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THE BRITTLENESS OF LIFE

My dear daughter,

I could understand how you felt when you were informed that there is once again, someone, the brother of your best friend, still youthful by today’s standard, in your long list of friends, who crossed over.    (Sometime ago, you were there in the burial of your grandmother.  And then after a while, attending the internment of your aunt.  And as if it is not enough, a few days later, you were even the one who lay to rest your favorite pet dog.  And now, as if your grief has as yet to wipe your tears away, you were a recipient of a request to check whether the brother of your best friend died alone in his own pad! You were there on rescue mode but your friend was correct, her brother died almost a day before you reached the place.)   That is what life is all about.  It is about getting born, having an education, being exposed to the vagaries of reality, competing, struggling, haggling and then the final outcome.  It could be a long arduous climb to reach the top, or just to sustain what is there to find but nonetheless the end usually could spell a lot of difference.

It’s a pity that I am not always there to explain philosophy nor interpret for your easy comprehension the meaning of life but it is often shown to us, at times in a morbid way or in less tragic manner, as in witnessing how health deteriorates, how accidents claim a passersby, how pedestrians are hit or mauled, whatever, the termination of the most phenomenal consideration of humanity has always been there with us since the dawn of time—that is, the making and the fulfillment of life.

I tell you what.  I have seen a lot of these matters, some before my eyes, as in executing the condemned men during my death penalty days; sometimes helplessly, waiting for time to claim a loved one whose body has been wracked by ailment, painfully at that;   there are those who just called up to inform me of the passing of a friend, classmate, relative, neighbor, etc.  Deaths are here, deaths are there.  Where is it headed?  When will be its turn for the rest, me included?  Mortality has always been there, even to a busy mind.  It reminds us of the end, and what should be done.  Of course, we are all powerless when the time comes.  No one is prepared anyway.  It just arrives.  It is a fact of reality which at times makes me envy on those who earn their upkeep in the process like insurance companies.

Let us have an example.  An innocent ant on the way to a leftover food, helping itself, barely a dust disturbed while coursing through may be trampled upon, or may be slapped by a disgruntled human being.  It may not matter to us, superior beings, but such is also our fate in the bigger picture of the universe.  We do not also count if at all size matters compared with the entire galaxy system.  Even our planet is just a speck, what more our mortal bodies.  We are mere incidents if not accidents in the entire galactic consideration.  We merely ascribe importance because we have cognition which can be trained and educated.  The same can also be attributed to all living things—be it small or grand.  Where we refer to some kind analytical skill as intelligence or even intellectualism, lower animals, those we like to ogle in zoos have similar if not more keen intelligence than man, they call it, or simply put, we assign it as sensitivity or plain instinct.

The problem with man is his ability to weep and be lonely.  In the ant world, if one of their kinds is crushed, not one would sympathize.  It may cause a little disruption and surprise but after a few seconds, they are off to their next station.  The same can be said among elephants.  But man is different.  He is even given to vengeance if what happened has been deliberately committed against his friend or family, or even against himself, assuming he survives.  Man’s sentiment carries him to a higher plane or conversely, brings him down to a dismal abyss of ignorance.

Life comes and it goes.  That is how our universe is since the first nucleus of life came into being, what it constituted, what it was made of, and that is precisely what reality is all about.  Life exudes consciousness, a certain degree of awareness but that is only a figment, a sudden flash on what is and what existence is all about.  The essence is on perception.

Remember this dear child.  Life is a celebration.  Death is the culmination.  That is how it is was,  how it is and how it will be.  That is one equation which we will always be encountering, as we have encountered and what we will in the near future expect to encounter.

So next time you hear of a loss, just think about history.  Or, probably if you wish to be a little off beat once in a while, think about the ant.

