Saturday, 22 June 2013

God in the Haze

The haze situation in Singapore has worsened in the last few days. If you, like me, aren't one of those privileged ones who can escape to Australia or elsewhere from the haze, by now, you might have devised some coping mechanisms to keep healthy in this hazardous condition. What have you done thus far?

Perhaps, you wear a mask when you go out but even so, no mask can possibly keep out all the pollution. People used to go to the malls to escape from the sweltering heat but even when I enter the malls this time, the shops appear blurry too. I guess we cannot prevent the air outside from entering since air flows to everywhere. If you are at home, you might have kept your windows and doors shut. But the minute you notice the gaps under your doors, you will realise that you are not totally safe indoors either.

In primary school Science, the kids are taught that gas is a form of matter that does not have a definite shape, thus taking up the shape of its container. It flows to wherever there is space. It is everywhere. And it came to a point where I asked myself... Where can I run to in Singapore, what must I do to keep the haze away so my health will not decline into another episode of respiratory tract infection? 

This question left me very much helpless because I cannot live without air but the air all around me is polluted. There is no where I can be free of the haze. 

In a way, God is like the air. As I felt helplessly surrounded by the haze, I was reminded of God's presence that surrounds me at all times too. There isn't a place I can go to exit the presence of God. It is easy without the haze to think that our air is without dust and bacteria. Just as easy as it is to lose sight and doubt that God's presence continues to surround me when I cannot feel Him near. But we wore masks and kept our distance too during the H1N1 and SARS periods didn't we? Even when the air was clear... because we knew... we just knew that the virus is in the air even when we didn't see it floating around. But when the hype is over, we let our guards down and forget that viruses continue to surround us. 

Do you at times feel down when you cannot sense God's presence? 
Maybe in those times, you could somehow trust that He is with you anyway. But for me, I need microscopic lenses to magnify the dust particles so that I can see them even when the air is clear. I need the microscopic lens of faith that needs no seeing or hearing or touching or sensing or tasting to know, to believe and to go steadily on in the haze, in the clear air, in every possible condition.

What about you?
Do you have faith?

Friday, 21 June 2013

Encounters with a Caterpillar - Part 2 - The Perfect Prayer

I have come to call this the "praying position"...
Externally, its 6 tiny hands do look as if they are brought together like praying hands.
But there's far more than what meets the eye...! 
If prayer is being in relationship with God, then isn't it in this stage of the butterfly's life cycle that it's praying best...? 
When it no longer takes the initiative to find food for its survival... but is completely reliant, vulnerable, defenceless, helpless, and focused on just being... just BEing.
This being of what it is made to be, in the way that it is called to be, at the time that it is meant to be, in total surrender to nature, which is God's scheme of things... without resistance or complain, without analysing or calculation, a total giving of oneself to what needs to be. To embrace death so that it may rise in its new resurrected form to greet the world anew...
A phase where it no longer consumes but allows all it has consumed to fuel its transformation... where it no longer enjoys the consolation of feeding but now draws back its consolations for strength in the continued journey... 

I sit once again to watch in amazement and anticipate the moment of transformation. 
I sit in admiration of how a creature so small and insignificant can pray a prayer so perfect. 
And as I sit and wait, let me thank God for the awareness of all these in this tiny little feller that I myself lack... Let me humbly plead that I too may somehow someday arrive at the perfect living of my creaturehood. 

Monday, 17 June 2013

Encounters with a Caterpillar - Part 1 - With the Haze

Today, the haze is thick and visibility is very poor. The smell of the polluted air is suffocating and it doesn't take a whizz to figure out that breathing in this kind of air is detrimental to our health. We may take precautions by wearing a mask when we go out, dropping eye drops to wash out the dust that inevitably gets trapped in our eyes, making them feel sore and uncomfortable. We will know better not to go outdoors for a game of sports or a jog (though last I checked, there were people playing tennis downstairs). We will know to keep ourselves and our children indoors, pray for a strong wind or a heavy downpour to carry the dust away from us. For we know that this air is bad for us.

But not always do we find conditions being as obviously detrimental to us as the haze. Some weeks back, I began this little mission of rescuing the caterpillars on my dad's lime plant. I keep them, feed them, shelter them until they reach adulthood and fly away. Not all managed to reach that stage though. Some of it being my fault.

Once, I fed the two caterpillars I had with the leaves from the plant. It was the usual thing to do, the same plant, the same type of leaves. And they ate the leaves. But those leaves, with their normal and harmless appearance, instead of nourishing the wormies became the poison that killed them. I was taken aback, puzzled over the mysterious deaths.

It wasn't until much searching through the list of possibilities that I recalled my dad making known his intention to spray chemical onto the plant to kill the caterpillars. And I had totally forgotten about it. What had seemed good and life-giving was actually a murder weapon, once consumed, destroyed life inside out. All because I had not examined carefully what I was putting into the caterpillars' mouths, and had not registered the warning given by my dad.

Often, the many things around us take on a harmless appearance too. An innocent and curious first puff leads to an addiction to tabacco. An advancement in career that appears as a good opportunity for personal growth ends up possessing our time, our lives and breaks down our family relationships. A good-paying job that promises us a better quality of life and a better future for our children somehow becomes the very thing that shifts our priorities to make what is less important more important than what is truly life-giving and important. A seemingly right white lie told to protect someone's heart is the very thing that breaks trust and disrespects the other's right to the truth no matter how justified it is. 

The contrary seems valid too. 

A nourishing Eucharist, the true presence of Christ is not valued and treasured, and we don't think very much of this humongous grace given to us, and thus, we do not claim the love that God intended for us in the Eucharist. 

Discipline of children now becomes something wrong for a child needs to be showered with every possible tender loving care. Discipline has been kicked out of the equation of love. 

Driving within speed limits is taken to be a sign of weakness, the grade of a lousy driver when in actual fact, the one who tailgates and speeds way beyond the limit is the one who fails to realise the preciousness of his life and the lives of others. 

What seems ordinary or bad may well be the very thing that builds lives, moulds character, nourish our souls, rests our minds, and gives us that experience of loving and being loved. 

What do we feed our lives with? With what is life-giving or life-taking?

Do we know what is life-giving and what is life-taking for us? Beyond the disguises?
Perhaps, the call is to pause for some stocktaking, to wash those lime leaves in water to see if it foams up, to pay more attention to the warnings, before deciding to consume or discard.

What in your life is nourishing? What in it is poisonous? 

What are you going to do with those that are poisoning you?
Will you continue to play tennis in the haze anyway?

Monday, 3 June 2013

Pedro Arrupe - Fall in Love, Stay in Love...

"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute final way...