All is Love

Dear Sharb,

Song that encapsulates what real love should be. I’ve been trying to come up with the answer to this for over a month, but I still haven’t got a clue. Initially, I thought it was because there are billions of songs in existence that could potentially live up to the magic of real love, but no. The real reason I couldn’t think of That One Song, I realized, is because I don’t know what real should be.

Let me be clear. I have dated, and I have been in a long-term relationship. I still get attracted to people I meet. By consciously surrounding myself with individuals who amaze me, I cannot deny that there is overflowing beauty and talent around me. It reassures me. It gives me hope. It makes Monday mornings more bearable, and cold coffees forgivable.

But I cannot confidently say that I know what real love *should* be. Should it make you stop smoking cigarette cold turkey? Should it make you rewrite that one love poem over and over because you don’t think it lives up to the other person’s existence? Should it compel you to rethink that one author you hate because he loves his books? Should love feel like a warm blanket or should it feel like a cool breeze? Should it make you wonder about the whole of universe and how you are in equal awe at him?

With that said, I’m afraid I’m not the authority when it comes to picking a song that encapsulates what real love should be. However, as clueless as I am about love, at least I know a little more about music. And other emotions perhaps less complex than love.

For the past few days I’ve been listening a lot to the official soundtrack of Where the Wild Things Are. It’s an adaptation of a 1960s children’s book of the same title, and its music is as whimsical and magical as the movie.

These songs may be the closest thing I could think of that encapsulates the warm and fuzzy inside you when it’s raining. These songs are like a warm hug on a cold day, and I think that’s pretty close to love, yes?

I hope you can find the time to listen to the entire album, preferably after watching the movie. But here’s one of the happy tunes–quite appropriately called All is Love. The video includes random clips from the movie.

Love always,
Charlie

Writing Playlist

Dear Charlie,

It may surprise you to know that I don’t usually listen to music when I write.  I think I am one of those who are not effective in multi-tasking and generally, I can’t concentrate on my writing when I have music in my background.  I can’t help but sing along or dance when I listen to music. Not a good idea when I need to write.

I realize though that we always had the music player on every single day while we were still writing for one company a few years ago.  So let me clarify that when we were writing those things we wrote about in the office; that is to say, when we were writing 10 to 15 articles each day on lasik surgery or car rentals or that online guide to Disneyland or that guide to dating a Russian girl, when we were writing those kinds of things, I liked to listen to music.  I loved listening to songs that make me feel positive and still believing in the beauty of life. I had Jason Mraz, Lighthouse Family, Apo Hiking Society, The Beatles, Lenka, Keane, The Cardigans , Donna Lewis, Bonnie Bailey and I even had Hawaii Five-O in my office writing playlist back then.

But when I need to write, especially when what I need to write is something that I haven’t “written” in my mind, like a topic proposal for an academic paper or a poem, there is I think only one song that I can listen to that calms me and puts me into the zone.  It’s Chopin’s Nocturne in E Flat Major Opus 9 Number 2.  I learnt about it during piano lessons back in high school.

To me, the song feels like how real love should be: gentle, soulful, comforting, liberating; with playful parts, some suspense and rests only to prepare for passion and invincible certitude.  I want the “me” in me to be overpowered by the song when I write so that it will come to a point when that love is the one writing and I am only the typist.

I wonder what song or songs that for you encapsulates what you think real love should be?  I’ll be waiting with excitement for your kuwento.  I want to know your view of that utopian love and I want to know what song/s you associate with it.

Until that day.

Your friend,

Sharb

P.S. Listen to Chopin’s Nocturne here:

Late-night Verbal Diarrhea

Dear Sharb,

It pains me a little to say that I know exactly what you mean. Those of us who have experienced the death of a loved one share the same strand of sorrow that I doubt will ever leave us; it will always be a part of us, like a scar.

But scars, I think, are a beautiful thing. Many regard scars as something that makes them ugly, something that diminishes who they were before, a constant reminder that A Bad Thing happened. But I look at them differently. I look at them and see stories—regardless how awful or hurtful—from which we survived. We survived. We won and scars are our badge of victory. This is why what you said makes perfect sense to me.

Charles Warnke, a contemporary writer that I like, wrote in his blog once, “In the future I will not try to be happy. Sadness is already too much of a burden. I cannot add loss to it again.”

