|Posted by C. Stan Asumen, Jr on June 11, 2019 at 3:35 PM||comments (1)|
CCXX ~> Fractal Penumbra*
Dainty dimples hoovering at siesta
They always grace the vortex of my dreams
Making each nap morph into wild fiesta
Rare plethora of misbegotten schemes,
Fractal penumbra of aural extremes:
Faint pigment of vaunt imagination
Rant defiant of verbal dimension!
Wherefore they disappear when I’m awake,
Giving my dreams with powers magical?
I’d much prefer to rather keep my take
More palpable, up close, and personal;
And grace the tease of sins original:
For these dimples adorn the countenance
Of the lass who finesse me with romance!
Panache and pizzazz are flamboyant twins
They complement each other with hubris;
Lest you deploy them to finesse your sins
Beware the consequence of fresh duress
Might lynch you in distress without redress:
The caprices of long forbidden dreams
Purchase the vortices of morbid whims!
Begotten long ago and far away,
Dwell goblins native to your flirts of yore;
Nostalgia ample energy defray
Perforce procure their memories restore
Lest oblivion ensures you shall ignore:
Your mind yields unique singularity,
You’ll find, wields grotesque regularity!
*Hook image (CosmosP35BlueNebula.jpg) sequestered, from the Pinterest cosmos cyber collection reached my inbox by promotional subscription.
©(2017), Constancio S Asumen Jr ~> https://allpoetry.com/poem/13587198-CCXX---gt--Fractal-Penumbra--by-Ace-Lilacs.
|Posted by C. Stan Asumen, Jr on February 7, 2019 at 8:50 AM||comments (0)|
CDLXXVIII ~> Behind the Name*
(Opus478 ~> Behind the Name)
Behind the name that sounds just whimsical,
Might lurk a treasure trove of history;
At myriad times suggesting functional,
Although betimes with loads of mystery
Saddling your soul with bits of memory:
To stoke some flames from smoldering ember,
Bewitching dreams, bewildered souls ponder!
Behind the name, what meaning pines, Shakespeare
Asked before, using the rose metaphor.
The pains kick in when you become aware
That forthright answers hibernate in store
For brilliant minds, with rigor to explore:
It’s hallmark tribute to the astute mind,
To impute meaning where it fails to find
Beyond the envelope of make believe,
Reverberates the impulse to forget;
Whether or not conspiring to deceive,
Refine your conscience to make a complete
Emergence from the vortex of regret:
The meaning that you find behind the name
Rejuvenates your prime beneath the shame!
*Hook image (AuroraBor04H478.jpg), sequestered uncaptioned, from the Pinterest Aurora Borealis cyber collection reached my email inbox by gratis subscription.
©(2019), Constancio S Asumen Jr ~> https://allpoetry.com/poem/14336615-CDLXXVIII---gt--Behind-the-Name--by-Ace-Lilacs.
|Posted by C. Stan Asumen, Jr on March 12, 2017 at 6:40 PM||comments (5)|
If caution were but protocol imposed
Let self-deception Purgatory be
Regrets be reckoned most deserving cost
When sin is but default's own legacy!
I'd rather grab the harvest of a sin
Than wonder of: If but, what might have been!
~~Ace Lilacs, https://allpoetry.com/poem/11793913-A-Posteriori--by-Ace-Lilacs" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">A Posteriori
In anticipation of reconnecting with her through newly discovered connection on Facebook with Everilda Rosales (Bebie), her sister who used to clerk for me, I penned this narrative, the substance of which have been kept treasured in the innermost chambers of my reverie.
After all these decades of keeping it to myself, it deserves to be shared with her for whatever it might be worth to her. By so doing the reality of the event would no longer be my own private treasured memory and becomes even more priceless as it obtains the dimension of being a forbidden pleasure. It would give justice to the couplet (above) which I minted, post facto, to memorialize the event.
It was one afternoon on a weekend. I could not be certain whether it was Saturday or Sunday, or possibly another holiday. Pat was lying down on the couch in the living room of Prof. Rabor’s house where I was an authorized resident for the duration of my employment as a faculty member.
She was apparently taking her afternoon beauty nap. I suspected that she sensed or felt my presence in the room with her. She was such a portrait of loveliness that the temptation to molest and ravish her with lustful abandon was so strong and irresistible. To this day, I can still savor the taste of promised heaven in her slumber, that could have been mine for the taking, or so I thought. To this day, her image at that moment continues to be both the subject and object of my lustful indulgence.
I was on the verge of stealing the long-coveted kiss and be prepared to face the consequence. Just as I was about to succumb to the temptation, my brother-in-law, the late Manuel Bravante materialized in the porch-balcony adjoining the room. Heaven forgive me, but I could not be certain, then and now, whether to thank or curse Manuel for the interruption.
It behooves to explain my use of the qualifier “long-coveted.” Pat first caught my attention when I transferred my lodgings from the basement guest room of Dean Ignacio’s across the street to the supposedly unassigned house of Prof. Rabor who was on study sabbatical leave. She was one of the seemingly inseparable trio of coeds who rescued me from Prof. Rabor’s dogs guarding the property, before Manuel the care taker student escorted me in. She was with Bebing and Irmie.
As I learned later, they were the female counterpart of a hangout bunch consisting of the staff at the Aga Khan museum and the student caretaker of the property. To my disappointment, I also learned that Pat was the object of the unrequited affection of Ismer, one of the museum staff, who was head over heels pining for her attention.
My awareness of this emotional dynamics prevented me from giving vent to my attraction to her. I was almost certain that she knew I was captivated by her charming demeanor. I was also inclined to believe that had I thrown my hat on the ring, I had better than seventy-five percent chance of winning her over. While I was not about to pull rank on Ismer, it suffices to admit for the record that she was the ongoing feature of my lustful fantasies.
The incident inadvertently interrupted by my brother-in-law would have wiped out all the hesitant bones in my soul. I then would have crossed the proverbial Rubicon. That was what made the memory of that afternoon so poignantly delicious that would keep Pat vaulted in the innermost chambers of my reverie. For better or worse, I thought she deserved to at least learn of the incident.
For me the message eloquent
Conveyed with touching testament
Of care for my predicament
And yet . . . Of fear possessed lest be
To prayer bred of charity
This self, unfree of vanity
Be ill-disposed a recipient. . . .
To harbor doubt perchance is sin
For answers to a prayer sought
Sans faith, alas! however wrought
Reward deserving naught. But then . . .
Sans doubt, remain . . .
Sans conscience free!
