How about one more, for old time’s sake?
The timing of all this was so interesting. I’ll probably spend my entire life thinking about timing — like, for example, how come after years of being a bandwagon fan, why did I sit down to a ballgame in the summer of 2009 and suddenly this fascination with baseball clicked? And those who question my devotion to the game savor pointing out how “lucky” I am that the team of which I suddenly became a fan would end up winning the World Series the next year.
Historical precedent would describe be as a natural interloper. Pop and Ma were young parents, and although I don’t really (or necessarily) know whether or not I was planned, I have always gotten the feeling, this vague knowledge, that I may have at the very least been an interruption. Fast forward from 1982 onward to middle school, when I harbored ambitions to become the next Diane English. For a requirement in communication arts, my middle school offered a Media Studies class. I thought it was the coolest thing: the class, for starters, was taught in the library. Another thing that was cool was that my school had closed circuit television, on which was broadcast a daily morning announcements program — yes, Linc, like our very own The Today Show. Once, the Media Studies teacher even let me play the Today theme over the air to open the show! I had recorded the theme onto an audio cassette and quite frankly, I’m sorry to say, the quality was shitty. To this day I can still remember the looks of disgust on the faces of my classmates in the control room as they sat there listening to the crackly song with facial expressions that read: “The teacher’s pet got away with this shit?” As for my teacher, thankfully she was more bemused than disappointed. I would not have been able to handle her disapproval.
I was not even supposed to be in Media Studies. The application period to get into the class had long-since lapsed by the time I had heard about it. (Man, those years were so innocent. I know that statement is so obvious, but when I think back to the shit we used to worry about, I get more than nostalgic, Linc — I feel almost heartbroken over how that time, because of the laws of physics and God’s master plan for existence, will never come again. I suddenly find myself thinking now about the time I was waiting for the school bus in my neighborhood and how this guy Casey always took the chance to judge each of our shoes. My best friend at the time, Eden, who I am still friends with to this day, received Casey’s seal of approval when he immediately recognized her Nike’s. To mine, his gaze widened with confusion and then hilarity. “What are those?” he had asked, staring at the off-brand shoes that Ma had so lovingly picked out just the other day.)
The time that I was in middle school was the golden age of modern sitcoms. NBC ruled with its Must See TV lineup and I also adored CBS’ Murphy Brown, which was on the verge of cancellation because in the age of Friends and Seinfeld it skewed old. The first turn on my road to Must See TV would be a slot in Media Studies class, or so I planned at the time. I wrote a letter to the Media Studies teacher and explained my love for Murphy Brown and television in general, and why I deserved to be in that class even though it was too late to apply. God, I wish I still had that letter lying around. I used to have disks and disks of all of my old writings, which I eventually gave away to time.
I spent my eighth grade year with Media Studies as part of my schedule. I actually only appeared on camera once. My teacher assigned me a presentation about Latin American history. The inevitably immature reaction that followed from the student body included sharp interrogations about my lazy eye as well as whether or not I was actually Chinese or Mexican, because I looked like either one but could not possibly be both, much less Filipino. Anyway, as irritating as it was, that was not the reason why I no longer wanted to be in front of the camera. The reason was because I already knew that my place was never to be a host, a leader, or a star. I already knew and have always known that I was meant to help. I was better at and more comfortable with contributing. Speaking in front of people, keeping them entertained and informed, was at that time and still is a responsibility in which I have little interest.
Some of my classmates never stopped resenting that I was in Media Studies class when they all had to audition for it and all I did was writer a letter to the teacher. Some of them shunned and teased me out of spite typical for middle schoolers. Anyway, I shouldn’t have been there. I don’t know what other class I would have been taking if my schedule hadn’t been modified to fit Media Studies. I don’t really know if my life would have been all that much different. What I can tell you is that when it came time to pick high schools, because I had been in that Media Studies class, I was motivated to pick a high school that had a similar and much more intense focus. For the next four years after eighth grade, I was a Television Production major at Suitland High School, where I would accumulate many happy memories — like befriending Mary. I wonder if any of that would have happened if I hadn’t written my way into Media Studies.
What are the odds that an important religious day for me would fall on the same day that the Giants win their second World Series title in the second decade of the 21st century? Is there even any sense in asking such a question? There’s an old saying that we make coincidences too easy for ourselves — at least, modern human beings do. Survival instinct for our ancestors meant reading into everything to determine if danger was lurking around the corner. Could that outline in the mud be the pawprint of a predator? Does the sudden greening of those trees mean that an early spring is mercifully on its way? In those days, everything was a sign. When humans evolved from their ocean-dwelling origins and into land creatures, our senses became heightened in order to survive this new terrain. Now that we are no longer dwelling in caves, our senses remain the same even though for survival they don’t need to be so heightened anymore; yet we’re still looking up, still wondering: What’s out there? We piece together clues of modern existence that are probably not as worthy of careful deliberation as when we were trying to figure out how long that suspicious outline in the soil has been there. Today these are our anxieties: He loves me, he loves me not. He said, she said. X happened yesterday, Y happened today, and that must equal the result that I totally expect will happen. Coincidences.
I’m leaving myself vulnerable to the challenge that believing in God must therefore be an evolutionary holdover that as intelligent creatures we can overcome. I’m not ready to be so cynical. I think that now that we are done dwelling in caves, our heightened senses are still searching: not for predators, but for our creator. Evolution means awareness. Over time, over all the millions of years that our species has existed, we have become increasingly aware of God. This layout of time and the design of our bodies to conform to this special schedule are all the work of a creator who wants us to know who He is.
