Shibumi: My Favorite Novel

June 22-28

Greg Laurie
Pol Medina Jr
Kingdom Of Heaven 

I finally found last April the character who mirrors mine most. He is Nicholai Hel, the hero of Trevanian's Shibumi, now my favorite novel of all time. It's a major event for me. Never has a story moved me so much, never have I identified with a character with this soul-stirring intensity. Nicholai and I have so much in common that I find it uplifting, life-affirming and unnerving at the same time.

"Pleasure, study and comfort were adequate to him," writes Trevanian. Nicholai "did not need the crutch of recognition, the reassurances of power, the narcotic of fun. Unfortunately, circumstances had made it necessary to earn a living."

Nicholai created a Zen garden in Japan in the immediate aftermath of the war. "His real life was centered on his house, built around a courtyard, in a narrow side street in the Asakusa district." I'm also the type who'd rather stay at home than be with superficial and back-stabbing company. I'm a homeboy continuously searching for the right house, away from undesirable elements.

We are both old school. Nicholai "trained in classic, rather old-fashioned jiu-jitsu," while I'm into aikido and tai-chi. I was never into basketball or football. Nicholai "did not really like team sports, preferring to win or lose by virtue of his own skill and toughness. And his emotional toughness was such that he almost always won, as a matter of will."

Solo sports is for people like us. I've created my own, which I call solitary deep sea swimming, at the edge of a watery grave in the strait between Cebu and Bohol. For Nicholai, it's caving, or what came to be known as spelunking. "The moments of risk and daring in the caves were personal, silent and unobserved; and they had the special spice of involving primitive animal fears." 

We both meditate, but Nicholai has the rare natural gift of mystic transport. "When I depart, I don't leave," he tries to explain to his Go teacher, Otake-san. "I am where my body is, as well as everywhere else." This is what I've been searching for. "I don't become one with everything," he says. "I return to being one with everything." 

I'm waiting for the publication of my story, "The Art of Understated Perfection," about Nicholai's guiding philosophy and his foster father, Gen. Kishikawa. Their poignant relationship, I revealed, reminds me of my own late foster father. Of all the things I've ever done as a writer, that was the most special. My poem, Shibumi, is part of my entry for the 2013 Palanca Award this coming September.

This is the first time I felt driven to produce two stories and a poem about one character. That's how Nicholai Hel affected me.

"Nikko" is handsome and looks younger than he is. He became an orphan when he was still very young. He started living alone when he was still a teenager, lived in the streets amidst the Hiroshima bombing but still made a life for himself. He feels contempt for shallow people.

Nicholai, in the isolated grandeur of the home he has built in the Basque Pyrenees, has created another spiritual sanctuary. His garden has "that sweet melancholy, that forgiving sadness, that characterizes the beautiful in the Japanese mind," writes Trevanian. "There was intentional imperfection and organic simplicity that created, then satisfied, aesthetic tensions." 

A lot of things about Nicholai set him apart from the "tyrannical masses," but he's indifferent that he's different. "You're a recluse by nature," Hana, his concubine, tells him. "You despise the outside world and you don't need it." Nicholai has vanquished his enemies, those who had destroyed his home but cannot touch "the idea of garden in Hel's mind of which that plot had been an imperfect statement." 

He began to start anew. "But monsieur," protested his loyal servant, Pierre. "It will take forever to rebuild the chateau!" 

Nicholai says meaningfully: "I didn't say we would ever finish." 

I'm all alone in the world, like Nicholai, searching for where I can build that garden, where I can call my own. "Home...after so many years of wandering."

I enjoyed Pastor Greg Laurie on James Dobson's Family Talk, which I heard early Saturday evening, May 25, 2013 on the Cebu station 98.7 DYFR FM, "The Life Changing Radio." I felt like I was there, smiling everytime the audience would applaud.

The first person Greg approached to spread the Good News was a woman alone on the beach. He was so nervous, he recalled, that he just read his tract. Then he's supposed to ask if there's any reason why she couldn't accept Jesus. She said there's none, and Greg was rattled. "What have I gotten myself into?" (smile).

Fast forward ten years. He's now a pastor in Southern California, and he was scheduled to appear in New York. He decided to get in touch with Oscar, his estranged father, in Jersey. They had dinner, and he was soon calling Oscar "Dad" for the first time. The new wife, Barbara, asked Greg how he had found Jesus. He saw that his father was listening intently. Greg recalls being nervous again, feeling like he was on trial and his father was the judge (smile). 

The next day, they went for an early morning walk. The father told the son that he now wanted to accept Jesus too (smile). Oscar knelt, and Greg was so flustered, not wanting to kneel on the sidewalk too (smile). Oscar was ecstatic, absolutely certain that Jesus had healed his heart problem, and Greg warned him not to jump the gun (smile). But Oscar insisted they rush to his doctor, who was Jewish (smile). They found that the heart condition was gone (smile). 

Oscar had "lived for fifteen more years," says Greg (smile). "He's in heaven now."

(See also Huggybear's stories on Chuck Swindoll and Chuck Colson)

One effective long-term anti-stress technique is meditation. Just focus on your deep breathing, count 10-1, then do positive affirmations

This is my text read by Shalala on May 29, 2013 on the radio show Todo-Todo Bigay Na Bigay. Shalala said: "Ganda (beautiful)!"