~~ Ace Lilacs, https://allpoetry.com/poem/11427343-In-Response-to-a-Get-Well-Card-by-Ace-Lilacs" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">In Response to a Get-Well Card
|Posted by C. Stan Asumen, Jr on April 18, 2016 at 11:05 PM||comments (1)|
Some with devious heart, some with caustic tongue
Highlight their art with pride to conceal wrong
Sans qualms their peers malign to capture fame
Nor reckon how much malice taints their name
But I, sustained by hubris, deign confess
Submit these works, my own, with modesty
For you to judge without apologies
Condemn the faults, denounce each falsity.
~Asumen, Transitions, p. xv
One of my fourteen first degree nephews, the only one in The Asumen Clan who holds a PhD degree, posted a sermon on a clan conversation thread in Facebook with the view of eliciting a discussion. Elicit, it did, with one of my brothers waxing evangelistic in the proceedings.
For my part, I posted the comments reproduced, in its entirety below for context preservation. So far, nobody has posted a rejoinder. It makes me wonder if I had offended anybody by it, or at least by the tangent I took.
Speaking of oratory, that was what that sermon essentially was, a prepared piece of oration which was delivered with habitual mastery. I suspect that was the reason I could only suffer through a short portion of it. The problem with any oration is, of necessity it is charged to full saturation with the writer’s and/or the orator’s ego. And that is how it should be. Otherwise you cannot deliver it passionately.
I have written and delivered only one piece of oration in my entire career. It was the Valedictory Address for my high school graduation. Sadly, I did not have any occasion to repeat the feat.
I lucidly remember the reaction of Mrs. Marapao, the English teacher and female adviser to the graduating class, when I submitted the speech for her evaluation and approval. She asked who wrote it and was quite taken aback when I claimed authorship. It was only then that I learned that producing an acceptable Valedictory Address was one of her duties as an English teacher senior class adviser. Apparently she had something written for me.
One year earlier, observing Mano Fito rehearse his Address, I mumbled to myself that when it was my turn I would write my own. Mana, on her last visit with us a couple of years ago, claimed to have witnessed the incident. Ergo, I have evidence that I was not hallucinating, and I did not make this up.
But as to why the sermon provoked me to write this is anybody’s guess. Charging it to the maladies of aging old won’t be out of bounds.
Incidentally, when I speak of The Asumen Clan, I mean to include only all the direct descendants to my parents. Of those I can account for, there are eight in the first generation of six brothers and two sisters. I am the fifth.
In my audacious attempt to reserve privilege, I claimed my position in the picking order to be the oldest of the second half. This is significant because I proposed rules of engagement embraced by the second half but frowned upon by the first.
Seventeen first degree nieces complete the second generation of thirty-one. Accounting for subsequent generations would be a task beyond the range of my radar screen. It is a task best left to a more resourceful soul.
One of the advantages of belonging to a sizeable clan obtains from the unlikely chance that if every member is so inclined to read, it justifies maintaining your own blog site. It behooves to note that size of readership has of late not a requirement to be a blogger.
Of the relatively lengthy schooling I had suffered through, I still maintain that my sojourn in high school accounted for the most enjoyable and elucidating period of school life. This was partly because it was coeval with the hormonal awakening of adolescence.
The exuberance of youth was yet unsaddled by the burdens of responsibility imposed on adulthood. It was the golden age of discovery. The cost of failure could be reasonably charged to the locus of a stunted learning curve, free from the prospective perils of irreversible damage to life and limb.
It was in this atmosphere of virtual infallibility that I was first induced to learn the craft of oratory. The canon drill was to have me memorize a speech composed by someone unknown to me but presumably acclaimed in the annals of speech writing. An English teacher would be charged with coaching the most effective and affected delivery thereof.
The canon failed to resonate with me in any riveting way. It was much too reminiscent of the practice of leading a novena, the craft I attained mastery in third grade, before the much coveted First Communion rituals. I made my hay in extemporaneous speaking which required thinking on your feet and speaking your mind with a modicum of spontaneity.
My first brush with delivering a speech that somebody else had written specifically for me was my Elementary School graduation valedictory address. It was penned by Mr. Rizalino Murcia, the Principal and teacher-in-charge of the graduating class. My delivery coach was my oldest brother, Sergio. While the project was completed with public acclaim, on hindsight and realizing that the audience did not speak any English, any semblance of success attributed to the affair proved bereft of authenticity. It left a distinctive acrid taste in the palate.
There were two literary activities in which I could not make my bones in. They were oration and declamation. Since both merely concerned with how, what and where to put the emphasis during the delivery, they really were not distinguishable one from the other. So when I look at a composition, to tell whether one is declamatory or oratory, depends upon what I had for breakfast or night cap on the other side of dreamland.
In terms of the plethora of acclaimed oratorical compositions available for the taking, it covered the gamut from the Hamlet Soliloquy and Mark Anthony’s funeral speech in Julius Caesar to masterpieces by Jose Garcia Villa and Rolando Carbonell. I was always partial to Edgar Allan Poe’s Anabelle Lee, having grown up in the farmland by the sea.
When it comes to oratory, the names that readily come to mind are Cicero and Demosthenes. In my lifetime, and personally at least, nobody beats Sir Winston Churchill in oratorical flourish and effectiveness.
In the American scene, disregarding substance and emphasizing delivery, the names that make my shortlist, in no particular ranking, are ~> Pres. Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr., Gov. Mario Como, Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Sen. Arlene Specter, Pres. William Jefferson Clinton, Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan, Liberation Theology’s Jeremiah Wright, and the master of unhinged hyperbole himself Pres. Barack Hussain Obama.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. It is just naming the ones I have been exposed to directly or otherwise.
Credit the quirks of cultural prejudice if you will, but none of the orators in the American scene can hold a candle to the Filipino orators in my short list. This include, of political luminaries, Sen. Raul S. Manglapus, Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos, and Pres. Carlos P. Garcia. Of the non-politicians I count the duo of diplomat and educator Carlos P. Romulo and my own personal mentor the venerable Dr. Queterio F. Miravite of whom I wrote at length in my first book, Flirting with Misadventures, Etc. under the section heading “The Miravite Factor,” pp. 13 ff.
|Posted by C. Stan Asumen, Jr on April 9, 2016 at 7:10 AM||comments (0)|
Calling yourself Hanny, you challenged me
To reveal who you might be by guessing
The whims and wherefores of your bonhomie.
Deflecting contretemps sent me teasing;
Like Hannibal took the Alps by crossing
The range, unimpressed by the majesty,
Your charming smile, spilled your identity!
