“Why our faith is the faith of the unexpected, a religion of surprise”

“But that is the way God gives. His gifts are never quite what we expect, but always something better than we hoped for. We can only dream of things too good to be true; God has a habit of giving things too true to be false. That is why our faith is a faith of the unexpected, a religion of surprise. Now, more than ever, living in times so troubled, facing a future so uncertain, we need such faith. We need it for ourselves, and we need to give it to others. We must remind the world that if Christmas comes in the depths of winter, it is that there may be an Easter in the spring.” – Fr. Horacio de la Costa, Ph.D, a Jesuit

While going over 52 Rhizomes articles for 2017, these are some of the reflections I gathered from different subjects, which could be teaching moments and lessons that we can all learn from, to empower us in 2018.

A. Give all of yourself to your art, your mission at hand, at that given moment of creative self-expressions. Say no to all that will distract you from creating and achieving.

“Picture this, the singers now have our hearts in their hands, as they alternately do solos, ensemble, and then, together: ‘And the world will be better for this/That one man, scorned and covered with scars/Still strove with his last ounce of courage/To reach the unreachable star,’ while Celine Fabie sang verses of Ang Bayan Ko, ‘Pilipinas kong minumutya/Pugad ng luha at dalita/Aking adhika/Makita kang Sakdal Laya.’ Her soprano voice lingered, as if a dream unfulfilled and a love unrequited.

“What happens next? The last verse Makita Kang Sakdal Laya (To Witness your True Freedom) converged with To Reach the Unreachable Star, in a haunting soprano voice, which extracted a primal longing, a feeling for our birth country to be truly free, from all vestiges of bondage, to misguided measures of success, to incorrect principles of governance, from an unreachable space of creativity and musicality in music, to now genius manifested, and the crowd leaped to standing ovation, literally, shouting bravos.”

I wrote above on Dec. 19, 2016. Yet, by Dec. 27, 2017, their masterful pianist, conductor and composer, Ryan Cayabyab, endearingly referred to as Mr. C, was recognized with the Best Musical Score, as part of “Larawan,” a movie musical’s 6 wins at the 2017 Metro Manila Film Festival, including Best Picture and Best Actress.

The adage goes that it takes a master to extract masterful performances from other artists and that is true for Mr. C, as with his Ryan Cayabyab Singers, which performed in two nationwide tours in 2017, throughout the U.S.

B. As much as we are part of the tree of life, we are also part of the tree of rise. We must embrace the responsibility of going through the seeming chaos of our personal challenges, in order to resolve the issue offered by these challenges and consequently, achieve a zone of peace.

Why — in going through that narrow gate, we are blessed with the innate wisdom on what we need to form within ourselves to elevate our character and thereby,  a much closer connection with the Divine.

Recall the film “Hidden Figures” and even reading the book? Recall what Margot Lee Shetterly wrote: “My investigation became more like an obsession; I would walk any trail if it meant finding a trace of one of the computers at its end. I was determined to prove their existence and their talent in a way that meant they would never be lost to history. As the photos and memos and equations and family stories became real people, as the women became my companions and returned to youth or returned to life, I started to want something more for them than just putting them on the record. What I wanted was for them to have the grand, sweeping narrative that they deserved, the kind of American history that belongs to the Wright Brothers and the astronauts, to Alexander Hamilton and Martin Luther King Jr. Not told as a separate history, bust as part of the story we all know. Not at the margins, but at the very center, the protagonists of the drama. And not just because they are black, or because they are women, but because they are part of the American epic.”

The author found through her archival research how these women embraced discrimination and inequality challenges during their time, and used those challenges as opportunities to improve themselves and thereby, their chances of getting their much-deserved promotions in NASA.

C. To be citizens of America means we have a duty to be guardians of its democracy. We must insist on standards of truth, fairness, evidence gathering and justice. Justice cannot be achieved by fantasy or fiction.

In the United Kingdom, the police were bribed to look the other way, to not enforce the laws, while hacking was in progress (starting with an audacious bid of News of the World by Rupert Murdoch in 1981) and gag monies provided to those who complained. This dark culture of wrongdoings took years to be stopped and perpetrators brought to justice decades later with Rebekah Brooks arrested by British police on July 17, 2011 for hacking violations.

Free speech has boundaries; that is, speech must not do any harm. We cannot allow a president to make policies and executive orders based on zero evidence. With no evidence that terrorists came from these seven countries (Muslim-dominated nations of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia) that President Donald Trump identified, his executive order is highly prejudicial, capricious and unsound. As such, the judge reasonably blocked this order.

In turn, we, the citizens of this republic, must take a stand that we believe in our norms. As Benjamin Wittes, a Brookings Institution expert on legal affairs, told The Atlantic’s Jonathan Rauch, “The first thing you’re going to blow through is not the laws, it’s the norms.

