Thursday, February 28, 2019

Who Are The People You Meet In Heaven?

Saturday Stories
March 2, 2019

Who Are The People You Meet In Heaven?
By Jonathan Aquino


Every night for the past three months, I would watch an episode of The Flash before my bedtime reading. Flash is so fast that he could travel back in time. One time (pardon the pun), he went back to be with his parents, which created an alternate timeline called Flashpoint. But when he returned, like what happened in the film The Butterfly Effect, everything in his original timeline had changed. The only way to fix things was to return to the past and let events happen again as they had. So he did that, but when he returned to the present, there were new changes. And the effects of Flashpoint created a new group of metahumans that weren't there before.


I'm especially intrigued by the idea of how something that seems insignificant can have far-reaching effects. So when I read again The Five People You Meet In Heaven by my beloved Mitch Albom, my mind kept going back to when Eddie, our central character, saw the first person he met in Heaven – the Blue Man. Eddie never saw him when he was alive, but their paths had crossed when he was a child. It was only when he was dead that Eddie knew about how the Blue Man had died to save his life. Eddie then began to understand how every event is connected to one another.  


So, if everything is connected, then it is logical that to change one thing would change something else. And in Edward Lorenz's Chaos Theory, this specific change would start a series of other changes. In other words, what we do can affect someone else, which will also affect his life, and his actions would affect another person which would also affect that person's life, and so on. Lorenz coined "The butterfly effect," which basically says that a small action would later cause a big reaction, like a hurricane caused by a butterfly that flapped its wings in the past on the other side of the world. 


After Eddie learned that every action leads to an event that can sometimes be totally surprising, he still needed to understand (as we all do) how we let the actions of others affect us, often in ways we don't even know. Eddie was a war veteran, but he came home bitter because his leg was shot and never fully healed. He spent the rest of his life as the maintenance keeper of a carnival. Things would have been a lot different if the accident didn't happen. Then he saw the second person he met in Heaven, who showed him how the bullet that destroyed his leg had actually saved his life.

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The Five People You Meet in Heaven 
Mitch Albom

Photo courtesy of Behance. net

Friday, February 22, 2019

Viktor Frankl and Our Search For Meaning

viktor frankl, man's search for meaning, holocaust, hope
Saturday Stories
February 23, 2019

Viktor Frankl and Our Search For Meaning 
By Jonathan Aquino


Viktor Frankl once said – "When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves." One of the greatest lessons I've learned is that we can always decide how we react to anything, and nothing can take it away from us. I got this from a man who has suffered the most savage brutality that humans can inflict on their fellowmen. We all know that the Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl had been imprisoned, tortured and driven to slavery during the Holocaust, but we cannot possibly even imagine the magnitude of the kind of suffering. 


Yet Frankl knew it. He has seen the most evil face of humanity. He felt that absolute worst pain that anyone can ever endure – the cold-blooded murder of his entire family. The Nazis killed his wife, his mother, his father and his brother. For three agonizing years since their capture in 1942, Frankl was sent to four different camps including the infamous Auschwitz. It was at that time that he learned he can still choose what to think and feel, and it helped him from being overwhelmed by the paralyzing sense of hopelessness.


Many years ago, I read the novel The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth. The story, set in the sixties, is about a young German reporter who made it his personal mission to find the commandant of a Nazi death camp during the war and bring him to justice. It began when he found the diary of a camp survivor. When I read it, I felt numb. I heard about Hitler in history class, but that was the first when I saw the Holocaust on my mind. And this was before I've seen Schindler's List and The Boy In The Striped Pajamas. It was then when the Holocaust became a living reality for me – how it had systematically sent more than six million innocent men, women and children to death. I felt such a sense of loss that was so vivid, and still is, even today.


A lot of things have happened to me since then. And so, many years later, when I read Frankl's now-classic "Man's Search For Meaning," I still remember the feeling – but I now also see the victory of the human spirit. It is because of my life experiences that I have the deepest respect for those who had overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and became better human beings. These are the people who inspire us to find own inner strength to face our own battles. Frankl developed logotherapy, a method of psychotherapy based on the premise that the primary motivating force in humans is to find meaning in their lives. When a person has doubts about his himself, it creates within him "existential vaccum," a sense of being empty and without purpose. But when he believes in himself, and believes that there is still hope even in the darkest night, then nothing defeat him.

Finding Meaning In Difficult Times
An Interview With Dr. Viktor Frankl

Photo courtesy of

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Way of Peace

Saturday Stories
February 15, 2019

jonathan aquino, dan millman, way peaceful warrior

The Way of Peace 
By Jonathan Aquino


Robert Louis Stevenson once said "Keep your fears to yourself, but share your inspiration with others." Somebody asked me what movie do I want the world to see. I said one of them is "Peaceful Warrior," inspired by the novel "Way of The Peaceful Warrior" by world champion athlete Dan Millman. It is the story of a gymnast who broke his leg – and recovered by healing his spirit.


Dan was a national champion, the star of the college team, and on the way to the Olympics. Life was good. But he felt a sense of being incomplete, yet not knowing why. One night, as he walked along the campus, he saw a service station where an old man was sitting on a chair just outside. When he came to the door, he saw the impossible – the man was standing on the rooftop.


That was how the student met his teacher. The man was mysterious, so Dan just called him Socrates, after the Greek philosopher who was one of the wisest man who ever lived. Dan's life would be changed forever. "Everything you'll ever need to know is within you," said Socrates. "The secrets of the universe are imprinted on the cells of your body."


