Narcissus' Echo

Thoughts, tears, rants, ruminations, hopes, fears, love(s), and prayers of just another being passing through this wracked sphere...

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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Easter Vigil

Tonight's service was sublime, august, ineffable.

When we sang John D. Baker's "Litany of the Saints," its haunting, chanting invocation, "Pray for us," made many people in the congregation cry.


This is the kind of experience that makes life worth living.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday

As per tradition, today's service was bare: there were no instruments, no bells, no piano, just unaccompanied chants (which actually made it seem more difficult as faults are not so easily glossed over).

The Veneration of the Cross was touching. The laity actually voluntarily took turns to bear the weight of the heavy wooden cross in order for others in the congregation to venerate it.

I had a spot of fun when we sung the chant refrain for the Veneration. The refrain,

Draw near, O LORD, our God, graciously receive us.
Humbly we bow before you.

accompanies the choir master singing Psalm 22: 1-11.

Well, the refrain is sung in parts. As I was standing right beside the basses, and possessed the range to sing the second section in tenor or bass, I chose to alternate between the two each time the refrain comes up. The tenor on my right was giving me repeated looks that seemed to convey, "WTF are you doing?"


Discovered that some of the choir members shared common interests with me: one is a mountain biker and another is an avid photographer. I guess we will have more to talk about from now on.

One event marred today's event though. I will not go into details. Those closest to me already know the details. As for the rest, I guess I'm "not in your circle," eh? (Or is it more accurate to say that you are not in my circle?)

I was fuming. I could have struck back harshly.

My ego was pricked. My defenses bristled. I was ready to fight. I was ready to summon all my learning, all my knowledge of hurtful words to hurl at this acquaintance who so dared disrespect me--for no reason, no reason at all. She clearly deserved it. Vengeance is mine.

But I didn't.

Then, during the long period of meditation in between our performance, I had the opportunity to reflect and think it through. Swallow the ego. Listen to what God is trying to tell you; what He is trying to show you, with a tiny sting--a small lesson--instead of a big, painful slap. Like a puppy falling down a single step learns to respect heights and edges. It may sting, but far better be it than falling off a cliff as the first lesson.

I am no Holly Roller, but I took it as a sign. I confided my turmoil to two of my closest friends last night: my dilemma; the temptation. Now I know my instinct--guided by reason--was correct:

Never pee where you swim.

Spirituality should never mix with amor.
Violate this rule and you will find the temple of your sanctuary in ruins when passion cools and romance fades.

You enter the house of the LORD for one reason and one reason only--to worship Him. Do not sully the consecrated ground with the base urging of your loins.

In His infinite mercy, I am spared the larger fall.
(One can read this statement in so many different ways).

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Holy Thursday

Tonight's mass was wonderful.

At the conclusion of the mass, following tradition, as the altar was being stripped, we sung Pange Lingua Gloriosi, albeit ours was a hybrid version.

The hymn was written by Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274) for the Feast of Corpus Christi--now called the Solemnity of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ. (Source: Wikipedia)

Here's a cheesy MIDI sequence of the hymn.

Pange lingua gloriósi
Córporis mystérium,
Sanguinisque pretiósi,
quem in múndi prétium,
fructus ventris generósi
Rex effúdit Géndium.

Nobis datus, nobis natus
ex intácta Virgine,
et in mundo conversátus,
sparso verbi sémine,
sui moras incolátus,
miro clausit órdine.

Praise our Savior's glorious body, which his blessed mother bore;
Praise the blood which, shed for sinners, did a broken world restore;
Praise the sacrament most holy, Gift of God we now adore.

To the chosen, for our healing, God's own Son the Father sends;
From Eternal Love proceeding, sower, seed and word descends;
Wondrous life, the Word incarnate, with the greatest wonder ends.

On that paschal evening see him with his chosen friends recline,
To the first law still obedient in its feast of love divine;
Love divine, the new law giving; gives himself as bread and wine.

In a word the Word almighty makes of bread true flesh indeed;
Wine becomes his very life-blood; Faith the living Word must heed!
This alone will safely guide us where the senses cannot lead.

Come, adore this wondrous presence; Bow to Christ, the source of Grace!
Here is kept the ancient promise of God's earthly dwelling place.
Sight is blind before such a glory, faith alone may see God's face.

Glory be to God the Father, praises sing to God the Son,
Honor to the Holy Spirit, bound in love; the Triune One!
Blest be God by all creation, joyously while ages run!

