Ore iy ji nahl ity, or What Can I Offer You Now

Someday, someday, this crazy world will have to end,
And our God will take things back that He to us did lend.
And if, on that sad day, you want to scold our God,
Why go right ahead and scold Him. He’ll just smile and nod.
[The Books of Bokonon | Cat’s Cradle | Kurt Vonnegut | 1963]

By default, as a Filipina, I know I am and will remain, in the bold streaks of family, culturally Catholic. Very few customs, traditions, and rites would make significant sense if I weren’t, especially the breaking bread part. Oh, my family loves to break bread – and rice and lechon and pansit and menudo and nilaga.

After having finished my first Vonnegut, however, I wonder if I am not something of a Bokononist as well. Actually, as it happens – “as it was supposed to happen” – I am very much a Bokononist. So far as I could understand, the main tenet of the religion is this: “Live by the foma [harmless truths] that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.” Very vague, so vague that I feel that it could be applicable to everyone who wants to abide by it. And to mark it as a true religion, it is, like all popular institutional religions to date, full of contradictions.

But really, writing about “my first Vonnegut” and pledging allegiance to an idyllic fictional faith betrays the very reason I was completely blown away by Cat’s Cradle: originality. Through the book, in the midst of all the page-flipping and the mind-blowing and the head-shaking was a deep-seated shame and craving for this one rare virtue that has eluded me all my life. And here it was, in this novel, throbbing my brain and nearly making me tear up in the sheer quantity and quality by which I was being fed of it. I could never be a Vonnegut.

Not just me, I suppose. Call it arrogance or myopia or desensitization, but it feels uncommon now to come across something truly original. I don’t mean to say that it’s a fault of humans or the world-at-large, but maybe it’s just simply because so many people have already felt, written, and created that they’ve exhausted the obvious and obscure sources of originality. The end to end extremes of existence and all the tick-marks in between has been lived.

And I thought perhaps – well, is this why the world’s end is inevitable? At some point, would we have extracted all its real and imagined resources, then when it’s been left completely bereft, would we then expand outward, to the very limits of the reachable universe, polluting every unadulterated inch of air? As a huge example, is this why we’ve created a virtual space, why we live in a cyber age – because we’ve run out of real space, and we have to add now a new layer on top of our original paradigm? We’ve taken ourselves and having little original space outside to work with, exploited our communal and individual beings, exposing our bare moments of silence and joy and sorrow on social media, because other than sudden emotions that hit us, there is no newness here.

I was discussing this fact of the deteriorating component of social media with a group of friends (during the holidays, of all timing), when my shrewd friend Jenny argued the valuable role of the virtual space during the oppressive times, for instance the revolution in the Middle East. Her family and friends in Iran were able to journal the experience and communicate the dire need for immediate change only through interfaces like Facebook and Twitter. And I agree, in that regard, this added layer of reality is extremely important.

But even Jenny’s very explanation keeps tugging at me. Especially in terms of the conflict all around the world – uncomplicated, doesn’t it seem to boil down to the terrible human evil of oppression? And what is oppression outside of the abject cruelty in the denial of one’s own, one’s original existence? Maybe the Seven Deadly Sins (of which I hold oppressors guilty) are in fact deadly because they’ve killed the space that might have otherwise been free for creation to take place – the pride, anger, gluttony, sloth, envy, lust, and greed has occupied the world entire, choked it until poof! there is no clean area for you to rest, to place your finger. Everything is covered.

So from this perspective, I can see the cyber space being occupied only because no other space is available. This makes sense for people in regions without any real freedom except the virtual one, but what about us who do not live in socially and politically stifled environments? Why have we decided to exist on this layer on nonrealtime and nonrealspace? Is it because the tangible nowness and hereness immediately enveloping us is cliché, that some richness has been removed somehow because 107,602,707,791 other people, many of whom were probably not unlike us in form, thought, activities, and interest, have already existed?

I understand this post might have gotten out of control, in reason and flow. But basically, Vonnegut and his stupid skill for originality has me running scared. Yes, at the moment he has me wrapped around his little literary finger, but I also consider him a serious culprit. I partly blame him (and original thinkers, like him – the whole lot of them!) for the crime of congesting the world – inside, outside, inside-out – by pioneering authentic, fundamental, primitive, and lasting thoughts that no one else will now be able to replicate. Vonnegut might just be part of the reason why there is no blank space left that can hold any sort of creation. (There will most likely be another post about how there is still originality in the world, I just don’t have it.)

