July 29, 2011
PROF. FELIPE M. DE LEON, JR.
What is the human being? In our anti-metaphysical age we regard the question as having little importance. “It is, however, the most crucial of all. How we treat other men and how we treat ourselves depend upon our answer. If we believe that man is basically good, we treat him as if he were, and – as Goethe pointed out long ago – thereby tend to make him likely to be a little better. If we believe that man is evil, and treat him as such, it not only makes him worse, but since we know ourselves to share a common humanity, tends to stifle our own inner being, with a consequent loss of joy and spontaneity”- Dr. Lawrence Le Shan
The human being is a composite being with a finite physical body yet driven by a spirit that has boundless imagination and that demands nothing less than the infinite. Only human beings can conceive of and aspire towards the infinite. Animals have no idea of it whatsoever. This is the reason why material goods, which diminish when shared and which no one can amass in infinite quantity, cannot by themselves alone bring deep and lasting human happiness. Thus, the lust for power, wealth and fame – which are all finite, material desires – in the end bring nothing but perdition to their unknowing victims.
The spiritual, on the other hand, multiplies when shared. Knowledge, friendship, enthusiasm, cooperation, kindness, generosity, devotion to a cause, love and compassion, and creative energy inspire others with the same. The potential for individuals to develop these qualities in themselves is boundless. There is no scarcity of resources for spiritual, non-material goals.
In this light, we can understand why individuals and communities which have devoted their lives to causes and activities that transcend limited selfish, material goals have low rates of violence and anti-social behavior, higher than average life spans, and the highest levels of happiness. Howard Hughes, the multi-billionaire, died a very unhappy man, while Mahatma Gandhi, who had only his loincloth, pair of eyeglasses and spinning wheel as material possessions, died serenely happy.
Communities which preach love and where the members are united by a genuine feeling of brotherhood yield the lowest quota of delinquents, mentally sick persons and drug addicts. Creative, unselfish love enhances vitality and increases longevity. Acts of love, kindness, good deeds – whether we do them to others, done to us or just witnessed by us, increase our resistance to disease. Lives of holy personages are much longer than the average. Human immune systems function well only when selfless emotions such as acceptance and love are shared.
Paradoxically, the attainment of spiritual ideals is often the very basis of highly successful material undertakings, which require awareness, knowledge, cooperation, enthusiasm, creative energy, and the like for their realization. Striving for limited materials goods or competition for scare resources not founded on a spiritual base such as the above is stressful, frustrating, conducive to illness and disease, and even threatens the stability of life on earth. Greed, intolerance, and lack of concern for others gnaw at the very fibre of human and terrestial life, which can only survive on the basis of international cooperation, sharing and genuine compassion for all living, sentient beings.
Essentially, the basis of genuine human fulfillment and happiness, and hence the authentic foundations of health are those activities, experiences and conditions which enable the human being to transcend limited definitions of being, self or identity, whether in a temporary or more lasting way. We can characterize them according to several categories: social, creative-aesthetic, mythical, and mystical
A SENSE OF COMMUNITY
In Filipino traditional and popular cultures, where a person learns to develop an expanded sense of self — a sphere of being which includes not only his individual self but encompasses his immediate family, relatives, friends and associates — there exists a remarkable degree of openness, expressiveness, and a sense of belonging that have been observed to bring very positive psycho-physical results. Among these are lower rates of depression, a higher degree of mental health and sense of well-being, and appreciably longer life spans.
We all have a need to feel that we are part of something and that we are loved and supported by the rest of the group. We must have close friends or family members with whom we discuss our innermost feelings. Having real friends and enjoying life with them can lengthen life by several years. Just being married makes in life expectancy, especially if your spouse is also your best friend.
People with poor social connections are four times more likely to come down with cold symptoms than people with a lot of friends. A massive study confirmed that those with the fewest close friends, relatives and social connections are 2 to 3 times more likely to die earlier than those with high levels of social connectedness. Couples often die one after another. This is true especially if they were very close when they were alive and thus became too emotionally dependent upon one another. A widowed person’s probability of dying actually doubled in the week after losing his/her mate.