The ice thus broke, you dismissed Hannibal
Whence long full name, much brisker Hanny trims
Mindful of the abysmal interval
In time and space and plethora of dreams
Turned poignant memories of fettered whims:
Looking me up was your pleasant surprise
On Facebook chat we called you Angel Eyes!!
We reckoned begot of desperation
That across the seas, for me you reached out
You must have been much starved for attention
Of this we harbored very little doubt
Prompting me thence, this thought to fret about:
You could have been my very own daughter
Save my being disowned by your mother!!!
You flattered me for thinking that you find
In me your friend, although we’ve never met
Nor got the chance compare the woes behind
We gladly left or ventured to forget
You are the loss I mourn with deep regret:
Such is our lot, we both, of woman born,
Sans being asked, we got cajoled in scorn.
*This is an attempt to reprise a relationship in cyberspace. Her name was Alison Delight. She poked me on Facebook introducing herself as Hanny-Del. She sought me out explicitly hoping connecting with me could bridge her perceived disconnect with her mother. One night we were Facebook chatting when she said, “I feel sick with chest pain.” We got disconnected and I learned five days ago from her mother that she died, 1-Apr-2016, of congestive cardiac/pulmonary collapse.
©2016, Constancio S Asumen Jr ~> http://allpoetry.com/poem/12613399-My-HannyDel-Farewell--by-Ace-Lilacs#share
|Posted by C. Stan Asumen, Jr on March 11, 2016 at 2:40 AM||comments (1)|
I got initiated into the night deep-sea fishing enterprise by my father.
One day, out of nowhere, while he was preparing to go out to sea he casually asked me if I thought I could handle keeping him company for the night’s endeavors. When I assured him in the affirmative, he instructed me to pack our provisions for the night. These mainly consisted of freshly boiled cooking bananas and steamed cassava tubers moderately garnished with freshly grated coconut to preserve their delectable succulence, tidily arranged in a covered bamboo basket. This was supplemented with two bivouac-sized canteens of drinking water and a bottle of chili-spiked vinegar, for seasoning in anticipation of consuming some of the catch of the night for super.
This took place around the beginning of the period when I had to quit school for two years, after I graduated from grade school because our parents just did not have the finances to send any of us anywhere. Three of my older siblings had to quit school for three years so we were not exactly short of farm hands. My parents’ financial demise came in the wake of our eldest, Mano Sering’s, completion of college. Unschooled in the subtleties of college expenditures, my parents ended up committing every parcel of land they owned as loan collaterals to underwrite my brother’s college career. They effectively became tenants to oversee the production operation of the coconut plantations that they had given their entire beings to develop from the bowels of the wilderness. It would take them more than a couple of years to as much as partially recover.
I was not sure exactly whether father’s motivation was grooming me to inherit his craft as a fisherman or in his calculating ways he reckoned I represented a lesser drain to the pool of farm hands. On hindsight, I concluded the latter reasoning was operative and more plausible, although absolutely irrelevant. In the ultimate analysis, what mattered most was that the father-son bonding that ensued resultant to my accompanying him fishing was invaluable in more ways than I could catalogue for posterity. Most of all, the fact that up to that point no other sibling had the privilege of being with him that far away from land in isolation had the air of exclusivity I could hardly dare to fathom. It was an experience I treasured my entire life, long after it became just a distant memory.
Moreover, observing him up close apply his navigation skills to locate prospectively prolific fishing grounds made me realize just how resourceful my father was, given his rather limited schooling. There could be no more edifying experience to an eleven-year old soul than a first-hand confirmation that he had every reason in God’s creation to emulate the grit, if not to altogether worship his father. Theretofore, I only heard glowing stories on the winning ways of my father’s.
That first venture out to sea, I was awestruck at his tricks of the trade as he matter-of-factly explained how he was using the faintly visible mountain ranges, triangulating with the naked eye, to fix the direction we were heading. He further explained the relative positions of the three most prominent mountain peaks which would indicate our arrival at the spot where we intended to drop anchor for that night. He even baptized those peaks, which collectively he dubbed as the “three kings” (of biblical fame), with his own personal arbitrary labels, enabling him to explain how several other anchoring spots in that general vicinity might be located, based on the relative positions of the “three kings” with one another.
On hindsight, how father originally got wind of those fishing grounds was inexplicably amazing. To the best of my limited boyish knowledge there was no bathymetric chart of any kind to be found in our house. It was not exactly the kind of question I would be asking while being awestruck. Meanwhile we arrived at the spot where the top of the “three kings” depicted a perfect equilateral triangle. Father let loose the sail by facing the wind and I dropped the anchor which bottomed out at twenty-eight and a half fathoms. Allowing two more fathoms for tidal surge, I secured the anchor rope to the appointed latch and helped father roll up the sail around its boom and secured it to its appointed place on the boat safely out of the way of the night’s proceedings.
The order of business for the night was centered around the two air pressure fuel-injected incandescent kerosene lamps mounted on both sides at the mid-section of the boat. The incandescence attracted surface-prowling creatures which were somewhat rendered blind by the intense brightness and vulnerable to being harvested at will with hand-held fish nets. A sword-pointed machete, a harpoon-like hand spear, and a lead-plated mallet complemented the fish net as each person’s on-board arsenal.
Out of the early surface catch we used the better portion for baits and cooked some to augment our provisions for dinner. It was one of father’s cardinal rules to never fish with hook and line on an empty stomach, if you could swing it because only a starved fish would be tempted by a hungry fisherman’s bait; no self-respecting fisherman would be interested in catching only starved fish. After dinner we set out for the night’s agenda, essentially consisting of setting the bait, laying the line, and waiting for a nibble. Every operation was manually accomplished, devoid of mechanical assistance in any way, shape or form. We laid the line for three different depth zones: the bottom (hand held), the middle (tied to each knee), and three-quarters of the way up (tied to each ankle).
At the sign of a nibble, you gave the line a sharp vertical jerky tag, strong enough to cover the distance between the sinker and the hook to give a swift upward motion to the hook, hopefully catching the feeding offender by the upper lip. When that happened, the fish would pull the line and the contest boiled down to a tag of war between the fish and you. The trick was to keep the line sufficiently taut to prevent the fish from unhooking itself. If you got lucky and felt simultaneous nibbles, you snatched back at each line and hauled the one with the strongest tag back, as it usually meant the bigger fish.
On hauling the fish close enough alongside the boat, you scoped it with the fish net and loaded it on board. Depending on the size of the fish, you might need to disable it with the mallet or spear it with the harpoon before loading it on board. If the fish was too big for the net you latched on to it with the harpoon and killed it the most expeditious way you could, preferably with the mallet since the less blood you spilt, the tidier the proceedings would be. Besides, blood in the water usually attracted sharks which would invariably drive away all the other species they habitually fed on, which practically included all the kinds of fish we were in the hunt for. My prized catch for that first night was a red coral grouper, big enough to need disabling it with the mallet to the head. It was the biggest fish we caught for that night.