What in the world can I offer you now.


An Ode to Our Bodies

Meeting us on the sidewalk en route to bagels on a crunchy (as in, there were crunchy leaves underfoot), allegedly sleepy Saturday morning about a month ago, the jovial landlord (raking said leaves) chuckled and said, “You guys can’t go down that way, not for a good few hours. The road is blocked.” Not inquiring any further on why exactly the road was blocked, we went ahead anyway, with the logic that very little could stand in the way between James and his early morning coffee and me and bread.

There was actually a rather legitimate reason why 4th Avenue was impassable that morning. What we saw, and in fact heard, were 45,000 pairs of feet running along 4th Avenue, a typically busy four-lane road now lined with dedicated layman cheerleaders.  The New York City Marathon, arguably the largest in the world, was passing us by, one rippling tibia following another. A band to our left, in front of a closed Brooklyn fire station, played the encouraging score from Star Trek, then Rocky, then…you get the idea. And is that a family of seven spectating from a fourth floor fire escape? Why, yes, it is. Oh, and look at the cop in the median, facing the runners with a very sincere double thumbs up. Needless to say, the energy was contagious and we decided to break our fast a little later.


There is something urgently awesome about applauding people on their way to conquering an utter physical feat, en masse. Coming from someone who currently spends the majority of her weekday hours sitting in front of two monitors on an L-shaped desk under sensored office lighting, the awe is tripled. There is no surer reminder of how much one has disregarded a fully working anatomy than the news that a person who exists in the same dimension just ran 26.2 miles in 2 hours and 5 minutes.

As James cheered personalized encouragements to the runners (made easier by the name tags hanging around their necks, bobbing up and down with each jaunt), and I took pictures of adorable young offsprings waving signs for their parents (or the occasional parents waving signs for their young offsprings), the words of Ken Robinson from his February 2006 TED talk more than mildly rushed over me. More specifically (and more relevantly), I remember his statement,

There isn’t an education system on the planet that teaches dance everyday to children the way we teach them mathematics. Why? Why not? I think this is rather important. I think math is very important, but so is dance. Children dance all the time if they’re allowed to, we all do. We all have bodies, don’t we?…Truthfully, what happens is, as children grow up, we start to educate them progressively from the waist up. And then we focus on their heads. And slightly to one side…[University professors] look upon their body as a form of transport for their heads

I must have watched this talk dozens of times, and it always floored me, floored me in that it’s completely true. The amount of abuse and neglect, in equal parts, I’ve put my body through, all the while glorifying the importance of striving for sound intelligence is really quite sick. Evolutionarily speaking, is it right that I – and the general adult population of the developed world – sit in a swivel chair for 9 to 12 of the 15 hours that we are awake? Are we supposed to accept that 3.5 billion years of physio-biological  mutation, adaptation, convergence, diversification, and specialization from life’s universal single-celled common ancestor has led to this glorious state of…immobility? Is this really the measure of the breadth of our human capacity? Or is it more likely that we should, by all scientific standards, actually spend more of our time running and dancing, utilizing each and every mind-bogglingly interconnected and complex limb and muscle for miles and miles?

This is why I tip my hat to all of you runners, hikers, walkers, dancers, jumpers, spinners, divers, general movers. You, everyday, make our species proud.

On Deciding Fate

You may think you’ve heard a story similar to this one: perhaps in a film, or by association when a friend asked you to be his wing-man while he strategized the introduction to an attractive stranger, or you might have experienced it firsthand and taken action on Missed Connections – “We met on the uptown A train. You were wearing a gray shirt and a hat. We talked about my time as an ambulance driver in Italy and your motorcycle ride across South America. I was getting up the courage to ask for your number when my stop came up. If you read this, meet me at Grand Central Station Sunday morning under the big clock. I’ll be the one wearing Coke bottle glasses.” The red string of fate looks as if mysteriously playing a part, weaving the flirtatious notions of fatefully meeting, re-meeting, or never meeting again.

