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minerva zamora arceo
minerva zamora arceo THERE ARE two things we desire the most in our lifetime: Peace and Happiness. Where to find them and How to have them are almost as problematic searchings as What is Life. We will be too hypocritical not to admit that life itself is already complicated to begin with. There may be no point in trying to argue whether or not life is really problematic.

If I have one piece of writing that I can say is my most honest, this will be it, so far. I do not want to think of any intention right now why I am writing this. But I am sure of one thing, that is: to satisfy myself. The words flow inside my head like when you are following a trail leading to your favorite spot. You don't stop until you are there. I cannot sleep even if my eyes want to shut. I think that when you just have had enough movies within a day, this must be the effect. A sudden desire to reflect on about anything—experiences, beliefs, dreams, people, places, everything.

And you start asking how am I doing? Do I have a good life? Am I happy? And then you start checking if you still have what you "should have" to be happy as dictated by society. Things like family, health, stature, wealth, religion or spirituality. And you start thinking about your God? Who is your God? Does my God make me happy?

And of course, as anyone might do I convince myself that, yes, I have a God. And my God loves me and my family. And my God blesses me everyday and watches over me all the time, whether or not I want to be watched. And suppose I can convince myself about this? I should be happy then? Content maybe? Right? And now I start thinking of other people who might be doing what I am doing right now, going through my checklist of "should haves" to assure myself that I am happy or that I am blessed.

If the search for "infinite" or "eternal" peace and happiness is universal, then it is safe to assume that there are a lot of other people who are doing the checklist. But I know that we all agree that we cannot really have infinite peace and happiness in this lifetime. So if there is no infinite peace and happiness, how does one measure other's happiness?

How will I know if the person next to me is really happy in his or her life? Should I take their every word for it? Their every smile or their every move maybe? Now I am beginning to confuse myself.

I know someone who is wealthy. Middle-class with a nice house, a huge garage, lots of cars, good family, stable business—the works. On top of his wealth, he is known in the community. I cannot say he in good standing because, believe me, nobody is to everyone—ever. No matter how much you spend or how many hours you dedicate for humanitarian reasons, there are still people who hate you.

Let us play a little guessing game. John F. Kennedy? He was killed because there were people who wanted him dead. Martin Luther King Jr.? Also dead. Good men? In history books, yes. But during their lifetimes? Nobody knows. I am not saying otherwise. I am just trying to say that we cannot be really sure about anybody in this world because we are not with anyone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. This is not counting the fact that we cannot read other people's minds "all the time." I say "all the time" because I give exception to psychics who can read other people's mind "at times."

People living in secluded and secured facilities who are being watched day and night also do not count. Nobody really knows about their lives before they got there (if you get what I mean).

So what is the point? Going back to the middle-class businessman I mentioned, I am thinking, "Is he happy?" He always talks about how content he is, how happy he feels about his life, his family, his blessings. But most of the time, his eyes are sad and he is always angry. I do not bother to ask him directly. What I see (but I do not really know) is that he is not at all happy.

Case number two: A political leader who has all the power in his hands but is not loved. Who was it that said, "It is better to be feared than loved, but it is best to be feared and loved at the same time"? Machiavelli? I am not sure. In round table talks I hear some politicians comment on corruption like it was something as trivial as talking about the weather. They speak in animated voices, with big laughs and silly jokes full of codes and jargon that only they and some people like me understand.

I ask myself, "Are they really as happy as they seem?" They claim they can still sleep like babies at night even if many accuse them of ripping off the government of its wealth. Again I ask myself, "Is that true?" I don't really know.

They sometimes talk about their women. Yes, the women. Women who choose to be second wives. Or third, or fourth. Is it really proper to call them second wives when they are not even married? But what is a wife? A legal term for a woman bound by matrimony? Or a word for a woman who vowed to share a life with her man? Never mind.

Again, the politicians. In the Philippines, a politician has full access to government funds; is immune from criminal and administrative charges; exercises authority over the military and police; maintains controlling interests in businesses and investments; enjoys free rides, free lunches, free villa privileges, free golf membership, free entertainment, full discount on services; gets extra money from illegal undertakings; lives a celebrity's lifestyle along with friendly media mileage.