I passed the first night’s ordeal with better than passing grades. Primarily, and most importantly, I did not get seasick. Secondly, I hauled in the most prized fish for the night’s catch. Thus my fishing apprenticeship with my father was launched. It lasted for about six weeks. It was interrupted when father suffered an acute episode of gout which lasted for about a week. The six weeks were essentially an uneventful break-even period. A night with moderate catch brought in enough provisions to our kitchen for about three days. Anything less was considered a poor outing. A bountiful haul would require preserving some for long-term reserves either as salted, smoked and/or dried. When we had to sell some to the local fish mongers, it was considered an extra bountiful haul.
In retrospect, that stationary hook-and-line fishing was basically an arduous waiting game, requiring the collective patience of a legion of saints, had its corollary benefits. The privacy imposed by the vast open sea in the deafening tranquility of the night seduced father to wax lively loquacious on his reminiscences of my grandfather. Thus my brief apprenticeship with him in night deep sea fishing assumed the added dimension of being a rite of passage into adulthood that I felt uniquely privileged to have been given the exclusive chance, unbeknownst to and unshared with my other siblings.
By the beginning of my out of school sojourn it was determined that our finances had moderately recovered. My three older siblings were slated to be sent back to school the following year while I would by myself remain on furlough to somehow soften the impact on the family coffers. Father had to transition back to being a farmer more than being a fisherman. The occasional escapades to sea did take place as desperate measures to put victuals on the table without further taxing the family coffers, especially when hired farm hands were expected to cover for the absence of my older siblings. Meanwhile I was deemed neither a dependable farm hand nor a fisherman expected to conquer, in all dimensions, the unfathomable vastness of the sea and the known vagaries of the vocation.
The Partnership Asymmetry
As a countermeasure to that imminent dilemma, father recruited the services of my first cousin, Hermogenis (Ingko Mening to us, for short), with a proposition he really was hardly in a position to turn down. Father offered him the use of all the equipment, with operating expenses on condition that he partnered with me on the fishing enterprise. The proceeds were to be equally shared three ways: a share each for the operating partners and a third for the equipment.
Ingko Mening was sixteen years my senior, four years older than Mano Sering, my oldest brother. My parents raised him as their own son up to and including the cumbersome process of getting himself a bride with all the orthodoxy that tradition required. I sensed that he resented the equal partnership proposition, for reasons that he was a seasoned hand at night deep sea fishing, and I was just a tiny little boy. But the arrangement offered him somewhat of a viable alternative to the waning fortunes from his farming endeavors. Thus my fishing career flourished further under his tutelage, replete with all sorts and flavors of exhilarating thrills and unsettling misadventures.
One such episode which left an indelible impact on my psyche was the sudden summer storm which found the family spellbound in a solemn novena for the safety of our flesh and the salvation of our souls, when we got home, pulled through by the grace of God, shielding the instinctive seasoned seamanship mustered under duress by my cousin. We set sail mid- to late-afternoon riding a moderately strong but soothingly pleasant steady breeze to our appointed fishing ground for the previous three successive nights, hoping our lucky streak would hold on for one night more. The promise of another dreamily intoxicating night under the stars, punctuated by the coveted tagging at the baited lines by the fish routinely feeding underneath, coming in monotonic intervals, permeated the ambiance of that late summer afternoon.
As the outer rim of the sun deigned to caress with a kiss the majestic top of the purple headed mountains receding in the horizon behind, as if at a flip of a toggle switch, a foreboding calm enveloped the entire Creation, reminiscent of the Rhyme sang by the Ancient Mariner of Coleridgean fame. We had to deploy oar and paddle to reach our destination. No sooner had we dropped anchor, than materialized a rapidly thickening ominous dark clouds, threateningly pregnant with mischief, imbued with the purplish hue of dark molasses by the lingering relics of the setting sun, to engulf the seaward eastern hemisphere with the unbridled fatalism of the Omar Khayyam quatrain:
And that inverted Bowl they call the Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop'd we live and die,
Lift not your hands to It for help—for It
As impotently moves as you or I.
When the retiring Helios completed its surrender to the bowels of night, the sea which theretofore was as smooth as a cold vat of oil in a frigid Siberian kitchen began to stir with increasing hints of bubbles bursting out to the surface. It seemed the bowels of the sea were threatening to froth away to an impending boil. Forthwith, total darkness reigned supreme. The only remaining source of light came from the silver sheen ever fleetingly flashed by the persistently and boldly growing sneer of the awakening depths. The not too gentle breeze soon brought with it a wolfish howl heralding the gloom of oncoming doom.
To fully appreciate the gravity of the situation a brief description of our boat’s construction would be instructive. The boat was designed to safely accommodate two adults sailing as far out to sea as desired, short of the inter-island trans-oceanic shipping lanes. The hull was crafted out of solid log with wedge-shaped prow and a roundish paraboloidal rare end, akin to the ends of a chicken egg. The transverse cross-section of the hull was a cross between a wedged “U” and a roundish “V” resulting from the personal proclivities of the designer. It was outfitted with a main sail and a forward sail, both supported by a shared mast, the single vertical pole located roughly between two-fifths to three-tenths of the length of the boat from the prow.
It had a vertical amakan extension to its side walls built of pliable thick strips of bamboo skins intricately woven and sealed water-tight with the resinous balao glue locally made from the sap of the balao tree which thrived in most neighboring forests. These bamboo wall extensions, roughly two to three times the depth of the hull in width, were supported by wooden studs anchored to the side edge of the hull reinforced on top with a wooden frame which circumscribed the working area of the boat. A pair of ballasts made of solid bamboo poles were attached to the body, on each side, with wooden and bamboo rafters about a third of the length of the boat distant from the side walls.
The design concept was intended to functionally achieve the happy compromise between strength attendant to bulk on the one hand, and agility implied by lightness on the other. Under normal conditions, the boat could withstand the rough and tumble imposed by the seascape but could be delicately vulnerable to wreckage under the extremities inherent to a storm.
Promptly my cousin tied a double loop mariner’s knot closed with a fisherman’s bend to both our waists and securely fastened us to the plank supporting the base of the sail pole with enough give for mobility on board. We pulled anchor and set sail for shore. Fortunately our onshore destination was squarely leeward of the storm. We only needed to directly ride the wind, avoiding a nosedive by judiciously modulating the wind intake to the main sail. The most hazardous hurdles were presented by a group of intricately dispersed shallow lying breaker reefs guarding the shoreline where my parents’ property was located. They were a challenge to navigate through in broad delight. They became veritable death traps in the darkness and roughness of the storm.
