By Dr. Jun Ynares, M.D.
“Nayanig ka ba?”
Were you shaken?
Last week, at midnight, Antipoleños felt the earth shake for a few seconds. Right after that, we got a flurry of text messages from friends and relatives who wanted to know if we were okay. Others simply wanted to find out if we actually felt the temblor.
It was an intensity-4 earthquake and no major damage to property was recorded. Still, the fact remains that such natural occurrence had shaken us. That’s what earthquakes do – they do not simply shake the ground; they shake us as well.
Quakes shake us out of our sleep. And also out of our complacency. They shake us into a realization that life is finite and that we are not immortal. They make us examine how we are using this finite life and to ask ourselves whether or not we are ready to account for how it has been used.
There are quakes other than the temblors that shake the ground. These are the “quakes” in our lives. They include the “scandals” that rock our society. They have a similar effect on us, individually and collectively.
Two such recent “quakes” stand out.
First, there was the news of a Roman Catholic priest who was reported by media as having been caught in the act of attempting to have sex with a minor.
Then, there is this ongoing marital spat prominently being played out in media between the head of an important constitutional body and his alleged estranged wife.
Friends, colleagues, and fellow Antipoleños have been asking me that much-avoided “what-do-you-think-about-this–issue” question.
The usual answer I give is, “I do not want to think about it.” These are “earthquake questions.” They make us think about life, its finiteness, and the fact that we are mere mortals.
When the news about the priest who was reported by media to have been allegedly caught in the act spread like wildfire, many were disgusted. They asked how someone who preaches with so much air of authority and disdain for sinners would actually be caught attempting to have sex with a little girl whom he had allegedly lured through social media.
This kind of quake pushes us to ask, “What’s happening to us?” What has the world come into? What have we become? How could we have degenerated into creatures who rape their young?
It forces us to consider the fact that no other species in the animal kingdom engages in the seduction of their young offspring and forces the latter into unwarranted copulation. Only human beings apparently have that capacity – or perversity.
It also makes us wonder how someone could actually stand up one day and preach mightily about morality and chastity, and in the evening of the same day, stalk a young girl not yet out of puberty and lure the latter into selling her young body to satisfy the craving for sexual pleasure.
When news such as this hits us, we want to be shaken. We want to be shaken out of the nightmare. We hope to wake up and find out that it has been all just a bad dream.
Then, we realize that earthquakes do not just shake us. They shape us as well.
Those who experienced the powerful earthquake of 1990 which rocked many parts of Luzon would remember that temblors do have the capacity to shape. Or to reshape.
That quake changed the configuration of the land in several areas. It altered the flow of some rivers and streams. In some instances, the alteration of the landscape resulted into a new and better place – such as what happened to Dagupan City.
Today, we are being shaken by the spate of scandals being reported in media. We hope they would also reshape the way we view life and the way we view others.
We hope that these quakes would help us understand why we are fascinated by such scandals – and whether or not we savor these scandals only to cure the dullness and barrenness of our own lives.
They should make us ask whether or not these scandals are merely serving us a convenient distraction for us – the kind that make us defer our own examination of the gaps and defects in our own relationships.
The fact is “scandals” are a typical feature of human existence. Scandals have rocked societies even during Biblical times. The Old Testament is replete with many accounts of scandals. Even King David was involved in one. Did he not have an affair with the wife of his own general whom he later ordered to be killed?
Did not that story simply reveal that, as the Bible teaches, we are sinners who fall short of the glory of God?
Life’s quakes can reshape us. They can alter our judgmental character and transform us into creatures who understand and can live out compassion.
The people embroiled in today’s serious scandals do not live easy lives. We can only commiserate with them.
We can turn the scandal into a learning tool – but only if we can shift the focus away from the obsession for the juicy details of the sordid affairs into an examination of our own lives and relationships.
Then, we can let the quakes alter the flow and change the landscape of our own lives.
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