Saturday, December 6, 2014

Day 13 on IWTV: Decisions

Louis said that all aesthetic decisions are moral.

I recently speed-wrote through NaNoWriMo a yet-to-be-finished erotica. I felt ashamed as I was writing it. Was I losing my faith? Why was that the story that wanted to come out of me?

I recently got contacted by a local publishing company and they were asking for sample chapters of another novel, more conservative, and I felt myself blocked, unable to write.

Is my art my best expression of my relationship with God? Is that even the right question? Is all morality rooted in a belief in God?

I think this is the theme I most want to explore today. I recently emailed my friends about my spiritual quest.
It has for me become a search for God and a desire for a relationship with God that goes outside the traditional Judeo-Christian framework I was brought up in. Naturally, I am at a disadvantage. What other access do I have? There is the Bible, written by Hebrews. How do I escape that? I go to a traditional New Testament church. Do I dare make a religion out of The Artist's Way? How to form a relationship with the I AM with the purity of just who the I AM is vis-a-vis who I am. 
Do you think art holds the key?
Those was my email. I feel I am beginning to have a spiritual quest, though in truth I am not so much afraid to take the first step as I don't know how. I wanted to find God in the blossoming of a flower, in the roar of a lion, in an arched foot of a dancer, in a haiku.

Last week I saw Zeitgeist, the docu-film, and it only strengthened my faith in the historical Jesus. I felt the movie was a heartbroken American's response to 9 11 and the many other national issues his country faces.

Right now I feel like I am being pulled theologically towards diverse directions, and that God is not necessarily against this. God is allowing it. I'm sure my church might. They would admonish me to stick to the faith, to not be swayed by vain philosophies, echoing the words of Paul. I'm not sure how apt that is. I feel I want to examine what it is I do believe.

I have always gravitated towards three contemporary theologians who are not so popular in my church, mainly because their writings can be misconstrued as dangerous. Philip Yancey, author of Where is God when it hurts?, Mark Galli, author of Jesus, mean and wild, and John Eldredge, author of Beautiful Outlaw. They present, at least to me, a radical view of Jesus, the Bible, and what it means to be a disciple. I also encountered Behemoth Magazine, whose articles are challenging and engaging. It has its roots in Job's doubts and God's response to overwhelm and strike awe.

Today I encountered two authors I want to read, too. Tanya Marie Luhrmann, who explored from an anthropologist's lens the 21st century evangelical faith, and New Age writer Neale Donald Walsch who released a book that said all our beliefs about God are wrong.

The Visayas has not fully recovered from Typhoon Haiyan, and already Typhoon Hagupit is on its way. Where is Jesus who calmed the storm? You can already hear the greediness brewing in the government, hungry again to receive international donations in the aftermath.

But the weather outside is quite balmy. The sun is momentarily shining, and then hiding his heat behind a cloud, like a gracious father allowing his sons to play a few more minutes of video games. I feel with each breath I am at once in the Past, with my mistakes but feeling no regret, just loving acceptance, and at the same time in eager and calm anticipation of the gifts of the Future, and still fully in the Present, in my room, with my books, my pen and paper, my breath.

My aesthetic love, the theater, I haven't been in over a month. I miss it, though I enjoy the "cool off" from this hot love affair with acting. I let pass two awesome auditions, making silly excuses to myself. And the invitation to party tonight with theater friends, though I'm not at the moment feeling very sociable. There is that unfinished erotica that I need to work on, and the sample chapters I need to send to a Christian publishing company. And a full-time job to start in nine days.

I am now scrambling, through meditation and yoga, to consolidate a core, a centre, from which I can view all of these expansions in myself in a detached and yet committed attitude.

God revealed Himself to the Chosen People, the Jews. God revealed Himself in Perfect Expression in Christ Jesus. God indwells those in Christ with His Spirit.

Is there no other way to know God but through Jewish-Christian eyes?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Day 12 on IWTV: Friendship

Louis again talks about his detachment with feeling. I strongly wonder if a good meditation practice will help us to understand how he feels. But through this he explains his sadness about not forming a real friendship with Lestat, and also that he cannot also have a friendship with the human Babette unless he kills her.
Monsieur Louis, I am not even sure that is truly possible between two human beings. Sure, I've had deep personal friendships in life. Two are married now and busy with their respective families and careers, one is gay with a partner. I, too, am married now, and I love my wife, but I still feel lonely. I think as we become adults, at least to my experience, we lose that "deep" sense of friendship or loyalty or connection we had when we were young, in school. I'm not sure about this. My daughter feels like I have a real connection with her, but is she a friend? She is five years old, almost as old as Claudia was.
I am not sure I have a living soul I can truly confide my all to in this world. Of course my church upbringing says Jesus wants to be that friend. Colossians 1:22 says, "Yet now God has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault." There. God is my friend. This doesn't bring much comfort to outcasts like Louis, though.

Louis obviously had a certain love for Babette, whom he saw as a fellow outcast, and it must have stung him so for Babette to think of him as the devil, and yet through all this it was for Babette's sake he thought of. He wanted the best for her life.

