Sunday, November 30, 2008

Amazing Grace

 

            I’ve been searching for a signature scent for quite some time now, ever since my dad casually commented that my sister and I are now at an age when we should be known for having a distinct fragrance. We were never big on fragrances, and whenever we put some on it would be from a bottle of no-fuss, no-nonsense Johnson & Johnson Baby Cologne, but hearing this from Papa persuaded me into investing some of my hard-earned salary on a fragrance that was more expensive than our usual drugstore fragrances.

            I’m happy to report that I’ve found my signature scent: Philosophy’s “Amazing Grace.” It truly IS amazing! I’m no fragrance expert so I’ll just re-post the descriptions of other similar-minded (or similar-nosed?) women who favour the scent above the more “luxurious” brands:

             “... a uniquely feminine blend of soft, floral blossoms accented by a hint of light musk...”

            The scent is sooooo pleasant, I never get tired of spritzing it on (I bought the body spritz because it was considerably less expensive than the actual perfume). Perhaps the most amazing thing about this scent is that it is never overpowering, as I believe it is the essence of lightness! I read testimonials of women claiming that people commented on how good THEY smelled, instead of getting the usual “How good your fragrance smells!” comments.

In my case, I didn’t know that wearing a simple scent could be so much of a pick-me-upper! Also, it doesn’t attract attention because it is so mild... JUST what I wanted in a scent. People have to be standing REALLY close to you before they notice. I’ve received compliments on how good I smelled, mainly from my kindergarten students when I’m bending over them while helping them get a firmer grip on their pencil as they struggle to finish their writing assignment for the day. Hehe, I’ve had a five-year-old nuzzling me in the neck, cooing, “Teacher, how NICE you smell!” J

Why am I writing about grace in a bottle? Well, mainly because it’s the season of Grace, and I can’t help but wish that Grace can, truly, be put in a bottle and sprayed on people as needed. For the world is badly in need of Grace.

Look up “grace” in the dictionary, and one finds several meanings:

 

-- elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action.

-- mercy; clemency; pardon: an act of grace. 

-- the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.

-- the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.

 

            While I cannot claim ownership of the first definition mentioned above, I am extremely grateful to be the beneficiary of the 2nd and 3rd definitions. Now THIS... this is Grace, and what makes it amazing is that we are so undeserving of it. And yet, nearly two millennia ago, God walked amongst us, in human form. God endured the unendurable, suffered all the cruelties and hardships that the evil world had to offer, and did all of this even before we took our first breath. He loved us, when we had not yet even come into existence. He loves us now, despite our sins and unworthiness. And He will continue to love us, though we may falter and disappoint Him and fall in and out of active communication with Him. He suffered what no other person could have suffered precisely because of His amazing love for us.

            How breathtaking, how truly amazing Grace really is! And so each day I spritz on this scent with a prayer, that I may be reminded each and every second of the wondrous gift I’ve been given, and that I communicate this gift of grace to others around me, not so I will be known as a “grace-ful” woman, but so I can begin to repay (though I acknowledge the impossibility of my quest) Him who sacrificed so greatly for all our sakes.

            Have a grace-filled Season! J

Escaping to the Beach




Taking advantage of the 3-day weekend, we rushed off on the spur of the moment (literally) and stayed overnight at a beach in Nasugbu, Batangas :)

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Beach & A Poet

     As the face of evil shows itself in faraway Mumbai, I am grateful to be living in a much safer country. You see, there are times when my dormant adventurous side tries to rise up, discontent with a life defined by routine. But it is far, far better to be "bored and alive," than living on the edge, exposed to danger and distress.

     Not that my life is boring, even with its very rigid, box-like schedule. There's simply so much to do!

     And then there are the weekends. Oh, how I live for the weekends! I am an introvert by nature, and I look forward to the precious few "me" hours, where I can read a book or practice some musical pieces. 

     This three-day weekend is more special than usual. We will be spending it by the sea shore in Batangas! I will have to bring my work along as it is "Quarterly Test Making Time" once again, and there's some M.A. homework that needs to be done, but I shall do all of these things surrounded by the soothing sound of waves breaking on the shore. Aaaaa... I can smell the tangy sea breeze already...

     But before I bid farewell to the Internet, let me share my newest literary discovery: CHRISTINA ROSSETTI (1830-1894). (For a bio, go to this page)

      For me, she is the female counterpart of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Actually, I think I much prefer Christina, if only because her poetry pierces a deeper part of me, owing to our common gender. She understood all too well the pains and longings of a woman's heart, and I shall forever respect her for having the strength to reject a lover when she discovered that his faith was not compatible with hers. She was human and could not help loving the man, but she never forgot to whom she owed her first love.

