Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Searching for the ‘elite’ experience

Posted on August 03, 2014 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 3, 2014 – 12:00am

I never cease to be amazed at the easy availability to so many people all over the world of so many goods and services. Practically everything we want is within reach. Every time I use a cellphone, or the Internet, or a microwave oven, or even a ref, I marvel at how much more resources, convenience and power I have within my reach, even than what the royals had a century ago.

Aside from the endless variety of goods and services, there are databases, online libraries, knowledge and wisdom of the ages that were previously inaccessible to many, which we can reach by merely pressing a few keys.

Travel, too, is so easy these days. Cheap airplane tickets, hotels and visa-free travel make seeing huge chunks of the world very convenient and within reach.

I remember what it was like to call overseas in the ‘70s. One had to place a call with the telephone company and wait, sometimes for as long as five hours, to be connected. You can imagine the inconvenience since Manila and the US are in different time zones. And the calls were so expensive that one ended up saying hello and goodbye with hardly any content in between. Today, we have Skype, Viber, Tango, et cetera, which allow us to call anyone, anywhere, anytime for free.

Travel, when it was rare and expensive, was something one embarked on with great seriousness and purpose. One needed a visa and a big bank account to go on a trip. When I was growing up, I observed that people traveled to study abroad, or migrate, or work overseas. They hardly traveled for leisure, and they immersed themselves in the culture of the places they went to. It was a wholehearted undertaking. But today, more people travel just for leisure and fun.

One can also taste food from any part of the world. We do not need to go far to taste the exotic cuisines of other cultures. There is always a restaurant somewhere that will serve the exact taste one would look for abroad.

With everything more accessible than ever before, I ask myself, in all seriousness, if this is a good thing for the most part.

What experiences or states of being has technology not touched on?

Thankfully, there are still a few goals and pursuits that are pure, untouched, unchanged, and not made easier and more accessible by modernity.

The pursuit and formation of character is one. You can’t buy an app that will give you patience, compassion, perseverance, courage, dedication, inner strength, etc. These are cultivated in the same old-fashioned way through the guidance of mentors, and real-life experiences. We may have all the gadgetry and technology but if we are unable to concentrate long, or delay gratification, or learn the value of listening, suspending judgment and analyzing complex problems, our lives will make no sense, not just to ourselves, but to the world.

Another is spiritual awakening. Whatever religion or spiritual practice we may have, we must know how to be still and resist the pull of the world and the lures of materialism. There is no app for this. It takes practice and devotion. It is not about speed or instant reward, it is about sacrifice.

When a Japanese Zen master was told that there is now a way to reach the mind states of kensho and satori (enlightenment) via a theta wave-inducing machine, he simply sneered knowing that while science may induce it, it cannot possibly measure an unquantifiable state and conclude that it is “true.” Only a hard-core Zen sitter would know if he has awakened to an enlightened state or not.

Still on the topic of religion and spirituality, how can one have ethics, scruples and morals if these are not taught or passed on properly? Reading alone or searching the net will not do that. It is not downloadable.

The cultivation of common sense is also immeasurably important. It takes a lot of thinking, observation, experience, and instinct to be able to develop it. While there are many people with measurably high IQs, there are actually very few who have the common sense and “smarts” to discern issues and situations, and make the correct decisions.

These are things we can only learn the hard way, which means experiencing them many times and learning the lessons until they become part of us. It has been so through the ages and is not likely to change anytime soon.

If we cut through the clutter of our wants and needs, we will find that many of us are really in search of the defining “thing” that will make our lives more whole and fulfilling. It’s not about endless thrills, entertainment or titillation. And it is unlikely that we will find it in the gadgets and all the technology we have surrounded ourselves with. Perhaps what we are seeking is not something out there, but something inside us that only we can find. It is that which makes us feel alive and truly connected, even without our gadgets.

And that is the ultimate irreplaceable “elite” experience that man has sought through the ages. Will everyone in the world find it? Not likely. It is still only for an “elite” few.

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