It’s an interesting perspective, but I can’t agree with him. I don’t regard Sadness as a burden, but a necessary part of who we are, sort of like having crooked teeth, moles in all the wrong places, or an annoying cousin. Or scars, for that matter.

Sadness from death and other misfortunes will continue to loom around us, but it doesn’t need to control us or take over how we do things. And it shouldn’t be ignored, either. Sometimes the best way to deal with Sadness is to recognize that it’s there and that it serves as a reminder. Whether we take it as a reminder of a Bad Thing or a reminder that We Survived, well, that’s up to us.

I should tell you that as I’m writing this, I’m listening to Bon Iver, with the song Blindsided playing in loop. The band’s album For Emma, Forever Ago is great for late-night verbal diarrhea. I’ve become used to this habit; listening to unbelievably sad songs while writing late at night. I’m not entirely sure why sad songs work best, but more than anything, I reckon it’s because these songs allow me to feel. They get me down, yes, but I feel more. And then I realize that I am more alive than ever. I remember when I wrote the screenplay of Catcher in the Rye for our high school project a decade ago, the one song I listened to was Could It Be Any Harder by The Calling. That is one sad song, I tell you. It played in loop until it became a part of me and synched perfectly with my rhythm in writing.

It seems contradicting, but since we’re on the topic, I believe it’s another case of happiness and sadness being two sides of the same coin. But anyway, I just wanted to share what music I usually listen to when writing. And I’m curious to know your writing playlist, if there is any. I’m always interested in what people listen to.

I’m going to be extremely busy in the next couple of weeks because I have grades to compute and a number of articles to finish for work, but I’ll be looking forward to your next letter.

Until then.

Love always,
Charlie

Death and Happiness

Dear Charlie,

Last Friday, the remains of my uncle we call Kuya Nestor was cremated.  There was a lot of crying and hugging and consoling that day.  There was deep pain but despite the pain, it was also filled with laughter and merry-making.  Death is usually associated with sadness and there was deep sadness last Friday.  But what I would like to share to you today is something I learned from that day – that sadness and happiness can co-exist in the hearts of people who experienced the death of a loved one.

At around 3 AM that day, most of the family members and relatives of my uncle were either sleeping or have gone home to rest for a while before they go back for the last goodbye and the cremation.  In one corner, I was taking a nap on a chair when I was awoken by boisterous laughter.  I saw Kuya Nestor’s wife, parents and siblings sitting in front of the casket and exchanging stories about Kuya Nestor.  I was so amused looking at them and seeing them laughing, remembering my aunt’s adventures in stalking my uncle when he was still, well, very appreciative of women.  It was a surreal image: the warm light falling on the casket, the sleeping children on the carpet, the sound of people talking, my aunt Ate Oma laughing so hard.

At the crematorium, we cried while Ate Oma led a prayer for Kuya Nestor.  While we were waiting for the ashes, we had pancit and puto and the light conversations and laughter went back.  As the hours passed, the laughter became more frequent and conversations became louder.  Several times during that wait, someone would ask, “Hindi pa ba luto?”  or “Ang tagal naman ng order!” and someone would retort, “No, Kuya Boy, hilaw pa! or “Ini-in-in pa!”or “Medium rare ang gusto ko ha! and each time, we would burst into laughter.  We laughed at stories on what would have happened to the ashes when the ashes went home.  My brother said it should not be placed in the kitchen lest someone might mistake the ashes for ground pepper and put it in their tinola.  And the ideas and stories and laughter keep coming until my uncle’s ashes finally got into the hands of Ate Oma.

When Kuya Nestor’s ashes were brought home, the videoke machine was waiting for us to sing all of those songs Kuya Nestor used to sing.  He was so fond of singing. Oh, how he loved to sing!  Several times, when a song starts, someone would ask, “Sino’ng kakanta?” and another one would shout, “Si Kuya Nestor ang kakanta nyan!”  And we sang and laughed and drank beer and Empy lights and dedicated songs to Kuya Nestor until it was time for hugs and goodbyes and and silent stares of motivation and gratitude.

Merry-making, happy conversations and laughing on the day of the cremation of a loved one may seem a discourtesy to the memory of the dead but to me it is so far from that.  I realized that even if death is painful, there can still be room for happiness, laughter and celebration.  I now understand what they say that happiness and sadness are not really antonyms.  They are two sides of the same coin.  You cannot have one without the other.  Such a beautiful day.

Thank you for reading this, Charlie.  Hope you feel wonderful today.

