Category Archives: Spiritual

Starting a new year all over again

By Henrylito D. Tacio

“The merry year is born like the bright berry from the naked thorn,” penned Hartley Coleridge.  Anne De Lencios contributes, “Today a new sun rises for me; everything lives, everything is animated, everything seems to speak to me of my passion, everything invites me to cherish it.”

Yes, it’s the time of the year to welcome a new one.  As Charles Dickens puts it: “A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world!”  Edith Lovejoy Pierce was right when she said, “We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”

Of course, everyone has fond memories of the past year; some of them were good, and others were bad.  But that is a fact: we learned from our mistakes and we savored our successes.  But past is past.  Let’s appreciate the birth of a new year.  Edward Payson Powell urges, “The Old Year has gone.  Let the dead past bury its own dead.  The New Year has taken possession of the clock of time.  All hail the duties and possibilities of the coming twelve months!”

Henry Ward Beecher has also reminded, “Every man should be born again on the first day of January. Start with a fresh page. Take up one hole more in the buckle if necessary, or let down one, according to circumstances; but on the first of January let every man gird himself once more, with his face to the front, and take no interest in the things that were and are past.”

The coming of the New Year means resolutions to some people.  When I was still in high school, every year, when we were back to school, our English and Pilipino teachers usually required something on our New Year’s resolutions.  “He who breaks a resolution is a weakling,” notes F.M. Knowles. “He who makes one is a fool.”

Helen Fielding, in her book, Bridget Jones’s Diary, quipped, “I do think New Year’s resolutions can’t technically be expected to begin on New Year’s Day, don’t you?  Since, because it’s an extension of New Year’s Eve, smokers are already on a smoking roll and cannot be expected to stop abruptly on the stroke of midnight with so much nicotine in the system.  Also dieting on New Year’s Day isn’t a good idea as you can’t eat rationally but really need to be free to consume whatever is necessary, moment by moment, in order to ease your hangover.  I think it would be much more sensible if resolutions began generally on January the second.”

Perhaps one of the best resolutions I have read was the one written by William Ellery Channing.  It goes this way: “I will seek elegance rather than luxury, refinement rather than fashion. I will seek to be worthy more than respectable, wealthy and not rich. I will study hard, think quietly, talk gently, and act frankly. I will listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with an open heart. I will bear all things cheerfully, do all things bravely await occasions and hurry never. In a word I will let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common.”

Here’s another one from Ann Landers: “Let this coming year be better than all the others. Vow to do some of the things you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t find the time. Call up a forgotten friend. Drop an old grudge, and replace it with some pleasant memories. Vow not to make a promise you don’t think you can keep. Walk tall, and smile more. You’ll look ten years younger. Don’t be afraid to say, ‘I love you.’  Say it again. They are the sweetest words in the world.”

Ellen Goodman once said, “We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.  Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives – not looking for flaws, but for potential.”

Goodman’s statement reminds me of this story.  A holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said, “Lord, I would like to know what heaven and hell are like.”

The Lord led the holy man to two doors. He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew which smelled delicious and made the holy man’s mouth water. The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, but because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.  The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. The Lord said, “You have seen hell.”

They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man’s mouth water. The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking.

The Lord said, “This is heaven.”  The holy man was surprised, “I don’t understand.”  The Lord answered, “It is simple, it requires but one skill. You see, they have learned to feed each other, while the greedy think only of themselves.”

An unknown author once wrote a recipe for a happy New Year.  If you want to know his recipe, here it is: “Take twelve fine, full-grown months; see that these are thoroughly free from old memories of bitterness, rancor and hate, cleanse them completely from every clinging spite; pick off all specks of pettiness and littleness; in short, see that these months are freed from all the past—have them fresh and clean as when they first came from the great storehouse of Time. Cut these months into thirty or thirty-one equal parts. Do not attempt to make up the whole batch at one time (so many persons spoil the entire lot this way) but prepare one day at a time.

The unknown author continues: “Into each day put equal parts of faith, patience, courage, work (some people omit this ingredient and so spoil the flavor of the rest), hope, fidelity, liberality, kindness, rest (leaving this out is like leaving the oil out of the salad dressing— don’t do it), prayer, meditation, and one well-selected resolution. Put in about one teaspoonful of good spirits, a dash of fun, a pinch of folly, a sprinkling of play, and a heaping cupful of good humor.”