My cousin’s skilled seamanship proved more than equal to the challenge. Because of the storm-swollen tide we landed ashore under the coconut trees, much further inland of the shoreline, without losing a single item of property on board. Except for everything being thoroughly drenched the only casualty was the relatively short piece of rope we used to harness ourselves to the boat and to each other. This piece was pruned off a longer rope used to secure the boat at a moorage. We arrived home to the genuine grateful jubilation of both families when they were just concluding the novena on our behalf.
Another noteworthy episode pertained to the night we were literally overrun by a school of thirty- to fifty-inch long blue-backed tuna, with some even bigger appearing to be chaperon or parents or guardians to the smaller ones. It was one of those nights when the earlier part was practically uneventful. Roughly two hours before daybreak all our lines were jumbled and there was a sharp jolt on the boat from the bottom. A large school of tuna swarmed about, as if some of them were attacking our kerosene lamps.
I was acutely apprehensive that they would shortly turn the boat upside down with the momentum of their collective upward assault. Seeing that many big fish that close was the most terrifying event I had ever experienced at sea. It felt like we were at the biblical altar of reckoning brought face to face with our sordid intentions and evil deeds. We frantically had to disable them with our mallets and literally manually picked them off the water one after another by their tails, at a pace of singular frenzy.
Within thirty minutes or so our boat was overloaded with the catch. We had to head for shore before the rest of the school left the area. That was the only occasion when we had to tell the fish we have had enough of them. Unfortunately there was no way either to tell them to hang about because we would come back for the rest of them the following day or rendezvous with them for yet another day.
A few weeks later we were subjected through the agonizing ordeal of the counter bonanza. We typically laid out six baited lines each, as a matter of routine. For that entire night not a single hint at a nibble took place. Even from the surface dwelling creatures which used to be attracted by the incandescence of our kerosene lamps, not even a hint of a shadow of any one of them showed up that night. We were so unceremoniously snubbed by our quarries we had to solicit for a couple of mackerels from a boat anchored some forty yards nearby, that is, a comfortable shout away from us, so we did not go hungry for the night.
Those were the three most remarkable episodes of my fishing career. The other days were characterized by a humdrum monotony but by no means dull. It simply was conducive to letting my imagination go wild with introspective ruminations. For instance, I always found it fascinating to picture how my baited hook would appear to a fish routinely prowling about, minding its own business of survival. How the topography of the bottom where we were anchored at, differed from the features of the coral reefs in shallow waters was the constant subject of my imaginary explorations.
We ventured out to sea five to six nights during the week depending on the cumulative catch for that week. If we had three bountiful outings out of five, we usually skipped the sixth. If we only had two of five, we ventured out on the sixth looking for a third bountiful night. This much I could say without fear of having exaggerated my worth: during my fishing career, our kitchen was never bereft of a dish of fish for victuals. Also, I dared claim to have managed to contribute to the family cash flow, in no negligible measure. I was convinced that I earned some measure of success and accomplishment and it boosted my sense of worth and self-esteem, although I never discussed it with anybody until this writing.
The Partnership’s Undoing
My cousin was an accomplished fisherman on almost all counts. The one skill I sensed he was not equal to my father was in using triangulation, neither with the stars nor with the landscape, to find obscure potentially prolific fishing grounds. I sensed that he tended to join the crowd and dropped anchor in the vicinity where other boats were already anchored or were obviously speculating in doing so. I also confirmed that he did resent the asymmetry in our equal partnership because of the depth and breadth of experience he brought into the mix, which I willingly conceded were far superior to mine.
Unfortunately for him the events which made the confirmation possible ushered in the dissolution of our partnership. Everybody knew that I was heading for high school the coming school year, which was already loudly knocking at the gates. My fishing career was destined to come to an end unless I matriculated at the local high school which would have allowed me to venture out to sea some Friday and Saturday nights. The repercussions on me were far less severe than on my cousin. He had a family of four to support with nothing but farming and/or fishing skills to pull him through.
There were a couple of non-contiguous weeks when we were blessed with an exceptionally bountiful catch. On a few random days in those weeks, my cousin decided on our way home to take a detour to a rendezvous point where the town fish mongers, as opposed to the ones serving our locality, congregated to procure their trading supplies for the day. We sold them a portion of our catch. He proposed to keep the sale a secret from my parents with an even split of the proceeds between us, as my incentive to stay mute on the matter. It was amazing how even the conniving innocence of youth was vulnerable to the friendly persuasion and promise of monetary gains.
I dutifully kept my end of the bargain. But in a small community where practically everybody knew everybody who was anybody, the illicit trade eventually reached the ears of my parents. The family protocol on accountability demanded that the oldest party in any conspiracy had to answer for all the ramifications of the sordid affair. I did not even get interrogated by my parents to confirm the breach of trust, let alone being admonished for it. My father did not exactly disown my cousin for it. But I suspected he never trusted my cousin on anything ever again thereafter.
Before the entire sordid affair sorted itself out to a relatively harmonious quietude, I was already engrossed on a disagreement with my father concerning the high school I should enroll into. My father’s choice was the town high school slated to start its inaugural school year. I was intent on matriculating at the high school in the adjacent province of Agusan, where two of my older brothers were enrolled. Although he did not explicitly say so, I was absolutely certain that had I studied locally, I could for sure occasionally be deployed to the farm when the work load was at its peak, a prospect that I promised myself to avoid at all cost.
Moreover, at the conclusion of Mano Fito’s freshman year, he was sent to Manila to represent the school at a national students’ conference and my parents were vocally very proud of his feat. For reasons I really could not explain, I was equally certain that if I went to that same school I could replicate if not surpass the glory imputed to his achievement. I demurred from vocalizing these sentiments in such explicit terms. But without giving any reasons, I claimed open defiance as a badge of honor and went against my father’s decision to the bitter end, for the very first time in my thirteen years in the sun.
|Posted by C. Stan Asumen, Jr on March 9, 2016 at 1:00 AM||comments (0)|
#MegaKudosKG Birthday wishes to you who has every reason to celebrate!! I hope you don’t mind the recycled Standard Issue Serenade below—recycled they may be the sentiments are by no means stale:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeWBuQ310l4&list=PLjC-YRc2AjQDjz3TpQ3A7MWbCwMZuuWeW" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeWBuQ310l4&list=PLjC-YRc2AjQDjz3TpQ3A7MWbCwMZuuWeW
|Posted by C. Stan Asumen, Jr on March 1, 2016 at 9:55 AM||comments (1)|
(An Asumen Pre-emptive Initiative)
War is . . . nothing but the continuation of state policy with other means. The political object is the goal, war is the means of reaching it, and the means can never be considered in isolation from their purposes.
