Monthly Archives: December 2013

A Tribute to Jose Rizal

Image117 years ago today, Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, was executed by the Spanish Authorities on false charges of rebellion, but ultimately their fear of him sprang from his written works about the mistreatment of the Filipinos by the Spaniards. To rub salt into the wound, the Spanish had ordered Filipino soldiers of the Spanish army to act as firing squad and even had a backup force of Spanish troops on standby to shoot the executioners in case they failed to obey the orders of the commander.

ImageRizal requested to face the firing squad before they executed him, but he was refused. In a last defiant act as the triggers were pulled, Rizal twisted his body in an effort to face them – but the bullets riddled him and he died facing the morning sun. His last words were “consummatum est” which means “it is finished”, the same last words of Jesus Christ.

Jose Rizal was brave, compassionate, well-educated and gentle. He didn’t fight with the sword, but with the pen. He always retained his dignity, never hating his enemies, but instead forgiving them for their wrongs. He was the biggest inspiration for the uprising against the Spanish and he has inspired future generations to love their own country and strive to have a good education; he is right up there with the other great men of history who, through hardship and self-sacrifice, made a significant difference for their people, no different to Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi (the latter of whom spoke of his enormous respect for Rizal) and all the others who strove to attain a better life for the many generations to come. He was an all-round brilliant human being and it makes me proud of my Filipino heritage to know that such a person fought tooth and nail for his country without ever lifting a hand to anyone else, using his brains and heart as opposed to brute force.

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Above: The death of Rizal, December 30th 1896. At the last moment, he turned to the side in an effort to face his executors.

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The Original Hero: Why We Have Got It So Wrong

heromanWe all admire heroes, yet so many of us – for whatever reason – mock the one hero whose incredible qualities inspired all the rest.

There are a lot of people who seem to be utterly confused about this phrase:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

For some bizarre reason, people seem to think that this means you MUST believe in organized religion, that you MUST worship God accordingly, that you MUST religiously follow the Christian faith and that if you don’t, you’ll be condemned to the fires of hell …

Nope … It just means that you believe in being what Jesus was: loving, compassionate, forgiving, strong and not acting on evil thoughts that may be forced into your head. It really doesn’t matter what device you follow as long as you live with these things in your heart and do your best to do right by others and yourself. And, personally, I feel that those who choose to be evil, who live just to hurt others, who do sick twisted things like kill innocent people or rape little babies, they deserve to be thrown into the fires of hell (wherever that may be; I’m not necessarily talking about a pit of lava). I can’t think of any decent person who wouldn’t agree with me. How then can people get angry when we’re told that those who don’t believe in Jesus will be condemned to hell? The only ones facing this are the ones who do things such as those mentioned above because they are doing the opposite of the representation of Jesus, not of the Christian religion itself. That’s my theory anyway.

“True religion is real living; living with all one’s soul, with all one’s goodness and righteousness.” – Einstein. 

Well, that’s exactly what Jesus was all about; self-sacrifice, goodness and righteousness. He wanted to set an example to others; nurturing our good side and fighting our bad side. And every great story in history has been about good vs evil because it doesn’t get much greater than that, sacrificing oneself and protecting the underdog. Are you a fan of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, the Hunger Games and the majority of books out there which have a heroic protagonist? All of them are brave, noble, honourable and think of others before themselves. Every great hero in history, however everyone may view them, (Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Jose Rizal and so many more) also had these qualities. The parents who sacrifice themselves for their child have these qualities, the friend who drops everything to help his companion has these qualities, the soldier who willingly gives his life for his captain has these qualities. By the logic of these jeerers who scorn at Jesus, they surely also sneer at these ordinary individuals who become extraordinary heroes because of their remarkable deeds. Jesus Christ was the first of these great heroes – and he is still being mocked today, just as he was when they crucified him. Imagine the pain and suffering of being tortured, laughed at, whipped, beaten and ultimately murdered simply because you want to share the love in your heart or fight for a cause you believe in! It personally angers me that anyone could scorn or laugh at someone who had such courage, compassion and resilience.

aaaIt’s a shame the name of Jesus itself has been twisted and tainted by religious zealots who use it for their own selfish means or pompous ‘educated’ individuals who view him as old-fashioned, outdated and even laughable – how many times do these people express contempt for someone who claims to love Jesus, even though they don’t understand what the name of ‘Jesus’ actually means? For the meaning stays the same and it’s not one I’d take lightly.