It was November 1, about 11 in the evening, on the 1 train. There was an over-intoxicated man dancing with the subway poles like a surrealist Fred Astaire, and two of us there to witness the glory of his improvised choreography. My sober comrade and I, instantly brought together by the humor, met eyes. For some unexplainable reason astonished to notice his eyes were blue, I smiled. Never mind his teasing opening line as he changed his seat to be next to mine (before the train took on passengers that might have taken it, he later says) and my sheepish response, both not unmarked by nervousness. The important part to note is that James and I rode the train from Lower Manhattan, consciously passing both our stops, up to the end of the line in the Bronx and back down again. Before long, I lost the initial self-consciousness of being in the presence of this handsome, warm, and clever stranger under glaring fluorescent MTA lights in the aftermath of a sleepless New York Halloween. My approximate feeling was that he and I could have stayed on the train long enough for it to have made a trip to Fez and back, and it would have been too short a ride. It was just past 1 o’clock that I found myself walking home, instantly receiving a text (“You’re gorgeous and awesome, and I can’t wait to see you again.”) and unhesitatingly confirming that we will meet again in a couple of days.

One of the things made clear during the sometimes-heated subway discussion that ranged from backyard fig trees to socialism to I-haven’t-told-anyone-this-before stories to the Khmer Rouge to career paths (not necessarily in that order) is that neither of us depended on Destiny. It was a crucial time in both our lives, and for the most part our peers found comfort in one of two philosophies: that things happen for a reason, people come in and out of one’s life according to Providential schedule, or that it was up to the individual to carve and sculpt the way through life and circumstance. We the both of us belonged to the latter crew. I certainly did not read into any numerological signs of our meeting (11/1 from 11pm to 1am on the 1 Train – is he the One?). To top it off, I was leaving New York in three weeks, when my glamorous stint as an unpaid intern would come to an end, and my next move was unclear – it could be Silicon Valley or it could be more unpaid stints in countries whose technological infrastructure discouraged the pursuance of western meet-cutes.

As far as I was concerned, what took place was not a predetermined lockstep of two people in a transcendental waltz, but a series of decisions, to which we cognitively said yes. Yes to a second date at a small kitschy café in the Flatiron, where decorations from every holiday known to man and beast come to live in the offseason, yes to a first kiss in Madison Square Park, yes to meeting his entire family after just two weeks, and, ultimately, yes to taking a 27-day-old relationship to a long 3,000-mile distance.

I owe the confidence behind the decision largely to the strength of our spiritual, intellectual, and physical connection and also to the knowledge that it was logistically doable – in fact, definitely more doable than what I had experienced before. While my connection to James was unprecedented, the challenge of long distance was not. Shortly after I was born in provincial Philippines, my father moved across the Pacific to California to better support my mother and me. He visited home for two weeks every year for 10 years, the most vacation he could get, until we could get the papers approved to join him. Since telephone circuits did not then yet reach our village, my mother and I would go to the capital city every Sunday to use my cousin’s phone and speak to him for a few meager minutes. Considering how many husbands did not return, and how many wives did not wait, it was clear that my parents’ marriage was based on an everyday decision to stay together, albeit metaphorically, sustained by weekly signal-challenged calls and fortnight visits. Day-long waiting lines at the US embassy in Manila and repeat denials of visas gave me front row seats to watch how relationships survive through decided action. Inevitability is perseverance in retrospect. A decade later, after an unwavering stream of petitions to the US government, my mother and I received the green light to join my father.

So James and I stayed together when I moved to the West Coast primarily because we loved each other and also because we resolved it could be done. To keep our feet firmer on the ground, we established a caveat that come the following January, we would have a conversation deciding whether or not we should go on. It was a fair, logical plan. It was two free will enthusiasts at work.

Our fundamental trust in indeterminism only enhanced the experience we now shared with each other. We accepted our individual histories not as imperative occurrences designed for us to ultimately collide but as personal adventures, useful lessons that we could use to forge our togetherness. In those short weeks, and in the longer months ensuing, I decided that James, then 29, was really about 183 years old, give or take a couple of decades. I believe this is probably his third lifetime, having spent the last two in quiet observation of human and individual conditions and growing very old and wise in doing so. In my musings, I imagined a well-made shack near the shore of a rocky sea with tumultuous waves, where he has everything he needed and little more. My reasons for this theory are many-fold, stemming not least from his exceptional knowledge of himself and his very real appreciation of genuineness and recognition of inauthenticity in others from a mile away. I, on the other hand, woke up most mornings not unlike Bambi learning how to walk, except carrying less grace and definitely more consequences with my actions. His seemingly old soul had me mindfully anchored, and my idealisms kept him on whimsy. Rather than taking these flights of imagination to conclude that the Moirae, the Parcae, or the million other synonyms used across cultures and time, finally converged our souls’ journey to meet on the subway and fall in love, what I instead found reassuring was that my daydreams emphasized the sublime romance of the rationale of our pairing. It was therefore up to us to see through the commitment we made. It could work, it could not work – the decision was ours.

