Hungry, Ghost and Taboo August
The month of August is considered, mostly among Asians, as an unlucky month, or a ghost month. There are even Chinese names related to August like Hungry, Ghost, Taboo. And, of course, in the Chinese tradition, there are rituals meant to mitigate bad luck in August. I know, too, that there are similar views of the month of August in other Asian countries and especially traditional Philippines. In essence, they follow one meaning.
There is nothing strange about certain times being considered unlucky or delicate. Remember the Biblical phrases on seasons, how there are different seasons for different things; for example, a time for joy and a time for sadness, or a time of plenty and a time of want. Life does not unfold itself to us in one common expression, in one common energy. From this basic understanding of nature’s varied colors and seasons come many cultural nuances and practices.
It certainly is connected to the rain and typhoon season in the Asian region. The tropics enjoy sunshine and warmth most of the year, but rain and typhoons are also part of the equation. It stands to reason that the human reaction to sunshine and warmth would be different than to rain and typhoon. Our very lifestyles, and not just clothes or planting activities, depend very much on the weather and the climate in general.
Typhoons, too, dictate to a great extent the kind of shelter we build – if we have options, that is. The poor have little or none, and that is why they are the most consistent (sometimes, only) victims of typhoons or other natural calamities. August is at the heart of the rainy season and naturally hosts typhoons and rainstorms.
I do not think that there are many anymore in the urbanized areas who still correlate August with something heavy, negative or unlucky. Technology and modernization have to a large extent mitigated the dangers associated with heavy rains and typhoons. First, the structures that shelter us have become stronger, characterized by cement and steel. Second, weather alerts have had great advances versus just relying on weather patterns like before. Knowing what is coming allows us greater safety and security.
The physical world, however, is not the only dimension of human life. Unfortunately, the material dominates, especially to the less mature. Humanity in modern times in modern settings hardly correlate nature and emotions. It is as if the sun and the moon, day and night, heat and coolness have no impact on how humans feel and act. They do, intimately so, and powerfully at that. Forgetting this has caused undue suffering, accidents and even death. And tons of emotional stress.
Our bodies are the most connected to nature. In fact, humanity is part of nature, earth’s nature, at least. It begins with our physicality relating to the physicality of nature as if they were one. Air, water, wind and earth equals food, shelter and life itself – as necessities and not as mere desires. In other words, without a minimum of these, humans just die. With such an intimate dependency on nature, how can our emotions and thoughts be divorced from our interaction with nature? They cannot.
Human consciousness, though, seem to disregard much of this intimacy with nature. Our bodies may be connected but our minds are not. Until the untoward happens. Until natural disaster comes, until accidents happen, until death visits. Then, it is too late to save someone, or our well-being. There is only a lesson to be learned, and even that, not much learning happens.
August is on us. It brings with it its own place in nature. That means, it brings with it the power to play its role. And it will. It is good for us to understand that role, to respect it, and to incorporate it in our relationship, not only with the nature and mechanics of August in the Philippines and in the Asian region, but also our own relationships in society. Because whether we are aware of it or not, the dynamics of any season influence our behavior.
The impact of August in not just negative. It has the same power for the positive if we know enough. August is limiting for the physical because rain and storms are not friendly environment for many outgoing activities. But we have equated so much of the physical to what life is that what limits the physical ultimately has been translated to be negative. There is some truth to that, but it certainly does not cover the totality. Neither does it respect the principle of seasonality.
August is a wonderful learning month. When physical movement is restrained, energy does not become less, only less expressed physically. That energy, then, is there for us to use for the beneficial activities. Study and learning are great examples of such beneficial activities. And so is caring and helping one another. The capacities of August are not disabled, they are just differently oriented. If we are aware of its advantages, we are going to be richer each August.
However, if we pursue life in the same way we do whatever the season, then we must prepare for sudden mishaps in August. If we do not prepare to adjust to the limitations of physicality, we will not know how to adjust emotionally and intellectually either. The hungry August, the ghost August, the taboo August, can then live up to its unintended reputation. Hungry because August does not harvest. Ghost because unnecessary accidents, illnesses and deaths occur. Taboo because we can seem to be hitting a wall in many things we want to do.
The reality is that society in general pursues life as though there is no season, as though it were just one season. August, then, will bring the kind of excitement that has pain and bitterness as aftertastes. There can be controversies galore because carelessness will pay a higher price than usual. And when there is pressure, many things break, many things erupt. Be aware, be strong.
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