MattAndJojang's Blog

God. Life. Spirituality.

Posts Tagged ‘Relationships

The People Who Changed My Life

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Mentors

Sir Isaac Newton said that we always stand on the shoulders of other people. In other words, our lives are shaped by our encounters with people, who shared generously their time, talent and treasure with us. On the top of my list are these people who changed my life:

1. Bro. Paul Aguas – My Dad. A selfless man who spent his entire life serving God and His people. To this day he remains my model in the way I live my life.

2. Sr. Marie Jose Garcia, SSpS – Dear friend for 40 years now. She introduced me to the practice of Zen meditation, which changed my life in a way I couldn’t ever imagine.

3. Dom Fil Cinco, OCSO – Abbot of the Our Lady of the Philippines Trappist Monastery and my novice master. Our conversations in the open fields of the monastery, under the blue skies about the spiritual life, especially about the Desert Fathers, remained etched in my memory. 30+ years later it seems that those conversations took place only yesterday.

4. Sr. Elaine MacInnes, OLM – Catholic Nun and Zen Master. What I can’t forget about her was her generosity. Although we couldn’t offer her anything, even her retreat stipend, she generously guided us, a group of young college students, myself included, 40 years ago in the practice of Zen meditation by conducting Zen retreats for us. The seeds she planted would later bear fruit in our lives. In my case, it just took a little longer to do so.

5. Sr. Sonia Punzalan, RC – A religious of the Sisters of the Cenacle and one of my Zen teachers. It was on my first Zen retreat with her that I had one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life. It goes without saying that it transformed my life. Almost 20 years later that experience continues to inform and affect my life.

6. Fr. Thomas Merton, OCSO – Trappist monk, and considered as one of the most significant spiritual writers of the 20th century. I’ve never met him in person, but his books on the Christian monastic and contemplative tradition, which I read when I was 15 or 16 years old, changed my life forever.

I humbly owe them a debt of gratitude.

–Matt

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Written by MattAndJojang

August 27, 2018 at 1:15 pm

What Makes a Good Life: Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness

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What makes a good life? What truly makes us happy? Is it wealth? Is it fame?

The psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, who has an unprecedented access on data about what makes people happy, reveals that money and popularity doesn’t enter at all in the equation.

He says that what makes us truly happy and healthy is the quality of our relationships.

If you’re interested in what matters most in life,  listen to his talk.

–Matt

Written by MattAndJojang

July 13, 2016 at 6:28 pm

Finding Forrester

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Finding Forrester

I realize that the one wish that was granted to me, so late in life, was the gift of friendship.

— From the movie “Finding Forrester”

When was the last time a Hollywood movie portrayed the acts of reading and writing in such a gratifying and fulfilling way that it made you want to read a real book rather than an “airport” bestseller? And when was the last time you saw an interracial mentor-pupil relationship presented as mutually rewarding, and interracial teenage romance depicted without punitive condescension or parental disapproval? Gus Van Sant’s deftly crafted “Finding Forrester” achieves all of the above and more: It provides a platform for Sean Connery to deliver a definitive, career-summation performance as a reclusive, charismatic literary legend. With the right handling, Columbia has a sure winner here, a skillfully written, expertly acted picture whose uplifting plot should score high among viewers across the board.

With the notable exception of “Psycho,” his futile 1998 remake, Van Sant’s technical work continues to improve in a way that doesn’t call attention to itself. His work has always shown a fondness for outsiders, but rather than merely depicting them sympathetically, Van Sant places his outcasts in crisis, forcing them to confront their relationship to society and its rules. Two of the filmmaker’s most-used motifs are highlighted in the new film: the moral odyssey of outsiders and the casual randomness of urban life.

Indeed, on the surface, “Finding Forrester” tells a similar story to that of Van Sant’s 1997 Oscar-winning “Good Will Hunting,” with Connery playing the Robin Williams part and black teenager Rob Brown in the Matt Damon role, a gifted kid with a chip on his shoulder. While “Forrester” is critical of conservative educational institutions and tyrant instructors, it doesn’t put down the system itself.

With a touch of “Rear Window” voyeurism, narrative depicts Forrester as a silver-haired eccentric who spends a lot of time at his Bronx apartment window, seemingly observing a bunch of black kids playing ball in a court across the street; later it turns out he’s an avid bird-watcher. Veiled in mystery, the last the world has heard of Forrester was more than 40 years ago, when he was a brilliant Pulitzer-winning novelist. His book, which has since become a cherished classic, is apparently his only literary output.

