Personal

Math 17 and the AfterMath

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Image courtesy of TED.com

Despite the scorching heat of the summer sun that has the capacity to deactivate some of my brain cells, the month of April reminds me of some treasured memories. I wanted to talk about many memorable things that happened many Aprils ago in this post but I think the subject of Math deserves an exclusive entry in my blog and you will about to find out why.

This is the time of the year when, during my undergraduate years in UP, I courageously decided to take THE summer class that will forever change my life. I don’t know what got into me. May be I have been drugged by the monay with cheese I frequently bought in front of the Faculty Center (FC) on my way to class in the morning. The cheese must be the culprit. I am starting to believe now that dairy is the root of all evil. For some reason I decided to take the notorious Math 17 class, algebra and trigonometry combined, squeezed into 4 weeks of learning until your brain shrinks in half. You are lucky if you get out with your brain still intact.

I also enrolled in a volleyball class that same summer I was taking Math 17. I used to love volleyball. I’ve been playing the sport like a pro since childhood. But that particular class changed my worldview about volleyball as well. It can be such a brutal sport if you do it every day without varsity-like training prior. The teacher didn’t show any shred of humanity either pretending that her students were ok because the truth is we were all physically hurting. On the 3rd day of class, almost all of my classmates including myself have bruised arms and the ball became a cursed object every time it touches our extremities. The ball has been baptized with hematoma, tainted with sweat and infused with painful thoughts which I believe are perfect elements of a ritual sacrifice to turn ordinary objects to dark objects. Looking back, I think volleyballs used in summer classes should be cleansed periodically because it might turn into a chucky doll that will wreak havoc in the generation of students to come.

That whole summer season became a battle of the mind and the body. But since PE classes have no bearing in academic standings, I shall only highlight my Math experience here.

Math 17 has earned a reputation for being an obstacle to almost every UP student’s academic life. To speak of its name is like speaking the name of Voldemort in the Harry Potter universe. Perhaps what makes it challenging is because the pacing of lessons is quicker since it has to fit in both algebra and trigonometry in a span of one semester. Even faster pacing if taken as a summer class which was in my case.  For some people Math is the only thing that stands between them and graduation. Unfortunately for me, my course curriculum requires to take Math 17 or split it into Math 11 (algebra) and Math 14 (trigonometry). And should I manage to get past these 2 dragons, another one is waiting just at the end of the academic tunnel, Math 100 (calculus).

Of course, this is not necessarily true for engineers, statistics, and economics majors and the likes who eat numbers like french fries. Be very careful whom you ask for opinion or advice. And in this subject matter, don’t trust any student from any of those courses mentioned because they will tell you otherwise. I have this theory that most of them, if not all, have been abducted at one point and brainwashed to believing that Math is easy. Never ask a friend who is enrolled in any of the courses mentioned either because it might ruin your friendship. More so if your friend happens to be a Math major. Every argument you have against Math will be easily refuted. Every argument you throw into the conversation will sound like a lame excuse not to be vegan and for sure you will lose. But no matter what these people say about Math doesn’t matter. What’s more important is the truth. Your truth. I suggest you look into your heart and soul and you will see the truth for what Math truly is.

Unlike in other schools, and I say this with great conviction, Math in UP is very lethal. The grading system of UP Math (Math 11, 14, 17 and 100 in particular) is crueler than death penalty and genocide combined. It represents every facet of social injustice we experience everywhere in the society at large. It doesn’t believe in redemption. It takes 3 major exams which will determine whether you pass or fail. And unlike an essay question where you can get a point no matter how bad your answer was,  every answer in a Math exam is either correct or not. You never get a point for the effort of solving the equation.

It is very rare to encounter Math instructors who would give incentive grades from quizzes or projects. But they do believe in reincarnation however. A student may opt to drop the subject just before midterms and try their luck again in the next semester in a different class. But just like reincarnation where you take a different personality to learn the same lessons required, the difficulties remain the same. The endless cycle of trying and failing or dropping and trying again can be akin to what the Buddhists call samsara in the very literal sense.

Call it bravery, stupidity or unwaivering self-confidence, but I decided to finish Math 17 until the end despite the red flags I’ve been seeing earlier. After all, I’ve been a consistent dean’s lister (both university and college scholar) and I told myself that will not allow a single subject get in the way for my hopes and aspirations to graduate with a laude attached to my name.

