

Every now and then, I like to upload in facebook the photos of the places I’ve been to, the people I’m with or people I have met and crossed paths with. Perhaps because of this, there is a born impression that I have it better than other people my age, most of which  are known to be undergoing some sort of quarter life crisis… I have had old acquaintances from high school telling me how they are envious of how I’m able to travel the world, and I’ve had people assume that my life is somewhat perfect since I also belong to this quite prestigious choir. Facebook, as well as other types of media, has a way of distorting and sensationalizing reality and deviating from what exactly is. I do not deny the fact that I am truly blessed and fortunate to have such an opportunity and such rich experiences, however, my life is far from perfect and I do not consider myself as someone who is extraordinary. In fact, as opposed to what I thought of as a child, I consider myself quite average and common, and ironically, on bad days, I feel that I am too different and a misfit.

So here is the truth:

I am 26, single and who is in possession of a diploma which I worked had for for 5 years and have not benefited from since the day i graduated 2 years ago. Sometimes, I do not want to wake up and prefer to sleep all day and dream, reflect and think. There are moments when I constantly question why I am doing what I am doing. There are moments too when I wish I could disappear from the world and  hibernate in the mountains or the woods where life can be much simpler . As much as I love music and travel, I don’t think I’ve found that thing that would drive me to wake up in mornings and immerse myself in so deeply that I would forget about time. I look at my friends surrounding me (most of whom are musicians and artists), the best at their own fields and who have quite figured out what they’re going to do with their lives. I, on the other hand, am a clueless scatterbrain who wants to try out everything and has become nothing but average in different fields. I envy people who have found their purpose in life. Those who have something to obsess about, even if its something weird or outrageous like being obsessively against killing sharks and dolphins. I envy people who’s eyes light up when they’re immersed and  just profoundly in love with their own craft. I have yet to figure out mine. Maybe I’ve found it already and perhaps just forgotten, I don’t know. I keep trying to figure out whats wrong with me. Like perhaps, I may  have ADD as I get bored easily with tasks. Right now, I basically feel that life is pointless and I have no idea which direction I’m heading. I’m in a serious case of quarter life crisis.

I guess what I’m driving at is, I want to be a master of  something. I want to be unreasonably passionate with a skill, a  craft, an art or about some cause.  I want to fall in love, not only in the romantic sense, but I want to fall in love with life.

So heres what I want this blog to be about: finding LOVE, enLIGHTenment and PASSION. I do hope that by my constant searching, trying new things and writing,  I would eventually discover my corner of the sky.

If you’ve reached this part of the entry, thanks for reading. I personally believe each of us has a purpose. I guess most of us are in the same boat in searching for it. I could only hope we will not give up in our search for our calling. If you do have any insights and stories you want to share, please feel free to comment.

With love,

This is me at the Kilometre Zero at Puerta del Sol, Madrid Spain. The Spaniards used this point as the marker to measure distances. Right now, I feel like I am back to point zero in my life, directionless still wondering where I go from here. Nevertheless, I am still happily traversing the world with a smile on my face. :)

This is me at the Kilometre Zero at Puerta del Sol, Madrid Spain. The Spaniards used this point as the marker to measure distances. Right now, I feel like I am back to point zero myself, directionless still wondering where I go from here. Nevertheless, I am still happily traversing the world with a smile on my face. 🙂

Cel

Calling

Half of the people
wipe windows
And clean kitchens
And scrub toilets
Whistling a simple tune
While they hang wet clothes
Or put the baby to sleep.
Willingly and joyfully
They send every penny earned
To their own family in need

The other half

Educated and free

Poses a myriad of questions

Travels to places far away

Wondering and constantly searching

For their purpose in life.
Perhaps a calling
Echoes more
Inside the walls of a dark cave
Than in a vast field of sunflowers

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Some thoughts in Italy

Sept.5,2012

Via Zabarella, Padova, Italy

Yesterday, Meg and I decided to visit the Basilica of San Antonio di Padua. It definitely lives up to its glorious reputation. I cannot imagine how they managed to craft such fine architecture filled with rich and intricate designs. From gold plated ceilings, edges, walls to pillars to finely carved statues and paintings of saints, angels, the blessed mother, Christ – everything crafted to its finest detail.

We arrived there around 6pm, just in time for a novena. The experience was just so nostalgic. Was transported through time by hearing the church pipe organs and the priest sing an old chant probably dated some hundred years ago. We saw the tomb of Saint Anthony which was located at the side of the church and is occassionally converted to an altar for events such as the 6pm novena.

When one goes deeper into the hallways church, one would find a chamber of the relics of St. Anthony’s tongue, vocal chords and some of his organs. They were ornamented around by golden chalices, sculptures and religious designs, each divided into 3 sections, secured by a separating glass. I honestly did not know how I would react seeing the blackish preserved tongue, but I thought it was astonishing to see the actual parts of a saint. Imagine, to set eyes on the actual tongue of St. Anthony. Ok fine, it was a bit weird to see the black tongue hehe…but, you know, it somehow makes history more real to you. You realize that these people whom we only read and learn about in books or in school actually existed at one point in the world’s timeline. I thought, after having seen the historical and artistic grandeur of the Church, here we are right now in the present, not only looking back in time but actually connecting to it and realizing that all these things – religion, art, music, architecture, BEAUTY, are not just remnants of the seemingly deceased past, but are in fact very much alive and still flourishing in this day and age.

When you actually feel your connection to our history, it makes you feel really small, and insignificant, much like when you look at the multitude of stars on the vast sky at night. Like you wonder if youll ever live up to its greatness and you wonder if you can ever be as good as the masters of the past. And you realize how little you know. You wonder how everything came about, and you get awed by the intellect, skill and capabilities of man. But I think, more overwhelming than that, you’re able catch a glimpse of God, to whom all these art and beauty are exalted to. It is compelling to conclude, that God, or whatever you conceive Him to be, is the heart and life of all great art.

Leaving the Chiesa, I am left only wondering, what will the future generations think of this current era we represent? What part are we weaving in the tapestry of time? What am I contributing to? Or am I just a vestigial entity roaming around Earth? Maybe we all are.And maybe one day each one of us, regardless of our own worldly success or failure, will be forgotten in time. Perhaps our glory in the future is uncertain, but even if this may be true, I am reminded and uplifted by the words of one of Brazil’s greatest poets, Vinicius de Moraes:

“E no entanto e preciso cantar,

mais que nunca e preciso cantar.”

“And yet, we must sing,

more than ever we must sing.”