As the youngsters are aware of Forrester’s invisible presence, their curiosity naturally builds. Sneaking into his apartment to get info about the mythical man, 16-year-old Jamal (Brown) accidentally leaves behind a backpack full of his writing. The next day, the bag appears at the window and, to Jamal’s surprise, his papers have been read and graded by Forrester. An unlikely relationship begins, marked by all the familiar ups and downs of such bonds. Turning point occurs when an exclusive Manhattan prep school recruits Jamal for his basketball talent and his academic achievement, and he seeks Forrester’s help in dealing with the new environment, becomes a reluctant hero and Jamal gradually becomes committed not only to his own writing, but to cracking Forrester’s shell.

Central acts chronicle the flowering of a union that goes beyond the routine teacher-pupil interaction. While lines of authority are clearly maintained, Mike Rich’s graceful script shows how dependent the mentor becomes on the kid, who evolves from an intrigued fan to a loyal student to a social companion, all the while determined to reignite Forrester’s passion for writing before it’s too late. Though earnest and utterly predictable, yarn avoids the traps of the similarly themed “Educating Rita,” in which a working-class hairdresser-wife (Julie Walters) forces a boozy professor (Michael Caine) to become her instructor. “Forrester” doesn’t unfold as a series of calculated setups painted with a broad brush — there are no cutesy scenes like Rita giving her mentor a shampoo. Rich inserts enough narrative subtleties and moral shadings into a friendship that ultimately becomes a surrogate family relationship.

The text is extremely old-fashioned: A crucial scene at school, in which Jamal is reprimanded for his conduct, functions as the equivalent of a courtroom scene, in which an inflexible teacher (F. Murray Abraham) is contrasted with good ones. A bigger mistake is that the filmmakers signal where the tale will ultimately go about a reel before it gets there.

Undoubtedly, it’s the bravura acting that binds viewers to the characters’ shifting emotions from one scene to the next. “Forrester” is very much a chamber piece for two, with more than half the scenes set indoors in Forrester’s cluttered, oversize apartment, inventively textured by production designer Jane Musky to capture the feel of a capacious pre-WWII residence, which later becomes a kind of Never Never Land. What gives pic a much needed outdoor cinematic dimension are the basketball scenes, which are dynamically shot by lenser Harris Savides, and Valdis Oskarsdottir provides modulated editing.

Playing the Salinger-like writer of legendary stature, Connery expertly fills the bill as a man who’s at once ingratiating and infuriating, a recluse who needs to be rescued from misanthropy. The role allows the actor to display his signature humor, a flourish of arrogance balanced by depth. Connery hasn’t only stopped masking his Scottishness, but now integrates it into the plot. But Forrester is by no means a one-man show.

Amazingly, with no previous experience, Brown stands up to Connery, and in some scenes even matches him with his inner strength and stillness. Anna Paquin plays a student who fosters a flirtatious friendship with Jamal, while “Good Will Hunting” star Matt Damon pops up for a late-in-the-game cameo.

— Emanuel Levy

Written by MattAndJojang

October 13, 2015 at 7:26 pm

Remembering My Father

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Paul Aguas

A short piece written by Matt’s sister, Katherine, to honor their father, Paul Aguas, on his 21st death anniversary.

My father was a man who had smiles to brighten your days,
Who always made you feel good with his warm words of praise
And what’s more he knew what to do to make your wishes come true.
He was my father.
My father was someone who always had good stories to tell,
But just as importantly he knew how to be a good listener as well.
He was patient & kind and the very best friend you could ever hope to find.
He was no ordinary man,
And I’m proud to tell the world that he was my father.
Rest in peace, Daddy. We miss you so much.

–Katherine Aguas Padua

 

Written by MattAndJojang

December 16, 2014 at 8:58 am

The Art of Living Well

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Top 5 Regrets

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.

~ Voltaire

Written by MattAndJojang

October 24, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Happy Birthday, Mom

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Mom's Family

Matt’s Mom, Matt’s Maternal Grandmother, Lola Moning, and Matt’s Mom’s Siblings, Tita Sonie & Tita Pilaring

All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.

~ Abraham Lincoln

Happy birthday, Mom!

Written by MattAndJojang

August 9, 2013 at 9:32 am

“See the Good…”

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Matt's Dad and Mom. Photo taken at Monterey, CA.

Matt’s Dad and Mom. Photo taken at Monterey, CA.

See the good. Assume the best. Be ready to forgive.

~ Paul Aguas (Matt’s Dad)

Written by MattAndJojang

June 10, 2013 at 10:37 am