Bad to the Bone (Or, the Formula for Happiness)

When I tell people that I almost entered the seminary to become a priest; or that I pray at least 3 times every day (morning, noon, and night); or that I say the rosary almost daily and go to confession almost weekly, they hear this music in their heads. (Music: O Sanctissima)

They assume that I must be a very good kind of person; that I have a halo over my head.

But that is only a misconception. The opposite is true. Sometimes, this is the song that plays in my head. (Music: Bad to the Bone by George Thorogood)

Madame Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters, and friends, I am no saint.

For example, sometimes, when I’m at home, I throw tantrum fits at my wife. When she asks me, “What’s wrong you? Why are you being so difficult?” I simply answer her, “Because I want to be treated like a king and a baby at the same time.”

Or sometimes, when I’m driving down the road and a car cuts me off, I deal with it by chasing the driver and yelling at him, “Hey! What the hell is your problem? Do you freaking own the road?”

Or, very rarely, when a girl passes my way and gives me that look, I automatically follow her with my gaze.

In my defense, I would explain to my wife that I was only looking at the female in the most objective and detached manner, in the same way a disinterested observer might look at a piece of painting, say, or a flower, or a piece of sculpture.

So, I am far from being a saint.

I mean, I try to be good, but sometimes I don’t succeed at it. And when I don’t succeed at being good, I feel really sad – I feel miserable. And the longer I am bad, the darker my mind, and the weaker my will, becomes. And I become like that creature, you know, who loves the darkness and hates the light: “Ooohhh, we loves the darkness, preciousss. We loves the shadows, don’t we? We despise the light. We hatesss the light!”

And you know what I found out? I found out that this is actually a constant principle in life: that each time you are good, you feel happy, and each time you are bad, you feel sad.

And the longer you are good, the brighter your mind, and the stronger your will, becomes. And you change into a kind of angel, a person that is so light you can almost fly.

So that is how I accidentally “discovered” the formula for happiness. The formula for happiness is simply this: Holiness = happiness. The more good and holy you are, the happier you will be. And conversely, the more bad you are, the more sad you will be.

That became like a “eureka” moment for me, and I made the resolution to do my best not to be bad anymore, because, why would you rather choose to be sad and wretched? It doesn't make any sense. Sadness sucks and I didn’t want to have a soul as ugly as Gollum.

Today, I don’t throw tantrums as often as before, and when I do, my wife simply reminds me, “I have three kids. You are the eldest.”

And I don’t succumb to road rage anymore. When a car cuts me off, I simply yell, “Hey you! Have you heard of St. Josemaria Escriva? He once said, and I quote, “Don’t say, that person irritates me. Say rather, that person sanctifies me.” So you sanctify me!”

And on the extremely rare occasions that a girl passes my way and gives me that look, I simply tell myself, “Ah, praise God! He has created everything beautifully – the stars, the moon, the sky; the mountains, the trees, the seas. And he has created his creatures beautifully, too. So God bless you, sister, for God’s glory shines through you.”

So I’m still not a saint, not by a long shot, but at least I am no longer bad. I am only naughty. Right, Ga? *Wink, wink.*

Madame Toastmaster.

I Didn’t Want to Go Too Far

19429966_10154803880828358_6844715599479005935_n“So how did it go?” Ben asked.

“How did what go?” Sam said.

“You know what I mean.”

They were picking up their pace now. The morning was new and the streets were nearly empty.

They turned to a corner.

“How did it go?” Ben repeated.

“I just told her that I liked her, that I liked her eyes a lot. That’s it. I didn’t want to go too far,” Sam said.

“That’s it?”

“Yep. That’s about it. And then I told her that I really liked how she smiles, you know? The way the corner of her mouth slants so slightly like that when she’s happy or something? When she’s amused by something. And that’s it. I didn’t want to go too far. I didn’t want to cross the line.”

“That’s it? Sounds like a lot. What line?”

“Oh, you know. The line of our friendship. I didn’t want to cross that.”

“That’s only an imaginary line.”

“Nevertheless, it’s a line that demarcates her space from my space.”

“Hm,” Ben said. “So that’s it?”