Thus did Christ to perfect humanity, in our mortal flesh he came.
Then he gave himself freely to a death of bitter pain.
As a lamb upon the altar, bore the cross that new life we might gain.

Tantum ergo Sacraméntum,
Venerémur cérnui:
et antíquum documéntum
novo cedat rítui:
praestet fides suppleméntum
sénsuum deféctui.

Genitóri, Genitóque
laus et jubilátio,
salus, honor, vitus quoque
sit et benedíctio:
procedénti ab utróque
compar sit laudátio.


As I walked back to my car, an elderly lady exclaimed to me that tonight's singing was so beautiful.

for His greater glory

I smiled all the way back to my car :-)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Moving on

I made a difficult decision today. I have been struggling with it over the weekend. I made it as painless and dignified as I could, but rejections, no matter how sugar-coated, never are. And so, I found myself returning to the center of my world, the Mission Santa Clara de Asis, on a rainy, windy afternoon (how's that for a pathetic fallacy?).

Today's 12:05 PM mass was conducted by Father Theodore Rynes. There is something inexplicably comforting and familiar in the sight of your professor as the priest officiating the Eucharist. Knowledge of the secular, guided by him, is now replaced by knowledge of the divine, channeled through him.

In his homily, Father Rynes talked about a book he recently read, William Styron's Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness. Styron is better known for his other book, Sophie's Choice. Darkness Visible chronicles Styron's journey through clinical depression. One line stood out in the novel:

The music that strains and breaks the strength.

Father Rynes interpreted it as one of the tenets in living life: the tests and toils of life strain us, and will eventually break us, but it is only in the act of living life to the fullest can we expend the strength that we were given--and, in the process, create the music which celebrates the passage of our lives.

I think of the notes on the music sheet that I struggle with every Sunday night. (I suck at note reading). They do not remain constant. They rise and fall, stretch and truncate, move to different beats. I often get confused. Sometimes I even flub up. Nonetheless, I try. I sing. We sing melody. We sing parts. It all melds together for a greater purpose in the end. ad majorem Dei gloriam.

Change may be unsettling and painful. It often seems unwise, even stupid, to walk away from that which is comfortable, easy--simple, but personally, to accept a fate of constantly being under-challenged reeks of complacency; and complacency is a form of sloth. I have more self-respect than that.

The Rock of Gibraltar.


Excerpt of an interview with Karen Armstrong, by David Ian Miller:

MILLER: It's often difficult to convince people that they are in the same boat. You know, in this country people are building gated communities. They are actively hiding from things they don't want to see.

ARMSTRONG: And that is antireligious. The Axial sages said you must see things as they are, that delusion was one of the major things that hold us back from enlightenment, from God, from Nirvana. So we cannot get trapped in illusion.

Small groups now have powers of destruction that were previously reserved for the nation-state. It is only a matter of time before one of them will get some sort of nuclear device. And a gated community is not going to help at all if that happens. It reminds me of the story of the Buddhist pleasure park. Do you know it?

MILLER: Tell me the story.

ARMSTRONG: When the Buddha was a little boy, some Brahman priests are called in to tell his fortune, and one of them predicts he will leave home and become a monk because of seeing three disturbing sights -- a sick man, an old man and a corpse -- which will so distress him that he will become a monk. And he will save the world from suffering.

And the Buddha's father is not thrilled with this career option -- he has more ambition, more worldly ambition -- so he creates a sort of pleasure palace and brings his young son up in this. And he plants guards around the grounds to prevent any such disturbing sights coming within a radius of the young man.

So the Buddha grows up in this fool's paradise for a long time, and finally the guards get fed up with this and they send three of their own number disguised as a sick man, an old man and a corpse past the [other] guards. The Buddha sees that, and he leaves that very night.

The point is that the Buddhist pleasure park is an image of the mind in denial. It's the gated community. It's the United States before 9/11, which was retreating into isolationist policies within the Bush government.

Suffering will always break in. And if you turn [away], it's useless. It will somehow break in because suffering is ubiquitous. And it will certainly go past these guards that the Buddha's father erected. It will certainly come through the gates. You can't block it out.

Karen Armstrong is a 61-year-old former Roman Catholic nun, who is recognized as one of the world's great religious historians, and has spent the last 17 years deconstructing the major faiths in scholarly but accessible books like "A History of God," "Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths" and "The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism."

