What is Essential (2020)

It is now the middle of 2020 and we have gone through a lot. Today I’d like to talk about what is essential and how this year has shown and tested us not just as individuals but as a people. There is a lot to despair about with what has happened this year. Some of us lost loved ones during this pandemic, and some of us are fighting just to stay afloat. This is the reality of our situations and there is nothing that we can do to change what has happened but we can learn from them in order for us to better ourselves and move forward.

So what can we consider essential? When we talk about essentials we often imagine neccessities. So lets work with that. In the beginning of the national quarantine and lockdown, the authorities have put a limit on how much essential goods (canned food, alcohol, coffee) we can buy in groceries in order to prevent hoarding. This is to ensure that the inventory of essentials can be stretched to accommodate the most number of people. It is easy to determine “essential goods” when it comes to our basic physical needs. Food, water, clothes. During this pandemic, almost everyone went through a roller coaster of emotions. Whether you are rich or poor, a businessman or a salaryman, man or woman, adult or child – almost everyone should have gone through quite a bit of ups and downs with their emotions during this pandemic. If you haven’t then I suggest you read up on the news and if that doesn’t affect you then you’d better seek help. People have been deprived of an essential human need which is social interaction. Which is why people have become more active in social media (more than usual anyway) and have found ways to connect to each other while being apart. This gave rise to the popularity of TikTok and ZOOM. Here we can see modern tools addressing a basic human essential. The same way that church has adapted to online masses and services in order to fulfill a person’s spiritual needs, to connect with their church and their groups. So here we can see that the essentials do not change over time, only how we address to fulfill them changes.

Now I dont know if anyone has noticed with my examples, but most essntials that I have mentioned are oriented towards the self. The basic essentials often pertain to ones personal needs. That’s normal, that’s natural, but it’s also very primeval. We as people should rise above basic instincts. If this pandemic has taught us anything is that we should rise above ourselves so that we may come out of this a better society which has learned from it’s mistakes. Right now everyone is so focused on trying to get back what they had before but have we stopped to think if we should go back to the way things was or should we start something new, something better, something more resilient, something more… human. Everyone right now is getting back into the hustle, but have you ever thought that the hustle of modern life might actually be hustling your life from you? Modern tools have presented us with so many distractions that we often forget what is essential. We have been taught that the liberal hand will guide us and that seeking individual goals will eventually lead to the greater good. Again it’s all about the self, my goals, my needs, my wants, mine, me.

There have also been great examples out there of unselfish acts. A great lesson that our medical and essential goods workers have taught us is a lesson about responsibility. In some way, some of our government officials have also taught us a lot about responsibility, or lack thereof. Many great lessons should be taken into heart during this time. Most of it revolving around the truth about what is essential. We applaud selfless acts because we know that it is right. We abhor selfish acts because we know it is wrong. Hello Koko. One thing that everyone knows but finds it hard to live out is putting others first before yourself. We have to take care then, in what we consider as essential because that is what we will pass on to the next generation. What we value as essential now will be the basis of our children for what they will consider as essential. Our lives are testimonials after all, they impart lessons to those who witness them, especially children. So if we live our lives only for ourselves and our immediate circle, then our children who are witness to our lives will most likely do the same. The flipside is that the children rejects what they see and would then seek the opposite path, but that usually involves a bit of trauma on the side of children which again is brought on by selfish actions and can perpetuate it.

So what is essential? What should we pass on to the next generation? What can we consider as “good soil” so that the seeds that we grow can bear good fruit? In my personal experience, I can sum it up all in one word: LOVE. As a husband and a father, my actions are driven not by responsibility, but by love. Love is essential to our humanity. It allows us to be empathetic to those around us, near or far. Love does not exist only between family and friends. That’s just a surface level definition of love. Love transcends familial bonds. Love is outward looking and not self serving. What we see now is mostly a world operating without love. Responsibility done without love is a chore. Love is timeless, it is not a trend, it is not a phase. Love is selfless. Love is essential.

Here is an example. There have been a lot outcry and raised fists to what how things have been handled. Various perspectives on justice and how it was served and how it should be served clash. Some people state that the justice served is an injustice to all. Others have accepted that the violent form that “justice” has taken is acceptable. This argument between all parties can go on forever and spring up continued arguments that can span generations. Remember, people are still debating over the Marcos regime. Why is this “justice” then so divisive? Simple answer is that because it is a brand of justice that stems from a human perspective. It is one sided. It is the “truth” that the implementor has stated. There will always be that side, and there will always be another side which rejects it. Why is this? Because this ind of justice was not tempered with love. Love here just doesn’t refer to that emotion that you feel, this kind of love is beyond that. Anything done selfishly can be considered as being devoid of true love. For true justice to be served, it has to be tempered with love. Anything done in the interest of only the self and without love for others can cause pain, which can then perpetuate itself and eventually lead to hate. I do not want to pass on hate to our children. As a father, I want the hate to die with me and not live on. Majority of us GenX and early millennials grew up with negative reinforcement, and it shows in the values that we hold on to.

Back in college, I was all about equality, fairness, justice. The law is important, it is right, it is fair. But my journey as a person has now led me to see that the concepts I valued back then were… lacking. To be honest I ascribed to “the end justifies the means” in my youth. It was also reflected on how I did things back then. Now looking back, I can see that all my actions back then were devoid of one essential trait – which is love. And that only brought about pain, hard lessons whose only positive fruit are the lessons learned but at great cost to myself and others affected by my actions. What this 2020 experience has shown me is that nothing could be more essential than love at this time. Love that transcends time, race, gender, affiliation, vocation, religion. True love that encompasses all. As a parent, I want pass this on as what is essential. I want to pass on a love that goes beyond familial ties, beyond friends, beyond responsibility, beyond passion; a love for all people and all things. A life driven by love and not by fear and anger. A love that was shown to us if we choose to see it. A parent’s heart which encompasses all. I think that’s how I can put it best. Think of the world as your family and the Earth as your home and love it like a selfless parent. Let our actions be reflective of that love for we reap what we sow. If we put in pain and hate then we all live in pain and hate. If we put in love and care then we have a chance to heal this world and create a better one for our children.

This time has reminded me, as I witnessed events that have transpired through the news and stories exchanged, that there are a great many lessons about having and not having love in what we do as a people. Now that our society and economy is in “soft reset”, shouldn’t we add this most essential component of life into everything that we do instead of just trying to “bounce back”. Shouldn’t all our actions now be driven by love instead of just our self interests. In this time, shouldn’t we focus on passing on what is truly essential to create a better world and not perpetuate what is broken and inadequate? This pandemic has shown us what we should and shouldn’t pass on to the next generation.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs . Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

– 1 Corinthians 13: 1-7

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