Have you ever had a dream? Of course you have. Dreams are usually desired things that we want to actually experience in real life. I want to be part of a community where everyone works together, peacefully, and selflessly for the common good. I dream of a society where we serve each other without expecting rewards. I dream of a neighborhood where people are not afraid of walking outside at night, everyone knows each other, and the thought of the next door neighbor’s needs are always in my mind. How about the American Dream? Does my desire for a selfless lifestyle fit the American Dream? I don’t think so. What is the American Dream? John Nestler wrote in 1973 that “Whereas the American Dream was once equated with certain principles of freedom, it is now equated with things. The American Dream has undergone a metamorphosis from principles to materialism. … When people are concerned more with the attainment of things than with the maintenance of principles, it is a sign of moral decay. And it is through such decay that loss of freedom occurs.” Is the American Dream about prosperity, individualism, success, and wealth? If so, I don’t want to be part of it. I rather be poor and live a life of simplicity, helping my fellow human beings in need. Wealth and success, to me, is a way of isolating ourselves from others. We become more individualized and selfish the more wealth we obtain. It is simply the way it its. Yes, some rich people have good hearts and give to charity. But I personally don’t want to fall in the trap of having too much, and forget about the ones who do not. Jesus said it is very difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I understand now why: the love for money blinds us from seeing others as equal. Compassion and service disappears. If I dream of having the best cars, a big house, the greatest education, and the best clothes, I am surely missing something. I rather have a healthy family, close friends, and lovely home. Is having too much money bad? That is not what I am saying, but dreaming about having the best things is a barrier to living a full life.
Monthly Archives: March 2011
Socrates, Jesus, and Buddha were not ordinary men. They were regarded as either extremist, outsiders, or revolutionaries who did not accommodate to the status quo. They refused to be faded in the crowd and rather chose a radical lifestyle. So did Abraham Lincoln, Mother Theresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr. These people made history. If it weren’t for their radical ways of life, their names would have never been recognized. But they were radical in a positive way. They were not like today’s terrorists who want to take over the world by killing those who oppose them. These famous people were hungry for righteousness. By this I mean they had in common that they strongly believed in peace, justice, end of suffering, and love and were not ashamed to voice these opinions. They had dreams of a society where people genuinely cared for each other. They wanted a better world. This is why being radical today is not necessarily a bad thing, if the intention is to unite, not separate. It is rather a way of letting people know that the way things are in this world are not how they should be. We need to not be afraid of voicing that we have experienced enough segregation. We need to unite in spite of difference of religion, social status, sexual orientation, race, and culture. However, it is a conscious choice we need to make, in spite of the opposition.
I see myself not quite like these famous historical figures, but as an individual who is not content with what occurs in this world. It troubles me deeply how people disregard the poor and continue to live their lives as if the needy are invisible. It troubles me how political figures, whom we voted for, make important decisions without considering some significant aspects such as the poor, education, and health care. It discusses me how we tend to preach so much about love, but do not practice it in our daily lives. Maybe I am naive. Maybe I don’t understand fully what needs to be known so that I can understand better why things happen. But at the same time, were Socrates and Jesus also naive, and had to pay with their lives? Was Martin Luther King, Jr., and Abraham Lincoln unaware of the full scope of politics and society and were then executed? I believe they had much better understanding of the nature of human beings, and this is why they spoke up. The idea is not to simply have the realization that justice has not been served. What matters is speaking up the realization . It takes guts to stand up and say, enough! Denying our comfortable lives and accepting persecution and marginalization comes with the package. I could simply be a regular person, and not act for justice. But I don’t feel this is right. I wish I had more bravery to stand up and help bring justice and peace to this world. But I guess it starts with a simple act of compassion. It can begin with not forgetting the poor and the needy, and start feeding them. It begins with supporting children, the elderly, and the sick. It starts with my vote, my presence in some protests, and practicing justice. I rather be Radical , like Jesus, Socrates, and Martin Luther King, Jr. were, than be a regular person. Do you dare be radical as well?
Surrender or fight? Pick my battles or be consistent? This might be a different kind of post than previous ones, or maybe not. Me and my wife have been dealing with a difficult situation. It involves the horrible experience of having to give up a house through foreclosure. We have tried to maintain our house for almost a year. But now the bank decided we do not qualify for modification of the loan. We cannot refinance either because of no equity. Now we are facing the reality of having to move out eventually. Friends and family have suggested to fight this until the end. Appeal, hire a lawyer, try to stay as long as possible. The bank, of course, is offering a short sale, or deed four lease, which both entail giving up the house. Nevertheless ( I don’t want to make this strictly about economy and mortgages), we have looked at this situation from a spiritual point of view. Initially I thought about how much I hate having to pack all of our stuff and move to a different place. I hate moving, I have done it too many times. I hate having to go through the tedious process of looking for an apartment or renting house and move there. Having to relocate, maybe farther away from schools, a less safe neighborhood, noisy neighbors. I like owing my house (if I can say that) and taking care of the house my way. At the same time, we question ourselves “Is God giving us a fresh start? Does He want us to move on? If you have read my previous posts, you know that my main theme is about simplifying, serving others, and surrendering. Since I strongly believe in these principles, which helps me to live the Kingdom of Heaven, is God giving us this opportunity to surrender to his will of moving out of our comfortable house? Does he want us to simplify our lives by moving to a smaller, more humble place like an apartment? And are these steps necessary in order for us to be able to serve others? Does God want us to “empty ” ourselves by moving to a less convenient residence? It is strange to us that, even if we initially thought about how terrible it would be to be forced out of our house, we are now simultaneously thinking and feeling that we are not really attached to a building. As long as we are healthy and united, we will be fine. This is truly our goal. House or no house, what counts is a strong home. I say it is strange because I did not think this way, but we both are in “peace”. Is this a way for God to let us know that this is His will?