Her new book, "The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions," details the evolution of the major religious traditions in the Axial Age between 900 and 200 B.C., a time of upheaval when four different philosophies took shape -- Confucianism and Taoism in China, Hinduism and Buddhism in India, monotheism in the Middle East and philosophical rationalism in Greece.


Monday, April 10, 2006

Clarification (and an edification)

All right, enough with the taunts.

Here's a free module in English 101:


1 A feeling of pleasure, wonder, and approval. See Synonyms at regard.
2 An object of wonder and esteem; a marvel.
3 Archaic. Wonder.

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.


1: a feeling of delighted approval and liking [syn: esteem]
2: the feeling aroused by something strange and surprising [syn: wonder, wonderment]
3: a favorable judgment; "a small token in admiration of your works" [syn: appreciation]

Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University


1 A foolish, unreasoning, or extravagant passion or attraction. See Synonyms at love.
2 An object of extravagant, short-lived passion.

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company


1: foolish and usually extravagant passion or love or admiration 2: temporary love of an adolescent [syn: puppy love, calf love, crush]
3: an object of extravagant short-lived passion

Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University

I.e. admiration IS NOT A SYNONYM OF infatuation.

Hence, when I express admiration for certain people,... say, Natalie Portman as Evey Hammond, a certain soprano, a certain female mountain biker, etc., it does NOT mean I am infatuated with them, actively pursuing them, or even considered pursuing any sort of relationship with them.

I admire from afar. And I am content with that.

This is the way I personally look at it:

I admire the Ferrari 575M Maranello and Modena.
Does that mean that I am going to put them on my credit card?
Does that mean that I will purchase them outright even if I have the cash?



I won't because I know ahead of time that I will not have the resources to support it at this point in time in my life. A US$6000 brake job every 8000 miles? A secure, covered garage to park it in? Bringing it in for detailing every month? Come on!

It's the same thing with females right now. I am not willing to spare or commit resources for a relationship right now. I am perfectly content being selfish in this regard. If I want to relocate out of state, or out of the country, or even the continent, there is only one person to consider, consult and negotiate with--me. If I want to stop what I am doing right now and spend a couple of years with the Hari Krishnas, I can just do it. If I want to renounce all my worldly possessions, turn celibate and become a Jesuit, I can just do it (actually considered it and have not ruled it out yet). If I want to take 2 months off during summer and cycle from the West Coast to the East Coast, the only considerations are if I am fit enough and if I have enough money. If I want to watch hentai all weekend... Lets not go there, eh?

There is no one else to consider or seek permission from. And I love it that way.

And so, I admire from afar. Nothing more.
I won't even accept it if it was handed to me as a gift, for all gifts incur obligations, said or unsaid.

I am also not interested in the drama and illogic that are staple in many relationships today. Fluctuating hormone levels must be a bitch, eh? (Oops! Pardon the pun! I said something politically incorrect. Politically incorrect but true). A diabetic must adhere to a regiment of medication to control her fluctuating blood sugar level. Why can't the same be said of certain individuals who turn into a hurricane or a typhoon once every month? Why must the guy "put up with it" and "accept it"?

That, and the utter crap that's force-fed to couples these days:

From a jewelry company:

MALE VOICE TRYING TO SOUND ALL AUTHORITATIVE: Gentlemen, do you know what's the most important single purchase in your life? It's not your car. It's not even your house. It's your engagement ring. A properly chosen engagement ring lasts forever. blah blah blah.

OK, some points:

Firstly, 48% of marriages end in divorce. Now, while it may be claimed that your engagement / wedding ring will last forever, your marriage won't: you part at death, and for many, much sooner.

Secondly, get your hands on a copy of a National Geographic magazine focusing on the diamond trade. You will be surprised just how common that rock on your finger is. The perceived scarcity is the result of a 100-year advertisement campaign to brainwash consumers into thinking that diamonds are a symbol of love and scarcity.

Thirdly, try and get your diamond appraised. Seriously. Go ahead. What do you have to lose? Ethically, an appraiser may not offer to buy the object he is appraising. It is a conflict of interest. So, go ahead. Check it out just how much your diamond is truly worth. Now think about the profit De Beers is making off your schmuck of a husband.

Check out the following excerpt (that summarizes in part, a March 2002 National Geographic article on the diamond trade):

Despite its elite status, the diamond, which can be found in abundance from southern Africa to Australia to northern Canada, is not the rarest of gems. With no intrinsic value, all a gem-quality diamond has to offer is the perception of its preciousness. As a symbol of eternal love, the tradition of the diamond engagement ring has become so pervasive that it's hard to believe that this is a fairly recent phenomenon. And an extremely calculated one -- the result of a marketing campaign developed at a time when the demand for diamonds had sunk to an all-time low and an increasing supply threatened the precious (as opposed to semiprecious) nature of the stones.