Yet Reason frowns on War's unequal Game,
Where wasted Nations raise a single Name,
And mortgag'd States their Grandsires Wreaths regret
From Age to Age in everlasting Debt;
Wreaths which at last the dear-bought Right convey
To rust on Medals, or on Stones decay.
~Samuel Johnson, Vanity of Human Wishes
Momentous wars ~> good, bad, indifferent, or otherwise ~> since time immemorial have been started with the flimsiest of pretexts and were always justified ultimately by the outcome. History always belongs to those who are able to chronicle, sustain, and perpetuate the narrative.
In the most urgent case of the United States going to war with Mexico, we don’t need an abacus to count the almost innumerable ways. There is no need for any counting at all. Besides, what warm red blooded American would, with clear conscience, dare forget The Alamo?
But make no mistake about this ~> as long as the Blame America First (BAF) crowd as exemplified by the Obama Regime cohorts roam the corridors of power, America does not have the ghost of a chance to prevail over adversity of any kind. By their very nature, BAFsters are notorious prime apologists and scapegoat enablers for America’s egregious enemies. As one cognoscente aptly and succinctly observed:
Obama made a conscious decision to, in effect, dissolve the southern border, and, quite reasonably enough, the "unaccompanied minors" of Latin America opted to take him at his word. ~~Mark Steyn Challenges of Diversity
As the summer season simmers into a full throttle sizzle, we can expect, like in recent summers past, the influx of unaccompanied undocumented minor migrants to emerge from the underbrush of obscurity, like cockroaches in a greasy Manhattan kitchen table, into the limelight of national attention. The recent report of American Border Helicopter Patrol being fired on from the Mexican side of the border is only a sample of the turmoil to come.
“Pobre México. Tan lejos de Dios, tan cerca de los Estados Unidos," which means in English,
"Poor Mexico. So distant from God, so close to the United States."
Does Mexico believe that the massive influxes will serve to render U.S. immigration law meaningless, and thereby completely hred an already porous border?
~~Victor Davis Hanson (10-Jul-2014),
The Responsibility to Protect", the idea that sovereign states have a responsibility to protect their own citizens from avoidable catastrophe – from mass murder and rape, from starvation – but that when they are unwilling or unable to do so, that responsibility must be borne by the broader community of states.
Is Mexico a friend? Deliberately encouraging about a million of its own citizens each year to break our law and try to enter the U.S. illegally and facilitating the transit across its territory of thousands of Central Americans to swarm and overwhelm the U.S. border seem hardly amicable acts. In truth, Mexico invades a country with far greater numbers and with far more finesse than does Putin’s Russia.
I have this capital idea to effectively control the Southern Border once and for all. This is as foolproof as it is compassionate. It is an outside the box, thinking on your feet approach to border control.
As a preventive measure, we have to implement forthwith “The Pre-emptive Asumen Compromise,” a.k.a. the Asumen Compassionate Immigration Policy.
Since Mexico has abundantly proved that she is anyone but a neighbor who can be trusted, we have to control her southern border for her.
Boycotting Mexico would not do them or us any good. Make war with Mexico and teach them a lesson. That can only be done by invading, conquering, occupying and annexing Mexico. If we were willing and able to do this with Iraq, half a globe away, we should be able to do it with Mexico which is only on the other side of a porous fence.
Better yet, shorten the border by implementing the following forthwith ~> The U.S.-Mexican border should be relocated to south of Oaxaca where it borders with Chiapas and Tabasco (click on map for details). From Oaxaca to the north should all be U.S. territory. Anybody who does not want to join the U.S. should be sent off to south of this new border.
The new border being much shorter than the current one, it should be much easier to guard. And everybody shall live happily ever after.
|Posted by C. Stan Asumen, Jr on December 9, 2015 at 5:05 PM||comments (1)|
12 Historical Parallels and Intersections
Should lessons gleaned from History provide
Due faith and courage for your future course,
Be best prepared to emulate with pride
The brave defenders of your sacred shores.
Allow not blunt your own awakening
By rhetoric that politicians use
To thwart your conscience into weakening
The selfsame vehemence of vengeance's cause,
The which would break the fetters of your soul
And tear the mask of shameless tyranny.
Default's the cross of falsehood bearing all
Unreason for your seeming destiny
To drown, in surfeit, bliss of ignorance,
To crown, in glory, sweet irrelevance!!
The above sonnet was second in a series of eight (plus a quatrain, the vestigial relic of a failed attempt at a ninth in the series) Patriotic Sonnets which I penned in one night, to quench the fire of anguish in my soul. The experience absolutely astonished me because it usually takes me a few days, even weeks or months, to finish one sonnet. I simply accepted it gratefully that poetry provided a healthy channel through which I could creatively vent the turmoil boiling to explosive proportions in the depths of my being.
The occasion was the culmination of the so-called People-Power Revolution in the Philippines which resulted in the ouster of Ferdinand Marcos who ended up exiled in Hawaii and the ascendancy of Corazon Aquino to the presidency. Marking the end of fourteen years of the Marcos martial law, it could have been an ample cause for celebration. For me however, whose career trajectory has been drastically altered by kindred forces of persuasion as produced that revolution, the irony was poignantly delicious.
Twelve years earlier, I managed to become a persona non grata to the Philippine government. Thus, from the perspective of a person without a country, which was my immigration status then, several days of monitoring from afar the events on the streets of Metro Manila was, to put it mildly, hugely devastating. The anguish mainly stemmed from my inability to even become an eyewitness to the unfolding of history in which I very much yearned to have played an active role.
Overwhelmed by the emotion of that period, I filed the episode in the innermost recesses of my reverie under the heading “missed opportunities.” Never in my wildest dreams and nightmarish hallucinations did I imagine that the same sentiment could, roughly a generation later, equally and even more appropriately apply to the results of the Presidential Elections in this good old U.S. of A.
The Ironical Parallel
In physics (or mathematical physics, if you are a stickler for labels) a vector entity consists of magnitude and direction; direction has the added component of sense, e.g., clockwise or counter-clockwise, leftward or rightward, etc. The elements of momentum are conceived as mass and velocity and the elements of velocity are speed and direction. Vectors are construed to be parallel if they do not intersect at any conceivable extension, through the end of space and time.