 

Until next,

Sharb

MOTIVATIONAL: Still, The Best Things in Life are Free (Almost)

It would have been nice if you had all the money in this world.  You could escape the oppressive heat in the Philippines and vacation in Dublin.  Or Alaska.  How wonderful could that be!

You could replace your phone every 6 months every time there is a new version of Samsung Galaxy or Iphone.  Imagine that.  Or have at least 2 of the latest tablets in the market.  Maybe one Ipad Mini and one Kindle.  For those who love to read.  Or one Ipad 2 and one Samsung Tablet for those who love to play online games.  That would really be cool!

You could eat all the sumptuous food you have always wanted to try but could not afford.  How about that eat-all-you can buffet restaurant in that hotel that serves all the mouth-watering sense-overloading food from all the regions of this earth.  Wow, just imagine that.  What restaurant have you always wanted to go to but can’t?  And now, with lots of money, you can!  Maybe try another one for dinner next Sunday.  And another one for dinner Sunday after that.  And try another. . .  Now, you may need to spend money on gym memberships and the services of a good fitness instructor.  That’s not a problem.  You have money.

You don’t even need to work.  My God!  Isn’t wonderful?! You don’t need to endure your control-freak  boss.  No pesky client calls.  You don’t need to pretend you like your office mates.  All day, you can just play golf.  Or relax on a hammock in a paradise beach.

That’s the life!  You say.

How wonderful to dream.  But today, I woke up and realized I will never have all the money in this world.  And even if I will have (which is really very unlikely), imagine how purposeless and shallow that kind of life would be.   It would be nice to take a breather once in a while.  To go to a nice place once in a while.  Splurge on a new phone or tablet every 2 years.  Not bad.

But imagine, having all the money and having all the things and all the sense experiences that money can buy, every day of your life.  No work.  Just laze around and load your senses with “the good life” until you die.   I don’t know about you but to me, that would not equate, not even get close, to the meaning of a happy life or at least a bearable life.

Since this post is getting long, I’ll make my point and just insert the title here: The best things in life are still free (almost).  Things like the following:

  • A good conversation with a good friend
  • A solitary walk with nature
  • Time to laugh and play with children
  • Working in a job that you are passionate about
  • Doing something that makes you feel that you are making a difference in others’ lives
  • Waking up every day excited and grateful

 

Cheers to the real “good life”!  :-)

 

 

Happy music to lift up your mood

Today is the world’s first International Day of Happiness (established only in June 2012 by the United Nations General Assembly). Naturally, we wanted to celebrate this day by sharing music that’s close to our hearts. Personally, these are my picks of songs that never fail to cheer me up whenever I’m feeling a little sad. Hopefully, you could find something that you love among the list.

It’s my current favorite life-affirming-and-contagiously-danceable song.

American Authors – Best Day of My Life

Many have a go-to song every morning to set the mood for the rest of the day. If you’re looking for yours, this song has a great potential to fulfill that purpose.

Ra Ra Riot – Dance with Me

Regardless of whether you know how to dance or not, I think it’s important that you know at least one song that could make up get up on your feet and just dance your worries away. Case in point—

Crystal Fighters – Champion Sound

Ahh. New love. Sometimes you don’t have the right words to express just how happy you are. Maybe this song could help you out.

One Republic – Feel Again

Imagine the person you like looking straight in your eyes while singing this song. Feel your heart melting right on the spot. Ladies and ladies, it’s time to fall in love with an adorable Ginger.

Ed Sheeran – Lego House

Who ever said that you need to wallow in misery when you feel like you need to listen to a breakup song?

Sara Bareilles – Gonna Get Over You

We’d love to hear your favorite songs! Let us know in the comments below. :)

BOOKS: The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

I will precede this review by saying that I tend to root for the unlikely heroes. Fucked up Holden Caulfield. Cancer-stricken Augustus Waters. Emotionally unstable Franny Glass. Damaged but adorable Charlie. With all their physical, mental, and emotional turmoil, there is something beautiful that binds them all together: Hope. Hope is the littlest spark that leads into a wildfire in people’s hearts.

With that said, I find Pat Peoples (Pat Solitano in the movie) absolutely adorable. I like him not because he is awkward or funny without meaning to be funny, but because he always finds something good in everything. Sure, it may be because it’s part of his therapy, but I for one know how tough it is to do that: to always look for a silver lining even though there doesn’t seem to be one. I like Pat Peoples because he is determined and he has a good heart, despite his episodes and denial that his wife abandoned him. I like him because he believes that if he tried hard enough, people will love him.

