MY LIFE AS ART | On art and generosity  

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BY PETER SOLIS NERY
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Monday, April 10, 2017
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I HAVE NOT really cared much for money. Not now, not in the past, and hopefully, not in the future.

When I was poor, I dreamed of owning things, and traveling around the world. But they were hardly obsessions.

In fact, there was already a sense of resignation in me even then. I wanted things but I didn’t get crazy when I didn’t get them.

I loved people, and I continued loving them, even if they didn’t love me back.

I always traveled cheap, and was happy with what I could afford.

I was poor, and I dealt with it pretty well.

***

I took up Nursing as a second course in my 30s because I wanted a change of pace in my life.

I felt I was a bum for most of my 20s; when, brilliant as I was, I settled for the religious and missionary life, the low-paying newspaper job, the social work for street children, and even a few years as a high school teacher.

Most people around me thought I was a wasted talent at that time. I think I almost agreed towards the end, so I decided to take up Nursing when I was 33.

***

Nursing brought me to America, and to some affluence.

Honestly, I kind of liked what my nursing job offered and afforded me in Los Angeles.

Sure, it was not lost to me that I was on a mission serving humanity as a healthcare professional, but I also did love the money that Nursing paid me.

But, it is as I said. I never cared much for money, so I ended up spending most of it to afford the things I dreamed about when I was a poor boy.

When the healthcare scene changed in the US – basically the Obamacare, but also the rise of what we, in the healthcare profession, called as the Age of Lawsuits, I quit working as a nurse, and retired myself.

***

I like being retired.

And because my needs are simple, I can afford to retire at 45.

Now, I feel like I am back to my life as when I was in my 20s.

I have no good paying job; and I basically just volunteer a lot.

I’m as busy as a bee, but I’m not paid for it.

I’m back to being a bum. Only this time, I have my own little money saved in my bank account.

***

One of the things that I liked in me being a bum is that I have the capacity to think a lot about things, and of my existence.

Because I don’t have a job that brings in money, I think of things that make me happy. And things that make my life meaningful.

I try to answer the question, “Are you a good person?”

And because I do not do much else in my life, I try to shape my days to answer that question in the affirmative every single day.

***

Yes, I am a good person. I am a decent person. And I don’t need anybody else to tell me that.

At the end of every day, I face my God, and declare, “You have seen how I was a good person today. You have seen everything.”

And I feel good myself. And I feel good about myself.

And so, I can sleep with a good conscience, and great hopes, for the next day.

***

One of the greatest things about me not being employed is that I have a great deal of time in my hands.

And the good thing about me, if I have time at my disposal, is that I tend to think philosophical and existential thoughts. I think about life and living, about humanity, and where we are going.

I think about good and evil, about art, and beauty, and the redemptive power of human talent and efforts.

And because I have these beautiful thoughts worked out, people are drawn to me.

***

People want to be with me, or talk to me. And so, I can go into my own ministry of accompaniment.

Often, it is a one-on-one thing. Like having coffee time with my neighbor, or walking in the woods with a gay teenager, or even watching movies with a person with AIDS, or some other disability. I like doing these acts of random kindness. It makes me feel human.

Then, there is the marathon Facebook Messenger call (up to four hours on a stretch) with a friend who is lonesome in Canada; the group chats with friends in the Philippines; and the countless online interviews with students in the Philippines, who are researching about Peter Solis Nery as a writer, as an artist, about his Palanca-winning literature, about his ideas about Philippine literature and art, and all sorts of things.

***

I like having time for these. I like the interaction in my social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube. So, yes, I do reply and respond to messages and distress calls.

When I am able to inspire people with my posts, or touch their lives even just briefly, I feel happy, and useful, and good.

But I always go the distance. I always want to do something more.

And so, I am very happy that I have a job writing for Panay News (MWF), and Panay Balita (TThS-S), for a total of six days a week.

***

I am grateful that I have this newspaper platform because, somehow, I feel that I am reaching a bigger number of people. It’s like ministering to a crowd of more than just five.

And then, there is also the joyful “job” of creating more serious literature. Of writing literary pieces that are the new treasure of our Hiligaynon, and West Visayan, heritage.

You see, I write in various modes.

There’s the writing for a deadline; there’s writing for the masses; and there’s a Peter Solis Nery writing that is pretty literary, and often with the eye on the prize.

***

You can hardly expect me to write my Palanca-quality pieces every day in the newspaper, can you?

And even if it were possible, I don’t really think I want to do that.

You like me being irreverent, sarcastic, cocky and cocksure, petulant even, in my columns.

And what’s wrong with that?

If you want the serious, literary side of me, you got to pay. Buy my books, and get a better deal. See www.petersolisnery.com for details.

***

Meanwhile, I’m here on the newspapers to feed your more basic needs.

So, yeah. I’m a good person. I have a generous spirit, and I want to share my thoughts and my ideas to as many people as I can reach.

I think I’m doing it just great.

And the best thing is, you don’t need to agree with me on that. Because I know myself, and I know what I do… more than you do! ([email protected]/PN)

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