Also, a more diverse social network contributes to a better immune system. People with fewer than 3 types of social contacts are 4 times more likely to come down with cold symptoms than those with 6 or more.
The toxic effects of loneliness are confirmed by insurance statistics and numerous scientific studies. Loners are 16 times more cancer prone. Study after study has shown that feeling connected with others is extremely important for physical and mental health. Suicide, alcoholism and mental illness rates are much higher among people living alone.
It is not surprising, then, that in Philippine culture where the degree and extent of social connectedness is very high, the index of happiness is the highest among the youth, followed by Thailand and Malaysia.
A STRONG SENSE OF COMMUNITY FREES PEOPLE TO BE MORE EXPRESSIVE
Closeness to others allows us to be more trusting, open, and thus more freely expressive. As a result arts and crafts are richest, most creative and diverse in communal cultures. Food is tastier, speech more melodic and things of everyday life more colorful.
The common Filipino is a maximalist, filling up every available space with forms and things. It springs from an expressive exuberance deeply rooted in emotional sensitivity and the strong urge to connect.
Musicality in Communal Cultures
In highly communal, traditional, cooperative, non-consumerist cultures, people tend to be more open and expressive, thus more likely to be relaxed, rhythmic, musical, and, hence, satisfying an important precondition for health. Filipino musicality and expressiveness has its source in our deep attitude of openness, trust, and acceptance of life.
THE CREATIVE IMPERATIVE
The bane of modern society is the excessive fragmentation of work into a multiplicity of tiny, meaningless tasks – each of which is performed by a worker who repeats it over and over again in very short time cycles. Although the classic example of this dull and boring kind of work is the factory assembly line, already vividly satirized in the 1930s by film genius Charlie Chaplin in his “Modern Times,” it is no less the case in today’s highly commercialized lifestyle.
The bank teller, cashier, miner, garbage collector, spot-welder, elevator operator, water meter reader, filing clerk, steel worker, and many more people are engaged in work that is tedious and debilitating because it leaves them no room for participation in problem-solving and decision-making. It does not allow the individual worker to contribute creatively to the entire work process unless he is also given a higher responsibility and periodically consulted about the whole operation or work set up in the company. Otherwise, he simply becomes one of the interchangeable cogs in the company’s organizational wheel.
There is nothing more dehumanizing to a human being than to feel he is merely being treated as a machine or a robot. At the very core of job dissatisfaction is under-utilization of the human potential. The worker who is not given enough autonomy, responsibility, challenge and learning opportunities in his job feels alienated from it and finds it s a drag. The consequences for the company are a rapid turnover rate, absenteeism, safety violations, high accident rate, high rates of illness, and low productivity.
To be human is to be creative, to grow and transcend limits. Every person is unique and, thus, sacred. To reduce a human being into a machine, as modern materialistic cultures attempt to do, is to undermine his creative potential and disregard his individual worth and dignity.
The point is to humanize work by giving the worker complete units of work, by giving him responsibility for the entire work process from start to finish, just as the artist or the artisan in traditional cultures and medieval guilds enjoyed. Where this is not possible, at least he must be provided enough information about the entire company set-up and operations so that he can have a say in decision-making and problem-solving. An excellent Japanese practice is to acquaint a worker within the entire work process in the company by not allowing him to overspecialize in one type of work but by training him to do practically any job in the company.
In this way he will feel deep responsibility for the organization and will be able to truly identify with it, since he realizes how his work, no matter how small, contributes to the company’s operations.
The human being is essentially homo faber (man the maker or creator). Thus, we perceive and think in terms of wholes or gestalts. When doing or making something, we like to be responsible for it from beginning to end. If we are listening to a story, we like it to be a complete and coherent whole. We cannot tolerate fragmented work in both the factory and the office. We always welcome the opportunity to initiate, follow through and conclude what we begin.
We can conceive of three types of rewards that can come from our own efforts: Intrinsic, Extrinsic, and Extraneous.
Intrinsic rewards are those generated by the process of work itself. We do the work for its own sake because the very process of doing it already gives us satisfaction.
