What is life? My 2021 Christmas column 

Photo by Dan LeFebvre on Unsplash

WRITING this Christmas column is neither easy nor difficult. However, it required deeper thinking after almost two years of coronavirus-induced changes in our lives.

There is a myriad of unexpected topics and occurrences on the world stage brought by this devastating pandemic for almost two years now that can be written.

However, after watching several CNN interesting episodes of “This Is Life” produced and narrated by Lisa Ling, I decided to write about a related topic “What is Life?” with the backdrop of the world that is still suffering from this horrific coronavirus.

When this COVID-19 pandemic was officially announced in early 2020, I was in Taiwan. A week or so after that, I was in the Philippines when the government required mandatory lockdowns in Metro Manila, that profoundly altered human activities worldwide, especially how businesses, schools, offices or even churches conduct themselves.

My planned activities including a few rotary speaking engagements and workshops and personal events were totally strapped! My three-month vacation was short-lived and I was compelled to go back home just after a month! The tourist belt, where thousands of tourists flock, turning Metro Manila like a fiesta environment suddenly turned into a melancholic Good Friday campground! Since then, our lives were forever changed to the so-called NEW normal, with required masks, social distancing and showing proofs vaccination before entering indoor events!

The global pandemic increased heavy demands in health care and many essential services that caused untold sufferings of millions of people. Unemployment skyrocketed, the hotel and hospitality industry collapsed and even attendance to schools stopped! For almost two years now, our lives are forever changed. And the end is not yet certain to come very soon!

As human beings, however, we have learned to adapt in many areas of our life, from health care, economy, politics, travel, to business and in almost all things that that we do to survive. For many people, the impact was worst than others. Fewer people and companies like Amazon, Pfizer, Moderna, and Google, Uber and Facebook benefited from these drastic changes in doing business. The ongoing pandemic forced people to have serious reflections and discriminating to choose what is truly essential and important and what “things” can be discarded in our lives.

Like millions of people, this writer has had to change also what he does to be productive and to keep his sanity. After weeks of reflection, I had embarked on a never-before-thought project, writing and compiling a book that I christened, a “legacy book.”

With the wonders of the internet and social media, this personal ambitious project that was conceived during the pandemic will be born prayerfully in 2022! Without the pandemic, possibly this project will not even be an activity that I am doing now! Indeed, there is a “reason for every season!”

I had invited and chose 25 successful men and women from the Philippines, Singapore, Mexico, and of course the USA, whom I personally know and admire, to pen and share a condensed version of their life, around the philosophical theme: “Finding Life’s Meaning & Leaving a Legacy.”

Having read them first before their essays are forwarded to my editorial team, I am humbled to read and critique them while I am also mesmerized by the inspiring personal story of each author-contributor. Each mini-biography is unique and is sprinkled with colorful anecdotes and challenges that each author has overcome. (STAY TUNED! I wish and pray that all my Metamorphosis column readers will contact me for a complimentary copy of this legacy book, next year, with a voluntary donation to our “G-PEN Foundation For Next Gen”)

What is Life?  Like the noun love, no two people define this word LIFE  in the same or identical way. Every life is different from one person to another like his thumbprint or DNA. Even to this writer, his answer to this three-word question, What is Life, changes depending on the state of his mind, and the circumstances of his life on that day. It can be likened may be to the flexible “form” of water that he holds in the palm of his hands when he tries to prevent the water from escaping totally from my his palm.
Let me expound.

During my Bible Study every Monday morning, our discussions about life are always different compared to my meetings with businessmen or during my regular weekly meetings with my fellow Rotarians. My conversation about “life” is also quite different whenever I am with prisoners inside the county jail where I volunteer as a prison minister several times a month.

As a living human being, my concept of life is quite inexplicable. Life is a “state of being” where countless kinds of energy (mental, physical, social and spiritual) are joined and blended to become ONE stronger unit with all diverse invisible forces/energies that will then create or produce and hold another “being” that may not even be possible in any other way.

A simpler analogy can be the birth (creation) of an innocent child, the most beautiful creation of God, we call a baby, with millions of cells that are perfect and complete even in the early stages of the baby’s development! The act of creation in everything under the sun, in our vast galaxy since the beginning of time is the most complex or may be the simplest way to describe what life is all about.

When life ends, comes death which is another phase in the mystery of Creation. It is said, that while the body (corpus) corrupts and returns to dust where it came from, the spirit (soul) lives on. To ponder on this LIFE topic, it may be wise to reflect that there are only three things that are inscribed in one’s tomb when he dies, the year of his birth and the year of his death, separated by an insignificant little thing called the hypen (-). That little hypen contains the totality of one’s life that will determine whether the deceased person will be remembered fondly and missed OR totally forgotten by his fellowmen that live after him.

That little hyphen then is the ultimate container of a person’s legacy to the world he leaves behind. While alive, you and I can contribute to the quantity and quality of matter that will be stored in that unassuming hypen of our life. We have the free will to do or not to contribute to it.

During this Christmas Season (others simply call it just another holiday where people take time off work) this writer, a believer of life after death, respectfully challenges you, my readers to ponder and to find your own answer to this question “What is Life”?

Reflecting on this never-ending question always brings me to another state of being that prevents me from being totally attached to anything physical. That discipline that I have acquired along my seven-decade journey of life has granted me a wholesome metamorphosis and healthy perspectives in my life.

Philosophers have called that higher dimension or state nirvana, or enlightenment, or even paradise or “heaven on earth.” If you are like me, who have read lives of remarkable human beings, like the likes of Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Manila, or Saints like St. Francis, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Ignatius and hundreds of Saints, St Mary, Sts. Peter and Paul or St. Johm the Baptist, and hundreds more, you can find a common thread in their extraordinary lives: Detachment from this material world and focus on things unseen but powerful, ideas that comforts and prayers that magnify SomeBODY bigger than ourselves! It is their formula for true peace and JOY despite their sufferings that for many resulted in their untimely death!

As this is my last column for 2021, I sincerely pray and wish you all a peaceful and JOYful Christmas Season. Authentic JOY is better than just being happy as it is much deeper and last longer. However, as I often share with the prisoners, the formula for true JOY is very hard for the average person as it involves a different mindset and discipline: J esus, O thers, Y ourself is the best formula that is given by Him whose birthday we are celebrating this month! May all of us have a real JOY filled Christmas Season and a better healthier and prosperous 2022!


The author can be reached at [email protected].

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