this is the era that i live in:
technology threatening to swallow lives,
toys finding and discovering a life of their own,
and the intellect finding newer ways to be lazy.

we have such vast amounts of knowledge,
and the more intelligent we become,
the more we realize that such plethora
of wisdom could find storage in a mere chip
no larger than thumbnails,
a universe ensconced in sand!

we have invented a million things
to serve each illusionary need,
convincing ourselves that we must, we must!
have that newest gizmo to fulfil the void
that never existed before we imagined it.

we have reached the moon, walked upon it,
sent our sights and our probes into the depths
of that vast immeasurable coldness of space,
trying to prove that truly, the gods do not exist,
and that we are the highest, the apex of evolution.

we have argued and discussed and considered,
debated and analyzed in the halls of academia,
concepts and questions and ideas —
who should rule, and why, and who we are,
and why, and really, what happened, and why…
and we play with the unbound sets of semantics,
covering our ignorance with a newer wave of words
that confuse the most ignorant, and making them
believe in our self-perceived ascendance;

we invent titles, and degrees, and gradations,
complicating everything, discombobulating each
simple idea, because of course, it cannot be
seriously regarded unless richly garbed
in the mantles of mumbled mysticism.

we have proved mightier than prometheus
in unlocking fire, not from the gods,
but from the smallest enclosures, those strongest
bastions of asymptotic freedoms — we knocked,
and the atoms obeyed our summons,
displaying their might upon our biddings,
and now we are most afraid of these
invisible units of creation, and what spells
might be cast from such evokers’ wills;

we have perfected war, made it an art,
and even in the most advanced cities,
we wage them, if not with bombs and guns,
knife and poison will serve,
or money and influence, or political promises…
what are lives, anyway, but capital
for spending, for profit, for protection.

we have learned how to squeeze out of the idealistic souls
the spark that gave them hope that tomorrow will be better;
bombarding them with false needs and false dreams,
they begin like uncut gems, holding a brilliance
they are eager to show forth; but we do not polish them,
instead we crush them, or lull them to dullness,
and all their “why’s” become “why bother” in the end.

i see it everyday.

i walked from the house to the store today,
passing by teenagers engrossed with each other,
young men and women outside school,
dancing the preliminaries that would end,
inevitably, to single parenthood,
and there was a couple shouting at each other across the street,
never mind who was watching,
and a young professional hurrying off to office,
blind to anything else but the time and the job and the pay;

at the store i bought poison,
the sweetened caffeine-rich acid
to burn my kidneys and gut,
and i drank the whole liter: alone, oblivious.

this is the era that i live in,
this is the era of desperation,
this is the age of indifference.
welcome, child,
this is what you will inherit from us.

A Belated Christmas Greeting

So you made it to December. What a year it has been. There are thanks to be given, and a whole lot of other things to look at with hindsight that more often serves us with a bit too much dose of regrets than we intended in the first place.

So what has it been for me? 2009 began with me never giving things as much thought as I should have. “Things.” Such a word, such a word. And now the year has come and passed.

But really, who ever thought that the year would unfold as it had?

Regrets: I have too much of that to dwell upon them.

Rejoicings: There are enough to color the world for me. On these, I guess I should dwell upon.

First, on my work. I began teaching in UP Manila last 2007, November. Teaching here has been a fulfillment of a dream of mine, to teach in UP. I haven’t really thanked the people who gave me a chance to do so. Let me take this time to do so. The PGU people and the DPSM will always be a special part of my professional life. Thanks for taking a chance on me. I hope I have not caused too much of a headache with my aloofness and silence. I was simply too intimidated working with you all.