Extrinsic rewards are those that come not from the process of working but from the product of that work. For instance, we might dislike the task of cleaning our room but we might be very pleased with a clean room. Here the reward is extrinsic to the process.
Extraneous rewards are those that neither come from the process nor the product of this process. Extraneous rewards are the compensations or payments we get for doing the work. An automobile factory worker may find his work in the assembly line meaningless and boring but he might value highly the pay he receives at the end of the month.
Most types of work in modern societies are those that can provide only extraneous rewards. Most people work only for the salary. Is it any wonder, then, that work, instead of becoming a joy becomes a drudgery? Work that is only a means for earning rewards not inherent in the work process itself becomes labor. Work as labor not only heightens social conflict but endangers psycho-physical health.
The human being is happiest when he enjoys the very process of working. Only in doing this can he experience a sense of self-transcendence because of the infinite, creative potential of what he is doing, andthus immensely gratifying to the human spirit.
In this way, the work reflects its maker and the maker, in turn, assumes responsibility for and identifies with his work. In intrinsically rewarding activities, the human being can once more become homo faber or man the creator.
What types of activities can provide intrinsic rewards? These are activities that grant the individual plenty of opportunities for creative-aesthetic involvement, such as play, games and sports, artistic activities like story-telling, poetry, drama, singing, dancing, crafts, magic, film production, designing computer software, scientific invention, and other types of behavior that allow for expression of individual talent and release of tension. The fact that in Filipino traditional and popular cultures such activities are done in a communal setting necessarily enhances their capacity to provide opportunities for self-transcendence.
On the contrary many contemporary, highly industrialized societies are havens for consumerist self-indulgence and narcissism, confining personal identity into the ever-narrowing confines of quasi-solipsistic sense of privacy and isolation. Is it any wonder that hypertension, diseases of stress and suicide tend to be higher in the most consumerist societies, especially if we consider that here, the vast majority of people (not being extremely wealthy) will experience the greatest frustration in not being able to acquire the widest variety of goods available in the market to quiet their infinite temptations and cravings? To make matters worse, advertising companies constantly drum up messages that increase desires and wants, rather than affirm eco-humanistic spiritual values and real human needs.
In studies on creativity, it has been observed that it is not enough to develop a critical, analytic mind alone. What is more important is the capacity to generate meanings, which can only come from an integrated, rather than an overly mental, being; an interdisciplinary orientation and full awareness and, better, immersion in diverse, socio-cultural, political and economic environments.
It has been well established that creative breakthroughs happen when fields, disciplines and cultures intersect because you can combine existing concepts into a large number of extraordinary new ideas. Writer Frans Johansson has even given this phenomenon the name Medici effect because it is very well seen in the remarkable burst of creativity in fifteenth century Italy.
The Unity of Polar Opposites
An intuitive logic vastly superior to the either/or of mechanistic cultures is Filipino polaristic unity. In polaristic logic, it is axiomatic that if a thing is true or valid, then its opposite must also be true or valid. This Filipino mode of thought is also a great promoter of creative encounters.
Attributes of Integral Culture
The generalist, interdisciplinary and highly communal nature of traditional Philippine cultures fulfills this essential requirement of creativity. The integral, holistic character of the Filipino mindset is manifested in all aspects of traditional Filipino village life and, to a great extent, even in urban settings.
Philippine traditional arts most sensitively reflect this creative mindset. Being the most lucid and expressive symbols of a culture’s values, the arts are the most powerful instruments of inquiry into the essential character of a culture. So we may use them as indicators of its paradigms and values.
Integration of the arts with other values and functions
The arts are not valued for their own sakes. The aesthetic is not divorced from utilitarian, religious, moral, spiritual, social, and ecological concerns. This ensures a balanced cultivation and development of human faculties – physical skills as well as inner potentials.
Unity of the arts.
Consistent with the integration of faculties is the integration of artistic sensibilities. No one sensory mode and aesthetic intelligence is to be cultivated at the expense of the others. Although one may be given emphasis – literary, visual, spatial, musical, kinaesthetic, gustatory and olfactory senses have to be harnessed and promoted together for maximum aesthetic well-being.