January came, and we agreed to delay our impending caveat conversation to March. March came and went, and we resolved to further postpone to a date that was more nebulous, but still in the near future. We did not take it for granted that things were going to effortlessly work out for us because it was written in the stars; we always knew that it would do so as long as we chose for it to. For close to a year, we lived on weekend visits, haiku texts, emails attached with good morning greetings in .mp4 video files. We had our disagreements over Skype and fought over the phone, made more frustrating by faulty reception on San Francisco hills. Finally, in October (long after we had done away with the caveat) the day came – I was going back to New York. Six months later, on a quiet Philippine shore off the South China Sea, he decided to ask the question that would signify our willingness to be Meant To Be always, and I blissfully decided to say yes.

Looking back, it truly has been a journey of delirium and reason to be marrying a man I met on November 1, at 11pm, on the 1 Train. It definitely evokes a spectrum of responses – many car-loving Southern Californians are mortified, San Franciscans, with their relatively clean public transportation, are amused, and a number of New Yorkers have begun rethinking their “keep eyes on shoes” approach to the subway. Given how we met and the straining lengths through which we stayed together, it is typically a consensus thought that the invisible, generous, magical hand of Fate must have had a role. The way I see it, with global climate change to reverse, Tibet to free, rampant population growth to control, if Fate is at work here, I will not take offense nor be appalled if It puts matchmaking and choosing mates for earthly souls lower on the to-do list. Best-case scenario, at least we’ve given It one less thing to worry about. James and I, with hearts and minds and bells on, have chosen our paths – that is, each other.

pace yourself

“…move at your own pace,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked

“You know, take the city in on your own terms. Because this city is so big, so intense, there is so much in it, you can get caught up really quickly in everything. It’s easy to get lost. To actually live in it, you need to pace yourself.”

As much as it pains me to publicly acknowledge the wisdom of my Mancunian roommate (for fear he might start thinking himself too superior to wash dishes or take out the rubbish), there is, undeniably, truth behind his words.

There are some of us who came into this internship from already hectic lives – dissertation research in Uganda, government jobs in Australia, that very stressful springtime of undergraduation – only to be thrust into yet another crazy existence, also known as HQ madness: the GA! Obama! Snipers on the roof! Whether it’s trying to sneak into the SC meeting with our lowly brown letter badges or even if it’s the simple obstacle of being at work at 9AM pre-morning coffee, it is safe to caption our UN lives as “full.”

And it is not as if we bid good riddance to exhaustion at the end of these two months (or more). After our time here, we will once again spherically disperse – some to essay-ridden curricula, some to the heart-palpitating animalistic hunt for employment, others going back to places called home where formidable battles of work and life are waged daily.

Where does this leave us here, in our ‘right now,’ four weeks old in this indescribable and ephemeral city? What is the answer to this vehement intensity? How is your breathing? Is it as shallow as the rain puddles in Central Park last week? As steady as the rhythm of the subway as the train wheels pass each cross tie? Are you pacing yourself?

Well, go ahead, fellow transient, walk an hour on a route left untrodden by the Lonely Planet and the Michelin Guide; eat at a restaurant unsurveyed by the Zagat; spend a night making love to the lights and sounds that draw you and no one else. LIVE here. And then wake up the next morning and do the exact opposite – if you wish.

Know the empty lazy feeling of staying in bed all day in your cheap, dodgy NYC apartment. Be blasé. Feel the neutrality of buying ketchup at your corner shop in Brooklyn. Accept the naturalness of topping up your metro card at a Staten Island station. LIVE here. As you see fit.

So, in the midst of lovely rooftop drinks, wild karaoke nights, and glamorous cosmopolitan clubbing,

I offer a quieter toast – to living here and breathing deeper,

to finding the soul,

the heart,

the romance,

of this city.

At your own pace.

