Category Archives: Abner’s Posts

The honesty of hipocrisy

Human relationships are the most exciting and fulfilling aspect of our existence. Also, they can be the most painful and frustrating part of it. With regards to them, one of the unarguable values that society tells us to have is honesty. However, the more I think about honesty, the less honest it becomes.

Sometimes, as an experiment, when I am in a group of people and someone starts talking about a slightly controversial topic, like politics or religion, I tend to say things just to observe their reactions. If what I say supports the main speaker’s point of view, usually the others do too. If I say something that makes them think that I feel completely the opposite, the others, including the main speaker, tend to back off and change his/her point of view. You could say that people are just trying to be polite, or maybe they don’t really have a strong point of view. But, I think the main reason is people don’t like confrontation (notice that ‘being polite’ implies a completely different intention). In general, people try to avoid confronting anyone even if that means not being honest about what they think or believe.

Some may say that this is being hypocritical, and by definition, they are right. Hypocrisy is the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform. However, people avoid disagreeing because they also believe that it is likely to cause discomfort and will deny everybody of having a peaceful time. Therefore, here is a dichotomy that exists within us. We can be honest while lying. We lie being honest.

If we put on one side of a balance the option: Let the others know what I really think, and how I would really behave if nobody would get affected, but I know they would; and on the other side, the other option: Nobody really needs to know about what I think, or what I do, and I can get on with everybody at least here and for now… Well, I think the benefits of the second option will weigh a lot more.

So, with this in mind, I’d like to redeem the word hypocrisy. It is something needed, and something that can bring more benefits than its antonym. Next time someone calls you a hypocrite, don’t take it as an offence, take it as a complement. It was for everybody’s sake.

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33

I was born on the 5th of April, 1982 at 19:30ish. Another important historical event that happened that day was that the British fleet sailed to Falkland Islands. So, I’m starting to write these words just after my first day as a 33 year old. For the West, yesterday was Easter Sunday, the day when Jesus resurrected. Obviously, everybody, who knew about my birthday, highlighted this fact. The more they mentioned it, the less funny I found it; and particularly, when it was the 33rd birthday! Christ’s age when he died.

However, I took the opportunity to celebrate it seriously. First, the celebration started on Thursday night with a new set of friends from Argentina that I’ve just met. Meeting new fantastic people is always so refreshing. On Easter Friday, I went away with my family to a lovely country side spa out where we spent the night. For the first time in my life, I ate crunchy fried cuy (guinea pig). Then, on Saturday night, for the very first time too, in a birthday, I threw the party in my own flat and invited my 12 closest people (representing the 12 disciples). We had amazing music, dance, food, booze and, although I don’t remember part of it, I think it was a great time. On Sunday, I felt resurrected indeed!

Thinking back on it, I feel extremely lucky of living the life I live. I love people who love me back. Although, I do believe that love doesn’t really exist, but the acts of love do, but that’s a topic for another entry. So, let’s say, I appreciate people who appreciate me back. Some show it more than others, and some in ways that I don’t really understand, but I know they do, and even if they don’t, at least they act it very well (which is already a way of appreciation – and also a topic for another entry).

But my feeling of resurrection goes beyond the weekend. I really want this year to be more meaningful and that implies many things. It implies more achievements and more mistakes, more forgiveness and more mess-ups, more understandings and probably more frustrations. It implies more of everything… because I think that’s what life is, the constant search of something more. The moment when someone believes they have everything, they have actually lost everything, because they have lost the essence of existence: the search.

Finally, talking about life, I would like to end this entry with the wise words from one of my new Argentinian friends: “Being single, being young, and having money, never meet up at the same time, get over it” Love it! Which one of those three are you missing guys?! haha.

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Writer’s Block – A crisis of expectations.

If Mike is having a dry spell, I’m suffering a virtually endless block… I’ve been absent for a while, and I could try explaining the mix of personal reasons, lack of discipline, forgetting to do it… but at the end, it comes to this: a crisis of expectations.

