Category Archives: Perspective

What Does It Mean To Trust God?

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We often suffer, but we are never crushed.
Even when we don’t know what to do, we never give up.
In times of trouble, God is with us,
and when we are knocked down, we get up again.
We face death every day because of Jesus.
Our bodies show what His death was like,
so that His life can also be seen in us.
– 2 Corinthians 4:8-11
It is said that God is love, and his greatest expression of love for us is Jesus Christ. If we truly believe in God, then, we must also truly love Him, and we can only truly love when we fully trust the one we love. Love and Trust go hand in hand. We cannot love without trust for trust is the foundation stones of love.

But, what is trust? What is to trust? How is trust made manifest?

For me, to trust, to truly trust, means to have total conviction, to be absolutely convinced of the truth. And, for us Christians, there is no greater truth than Jesus Christ and of God’s love for us. However, saying that we trust God is one thing, living what we say is another. For, is it not said, “My dear children, let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)?

Our reading for today answers this vital aspect of our relationship with God: how to live out a life in truth and with our trust and love for God made manifest in our actions. To truly love God, and therefore trust Him, we must live with courage, to live life unbent, undefeated and undismayed despite all the tribulations and hardships that may come our way for we carry the conviction within us, hotter than a burning flame, that God is with us and we take heart because of this.

God is our strength. Our shelter. Our nourishment. And, our salvation. If we are convinced that He is this, that we trust in these pronouncements of Him, then we should show this by rising every morning with a smile and a happy heart for we know that God is with us and everything will be alright.

To truly love God, therefore, is not to cower in fear and to huddle in sorrow and to beg and weep and wail for mercy and succor, for these are not the actions of a man who truly trusts, these portrays a man who does not believe God is with him. How low are our thoughts of who God if we think that we still need to beg and snivel at His feet just to receive crumbs. For was it not proclaimed by God: “For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” (Isaiah 41:13); “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” (Isaiah 49:15).

If we are convinced that what He is and what He promise is the truth, then we need not fear or cower, or live in sorrow or spend our prayers begging and pleading and bargaining with God. We must, instead, live with steady confidence and gentle joy and comforting grace and with open arms and warmness of being, for we take strength in the Lord for He is love and He is with us.

Why do we need to pray?

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I was born in a Catholic family, that says a lot when we talk about religious practices. Catholics may be one of the most hardcore when it comes to praying. There is practically a pro forma prayer available for any possible thing you’d like to petition to God. Or, if you think your prayers are not enough, you can do an indirect approach and go pray to a saint to help smooth talk God to hear you. Other Christian denominations prefer a more spirited and enthusiastic way and each denomination have their own prescribed style of doing it. But prayer, despite its many forms, is still praying. It is humanity’s way to seek aid or have a talk with God (or gods, depending on your religion).

This aspect of praying bugs me for years, since I was a child. My issue with it has to do with why we pray in the first place. Do we need it, or is it another useless practice born from our superstitious nature?  

As a boy attending religion class (yes, we had those) we were taught that God loves us and that He is an all powerful and all knowing God. If we pray to ask for aid from God, why do we need to ask it in the first place? If He is all knowing then doesn’t that mean I do not necessarily need to pray for him to know that I need help? And since He loves us then why not help us then? Isn’t helping someone who desperately needs it one of the best expressions of love?

I asked this same question to a friend one day, a somewhat über religious friend, and she answered me like this:

God does know all and he does love us, it’s just that he moves in mysterious ways. Take it like this, since He knows everything, He also knows what is good for you and what is not. So, He only gives you what you need in order for you to be a better person.”

Well, she quoted a lot of scriptures and said a lot more things than what I wrote here, but it’s the gist of what she said; and for the life of me I could never remember the bible quotes.

My friend’s explanation did not satisfy me. My rebuttal goes like this:

A child of three or seven got raped and then killed by a psychopath; what part in the whole affair made that poor child a better person? A boy of fifteen along with his family gunned down or gassed in a chamber due to some sick ideology; what part in the whole damned, insane, series of events made those poor folks better persons by getting their heads blown up?”

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What followed after was a long and bitter argument that left us not talking to each other for weeks; but, that is beside the point and not part of the story. However, I advise you, dear reader, to only start a volatile topic only with someone you do not like (but still forced to interact with out of civility), so that you can use the argument that will follow as an excuse to not talk to him (or her) till the sky falls down and the fires of Hell engulfs us all.

