Last Saturday night, a girl friend and I went in quest of a slow and chilled time, which included an indulgent meal, to fight the humidity that was enveloping the night and to keep the loose strands of my tight ponytail from sticking to the back of my neck. We found ourselves strolling down Clarke Quay on that beautiful evening just as the earth was adjusting from the rain we had a few hours ago. Amid the moist air that hung heavily in our lungs, we parked ourselves at one of the new(ish) bars/restaurants — al fresco — and recruited the tender to nourish us with some refreshing mojitos.
“What's he doing here?” she suddenly asked, interrupting my fantasies of snow falling at the height of summer in a tropical country. I followed the direction of her pointed finger. Just by the bar was our ever-famous door bitch from a nearby hip club — thanks to him, we never had to queue up or pay door prices.
“Oh, I don't know… but it's too early for him to be working,” I retorted, glancing at my watch.
She madly waved her hands whilst yelling out his name. He finally caught sight of the pair of us, gave us the nod that only cool people manage to do with perfection, and decidedly joined us at our table.
“Girls, girls! How are you?” he greeted us in that typical i'll-pretend-we've-been-friends-forever-but-I-honestly-don't-know-anything-about-you fashion of the people in a “happening” industry. Air kisses were swapped for a short while.
Fifteen minutes into the small talk that we all dread about — about how crappy the weather was, how we're all underpaid and overworked, how quick weekends go by and all that banter — we discovered that he has delved into owning some shares in food establishments here and there within the area, inlcuding the one we were at. Although… he did assure us that he will always be our door bitch whenever we swing by his club. He simply is giving the entrepreneur in him a chance to blossom and to try different things. Sure, clever move.
“So, been on holiday much?” I asked in an effort to revive the dying conversation.
“Not yet,” he said. “But I will go on one in June. I'm going to India for a month.”
Errr, excuse me? A month?
“I'm going on a retreat there and open up myself to peace and happiness,” he continued, his eyes starting to sparkle dangerously. “My meditation teacher will be there too. I'm very excited.”
Another ten minutes passed on how he got himself into this whole spiritual shindig. He admitted to gradually evolving into a cleaner and healthier person by giving up meat, alcohol, and a few other wordly temptations — and that he has been meditating everyday and praying for bliss. He has been reading Indian books on spirituality, has opened all his chakras, and has attained several levels of peace (or something) already.
“When I go to India, I will be shaving my head to keep the energy close by,” he said, with the opposite amount of enthusiasm that I would have if I said I were to shave my head. “It's going to be really cool! Nothing will come between me and my destiny.”
Wait, that's not all…
“And then I'm going to give up everything I have. I will cash out all my shares and give my cash to the poor, saving a little for me for my expenses. I will give up everything and lead a life of simplicity, just like how it should really be. I'm so happy right now, you have no idea. I have finally achieved inner peace — and I have realized that there is nothing else that we need in order to be happy but God.”
One word: whoa…
Can I say radical change? This guy's life was revolving around booze and parties — not to mention, his manner of scraping up a living involves those too. And part of his image were his signature sunglasses and his slick hair. And it's all going to go down the pipes?
He went on and one about how wonderful his journey to spirituality has become and how he was currently enjoying his state of nirvana. And also how he finally obtained the sort of wealth that can never be taken away from him. He quoted a few books here and there regarding the philosophies in life that he's been following and how it has helped him become a better person.
“I've become very zen,” he quipped blushing with pride.
As a Catholic for the past twenty five years, the information he was feeding us was anything but brand new. He was boasting of the outstanding values he has learned from Hinduism and how he would recommend everyone to go through it. I couldn't help but think about how the foundation of his philosophies were very much tied to what mine are — and I know absolute shite about Hinduism. He mentioned the need for God minus our craving for worldly objects and material pursuits. Sound familiar? His enthusiasm and zeal were fresher than it can ever be as his education is relatively new. Hopefully, however, that he will keep at it and that he will not regret any of his (drastic) decisions. He has only begun, after all, to discover what it truly means to be happy — something that many people have been trying to achieve, and also something that a lot of other people fail to realize exists.
It only reiterates my living philosophy that there may be several religions in the world, with several names for God to match, but in essence… there is only one God that we all adore, worship and revere. No one can judge others by their methods of worship and the underlying philosophies and principles that support it because the prayers are all essentially towards the same being. There is no wrong or right religions, as long as it doesn't involve anyone or anything getting hurt.
I grew up within a widely Catholic society. Ironically, it is only upon my extraction from that circle that made me appreciate it more. The more I got attacked because of my religious identity, the more I felt compelled to defend it… and the more reason I found to believe in it. I've met numerous people following varied religions. And as I ensconce myself deeper into knowing more about the differences, the more similarities I find. The common theme being the path of goodness leading us to the door of eternal happiness.
Surely, the Catholic church has exposed more than a few unfortunate events in the past that has led many to stray from it. I don't believe in pointing fingers or taking sides, but I'd like to think that no matter how religiously influential some people are, the bottomline is that they're still human. Only God is perfect. We're only created in His image and likeness, and is therefore, still imperfect. However, those who have chosen to pull out of the Catholic family, I sincerely hope that they've sought refuge elsewhere instead of floating in eternal limbo and not belonging to a family that provides the basic pillars of living.
I have massive respect for people's religious beliefs (and non-beliefs) and I have never imposed mine on anyone. I answer questions when asked but because I dislike people who push their philosophies on me, I try to do otherwise. I admire those who have found their path to happiness through religion, however and whatever it may be. I've never really been fancy schmancy about being Catholic. Sure, I go to church every Sunday or say my prayers to the beads of the rosary once in a while, but I was never one to go out on a limb to join the choir or go on month-long retreats.. However, I'd like to think that I can safely call myself devout without feeling like a fraud. Devotion to one's God, after all, is highly subjective and is a very personal matter. And as mentioned, devotion to God can be expressed in differently.
As Frederick the Great once said, “All religions must be tolerated… for every man must get to heaven his own way.”