I am also curious, because it was not explicitly said, if at this point the boy also sided with Babette. Did he now secretly suspect he was interviewing the devil?

I remember a nasty break up I had years ago. I found out he had a new boyfriend, and when I confronted him gently, asking him, "Don't you remember what I said? If you ever find someone new, just tell me, and I'll let you go. I know how unfair all this is to you." He said he did remember. "Why didn't you just tell me you found someone new?" His response pained me beyond telling. He said he was afraid I would turn into a monster.

I think we are hurt most by people we love. I thought, I shared myself with him. I let him glimpse my soul. How could he think me a monster? So even in love we can be outcasts. Monsieur Louis, I know how you felt. I saw your vision of an unending night of loneliness. I see now what you mean by detachment. Babette meant to destroy you, and you saved her still.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Anne Rice: the Interviews, by Nola Cancel

I just finished reading the wonderful compilation of interviews with Anne Rice by Nola Cancel. Anne Rice shows herself honest, candid, humorous, intense in these correspondences. I especially enjoyed her quoting the Desiderata by Max Ehrmann, which are truly wise words to live by. I used to attend the Temple of Prayer, Peace, and Prosperity at a restaurant near the Ayala Triangle in Makati where that poem is played at the opening of the prayers.

You see the brilliance of Anne Rice's mind. Sometimes it's startling. She is so full of light even as her characters are called the Children of Darkness: vampires, witches, werewolves, ghosts, mummies. But Anne also wrote about the Man of Light and Truth, too: Jesus, and also of seraphims.

Nola Cancel asks the questions that draws the most thoughtful responses from Anne, and I think whether you like or strongly dislike Anne (and there seems to be those who do on the Internet), this compilation is an illuminating avenue to hear it straight from this celebrated and often controversial public figure. Here you can find out what Anne really thinks and feels about spirituality, religion, writing, the Internet, and even fame, among other topics. You find that this bestselling author has both feet firmly planted on the ground, devoid of egotism and artifice.

She is, like most of us who love her stories and characters, a Seeker, trying to understand the true and inner workings of the Universe, and a better way to live as a human being.

I think this book, along with Called Out of Darkness, are two volumes that shed most light into her persona.

Order your copy through

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Day 11 on IWTV: Slavery

So I did watch 12 Years A Slave, which apparently was based on a true to life account of Solomon Northup. I found his life story riveting and disturbing, and I couldn't keep out thoughts of Ferguson, MO out of my head as I watched this searing film. I saw through the film a sugar plantation and cotton fields. Watching the movie I understood what Louis meant when he told Lestat to "use all his power as a white master over them." Back then, the slaves were not treated as human beings, but worse than animals.

Slavery was a fact of life in the South during the late 18th Century in the United States, and I am not sure if they are proud of that. Louis kept slaves and called them exotic. It seemed that the slaves in the Pointe du Lac plantation were indeed of a different sort, not at all subservient and obsequious, but fully African and foreign. (Easter egg! "Daniel" was the name of Louis's trusted slave. Daniel was also the name of the young boy who interviewed him.)

Our nation is not a stranger to slavery. We have been enslaved for over three hundred years by the Spaniards who stole our lands, our gods and imposed Catholicism and feudal rule. The Spaniards sold us to the Americans, who established colonial rule. And then the Japanese came. And after the World Wars, when we were granted Independence as a nation, we were enslaved by greed (by corrupt governments), poverty, superstition, religion, and lack of education.

Today I signed a job offer contract. I will be a full-time employee to a large corporation. I am looking forward to getting paid and buying more books, but not to the time I will have to invest in the new job. Half of the twenty-four hours each day I receive will be devoted to work, five days each week. Eight hours for work, one hour for lunch (at the office), three hours travel time to and from work. I'll be a paid slave in the twenty-first century, although my local church admonishes us that work is good. Naturally, they say work is good. We get paid, and then we pay our tithes to the church. I start on the fifteenth of this month.

I still long to be a published novelist, and to continue acting on the stage. On these dreams I will not give up.

 At this point in the story the slaves were rising up against Louis and Lestat, and Lestat's father was dying. Lestat couldn't bear to end the old man's life because he was, after all, his father. This is our first pure glimpse of Lestat's heart. Yes, he is reckless, yes, he is a true predator. But he's not a heartless monster after all. In mercy Louis killed Lestat's father, but this is Merciful Death, Sweet Death, and there is no horror to it. I do not understand why our minds accept this kind of death for the old and suffering. Do we really subconsciously believe we go to a better place of eternal youth and bliss and health after we die?

Monday, December 1, 2014

A break from Interview with the Vampire

I am taking a little break from Interview with the Vampire for a few days. I want to see the Steve McQueen movie 12 Years a Slave in the meantime to have a picture of African slavery in the late 18th century to early 19th century. This is to deepen my understanding of the plantation that Louis owned and managed, and the many black slaves he had. Anne Rice describes them as exotic and wild, and I hope to see a glimpse of that in the movie. I am not sure if 12 Years would be the best movie for that goal, so if you have better suggestions, feel free to comment.