I owe my ability to memorize easily to my meditation practice. I learned meditation in high school and it made my mind sharper as if I possessed some kind of mutant powers. Long before I’ve learned about hypnotherapy and understood brainwaves, I had this habit of studying only in the morning of the day of the exam, right after waking up from bed or 30 minutes before a quiz when my mind is still fresh and my brain produces a lot of alpha brainwaves. I am a very visual person. All I need to do is browse my notes and scanned with my eyes the pages of my notebook. During a quiz or exam, I would visually recall my notes and/or where a particular line was written in the page of my notebook and that’s how I manage to pass exams and quizzes with flying colors. But just like any mutant powers, I guess it has its scope and limitations too. This so-called mutant power of mine proved not very useful in Math as it does not heavily rely on memorization alone.

If it were sacred geometry I would have most likely aced the subject and the whole summer will be just like a walk in the great academic oval. I imagine spending the whole day and night exploring the seed of life, flower of life, tree of life, fruit of life, leaf of life, root of life, the golden ratio, the silver ratio, the bronze ratio and all that kind of stuff. I can explore numerology, the enneagram and what not until my consciousness explodes and become one with the stars. But that was not the case. My reality revolved around square roots, exponents, integers and the cartesian plane.

I used to think that students from other courses who are not required to take Math 17 and Math 100 are the only children of God. They are spared from the horrors and sheltered from the harshness that are brought about by Math. They are spared from enduring the possibility of pain and suffering should they fail or drop the subject. They can graduate easily with a squeaky clean record. I envied them. But shifting courses was not an option.

Back then I never believed in the myths of the great flood nor in the apocalypse that the bible talks about not until the day the grades were released. For a moment, as I saw my class card, I was transported back in time when the earth rained with fire and the dinosaurs became extinct. I experienced catharsis far worse than my first inner dance, GINHAWA retreats, and detox programs combined. It made me ask the most important questions in life such as “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” It tore away my every single hope of graduating with honors and left me feeling bare, naked and vulnerable.

Failing at something can be a painful experience. But failing for the very first time in your life is devastating. I have never had a failing grade until Math 17 happened. I have always been part of the cream of the crops so to speak. But as it has been said there’s always a first time for every thing. And this was my first. The worse part of receiving a failing grade is that it felt like all other forms of intelligence are rendered obsolete and only one’s mathematical prowess matter.

I consider taking Math 17 as my first shamanic initiation. I went through the process of dismemberment, tearing me apart limb by limb, pieces by pieces, until I became nothing. It made me question the very foundation of my identity and ability. I experienced a symbolic death only to emerge anew with restored hope and optimism.

I learned my lesson well. Instead of taking Math 17 again, I took Math 11 and Math 14 separately and I finally passed the subjects. But the journey did not end there yet. Math 17 (or Math 11 and 14) is only a precursor to an even greater challenge that is Math 100 (calculus). I’d like to think of Math 17 as human life spent on earth and Math 100 as the afterlife that awaits us after death.

Call it good karma or what but in my first and only attempt at Math 100, I happen to land on a summer class (yes another summer class) where the instructor teaching the class happens to have a compassionate heart, is easy to the eye and as hot as the summer sun. Oh and did I mention the teacher was hot? Don’t let me repeat it again.

Some people call what happens in life as fate. For a UP student, we call it UP Computerized Registration System (UP CRS). I consider the UP CRS as even more powerful than fate itself. Students enroll in a class without prior knowledge of who the teacher is for that particular class. Rumors say my hot teacher’s students have a greater chance at passing the subject. The teacher was very considerate and generous in giving grades and I considered him as a biological aberration from what most Math instructors that I’ve encountered so far. I must have earned enough merits or good karma from community service and tree planting to deserve this kind of good fortune, I thought. Having said that all, it will be a great mortal sin, something that is unforgivable even in a thousand lifetimes of being vegan, for any student not to pass the subject under his tutelage.

I think it helps a lot when you have a good-looking teacher especially on a very challenging subject such as calculus because it helps makes things look easier for your brain to comprehend. Looking at your teacher alone can cause the two hemispheres of the brain to synchronize all at once just by imagining and pondering what he eats for breakfast, where he lives, what his favorite color is, how he smells like and how many hair follicles he has on the skin underneath his shirt. And before you know it, you’ve just activated all the parts of your brain. Amazing, isn’t it?

