𝌡 Uman means “change.” It is a monthly newsletter I send every first week of the month, documenting what it means to pursue philosophy, contemplation, and writing independently as a way of life. It used to be a separate newsletter. But I’ve integrated it into The Long Walk.
In August, in between wrapping up a web design project with a client and starting a research writing project for a returning client, I managed to do some writing and studying.
Here are my favorite adventures in writing, philosophy, and contemplation in August.
Jack Gilbert’s “Existential” Poetry
After reading Isang Taong Maghapon by Paolo Tiausas, I realized I wanted to get back to my study of existentialism. So, I decided to look for an existentialist poetry book. Someone on Reddit suggested Jack Gilbert’s Refusing Heaven. I was surprised to learn that the first poem in this collection, “A Brief for the Defense,” was actually a poem I read years back, which I really loved for these lines:
We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world. To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
Public Life and Mindfulness
I enjoyed writing two notes: one about public life and another about mindfulness. Here are some excerpts from each:
I often value being in private, solitary, far from people. But without contact, relationships are impossible. No matter what political stand we hold, the truth is that we are stuck to each other. And being stuck in a nation, being stuck in this space and place, means I need to be with others. And there is a better way of being with others, which is really being around them, really understanding them.
We need more mindfulness in everyday life. Analysis is for special occasions or special lines of work. In our peak experiences, which are moments of strong emotions, we don’t analyze. Instead, we yield to the situation and moment. We allow ourselves to be moved.
I managed to publish three newsletter issues:
This August, I decided to apply to a regional writer’s workshop that accepted works in my native Pangasinan language. At first, I thought I should send some Pangasinan poems (anlong), so I finished Billy Collins’ Masterclass, which I thought should help me revise the poems better. But after finishing the course, I came to a realization: I wanted to focus on writing lyric essays. This is a genre of writing that I have been doing for the past two years long before I’ve ever discovered the term, and although I love reading and writing poetry, I wanted to stay closer to something that was true to me and get better at it. Plus, the book about walking in Los Baños, which I am currently working on will be a book of lyric essays. Might as well practice now.
While working on this essay, I read the works of other lyric essayists. A book that was particularly helpful was the anthology A Harp in the Stars edited by R. B. Noble.
Epistolary Essays on Walking
I’ve always been a lone wolf and I’ve resisted collaborations. Although I’ve struggled with this in the past, I now treat this with acceptance and I intentionally do most of my work alone in recognition of my limits and what truly brings joy to me.
That said, I don’t mind the occasional collaboration especially when the project is right and I’m doing it with the right people.
I’m currently doing a collaborative writing project with a co-fellow at the Ateneo National Writer’s Workshop: Jesa Suganob. I’m a fan of Jesa’s work and we connected well during the workshop because our works both involved walking.
Our project involves doing a series of walks from August to the end of September. We’re free to choose on which days to do the walking as long as we use each walk as a prompt for writing an epistolary essay on that walk. The essay is directed towards each other, but we won’t send the essays until the end of the project.
I’m so excited to read Jesa’s essays. First, she lives in Mindanao, a place I’ve only visited less than the fingers in one hand. Second, Jesa brings a female perspective on walking, one which will only enrich my understanding of it. Lastly, Jesa writes in a style that is new to me. Although we’re both exploring lyric essays, she approaches this with ambiguity, which compelled me to recognize that I’ve actually been searching for clarity all my life.
Jesa has been sharing snippets of her part over at her blog (which I’ve been trying hard to avoid looking at!). But her introduction to the project is really beautiful, so I’m sharing it here: Suburban Loneliness: On Walking.
I can’t wait to see where this project will bring us.
Cha Domingo’s Salu-salo
Meanwhile, my friend Patricia Domingo (@promdikusinera) recently launched a newsletter about her adventures as a Filipina chef. She called it Salu-salo, which means gathering, celebration, or feast. Cha is an earnest and uplifting writer and I really enjoyed her first issue (“Pause and Play”) where she talks about adobo, rest, and self-directed learning. She also described the Nasa Labas ang Ili meditative walks I facilitated at UPLB last April.
Here is how she described here experience during the walk:
In April I joined a meditational walk as part of the Ilihan workshop series. The program guided by Vince Imbat gave me an entirely different perspective on the concept of pausing. I’m very fond of walking, it’s a way for me to turn inward and make sense of my mind. Whenever I’m struggling with difficult thoughts, I walk directionless with no agenda until I come to a solution or tire myself enough to head back home. I have done so since I was a teenager. Walking is such an automatic task (which is why I love it) that I rarely give any thought or care into the process. My brain is noisy, I just go. If I get tired, I’ll sit wherever I find myself.
Our trek across UPLB grounds was organized into parts so that we could focus on three key aspects: kapwa (neighbor), pook (place), and sarili (self). The brief was simple, Vince said that prompts would be given along the way and that excited me. In the second part of our walk, we arrived at a field and it was revealed that this time would be used to rest “however that feels like to you.” We sat on the grass, some laid down and took naps, and others took photos. I idled in awkwardness thinking but I’m not tired yet!
This is how I came to the realization that I never anticipate or plan for rest in any aspect of my life. As a chef, I was conditioned to operate on the perfectionist premise of leaving no task unfinished. In the kitchen we do as much prep as we can to be able to clock out earlier. The signifier for me to take a break was that I felt tired, and even while on break I couldn’t allow myself to relax because I was preoccupied with the same task I had just stepped away from.
The way that Vince structured our program helped me unlock a new application for rest; how the mere addition of a purposeful break can add depth to any experience. It seems like a shallow observation but often times we’re too caught up in our routines and rely solely on instinct to tell us when to pause. I now understand that tiredness is an indication that I’ve already surpassed my capacity, which is never a good state to foster anything meaningful.
Lastly, I was also able to update this website, which currently runs on a free open-source markdown publishing technology called Quartz, to the latest version (v4). I experienced a major hiccup along the way, which involved my website being down for more than an hour and me having to rebuild it from scratch.
- Update only when necessary.
- Don’t try to fix what isn’t broken.
- Introduce changes conservatively, slowly, intermittently, and carefully.
Of course, these lessons are highly transferrable to almost everything in life.