Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Mojo of Piety

Piety is the key to settling all differences.  Piety enables us to focus the prism of our differences into our one similarity - the humanity in all of us.  We have the same needs, the same longings, the same yearnings.  We need food, shelter and water to exist; we need safe socio-political and economic infrastructures to thrive. We want to be successful in our endeavors.  We long to be cared for and to be attended to as a dignified individual.  We long to be loved unconditionally.  We yearn for our better half, a healthy ecology for our children and our children's children, and we all wish to leave a noble legacy that will echo through the ages.

Family.  Community.  A world of communities in harmony.  I do believe that only an awesome fear of a goodly God can bring our tethering world into an axis of calm.  The humility which makes piety coherent dissolves all our negativities into our optimisms, our ideals into fruitful harvests, our finitude to our infinitude.  We are able to appreciate each other As We Are.  For example, I observed something in Ari that is all his own, which has nothing to do with his religion, just his essential God-given attribute.  He has a sweet and generous disposition.  He always was that, very passionate and abundant in giving.  It comes through in his demeanor unfeigned and it enhances his religiosity.  He makes his devotion to his religion persuasive.  His piety facilitates his becoming into God's Intent for him.   His religion does not take away from the God-given substrate from which he evolves.  It would be a travesty to his God if he abandoned the good that he was born with in an attempt to comply with the requirements of his religion.

Piety, this unconditional devotedness to God is marked by humility by definition and by necessity.  Humility is the core value of piety, its vis-a-tergo (force-from behind), its mojo.  When violence results from piety it is not piety.  When we cannot bring out the best in those whom we meet or within the limits of any given set of circumstances - this is not piety.  Many scoff at pious people because of the common understanding that piety is fanatical, shackling, fossilizing and as such causes agitation instead of calm.  That is NOT piety.  True piety is the actualizing of life in the fullness of God's expectations of that life - a life that is vibrant, nurturing and productive.  A pious person is a person who lives responsibly and peaceably, conducts business fairly, contributes to the good of his community, never hesitates to take the higher ground in matters major and minor, and respects the divine in everyone.  A pious person is never one who uses his religious constraints as a crutch to avoid his duties and responsibilities to the larger society.  Piety is a style of living that includes one and all in its ever-widening circle; a style of living that is patient when resources are long in coming and refuses to compromise ideals in the meantime;  a style of living that is ready to share even the most attenuated of gifts; a style of living that is wealthy with gratitude no matter how that life is put through its paces; a style of living where one finds true joy in the achievements of others and of course in one's own; a style of living where one does not hesitate to take peers along on the path to success; a style of living that upholds and fights for justice, compassion and mercy as a matter of faith.  Piety rocks - it is cool, energizing, freeing, wholesome, noble  and transformative when lived within the breadth and height and depth of its divine imperatives.  And the sine qua non of piety is humility.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

About the Author

Maria Nolita M. Banda, MD

Hello fellow seeker:

I am ecstatic to offer you this my first book, as an emphatic voice to advent durable peace in our selves and abroad.  I am one who has always lived my life in unlabeled and uncategorised ways.  I was formed and shaped by a cauldron of differences, from the time I was conceived in the Philippines to my adulthood in the States.   Which has been further enriched by my acquaintances of different peoples in their local cultures in my extensive travels half-the-world over.  I have also lived part of my age of discretion in New York where I was exponentially nurtured in the thoughts, emotions, visuals, smells, textures and sounds of a veritable melting pot of races, religions, social strata, sexual orientations, cultural mores.  My profession as an obstetrician-gynecologist, first as a house-officer-in-training in Manila and then as a hospitalist in Syracuse,  has given me intimate occasions into diverse family dynamics and other remarkably challenging human relationships in both Third World and First World settings.  I have learned that we can peaceably overcome the demands of our differences if we could but dignify the beauty of our humanity in all its grit and glory.

I welcome further discussion and any questions - visit where your commentary can be posted.  Thank you.


Title Page


The Mojo Of Piety

Maria Nolita M. Banda, MD

Illustrated by Jessica Marie Banda-Smith
Foreword by John J. Ziegler, PhD

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Noblesse Oblige of Godliness

Devotion to a good God can only mean a safe, healthy and wholesome attitude towards life.   Godliness irrespective of the religious persuasion in which it is practised, obliges noble responsibilites toward a world that is balanced and pacific.  A world where everyone can fall-in-love, be welcome at weddings across orthodox religious borders because of a friendship that cannot be denied, build a family and live prosperously, raise children in a community of free peoples, live happily ever after with generations upon generations of rambunctious grand-children.  For me, this peaceable world is my favorite prophet Isaiah's prophecy incarnate and I quote:

    The wolf will live with the lamb,
          the leopard will lie down with the goat,
    the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
          and a child will lead them.
    The cow will feed with the bear,
          their young will lie down together,
          and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
    The infant will play near the cobra's den,
          and the young child will put its hand into the viper's nest.
    They will neither harm nor destroy
          on all my holy mountain,
     for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
          as the waters cover the sea.