My favorite scene is when Socrates taught him to quiet his mind. Dan sat on a rock behind the service station, and on the roof of a vintage car in the movie. When morning came, as he was watching people go about their lives, he was inspired by a profound idea – "There are no ordinary moments." Socrates smiled and told him: "Welcome back!"

Peaceful Warrior
The Movie Version

Photo courtesy of GoodReads

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sign of Water

Sign of Water
By Jonathan Aquino

West Coast Eisteddfod, jonathan aquino


An old building, almost empty, second floor.
I was alone, standing on the corridor,
then a guy approached, some dude
wearing a red Che Guevara shirt,
baggy jeans, black socks, and no shoes.


He nodded at me, and I did likewise.
“Where’s your ward, man?” I asked.
“Last one on the left,” he said. “Hey!”
“Hey what?” I asked, startled.
He said he saw me the other day
downstairs where people get x-rays.


“Clem,” he said, and, “Thomas,” I said,
but we did not shake hands, though he asked 
if there are cigarettes I happen to have,
and I said, “But we can’t smoke,”
and he said, “Rules, rules, rules!”


Just then, a man went past, ignoring us,
heading towards the far pavillion.
“My ward," Clem said. He added: “My dad,”
and he translated: “Mi padre.”
“You freaking hablo Español?!” I was amazed.
“Un poco,” he said. “A little. My dad and I,”
he confessed, “don't talk.” And I,
of course, didn't ask why. I nodded:
it's sometimes wise not to push advice.


“I’m into astrology!” I told him with pride,
and asked his sign. “Aquarius.” he replied,
and solemnly, like the Oracle at Dolphy,
I said he was born on the sign of water,
and he was speechless in wonder.
“Your favorite song,” I cried, 
“is Cool Change!” He was surprised.
“Little River Band!” he joyfully said, 
loud enough to wake up the dead.


“It's not like in the movies,” he said.
I said nothing, just nodded.
“By the way, who’s with you?” he asked.
“Nobody,” I smiled, my sorrow masked.
We were silent for a moment.
“This is really happening,” Clem said.
I nodded. “Yup,” I said, brooding.
He nodded too. “Yeah,” he said, sighing.
A little while later,
there materialized an orderly,
pushing a stretcher,
a gleaming white sheet over 
my new friend's mortal body. 
We bowed our heads silently
as it passed through us squeakily.

Friday, February 08, 2019

A Long Strange Trip

Saturday Stories
February 9, 2019

jonathan aquino, naughty nuts and bolts, creative talents unleashed


The American humorist W.C. Fields once said "Some things are better than sex, and some are worse, but there's nothing exactly like it." Creative Talents Unleashed, an independent publisher in California where I've been a Featured Writer, has just released their latest anthology, Naughty Nuts & Bolts.


In the book is my narrative poem, "A Long Strange Trip," a coming-of-age story which can also be interpreted as a metaphor for sex. It is originally a part of one of my poetry duets with award-winning international author Elizabeth Castillo whose poem, "Temptation," is also featured.


My ABABAB rhyme form and 7-5-7-7-7-5 beat is inspired by "Sorrow" by Edna St. Vincent Millay – "Sorrow like a ceaseless rain/ Beats upon my heart./ People twist and scream in pain, —/ Dawn will find them still again;/ This has neither wax nor wane,/ Neither stop nor start..."


And my title is inspired by the rock classic by Grateful Dead – "Sometimes the light's all shinin' on me ... other times I can barely see ... lately it occurs to me ... what a long ... strange trip it's been..." 🎶

A Long Strange Trip
By Jonathan Huggybear


You took me from the city,
away from the lights, 
so many things you showed me: 
twin peaks of wuthering heights,
a forest of mystery,
and more wondrous sights


So we went into the woods
as you held my hand,
I left behind my childhood
like sailors leave the mainland,
and new things I understood,
though nothing was planned.


At times I was going faster,
but it was a game:
you and I were explorers
for a prize we will both claim
at last we crossed the borders
and blessedly, we came.
Photo courtesy of Twitter

Grateful Dead

Friday, February 01, 2019

There Are No Ordinary Moments

Saturday Stories
February 2, 2019

jonathan aquino, thich nhat hanh, mindfulness, buddhism


The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh once said: "Mindfulness helps you go home to the present, and every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes." I first knew him in "The Monks and Me," the memoir of a yoga teacher of her forty-day retreat in a Buddhist temple which I've read three years ago. It inspired me to focus on the present, to be fully aware of my breathing, to be totally absorbed in what I'm doing.


I always remind myself to practice mindfulness, though I've trained myself to multitask. I made it a point to be intent while I was polishing our kitchen and bathroom tiles last weekend, or while reading Thich Nhat Hanh's "The Miracle of Mindfulness" three weeks ago. "In mindfulness," he writes, "one is not only restful and happy, but alert and awake." Meditation is "a serene encounter with reality."


Mindfulness, this kind of moving meditation, is the most precious lesson I learned from Thich Nhat Hanh. I also love the one about the flower. A flower has been nourished by the sunlight, the soil and the air. And when you pick up a flower, you also hold in your hands the sunlight, the soil and the air. It is an illuminating way to truly see how everything is connected.


I was on a bus on the way out of the city just recently. I'd been looking at the passing landscape of the countryside, not thinking of anything in particular. My mind was (and still is) quiet. I value those moments when I can hear my own thoughts. I looked back at my entire life, and I felt tremendous gratitude about how things turned out the way they did. And then I had an epiphany – the best times in my life were those when I was fully present, with no other thought than the Moment.

Photo courtesy of AbeBooks