I know of a few people who used to be politicians and who are now sitting as executives in government-owned corporations. They speak in public as if they know everything. Very confident, very intellectual, very businesslike, very corporate. As if they hold the world in their hands with their little talks about their jobs and the people they meet. Are they happy even if behind their backs many people call them thieves, bring up stories of their "sexcapades" or tales of their dirty little "secrets" with starlets and "night girls," or accounts of how they swindled their friends in a deal?

It is really funny to hear someone talk about how good they are doing their jobs or serving the public (in the case of politicians and government employees), when at the back of their minds they know that you know that they are bluffing, lying, and trying to convince themselves that they can convince you to believe every lie they utter.

Yes, it is ironic. We always say, "The truth will set you free." But does the truth really set us free? What is your truth? What is our truth? What is truth in our homes? In our community? In our government? In our church? In our school? In our workspace? In our country? What is our truth?

We go home after work and tell little lies to our children or tell white lies to our loved ones. I guess everyone will agree that most of time we "distort, adjust, or recreate" our experiences to satisfy the curiosity of our listeners or to amuse our audience (who may be our family, our officemates, our churchmates, anyone sitting next to us in a bus, or even ourselves). Sometimes, when you repeat the "altered story" over and over again, it becomes your truth.

For married people like me, is it not common for us to feel fatigue? At times, you want to get out of the house and just drive. Free your mind from obligations, duties, and traditions. Just drive and let go, but then only to go back and fulfill the expectations again. Am I complaining? No. I am stating a fact, a feeling that is common to all family people. Whoever says that they are totally happy with their married life is either in self-denial or has selective amnesia. Am I happy? Yes, at times. When my husband embraces me tightly or just holds my hand. Yes, at times. When my children play around me, their laughter filling our house with light. Yes, at times. When I just watch movies at home with my family, knowing that we have enough money in the bank, with the bills all paid and the kitchen full of groceries.

History is what we make it to be. And what about it that historians or academicians have rendered or recorded? Once, a history teacher told us that not all that is written is true because not all that was recorded is accurate and not all that happened was recorded in the first place.

If not all was recorded, then there is omission. If something was omitted from what really happened, then history is just half-truth. What I mean to say is: nobody is omnipotent and omnipresent among living men.

If we make our own history, then we make our own reality. We see things we want to see. We see good when we want to see it. We most of the time see good things from people we love, while we tend to see bad things from people we despise.

We tell good stories when we do not want others to know the bad ones. We believe what we want to believe. We tend to close our minds from things we do not want to embrace or to respect. Nobody is really "open-minded." At one point, at any given period, we choose sides, we choose ideas, ideologies, philosophies. We select our own mentors and we disregard things that do not interest us.

We choose people to whom we want to be close. Even in our homes, we decide what truth we want to share, and to whom. We value our space, our privacy, our boundaries. We value our individuality, we value our freedom. I believe there is a basic instinct among people: to create one's own reality.

We often do not really act by what we say, and we do not really say what we think. So which is real? The things that we think about inside our heads, or the things that other individuals see? What they see is their accepted reality. But what you think is your own reality, and what any other person thinks is his own reality. Is it possible that our fantasy (something we create in our mind, something we really desire) is also our reality?

After all the searchings, we go back to the beginning: the universal desire for Peace and Happiness.

So how do you measure happiness in this lifetime, when there is no definite reality to start with? What is real happiness then? Where does it fit? In my reality or in yours?

[About the author. Minerva "Mini" Zamora Arceo is a 31 year-old mother of three. She earned degrees in Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications-Major in Journalism and in Bachelor of Arts in Film and Audio-Visual at UP Baguio and at UP Diliman. She was a full-time journalist from 1998 to 2004, writing for the daily Sun.Star Pampanga. Before her current stint as Executive Director of the Advocacy for the Development of Central Luzon (ADCL), a non-stock, non-profit regional organization, she served as Provincial Information Officer (PIO) during the term of Pampanga Governor Mark T. Lapid. At present, she manages to engage in advocacy work to promote culture and the arts, even while writing a column every Monday and Tuesday for the Punto! Gitnang Luzon newspaper and hosting a daily radio program, "Kuwentong Buhay, Kuwentong Bahay" (11AM to 12NN on DWGV-AM, 792 khz).]

-Posted: 8:37 AM 1/14/09 | More of this author on eK!