In politics momentum is traditionally conceived to be the gathering of mass, trending towards victory. Somehow the notion of sense (as used in mathematics) is conveniently omitted in the reckoning. Leftward or rightward is deemed of little consequence. The only thing that matters is victory. Here, in a nutshell, lurks the irony in the parallel tales of two elections.
The events in the Philippines, in the spring of 1986, promised the end of tyranny and portended the resumption of civil discourse as an indispensible component of governance, hopefully, ushering in a healthier flourishing of democracy and nurturing of individual liberty.
In the United States, in the autumn of 2008, the Presidential election was decided on the hoopla of hope and change drenched in hyperbolic rhetoric which effectively drowned journalistic decorum to maintain any pretence at integrity. It put the Oval Office decisively lurching into a monopoly of power without any effective constraints in place. In short, the seeds of tyranny were safely and decisively planted.
The jury is still out whether or not the 1986 Philippine Spring succeeded in vanquishing tyranny to nurture expanding liberty. The leading indicators point to a political governance being still in the clutches of a ruling oligarchy, whose grandiose schemes still exclude, by default, the folks in the rural provinces. As for the 2008 American Autumn, the indications are not very encouraging.
To borrow the compelling formulation of R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.,
”We are at that delicious moment in a modern Democratic presidential administration when the bizarre fantasticos who decorate each chaotic regime make their painful appearance — though this administration is bringing a whiff of the ominous.”
Ominous is the operative word. The sweeping implementation of the Obama agenda represents precisely the flourishing of a flawed vision for this nation. It leads us, irreversibly onto the slippery slope of tyranny, in the manner prescribed for by Saul Alinsky of “Manual for Radicals” notoriety. This is beyond scary. It is downright outrageous.
A case in point is the decision to give Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) a civilian court trial. This has the practical effect of handing over the entire U.S. judicial system to the enemy for their use as a propaganda forum. Factor in the fact that the only lawyers, eager willing and able to undertake the defense of KSM are the ones with predominantly anti-American ideological leanings, it is tantamount to putting America herself on trial by the al-Qaeda thugs, as orchestrated by their leftist defense lawyers.
In the economic front, “The Halcyon Days of Yore” has become an appropriate moniker for the Carter Administration. This is Obama's first significant legacy in history: the much vaunted change and hope promised, ad nauseam, in the campaign produced a change which is most definitely a prelude to unmitigated disaster. Let me illustrate it in personal terms:
The other day, I received a notice from my credit card provider that my finance charges rate has been changed to 29% APR. Before this the highest I have ever paid for credit card interest was 24% during the halcyon days of James Earl Carter. Worse yet, the Obama agenda are designed to deliberately transform this nation of doers and achievers into a nation of hopers and takers. Poor Ben Franklin, he could be agonizingly squirming in his grave.
The Ironic Intersection
At the time of this writing, the POTUS is in Asia and the Far East. The buzz in the airwaves is that the undisclosed mission is to persuade the Chinese government to sustain its commitments for the ongoing purchase of Preferred U.S.Treasury Bonds. This is the only way to underwrite the Obama agenda. Debt, perhaps supplemented by the printing press, has become the lifeblood of Obama’s America.
This brings me to the eighth in the series of the 1986 Patriotic Sonnets to be so deliciously appropriate:
Beyond reform is your predicament,
It's time you venture forth a better way!
Nor tears of bitterness, nor mute lament
Can free you from your own captivity!
That captors are your very native sons
Is but insult added to injury
And no excuse for patient tolerance
Nor cause to languish in your misery.
With debtors' need false leaders agonize,
For credits, they may make your people bleed;
Bleeding, you may yet seek to galvanize
To life true leaders of a nobler breed:
By visionary men are nations built
Thy lack of vision is this nation's guilt!!
The irony is portentously uncanny. Nostradamus himself could not have predicted this embarrassingly unbecoming alignment of the stars. Only three generations ago, the Philippines was under American tutelage on nationhood and Jeffersonian democratic governance, nurtured by the potent combination of Monroe’s Doctrine and George Dewey’s guns.
It took less than a year of the messianic genius of the transformative, transcendent Barack Hussein Obama to align the stars and galvanize the tides so as the Philippine-American karma would intersect in debt and indebtedness. The former an ex-colony, the latter the former’s ex-colonizer, now the twin are quasi equal partners in misery.
If I were not a red-blooded American, and if this were not my America too, this intersection would have been the ultimate schadenfreude of hyperbolic proportions. Poor Ben Franklin, what could he possibly be doing in his grave?!
|Posted by C. Stan Asumen, Jr on October 30, 2015 at 9:25 PM||comments (1)|
Chapter 5: No Longer A Church-Going Christian
There was the Door to which I found no Key;
There was the Veil through which I might not see:
Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee
There was—and then no more of Thee and Me.
``` – Omar Khayyam, The Rubaiyat
In an earlier article I inadvertently volunteered the information that “I am no longer a church-going Christian.” Before some family and friends would inquire on what exactly did I mean by the ‘confession’, or maybe just for my own edification, I deem it necessary to elaborate on that state of affairs to the best that my selective memory can muster.
Suffice to say, memory is, of necessity invariably selective. As an organism with instincts for self-preservation, we only retain what serves to reinforce the prolongation if not perpetuation of existential well-being. No conspiracy theory here. It is just how the cookie crumbles. No grandiose designs or sophisticated schemes on how life is supposed to unfold. For which a bit of background is in order.
The Bucolic Beginnings
I grew up in a small farming/fishing village of fewer than a hundred households, of mostly relatives with the exception of two or three families. Close family ties were so pervasive one had to reach out to the adjacent town to get married. In terms of societal and civic activity, it would compare most appropriately with the fictional village of Anatevka in Fiddler on the Roof, but for three qualifications that need to be stressed. It was a catholic community; it was a farming village by the sea; and it definitely was not fictional.
These first two attributes were more important than one would ordinarily suspect. Firstly, my father converted a sizable tract of homestead virgin forest into a coconut plantation by spear-fishing at night and using the night’s catch to hire help during the day to work the farm. This required proximity to the sea to be remotely practicable. Having grown up ‘by the sea’ had a definite indelible influence on my psyche, so much so that I have not lived more than an hour’s trip to the sea my entire life. To a boy, the sea always presented the promise of infinite possibilities. By contrast, farm work invariably gave me the feeling of being hopelessly and helplessly grounded, with no prospect of liberation from the clutches of the soil and the vagaries of the weather.
