No BS Allowed

by Sankage Steno

I am guilty of googling my name whenever I get bored with Facebook or from reading click-bait and insubstantial stories on any social media account I maintain. In this day and age, who doesn’t anyway? I like to believe that all those who belong to Generation Y or the Millennials have, at one point in their online lives, tried to search their name on Google.

It’s fun, to be honest. It boosts your self-esteem, albeit superficially. It’s like finding your name on a friend’s slumbook entry (Who is your crush? [Insert your name here.] Who is your first love? [Insert your name here.] Who is your best friend? [Insert your name here.] And so on.).

After scanning the first few pages of the search results, I came across an article I wrote for Youngblood, published seven years ago. The title of the piece is ‘Renewed,’ and it’s about a three-day retreat I had with a couple of friends, where I got a different kind of spiritual renewal. Typical, isn’t it? I know.

I was only 20 years old then, an ideal, carpe-diem strutting type of student, who was eagerly waiting for his graduation at the University of the Philippines. My day-to-day vocabulary had not yet been invaded by adult terms such as ‘HMO,’ ‘sick/vacation/emergency leave,’ ‘income tax,’ ‘13th month pay,’ ‘insurance,’ ‘lump sum,’ ‘salary loan,’ ‘appraisal,’ etc. My favorite words that time included ‘cum laude,’ ‘dream job,’ ‘plan,’ ‘service,’ ‘teach,’ ‘nation,’ ‘mature,’ and ‘God.’

Take this excerpt from the fifth paragraph of my first Youngblood article, and I quote myself, “I remembered that God has a plan for everything and I thought this was His way of testing and teaching me.” In the succeeding paragraph I said, “I matured as a person and as a child of God.”

I cringed after reading that part again. Why? Because I don’t believe in god anymore. Rather, I don’t believe in a Christian god (or any version of that omnipotent being from other religions). Heck, I don’t practice capitalizing the letter ‘g’ any longer, as well as the letter ‘h’ for pronouns pertaining to him/her. Although I still fancy believing in a higher being that designed everything in the universe, I submitted myself to the conviction that this creator is just that… a creator and nothing more.

How did I end up like this? One word: life.

I realized I didn’t need a god to be responsible for my actions, to be sensitive to the needs of others or to become a better person. Prior to this understanding, I learned that god was only a nifty tool discovered by man to answer the mysteries and uncertainties in life. Then and now, people use this almighty being as an imagined protector from danger, an illusory provider of their daily needs, a fictional grantor of wisdom or a made-up wall to lean on in times of grief and suffering.

Let me quote from my previous article again, “I learned things I would never have learned in my undergraduate studies or even in graduate school.” It’s the same message but with a different context. The last one showed me the resilience and resourcefulness of the Filipino people; this time I saw differently.

My young adult life crafted for me a kind of curriculum that was never given importance in the halls of academia. Right after school I was thrown into the Real World University, where connection, sycophantic blabber and sex are given premium over merit, punctuality and hard work. My idealism, the foundation of my youth, almost hit rock bottom, flickering like candlelight in the middle of a stormy night. Although I still cling to what little idealism is left in me, just imagine what transformation I will have if a Yolanda-like typhoon hit my life.

While other Filipinos strengthen their faith and rely more on god with every struggle they face, the opposite is true for me. The bigger the challenges that come my way, the lesser I rely on faith and religion. I depend on myself more and more.

When a loved one died a sudden death, I didn’t learn how to pray harder; I studied first aid and CPR. When another loved one died a slow death, I didn’t leave it all to god; I read about cancer and learned about experimental procedures in medicine.

When bosses admonished me for following the contract to the letter, I didn’t let go and let god; I found courage and fought back, even if it meant losing my job. When bills piled up and money started to ruin relationships, I didn’t go to church and donated what little money I had, expecting to receive a thousandfold in return. Instead, I saved more and spent less.

Religious people will find this sacrilegious, stupid even, but it works for me. I know it works for others, too. I like to think there are millions, if not billions, of people out there with no religion who achieve positive solutions to their problems and even find peace in themselves.

This may be simplistic logic, but last time I checked the world news, I saw how religious nations are poorer and have more wars than secular (or at least less religious) ones.

So I ask myself the same question I wrote in my first Youngblood article: Am I maturing or am I simply getting old when I say these things?

I still don’t have a concrete answer for this. Sometimes I see myself acting childish and doing stupid things knowing within me that, yes, it’s stupid and I couldn’t care less what other people think of me. Sometimes I speak with my mother and with elders in the family the way they would talk to me when I was but a kid, giving them a piece of my mind and showing some tough love. Sometimes I would do things to find happiness, and sometimes I would just be happy for no apparent reason. You see? It’s that one word again—life.

Life happened, and it changed me. I’m just not sure if it’s for the better.