Your loving father,

Papay

ON EATING PROCESSED FOODS

Foods that looked nutritious, delicious and appetizing are actually processed ones.  From a distance it is delectable and up close, mouth watering.  It can be summed up in just one word—yummy.  Food chains around the world almost became a charming haven for connoisseur that in no time, it also became instant multi million commercial fronts.  Newspapers have a specific section on food and there are magazines that devote entire coverage on food alone.  I have no bone of contention about it.  As a matter of fact, I was also on a food trip once in a while and if my budget allows it, more often than not.

The reason why I chose to discuss this seeming trivia of modern day humanity is because of its inherent role in the increasing deterioration of health among its practitioners.  No, not those in charge of processing food but those at the other end, those consuming the enchanting aroma and tasty cuisine.

When one eats processed food, the body loses its principal role—that of processing food.  Extend that procedure for a long time, our body becomes inured and would rather accept its fate as repository of something completed already.  If we extend the argument to something mechanical, it may sound like this:  why the need for technicians where there is nothing for them to work on.  They will just be additional personnel, some kind of an overhead expense and a potential group that may cause trouble.  As they say, an idle mind is the devil’s playground.

Going back to processed food.  When it passes through the body, our innards go into a frenzy of automatic processing too.  It recognizes that a processed stuff needs no further procedure and so our body relaxes.  There will be a lot of route in our system where the process will have to skip a lot rendering other internal organs working overtime at the expense of other organs which are forced to slow down.  This is something unwholesome and may telegraph confusion in our digestive system.  Our stomach—used to bring into several acids and juices will no longer perform as it were.  Our pancreas, usually on a silent mode will now have to take the center stage.  So on and so forth.  The result, the body’s internal organs function in a baffled way, confounded at the way it received nutrients and loads.

There were studies pointing at the way man’s teeth are designed also per evolutionary condition.  Accordingly, it is devised to munch fruits and vegetables only.  Hence, there are some back to basic movement among food connoisseurs lately reviving vegetable craze (as in being vegetarian) and fruit consumption.

The point here is this.  To maintain health, man should never deprive its internal organs its principal mandate of processing food.  Therefore, one should not allow himself to eat processed food if it intends to be healthy all throughout.  To do otherwise means to invite ailments or to grow weak and become sickly.

I remember during my first year as head of the prison reception center, a newly retired Federal prison chaplain visited me.  He said that his kidneys collapsed already and that he was exploring the possibility of seeking donation from prisoners for one kidney to extend his life and make life less miserable.  Persons with collapsed kidneys must regularly, that is on weekly basis, must have to undergo dialysis session.  “Why Reverend, what happened to your kidneys, I mean, how did those beans collapsed?  Have you had an accident?”  I asked.

“My dear Sir, I was a federal chaplain for two decades in the State Penitentiary and I was very busy with my tasks that meal times were even spent in conferences.  I have to literally survive and content myself eating hamburgers during lunch time.  And it was not once, it became a routine.  You know how hamburgers are, it is processed, a lot of salt, chemicals, etc.”  replied the man of the cloth.

“You mean Reverend, you attribute your kidney ailment from those tasty hamburgers?”

“Well, those were the immediate diagnosis coming from my doctor.  Anything processed is bad to one’s health according to my physician.  I thought for a while that a hamburger fill has enough nutrition to gas up my day.” 

“Ok, Reverend, I will go to the security wing and ask if some of my wards will heed your request.”

(A month later, I was informed that a prisoner volunteered to donate one of his kidneys to the retired prison chaplain and the next that I heard was that, the good chaplain repaired in his home province and continued with his ministry.  The prisoner who volunteered one of his kidneys after a period was released.  I just don’t know if they were still communicating but from where I was, both lived a normal life after the medical procedure.)

I was reminded of my dear sister.  She had kidney trouble too.  The ailment virtually made her chair bound and could not flex her legs.  She contracted the ailment from the therapeutic procedure she underwent when she was radiated for cervical cancer.  Accordingly, her kidneys were injured as a result of the radiation procedure.  But of course, I would also attribute the kidney trouble from the food she was fond of.