Anyway, back to the point I am going for.

Since I did not get a satisfactory answer from my friend, I started googling about praying and most of the articles that pop up have this basically to say:

  • We pray because God commanded us to do so.
  • Praying is our act of submission to God.
  • Prayer is our way to talk to God.
  • Prayer invites God into our lives.

To be frank, these arguments did not impress me either. If we need to pray because God commanded us to do so or that He wanted us to submit to Him, then it totally does not make sense.

If our God is an all powerful God and He was the one who created us then it is a totally illogical and despotic (somewhat assholish) move on his part to give us free will and then command us to pray and submit or else…

If praying is our only way to talk to him, then why did he make it so hard? Ask anyone, it’s hard to talk to someone who does not answer back.

If prayer invites God into our lives, does that mean He is absent from it to begin with and He needs an invitation before He intervenes? If all these are true, then it sounds like God is some petulant child who wants attention and praising and some cajoling before he does anything.

I was never a religious person, but I do believe in God (see other post for my reasons… Yeah, I know, so cut it!), so it was hard for me to reconcile my belief and – in my eyes – the silly act of praying and all the meaning attached to it. For years I had this mindset that praying is just a waste of time, and boy was I wrong. 

What changed my mind? Science, baby! Science!

I know it is somewhat strange to have the two mixed up. Science and religion has been on opposing ends of the fence ever since someone had the brilliant opinion (insert sarcasm here) that the two could not mix. (Imagine a white bearded guy in a fancy antique get-up saying: “Hey guys, science totally makes our religion look shitty.”) But, trust me, the presence of science doesn’t really mean it will partypoop on religion’s parade. So, here me out first.

Have you  heard of placebos? A placebo is a substance with no medical benefits whatsoever, but still provides scientifically observable and verifiable effects to the patient. There’s a ton of research done on placebo, involving a wide array of illnesses, and it all comes down to one thing – placebo really works even though the substances given were basically water and sugar or the like. It even works despite the patient know that he was not taking medicine, but just some shit the researchers found under their lab coats. Scientists are still scratching their heads how the fuck this whole placebo thing do what it does. What they do know, though, is that it involves our mind and that it all has to do with believing – really believing – that what we take helps ease our suffering. And in some bizarre, still unfathomable way, it does make us better. It appears that our mind is hardwired to take-in our beliefs and physically manifest it in some way.

What does that have to do with prayer, you ask? Put it this way, if someone told you that prayer will help ease your suffering, and  you believe it so strongly, then chances are it will. I know, weird right?

Here is another relevant  research worth mentioning:

Two groups of rats were put in separate cages. On the cages’ floor ran an electric wire which turns on and off every now and then. However, on one cage there was a switch which, when clicked, turns off the electric current; the rats in this cage were taught how to work the switch and know that by clicking it the pain will go away. The rats with the switch emerged in relative good health (even though they did not use the switch quite often, or never even used it at all), unlike the other group, despite the severe dose of electricity they received and even when the rats were given the same dose of electricity with the other group.

The researchers concluded that the rats with the switch faired better because they believed that they can control their situation by just using the switch. “Control protected the health of the rats with the switch, and the lack of control stripped their hapless brethren of even their own internal protectors.” 

So, again, what does that have to do with prayer? Well, prayer is our switch, it is our means to have a sense of control over our situation in life. If we believe that the mere act of praying, in some way, helps us face the adversities we have to face day by day, then something in our heads just click and it makes us feel much better. That’s why we hear so many people say that they feel better after muttering a good prayer, that’s probably it.

How about if I pray for a loved one, you ask? Well, sadly, no… It does not work like that. Of the many research done about the effects of prayer for a third person there is not a shred of evidence that points to its effectiveness.

What does that mean? It simply means, to my mind, that prayer is not so much for or about God, or for or about other people, but more about us. It appears, if I interpreted correctly the findings of science, that prayers are for the prayor and not the prayee.

In one of my odd voyeuristic moments I surfed over some prayer request websites and you know what I noticed? What people pray says a lot about who they are.

(Note: I’m talking about personal prayers here and not the kind done in front of an audience)

Prayers, as I see it, focuses the mind of the one praying and what he utters are those things that really matter to him. One can see clearly what we want in our lives by the mere act of praying. Praying forces us to confront our lives, to look deep within us and see what our hearts truly desire; discarding the inconsequential, the irrelevant, and highlighting the meaningful, the valuable.

