Saturday, March 29, 2014

Reentry, Gathering, and My Chance for a Do-Over

Reentry, defined.

  1. a retaking possession; especially :  entry by a lessor on leased premises on the tenant's failure to perform the conditions of the lease
  2. a second or new entry
  3. a playing card that will enable a player to regain the lead
  4. the action of reentering the earth's atmosphere after travel in space
Reenter, defined.

  1. to go into (a place you have left) again
  2. to go back into (a game that you were participating in earlier)
  3. to type in (words, data, etc.) again on a computer

Words: Johnny Go, SJ
Music: Ginny Pantig

Gather me; every scattered sheep in me.
I'd rather be waiting here for Your voice.
I've seen the life outdoors,
I think it's time to make a choice.
There's no other course - only Yours.

Shelter me; every shattered self in me.
Better be waiting here for Your touch.
I've been out there in the rain,
I've hurt myself far too much.
Come and ease my pain again.

Such a weary world
All its ways gone wild
Save this child from the storm
I've been tossed, I've been lost, I've been broken
All my wounded days
All the bitter tears
I have shed for all these years
But You were there all my life
Gather me, shelter me
Safe in Your arms

So please gather me;
the scattered laughter in me
Only You can make me whole.
Come and ease my battered soul.
Shepherd me -
Come and lead me home to You.

I prepared for my coming home by  bracing myself for the worst. I convinced myself that my happy days had ended and I was going to face a life of work and sacrifice again. I did not know if I could drive or find a job or reconnect with old friends. I know, how optimistic, right.

Well, the Lord has proven me wrong immediately, for aside from the warm welcome from my best friends, I also got an invitation to go on a retreat/holiday to Baguio City, the country's summer capital. I realized immediately that I had limited God again. Of course He was waiting for me in the Philippines, to be with me and to "gather me, all the scattered sheep in me."  I spent last weekend in a spacious hotel with sprawling grounds covered in pine trees, where I had uninterrupted time of prayer. The unplanned aspects of the trip included a visit to the BenCab museum, a return to Cafe by the Ruins, and a respite at the lobby of The Manor. At the end of that retreat, I readily admitted that I had the same God taking care of me here as the One who supplied for all my needs in Australia.

View from the cafe at BenCab Museum in Baguio

So when I visited my spiritual director, I shared about my experiences going back - the job interviews, the time spent with family, the friends who have welcomed me, and the God whom I had known more intimately. He introduced a word to me that captured the experience: reentry. He said that I had a wonderful chance to "do-over" everything, and I seemed to be on the right track.

"Do-over" is defined as an "opportunity to try or perform something a second time."

I am grateful for while I reenter this place I have left, and after all my travels, I am faced with good opportunities. 

People who leave correctional or prison facilities are given reentry programs "designed to assist incarcerated individuals with a successful transition to their community after they are released" (US Office of National Drug Control Policy). The Obama Administration’s National Drug Control Strategy supports comprehensive change within the criminal justice system, promoting a combined public health/public safety approach to stop the cycle of arrest, incarceration, release, and re-arrest.

Space shuttle re-entry is more complex and is done in stages, as explained in "The Physics of Space Shuttle Re-Entry."

The Fundamental Problem in Re-Entry

The phase of a spaceflight during which the craft leaves earth orbit and descends through the upper atmosphere is generally known as 're-entry'. In order to be in stable earth orbit in the first place, the craft must have attained and maintained a critical velocity. This orbital velocity is nearly 30 times the speed of sound - around a little under 8 kilometres per second. If the craft moves any more slowly than this, it will descend to a lower orbit under the influence of gravity. Because the craft will now encounter atmospheric resistance, it will lose energy and fall to earth.

In order to make a safe landing, a returning spacecraft has to lose nearly all of that orbital speed. The operation is basically a reversal of the launch phase, and this means that the returning craft must sink as much kinetic energy as the propulsion systems generated between lift-off and orbit. Theoretically speaking, there are four fundamentally different methods of doing this:

Powered Deceleration
Energy Exchange
Mass Shedding
Energy Dissipation
I could obviously talk more about restorative justice than orbital velocity, but I would leave both topics for now and just think about how to manage my own reentry into this place I have left behind, in order to make a safe landing. Surprisingly, the above discussion on space shuttle re-entry provided me further points of reflection.

If my driving is any indication, I need not have worried. I returned to the streets of Manila and Taguig and even drove as far as Paranaque for a wake, with little adjustment needed. God is good. All shall be well.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Closing the Gap Year

It is March 19, 2014. I could not let the day end without acknowledging its significance.

Aside from it being the feast of St. Joseph, one of my patron saints as I went to a Josephine school, March 19 was the day I left the Philippines last year to take a year off.

I have since returned, less than two weeks ago, from a year of travel. I am back in my parents' house, in the old neighborhood, in my room, and in my life.

I admit I am still taking stock of all that has happened, and getting used to this transition stage. For the difference between Australia and the Philippines is not just on which side of the road people walk and drive. The difference lies in the little things, which I took note of while I was away.

I try not to dwell too much on the people and the places that I miss in Sydney, or to hold on to the charmed life that I led in Canberra, Auckland, Melbourne, and Fiji, among friends and strangers. 

Fiji Sunset
It is good to be back among family and friends here at home, to be surrounded by all that is familiar, and to see them in a different light.

What am I being called to do now? What do I have to offer? What can I give? What can I share?

I am older and quieter, and still looking for my next gig.

I have lost weight but I am the same, essentially. Of course my eyes have seen new things, and my heart has felt different joys and sorrows. I have also regained my voice in words, and rekindled my love for the piano. 

I take advantage of the grace that this season of Lent brings, of my proximity to the parish, and of the presence of the Block Rosary with Our Lady of Fatima at home. It is a call to prayer, this time of change. I need guidance for all the decisions I am making.

There is peace in all these. Peace that does not make sense - because life is uncertain at this point. This probably is my version of the "peace that surpasses all understanding."

I am going on a personal retreat this weekend, and hope to synthesize more the blessings and the lessons from my gap year, so I can face the great world again with confidence.