The reason why I usually express publicly, it is because I feel I have something to say and I try my best to say it in a very interesting, attractive, entretaining way. I want to think that others are interested in it. And that feels good. But, many times, I have written something, read it, and think: “This is rubbish” “Who cares about this?”… and then I press the ‘Trash’ bottom, rather than the “Publish” one, close the laptop and forget about it. It’s not that I have nothing to say, but what I am saying, it feels like nothing. It’s a crisis of expectations. I don’t want to look like a fool who says nothing interesting.

However, this is not healthy. It’s a self-imposed judgement. As a songwriter, I always try to have something to say and make it relevant for someone. Nevertheless, lately, I’ve learned than even the most uninteresting and irrelevant things can be or become interesting or relevant to someone. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be allowed to say whatever we think, even if we feel it is innapropiate or irrelevant to us. Even if we look like fools.

So, I am making a stand. I will write, whatever I feel, think or want to talk about. Without judging myself and hoping that my uncensorship can bring inspiration to someone, and if it doesn’t, what can I do? Keep writing until it does!

Communication is what takes the world forward. Thanks to those who keep writing even through their dry spells! (Thanks Mike!)

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What do I say when I have nothing to say…

Hi smallword. It’s been more than a month since I wrote my last entry. I had a fantastic time in Chile. If you ever have the chance to visit the Torres del Paine National Park, do it. It’s simply amazing.

Back at home (or better said: where I live now), many things have happened that I didn’t expect. Things that I’ve felt compelled to share in public thanks to the extremely thin line between private/public that our Facebook generation has drawn. However, I believe it’s better to deal with them in the closeness of my thoughts and try to go through them quietly.

I haven’t written anything because what do I say when I have nothing to say? And I know that by saying that, I guess I’m saying enough… So, I better leave you with some photo memories of my trip. Abrazo!

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The end of the year

I am wrapping up all the marking and submitting grades that the end of the semester represents. On friday, I’ll be going to Chile to spend 2 weeks with friends and hiking the National Park of Torres del Paine in Patagonia. I’m really looking forward to it. I was planning to write a happy-mood entry with regards to Christmas and and all the festivity time. However, after reading Mikel’s latest entry, I share his sadness.

After living in London, I have many friends from a Muslim background. I’m fully aware of the type of story that Michael mentions and the implications that they have in local communities. Here in Ecuador, society in general is not really aware of these tensions. We have multi-culturalism but not in terms of religion. Nothing like in Europe, USA or Australia. Catholicism is the main religion, and apart of Evangelicals, who are still under the Christianity realm, there is no other representative religious group. Somehow, this ignorance and isolation is a blessing.

In general, it’s a happier time. Two days ago, the “Novena del Niño” (The Boy’s Ninth) started. This is a nightly mass/meeting that Catholic churches/ households have nine nights before Christmas day. They pray, read the Bible, have some liturgic elements such as kissing the head of the doll that represents baby Jesus, and also have some games for the kids. Traditional families and neighbourhoods share some food after the meeting. I’ve never been part of it because my family comes from an Evangelical background and we used to do completely different things. Now, as a fervent atheist, I try to feed my spirit of Christmas differently.

I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New 2015. I don’t think I’ll be able to write again until my return in January. Regardless of all the crazy, sick and sad things that can happen during these days, I hope you can find, see and feel, somehow, all the positive, inspiring and goodness of humanity. Dear David, Mikel, Amanda, Maz and Neale: Thanks for being one of the most positive aspects of my 2014.

Feliz Navidad.

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Songwriting, HomeSong and my potential lie…

Person: So, what exactly do you teach?
Me: Songwriting
Person: Ummm, what is that?
Me: Teaching about the art and craft of writing songs.
Person: (with a very cynical laugh) That can’t be taught! You either know how to do it, or you don’t. Isn’t it?!