The important religious day for me on Sunday, October 28, 2012 is the day that I became a member of Mission Bay Community Church. This is the church that I have sometimes mentioned in my never-to-be-sents. This is the church that I have been attending since around May 2011. A lot of things had to happen in order for my day of membership to fall on the same day as a 2012 World Series title. A lot of big and little decisions were made. I keep thinking, for example, about the new pastor that we got, and how we were without a pastor for a while when the old one left to pursue new opportunities. Would my membership into the church still have happened today? What if we hadn’t gotten the new pastor on the day and week that we did? Or, what if she decided to open membership some other time or not at all? What if she had decided to pass on our church altogether? What if I had never decided to go church shopping in the exact moment that I did and what if I had decided to overlook MBCC or go to another church before that? What if I had gotten sick on the day that I had decided to visit MBCC? What would I be doing today instead of becoming a member?
Probably I would have been out on the city streets celebrating with everyone else — but I doubt it. Lots of stuff has happened between 2009 and now, Linc, and perhaps even without church in my life, I might have still been here at home, only listening to the festivities outside rather than being a part of them like I was in 2010. As I write this possibly final never-to-be-sent, the night sky is exploding with the kaboom of fireworks. I can hear the echoes of chanting: Let’s go Giants! This year, although my fandom has continued unwaveringly, I have had little motivation to go into it with my all. They say that your first time is always the best and, well… I can believe that. There’s a certain logic to that. Nothing is ever like the first time. I agree. But there’s something different about this year, too, and perhaps a great many somethings are different. I’m definitely older, my vitality dulled, my youth elapsed. I feel old, Linc, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The best and worst part about aging is going forward without having any guarantee or direction about where I will end up. Maybe that’s why I decided to formalize my involvement with my church by becoming a member.
There’s no trick to becoming a church member. There are some perks, like how you get voting privilges when important churchwide decisions have to be made; but there are no dues or fees, no crazy initiation protocol. You just have to take three classes with other potential members. In the first class, you talk about what it means to be a Christian. In the second class, you talk about what it means to be part of a denomination. (I am Catholic and am proud of that heritage, but MBCC just so happens to be Presbyterian.) In the last class, you talk about what it would be like to have this kind of a commitment specifically for one church, specifically for Mission Bay Community Church. It helps if, like me, you’ve been attending it for a while, may have even volunteered in some other stuff in church that’s more than just going to Sunday service. In the final class, when you are ready to say that you want to be recognized as a member, you have to give a statement of faith.
I agonized over mine, Linc. The agony was both literal and figurative. The first draft of my statement materialized on the night that I sprained my wrist at work. On the train ride home, I admit that I was feeling low and quite frankly sorry for myself. Suddenly it occurred to me that ever since the pastor first assigned my class the assignment of writing a statement of faith, I had yet to devote any time to writing one; so, I opened up ColorNote, the little app on which I have often blogged on the go. It was easier than I thought it would be to tap out words using just my left hand, but because I had not done it much before, it was also a slow, clumsy affair. Over the next few days, that first draft became this, which I read at class tonight:
I believe in God. I believe He is an undeniable contradiction. God shows love and allows pain. He is everywhere and cannot be revealed. He is the light. He is present in the absence of light. God is a duality. He loves always in all ways.
I believe that existence is guided by a firmament so tenuous that there is a very real possibility it isn’t even there were not the evidence so bold and persistent — justice and forgiveness, yes, but also smaller things that I witness in other people: patience when they are tired, sympathy when they do not believe, or simply don’t feel like believing. A broken heart mended by the healing of another. The morning sun after a long night, a cat’s curious meow, the happy wagging of a dog’s tail. Love stories and love songs — they’re corny and cheesy and so true because they come from some deep internal place that bridges us with the profoundly mysterious firmament.
Humans only have a most basic understanding of these things; because of life, our understanding goes through stages of birth, adolescence and maturity that have nothing to do with our bodies, which are just shells. The shells carry and shelter us through life, and it is because of God that we are alive. God proves the firmament is real. It is a foundation. God is the engineer and the carpenter. He made something faithfully indestructible yet maddeningly invisible. I believe that we don’t know why God did this to us and that possibly we are not meant to know. So what is the point of knowing so little while knowing so much? Why should a man and woman strive for the next day hardly ever being rewarded for living through this one?
I believe that God chose someone to explain these things to us: the firmament conveyed as metaphor, demonstrated as parable, felt as love. Amidst a diversity of cultures and beliefs I was born into my own, grew into it, abandoned it, and then was returned either through my own will or God’s plan. Or both. I believe in being taught to endure as equally as I believe in being rescued from sin, sorrow and grief. I believe in rescue. I believe in Jesus Christ.
I know that your real-life counterpart doesn’t care about what ol’ Joe Ramelo is doing on the night that his team just won the 2012 World Series. I know that he has never read my never-to-be-sents and, believe me, as an events planner for a bookstore, I have interacted with enough celebrities (and people who think they’re celebrities) to know that people like them are in a justifiable position to overlook people like me. Now that I am closing out this phase of my writing, I am faced with the enormous challenge of finding some new inspiration. To the outsider, a writer’s worst enemy is writer’s block. To those who actually write, the worse enemy is how to write something new when the story you’ve told the most has, like one of those sitcoms that I admired in childhood, run its course.