The Archimedian point on which the burden of proof for Isaiah's illogical utopia rests with PAYAK.  Piety that is truly goodly and Godly is a powerful virtue in the hands of a humble person.  PAYAK abides by the faith that one is created in the image of God and is therefore omnipotent - the bold and daring potency to ease the suffering of the vulnerable wherever one encounters them, to help fulfill the promise of dreams and talents in a system of equal access to resources like education, health and gainful employment, to aspire for a society where everyone can exercise their right to excel and to be relevant, to promote a culture of life for the young and the old - this is true power.  What would it be like if everyone is free to exercise one's Faith devotionals, to avail of bread and water without putting one's life on the line, for children to play under a clear and benevolent sky without fear?   What would it be like to be altogether fear-free; to dwell in an anxiety-free space?  What would it be like to sleep through a quiet night, unafraid of violence, harassment or abuse of any kind?  What would it be like if the market place allows everyone to live up to a hard work ethic in a harm-free environment and be remunerated accordingly?  Throughout history religion has been maligned, used and manipulated to underwrite violence to the human spirit - using God's name in vain a million times over.    How can bloodbath be Godly?  How can unkindness towards another, gross or subtle, be of God?  How can curtailing the freedoms of another, which we desire and cherish for our own, be Godly?  Is not the God of all religions the same goodly God who has given everyone ~ i.e. of all creeds and races, of all sexual orientations, of all ages and phenotypes ( e.g. visual attributes), of all socio-economic strata ~ inalienable rights for a tranquil and full life?  From my unscholarly and simple perspective of matters religious and political, I can only conclude that it is not the religion but the practitioner of the religion who is at the crux of ill will - the unforunate misreading and misinterpretation of the dogma and the doctrine of the religion, calculatingly using these misconstructions to rationalize burning-at-stakes, holocausts, killing fields, oppressions, repressions, segregation, prejudices, caste systems and all forms of social immobility.

This book would not have been if Moshe and Noya excluded me from attending Ari and Menuha's Chareidi wedding by reason of my I-am-ness - I am Christian among other differences.  They could have used myriad perfectly acceptable excuses to un-include me.  In the early days whenever they invite me to their family's many milestones, Moshe teased me, saying:  "We love you even if you're Catholic!"  LOVE.  Perhaps after all has been said and done, this is what it is that binds us as friends all these years.  All my encounters with them, lovingly jeweled with beauty and with wisdom, have always been predicated on a staunch friendship which anteceded everything that has to do with religion.  Otherwise how does one explain all that is happily recorded within the pages of this book - the wonder of a true, enduring friendship that defies categorical explanations.  Humanity and compassion trump all else. It would have been desperately sad if we allowed anything to confine that which is so rich and exquisite and freeing.   I also trust that neither of us will do anything to harm the sanctity of this friendship no matter where God takes us and no matter how God puts it to the test.  Because of our "differences" we do not carelessly take anything for granted - we are esteemably respectful of each others's sensibilities.

Since I have lived it, I wish everyone the capacity for hospitable openness to people, places, and events one may deem different from what is familiar.  By this I mean zero pre-conceived notion.  One of the uncanny sequelae of this life-altering event is that I have become a deeper seeker into my own religion just as much as I exult in their progress in their own religion.  How true what my Dad used to say - The New Testament is concealed in the Old Testament and the Old Testament is revealed in the NewTestament.  I feel a sense of security when Moshe and Noya respond to my request for prayer at the Qottel; and I meditate on their prayer requests to me as fervently as if I was meditating for my own.  Maybe because I do not intellectualize the religion, I feel God with such ardent enchantment in our friendship.  Or maybe it is as simple as practising without equivocation basic decency toward and respect of the other.  When we are together, we are in what Pre-Celtic (i.e. pagan charism) Mythology calls a "Thin Place" - a sacred space where we are with God just like being under the chupa.  Whatever it is, I wish all of us the humility to enter into the salt of an exquisite friendship like I enjoy with Moshe and Noya,  and bask in its life-giving Light.

Introduction: Who is PAYAK?

Payak is a Tagalog word which in its direct and literal translation to English means the adjective "simple".  When it describes a person, it also connotes humility which is how I use it in this small book.

Payak is a person who is humble, unassuming, plainspoken, still, and true.  Payak accepts one's strengths and limitations, each of which are reverentially referred to a providential Creator and so there is no accommodation for defense of nor desire to prove one's self.  It is unconflicted in one's spirit that all is of God therefore one can only be grateful, forgiving and patient with one's self.  Because one is secure in the brave specifications of one's divine purpose as a unique creation of a good God, one can afford the same measure of gentleness toward one's fellow human beings who can be great one moment then flawed in another.  One has the capacity to exult a heroic deed and to forgive a destructive one.   Payak instantly invokes a safe milieu of honesty whenever and wherever one is present and with whomever one is.   There is never an aspect of dissimulation aware that any form of dissembling is the beginning of violence.  One sees reality for what it is, addresses it dispassionately and appropriately recognizing that every one, thing and event is perfect in God's world and timing.  Payak believes that standing down is more often the best part of valor if doing so will assure the greater good, as such always in an attitude of forgiving.  Payak can immerse in any substrate and absorb it without judgment because there is no anarchy of needs to be other than one  is.  Payak thrives in obscure equanimity yet actively acquits one's being by the effects of one's actions on a larger world.  It is the soothing effect of how Payak achieves what one must that marks one's presence.  Payak is everything and is nothing.  One owns everything and one owns nothing; nothing can be added or subtracted from Payak.  Payak is whole and integral.  Payak is fearless.  And such is the sheer crystal-clarity afforded by humility - the freedom to be one's self, inclusive of the magnificent dignity "self"  implies.  And the precious corollary to this is - the humble person cannot but hallow the freedoms of another human being as a matter of course.  This is what I meant by PAYAK -  a person who incarnates the humility to be free to be one's self and by dint of one's nature as such, the gift of freeing others to be and to become who they are.  PAYAK promotes endless, fecund possibilities for peace in one's self, in one's locality and in the world and therefore is productive of healthful fruits that reverberate creatively to infinity.