Art is part of everyday life, not a separate activity exclusively for art
It does not become a specialism(specialization that is narrow or at the expense of everything else, according to Jacques Barzun). It is not for the specialist alone but for everyone. This implies that there will be no special venues or spaces for art because it virtually exists wherever and whenever there is human activity.
Filipinos are highly participatory
WE DEMAND COLLECTIVE, EQUAL PARTICIPATION IN THE CREATIVE PROCESS, DECISION-MAKING AND SELF-DETERMINATION. Participation in the creative process is primary. Decision-making is a collective activity. No one must have a monopoly of the decision-making process
In Filipino society, everybody is a participant/performer. Nobody is a mere spectator. There is no separation of performer and audience or spectator and creator. Filipinos prefer consensus as a mode of reaching decisions or settling conflicts.
The artist is not separate from his audience or society. Communal participation is the norm. Unlike in the West, there is no dichotomy of artist and society because art is not the specialist’s concern alone. Everybody is expected to be an artist and participate in creative, expressive activities, thus resulting in a vast creative resource pool.
Providing Choices: Flexibility of material, technical, and formal requirements
A greater range of materials, forms, techniques, ideas and possibilities for engaging in productive or creative work allows for wider and democratic social participation. No rigid or fixed standards dictate the choice of materials, techniques, and forms for artistic creation and expression, e.g., there is nothing like an arbitrary, fixed system of tuning as in the European equal-tempered system though definite principles underlie the tuning of musical instruments such as lutes, flutes and gongs.
Such flexibility ensures a wider, more democratic participation of people in artistic activity.
Art not limited to the elite: Use of available resources for artistic creation.
Art is not synonymous with big production costs because what matters is artistic excellence or the creative idea as well as making art part of everyday life. Thus, the least expensive mediums, e.g., paper for kites, are regarded highly and not considered inferior to the costlier ones. And even the most practical objects like a coconut grater, container, knife handle, tree stump, mat, or hat can become a medium for the finest art.
Equality of opportunity for participation in the artistic, creative process.
There are relatively no superstars, for the source of power is not the individual, who is only a channel of divine inspiration or creativity. Thus, the author or creator is often anonymous.
Emphasis on the creative process rather than the finished product
This endows extemporaneous, improvisatory or spontaneous expressions of creativity a higher value than deliberate, often solitary, conceptualization and composition of forms. Valuing of process rather than product nurtures creative health and can inhibit mere idolizing of masterpieces and obsession with permanence, making possible new opportunities for creating masterpieces.
Creative Improvisation: Simultaneity of conception and realization
Extemporaneous or on-the-spot creativity comes very naturally to the Filipino who has the finest artistic yet improvisatory traditions such as the duplo, balagtasan, balitaw, tultul, kulintang, kuntaoand okir. Affirmation of the creative imagination through the tradition of instant mirroring or biofeedback, which, together with emphasis on the creative process provide an excellent condition for communal participation, thus greatly increasing the creative resource pool.
THE MYTHIC DIMENSION
If myths are “ideas or images in terms of which people make sense of their world,” then we can say that the power of certain myths over our lives is immense. And perhaps the most potent of these myths is our idea of time. In the West, the myth that has nurtured people’s common sense over many centuries now is the idea of linear time: time has a beginning, middle and end. It is a one-directional process. What happened once will never happen again, but with the hope that as we go in time things will get better and better. Time lost can never be regained.
This idea of finite, linear time contrasts markedly with the view of time held by most other peoples in the world. The Hindus, for instance, think of time as an ever-expanding spiral, without a beginning and an end. Among Filipinos, a powerful myth is time as a creative living presence. As an organizing principle of everyday life, it sheds light on many aspects of Filipino behavior that would otherwise appear arbitrary, whimsical or disorganized. Filipinos do not arrange time in regular sequential units having a definite beginning and ending but in a multiplicity of non-finite, flexibly interlocking and interacting levels. Thus, Filipinos focus on the quality, especially the creative, experiential quality of time, not on its quantity or mere passage.
When Filipinos eat, they do not arrange the dishes in discrete, sequential units but present all of them as an interlocking simultaneity. The visual, gustatory and tactile exuberance that this produces inspires among Filipinos the creative impulse and a ritual of celebration every time they eat. What is true of food is also true of Filipino languages and literature, cinema, music, art, spirituality, politics and social relations. The focus is on the quality of every moment. It is not the passage of time, not the schedule, not the sequence, not the plot, not any distant goal that is important — but savoring the fullness and vibrancy of time’s synchronicity.
TIME AS SYNCHRONICITY: Simultaneity of Past, Present, Future
Filipino notion of time is mythical, nonlinear, celebrative – the convergence of the past and the future into an eternal present, where everything occurs all at once, thus the tendency to do many things at a time. This attitude towards time creates a condition for the intersect of fields, disciplines and experiences that gives the intellect an opportunity to be creative: to combine existing concepts into a large number of extraordinary new ideas.
Westerners are time people
On the other hand, the traditional concept of marking the beginning, middle and end of a finite segment of time is a much ingrained habit of thought that manifests itself even in the way food is served in the West. The structure is chronological: with a beginning (appetizer, soup), a crescendo towards a climax (salad, fish, chicken, and/or meat), and a steady progression towards an anticipated end. When the English serve tea, or American coffee, they know dinner is over.
Filipinos are space people
The structure of Filipino meals is entirely different, for everything is served all at once, and we are free to choose the combination of foods that we would like to eat at any given moment. It is thus a sense of space rather than a sense of time that is created. The concept of time implied by the structure or layout of Filipino is open-ended and non-finite.
Thus, process and goal become one — unlike in cultures of linear time where process is not an end in itself but only a means to reach a goal. A linear consciousness is acutely aware of time as mere passage.
Filipino traditional cultures, with their mythical world view and insistence on ritual, provide their members with superior skills for transcending the experience of time’s passage. But modern lifestyles progressively tighten time’s grip on the individual until it thoroughly ensnares him. He can no longer escape from marking its passage. He is conscious of every moment. He becomes acutely aware of time.
If every person were a timekeeper, a heightened sense of time would be a blessing. But for most of us it can be a curse. For many psycho-physiological studies have established a definite connection between the perception of time and the perception of pain. Many studies have shown that as our perception of time becomes keener, the degree of pain experienced becomes more acute. When our awareness of time’s passage is enhanced as when doing something unpleasant, when fearful about having a tooth drilled or anticipating the uncertain welcome of an exam – pain becomes more unbearable.
Can we lessen pain by losing our sense of time? Dr. Larry Dossey, in his book Space, Time and Medicineanswers in the affirmative. Aside from medication, he suggests other techniques for altering the time sense and thereby control pain: meditation, hypnosis, biofeedback, autogenic therapy, progressive relaxation, imagery, visualization, or any other proven technique for letting the passage of time slip from our awareness. Any device or technique that makes us lose track of time or makes time stand still may be used as an analgesic.
Traditional Asian cultures abound in well-documented and proven psycho-physical techniques for negating time, such as Yoga, meditation, Zen koans, mantras, art, myth, rituals and the like. This perhaps explains such pain-transcending practices as the Tamil “flying devotees” in Singapore whose bodies are suspended in midair by piercing their flesh with innumerable hooks attached to ropes or Hindu fakirs lying on a bed of nails.
For many of us timeless moments come unexpectedly, as when we become absorbed in our task or when we participate in a pleasant activity. In meditation, this timeless state can be entered routinely, by choice.
According to Dr. Dossey, we must realize that when we experience diminished pain through a technique that enables us to transcend time, we are not merely exercising self-deception. “We are not fooling ourselves into thinking that pain is not there. Evidence is solid that mental states can evoke actual changes in brain physiology, changes that alter pain perception.”
Another fruitful area of study is the connection between our perception of time and disease. There is convincing proof that an enhanced time sense, that our perceptions of speeding clocks and vanishing time” cause our own biological rhythms to speed up, resulting in some form of “hurry sickness” – expressed as “heart disease, high blood pressure, or depression of our immune function, leading to an increased susceptibility to infection and cancer.”