Jesus does not mean being forced into a religion; it doesn’t mean going to church every week; it doesn’t mean following the scriptures; it doesn’t mean condemning homosexuals into the fiery pits of hell; it doesn’t mean following the rules of a priest or a bible. It means love, compassion, understanding, sacrifice, doing what’s right when it would be so easy to do what’s wrong and courage in the face of adversity. Jesus means putting others before yourself, being selfless as possible and doing your best to live with these qualities in your daily life, even though the evil inside you is always fighting to get out; it’s a never-ending war with evil in yourself and evil in others.

So it doesn’t matter whether you consider yourself religious or not – if you believe in all these things, then you believe in Jesus.

I personally believe in a whole host of things: God, reincarnation, negative entities, positive entities, good people, bad people, angels, demons … the list goes on. And I believe in Jesus because his heroic qualities and deeds are worthy of admiration and respect. This belief is the foundation for all sorts of faith and faith is the foundation for strength. And when you work with compassion and love, not selfishness and evil, it’s imperative to be strong in this world for yourself and others because this world is forever doing its best to bring you down.   As a person who’s looked right into the face of demons, both in human form and spiritual form, I can’t ignore what’s being placed so blatantly in front of me. That there is good out there, there is evil out there and there are warriors fighting on each side, always fighting for us to join them, swarming around us all the time, even if we can’t see or hear them. Jesus was a warrior and he exemplified everything great and good about this world and showed us what we ourselves are capable of: strength, determination, compassion and forgiveness. Why hate or mock someone like that, simply because a few bad eggs have managed to taint his image? Maybe people shouldn’t allow themselves to be influenced so easily and instead make their own minds up, perhaps realizing there is nothing about Jesus that is worthy of resentment or hatred, other than that there are those certain people who came after him that do their best to crush the very reason he died for us in the first place.

Belief in Negative Entities: Why Scepticism Holds No Weight In Today’s Society

Some time ago, I was reading a copy of BBC History and came across an article by one Richard Sugg who wrote an article titled, ‘Belief in Vampires’ concerning supernatural entities. Rather than bore everyone with the details of his article, the jist of it was an entirely mocking tone of voice, littered with a number of useless facts and, most disconcertingly, an opinion that was styled as fact, as well as a bewildering assumption that all supernatural creatures should be classed as one and that there was no room for individualism among them. It was an opinion that clearly scoffed at anything pertaining to the supernatural – worse still, Richard Sugg teaches ‘Literature of the Supernatural’ and apparently considers himself as an ‘expert’ on the subject. But what kind of expert immediately closes his mind to the possibility of the supernatural being real? It is not possible for ANYONE to be an expert on the supernatural because there is no evidence to support it or disclaim it – there is only the experience of individuals. This is where Richard Sugg is horribly flawed and it is extremely worrying that someone such as him is allowed to command such influence over a topic that he knows so little about.

Feeling troubled by his article, I wrote one in response and sent it off to the BBC. The BBC History magazine undoubtedly has a lot of influence over its readership and I felt it entirely unfair that only one side of the issue was presented. The article was swiftly sent back by the editor who told me to write in a 500 word letter if I wished to comment on it. Naturally, I laughed this off. So much for history, I thought. There was me thinking that the subject of history itself was all about presenting all sides to a story so that a fair conclusion may be formed by the reader – but according to BBC History, this is not the case at all! As long as their articles coincide with the current ‘trending thought’ of modern society (and of course that their authors are, erm, highly educated professors), then that is what they shall give them. So below is the article I originally wrote and I hope you will finish reading it with an open mind, noting that anything truly is possible and the only flaw in dismissing something as a work of fiction is to dismiss it at all, for in a subject such as the supernatural, nothing can be discounted.

ImageVampires, witches, voodoo and the supernatural – these things have become the basis of stuff and nonsense for today’s modern society. As Richard Sugg demonstrated in his ‘Belief in Vampires’ article, the idea of something existing that does not coincide with our society’s beliefs is quite ridiculous. Attacks from demons or monsters in the night are no more than the works of an overactive imagination during the sleep phase … they are primitive concepts that should have died out a long time ago; people dying upon hearing they’ve been cursed is because they have ‘died of fear’; nightmares and sleep paralysis are medical conditions; and, of course, vampires really can kill you – if you believe in them. I can’t begin to touch on the numerous flaws within these bold statements, which speak as though they are fact when, in reality, they are mere theory. However, what I can do is highlight the fact that those who close their minds to the possibility that absolutely anything is possible will very rarely consider alternative explanations. In this case, it appears that demons, vampires, witches and all manner of ghastly ghouls must not exist. The question is, why are some people so utterly convinced they are figments of the imagination, despite thousands of reports that claim otherwise? And not just from the remote villages of Romania and Africa, but right here in our Western society. Has medical science really become so arrogant as to believe that there is nothing we do not know? Why is it that so many doctors, professors and sceptics will dismiss the possibility that these creatures are real, despite not actually experiencing it for themselves? Why do they automatically judge anyone who has had these experiences as suffering from some kind of ‘mental condition’? In essence, this sounds suspiciously like disdainful conceit dressed up as diagnosis, for the sufferer’s explanation is immediately disregarded and the sceptic will reach any conclusion, as long as it doesn’t correspond with the supernatural. If indeed this is just the imagination playing tricks on us, why is it only evil things that visit the sleeper? Yet another puzzle that boggles the mind.