     Her Monna Innominata is unforgettable. No. 6 was the subject of a previous blog post, and below is No. 12:

If there be any one can take my place

And make you happy whom I grieve to grieve,

Think not that I can grudge it, but believe

I do commend you to that nobler grace,

That readier wit than mine, that sweeter face;

Yea, since your riches make me rich, conceive

I too am crowned, while bridal crowns I weave,

And thread the bridal dance with jocund pace.

For if I did not love you, it might be

That I should grudge you some one dear delight;

But since the heart is yours that was mine own,

Your pleasure is my pleasure, right my right,

Your honorable freedom makes me free,

And you companioned I am not alone.

 

Here is "At Last:"

 

Many have sung of love a root of bane:

While to my mind a root of balm it is,

For love at length breeds love, sufficient bliss

For life and death and rising up again.

Surely when light of Heaven makes all things plain,

Love will grow plain with all its mysteries;

Nor shall we need to fetch from over seas

Wisdom or wealth or pleasure safe from pain.

Love in our borders, love within our heart,

Love all in all, we then shall bide at rest,

Ended for ever life's unending quest,

Ended for ever effort, change and fear:

Love all in all; -- no more that better part

Purchased, but at the cost of all things here.

 

And this is an excerpt from one of her longer poems:

 

...Perhaps some saints in glory guess the truth,

Perhaps some angels read it as they move,

And cry to one another full of ruth,

"Her heart is breaking for a little love."

Tho' other things have birth,

And leap and sing for mirth,

When springtime wakes and clothes and feeds the earth.

Yet saith a saint: "Take patience for thy scathe;"

Yet saith an angel: "Wait, for thou shalt prove

True best is last, true life is born of death,

O thou, heart-broken for a little love.

Then love shall fill thy girth,

And love shall make fat thy dearth,

When new spring builds new heaven and clean

new earth."

 

*sniff* Beautiful!!!!

Have a safe three-day weekend, everyone! :)

"A Heroic Life" Part 2

http://tatatwin.multiply.com/video/item/18
Part 2 of the videotape taken by my brother and sister as they watched the graduation ceremony last April

"A Heroic Life" Part 1

http://tatatwin.multiply.com/video/item/17
My twin sister and my brother videotaped the speech. They were seated in the regular seats, and so this is the perspective from someone seated far away from the stage.

Haha you can hear their comments on my speech as I was giving it... how sweet! :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bibliomania

      Hehe. I guess you could pretty much tell by the mere fact that I'm blogging again that I had to take the day off from work. Again. Pfeeeeeeew it stresses me out, just thinking of the backlog. Not to mention the additional stress I've caused my fellow teachers, who had to sub for me. Gaaaaaaaaa.......

      Okay, ranting over.

      I think our family may have a common psychological illness. I think... we may have... bibliomania.

     According to Wikipedia, Bibliomania is "an obsessive-compulsive disorder involving the collecting or hoarding of books to the point where social relations or health are damaged."

      (I don't think we're anti-social because of our love for reading, though it certainly makes us less fearful of being alone. Reading is the cure for any form of loneliness, I believe.)

      We don't often get visitors, but whenever someone goes to our humble abode, the first thing he/she exclaims is, "Ang dami ninyong libro!"

      We're pretty frugal with the way we live our lives, but we sure don't scrimp on our books! We only eat out on special occassions, we do not spend on branded attire nor accessories, and until now I've never set foot inside an airplane and can only boast of travelling as far as Boracay and Baguio.

       To offset my desire for travel, all I have to do is pick up a book. :) And we've got plenty of those at home, thanks to my parents who passed on their love for reading and learning to us.

       Last weekend, Papa and Mama bribed Tata and I into accompanying them on their trip to Bonifacio High Street (aka Serendra) with the words, "We'll pay for your books."

      My oh my. You should have seen the speed with which we dropped our red ballpens and test papers, and how quickly we showered and got dressed. ;) All good intentions of checking and lesson planning evaporated as we excitedly prepared for the half-hour drive that would take us to that haven for bibliophiles/bibliomaniacs in Manila... the flagship store of FULLY BOOKED.

       I was more circumspect in my choices and only got to purchase three books, while the others went wild, literally, and we ended up carting five plastic bags of tomes to our vehicle. As Tata put it, "We shopped for groceries in the bookstore."

      There. My Christmas break to-read pile is sitting by my bedside. :)

 

1. The Portable Hannah Arendt edited by Peter Baehr    

     

      2. The Kingdom of God Is Within You by Leo Tolstoy  (a book which inspired Mohandas Gandhi's principles of non-violent protest)

      3. Selected Poems by Christina Rossetti

      I believe that one can never spend too much on books, nor is it sinful to buy more than one can read in a given length of time. It is alright to have book piles, for sooner or later, you WILL read those books that you bought. It could be next week, or even next year, but eventually you WILL get to read them. :) So go ahead. Splurge on your books.

