Archive for November, 2012

The true miracle

November.24. 2012

Like most good Catholics, I was raised on the usual diet of biblical miracle stories in my early days.

I must say the intervening years have taken their toll on my credulity and put in its place a healthy dose of skepticism.

These days, I see these miracle as more mythology than historical fact.

If you understand human nature, you will know that stories tend to get larger when they’re told and retold.

By the time a story is told a fifth time or tenth time, it may have little to do with the original event.

And of course, miracles are a dime a dozen these days too, all you have to do is turn on the TV and you’ll see these late-night televangelists ‘healing’ people in droves.

What makes their ‘miracles’ any different from the ones purportedly performed by Jesus?

The answer came to me one day, while driving to work.

The true miracle of Jesus has nothing to do with these ‘miracles.’

The true miracle of Jesus is that a man two thousand years ago could have come up with his outrageous ideas of love and compassion, ideas that still have difficulty taking hold even two thousand years later, as evidenced by all the strife around us.

(The irony — some of these strifes created by the very people who claim to be his followers.)

It’s truly amazing if you think about it, that someone could have attained that level of enlightenment two thousand years ago.

The other two miracles, of course, are Lao Tzu and Buddha, two other similarly enlightened individuals.

Externals vs. internals

November.13. 2012

I’m not what you might call a deeply religious man; yes I go to church most Sundays but more out of habit than anything else.

Recently, I’ve been watching developments in the church I go to — the Catholic Church.

It seems like these days, there’s a lot more bowing and other gestures of supplication going on.

And the liturgy has changed too.

These days it reads more like legalese, carefully crafted together by a legal team in Rome.

(For instance ‘consubstantial.’)

I expressed my dismay about all these changes and emphasis on externals to a priest once.

And he said to me, people need externals.

Yes, I understand that perfectly, externals is what the modern world is all about.

I mean, nothing is real these days, it’s all about show. All manufactured stuff, from business to politics to entertainment and yes, apparently to religion too.

If you were to buy a piece of furniture these days, it may look really beautiful on the outside, but scratch the surface and you’ll find there’s only sawdust underneath.

What’s wrong with manufactured wood, you might ask?

It’s not wood. It just appears to be wood but it has none of the qualities of real wood. If it’s a bookcase, be prepared to see the shelves sagging in no time.

Yes, people need externals, but what about the internals?

Surely when you spend so much time focusing on the external, you will inevitably begin to neglect the internal.

And shouldn’t the external be a reflection of the internal and not vice versa?

No matter how you cover up that sawdust, it’s still sawdust.

I’ve been reading the Gospel of St Thomas lately, and it’s interesting that the original Jesus was also a man of internals.

Asked whether circumcision is a useful thing, he said, if it was useful, man would’ve been born circumcised.

And then he added, true circumcision in the spirit is entirely useful.

Powerful stuff.

(Yes, I know some will question the authenticity and validity of this particular Gospel, but I refuse to be influenced by the politics of the early church fathers and prefer to make my own decisions based on the evidence, and all the evidence seem to suggest that the Gospel of St Thomas was indeed one of the original gospels, written just a few decades after Christ died.

And going back to externals vs.  internals, the power of its contents leave no doubt as to its authenticity. Who could have made up its radical message of love and compassion?)

Roach motel — Malaysian style

November.7. 2012

On a recent trip to Malaysia, I happened to come upon an interesting package in one of the hardware stores I love to frequent in Sibu, a package featuring a drawing of one of my favorite animals – roaches.

Turned out it was a roach trap or as we call them here in the US, roach motels.

I bought one without hesitation and tested it that same day. Within a day, I was able to snag a victim, not a roach but a lizard.

The only problem was that of disposing of the catch.

You see, it was still very much alive.

I thought of drowning it, but the thought of having to clean the trap after that put me off the idea. So I decided to flush it down the toilet.

Great idea, but not so easily done. I emptied the lizard into the bowl but the nimble thing was able to clamber up from the water, and before you can say alamak, it was almost out of the bowl.

I pulled the lever immediately, but surprisingly the flood of water did little to dislodge it.

I saw a tin can nearby filled with rainwater (my mother loves to catch rainwater in all kinds of containers, a habit she acquired when she lived in the village and clean water was hard to come by — all the streams in the area had reddish water.) and managed to send the poor creature back down to the water. I pulled the lever again, and mission accomplished.

Back in Texas, I was anxious to give the contraption a test run.

On the very first night, sweet success! I managed to bag a roach, not one of those famous Texas-sized roaches, but still one of respectable dimensions.


A closer look

A closer look

But then came the same problem, how do you dispose of it?

I knew the flushing trick was not likely to work, plus I didn’t have access to my mother’s rainwater.

Over the years, I have developed a rather fine technique of using plastic bags to catch cockroaches (you use it like a glove and when you manage to catch one, you tie it up in the plastic bag and throw it away.) so I took a plastic bag and managed to coax the unsuspecting roach into the plastic bag. Another mission accomplished.

But after all that, I decided it was just too much effort to get one cockroach, so I gave up on the device and now it lies underneath my kitchen sink.

These days, I use my sister’s trick, which is to make a concoction of boric acid and honey and leave them in strategic places in the house. It seems to be working; just the other day, I saw a dead cockroach lying on the kitchen floor.

But why am I so obsessed with this particular one of God’s creatures?

The answer may lie in what my mother told me.

Apparently, I was born severely jaundiced. As luck would have it, my grandmother had come to Kanowit for the confinement period.

And as luck would have it, she had the perfect remedy for jaundice, which was to catch a cockroach, extract its entrails (is there such a thing?) and smear it on the jaundiced baby’s lips.

It must have worked because I got over my jaundice, but the trauma of that incident must have left a lasting impression on my young mind, because these days, nothing terrifies me more than the sight of these creepy crawlies.