I’ve had this type of conversation many times. Mostly with people who I just meet. It used to bother me but not anymore. I just answer: ‘Is it?!’. Some of them are very eager to hear more, some of them are not. The truth is that strictly speaking, you can’t teach something that is not formulaic. However, you can create the environment and provide the resources to enpower students to understand the process and write better songs.

At the beginning of October, I set up an Open Mic Nights project for my Advanced Songwriting students. They were weekly nights for two months, where each of the students would perform, alone and in collaboration, the songs they wrote during that week. It was very intensive, specially because some of them had never done it before.

Open Mic Nights are not common in Ecuador. The venues mostly provide cover bands and swear that people wouldn’t come to see inedit music. I was lucky to find a popular venue that supported the idea. Although, we didn’t prove that people would pay for inedit music, we proved that people will certainly come to listen to it. We packed the place wednesday after wednesday. Also, other songwriters, who didn’t have anything to do with my module, were eager to participate.

It was a successful journey. Seeing my students growing as songwriters and reading their feedback of the whole project have made me feel very proud of the teaching process. However, I’m glad it’s finished. Today is the first wednesday in 2 months that I’ll come home early, and I won’t be worrying about equipment, soundcheck, grading performances, and so on… That’s why David’s HomeSong is such a great idea. That will be the next step.

Reading Neale’s blog has also made me think about the approach I have for doing things like this. In a logistic level, it helps me to use the excuse of ‘educational purposes’ in order to get things done. Is that a lie? Maybe not, maybe yes. Maybe, I just want to create these spaces for the personal satisfaction of seeing young songwriters enriching my life with their craft… and knowing that I’m part of that process.

Dear bloggers, I’d like you to see some ot the photo-memories of the Open Mic Nights here.

Thanks a lot for being there.

Again into serious matters!

Oh my dear smallword. You are always turning into Big Words. National identity. You have no idea how much that topic has always bugged me! I’ve travelled 55 countries and talking about national identity is always a prime topic of conversation in each culture. It’s a paradox really. In a world where you are supposedly encouraged to find your own identity, individuals always want to relate to a group identity.

I remember when I arrived to the UK the first time, I had to deal with the stereotype of the immigrant who moved to the ‘developed’ world to find a better life, or the one who got a British girlfriend in order to stay in the country! It was hurtful and far, very far from my reality… Sadly, it’s everywhere. The way we are perceived, it’s based upon where we come from.

Unfortunately, media, education, society all use the concept of ‘National Identity’ as a discourse to separate us. Let’s be truthful and I’m sure you would agree, the ‘developed’ countries have grown feeling the ‘better places’, the ones where everyone would like to be. And the ‘developing countries’ have been referred like the ‘disadvantaged’ ones, the ones who need help and charity! So, it’s not easy to feel grateful across those two positions.

I believe people who think their country is the best place to live in is either because they haven’t travelled, so their ignorance doesn’t allow them to see beyond their patio, or because they are suffering a big problem of fixation. Nowhere is better, it’s just different. And what might be hell for me is home for someone else, and vice versa. That’s why I keep insisting, bring down the borders. Forget about national identities. Bring on the individuals and their amazing capacity of gratitude and solidarity!

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Reconnecting

As I write these words, I’m sitting on the second row in the auditorium of one of the most important universities of this country. I’m attending a one-day meeting with different universities and their Schools of Arts, Design and Architecture. Yes, I know, I should be paying attention, but they are talking so many things that are repetitive, unnecessary and pointless, so I thought I better optimise my time and don’t let another week without contributing to the blog. Apologies for my absence.

I have just been reading your latest entries, and I am happy to be part of this community where we can ‘open up’. Funny enough, I was writing something about the big amount of bullshit that I feel I’m dealing with at work and personal relationships, but then I backed off! It felt too personal and too negative. I wish I didn’t delete it! That was my best ‘open up’ shot.