But Tiffany. I love her because she is a consistent force in Pat’s life, regardless of how unaware he was in the beginning. I love her because she proved to him that he doesn’t have to try even a little bit for people to love him. Bless her heart—she loves his peculiarities, their unstable relationship, and the silence between them.

Frankly, I like how the movie wrapped up better than the book did. The movie was more polished and it retained all the important parts. The ending was also more romantic and knee-tingling. But there are a lot of awesome laugh-out-loud moments in the book. If you are going to read it, be cautious of where you are when you get to the Montage of My Life chapter. Others still think it’s weird when you laugh loudly in a public place while reading a book.

Except for the ending, The Silver Linings Playbooks is funny, optimistic, and delightful.

BOOKS: Paper Towns by John Green

Yes, the novel has its flaws. Some of the parts dragged on longer than needed, the ending was abrupt and a little weak. The overall plot wasn’t as tight as Alaska’s or TFIoS’s. BUT–I will say this. It leaves a very important message that I think everyone could relate to, and it can be summed up in a line from the book: “What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.”

When we like someone, it’s easy to put them on a pedestal and treat them like a beautiful mystery that we can never be too happy to figure out. It’s easy to like the unknown. The possibilities are endless, and there is always excitement in discovering the unknown, especially when we find out we are right.

But there is also the great risk of thinking that a person is more than who he/she really is. If we’re not careful, we strip the person of his/her humanity and we’ll be left with only the concept that we’ve built up. We’ll be consumed with our expectations and blinded by the mystery. The biggest tragedy will be the shock from the realization that we are normal and ordinary; that we are neither gods nor mysteries. We’re just people.

Paper Towns is a story about a boy and his journey towards discovering his biggest mystery: Margo Roth Spiegelman.

Elbert Hubbard said, “If men could only know each other, they would neither idolize nor hate.”

BOOKS: Looking for Alaska by John Green


There is a certain kind of happiness in being sad together. There is a weird comfort in sadness because it forces you to understand yourself and others more. And in the end, you become somewhat enlightened.

That’s what you will get from reading Looking for Alaska by John Green—among other things, enlightenment from being sad. Acceptance of things you cannot understand. Understanding that you can’t always have answers.

The book promises no happy endings. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t make any promise at all. All it says in the blurb is that nothing is the same after. But there is the hope that you will learn something and be enlightened by it.

You will be sucked into a world of first love and last words; of high school pranks and religious philosophies; of The Great Perhaps and the Labyrinth. It’s both funny and heartbreaking. The characters will be good friends you will laugh and cry with. And there is a great risk you will fall in love with Alaska Young.

And that’s why it’s worth reading. Even though she will break your heart, it is worth reading.

MOVIES: Before Sunrise

There is this one quote I really love from this movie and I remembered it while I was talking to a good friend this weekend.  The quote reads: “You have to resign yourself to the awkwardness of life.  Only if you find peace within yourself you’ll find true connection with others.”  Aside from how Ethan Hawke looked, this quote I think is what makes this movie very memorable for me; it’s one of my all-time favorites.

Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) met on a train in Europe.  It was not a typical meeting of strangers; it was an  instantaneous connection.  Jesse and Celine explored the beautiful city of Vienna for one night while having interesting conversations about all sorts of things from their mundane lives, to their ideas on long-term relationships, to their hopes and dreams, to their beliefs, to their emotional attraction to each other.  In one of these conversations, Celine told Jesse that if there’s any kind of magic in this world, it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something.

I love to watch Jesse and Celine  talk and listen to each other.  They let each other talk for as long as each needs to.  Nobody cuts what one is saying.  While one is talking, you’ll see the other one is not busy judging the other or thinking about what to say next.  You’ll see the spontaneity and candidness  in the reactions.  You see them really connecting, really looking into each others’ eyes and trying to absorb what each is saying and meaning.

I love these kinds of conversations.  These are the kinds of conversations that  fill you up to the brim and make you feel inspired.  I remember a  friend of mine once said this kind conversation is like the work of two distinct souls trying to intertwine through words.  Soulspeak.   When you lose yourself in the sharing yet you feel you are more yourself than in any other ordinary time.   Before Sunrise beautifully captures this magical moment.  I am in love all over again!