Metamorphoses

Warning: this is long and may be troubling.

met·a·mor·pho·sis [met-uh-mawr-fuh-sis]
1. Biology. a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism, as from the caterpillar to the pupa and from the pupa to the adult butterfly.Compare complete metamorphosis.
2. a complete change of form, structure, or substance, as transformation by magic or witchcraft.
3. any complete change in appearance, character, circumstances, etc.
4. a form resulting from any such change.

I remember reading a short story, as part of my literature class at Ateneo de Manila University, about a man who suddenly found himself transformed into a cockroach. I don’t remember the author, but the title is still in my mind: “The Metamorphosis”. Now imagine how scary it must be to find yourself transformed into something that is one of the lowest forms of animal. Sometimes I feel that kind of scare in me. I’ve had a good life, and everything has been so easy and rewarding for me, but sometimes being back here in the Philippines feels like being transformed into a lower form of animal and dropped in a dark forest.

Why am I opening up my soul here by writing about my deepest feelings? Today I attended a service at my friends’ Evangelical Church here in Cebu. During the singing I felt a metamorphosis, one of a spiritual kind, occurring in me, and I told myself I was going to write about it.

Ever since man learned to speak, we have had the urge to tell stories, just to declare our existence. Ever since man learned how to write with indelible ink on paper, the urge to write has lived in us. Not so long ago, man discovered that writing on a piece of paper is very comforting, not so much because he knows somebody will read it someday, but because he feels alive when he writes. This blog feels much the same to me. It is more therapeutic than exhibitionist. I do not write for the sake of writing, however; I would rather send what I wrote to friends, than just tear it apart and throw it in the wind.

I consider myself lucky and proud that I’ve lived my younger years at a time when there has been a great upheaval in the history of man. In a small way, I have been part of the magnificent personal computer revolution, and then the Internet revolution shortly after that. Like an old soldier who wears his medals proudly, I can say I’ve worked for Intel at the dawn of the personal computer age. I was a soldier in the great campaign to spread the use of the micro-computer chip. I was involved in spreading the use of protocols that allowed the Internet to transport video packets and telephone audio signals across the world. I did my part in announcing the advent of web services shortly after XML was introduced. I have also been a software engineer in the largest software manufacturer that ever existed, Microsoft.

I do not consider myself lucky with regards to my family life, however. Due to my own shortcomings, I’ve had the worst thing that can happen to a family, happen to my family: ten years ago I lost my second son, and then my wife divorced me. Even though I have since remarried and am happy living with my second wife and two kids here in Cebu, it still feels like a curse. Don’t get me wrong: I am not superstitious, and I would rather blame myself for bad things that happen to me.

I wish I believed wholeheartedly in God just so I can explain to myself what happened. Alas, I am a lost soul, and my story has its twists and turns.

Like millions of Filipinos, I was introduced into the Catholic Church at an early age, and I was a devout Christian all through elementary and secondary school. When I finished high school, I even applied to a seminary to be a priest, but was rejected. During college, I lost my faith after readings on Karl Marx and novels by Ayn Rand (nothing could be as diametrically opposed, but Ayn Rand won me over and I still hold the same Capitalist ideas). One day, during Holy Mass in a retreat, I decided to do an experiment: how would I feel if I took the Body of Christ during communion and chewed on it? Since my first communion, I have been taught to hold the Body of Christ on my tongue and let it melt there. As soon as I chewed the Body of Christ, something happened to me psychologically: I became happier and I never felt as free as that moment. I lost all intellectual inhibitions, and my world view changed completely. I remember it was a triumphant and happy metamorphosis.

I continued experimenting even with my kids in my first family. What if I never introduced the concept of a God to my kids, and I myself behaved like an Atheist? They both grew up just like any other kid in the U.S.: with a lot of freedom, but very confused during their teen years. I had very heated arguments with my second son. He had clinical depression, and has had several suicide attempts starting at an early age of ten. Now this part is very difficult for me to write about, and I still find myself crying even just thinking about it: One day, out of my anger, I said something unforgivable to him. I blurted in his face that if he tried killing himself again, he better do it right the next time and do it all the way. My second son was fifteen when he took his own life. My first wife divorced me not long after that.

Now I have resolved that with my second family, it is not a good idea to keep my kids from being introduced to the idea of God. They may still lose their faith when they grow up (just as I lost mine after being devout), but at least their ethics would be correct. I myself have changed my stance: instead of an Atheist, I am now an Agnostic. There is one big difference between Atheists and Agnostics: whereas Atheists are so sure of themselves and arrogantly declare that there is indeed NO God, Agnostics are much more humble and only say that there is an envelope or a limit as to what we know, and the question of God is unknowable. An Atheist looks down on believers, but an Agnostic can admire religions and those who practice them devoutly and peacefully.

I now say prayers in the evening with my two kids, Kristin 6 and Careu 5. Every evening before going to bed, we say the Our Father together, and then I ask them what they are thankful for about the day that just passed. We have been doing this for several months now, and it has become a habit like brushing one’s teeth. However, sometimes I do get in trouble: kids can discern one’s sincerity. I can feel that my explanation of what the Our Father means is lacking; and although they do their part in thinking about the good things that happened to them during the day, the good things that my wife and I would tell them were not really coming from our hearts.

Today, however, was great. I was really thankful for being at the Evangelical Church, and I suppose Kristin could feel that I was sincere. She surprised me by saying that she liked being at the Sunday School too. I was surprised because when we rejoined them earlier just after the Sunday service, she told me she did not like Sunday School at all.

I feel that by trying to be sincere to my kids, I am opening myself also to the Lord. I still feel uncomfortable writing about opening myself to the Lord; but today after the Sunday service, my nagging fears all went away. I feel I can survive here if I stopped worrying about myself and focus on serving others. I think a slow inner metamorphosis is happening, and may be with the help of my friends and more regular participation at the Bardford United Church of Christ, I can regain my faith.

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About ctapang

I am a Software Design Engineer. I have just abandoned the huge army organized to make .Net programming the one dominant programming system. I now program in Typescript which (surprise) is also from Microsoft. Aside from my day job as a programmer, I am also involved in a movement (http://correctphilippines.org) to correct the Philippine constitution. It's an ambitious undertaking in itself, and there's no guarantee that improving our constitution will improve things. However, one thing is certain: if we don't establish a rational constitution, we will continue on our path of self-destruction. What kind of government is best? For me the best government is that which governs the least. We need the government not because it can provide for us but because it keeps us from running into each other. The proper function of government is that of a traffic light: it prevents us from bumping each other, but it does not tell us where to go.
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