Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Power of Myths

The first time I encountered the word myth was in the context of my English class, discussed as a traditional sacred story, a form of literature, which usually expounds on the acts of gods and goddesses, and which attempts to explain social practices or other natural phenomenon. The literary form expands the natural world into something else which is remarkable and extraordinary; a supernatural thing that goes beyond the mundane.

A few years ago, my friend Chris, a public relations specialist, introduced me to the concept of “myth-making”, or the power of an individual to create his own reality. He underscores the power of perception (rather, what is perceived) as something that will ultimately define a person. He says that every person has two aspects: the “real” one, and what is perceived. The two realities blur sometimes, so much so that one cannot delineate what is real with what is illusory, but he emphasizes that the need to delineate is unimportant: both define the type of person one is going to be.

This idea reminds me of an aspect of astrology which not a lot of people are familiar with. There is the zodiac, or the sun sign, which supposedly defines who a person is. Most of us are familiar with this concept. Then there is the moon sign, which supposedly defines how a person is perceived. The two are not usually the same, so a person can be an Aries, but is perceived as a Sagittarius. According to my reading (which I got online), I am a Cancer (adaptable, moody, loyal) but is perceived as an Aries (courageous, impulsive, confident). Those two signs are usually as different as they get.

I don’t know how true those readings are, but I just wanted to underscore the difference between one’s “real” personality, and what is perceived. It is rare that the two are the same.

This idea has many real-world applications. In high school specifically, you are usually defined by how your peers perceive you. If your peers see you as a “loser”, then you begin to think of your reality as that of a “loser”, notwithstanding your many wonderful qualities. When you think about it, it sounds silly, but I personally believe it’s the truth. We are defined in two ways: by our own choices, and by the context (read: perception) society imposes on us.

This is probably why we try so hard to gain some control over how we are perceived. As much as we wish that only we could create the terms for our own life, we know that that is impossible. We are as much a prisoner of our current social context as everyone else. We try to make sure that how we are perceived is the same as how we feel about ourselves, and we try to limit the incongruence, but we can only do so much. We really do not have that much of a choice on the matter, except to that part which we can change about ourselves.

Which is where my friend Chris’ advice comes in, which I think is one of the best advice I have ever gotten in my life. This isn’t his words, but I hope to distill through a metaphor what we have discussed and debated and lived as a life philosophy for years. I hope you find as much wisdom in it as I did.

We are pebbles, but we must aim to feel and look like mountains. Create your reality by controlling (as much as you can) how you are perceived. At the worst, we will be mistaken for boulders or hills, but those are still significantly larger than the tiny stones people will easily discard or throw away. At some point, you will find that you have become a boulder, or a hill, or a mountain, for real.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

On the Dark Side of Charity

Driving along the familiar roads of Makati, I find that it is almost impossible for one to never see a homeless person begging, literally, on the street; their gray, unwashed hands knocking on windows of cars, their faces pleading for some of your change, and for food that they may eat. It can be heartbreaking sometimes, especially when the beggar is a child.

But in the Philippines, these people are a familiar sight. Poverty is the rule, not the exception. And when I say poverty, I mean knee-deep in the muck kind of poverty, and I can almost mean that literally. Forget about quality of life or even dignity; in a lot of cases, these people just want to survive. And you can see it in some of these homeless people’s faces, their eyes conveying nothing but desperation.

There are con artists to be sure, who simply go out on the streets to beg, acting like they were handicapped or insane, just so they wouldn’t have to do an honest day’s work. But in a country where the poor outnumber the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy in mind-boggling numbers, it is difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between the two.

Willie Revillame, an extremely popular celebrity in the Philippines especially among the poor, was once under fire for allowing a child named Jan-jan to simulate the dance of a male stripper on his game show. There are several clips all over the internet, and the first thing you would notice is that the child was crying while it was all happening, and that the audience, in a cruel display of heartlessness, was laughing. Revillame, obviously possessing very little empathy, even went so far as to say that he admired the child for doing what he did just so he could help his family. He then gave Jan-jan Php10,000 as a prize for his performance.