[written for the 3rd issue of UNITED, the autumn series of the United Nations Intern Newsletter]

daily contingencies of life

perhaps it was the sleep deprivation, the poor diet (consisting largely of takeaway curries, store-bought hummus, and the occasional wake-us-up popsicles from the ice cream truck outside the library), or the unvaried existence, but these past few weeks seem to have been marked by skewed perceptions and the breakdown of reality. we saw little of the outside world, and even then only at 45-minute increments. if they allowed food inside the cage that is the british library of economics and political science, i doubt that our exposure to air and pavement would have included much more than the walk from home to bus stop to campus and back.

yet however cruel and unsustainable the lifestyle of exam revision was, there was nevertheless a shame that came over me whenever i caught myself complaining – and i caught myself doing that more than just sometimes. how could i not be ashamed? it is difficult to study, yes, even more difficult to study and do well. but when reading about conflicts in subsaharan africa, the favelas in brazil, slums in india, the debt crises in latin america and eastern europe, how can there be any comparison between my microscopic misery and their real legitimate suffering? i am embarrassed of the thought whenever i think about it. to juxtapose my academic stress to the anguish of so many, affected by genocides, unlivable homes, corruption ruining every attempted recontruction – my ‘woes’ are almost sadly laughable. was i not born in a developing country? was i not exposed to starved families, drugs, homelessness? i should be embarrassed, i should be ashamed.

then i remembered something i heard on the bbc. a reporter asked israeli author amoz oz how he felt when writing about the conflict in the middle east. does he feel pressured to write about the daily contingencies of life in israel in the conflict? is this what he feels his narrative is set out to do?

and he said,
The daily contingencies of life in Israel and the occupied territories are not just the conflict. Life goes on. Even on the slopes of an erupting volcano, people still raise kids and plant vegetables and conduct love affairs and cheat on their income tax. They still do it. Life goes on. And one my zeals in writing novels is to devote my novels not just to the conflict, not just to the topics that fill the media and the papers but to the essential topics of love and hate and loneliness and longing and desire and death and desolation.*

not that it makes it appropriate for me to practice so little fortitude as to be overwhelmed by trifling exams, but the man’s reply places things in an even greater perspective than the one i was seeking. his reply is a reminder of the universe i am a part of – a universe that has room for both superficial distress and deep sorrow, simple joys and genuine kindness. the communities that i am now a part, that i am learning, that i am to join, that i am to serve…it’s all the same place. what the author pronounced as essential was not the conflict, not the eruption of the volcano, but love, hate, loneliness, longing, desire, death, desolation. these are the elements of which life is made of. this – life in its daily form – is what is real.

while there is the very easy mistake of blowing situations out of proportion, it is useful to be reminded that there should be no guilt attached to academic stress and the distress of the everyday. no shame in venting about the too-long hours we spend indoors cramming, leaving too-short time for social interaction. after all, the reason i am studying now is to work in the hope that other 23-year-olds can lament about their exams rather than the loss of their families, so that parents can worry about their child going off to university they feel to be too far away, like my own parents worry for me, rather than being afraid of displacement within their own nations, the land of their blood.

Appreciate, not dismiss, the everyday and the immediate world surrounding. It is, after all, the compass and inspiration to my future and my work.

[*The following interview was heard on the BBC World Service, Global News Highlights, 07 May 2009.]

coup de foudre

“In French we call it coup de foudre. A strike, that bolt, of lightning.”


As we sat and talked and ate our dinner, our last night in their lovely home in Versonnex, none of us – excepting Clémence, who has obviously been witness to this all her life – could ignore the beautiful warmth created by her parents. Though they sat at the opposite ends of the table, seven of us in between the places where they sat, nothing could break the attention they gave each other. Instead of distracting from it, we merely became enveloped in the tenderness that is their marriage, the honest sweetness that is Guy and Blandine.

Finishing the last bites of l’agneau rotî avec les haricots verts, I debated whether or not to ask the question in my head, afraid it might come across as far too saccharin for a post-roast lamb coversation. But of course it had to be asked.

“So how did you meet..?”

Clémence’s eyes lit up, “Well, my mom got drunk on their first date…”

“Ah, Clémence, non.” Her father shook his head. “We met before that. She was visiting her brother, who was friends with my friend’s cousin…” At this point, I must confess that I am sure I am getting this part of the connection wrong. Sufficient to say, through mutual acquaintances, they ended up at the same party.

He continued, “Anyway, I was there, I saw her, and I knew. It was, it really was, love at first sight.”

