Thursday, February 2, 2012

That Ugly Albatross

I'm fascinated with the power of the human brain, and its limits. Jerry Lucas, former New York Knickerbockers basketball forward, was a memory expert. He memorized the entire New York telephone directory, all of the names, addresses and numbers, to prove a point. Our cranial capacity goes largely unused. It is like the whole of Gingoog Bay in northern Mindanao. Huge body of water, few fish.

Well, the reason there are few fish in that Bay is called over-fishing, or how fishermen cut off their noses to spite their faces.

Our brains are largely barren because we don't fill them. We take the easy road, like the fishermen, and have done this  ever since elementary school when we realized that homework is a drag, versus, say, wading in the creek and hunting for crawdads. Or in later years, blowing the crawdads to smithereens with M-80 firecrackers, the teenager's version of dynamite.

One of the imponderables I ponder from time to time is the universe. If the big bang is causing  the universe to expand outward, what exactly is it expanding outward INTO? And what are the limits of that limitless space it is expanding into? What is on the other side? Nothing? What is that nothing made of, and where does it end?

In about 10 seconds, my mind does a big grunt, unable to grasp the notion that there is such a thing as nothing. I think maybe space wraps about itself like one of those one-sided strips of paper where a simple twist of the paper allows you to trace the entire length of both sides without your finger ever leaving the paper. If we wait long enough, the outer edges of our universe will blast back at us through an inverse black hole and Saturn will hit us squarely in the left eyeball and plaster a ring in our face.

  • "e=mc squared," said  Albert Einstein
  • "The biggest mystery in the universe is women,"  said Stephen Hawking.

Well, some things you can figure out and some you can't.

Another imponderable that I have spent several years working on is that it appears to be impossible to convince a Filipino of anything if, in his mind, resides a different idea.

It is the strangest thing. "Gahi ulo," is an expression I learned my first week in the Philippines. It is like an idea, once set, is anchored and immovable. Any effort to apply logic, shout, question, or prove that idea wrong is useless. The idea is there already. It is fact. It can't be dislodged.

Even if it is wrong.

You cannot get a Filipino to understand that introspection is a good thing, not a bad thing. That intellectual flexibility is a strength, not a weakness. That pride can be a bad thing, not a good thing.  That Manny Pacquiao is not a hero, he is a skilled pugilist. That taking advantage of others, or being discourteous to them, hurts that other person, and eventually circles back around to bite yourself in the butt.

I don't know that I have ever witnessed conscience or guilt in action here. You know, regret. It would be a chip in that immovable block, the place where Ego and intellect are welded together in a big lump of iron.

Like the nothingness into which our universe is being blasted, "gahi ulo" is the great black insistence on doing the same things the same dysfunctional way again and again, and rationalizing the bad outcomes away with blames and excuses, to preserve the integrity of the wrong idea.

Of course there are exceptions.

I'm not talking about them.

I'm talking about the great mass of resistance to progress that rests like the biggest, ugliest albatross in the world smack dab around the neck of the Philippines, including the failure to see introspection as knowledge, and the failure to see courtesy as something to be proud of.

Is it changing? Is the internet influencing the media and opinion leaders? Is it reaching the oligarchs who solder their resistance to change with billions of melted peso coins? Is President Aquino's "good intent" spreading across the land like Ole syrup on a Pillsbury raisin hotcake?

How many ants does it take to drag a big fat dead albatross?


  1. Change? It depends on the parameters you are looking at.

    Another bad day with the natives, Joe? Take it easy over there in your island.

    1. I reckon it is time to write a blog that conveys better the whole of the experience, which on balance is positive, or I wouldn't be here. But it is the "rub" of the cultural cross-currents that gets my attention most of the time, much as the nation is fascinated with the intra-cultural rub of the impeachment exercise. Not a bad day here. Quite windy though. The bamboo have gone horizontal.

  2. Manny Pacquiao IS a hero. This is so self-evident that if you continue to deny this you are only making yourself look like a fool. Introspect THAT!

  3. Proud Pinoy:

    You are hopeless nutcase.


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