Secondly, the catholic aspect of it was important in the sense that mother was a devout catholic and father was a nominal practitioner. As a pre-school boy I would go to town with mother and father and I would end up spending the Sunday afternoon with father at the town cockpit. (Then, cockfighting was one of the most popular pastimes in the old country, and father was one of the most acclaimed accomplished minder of fighting roosters in the town.) Mother would invariably spend the Sunday afternoon in church.
Nevertheless, I grew up a devout catholic since around third grade, circa the time when I went through catechism leading to my first communion, up through sophomore high school. Being devout meant as early as a third grader, I was one of two boys in town who could lead the novena, and frequently did so in public without embarrassment or reservation, notwithstanding that the chore was traditionally assigned to girls. The other boy was my brother, two years and eight months older than me. The point is, I took religion rather seriously starting quite early on. Going to church was a weekly ritual until my high school sophomore year.
The Burden of Conscience
Around that time, they stopped conducting the catholic mass in Latin. The veil of mysticism was lifted off the mass as a ritual. When I started to understand what was said and done in church, I began to gradually realize that my main reason for being in church was to get close to Evangeline, the prettiest damsel and most graceful dancer in campus, the girl I courted with the proverbial passion of first love. Somehow the realization made me extremely uncomfortable. Increasingly, the burden of inventing stories for the priest at confessional, so I could take the Sunday communion, became toilsome and intolerable. Sans provocation, my conscience started to kick in.
At the end of my sophomore year I was sent to represent my school at a national conference of students who were aspiring to pursue farming for a lifetime vocation. As a congratulatory gift, one of my maternal uncles, a practicing Seventh Day Adventist (SDA), gave me a bible. I spent a good chunk of my third year in high school reading that bible, which was one of the few books I had read cover to cover more than once. I may not be that much the wiser for the experience, but that was the first year of my not being a church-going Christian.
This was the first introspection phase of my religious meanderings. The days spent in the wilderness, so to speak. Or to borrow the brilliant formulation of Omar Khayyam,
I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
Some letter of that After-life to spell:
And by and by my Soul return'd to me,
And answer'd "I Myself am Heav'n and Hell:"
Having quit following her to church and miserably failing to learn the tango, or any dancing skills for that matter, I of course began to drift apart from Evangeline, the love of my life. But my love affair with the bible persisted through my final year of high school. It eventually led me back to church. During the first two and one-half years of college, I found myself a guest member of an SDA congregation right in the heart of Marawi, the largest Muslim city in the country.
The congregation consisted exactly of four resident families, with two to six members to a family, and four to five students from my newly opened university, as guest members. The fifth member of our group went to church rather irregularly. The four of us, more often than not, walked the five to six kilometers separating the campus from the city, both ways every Saturday regardless of the weather. There were times when we got an occasional break from the motor pool personnel and were able to hitch a ride, but they were too few and far between.
The congregation elder was a medical doctor and we held the worship services at the waiting room of his clinic. I was positive that he was not a pastor or an ordained minister because we never addressed him as such. Although I did not quite have a chance at a one-on-one dialogue with him, (I was only a taciturn college kid, he was the accomplished elder of the bunch) I held him in high regard and respect.
The congregation on the whole had a very congenial informal ambiance. The resident families took turns hosting us, the student guest members, for lunch each Saturday. I was content and comfortable with my new identity as an SDA congregant. I even managed to leverage my religious entitlement to have ROTC deferred for two semesters because a Saturday drill violated the SDA Sabbath protocol. Ditto with any special examinations, like the competency classification tests (which landed me into remedial English course) scheduled for a Saturday: we were allowed to take them some other time.
During this period, I however admitted to cringing with consternation and resentment every time I heard somebody remarked that I was a person who could be trusted because I went to church every week. That was, to my mind, the cliché case of putting the cart before the horse. To date I hold the deep seated conviction that I went to church on a regular basis because I was a decent person, mainly due to my upbringing. To formulate it any other way would be an affront to the honor and achievements of my parents, the most monumental of them I consider to be the success of their children.
I was blessed with loving and caring parents who inculcated into my consciousness an appreciation of the notion of the good, the beautiful and the true, along with the value of hard work and the mental habit to examine the merits of any proposition that needed to be acted upon or taken as gospel.
This was seriously important because my parents got married when they were in grammar school. Father was nineteen just on the verge of being promoted to seventh grade. Mother was sixteen, still in the sixth grade. Both of them were scions of farming and fishing families. Their moral and spiritual moorings essentially consisted of the goodness of their hearts and the desire to do what was right, tempered by the rigors of the elements associated with farming and fishing life.
It was against the backdrop of these introspections (my second over the last five years) that I was caught off guard by a sermon. The occasion was the Saturday following the second anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death. The congregation elder chose the life and death of the iconic celebrity as the subject of his sermon. His thesis was that no amount of glamour, glitter, wealth and fame could work to your benefit if you lived a life of sin. The thesis as such was fine. But in the process of expounding on it, he proceeded to berate her judgment and vilify her character and probe into every conceivable aspect of her memory and legacy to prove his point. In his passionate eloquence he managed to impute the most negative nuance to every facet of her life.
Somehow this violated every fabric of decency that was planted in my soul by my parents. It took every fiber of self-restraint for me not to walk out of the service right then and there. From my farm boy upbringing one just should not speak ill of the dead. I could not remember being taught the specific reason for the proscription, but I hastened to guess: that it was because the dead was inherently incapable of defending itself. Or if you subscribed to the wisdom of Shakespeare’s formulation that
“The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;”
the evil deeds have ample chance to speak for themselves. Therefore it became incumbent upon common decency to highlight the good deeds, especially when they were buried with the carcass. Thus the practice of delivering a eulogy at a funeral has become a well established protocol of decency.
What I even found more outrageous was the fact that no other person seemed to have found the sermon objectionable. It might of course have been the case that everybody was just as taciturn and reserved as I was then. Be that as it may, that was the last time I attended a church service as a congregant. Since nobody asked me why I stopped going to church, I did not think I needed to come up with an explanation, till now.
I still go to church on special occasions to count my blessings, more than to worship God. I do it mainly as a celebrant than as a supplicant; more in the spirit which Alexander Pope alluded to in An Essay on Criticism:
In the bright Muse tho' thousand charms conspire,
Her voice is all these tuneful fools admire;
Who haunt Parnassus but to please their ear,
Not mend their minds; as some to church repair,
Not for the doctrine, but the music there.
I am more of a God-loving soul than a God-fearing soul. My God is more kind and compassionate than jealous and wrathful. I just had earlier arrived at the conclusion that to commune with my Maker is too personal and too important a matter to be outsourced or to be consigned to any mode of mediation whatever, for its proper and forthright fulfillment and unfettered accomplishment.