Burn Baby Burn  

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

by Paula Zayco Aberasturi

"My spoiled voice in the head muttered “BIG UH-OH, now what have I again gotten myself into, two days of sweat instead of the beach.” That was coming from me, already a committed volunteer, armed with a year’s worth of enlightenment from Nicanor Perlas."

So I wake up today, elated because finally I have faith. Faith in myself. Faith in people. Faith in Filipinos waking up to the relentless Manok, crowing, “Land of the morning, awaken!” And why am I suddenly so adamant? Ask the 60 brave souls that attended the 2-day Volunteer Orientation for Nick Perlas.

I had a notion of the captivating two days I was going to have, having witnessed Nick Perlas in other workshops. Even so, I could sense from the moment I entered the venue that this one was going to be quite intriguing and unfamiliar. First, it was nothing like my comfortable function room with the views of trees outside. Instead, I was greeted by a door with red lacy curtains, peeling paint, and not even air-conditioning. There was even a hanging ornament of red Christmas balls and mistletoe. My spoiled voice in the head muttered “BIG UH-OH, now what have I again gotten myself into, two days of sweat instead of the beach.”

That was coming from me, already a committed volunteer, armed with a year’s worth of enlightenment from Nicanor Perlas. So imagine the 50 or so people, coming to see if this was the Man, the Vision, the Message, and the Work for them. Will they even cross the threshold? Despite the red trimmings with a promise of two days pungent sweat, they stepped into the unknown. And they stayed. Grappling sweat and hunger (oh, there was food, but people would rather engage in animated conversations) with high-spirited, exuberant, almost fervid dialogues. These were people from diverse backgrounds: the serene spirituals; fiery blogsters; apathetic guests that tagged along, dragged by friends to attend, or worse instructed by family or bosses; zealous writers and activists; creative artists and a fashion designer; curious students and astute educators; low key techies and intellectuals; dignified royalty; flamboyant masters of motivation; and me. People so diverse you would have thought the booming and high-pitched voices were about discordant issues, disputes and dissents. And yet, I have never seen a more convergent group, speaking the same language in different voices, and holding the same faith, the faith that this country will be reborn and that we finally held the key.

I am amazed because this was exactly like Nick Perlas. (And this, I also learned in the orientation.) We often underestimate simpleness or something at variance to what we are used to. We fear the new. We dismiss or trivialize it, immediately concluding that like in the past, nothing good comes out of flamboyant red lace with no air-conditioning. Like in the past, no one wins without money, machinery and popularity. So we become victims of our past, stuck with old paradigms, old mindsets, and old templates. And we cannot move. Sell ourselves short. Turn away, go home, back to our lives abiding by society’s FOOLproof method on how to live. But, as Nick said: we are not machines, running on statistics, and trailing a dead past that has been defined for us. We are human beings, with free will, and an innate power to create, will the kind of life and country we want, and the might to redefine our future.

Some would be easily repelled by gaudy decorations, expecting the standard clean white walls for orientations. But the bold ventured on, giving Nick Perlas a chance to transform them. We had two days of questions, reflection and reasoning, Manila Paper, and an outflow of ideas, emotions, and even dancing (oops, just one teeny activity.) You will marvel at how such simplicity can create so much fervor. You find a leader who listens, capturing every individual thought, feeling and action, and transforming it into a convergent whole. He calls his process Emergent Dialogue and you are certain he will do the same for the country. Then he explains how society is not only politics. It is politics, the economy, culture, with you immersed in it, and always within ecology and the spiritual. But he does not tell you, he draws it out from you, unfolding intelligence from each Manila Paper your group scribbled on. And you fully understand how he intends to do his work in resurrecting the country. He calls it Societal Threefolding (See Social Threefolding, and you are always intricately connected to it (along with government and business.) You finally understand true democracy, a mere concept, always dangled, never given. And yet, it was done here. A leader who does not impose his vision or his plan, with no DEAD-set rules. Yes he is brilliant, as brilliant as having a supercomputer lodged inside his head. I’m itching to write about his unparalleled Strategic Agenda, but this piece will not do it justice (If you want to read about it, just check I can rattle-on on the breadth of his knowledge on poverty, education, sustainable agriculture, trade, holistic science (oops, sorry I am rattling on.) And yet despite his wisdom, he reveres each one’s genius. Always open to the new, to what can emerge from creative individuals and groups, small ideas and initiatives, little “points of light” all over the Philippines, that if given a window to shine, can create our envisioned country.

Lastly, if there was one thing that enlivened us, it was the overwhelming realization that systems and structures are really in the end, made up of people. Individuals determine the institutions that emerge, that in turn develop into problems or aspirations. Individuals who can chose between lingering in disgust while in apathy and inaction, or taking hold of their destiny, and living out their potential for greatness. We are sparks of the Divine (God, the Source, Infinite Intelligence, Allah, the Universe or whatever name you may call the power greater than you) and we were not born to languish in darkness. So, the fervor came from being roused from sleep and awakening to a certainty that we can realize the vision of 2010. As Nick said: “It is going to be a revolution of hearts of minds.” You cannot stop the conflagration of free, creative, radiant individuals, armored with their highest selves. It starts with a spark ignited by a few fervent individuals, awakening a few more, and setting out a blaze that will illuminate the country.

I’d rather light a flame than curse the darkness. Adlai Stevenson

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