So many questions and yet so many unconvincing answers. Perhaps it is the victims’ turn to become sceptical of the sceptic. Sleep paralysis is an interesting phenomenon and the truth is that medical science knows just as much about it as anyone else – which is practically nothing. Factors for sleep paralysis can be assessed – stress, alcohol, poor dieting, etc. etc. But these are not facts, they are speculations. It is impossible for medical science to come up with a reasonable explanation for why these things happen because they simply do not know the answers. But no different to the college student who is accustomed to reading every book available and excelling in every exam and assignment, the thought of not being able to provide an answer to a question is abhorrent. Subsequently, any answer must be given, even if there is no evidence to back it up. And this is something which many sceptics suffer from on a grand scale, not realizing that in their desire to be a fountain of all knowledge, they are unwittingly achieving the opposite.

Rather than provide support to the theory that supernatural entities are an illusion, comparing the Twilight books to the incident of a girl in Romania (who believed her deceased uncle was visiting her during the night and feeding from her heart) only reinforces the notion that we as a society have become so influenced by Hollywood’s and the media’s portrayal of the supernatural that any supernatural-related event much clearly be a work of fiction. Whether the Romanian girl’s story holds any truth in it is unknown, but I find it deeply disheartening that all unusual events or stories that do not fit inside our frame of thinking will instantly be labelled as imaginary. To put it bluntly, if you are closed to such things, you will not be affected. If you are open (whether by choice or not), you will experience the unusual. Sceptics by default are closed because they do not believe in anything they cannot see; here is the catch-22, where it becomes impossible for them to effectively judge what they don’t understand, purely because they will not allow themselves to understand it in its entirety. In another article by Richard Sugg, he writes:

Owen Davies explains that “sleep paralysis” is relatively common, occurring in 20-45% of people. More rarely (about 5-20% of people), sleep paralysis can be combined with a nightmare. This is no mere bad dream. It might include hallucinations and a powerful sense of an alien presence in your room. One soldier, who had fought for 13 consecutive months in Korea, stated of his single nightmare attack: “Never, before or since, have I experienced the fear of that night.”

If Robert Pattinson sat on Kristen Stewart’s chest in the middle of the night, we can well imagine the censors would be pretty terrified – at least about losing their PG certification.

This is a clear indication of the contemptuous attitude from sceptics toward those who suffer from sleep paralysis. The attempt at humour in reference to Twilight at the end marks a sneering attitude, one which astonishingly categorizes all supernatural concepts in one box and makes a mockery of the actual dangers sleep paralysis poses to its victim. This is ignorant at best and, at worst, patronizing. Interestingly, Mr Sugg quotes Owen Davies’ theory (the key word being theory, not fact) about sleep paralysis statistics and how, on rare occasions, they can be combined with hallucinations. Yet he fails to provide evidence that they are actually hallucinations. Why? Because there is no actual evidence to provide. Furthermore, in his ‘Belief in Vampires’ article, Mr Sugg recognizes that not all deaths relating to the paranormal can be so easily explained – only to then go on and say that it is probably because they died of fear, before explaining that people who believed they had been cursed became so afraid that they experienced a ‘physiological shutdown’; they died soon afterwards. ‘Probably’ is the most important word here, once again demonstrating that this is all speculation styling itself as something more concrete. Now, why is it that a person dying from a physiological shutdown is so much more believable than death from an actual curse? It is because the concept of cursing goes hand in hand with the supernatural – and, of course, the supernatural is a complete fabrication of the mind, according to the sceptic. One does not hold more evidence than the other and yet, for a variety of reasons, it is easier for people to dismiss the supernatural reasoning.

