What Keeps Me Calm: The Ateneo Magisterial Lectures from Arete on YouTube
“What do you do when you can’t sustain yourself? What do you do when you feel lost and don’t know where to go next? You come back home.”
Welcome to What Keeps Me Calm, a series of movies, television shows, albums, books, and other works of media that are comforting us during these incredibly stressful times. On particularly sad and disheartening days, there’s nothing better and more consoling than to turn to our favorite things to read, watch, and listen, as these offer a respite from the hardships we face collectively and individually.
It had been months since I heard from our superiors at work. I wasn’t surprised. But I was dreading the inevitable. The company had been battling for a franchise license to operate for the better part of the year. And yet, despite being promised a fair hearing, ABS-CBN, the broadcast giant, was declined and forced to shut down. As it was the logical thing for any broadcast company that cannot broadcast on free airwaves to do, they began to downsize.
Imagine the anxiety of whether or not you’re going to lose your job. Imagine a countdown towards the end of a contract that you were powerless to have renewed. To top it all off, this happened in the middle of a pandemic, when people were scrambling to survive. It basically felt like the end of the road. We had no choice but to start packing our bags and call it a day.
What do you do when you can’t sustain yourself? What do you do when you feel lost and don’t know where to go next? You come back home. Home, where things can make sense again. Home, where the familiar is. Home can be so many things. It can be the physical home you have with your parents; it can be that familiar coffee place where many afternoons were spent, it could also be a walk through familiar grounds. And during this pandemic, any definition of home is the best place to be in.
For me, home came in the form of the Ateneo Magisterial Lectures series on YouTube. It’s a series of lectures made by Arete, the creativity and innovations hub of Ateneo, in partnership with the Loyola Schools’ Department of Communication and the Eugenio Lopez Jr. Center for Multimedia Communication. I was refreshed with the fine old subjects lost in the library of memory. As I listened through these lectures, I felt like a student again. It seemed like, even after over 10 years past graduation, it was possible to envision oneself walking through campus to your next class.
While trying to find a retreat from the anxiety that the world was relentlessly dishing out, I stumbled across the lectures of Roberto Guevara and Fr. Jose Villarin. Roberto Guevara or “Bobby Guev” as the students used to call him, was my teacher for Theology in the Ateneo. I remember he always gave the most heartfelt lectures and insights during his class. While Fr. Villarin or Fr. Jett, as he is more popularly known, was a dear old family friend and mentor to my older sister back when she was in college. Seeing these familiar faces online already brought joy to my anxious heart. I immediately tuned in to what they had to say. While these two speakers may be strongly attuned to Ignatian spirituality, the teachings and reflections, in my opinion, are comforting regardless of faith and alma mater.
Guevara’s talk is on the reflections on Exodus and how it reflects the story of our lives. He talks about the “unfreedoms” that have lived with us for so long that we have gotten used to them. He says, “you may not like slavery, but after a while, you get used to it.” It hadn’t occurred to me that being so caught up in the politics of the world that, in a way, my mind and my heart were cornered into thoughts of fear and frustration. It was a slavery of a kind, that I didn’t know I was falling into.
In the same way, Fr. Jett talks of the daunting complexities of the moral and ethical issues plaguing our planet. He brings into context the environmental costs of our current energy consumption. This is probably a truth that we have put into the back of our minds for fear that we are powerless to do anything about. But that is precisely the trap, this thought process, that makes us feel powerless.
But what makes us feel powerless? Guevara enlightens us with a quote by Fr. Venancio Calpotura SJ, “What makes change difficult is fear. If you want to live in mediocrity, live in fear.” Fear is paralyzing. I am once again reminded that fear has “enslaved” me; Fear of what is to come, fear of the uncertainty of the world today. Even fear of going back to what once was.
In response, both Fr. Jett and Bobby Guevara disclose insights that may reveal a way out of this fear or “unfreedom”. Fr. Jett encourages us to rediscover our spirituality. To be in this world is to take part in it, to help cultivate it. Fr. Jett, in his talk, delineates the role of mankind as not a mere bystander, but an active participant in caring for the world today. But how?
In Guevara’s talk, he shares a popular saying in Ignatian spirituality. This quote, by Frederick Buechner, goes “God calls you to the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” It is this statement that woke me up from the depression of uncertainty. It feels so simple. Go where your deepest passion intersects with the world’s greatest need.
Where that is for me, I don’t know yet. Being thrust into a world of change can be painful. It will take time to heal. But at least now, the path ahead doesn’t look as bleak. Even in the context of this pandemic, it is nice to know that there are avenues for us to find our way back home.
As my journey with ABS-CBN ends, another will begin. Coming back to these teachings has helped me to see things from a less powerless perspective. This alone does not fully alleviate my anxiety about the future. But it does give me a strong sense to start somewhere. The world is changing and us with it. It is up to us if we want to stay with the old ways, or change, and maybe find freedom in being able to live more fully and more lovingly.