When you watch the whole thing, it literally makes you want to throw up. Have our countrymen been ground so low that they would allow their children to do something so obviously horrible just so they can get by? Are TV shows so blinded by the bottom-line that they are willing to subject a child to pointless psychological abuse just so its audiences are entertained? When will we realize that these people who act like champions for the poor are nothing but greedy hypocritical sharks who really do nothing but profit from our less fortunate brethren? When will we realize that instead of helping, these shows cultivate a culture of mendicancy, where instead of being taught to stand on our own two feet, we are made to depend, our arms outstretched, on the alms given by false kings?

In an obvious display of self-righteousness, one that shows his ignorance and malice and worthlessness, Revillame claims that he shouldn’t be criticized for what he did, and that he was only trying to help the poor and that he only wanted to make people happy.

What hypocrisy. As Conrado de Quiros so aptly put it, it is so “odious that he should treat his guests exactly the opposite of the way Degeneres does. It’s utterly distasteful. The beneficiaries in particular are bled dry for every tearful detail of their miserable lives and made to look as though they are the luckiest people in the world to have been the object of the show’s beneficence. The gratefulness is way too sticky, the beneficiaries virtually kissing the hand of Revillame, which isn’t always metaphorical. The cameras do not flinch at this lavish display of emotion but catalogue every moment of it, with no small encouragement from the host. Revillame himself does not bother to distinguish between the show’s beneficence and his own. In fact he makes it a point to encourage the belief—which has been the secret of his success—that he is doing all this out of the goodness of his heart, and out of the depths of his pockets.

Revillame lives off the myth that he is one of the poor, that he wants nothing but to help them. The irony is that he is a multi-billionaire who generated his wealth at the expense of countless Filipinos’ dignity.

Friday, July 5, 2013

How to Become Disillusioned with Finding Love

Watch Hollywood romantic movies.  Believe that everyone has a one true love.  Etch into your soul the conviction that you will find that one guy who will inevitably accept you for everything that you are.  Who will love you unconditionally and without question.

Create a list of the qualities the love of your life must have. Set high standards.  Reach for the stars.  He must be tall, handsome, brooding and mysterious.  Intelligent and quirky.  Wealthy.  He must go to the gym regularly. He must have dimples dotting his face when he smiles. His hair must fall a certain way all the time.  

Envision showing him off to your friends and telling them how you fell in love with him because of his lovable personality, or because of how good a person he is.  How you fell in love with the way he laughed.   Or touched your hand.  Or played with your baby sister. Or any other quirky little habit that remind people of how cute he is. Subtly insert a few anecdotes that show how great in the sack he can be.  

Know that you don’t need to tell them how impossibly handsome, intelligent, and wealthy he is; they would see that for themselves. Imagine seeing your friends’ eyes widen with envy.

Stamp down any notion that there might be something wrong with you.  That’s impossible. Remind yourself that you are perfect, or as close to it as anyone can be.  You deserve this, and you deserve someone like him. Cosmopolitan said so, and it can’t be wrong.

Go out on date after date after date.  Constantly be disappointed. Rejection, both rejecting and being rejected, makes you cynical. Build up walls. Surround yourself with the emotional equivalent of a moat. Insult people, and point out how they can never live up to your standards.  Stop dating. Or date with the knowledge that these people will only prove why you are better off single in the first place.

Watch Hollywood romantic movies only so you can make contemptuous comments on the stupidity of their plot. Smile patronizingly at friends who believe in a one true love.  Remind yourself that it doesn’t exist.  That it couldn’t exist. That its existence would imply that there might be something wrong with you.  And that couldn’t be true.   Convince yourself that you like being alone.  No, that you love being alone.  That you don’t feel lonely, and that whatever hole you feel in your life can be filled up by friends and family.  Sleep at night with the nagging sentiment that you are missing something, and hope for the best that things will be better in the morning.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...