Talk is cheap. So many people say so many things, and at the end of the day, it means nothing. Why? Because their actions and their words do not match. We are hypocrites. We prefer to present a facade with no foundation. If you say you care about me, please do something that shows it. If you say that you want to help me, I need to see action. If you say that I am in your prayers or thoughts, that sounds nice, but I also need to experience an impact from you. Otherwise, you are talking nonsense. I rather you tell me that you really don’t care much about me, than you say the opposite and not show it. I have things to accomplish in this life, so I really don’t want to spend time hoping that someday, people will come to me to express some true care and concern. I am trying very hard to practice what I say. I am trying to get out of my comfort zone to reach out to others. If I don’t see this effort from others, oh well. That is their decision. I am not going to try to find them. I have tried it too many times. If they come, good. If not, that’s their decision. I have to move on. Life is too short. Whatever I have to do, I must do it today. Not just say it, plan it, and not do anything about it.
Japan is suffering. And the whole world is also suffering. One disaster after another. Earthquake, tsunami, nuclear radiation. What would be next? Hunger? Sickness? More death? This is a reminder that we need to remain united as a family. Haiti was another reminder of how important it is to serve each other. Chile was yet another reminder. Jesus commanded us to reach out and serve these people. There are political revolutions in other countries. The price of gas is too high. But the crisis that Japanese people are currently suffering and others in the world surpasses any other. Let us remain focus on what we are supposed to do. Let us not forget about Japan.
Who is my family? What is my country? What is my ethnicity? What is my religion? Where do I belong? In the past, I have been taught that my family are those who are my biological relatives. Not anymore. I don’t know those people. My new family are those who willingly spend time with me and who share the same goal of serving the poor. I was taught that my country is where I was born. I no longer consider this true. My country, my land, is wherever I can peacefully settle and live with others in spite of different backgrounds. I was also taught that my ethnicity is determined by the culture where I was raised, my first language, and the color of my skin. I reject that. I don’t belong to any ethnicity, I am just human wanting to serve other humans. I was also told that my religion should be Catholic, then Pentecostal, and then non denominational Christian. I am neither of these now. I am a man who continues to doubt but continues to reflect on who God is and what He wants me to do in this life. I hate those who the world consider my family because they keep me bound to traditions and customs that keep me away from genuinely serving others. I refuse to consider where I was born my country, because I don’t live there anymore. My country is wherever I can do what I so strongly feel like doing. I reject belonging to any ethnicity, because my citizenship belongs to where my heart wants to live and I am able to serve others. I don’t have a religion, because my faith is based on being poor in heart, accepting my weaknesses, being meek, and a peacemaker, fighting for righteousness, having a clean heart, loving my neighbor as I love myself, not on a distant God or set of religious doctrines.
You think these are harsh words? Well, this is what is required to fully live the Kingdom of Heaven as written in Matthew 10:37-38 (“if you love your parents more than Me, you are not worthy of me”), Matthew 12:46-50 (“he who does God’s will is My family”), Matthew 7:21 (“not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven”), Phillipians 3:20 (“our citizenship is in heaven”), John 8:43-44 (“”why is my language not clear to you? Because you don’t hear me. You belong to your father the devil!”) and James 4:4 (“don’t you know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?”). I learned that if I am going to truly live the Kingdom of Heaven, I must separate myself from all the traditional views about who I am and where I belong that this world teaches me.
Define life. This is hard. I was thinking today that this life, whatever it is, is very hard to define specifically. I can use what the dictionary says, such as maybe the state of existence, being, my heart pumping blood, growing up, or my personal experience such as having a family ,having consciousness, meeting friends, learning, marrying and having beautiful children, etc. But what is behind all of this? Are we part of a big experiment? Are we one of millions and millions of galaxies with their own living beings? Are we part of a gigantic atom that makes up another bigger world? What started it all? Too many questions without specific answers. This is why I cannot rely on my own understanding, because it is simply too large, complex, and profound. I cannot conclude there is nothing behind what I see either. God (or whatever you want to call it) is bigger than I can ever imagine. I tend to use the analogy of writing a story with characters and different environments, but the characters themselves will never have a full understanding of me, the author. They will understand only as much as I allow them to. And because I have this understanding of life, I want to be this “character” who wants to continue to seek this God who started it all. I understand and accept that I may not be able to understand God fully, but this does not discourage me from learning more. Learning more from science is yet another way of learning more about God. The more I learn about the complexity and structure of the universe, the more I appreciate the grandiosity of God. There is so much suffering in this world. There is so much injustice and disaster. But I still have the urgency to seek more. Suffering itself helps me to look for meaning. It does not make much sense to me, but it begs the question “What is the purpose of this suffering?” I hold on to the faith that one day I will understand God fully, but in the mean time, I accept my limitations and continue to seek meaning. This is why I am so thankful for what Jesus taught, because his teachings help me to have a better idea of who God is and what I am supposed to do to experience Him more. Thank you for reading.