Second, to my students. I think the most important thing you will realize as you grow older is that your teachers simply did their best with the situations they were handed with. If you were frustrated at times with how we handled the courses we taught, remember that we too are frustrated with our own failiures. And as you were delighted with a few of the lessons that resonated so much with you, remember that we too share with that joy of discovery, seeing you take flight with the ideas we wanted so much to share. There are times I would like to take back, and days i wanted to last forever. I learned so much from you as I worked with you, and as you realize that you can reach higher heights than I ever did, I hope you realize as well that we never resent this. In fact, the student should always strive to beome better than the mentor. It is through this that konwledge grows, that progress is made. And better minds take over the world that we leave behind. Thanks for the lessons learned, the friendships forged, the journey shared, even if it was only a few months. Keep reaching for the stars.

Third, to my friends. Friends. What a word it is. Some of you I only see very rarely. A few of you I get to see more often than flies. (Incidentally, I have been interacting with flies quite rarely the past few years… global warming effect?) But I am always grateful for each and everyone of you. Thanks for choosing to share those few steps with me on this cliche of a journey they call life. Well, I call it life too. But you know what? I think the most fascinating about it is that when we do get to meet, however rarely it is, somehow, it’s like it was only yesterday that we last saw each other. Oh, I understand that I too have lost a few friends along the way. And gained a few more as well. It’s quite hard, sometimes, to let go of friends. I always want to bring them back. Some have become strangers; I have learned not to resent this. Time sometimes is a distance more difficult to bridge than miles. But please remember that I owe a lot of who I am because of you, and for that, I will always be thankful. I think I can stand in front of the Author of this Universe and not be ashamed to name you as my friends. I hope that someday I too can earn the same from you. It’s still a work in progress, I have to say. But if you wait long enough, I promise to shine, scars and all.

Fourth, to my family. I am always glad to be part of this family of ours. So much has happened the past few years, but if there’s one thing that I learned as the years roll on, is that how great a family I have blessed with. Oh, we are not perfect, but there’s something unique in how we support each other. To my aunts and uncles, thanks for those times. Thanks for the examples you set for us. To my cousins, I hope as you grow older you will come to appreciate being part of this faily as much as we have. I cannot imagine being born to another family. Well, honestly, I can. But i would never choose to be born into another, given that chance. It just would not be the same. I would not exchange this adventure for another. I hope I can also make you proud.

So on this holiday season, let me give my greetings as well, however late this is. I could not do it throught text, it’s too long to do so.

But let me do so by telling you how I feel about the season. As a scientist, I have grown to realize that faith is as much part of science as objectivity. That there are things in this universe only faith can prove, I know for a fact. Sometimes, it becomes a debate over trivialities. I have never seen an electron, but I know it exists. Nor have I seen any of the subatomic particles. Only the traces that they leave behind that tell us that they do exist. I find I do not have the mathematical aptitude to prove every mathematical and physical equations. But I read the accounts of those who do, the books and articles left behind by those who did. And I know that if I work and study long enough, following their footsteps, that i too will someday gain enough skill to prove them on my own. But for now, I can take their word for the things I have no capability to do on my own. Truth is truth, whether we can satisfy their veracity on our own or we have to rely on others. And we can feel the satisfaction upon learning them because it will resonate with us, because it works. “I know the mathematics is correct, because when I use them, I get the predicted results.” Thus once said one of the geniuses of the 20th century. As with science, so I also say regarding faith.

I know that what the carols sing about actually happened. I was not there to see it for myself. None of us who were born in our time did. But because it happened, we commemorate it. We commemorate it because of the promise that that event gives to those who believe. But more than that, we commemorate it because it is true. Somebody WAS sent down to be born in the lowliest circustances so HE can rise above all things. And He was sent because nobody else can do that which He must do to open the gate that is shut to everyone. The gate to life. Life. Some would contend that it is too preposterous to be true. I counter that just beause I cannot prove it does not necessarily mean nobody can. I believe because I can feel its truth when I read the acounts of those who know. And someday, if I keep studying and learning, I too can know it for myself.

That for me is the reason that we say Merry Christmas. Merry … Happy… Joyful.

So… Merry Christmas, everyone! And a Happy New Year to all.