Praying is not so much about talking to God, but more about having a conversation with ourselves, a moment where we give ourselves a time off from the trivialities of our existence and really hear what our heart whispers. Praying helps us find ourselves in the tangled mess of our own indifference.

What does your heart tell you? What do you say when you pray? Is it petty or mean, or is it something else? Find it out and maybe then you will truly know who you really are. And if you did not like what it tells about you, then maybe it’s time for a change of course.

Whatever the case may be, it seems we do need prayer. Not for God, mind you, but for ourselves. Why? Because Science, that’s why!

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9 Side Effects of Love and the Science Behind It

Love is one of those central things in life that affects us all in one way or another. It has been a subject of poems, novels, songs, movies, etc., but it is only recently when science put its weight in and delve into the hidden secrets and workings of love. This list is all about the side effects of love and the scientific explanation behind it, in the hopes that someone reading this may find some kernel of understanding that may help him in his own quest for love.

 

9              It May Kill You

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                One of the chemicals that causes the effects that we call “love” is a little organic compound called Phenylethylamine (PEA for brevity); it is a derivative of the amino acid phenylalanine and under the category of monoamine alkaloids and is naturally produced in our body. One of its jobs is to cause the release in our brain of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine (AKA noradrenaline). Dopamine, as we all know, affects the pleasure center in our brain; norepinephrine, on the other hand, is what makes it dangerous and may potentially cause death.  The chemical norepinephrine along with its sister epinephrine (AKA adrenaline) are responsible for the flight or fight response mechanism in our brain which causes the heart to beat faster and use more oxygen, and increasing the risk of heart attack for those who are already old or has serious heart problems. So, if you do not have any heart problems you do not need to worry, just enjoy that giddy feeling of having butterflies in the stomach, also a side effect of norepinephrine.

8              Makes You Act Stupid

            

               Some of us, in our time, had committed incredibly idiotic things in the name of love. It may range from simple breach of normal behavior down to the Romeo and Juliet extreme variety. Those that say they never did were probably never had been in love. It is one of those things that go in pairs: coffee and cream, milk and Oreos, love and stupidity. The culprit in this particularly nasty side effect is Phenylethylamine, the chemical we mentioned above, as well as adrenaline.

                These two chemicals are very much in abundance whenever someone is feeling “in love”, and their combination makes the most stable and logical minded among us act like Borat Sagdiyev all in the name of love. Phenylethylamine is a neurotransmitter which speeds up the flow of information between nerve cells and is released in the limbic system. Essentially, the limbic system is responsible, among others, in controlling our basic needs as well as our emotions, behavior and sensations of pain and pleasure. Now, when you throw in PEA into this part of our brain it’s like putting it into hyper drive complete with nitro boosters, making the compulsions to satisfy our “need” out of control. Adrenaline, on the other hand, is the neurotransmitter responsible in the “flight or fight” mechanism in our sympathetic nervous system, when it is pumped up into our brain it makes us particularly impulsive and irrational. It basically tells our brain to better do something quick because we are in a life and death situation.  When, adrenaline is sprinkled into our already PEA dazed brain it makes everything go supernova; a drug concoction worthy of a Rock Star’s stamp of approval. So, when you want to give the one you love some flowers to get into her good graces you will be compelled to do it, at all cost, because the compulsion is too strong. Like what happened to this man. This throws Anakin Skywalker’s actions into a new light.

7              Love Addiction

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                Love Addiction is a “human behavior in which people become addicted to the feeling of being in love.” We may even have experienced a form or two of this kind of addiction but there are some people who are suffering its extreme form, you may even know of someone who is. Love addiction is an unhealthy form of obsession whereby a person gives unhealthy amount of time and effort to the one he loves to the extent that he will seriously neglect to take care of himself and his own well being.

              The culprit for this kind of behavioral dysfunction maybe traced back to a combination of past psychological trauma (e.g. abandonment issues or low self-esteem problems) and the chemicals Dopamine and Serotonin. Dopamine, being the chemical that makes us feel happy, is an essential ingredient in love, while serotonin has the effect of making us obsessed towards the one we love. Unfortunately, for those who are susceptible to addiction it can have horrifying consequences. Because dopamine gives us that sense of pleasure or heady rush of happiness, and serotonin makes us obsessive-compulsive, some people crave to have it and have it more and as constantly as possible; the kind of thing any junkie will find familiar and sympathize with. Love addiction has become so rampant in recent years that several treatment centers have cropped up to cater to the demand for therapy for sufferers. If you are one, try checking this out.

