I’ve never really explained my blog’s name. I’ve left it to you, dear reader, to piece it together. But recent events have provided me the perfect opportunity to do so. An Internet-based patriotism campaign — Ako Mismo — resembles mine in name and, at first glance, in thought. Perhaps. In this post I illustrate how those eight letters are where the similarities end.
Firstly, I am glad that in contrasting my blog with the website, some bloggers have gotten my blog’s name correctly now. It’s spelled with all capital letters and with no space between ‘ako’ and ‘mismo’. Let me explain.
That it is spelled with all capital letters deliberately gives the name the appearance of an acronym. As such, each letter must mean something though even I don’t know what they are. And it’s not really important that they do. The only thing important to me is that the name means something, and this meaning can be gleaned through every single entry I write.
Through talking about my interests, my experiences, and my lessons learned, each post is a statement of who I am. The name will forever remind me that I must be honest with myself, and that should reflect in every thing I write.
In addition, having it all caps makes it easier to manipulate and design. 🙂
But I digress.
There is no space between ‘ako’ and ‘mismo’ to give the name the appearance of an ideology. I don’t consider myself an adherent of any single ideology, but am more comfortable with choosing and picking the perspectives that I need in dealing with certain situations and contexts. However, I am far from a relativist. Nor are my values a matter of convenience.
Central to everything I believe in is our inherent power to make a difference in the world through whatever field or work we are in. But making a difference to what end? The only person who can know for sure is our self.
I respect that we all come from a different place. We all have our reasons for being where we are. We all have our own motivations. Therefore, all I demand of myself — and others, by extension — is to be aware of where we are. We are individuals, but we are not alone. Everything we say, do, think, and feel impacts others in ways we may or may not imagine.
This concept of self is something I have developed as a student of Eastern philosophy, particularly Buddhism and Daoism.
Buddhism posits that we, as beings on this Earth, have no selves. What we conceptualize as the self is merely a collection of attributes — I am a son, a brother, a teacher, a friend, a Filipino, etc. — and that each attribute is fleeting and changing. In satisfying the son in me, I fulfill my duties to my parents; in satisfying the brother in me, I become responsible for my siblings; in satisfying the teacher in me, I work hard, and so on and so forth. It never ends. And at times, satisfying these competing attributes can cause us stress and frustration — just think of that stereotypical father who works hard in the office and comes home with no time for his children. Hence, we have the Buddhist truth that “desire is the root of suffering.”
Thus the path out of suffering is to renounce our selfish desires and this can only be done by coming to the realization that though we are conscious beings, we are in essence, selfless. Hence we orient ourselves to horizons beyond ourselves. We help the poor and homeless. We put our families and children to the fore of every work we do. We undertake a job that may not pay well but is direly needed, and so on.
Our lives may be fleeting, but it is through what we do that we give it meaning.
But how do we orient ourselves towards where we are supposed to be?
Daoism teaches that everything in creation is uncarved and simple. Action gives us shape, but also distances us from our original nature. For instance, we are all born innocent and pure, but what we learn from school and what we experience in life what transform us into political beings of different shades and stripes, arguably creating a more complex and troubled world. It is precisely this conflict that the original students of the Dao worked against, and their prescription is wu wei which means creative non-action.
My students often get fixated with the non-action part. But what wu wei means is being in tune with our true nature, and acting from there. This sounds strange but not really. Just think of the NBA player who glides across the court and scores so effectively. The dancer who owns the stage so naturally. The painter who breathes life to a canvas so easily. The math whiz who perfects an exam so effortlessly. In all these examples are people maximizing their talents in order to exert the littlest amount of effort in the work they do, and yet coming up with astounding results.
Thus Daoism envisions a society where every man, woman, and child is able to pursue who they truly are with the littlest amount of intervention. The thinking is that by doing so, conflict is minimized since conflict enters when we try to be someone we are not. In this sense, aspirations for wealth, power, and status are unnatural, unimportant and dangerous. (Hence Daoism is known for being the left to Confucianism’s right.)
Hence, this society can only be achieved through individual work and responsibility. We must be aware of ourselves and the times we are in for only then can we realize who are supposed to be.
Combining these two senses of self constitute AKOMISMO.
The synthesis is more difficult to articulate but I know it all too well.
I grew up in a life of relative ease and comfort, and yet I pursued a career which I know will disallow me from continuing that lifestyle. (You can read about my fortuitous journey in becoming a teacher in the Confessions of a Teacher series.) In this current economic zeitgeist, I am feeling this conflict more painfully. Yet, a part of me cannot deny that I am on the path I am supposed to be, for my talents are being utilized for a cause greater than myself.
But this is a blog. It is unfinished by nature, and so am I. This is the story of the realization of my destiny, wherever that may be. For I know I will not be a teacher forever — for like all things that too is fleeting — and that I must always be ready and willing to listen for clues as to where I am supposed to be.
That, in my typical long-winded fashion, is what AKOMISMO means. You can never really expect a dictionary definition from me, but I hope that I’ve made it clear that this blog name is personal. Ako Mismo is a name in a world far apart from mine, but I hope that it eventually means something if not to itself, then to the many who have signified their deepest hopes and aspirations for a better country.
For in the end that is what we all want, though we may not agree on how to get there. But in this blog is the path I’ve chosen and the story I continue to write, and that — when everything is said and done — can never be taken away from me.
Other new entries on Ako Mismo: