In dreams of all men, saints and sons of shame,
The world will never see his kingdom bright."
~ Vachel Lindsay
"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."
~ Dr. Seuss
Malipayong Pasko ug Bulahang Bag-ong Tuig natong tanan!
If the footloose Grim Reaper had a favorite song to send him pirouetting on a carpet of petals nipped in the bud, it could be Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World."
It's supposed to be an ode to the bliss of being alive, its lyrics utterly incandescent to our ears. We could have hummed along like we were swelling up until we could burp the rainbow into rising above us. But, alas, its evocation of paradise never fails to impress me as something fitting for a funeral procession.It could be the cocktail of rust and champagne in Armstrong's voice, as if he were tasting the ache of bearing witness to all things sweet and light, so sharp it could whittle his heart to its breaking point.
Happiness, after all, happens like refrains in a dirge. Pretty much like background accompaniment only to our front acts and its regular repertoire of these little deaths: our anxieties, our disappointments, the jiggle of our jaundiced eyeballs to the sonic boom of our sighs.
In this season that confronts us with a compulsion to be merry--the topic of my recent column at the op-ed page of Sun.Star Cebu--it is unavoidable for the vultures of worries to spread its wings over our heads. In the face of crisis--global, local, and personal--the pursuit of happiness does loom no less than an obstacle course up the paths of Sisyphus.
What does it take to be cheerful? It's the crux of the cinematic genius of Mike Leigh in his latest film, Happy-Go-Lucky, whose chuckle-prone protagonist comes in sunlit contrast to the stripped-to-the-bone depiction of lives exiled into their inner darkness in Naked (so fully embodied by David Thewlis in a bruising performance worthy of the Best Actor prize at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival).
Worth scrutinizing, indeed, how Leigh mines the dynamics of joy without drilling and driving headlong down the borders of escapism. So far, as in most of Leigh's works, those who have seen it are up on their toes in applause. (Click here to read the chorus of rave reviews.)
No less phenomenal is Sally Hawkins whose portrayal has been rewarded with a Best Actress trophy at this year's Berlin Film Festival. She's been coasting along with a wave of wow as critics' circles from New York, Los Angeles, San Fransisco, and Boston cast ripples all the way to the forthcoming Golden Globe and the Oscar awards.
"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy," exclaims Marcel Proust, "they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." Here's a bouquet, too, for Mike Leigh and Sally Hawkins. See the trailer below:
You want to ignore it sometimes just because it obliges you to take your cue from the one who deemed you worthy as one of its recipients. Or responsible enough to push it forward so that it may come full circle. A waste of time, you think. And yet you feel kind of diminished somehow for copping out, as if you're fit to be tied for cutting the chain and its promise of sweetness and light.
From my inbox, here's this piece of pure brightness that might yet send thunderbolt down my path if I would just delete it straight to the trash. What it says is just the way I wish to fill the gap between silence and skepticism in this dark and maddening time. So here I share this prayer:
Dear Lord, I thank You for this day, I thank You for my being able to see and to hear this morning. I'm blessed because You are a forgiving God and an understanding God. You have done so much for me and You keep on blessing me.. Forgive me this day for everything I have done, said or thought that was not pleasing to you.
I ask now for Your forgiveness. Please keep me safe from all danger and harm. Help me to start this Day with a new attitude and plenty of gratitude. Let me make the best of each and every day to clear my mind so that I can hear from You. Please broaden my mind that I can accept all things. Let me not whine and whimper over things I have no control over. And give the best response when I'm pushed beyond my limits.
I know that when I can't pray, You listen to my heart. Continue to use me to do Your will. Continue to bless me that I may be a blessing to others. Keep me strong that I may help the weak... Keep me uplifted that I may have words of encouragement for others. I pray for those that are lost and can't find their way. I pray for those that are misjudged and misunderstood. I pray for those who don't know You intimately. I pray for those that don't believe.
But I thank you that I believe that God changes people and God changes things. I pray for all my sisters and brothers. For each and every family member in their households. I pray for peace, love and joy in their homes that they are out of debt and all their needs are met. I pray that every eye that reads this knows there is no problem, circumstance, or situation greater than God. Every battle is in Your hands for You to fight.
But more than the whiz-bang wonder of Manny Pacquiao overcoming the odds like a true-blue warrior throughout the rounds, what struck me most was not the upfront stance of one-upmanship while the limelight zoomed in his moment of triumph.
A transcendent instant of self-effacement, a graceful gesture of unbelief masking his gratitude. The wow of it occured when the crowd's roar crested, and all he did was turn his back from the camera's larger-than-life glimpse of his genius as a pugilist. See how he scurried to the ring's corner, pressing his face at the post as if to sob his heart out while crunching himself into a prayerful crouch. Or so my column raved in the op-ed page of Sun.Star Cebu.
To you, fighter extra-ordinary, a high five for humility.
We'll hunker down in front of the telecast, and up on a toehold of hope as the weight of our collective expectation bears down on him. As if his failure would be our doom. As if his victory (let alone his millions and his legendary popularity) would be our deliverance, personally or as a Filipino nation.
For a while there, as if by magic, our mundane lives would hang by the string of his gloves as he'd do the rounds that run circles around our little corners. In our inner arenas, yes. Where we face, battered and without fanfare, our daily fights. Where we'd get lucky enough if we could roll along with the punches and at the end of the day wish for another morning when we could wink, even out of a black eye, at a fistful of possibilities.
Such faith, or grace, would suffice to knock our rundown of failures off its feet.
Although I leaned more toward Hillary at the start of the campaign, Barack had been stirring my cowlicks with the fresh air of his conviction and the force of his character. Both, I believed as I do now, will make the White House live up to its color after the stain and smoke of the Bush administration.
It was a thrill to see them squaring off then. It is phenomenal to see them coming full circle now, and proving they can be "a team of rivals" steeped in the art of sporty statesmanship for a common concern larger than themselves--to overcome the odds in this awful yet awesome time in America.
Here's a toast, therefore, to President-elect Obama for tapping Clinton into the top echelon of his administration, appointing her today as his Secretary of State. In choosing Clinton, among other liuetenants in his Cabinet, Obama proves his governance will be set upon a rock amid raging waters.
"I assembled this team because I am a strong believer in strong personalities and strong opinions," he said. "I think that's how the best decisions are made. One of the dangers in a White House, based on my reading of history, is that you get wrapped up in group-think and everybody agrees with everything and there's no discussion and there are no dissenting views. So I am going to be welcoming a vigorous debate inside the White House."
Spoken, indeed, like a stalwart out to bowl us over with his "pragmatic use of power" and "a sense of purpose about America's role as a leader in the world." Salud!