I also am reading Anne Rice: The Interviews by Nola Cancel, and enjoying it very much. I bought the e-book over Amazon. I think Anne is a literary genius of our time.

I also gave myself permission, finally, to read Prince Lestat, which I am describing as a true horror book for our times. I shall post a proper review soon. Until then, welcome to December!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Day Ten on IWTV: Babette

I wonder if Babette Freniere, and not Gabrielle de Lioncourt, is Anne Rice's first true feminist character. At the death of her brother, and under the altruistic guidance of Louis (a vampire being altruistic and humanist, can you believe?) she was able to pick up the reins of her life and take care of her family.

I also want to point out the effect of the prose on me. So far we have Louis encountering Lestat, and all that Lestat encountered ended up dead. But now we have a human being much like ourselves, with very human concerns like economy and money and the safety of their family members. Now, we have the course of the life of this family of Frenieres, especially Babette's, drastically changed by Lestat and Louis. Their intervention or influence on their lives, vampire affecting human life other than resulting in death, sorts of blurs the lines of reality and strengthens the suspension of disbelief. Think about it. The activities of these vampires (mythic creatures) had an actual imprint on the lives of Babette. This brings the vampires closer to actual reality in this world of fiction, and I wonder how many people can get uncomfortable with that.

Now I want to say that I have a sort of bad history with firsts. And I do not mean first love or first sexual experience. I mean by way of my education. Let me do this in bullet points. My embarassing firsts.

My first grade in elementary school, during the first few weeks, I never could find where the boys' restroom was, which was like on the other side of the building where our classroom was located. So I falsely believed that the only restroom available for first graders were the one for girls, and naturally I wouldn't dream of going into that room! So, on more than one occasion, when I couldn't keep it in anymore, I peed in my shorts. It was embarrassing. Very embarrassing. My parents thought I was incontinent. The truth is I just needed to be shown where to go, which nobody thought to do not until after my embarrassing incidents. By second grade I was awarded first honors in class.

My first year in high school, I was sorta kinda cocky. But that was the first time in my life, too, that I would incur actual red marks on my card. I couldn't understand Algebra. I couldn't understand the subjects taught in Filipino, which were Filipino, Ibong Adarna, Araling Panlipunan. I couldn't get them. Couldn't get the Filipino. I also flunked, heavily, my Homes Economics class. By second year, I was always top of the class, especially in English.

My first year in college was in the University of Santo Tomas. I was having difficulty with the way things were taught there, and I felt there wasn't enough oxygen. The teachers were too strict for my free spirit, and though that was when I first encountered my love for theater, I failed and dropped out of school.

My second attempt at education was at AMA Computer College, but the money ran out. And my Dad has lost patience in supporting me, so that didn't work out.

Third attempt at college education: I was first year in ABE Business College. I was supporting myself by doing lots of theatre work on the side. Then one day, just before I needed to pay tuition, a classmate stole my money. My heart sank, and I began to believe that college and Rico do not mix together.

Fourth attempt at college education: Polytechnic University of the Philippines. And though I was pretty smart, I did have some intellect, PUP would only allow me to enrol in a vocational course called electronics, which I had no heart for. I didn't want to be an electronics repairman. After a year, I found out about the theater program in the University of the Philippines, and with daring and gumption, I auditioned, got accepted into the program, and there I was.

First year in the University of the Philippines, Diliman, which by that time I should have been finished with college education already, I was having so much difficulty keeping up. But I loved my stay in UP. I was supporting myself heavily because my Dad sent me limited money with his thinning patience at my constant failed attempts at education and his unhidden disapproval of my course of choice. I didn't make it past second semester, where, money running out and all odds against me, I stopped going to school altogether. What happened then? My sister became pregnant with her first child, and I felt strongly obligated to take care of her baby so she could finish school.

I tried to be a scholar in the next year at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, under Tanghalang Pilipino's Actors Company program. I failed the audition but was allowed to attend the classes anyway. That was when I totally ran out of money and savings. Dad has had enough of my doing theater, and I needed to find employment as an undergrad if I wanted to pursue my theater career. And working graveyard shift at call centres and having to attend theatre classes and rehearsals took its toll on my health, and I sunk.

So, I had a difficult career life. So yes, while it is easy for me to say now that no one really guided and supported me the way I realize now I wished I had been, it would not be beneficial to myself or to anyone actually to point blame. I do know that this poor scholastic record haunts me and shames me each time I try to apply for work, or even audition. I feel odd-one-out. That even though I have some plays in my resume, and good ones, too, that I would never really be good enough or skilled enough because I lacked the experience of college graduation.

Why all this talk about my past? Because if I had a Louis back then to whisper to me as he did to Babette what to do, to have watched over me somehow, maybe I wouldn't have been so lost or felt so alone. What was it that Louis always advised Babette from the shadows? Defy them with purity and confidence. Above all, perfect confidence. 

I wish I had that wisdom that I could have done that at that point in my life. Hey, maybe it's never too late to learn it?