He added: "In fairness!"

The episode was about skin care and the effect of stress. Guest was dermatologist Charlie Mendez. I was tuned in to 101.9 Radyo Singko, the Cebu station of 92.3 NewsFM

What's BAD is that Pol Medina Jr., author of the incisive Pugad Baboy comic series, has been stripped from his job (pardon the pun). 

Medina did a cartoon about lesbians in an all-girls school, which is a matter of logic and public knowledge. There's nothing wrong with that; it's just the way it is. Then the Church, which condemns gays but keeps mum on priests molesting altar boys, rained its self-righteous wrath. 

WORSE is that it's not even Medina's fault: the Philippine Daily Inquirer published the cartoon on June 4 then they fired Medina by forcing him to resign. 

The WORST is what it shows about our society: we Filipinos are still mentally primitive, unable to appreciate satire. We haven't evolved: still intolerant and immature, justifying censorship by our hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness

The Holy City is about to fall. Saladin and thousands of his Saracen warriors are on the verge of conquest. "I gave my life to Jerusalem," laments the Templar Knight Tiberius (Jeremy Irons), burdened with a lifetime of endless war and eventual disillusionment. "I thought we were fighting for God," but instead, "we were fighting for land and wealth!" He will leave. "Will you come with me?" he asks Balian (Orlando Bloom). The young knight, intent on going to the besieged city, answers: "No!"

Tiberius, with an air of sadness and admiration, told him: "You are your father's son!" It is time to part ways -- and follow their own destinies. "God be with you!" Tiberius hails in farewell. "For he is no longer with me!"

Inside the Walls, Balian is rallying the men to fight. The bishop tells him the two of them must escape. What about the other men, women and children who'll be left behind and massacred? "It is unfortunate," says the bishop, "but that is the will of God!"

Balian ignores him. But the bishop challenges: "How can you fight if you don't have knights?" It's true. Everybody is looking at Balian. The complete silence conveys everything. He looks at a young boy and asks him who he is. The boy says he is a servant. "Are you born a slave?" asks Balian, and the boy nods. Then he tells him: "Kneel!" Balian turns to the men gathered around him: "Those of you who can bear arms and fight," he commands, "KNEEL! As one, the men of Jerusalem falls to their knees. Balian intones the sacred oath. Then he declares, at the top of his voice, "AND ARISE A KNIGHT!!!" 

At the end of the day of the first attack, it's a bloodbath on both sides. Saladin tells his men not to burn the bodies because their dead will not be resurrected on Judgement Day. At that same moment, Balian is telling his men, gesturing to the bodies of his dead knights: We must burn them "or all of us will die of disease in three days!" 

"If God does not love you," an enemy soldier tells Balian, "how could you done everything you've done?" 

"What is Jerusalem worth?" says Balian when he finally comes face to face with Saladin.

"Nothing," says the Saracen leader, walking away. Then he looks back and says: "Everything!"

Jonathan Aquino's Journal 

May 24, 2013 
5:51 p.m., Friday 
Lahug City, Cebu 

I feel an unbearable lightness of being. I just finished two major projects today. One is for next year and I'm hoping the other will reach climax sooner.

I'm free now to do my other long-term personal projects; one will happen in 2015 if it's successful. There are some short-term goals for daily bread too, of course, but they're more like stop-gap measures. 

I know the kind of life I need, and the things I have to do to achieve it. I'm lucky for that because I notice that a lot of people don't even seem to have any idea of what they want. It's sad that some people equate social status with quality of life.

I'm a writer, an artist, I find strength in solitude. I know I don't belong to the corporate world, and that's fine. I believe that a person is measured by his integrity, not his resume. I cannot be in a situation where I'm forced to conform to rules that I find senseles

Some might call me a rebel or a renegade, or any such essentially meaningless terms. I don't believe in labels, and I'm sure they have a word for that. I've met a lot of filing-system-minded people, and I find it amusing that they just don't realize how pathetic that mentality is. I might have found it funny if it wasn't so tragic because it keeps multiplying like Gremlins under the rain

“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures."

~ Lao Tzu 
"Tao Te Ching"

"Wish I could hold you in my arms,
keep you safe and keep you warm,
but now all I can do
is hope and long for you..." 

"Wish I Could"

Photo Credits


  1. "I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create."

    ~William Blake

  2. "For one who is not in Yoga, there is no intelligence, no concentration of thought; for him without concentration there is no peace, and for the unpeaceful how can there be happiness?"

    ~Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2, Verse 6

  3. “Perfection is the willingness to be imperfect.”

    ~ Lao Tzu
    "Tao Te Ching"

  4. "Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing."

    ~Abraham Lincoln

  5. Jim Rohn's Mentor Earl Shoaff

  6. "It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong."

    ~Richard P. Feynman

  7. Today I posted a title. It just used to be the issue date on the title field. Now there's more spice. So sweet

  8. “The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.”

    ~Arnold Schwarzenegger

  9. This is the first time I felt driven to produce two stories and a poem about one character. That's how Nicholai Hel affected me.

  10. .

    “Simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures."..."



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