They were both quiet again. A few cars passed them by, honking for no reason. A few shops were starting to open. Above them, the sky was bright and golden.

“I should’ve said more, though,” Sam continued. “I should’ve said that I like the way she looks with her glasses and all. And how she speaks and whatnot. How she comments on things. I like how she talks and thinks and moves. Every time she’s about to say something, I always pay attention because I feel it’s going to be about a very important thing. Even if it will turn out to be a remark about the weather or the news or about a person we’re common friends with, it’s still very important and interesting. But that would be too much to say to her.” He was panting as he finished his sentence.

“Want to take a break?” Ben said.

“Sure,” he said. He checked his watch. “5 KM. Not bad.”

They both drank from their bottles.

“Did she say anything?” Ben said.

“Yeah,” he answered.

“What did she say?”

“She laughed, which upset me. And then she said there’s something she wants to tell me.”

“Well?” Ben said. “Out with it, then.”

“She said she really liked me, and this is where I excused myself because her expression was so serious and stuff and I wasn’t used to seeing her that way. So I just said, there’s something I forgot and I needed to go. I got into my running shoes and just ran, you know? I just ran. At first, slowly. And then I built momentum and just ran my heart out, you know? I ran all the way from the cafe where we met to the Banilad area. And I ran through Maria Luisa — the guards were asleep — and went down Busay and Lahug. Then I got to the rotunda and made my way down South. It took me a while for the road was pitch black at times but I made it here, eventually, at the break of dawn.”

“That’s almost 50 kilometers,” Ben said. “Are you insane?”

“Yeah,” Sam said. “I should’ve stayed and said more, you know, because that wasn’t half of what I really wanted to say, but I didn’t want to go too far.”



In order for life to be bearable
there has to be romance.
Not necessarily between persons.

A longing glance at a shaft of light
one Sunday morning;
an aching look at an old book on a table;

a yearning remembrance of a person long gone.
Such things pain the heart a little
and at the same time makes one smile.

The Machine

TypewriterDear Sam,

The machine worked! Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here, obviously. Gosh, this is so awesome, man. I am so excited, beyond words. You have no idea how excited I am. My hands are not fast enough to catch up with the thoughts that are flowing out of my head right now.

Alright, first things first. I am okay, thank God. I came out in one piece. Everything’s here: the smartphone, the laptop, the SLR, the point-and-shoot, the period clothes, the power generator, and of course, the machine.

As expected, the smartphone is not working, so the only way I can communicate with you is through letters. I will write as often as I can and send it though the machine.

You will never guess what I am writing this with. A vintage Royal typewriter! Or, I guess it would be wrong to call it “vintage” since it is new now. So it’s a new Royal typewriter! I’ve always wanted to try out one of these things, and to write a letter the old-school way. You will notice that I omitted to write the date at the upper right corner of this page. This is supposed to be a formal letter, so I should’ve followed the rules of formal letter-writing. My reason is simply this: I want to keep you in suspense.

Alright, here it is: The date is — are you ready? — June 27, 1873! Can you believe it? The calendar says so. When you first proposed the idea to me a year ago, I thought you were out of your mind. I had zero confidence that you’d actually be able to pull it off, and yet here we are, or rather, here I am. This changes everything. This is the single greatest invention in all of history, and this is going to make us obscenely rich. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk will look like misers. Hah! Thank you for not wasting my investment. Two million pesos is just spare change for me, but I’m glad you didn’t squander it.

Okay, it’s now almost noon and I am starving. No one seems to be home. The house is utterly quiet, but I have a feeling the owners will be home soon.

I took a peak out the window just now — Gosh, how marvelous their windows look! They’re wide and smooth and adorned entirely with Capiz shells — and saw some tartanillas pass by. They were filled with people. The men wore camisas and the women wore sayas and panuelos.

This room is every bit as fascinating as I imagined it to be. Everything is made of polished hardwood: the floor boards, the tables, the chairs. There are glass-covered bookcases behind me and more to my left. There are busts and figurines on the table to my right, and more books, pens, and sheets of paper in the middle of the room. There is a portrait of a lady hanging on the wall. She looks very lovely. Probably a mestiza?