Nevertheless, ‘open up’ can be ‘bullshit’ itself. ‘No one would be able to take another being purely based in honesty’ I read it somewhere, sometime. Being honest 100% would be unbearable, unsustainable, unpleasant! Then I learned that lying is a survival tool in evolutionary terms! What a bless!

To clarify, I’m not defending bullshitting or being honest. I am just defending the position of ‘it’s ok to do any’, at the end, everybody has a different perception of everybody, no matter how hard we try not to… Oh, coffee break!!

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Don’t retire David!

Yesterday one of my students mentioned that he really gets angry when people say: “I feel old”. This comment came after one of his teachers, female, of course, made the comment that she feels old. She must be late 20’s, early 30’s… Obvioulsy my student’s comment is part of his idea of respectful and polite flirtering, and my colleague loved it. I laughed, because being an early 30’s surrounded by late teenagers or early 20’s students, she had a point. I feel old too.

However, this is not at all a bad thing. In fact, it’s strange how the word ‘old’ became to have a negative connotation when it actually implies many positive things. Of course I would much prefer to say ‘I feel wiser’, or ‘I feel experienced’, which usually I do because I can’t believe how childish 21 years old can be! I was never like that! (yeah right!) but then I would sound arrogant and probably dislike by my students. Saying ‘I feel old’ seems like a humble state of mind. Also, someone told me that being wise or experienced are relative labels because in 5-10 years will realise that right now we were not as wise and experience as we liked to think we were.

So, if we accept that being wise or experienced are relative, then being old is too. It’s not a state a mind, it’s a process. And it’s a very rewarding process. You need time to grow old, and it’s great when you know that you lived the things your loved, you did the things you wanted to do… and the memories are just priceless. They come with bad memories too, but it’s part of the process. If someone ask me if I could go back in time just to be younger, I don’t think I would accept the offer. I love the life I lived, and if that meant to get older, so be it… Maybe tomorrow I will think different… but for now, I just want to sound wiser! Ha.

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Growing old in Ecuador

I would like to write my post following up the inspirational and enchanting insights of Maz’s latest entry. Youth seems to be the holy grail of my culture too. There is a popular joke that says that when someone ask you ‘how old are you?’ you should always answer ‘ti cinco’, which is a way of saying that you are over 25 years old but you will never say exactly how many years old you are. In fact, it is very unpolite to ask a lady’s age, if she looks over 25. This is not that bad until I reflect about the possible reasons why we don’t like facing our ‘getting old’ process.

Traditionally, grandparents have always influenced heavily on the family order and have even been in charge of bringing up their grandchildren while their parents keep working. Ecuadorian cities and towns are full of 3-4 floor houses which are built gradually. My grandparents generation usually planned their houses with the projection of building floor after floor so their children can keep living under the same roof with their own families. I strongly disagree with both of these aspects – letting them bring up my kids and living under the same roof – and luckily, my parents too.

Many of friends and relatives see this is as normal. They are married or single, over 27, some of them with kids and ‘succesful’ jobs but still going to the ground floor to eat mummy’s food. But at least, until a decade ago, the elders still had authority to decide the family affairs. At the end of the day, everybody is living under their roof!.

However, nowadays, I see a completely different dynamics. I see that although the eldest ‘duties’ are still the same, their autorithy is not. They are still expected to look after the grandchildren, to cook for the whole family on Christmas or Birthdays or whenever a son wants to celebrate something, and also, in many cases, they are still expected to keep providing money towards their kids… but ‘hey, they cannot tell me what to do because the times have changed’ a close relative was telling me recently. I had an auntie who raised up her 4 children, 9 grandchildren and one greatchild even when she was terminally ill. And the few times I saw her, I would’t say she was ‘respected’ by her kids.

So, I think that’s why nobody wants to get old anymore. Too much work, no rewards… but most of the elderly people I know, don’t seem to care. As my grandpa used to say: ‘better to die screwed up by your own kids rather than by strangers”… I am not sure about that.

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