      This hedonistic viewpoint comes with a caveat, though. I believe that one should put to use all the knowledge and all the ideals that one gets from reading. Otherwise, what is reading for? :)

On Contingency

      It may give my online friends an idea of how crazy the past couple of weeks has been, when I say that I only have time to blog because I'm sick and took the day off from work. I spent the whole day today in bed, and I still feel like I have an anvil on my chest. I find it so difficult to breathe, every intake of breath is agony.

     But being this weak serves as a reminder to me, not only of our common frailty but also of our mortality (pardon me if I seem morbid, but I spent a couple of hours reading Maya by Jostein Gaardner while in my sick bed, and am left in this particular state of mind).

      And I couldn't help but ponder on "the human condition," which serves as the source of a great deal of existential angst to philosophers, past and present. It surely caused me a certain amount of confusion for several years in the past, though I myself was not fully aware of it.

      This was the topic of our M.A. class yesterday evening, one of the two classes I'm taking this semester, which may turn out to be my most favorite class EVER. :) We're taking it under Father O'Donnell, a Jesuit who's also a World War II veteran. The class is called FOUNDATIONS OF EDUCATION but it entails a good deal of philosophy and history, with a bit of theology thrown in (because the Ateneo is a Catholic university, after all).

      And yesterday evening we were discussing the philosophical bases for a Catholic/Christian Philosophy of Education. Now, I've taken Philo courses in my undergrad years in UP, but being walked through the arguments for God's existence with a kindly Jesuit taking me by the hand, so to speak, was an altogether novel experience. :) It is the polar opposite of my Philo class in UP, where I was fed philosophical tracts which proved detrimental to my spiritual growth and only served to inflame my intellectual pride... without the benefit of any form of mentoring. Guess which class I prefer :p

      To summarize, there are five main arguments by which we could, through reason (and not through faith), argue for the existence of God. But all the other four can be summed up in one: the argument from contingency.

      We are contingent beings, because our existence is dependent on someone else. And that person is God, the Eternal Truth, the First Cause, the Prime Mover, ad infinitum.

      "What's all this got to do with education?" you may wonder. Well, if we hold that education entails preparing a student for life, then we must first establish what is the purpose of life, which in turn necessitates our knowing where we come from, and knowing to what purpose were we created for.

      St. Augustine, whom I've grown very fond of as a result of being assigned to report on him in class, summed it all up very nicely:

      "You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless til they find peace in Thee."

      Wonderful, wonderful man! There is a lot to learn from this Father of the Church.

      St. Augustine spoke against the classical liberal arts education he received, proclaiming its shortcomings in his Confessions thus:

      "Regard, O Lord... how carefully the sons of men observe the proprieties as to letters and syllables received from former speakers, and how they neglect everlasting covenants of eternal salvation which they have received from You...

      ... What was all this but smoke and wind? Your praises, Lord... set forth in Your scriptures, would have held up my heart's young vine, so that it would not have been snatched away by empty trifles, the filthy prey of flying creatures."

      I did not have time to insert the quote above during my brief report on Augustine's contribution to education (We only had eight minutes!!! And when your time is up, Father O' Donnell's ancient key chain will buzz and a giant hook will remove you forcibly from the podium). But I must say... Augustine had it down pat when he declared that the first thing that must go is pride. He spoke from experience when he said that the morally empty education that he received was imbued with the spirit of intellectual pride, and he advocated a philosophy of education which unified the Roman/Greek emphasis of FORM with the Hebrew Scripture-based emphasis on moral CONTENT.

      It is so wonderful to be discussing about the important things in life, in the classroom! Especially with such an inspiring teacher, a veritable saint. I can't praise Father O' Donnell enough. He is wise and learned, to be sure... but more importantly, he is a man who is at peace, resting in the self-knowledge that comes about from knowing Him intimately and from walking in His light. He inspires his students to follow in his footsteps.

      I mull over these thoughts as I sit before the computer, grateful for the fact that I am alive... to think, to feel, to love. Though in pain, I acknowledge that it is by His grace that I am able to breathe at all, and I pray that he makes me well enough to continue teaching tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Der Lindenbaum - Franz Schubert




Showed this video to the Diction 2 class after we agonized over two stanzas of the German text (took us the better part of two hours, but hey! it WAS our first REAL class)

I thought it would be a good reminder, so that we could keep sight of "the forest" even after going through "the trees" in great detail :)

I just love the way all the characters got together, and sang altogether, towards the end. *sigh*
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