In 1938, nine years after seizing control of De Beers, in the wake of the Depression and with Europe bracing for another world war, Sir Ernest Oppenheimer found himself with no place to market his wares. Rather than risk a plunge in the status and price of diamonds, he sent 29-year-old Harry from Johannesburg, South Africa, to New York to meet with the N.W. Ayer advertising agency. The plan was to transform America's taste for small, low-quality stones into a true luxury market that would absorb the excess production of higher-quality gems no longer selling in Europe.

As Edward Jay Epstein outlined in his 1982 book "The Rise and Fall of Diamonds," N.W. Ayer saw the challenge as one rooted in mass psychology, meticulously researching the attitudes of American men and women about romance and gift giving. From this research, the slogan "A Diamond Is Forever" was born, launching one of the most brilliant, sophisticated and enduring marketing campaigns of all time. Without ever mentioning the name De Beers, the campaign set out to seduce every man, woman and child in America with the notion that no romance is complete without a rock -- and the bigger the rock, the better the romance. That men also now had a way to show the world how much money they made was an added bonus.

[ . . . ]

The slogan "A Diamond Is Forever" was also designed to convince the purchaser that although a diamond is a good investment, for sentimental reasons no rock should ever be resold. Given the continuous mining of new stones -- not to mention the half-billion or so carats that will never rust, break or wear out walking around on the hands, necks, ears and lapels of hundreds of millions of women -- the last thing De Beers wants is to have previously sold stones coming back onto the market.

De Beers has enough problems dealing with the oversupply of new diamonds. In the mid-1950s De Beers was overwhelmed by a flood of small diamonds pouring out of recently discovered mines in the Soviet Union. After nearly a decade and a half of convincing America of the importance of larger stones, suddenly the company needed to create a virtue out of the previously disparaged small diamonds. To accomplish this, De Beers invented the "eternity ring," a single, unbroken band of up to 25 evenly matched small stones. The ring was introduced in the early '60s as the best way to renew vows in the home stretch of a long marriage and the best way to wear diamonds without the ostentation of big stones. Today, the United States absorbs 50 percent of the world's diamonds, with an estimated 70 percent of American women owning at least one rock.

As it turns out, this ideal of perpetual ownership is a healthy delusion for the owners of all but the rarest and most expensive diamonds. Despite the illusion that it retains its value, a diamond can only be sold for less than its wholesale price, not what one would consider a good return on investment. (Source)

These are but some of the reasons I refuse to play this game. The most important purchases in your life are the money you spend on your education and your medical insurance.

If you want to taunt, at least observe some degree of accuracy in your word choice and grasp of simple concepts.

There, now you have successfully passed a module in English 101.
Go print out a "Certificate of Achievement" for yourself.

While you are at it, you might as well print out this instruction sheet--you might just need it someday (e.g. to stop the nagging and mind games).

Sunday, April 09, 2006


4:26 AM
Housemate just left for his new job at Las Vegas.
'Glad we made everything fit in your car : )
'Sure gonna miss you, big guy!
Drive safe!

Hunt some cougars!


A casual conversation in a cafe earlier during this week:

SHE: So, are you from around here?
ME: No, I'm from Singapore.
SHE: Oh, what did you come here for?
ME: College.
SHE: Oh, I see. What did you study?
ME: I majored in English.
SHE: I can see they did a great job. You speak beautiful English.
ME: *resists urge to demonstrate just how "beautiful" my invectives can be*

Note to self: Never argue with idiots; they drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience.

Frankly, I don't know where these stereotypes come from.

Oh, I'm Chinese: I can barely speak English but I am so good at math that I mastered differential calculus before I could walk.

WTF? This social phenomenon isn't restricted to USA either. I had similar experiences while auto touring the South Island of New Zealand. At one restaurant in Dunedin, a cheeky patron actually asked my Dad if he needed the words on the board read to him. I wanted to sock the guy. My Dad read mechanical engineering in England, thank you very much!

Here's a Kiwi joke for you:

QUESTION: Why is the edge of a cliff the best place to fuck sheep?

ANSWER: Because they push bahhhck!

Now fuck off before I crack your skull with my volumes of the O.E.D.