Wait, I hear something. It’s coming from downstairs. They’re probably here. I better stop now. I’ll send you this letter later. I ought to slip into my outfit. By the way, who should I pretend to be? A visitor from out of town? The new tartanilla driver? The latest household cook? I can’t make up my mind yet.

I’ll send you more news tomorrow. I sure hope they won’t turn me in to the civil guards and have me shot.


Book Review: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Finished this today. Some thoughts:
1. Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor who lived from 161-180 A.D.
2. He is also a philosopher.
3. His book, Meditations, is exactly that — a collection of his meditations or thoughts about a variety of mainly philosophical topics.
4. He wrote it for himself or his own benefit. He had no idea it will be read by millions of people throughout history.
5. I only understood around 60-65% of this book. I listened to an audiobook version so I did not get to read it at my own pace and, of course, I did not get to underline or mark the passages that strike me the most.
6. I don’t agree with everything that he said.
7. The parts that I agree with, I truly value.
8. He talked a lot about virtues. This was my favorite part of the book. He painted a picture of what a man (or woman) ought to be — virtuous, of excellent moral character, pure or just in thought, resilient, unperturbed by the opinions and attitudes of other people, untouched by misfortunes, knowledgeable about philosophy and wise in making judgments, and so on. What he discussed sounded a lot like the cardinal virtues in Catholic theology — prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude.
As a man, I find his ideas and manner of speaking very “relatable” and even appealing, because he speaks in a very manly, strong, and virtuous manner. He sounds like a very wise uncle or a strong dad who wants to help you become more wise by giving you counsel that are both philosophical and practical.
I would love to get my hands on a paperback and read it again. I highly recommend it.

Reading Jane Sincero’s You Are a Badass

Currently reading You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero.

Basically, it’s a practical book that aims to help the reader overcome the psychological barriers that prevent her from living a full and awesome life.

The title is catchy, yes, and it does contain some interesting and useful suggestions, but I’m bothered (and annoyed) by a few things:

1. It’s too “New Age-y”. The author keeps on referring to “The Universe” as if it is a person, conscious and capable of making decisions.

2. It talks about “Source Energy”, “vibrations”, and “The Law of Attraction”.

3. It claims that time is an illusion.

4. The author occasionally swears and cusses.

I’ve never bought into New Age philosophy, and the Universe is not a person. So it’s not aware of itself nor is it capable of caring about people. The Universe is not God. 

I also don’t believe in “The Law of Attraction”. 

It’s simply silly to say that time is illusory.

And I just find swearing off-putting.

But the book does have some useful advice, such as the importance of examining our paradigms and letting go of self-defeating beliefs, not allowing people’s opinions about us to determine our sense of self-worth, and choosing to focus on the more positive and beautiful aspects of experience.

Reading St. Josemaria’s The Way

Reading this book now.
It’s on sale in Amazon. Go here:
This is what I love about St. Josemaria Escriva: He is tough. He has grit. He is very manly. He sounds a lot like a strict father or a stern uncle — or a tough coach, or an army general, or a Navy SEAL officer, or a knight — giving you a jolt of reality, shaking and waking you up, telling you things you needed to hear. And for some reason, too, he reminds me of Johnny Cash.
He has a no-nonsense, straightforward style that I really love. Because Christian spirituality is not for wimps. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s for warriors, because the Christian life involves struggles and battles and waging wars against the self, temptations, and real evils in the world.
I’m just a few pages into the book and already I found these gems:
“Don’t let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love.”
“May your behavior and your conversation be such that everyone who sees or hears you can say: This man reads the life of Jesus Christ.”
“Maturity: Stop making faces and acting up like a child! Your bearing ought to reflect the peace and order of your soul.”
“Don’t say, “That’s the way I am — it’s my character.” It’s your lack of character. Esto vir! — Be a man!”
And my favorite:
“You clash with the character of one person or another… It has to be that way — you are not a dollar bill to be liked by everyone.
If your character and that of those around you were soft and sweet like marshmallows, you would never become a saint.”