Having convinced ourselves – especially in highly competitive, individualistic, materialistic cultures – through the myriad cultural devices that time is running out fast, we generate illnesses in our bodies that assure us of the same thing. “For the ensuing heart disease, ulcers, and high blood pressure reinforce the message of the clock: we are running down, eventually to be swept away in the linear current of the river of time. For us perceptions have become our reality.”
Persons who have “hurry sickness” (labeled type A persons) — those whose lives are oriented around goals, deadlines, and objectives, which they seem to react to in driven fashion – resemble patients who are in chronic pain in that they have an acute sense of time.
Time-related anxiety can kill. The exaggerated response to time of Type A individuals (who as a group die earlier than the more relaxed Type B persons) or the sense of urgency they display is translated into physiologic effects such as high blood cholesterol level, increased heart and respiratory rate, and increased muscle tension throughout the body. These physiological events are so characteristic of time-sick persons, they could be called the time syndrome. “The time-syndrome is a body-mind process with effects on all major systems. It is not simply a conscious experience of unpleasant feelings”.
Does altering the time sense have any effect on the time-syndrome? The answer, interestingly, is yes. Doctors Cooper and Aygon have shown that if subjects are taught to meditate, blood cholesterol levels fall by an average of 20 percent. Moreover, other aspects of the time-syndrome respond as well.
Rhythm and Well-Being
Another mythic archetype that has implications for health is rhythm, one aspect of which, the drone in music, is either a continuous uninterrupted sound or an ostinato, a periodic alternation of stresses and intervals (or different combinations of both). The drone, whether in continuous or ostinato forms, as in the phenomena of continuous rain, river currents, insect buzz, and frog calls are powerful inducers of a sense of timelessness leading to relaxation, trance or hypnotic states. Moving within this rhythmic matrix in any of its myriad expressions – music, dance, laughter, word play, poetry, ritual, weaving and other crafts, rhythmic creative work, play, mantras, visual patterns – brings about an expanded sense of self, evoking spontaneous delight and a pervasive feeling of well-being.
East Asian (especially Korean), Southeast Asian shamans and Australian aborigines are well aware of the powerful effect of the drone on psycho-physical states. A particular type of ostinato played on the drum (an instrument they call their “horse”) can transport them to what Michael Harner in his book The Way of the Shaman labels “shamanic states of consciousness” as distinguished from ordinary states of consciousness. It seems that entering the shamanic state enables us to tap hidden or deeper reserves of energy that can promote a sense of well being and health.
The experience of joy and well being, in turn, tends to bring about rhythmic behavior. A spontaneous feeling of delight and pleasure, stimulated by humor, sudden realization or surge of hope can provoke laughter, which is always rhythmic unless contrived. An unexpected triumph or feeling of fulfillment endows a person with rhythmic grace. The greater the sense of well being, the higher the degree of rhythmic behavior manifested. Indeed, the highest levels of joy and well being tend to be expressed in the highest forms of rhythm human beings create: music and dance. The correlation of rhythm with well being is not difficult to validate. Just consider the enjoyment and health benefits that people throughout the world seem to derive from dancing of all kinds, including the contemporary craze for ballroom dancing even in Singapore.
What is harder to establish is the correlation of rhythmic grace and world view. For it seems that Filipinos and other Asian-Pacific peoples are endowed with a higher degree of rhythmic sensitivity and grace than peoples in many other cultures. Islanders in particular, the Maoris, Polynesians, Melanesians and Micronesians and other Austronesians, exhibit a fluid grace and sinuous rhythm that are said to be rooted in a supremely relaxed, accepting, open and harmonious attitude towards the world. Yet we might safely assert that in highly communal cultures, people tend to be more open and expressive, thus more likely to be relaxed, rhythmic, musical,and, hence, satisfying an important precondition for health.
In any case, the therapeutic benefits of music and the arts are too well known for us to doubt the efficacy of their rhythmic aspects for health promotion.
