Just one of those slew of writing assignments that pays P5 a word, three-minute script in which a second eats up two words; I had the narrative down to two minutes and 50 seconds flat, leanest choice of words—the terse documentary had fledgling lawmaker Grace Poe speaking her mind on one of her legislative advocacies, mental health.
No big deal there. Not unless you’re into the sacred oriental classics like Dhammapada, literally “statements of principle” of the Gautama Buddha that posits, “Everything has mind in the lead, has mind in the forefront, is made by mind. If one speaks or acts with a corrupt mind, misery will follow, as the wheel of the cart follows the foot of the ox.”
No gut-level issue there that stirs the basic human instincts—the four F’s, feed, fight, flight, and yeah, fornicate—to ensure appeal, maybe a bit of passing interest in the teeming masses that has enshrined the idiot box on their altars, gone numb and dumb by the newest opiate of the people, the teleserye.
Mental health isn’t even a government concern, although mental health practitioners, 650 psychiatrists—most of them based in Metro-Manila—need to see to the mental health needs of over 100 million Filipinos spread all over 300,000 square kilometers of the Philippine archipelago. Such pittance in numbers are toughing it out through what seems like a tidal wave of challenges; mental illness causes disability for prolonged periods that affect both the individual and his community. A 2000 National Statistics Office survey found that there were 88 cases of mental illness for every 100,000 people. Too, the survey showed that mental illness “is the third most common form of disability after visual and hearing impairments.”
The country’s vote-richest region, Southern Tagalog, comprising the Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon (Calabarzon) areas emerged with the highest prevalence rate of mental illness with 133 cases for every 100,000 people. Metro Manila was a close second at 130.8 cases per 100,00 population while Central Luzon ranked third at 88.2 per 100,000 people.
What can be more alarming than stumbling into findings of World Health Organization (WHO) that shows one-third of government workers in Metro Manila have mental health problems. Is it not that it’s more fun in the Philippines? But are we having fun (in that) one of three among civil servants has some brain gears gone out of whack, or is going nuttier than fruitcakes?
Mind matters don’t bother mortals, unless you’re the patron saint of brewers and printers, the brilliant St. Augustine of Hippo—he turned from a life of loose living to become a monk and help out the poor—who asserted, “The mind is the image of God, in that it is capable of Him and can be partaker of Him.”
Or unless you’re a Grace Poe who still subscribes to the old-fashioned Greek notion of mens sana in corpore sano—a strong mind in a strong body—for the Filipino people to chart a brighter destiny for the nation. What gives? Maybe it has something to do with her earlier high school and college foray into the martial arts tournaments, specifically taekwondo, literally the “way of the feet and hands,” an unarmed art of combat from Korea. In such contests, you win some; lose some, but the point is, you learn more about yourself.
Fragile-looking Poe is a black belt, “an honor accorded to the modern knight who has sacrificed many hours in disciplining and honing body and mind to achieve the epitome of attainment of psyche and sinew.” She can kick ass—or mangle faces and break legs in utter calm and composure.
That makes quite a difference from the leading figure in the 2016 presidential race who owns up to killing a few hundreds of people and admits to having to take Viagra before he can have sex—now that’s a hardened criminal!
To earn a black belt
For every 100 people who takes up the unarmed combat arts, about two struggle on to earn a first-level black belt; and for every 100 first-level black belts, only one musters the fortitude and attitude to get to the next level. Even getting to the first-level rank can be forbidding.
“If your mind is not projected into your hands, even 10,000 techniques will be useless,” according to Yamaoka Tesshu, the so-called last samurai who cared ‘nothing for life, money, or reputation’ and played an important role in Japan’s Meiji Restoration.
A learner goes through a steeling process of psyche and sinew that takes about four or five years before undergoing an initiation rite of sorts to get to black belt level—the blindfolded initiate has to pass through a gauntlet of around two dozen black belts who’ll be throwing every fist or foot blow during such passage. Why, the initiate needs to have his mind coursing through his limbs to block, evade, and slip through those blows while fighting back. At that level, you can take a blow. You get to that level of skill when you can “feel” your way through. The mind senses, sees. Eyes turn useless when the mind is blind.
Amazing Grace must have bled and bruised through that rite of passage.
Thanks for this soapbox
Readers have been warned that this farmer would be writing pieces favorable to Poe, and unless he is cadged to inflict on you some more writing on what he has set his heart on, he would be calling it a day today—first Friday of the month, new moon on the rise. It’s quite an auspicious beginning to stoke powers inherent in several orisons, some to touch off healing, some for harm. Such is needful for spiritual equipoise – even a farmer like me has no qualms uprooting weeds while nurturing food crops.
Like Poe, even an old man like me can be still at it, after all these years, building up tons of muscle memory, speed, and power—driven on by a simple axiom of arithmetic, any quantity increased at a wee 1 percent daily doubles itself in 70 days. The body remembers, reaches a plateau of its capacity, then, struggles anew to another plateau.
“En arche en ho logos, kai ho logos en pros ton theon, kai theos en ho logos,” begins an account of the Good News, pointing up the divine thrumming in words that can take flesh, dwell in reality.
The rush, gush, and crush of words can carry you as you carry ‘em; the carriage just gets going in such a flow that swirls up, bringing what the word-slinger slung—an assortment as strange and arcane as faith.
By the way, May 9 is World Orgasm Day—I’d rather not get loud, I’d get laid.