My sister loves good food.  She has this fixation over a pack of chicharon (fluffy fries from pork skin) and on her way home from office she would drop by her favorite nook to treat herself with a heap of the newly cooked crispy snack.  My suspicion is that the pork skin was the culprit in damaging her kidneys more than the radiation.  For me, if its radiation, how come only the kidneys were affected when there were more sensitive organs and tissues around which are even more vulnerable to cobalt exposure.  It is the processed food she would spoil herself that ruined her comfort, sent her to pain and challenged her health more than anything else.  I am also guilty of this predisposition but the cost of the snack is quite prohibitive that I could only pamper myself if I am liquid for the day.

These are only a glimpse and there were lots of notable cases I could draw from relatives and friends whose internal organs including their nervous system that would be racked by consuming processed rations.

I realize that eating raw vegetables, fruits, green and leafy ones and some high protein nuts are not only beneficial and wholesome but also components to keep one fit, strong and hale.  It really is painful to ignore processed food.  It is tempting and very alluring.  I hated the view that processed foods are that unsafe.  But I am just a mere victim of analysis and in my study; and I wish I am wrong, that a healthy body depends largely from what we bring into our system.

 

 

HANDLING PRISONERS: RULE OF THUMB

  1.  Prison is a total institution like a seminary, soldiers’ barracks, tubercular institution and asylum for lepers.
  2. The difference however is that in prison, admission is not voluntary.
  3. That’s the initial view.  But the accompanying procedure is a bit technical but clear.  Prison should be treated like an ocean going vessel, a big passenger ship in the middle of sea.  Everybody is on board passengers and crews alike.  Nobody is allowed to get off.  The ship must sustain everyone.
  4. The prison (or jail) officer is like a ship captain and as a matter of course, he must guide the liner and maintain discipline while it is voyaging and on a journey.  That is the starting point.  Visitors, as a rule, should be treated with respect and reverence unless they act like pirates.
  5. While on board, which in prisons inmates spend a considerable period of time, prisoners should henceforth be seen no longer as passengers but as students.  Prisons should therefore in this manner function like an academe.  Prisoners should be enrolled in classes and they should regularly be assessed according to the merits of their participation.  (Gone were those days when prisons are instantly understood as hospitals, where prisoners are to be seen as sick persons needing confinement.)  A policy on “no-skill-no-recommendation-for-release should be the guiding principle.
  6. The head of the facility acts like a Dean in the academe.  This is where rehabilitation as a course is applied and its discipline imposed.  Education is the backbone of every interaction.
  7. On the whole, prison administration projects a different, shifting persona according to the phase of correctional requirement.  The correctional officer follows closely how administration fulfills it shifting mandate.  Initially, he is a mariner, then an educator and an institutional facilitator.  Failing to act the role promotes confusion and may complicate the way the prison is managed.  Worst, one commits a blunder in handling prisoners.
  8. Having said these, the prison worker therefore should be distinguished from the rest of his counterparts in the whole bureaucracy.  Principally, he is a different breed.  Unlike his equivalent in a government institution, on a regular basis, he is exposed to deception, to hazards and threats, epidemics and violence, stress and tensions, pain and suffering, sorrow and anguish, torture and agony. 
  9. Unlike in any other persuasion, he must be alert at all times.  Negligence is fatal.  Laxity is lethal to his state of mind.    Carelessness is critical to his survival.   Slackness is incurable if not irreversible for his career.  Exposure in the prison community is an invitation to crime.  He is always at the end of an incident.  He is blamed if he commits a mistake; he is blamed if he omits an important stake.  He must be nowhere in the prison community.  Yet his presence must be felt.
  10. Prison work is a career for the philosophers, a vocation for the saintly, a calling for the just and a profession for scholars.
  11. It should never be seen as a livelihood, a source of revenue, or even as a trade.  There are those who initially succumbed to the perception that prison is business, that it is a job to be done or a work to be completed, only to realize that it has impinged on his awareness on being fair and  has eventually negated his sense of understanding on what is true and proper.
  12. Handling the incarcerated humanity demands precision and correctness.  That is why it is called Corrections.
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