Happy New Year!!! — ###

When enough is not enough

By Henrylito D. Tacio

On May 18, 1986, American financier Ivan F. Boesky delivered a commencement address at the School of Business Administration of the University of California in Berkeley, and said these words: “Greed is all right, by the way. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.”

This statement was later picked up in Oliver Stone’s award-winning film, Wall Street (1987), spoken by Gordon Gecko. “The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good,” said Michael Douglas, who portrayed the role and received an Oscar trophy for his performance. “Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.”

During the tough economic times for both rich and poor nations, this kind of thinking will definitely destroy the world, according to the traditional papal Christmas Day message “Urbi et Orbi” – Latin for “to the City and to the World.”

Speaking from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica on the day Christians commemorate Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, Pope Benedict XVI said, “Wherever the selfishness of individuals and groups prevails over the common good … may the light of Christmas shine forth and encourage all people to do their part in a spirit of authentic solidarity.” He warned, “If people look only to their own interests, our world will certainly fall apart.”

The rich people become more richer, while the poor individuals become more poorer. “What is mine is mine, what is yours is mine, too.” That seems to be the mantra of most of the people. But that should not be the purpose of life. Jay Leno reminds, “If you think of life as like a big pie, you can try to hold the whole pie and kill yourself trying to keep it, or you can slice it up and give some to the people around you, and you still have plenty left for yourself.”

A teacher and the school principal were standing near the playground where the children were frolicking to their heart’s content.  The teacher asked the latter, “Why is it that everyone wants to be happy, but so few ever are?”

The principal looked at the playground and replied, “Those children seem to be really happy.” The teacher answered back, “Why shouldn’t they be?  All they do is play.  But what keeps the adults from being happy like that?”

“The same thing that can keep children from being happy,” the principal said.  Then, without saying any word, he reached into his pocket, pulled out a handful of coins, and threw them among the playing children.

Suddenly, all laughter stopped.  The children tumbled over one another, fought and argued.  The principal told the teacher, “Well, what do you think ended their happiness?”

“The fighting,” the teacher answered.  “And what started their fighting?” the principal inquired.  “Greed,” the teacher replied.

God created this world for everyone to enjoy. “In this world there’s room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone,” said Charlie Chaplin in the movie, The Great Dictator. “The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goosestepped us into misery and bloodshed.”

Mahatma Gandhi echoes the same concern: “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.” As Seneca pointed out, “To greed, all nature is insufficient.”

Why is this so? “Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction,” American psychologist Erich Fromm explained.

Janwillem van de Wetering commented, “Greed is a fat demon with a small mouth and whatever you feed it is never enough.” This reminds me of the story of Jonathan, the only son of an affluent family. When his father died, he inherited all what his parents had and became the heir of the land.  But he wasn’t contented; he wanted more land. 

Once, a stranger came by, apparently a man of means and power, and offered to give him all the land he could walk around in one day, on condition that he would be back at the spot from which he started by sundown.

Early the next morning, the boy set out, without eating any breakfast or greeting anyone.  His first plan was to cover six square kilometers.  When he finished the first six, he decided to make it nine, then twelve, then fifteen. That meant he would have to walk 60 kilometers before sundown.  By noon, he had covered 30 kilometers.  He did not stop for food or drink.  His legs grew heavier and heavier.

About 200 yards from the finish line, Jonathan saw the sun dropping toward the horizon.  Only a few minutes left.  He gathered all his energies for that one last effort.  He staggered across the line, just in time.  Then, he reached for his heart and fell down in a heap – dead.  All the land he got was a piece six feet by two.

“From top to bottom of the ladder, greed is aroused without knowing where to find ultimate foothold. Nothing can calm it, since its goal is far beyond all it can attain. Reality seems valueless by comparison with the dreams of fevered imaginations; reality is therefore abandoned,” French sociologist Emile Durkheim reminded.

“The point,” to quote the words of American businessman Donald Trump, “is that you can’t be too greedy.”

For comments, write me at henrytacio@gmail.com