Today I think of the classic divide between predestination and free will, that divide seen in that vacuous chasm between prayer for resignation and the individualist quest of man for his own sweet destiny.
I think again and again of the consequence of this divide: man has posed forever that challenge to the forces that signify an end already finished and completed; he has resisted that idea that the only thing he can do is to go and look for that route that leads to that end that is already finished.
I ponder these and other myriad thoughts as I drive through H-1, that other freeway that connects the island of O’ahu to all the other points: the downtown Honolulu where cosmopolitanism is the key word, with its skyrises, its sand, its surf, its sea, its sun; the plantation towns that bring you to the North Shore and there connect with the kababayans of old, their skin as dark—or as “perfectly tanned”, using a touristy term—as yours; the other freeways and highways that bring you to a number of lookouts and other scenes that are always ineffable, beyond words, beyond language, the scenes of nature always invoking some kind of a higher power, a spirit of the ages, that spirit that is boundless, forever, eternal; and the university campus down on Manoa that will serve as haven and home to my teacher's soul.
I hit Lanakila to get my medical clearance for submission to the university, a requirement for new hires.
So that is my identity now: a new hire: liminal/liminoid, here-now-but-not- yet-so because the first paycheck has yet to arrive, the paycheck the almost certain indication of your employment in these parts. In this America that you have come to know—you admit you do not know the other Americas yet, well, not yet—it is the amount in the paycheck that matters, in response to that question, as famous as Hollywood and its corruptions and convoluted logic: “How much money do you make?”
I cannot understand this question yet, this obsession for money, this penchant for that which outlasts your mortal life, as if you do not believe in the heavenly mercies of the spirit of life. I think of the birds of the air, the lilies of the field and the fishes of the sea, the biblical injunction in the trope clear to me.
I understand the pressure and stress posed by rent and other bills, of course, but when a country and its people have put money as the standard for seeing life, for valuing it, and for living it, I begin to have my doubts about many things. Do we ever live life in this country—a life lived in fullness, lived fully, kindly?
I remember I have worked hard all my life and I have never put money as a premium for all the work that I have done—not that I know of. (Somebody, please tell me that I am lying!)
I want to be paid for my labor, for certain, remembering that I have children to feed, to send to school, to bring around and make them see culture when they see one. But always, money had never defined our life and our lifestyle.
I think of destiny in this light, the kind of fate that you owe to the spirit that gives you life, the spirit that has nurtured you, has given you hope, has sustained you in your darkest of hours.
I get into the university, the medical clearance in my hand, walking with briskness in the mid-morning sun after finding, for the first time, a space in the visitor’s parking lot. Today, I tell myself, I am pocketing two dollars as my savings for parking fee.
I walk with hope to my duilding that is now getting some kind of a landmark status in my mind.
I listen to what my heart says: I want so much that this teaching appointment will formally start soon. Poverty is not something that no one wishes, and the past year was one of poverty to begin with. There was that grand vision that I was part of and I was willing to give it a go, all of my own, drop everything for and in the name of that vision. It did not work, at least for the last several months.
With bills mounting, and the cost of relocating prohibitive, I need to start earning a decent living and start a decent life anew, in simplicity and in virtue—or so I pray.
I get into my department, look into my pigeonhole, and there are the memo sheets that affirm my teaching appointment: that I have to attend a ceremony for two retiring faculty who had put in more than 70 years of teaching between them and that I need to attend l’affaire with the chancellor, the getting-to-know-you event for new faculty and administrators of the university campus.
It hits me now, these twists and turns of my lot in life: as I get in, some two others from my department are calling it quits, having had the time of their life nourishing and nurturing young minds. This is the famous circle of life, I realize now, a freeing and liberating circle of life the way the Lion King in the movie “Lion King” defines it: when others go, some others come in. And I am one of the "some others" coming in.
I sign up in all these academic activities for new faculty members. I have to find my way in, learn the ropes, and learn as fast as I can and link up with comrades in the battlefield called excellent academic pursuit that has not been so kind to me at the start of my migrant life.
I get down the Spalding, the building that will house my books and book projects in a long while. This building will be the refuge of my soul, the haven of rest for my tired mind even as I try to think of more creative works to be written, like the novels that have yet to be finished.
In the warm rays of the midmorning sun, I gaze at the building with its backdrop of summers showers in full bloom: it is the same building that will afford me the view of the mountain ranges that dot the landscape in the east going west, my teacher’s desk positioned to have a generous serving of the magnificent scene each day.
I will surely love this rendezvous, a daily rite of reunion with the chi, the prana, the anito, the spirit of life.
I get past the door on the first floor, near the fountain and there I saw, for the first time, a Honolulu Weekly. Having been a writer, I am struck by the paper: unassuming, tabloid-type, and in print. But I sense something more than its looks, some intellectual stimulation with less of the academic pretensions and rigor of posturing writers and scholars and journalists—and academics as politicians; orpoliticians as journalists; or journalists as politicians—some even grandstanding to make up for their lack of abilities to deliver the goods they promise.
I skim read, speed reading the news, one on the money to be spent to search for the University of Hawai`i Manoa chancellor, the money more than two hundred thousand dollars just to search for the next chancellor. I count my take home pay against the fee to be paid by the university just to search for the next chancellor of the Manoa campus, the university’s flagship campus. It is going to be my campus as well.
I imagine myself, petty ambition and mendicant thoughts and all, applying for the chancellor’s position so the university will save that amount and instead give it to new faculty members so they can start to work on their dreamed-of books looking for publishers and grant money to subsidize their writing and research.
I skim read the culture section first and learn of the Hawaiian royalty’s practices based on some research, with male monarchs keeping a stable of male lovers, and the practice is normal, a regular fare, day-to-day, a fundamental score point against the Western notion of sexuality and gender and human freedom, with the Judeo-Christian notion imprisoning this sexual practice and its practitioners and branding the practitioners as something else.
And then the horoscope with that Honolulu twist grabs my attention, staying focused on Aries, my zodiac sign. It reads:
I’m pleased to announce the imminent arrival of a new chapter in your own personal soap opera. It could include any of the following plot twists: midnight confessions, madcap sex farces, thumb-sucking saints, an invitation to play leapfrog with a unicorn, work turning into play and vice versa, a showdown between the reptile brain and the mammalian brain, a chance to bob for lollipops in a fountain, a thunderstorm coming just in time to douse a raging fire, samurais wearing pajamas, a supernatural ham sandwich and opportunities to tinker with your “Me Against the World” attitude.
I investigate the details, look for specifics to pin down this unscholarly and funny piece on fortunes and fame and faith: it is Rob Brezsny. It is his “Free Will Astrology”. I look for dates and other citation clues: July 19-July 25, 2006, page 38.
Ha, these randomnesses!
And this hodgepodge we call life.
I think of attitudes that I have yet to learn in order to remain faithful to my life work. Live life simply, dude, I remind myself.
A S Agcaoili
UH Manoa & Waipahu, HI
July 24, 2006