It caught me off-guard, hearing this kind forty-something-year-old man speak of meeting his wife in such a manner, such a genuine manner. I think he saw the look on my face, on all our faces, and he went on to say, “In French, we call it coup de foudre.  A strike, that bolt, of lightning. It’s that instant force.”

Clémence, dutifully playing the role of a daughter disgusted at her parents, rolled her eyes and feigned a gagging face.

“Ah, Clémence, you are not ready for romance,” her father commented, shaking his head.

Blandine then continued, “I went home, and I couldn’t breathe. My mother had to help me sit down and calm me that night. She thought there was something wrong with me. Oh, but I was very much shaking, you know. My hands, everything. Oh, my mother was so worried…”

Guy began again, “I was seeing two girls at the time. But that evening, I called them both right away and told them I would no longer see them. That was it.”  He gestured with his arms, illustrating that yes, at that point, that evening, 25 years ago, he knew, after seeing Blandine for the first time, that his life before her is ended and everything is now just beginning.

This, of course, brought out a response from the rest of us, moved not just by their story but at the way they told it, with affection untainted by two and a half decades.

“Aw, that’s a great story…”
“Awesome, you were dating two girls..?!”
“That’s so rare…”
“It’s too bad that really doesn’t happen anymore…”

Hearing that last comment, Blandine turned her head, “What do you mean it does not happen anymore? Of course it does! It happens still, you know. Of course it does.”

Guy nodded in agreement.

I can’t help but be unsure of their certainty, my 23-year-old pessimism rearing its ugly head. Yet as we continued on with our meal, it became more and more difficult to doubt anything said by these two very generous, very astute couple. And what’s amazing is that it isn’t what they said necessarily that allowed us to be convinced, but how they seem to live the words they impart. Suspend disbelief, Jean Louise, I remember my first year university teaching assistant in English literature urging me. I believe I am outnumbered.

“So,” Clémence pressed her parents, “tell them about your first date when you drank too much…”

Guy and Blandine preparing a meal

Guy and Blandine preparing a meal together

just yet another delicious breakfast, this time of le baguette, le jambon français, la saucisson, les olives, et le fromage epoisse de Bourgogne

just yet another delicious lunch, this time of le baguette, le jambon français, la saucisson, les olives, et le fromage epoisse de Bourgogne

the crew

the crew


I took the 188 home today. I sat at the empty top deck, on the leftmost seat closest to the huge front windows of the bus. At the following stop, a young couple and their son joined me. The little boy looked about three. His name is Santiago.

The mother sat next to me at first, with Santiago and his father taking the two seats across the aisle. When Mamá said, “Siéntese, Santiago!” the boy stood up instead. And when she said, “Escucha,” rather than listening as he was told, he turned his head the opposite way. Clearly, the boy was in no mood to be obedient.

They switched seats, his father now sat next to me and his mamá next to him. Still, Santiago kept his head turned away from them, standing as the bus swayed, his arms crossed, his lips in a pout. Mamá took out a banana and sweetly asked him to eat. He tightened his mouth. After a few minutes of her patient persuasion, he finally took a small bite, followed by another, then just one more. Mamá asked him to finish his food, but “No lo quiero,” the boy said. I don’t want it. Papá took the rest of the fruit and finished it for his son.

Mamá cradled Santiago the rest of the ride, and Papá pointed to the clear glass in front of us. A bird flew past the window, and Papá exclaimed to him, “Mira, Santiago, un pájaro!” (Look, Santiago, a bird!) As we passed underneath a bridge with a train running on it, Mamá put her arms arms around her unwilling boy and shook his stomach playfully to sound of the train, cooing chug-a-chug, chug-a-chug, chug-a-chug. 

“Mira, Santiago, el tren!”
“Mira, Santiago, Tower Bridge!”
“Mira, Santiago…”

And I thought to myself,  look at this love. This shameless love. No matter how many times he doesn’t listen or does exactly the opposite of what is asked of him, they don’t deny him their affection. They don’t deny him the world. I think it’s because they cannot. They love Santiago so shamelessly it doesn’t matter what he does. I realize this is the love my own parents try to teach me. Shameless. Full. 

Perhaps, then, I should listen, and for once, be obedient. Love shamelessly. Care for another’s sake, without expectations of having the affection returned. Love another so fully that the love is enough to live on, to exist for, without it being conditional upon reciprocation.

The trouble is this takes humility I do not possess and courage I have not yet learned. Maybe if I practice, I could get better.

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