6              Women Becomes

More Masculine

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             Have you noticed those times with couples in love where a woman seems to be more aggressive or competitive or have a higher sex drive than normal? We have seen so many examples in movies or experienced it firsthand that sometimes we just take it as part of the backdrop and never really question why. Well, some scientists did ask why and found out it has to do with the hormone testosterone. This change in testosterone production in women helps make certain behavioral changes that will make them in sync with their male partners, some scientists speculate that it is nature’s way to ensure that a couple will stay together in a longer period of time so as to increase the possibility of pregnancy. Some of these behavioral changes involve subtle things, like more tolerance for male idiosyncrasies thus allowing for a less stressful and more harmonious relationship, or to the extremes (check this video out for a more graphic example).

        This increase in testosterone levels is a good thing for men because it triggers an increase in the sex drive of their partners, ergo: they will have sex and lots of it.  However, this increase in testosterone production only lasts for a short period of time that may range from a couple of months to several years; fondly called by scientists as the “honeymoon stage” in a relationship.

5              Men Becomes

More Feminine 

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                Unlike number 7, love has an opposite effect in men. When a man is in love his testosterone levels drop significantly. This change in hormonal production, often times, becomes the butt of jokes between male friends when a man becomes less manly and becomes more domesticated or mellowed down. It has even been constantly used as a gag in romantic comedies whenever a super testosterone pumped man becomes suddenly as soft as a kitten when his love interest comes in. Well, now you know the science behind it.

               Women need not be bothered with the thought that their man becomes less manly for with this decrease in testosterone levels means that there will also be a corresponding drop in their men to look around for a different  tail to chase. Basically, there is a trade-off when it comes to love, men will have more sex and women can be assured that their men will not be looking around to have it with someone else. However, this change in testosterone production is only present during the honeymoon stage in a relationship; then it’s back to square one.

4              Makes Us Smarter

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                It turns out that falling in love makes us act idiotic but staying in love may actually make us smarter. If someone is in a loving and long term relationship our body produces less cortisol, the stress hormone, this is not the case when falling in love where the cortisol levels are much higher.  The reason for this decrease in cortisol is oxytocin (the chemical responsible for trust, bonding and long term loving relationships) which in certain cases inhibits the release of cortisol.  Cortisol is a very bad thing for intelligence; in essence, it can cause impaired learning and inhibits memory retrieval of already stored information. While cortisol is bad for intelligence, oxytocin on the other hand makes a person more open to receive new information and facilitate learning and memory specifically for social information.

3              Losing Friends

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                This is one of the side effects of being in love that really makes life harsher for those that are around you, aside from the puke educing public display of sickly sweetness that most people “in love” do. A research done by the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University confirms the thing that we all suspected for sometime already, that being in love destroys friendship: two close friends, in fact. The reason for this is time allocation. When we are in love we focus more time and attention to the one we love thus having less time for anything and anyone else.

2              It Makes Us Pee

Less Frequently

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                This kind of side effect can only manifest in long term loving relationship since it involves oxytocin which due to its similarities with vasopressin (it primarily functions are to retain water and to constrict blood vessels), it can reduce the excretion of urine a little.

1              Better Orgasms

and Harder Erections

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                This may be, for some, the greatest side effect of love – better sex. The mechanism behind orgasm, especially for women, involves not just sexual stimulation but also the need to feel comfortable and secure with the sexual partner involved. Because oxytocin actually causes us to feel those kinds of “feelings” it allows us to enjoy more having sex with the one we love. It turns out that oxytocin also aids in the constriction of blood vessels thus allowing for a harder and longer lasting erection both for the penis and the clitoris. Because oxytocin allows us to be trusting, especially to our mate, it may lead to a more adventurous sex life because it makes us comfortable to do things with our partner that we might be uneasy to do with someone else. Since the presence of oxytocin also triggers the release of dopamine in our brain it means we get more fun and excitement out of sex with the one we love than with others. So, in a way, when we are in love we may have limited our sexual partner to just one but it also means we get better sex out of it. In this case, like most others, quality is better than quantity.

ADVICE FOR THE YOUNG:

 

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No true evil comes to being overnight, it is born out of one bad decision after another.

Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

– Mahatma Gandhi

And a day will come when you will wake up far from the innocence of youth;
when light no longer shines from your eyes;
and goodness no longer flows from your heart.