“By ‘norms,’ he means such political and social customs as respecting the law, accepting the legitimacy of your political opponents, tolerating speech you disagree with, performing civic duties like voting and staying informed, treating public office with dignity, and not lying. Fervently and frequently, the Founders warned that the Constitution would stand or fall on the public’s commitment to high standards of behavior—what they called republican virtue. James Madison said “parchment barriers” could not withstand the corruption of democratic norms.”

D. To practice good health and wellness, we must first be healthy, whether as ordinary citizens, professionals, acupuncturists, nurses or doctors. We gain credibility while involved in a professionally organized medical mission, only if we ourselves practice what we preach.

Part of the habit of ‘fortifying the immune system’ includes cooking meals with mostly organic produce or preparing salads from homegrown, pesticide-free, organic lettuce and tomatoes. I discovered that drinking organic milk no longer creates lactose intolerance, unlike regular milk.

Studies show that 80 percent of the immune system lines the gastrointestinal tract. This means, if you control the gut, you control the health of your body. Christine Gonzalez, N.D., Ph.D. introduced the role of healthy nutrition in preventing diseases and cancers. In her book, “Yes You Can Prevent & Control Cancer,” she stresses that the “wrong food is the most important factor in the promotion of disease.” She wrote about some of the anti-cancer superfoods, the right foods one must have as part of healthy living and preventing diseases.

Research has shown that “cruciferous vegetables provide protection against certain cancers, such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower. These vegetables stimulate the production of enzymes that detoxify carcinogens.”

She cites the research studies done at John Hopkins University where laboratory animals were fed cruciferous vegetables and exposed to a dangerous carcinogen, aflatoxin, a type of mold found in peanuts. These animals had 90 percent reduction in their cancer rate.

Why? The vegetables increase these animals’ productions of glutathione peroxidase, one of the most important protective enzyme systems in the body.

Dr. Maria Araceli De Guzman (a volunteer of Philippine Medical Association – Northern California) is married to Joe De Guzman, and both were part of the medical mission in Dumaguete in Jan. 2017. Dr. Joe obtained his bachelor of science in chemistry at UCLA, masters in arts and dance at SF State, masters in Kinesiology, and a Ph.D. in applied physiology at Columbia University and a post-doctorate in the biochemistry of muscle metabolism in UC Berkeley. He works as an exercise physiologist, trainer, and consultant in the fitness industry. He taught wellness classes as part of the medical mission.

He described how the Filipino diet has excess salt (i.e. bagoong, patis), which can cause hypertension; the kakanin (rice cakes, pastillas, biko, suman) that has excessive sugar and our dishes that have excessive fat (like lechon).

Yet, he laments that the Philippines has the most nutritious fruits and vegetables with plenty of antioxidants (cabbage, ampalaya, sweet potato, malunggay and more) and those do not need additional butter and fat. He stressed the need to drink coconut water, instead of Coke with nine teaspoons of added sugar.

“I feel sorry for the people’s nutrition and lack of good physical activity. We are designed to move. We must move. We are all [descended] from Africa and we are designed to do hard, physical work. There are enough good things in the Philippines to have a good life,“ he said.

E. “One’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Edward Gero was Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in the play, “The Originalist.” The civil discourses between Justice Scalia and Cat, the law clerk, showed high levels of respect, that it was much more than a display of theatrics.

When the play was first shown on the East Coast in 2015, the New York Times and the Washington Post gave high marks to “The Originalist,” a generous interpretation of Justice Scalia, the character. Bethesda Magazine wrote that 19,000 folks saw the play. The rapt audience listened to every word, hoping to “read the tea leaves,” and to gain an insight into the Supreme Court’s upcoming judgment.

That year, 2015, Washington was into any conversation about politics, as it was a year before the presidential elections. The play was performed to a “hot room temperature” audience.

Gero refers to this “high art” play as “one that is not purely entertainment, but has a teaching moment, an invitation to reconsider what is true, an invitation for transformation, to suspend our own, to perhaps go outside our own box, to listen. The court is a great Socratic classroom, the best synthesis of arguments on both sides, let me consider this argument, then a counter-argument, and with the thesis and the anti-thesis, the synthesis, resulting in not a “No, but,” instead, “Yes, and. We are more than our belief systems,” Gero emphasized. Gero prepared for this play for a year, reading federalist papers, and listened to the oral arguments of Obergefell vs. Hodges during the day. He attended lunch at Scalia’s chambers that day, and after their meal, he encountered a fortune cookie message, which read: “One’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes.

My three year old granddaughter, Princess, likes to say: “I did it! I did it!” and after, she claps her hands. Can we perhaps have more moments to cheer creative self-expressions? Of involvement? Of participation? Of responsible citizenship? And maybe declare a Happy New Year with a faith that expects daily miracles to happen?

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Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for AJ Press for 9 years now. She contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium, Japan, Mexico and 22 national parks in the US, in pursuit of her love for arts.

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