Staring at my Math teacher during class, my mind drifted to a place where the moon and sun are together and never set. Every word he uttered became a hypnotic suggestion that went straight to my subconscious mind. I learned faster. The symbols he drew on the board looked like divine revelation. The square roots and the variables came to life like runes that glow as if imbued with magical powers. And then the existential of all existential questions came to me one day: why study math when all we need is love?

The rumors were true. I passed calculus.

Although I spent solving many equations and problem sets in class, there was only one thing I never got to solve.  Why on earth was my teacher wearing a jacket every single day of our summer class? If bathing suit was allowed in the campus, I bet more than half of the class would be wearing a two-piece going to class on summer just to survive the heat and humidity. And yet there he was wearing a jacket. It looks good on him though. I guess it is one of the great mysteries of life that will forever remain a mystery that even the greatest of math equations cannot solve.

And just as I thought I was over with Math, I dated someone from the blue school nearby. Can you imagine my shock when I found out that the person I was dating was a Math major? The universe indeed has a good sense of humor.

Personal

Titles

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Miss Universe 2016 Pia Wurtzbach (Photo by Philippine Primer)

Aware or not, we are all title holders. One needs not join a beauty pageant to have a title. Perhaps you are a son/daughter, a parent to a child, a bother/sister to a sibling, a boyfriend/girlfriend to your partner, a boss to your subjects, someone’s best friend, an icon whom everyone looks up to, a champion of a noble cause, a living saint, a man in robes, a president of the republic, the campus heartthrob, the queer among your peers, the golden boy/girl, the teacher to your students, the perfect husband/wife and the list goes on.

In fact we juggle many titles at the same time. If you are a fan of Game of Thrones just like me, you may very well describe yourself pretty much like this:

Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons

Being a title holder is an inescapable part of human existence. There are titles which are earned through hard work,  titles that are a product of circumstance and there are those people who are born into it.

Titles can either be a privilege or a curse or even both. It can be a crown of gems or a crown of thorns. Nevertheless, it is a crown. For those who earned it by choice, it could be something worth celebrating. But others who possessed it by default it can be a great burden to carry.

Titles reflect human functionality. It is necessary. It creates order. Imagine what the world would be like if people don’t  have any titles, labels or roles assigned to them. It will be a total chaos. There will be nothing to aspire to. There will be nothing else to hold us together.

The titles we wear serve as an anchor in this great sea of life. Without these titles, we may get easily lost and slipped away into darkness. It gives us a sense of identity and purpose. It gives us direction. Any direction.

But what happens when these personal anchors suddenly lost its grip on the ground? What if an event changed or challenged your stature or condition in life? What if a relationship suddenly breaks up and you cease to be someone else’s partner? What if your kids whom you’ve dedicated your entire life to grew up and build a life of their own without you? What if you need to change career that has nothing to with your college degree or previous profession? What if someone makes an unpleasant comment about you that defies everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve?  What if…there can be many what ifs that can be asked and one certain answer to these questions. You will be devastated. You will be shaken off.

It is said that with great power comes great responsibility. I say that with great title comes great power and responsibility. But great responsibility comes with great expectations too. And with great expectations comes great pressure.

But how often do you meet those expectations with flying colors, really?

Do you ever wander where those expectations come from? Who sets those expectations in the first place?

Is there a right or wrong way to live out a specific role or title?

Are you defined by the titles you wear and carry or do you believe you are more than that?

And most importantly, should you fail, what becomes of you after?

Discover the answers to these questions and many other treasured insights when you attend the Discovering My Life Purpose Retreat happening on April 13-15, 2017 at Isis Women’s Resource Center in Quezon City. Part I is Coming Home to My True Self as awareness of our true self is a pre-requisite to identifying one’s lifework. To register, please fill up the form provided in the following link: https://goo.gl/k1aLxF

Personal

A Very Cultish Weekend

The past couple of weeks have been an emotional roller-coaster ride for me as I approach another crossroad in life and I just felt the Big U is pointing me to direction of the beach before I make a life-altering decision! Lucky me there’s an auspicious long weekend in November plus a couple of friends are celebrating their birthdays around that time. So I took the initiative of organizing an overnight trip to the sea and before I knew it, it turned into a reality!