That day, when it comes my friend, you will be truly evil and salvation becomes a long forgotten dream. So watch your thoughts, that is where the fight against evil is fought.

Eulogy: Gino Zambrano

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In life there is nothing more final than death. Death brings pain that transcends the physical; it brings anguish that crushes the spirit through our suffering hearts that grieves for the departed.

Death brought by violence – brought by the lurid, demented, maliciously hateful mind spawned by evil – causes not only suffering of the heart but also a hunger for justice to be served, even to the point of committing ruthless retribution. It is painful to have someone that we hold so dear die so badly.

Such is the pain and the hunger kindled by the death of Gino Zambrano for those who knew and loved him. Such is our loss. Such is our pain. Such is our thirst to avenge his death.

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He was still in the prime of his youth, only 26; so young and taken from us so early, gunned down so senselessly. A rising politician. A lawyer to be. So much promise, but alas, that promise could no longer be realized. He was taken from us, but our memories of him will always remain and will nourish us in our times of loneliness, in our times of despair.

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Gino was a gentle soul.

A kind soul.

A loving soul.

He was a peaceful man, always wanting to end a conflict harmoniously, amicably. We had served together in an election campaign once, he kept his cool when everyone else, including me, were already spouting expletives and clinching our fists ready to introduce it to someone else’s face.

Gino was a great guy to be with, always smiling, always kind. He always had this huge toothy grin and an infectious excitement for the joys of life. That is the picture that always comes to my mind – a happy Gino.

He was not a perfect man, to be sure, he had his own set of faults that all humanity is bound with from our first breath, but he came very close to be one.

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I do not presume to know what Gino would have liked us to feel, or to be, or to do; only the Lord and Gino really knows that now. But knowing Gino, he would not have liked it for us to feel bad for him; he would not have liked it for us to do bad for him. He was a good guy. A great guy! It would not be an apt way to honor his memory by doing something he did not stood for.

He stood for justice.

He stood for goodness.

He stood for love.

Let us honor him by seeking justice out of our love for him; not vengeance out of our anger for his untimely death.

Let us honor him by doing good, by being good; not by repaying an evil deed by an evil deed.

Let us honor him by loving and continuing to love.

Let us honor Gino by being the man that he was and by striving to be the man he could have been.

Let us honor Gino by living a life of value for others and for ourselves, just like he had lived a life that gave value to ours.

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To those that grieved his passing:

Do not pity the dead. Pity the living, and, above all those who live without love and who had failed to live a life worth living.

Gino certainly lived with love and we loved him back in turn. Gino certainly lived a life worth living and we can only aspire to live as he had lived.

May God grant him peace.

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A Love Letter in Desperation

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Dear Little Sunshine,

A writer wrote a long time ago that “All the love that history knows, is said to be in every rose. Yet all that could be found in two, is less than what I feel for you.” I have read that poem years ago, and yet I did not appreciate it, until you came along. 

How shall I say this, ahmm, I’m not used to loving someone as deeply, as madly, as eternally as I love you. And I’m not used to not having control in the relationship I’m in, “I’m the boss!” as I always say, but well, sometimes fate does make fun of us sometimes in such cruel ways. 

I just found myself loving you to the point beyond control, beyond what sanity dictates; I’m no longer the boss, that is for sure.

At first, I tried to fight it, I tried to resist. I told myself so many times to just go away, to just leave, that the pain is not worth it. I guess my heart overruled my brain in some way, for the steps I took to be away from you just led me nearer, closer; and my love hotter, fiercer, stronger. Funny how love works, I’m not used to losing control. But here I am, a slave to my love for you. 

But, if this be slavery, then let me be a slave forever. If being a freeman means that I would lose you, then let me be bound in ball and chains just as long as we could be together. 

You are not the kindest of mistresses, I tell you. You always find a way to get past my defenses, and BAAMMMM, you always end up hurting me. I never cried over a girl for such a long time, and it’s a strange feeling to experience it again. It’s like walking in on a rain with your best clothes on, annoyance creeps in, then anger, then sadness, and suddenly and inexplicably, feeling refreshed  and happy afterwards. That’s how I feel. So, come rain or rough weather in our relationship, I always find myself walking the way that will lead me to you.

I am happy, truly happy, for once in a long while. And for that I am thankful to you, my love, my little sunshine.

I love you, much more than what love two roses can hold in an eternity.

Love,

Me

Two Roses