I often wonder why people will appear so closed-minded in regard to this issue. Sometimes I feel it is because the concept is too frightening for them to acknowledge; other times I put it down to the influence of society. I wonder if it is because their minds cannot stretch far enough to consider something outside of their immediate reality or if the media really has succeeded in just making a mockery of the whole thing. I do question as to whether I would be exactly the same as them if I hadn’t gone through the experiences that I have, but I like to think I would keep an open mind. As someone who was born ‘open’ and therefore highly sensitive to such things, I have experienced ‘sleep paralysis’ from the age of seventeen. Prior to this, I witnessed two apparitions, once as a child and once as a teenager. I have had dreams about events that had not yet happened, but which occurred hours later. I have had nightmares where I felt my wrists being grabbed. I experienced occasions where something I couldn’t see committed lewd acts on me. The memory of feeling cold hands on my various body parts, hearing loud breathing and feeling a great weight on top of me still stands out vividly in my mind, for this was not just a nightmare, but a memory where I was conscious of the events at the time they were happening.

I am not the only one; there are thousands of people out there who have been through similar things. Like them, I avoid discussing my experiences with others because I know the automatic reaction from people is to scoff and assure me it is all in my head. To be immediately labelled as mentally disturbed or a liar either implicates that I am being bamboozled by my own self or that I take pleasure from telling others things that are not true. As someone who has nothing to gain from deceiving others and being a person who trusts my own mental capabilities, this is naturally deeply frustrating. It is said that if you don’t believe in them, then these things cannot harm you – but when something is physically holding onto you or crushing you or whispering in your ear (and furthermore, you are fully conscious that this is happening) it’s a bit difficult to tell yourself it’s not actually real. Sceptics tend not to have this problem; after all, a demon isn’t jumping around in front of them shouting out, “Believe in me! Believe in me!” It’s much easier not to believe in it when you can’t see it.

But here’s the thing: unless I am completely stark-raving mad and my reality is a world of fantasy, I have to say these entities are real. They say the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist; and – not too different from people who only show their cruel streak behind closed doors – bad entities thrive in secrecy and concealment. In today’s modern society, it is all too easy to blame everything on a mental condition. It seems like everyone’s got a mental illness these days; everyone’s got a personality disorder and everyone’s determined to believe that anything ‘out of the ordinary’ is all in the mind. Well, of course these people are mental – being told enough times that they have a mental condition is enough to make them believe it, hence they become convinced it is all in their head. Like sleep paralysis, much speculation surrounds the mental health sector, with hereditary issues, chemical imbalances and trauma being at the forefront; pills and drugs are administered to sedate the individuals so they can live relatively normal lives when they become out of control – but there is no cure and no factual causes. Just speculation which, again, many people tend to forget.

Surely we have come far enough as a civilization to recognize that ignorance is one of the most dangerous of human traits? Combined with arrogance, it is more dangerous still. History has taught us this much. Yet swarms of sceptics, many of whom have spent hours on end researching the paranormal, reading numerous books and professing to be experts on the subject despite never having experienced anything like it themselves, will say with absolutely certainty that these things are not real. They dismiss people who state otherwise or cultures that still believe in such entities, purporting them to be ‘backwards’. However, one cannot help but think that a level of hypocrisy is at work here, for surely narrow-mindedness and ignorance is about as backwards as it gets. Undoubtedly, there are cases that operate in fraud, but to classify each case as imagination’s child’s play is really quite laughable. Despite Hollywood’s and fiction’s portrayal of vampires, demons, ghosts and the like, the real versions of these creatures are an entirely different kettle of fish.

As children, we are all born with an open mind. We believe in fairies, witches, dragons, magical lands: we believe in the unbelievable. Somewhere along the line, we lose this as we get older. Modern advancement has brought with it a great deal of benefits that no one can dispute: cures for diseases, longer life and technology in all its glory. But with it has also come an unjustifiable arrogance – man believes he has the answer to everything and that there is nothing he does not know. Such pride is bemusing; after all, there are many questions in life that we could never know the answers to. Why do we die? What happens after we die? Does God exist? The truth is that we really know very little about anything, other than that anything is possible. And demons, negative entities and malevolent beings – they are entirely possible. Only when society recognizes the possibility that these things are real, that they can be dangerous and they can affect us in our daily lives (whether we see them or not) can we begin to understand them and take measures to protect ourselves. Relying solely on the concept of mental illness being the only explanation for anything outside the box will not get us very far; and it is with this notion that perhaps we can acknowledge we are not quite as advanced as we think we are.