CELEBRATING THE NOBLE AND THE SACRED: The Ultimate Source of Creative and Healing Energy
But perhaps the most profound ground of wellness among the Filipinos is devotion to a source of power, energy, creative intelligence, wisdom, love and compassion infinitely greater than oneself. If the authentic foundations of health are those activities, experiences and conditions which enable the human being to transcend limited definitions of being, self or identity, then oneness with an Infinite Self, Force, Cause or Principle is the ultimate source of wellness.
This greater Identity does not have to be an Ultimate Being, God, or the Mother Goddess, it could be a universal force or energy, nature as Gaia or organic whole, noble cause, lofty principle, an all-embracing ideology or humanity itself. Among indigenous and traditional peoples, the higher identity is oneness with the Earth Goddess or the ecology. The Muslims surrender to the will of Allah. The Buddhists abide by the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha. Christians relinquish their ego to Jesus Christ. Party members yield to their Supreme Ideology. And so on, through proper ritual, meditation, prayer, dream time, empathy, service, study, and compassion.
The individual experiences exhilarating feelings of joy and liberation, strength and vitality upon assumption of this greater sense of identity, as if the expanded consciousness that envelops the person opens heretofore untapped channels of power and energy.
The great ethico-religious organizations founded on the idea of creative, selfless love such as Taoism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam – no matter how their adherents may fall short of the ideal – are the longest existing organizations and may live for countless millenia. While social organizations built on hate, conquest and coercion have – as a rule – according to the great Russian sociologist Pitirim Sorokin, a short life span. The lives of saints, yogis and holy figures are much longer than the average life expectancy . Those who believe in God or abide by lofty principles have higher net happiness scores, many studies reveal. Those who believe that God is concerned with every human being score a happiness margin of +70 or higher than those who disagree with the idea, +36. Those who say they hardly pray are much less happy, +48, than those who pray frequently, +70.
Only when we identify with the highest causes or the Infinite can we be truly selfless, for in relation to it we are but a speck, like a drop in the ocean. Paradoxically, the feeling of liberation and oneness with the whole also becomes the source of humility and basis for cooperation with others in the community or society. For this benefit alone, we can say that celebrating the noble and sacred brings about real psycho-social advantages that are inevitably health promoting.
But there are other factors that may explain the close association between devotion to the Infinite and higher levels of health and well-being. For one, it is during celebrations of the sacred that many traditional cultures stage the most elaborate rituals and lavish festivals, thus setting the optimum conditions for communal participation, creative play and interaction, rhythmic expression, experience of the timeless moment, and other intrinsically rewarding activities. All of these extend our sense of self way beyond its ordinary, everyday confines and energize us tremendously. This could be the reason why many city executives make it a point to go home each year to their provinces to participate in traditional or village festivals.
Optimum Conditions for Expansion of Self Toward Creativity
Other factors in Philippine traditional cultures may explain the close association between devotion to the Infinite and higher levels of creativity and well-being. For one, it is during celebrations of the sacred that many traditional communities stage the most elaborate rituals and lavish festivals, thus setting the optimum conditions for communal participation, creative play and interaction, rhythmic expression, experience of the timeless moment, and other intrinsically rewarding activities. All of these extend our sense of self way beyond its ordinary, everyday confines and creatively energize us tremendously.
Impact of Westernization
As the Philippines becomes more westernized, particularly in the urbanized and industrialized cities, the above attributes of integral art are replaced by their exact opposites. Artistic creation becomes highly specialized, separate from everyday life, a glorification of the individual ego, and obsessed with commercial success. The creative act becomes the exclusive province of specialists, and the rest of society becomes mere consumers.
Art is reduced into a medium for technical display, sensory impacts, entertainment and highly secular values. It loses its magical, mythical and spiritual qualities. Its form, as with other forms of cultural expression, becomes standardized. Creative diversity suffers.
Let us all hope that a renewed thrust which underscores Filipino creativity and ingenuity as essential components of national development and heritage, will be able to reverse this trend towards mere consumerism and creatively re-empower the Filipino.