I would say that this is one of the most relaxed and fun trip I ever planned so far, perhaps because we have a good supporting cast starring:

Hara – the walking jukebox queen who also has a penchant for astrologizing everything. For Hara, timing is everything literally. She can tell you when is the best time for doing practically anything from washing the dishes to going on a flirtatious date with someone. I bet she can even calculate the precise auspicious timing for breathing, peeing and pooing. During this trip, we discovered her amazing gift of calculating someone’s birth chart by simply looking at the person. Who needs an ephemeris when you are this… awesomely freak-ish? During her void of course time she plays a human radio and has the uncanny ability to psychically identify someone’s theme song for the moment. Oh btw she likes big, export-quality bananas. Whatever that means I leave it up to your imagination.

Claire – A travel blogger who recently became an expert at backpacking. Being the Virgo that she is (ascendant or moon sign?) she became the group’s official documentor taking photos almost every minute with her underwater camera that sadly can’t be dipped into the water. She is probably the female Boy Abunda in a parallel universe owing to her innate talent at asking people, even complete strangers, certain questions – the type of question that if I were to ask will surely land a punch on my delicate, baby face. One of her amazing gifts is her Divine OC-ness which made me feel so relaxed planning this trip keeping in mind my favorite adage: I will do my part and Claire will take care of the rest. She used to be my human credit card in our trip to Indonesia 2 years ago. Now she found her new life purpose.

Camz – The extrovert in the group. She was responsible for the group’s booking and reservations. She climbed almost every mountain I know of in the country and perhaps even mystical mountains that google map most likely didn’t know exist. Where is Shambhalah again? As if mountain climbing is not enough to satisfy her extrovert cravings, she’s also fond of scuba diving. I wouldn’t be surprised if she starts exploring outer space too.

Shanata – the budding yogini goddess who drives the magic car that can amazingly fit in 20 people at once! Thanks to her yoga teacher at a very popular yoga studio somewhere, who in my intuitive opinion has sacral chakra issues with her, she has more than enough reason to join our weekend vacation as a means of temporarily escaping her past-life issues with her yoga teacher which are being triggered every Wednesday. She likes bananas too.

Aside from detoxing my skin in seawater, I have another agenda in mind. Whenever I am about to make an important life decision, it has been a personal tradition to perform a fire ritual to gain more clarity of the situation. Thanks to one of my teachers who was initiated in the ways of the Inca for imparting to me the sacred knowledge of the fire ritual three years ago.

Fire is a symbol of the Divine in many spiritual traditions around the world. Fire is a great transformer – whatever you give to the fire, fire changes its form. A fire ritual involves some offerings given to the fire and through this practice we are put in the right ayni (right relationship) with All That Is. And miracles start to happen in our life when we are in harmonious alignment with the Universe.

For this particular ritual, we prepared some dried organic corn kernels, colorful flower heads, dried tobacco leaves (as substitute to the coca leaves) and some dried pieces of pine wood as offering. After a few negotiations with the resort admins without sounding too ‘cultish’ (good thing we weren’t wearing black clothes with pointed hats), we finally managed to get permission to hold our sacred fire ritual using a griller!

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Photos courtesy of Claire M.

In  the beginning, my left-brain worried about the possibility of rain in the middle of the ritual.  It was a windy night and there were no stars visible in the dark evening sky. I thought we are lightworkers and so we are supposed to shine our inner light and glow in the dark! Another concern I had was that there are other human entities besides us wandering the shoreline in the middle of the night with their own clandestine agendas. But then I remembered 3 is crowd and we are 5. And I’m sure they can’t handle 5 bwitches! *evil laugh*

Tue enough, as we started the ritual, the noisy people in the surroundings became silent all of a sudden. They must be really shocked and traumatized that they walked away from the seashore and headed back to their cottages. My theory is that they might have developed some sort of PTSD. Likewise, nature magically cooperated with us. It  felt like as if all the elements celebrated and danced with us on that very moment. It was truly a magical experience!

The rain only started to pour as soon as we got back in our cottage. This has always been my experience with rituals. For this, I feel like singing amazing graceeee!

The next morning, we went for  a walk to bury the sacred ashes on the sand

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and proceeded with our yoga and FHM photo op courtesy of  Shanata (the FHM pics are of course for our eyes only).

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