Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


The God of small things

Posted on April 26, 2020 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star ) – April 26, 2020 – 12:00am
The big story is still COVID-19. Practically 80 percent of all content in regular and social media is still about the latest updates on deaths, recoveries and new infections. Add the conspiracy theories, fake news and funny memes about COVID-19. That is what people are preoccupied with.

I notice that I have begun to turn off and drop out of the obsession, hysteria and preoccupation with this awful disease. I think I know enough about it. I have probably read too much and know a lot more than most people. And I am tired of being brought into a constant state of fear and being reminded to be vigilant daily. I have decided to ignore a lot of the articles passed on by friends, relatives especially those about the latest, newest concoctions to prevent or cure this disease.

Enough. No more.

People are stuck in their homes paranoid and bored. I think it was Marshal McLuhan, philosopher and ’60s media guru, who said that the price for eternal vigilance is boredom. He is absolutely correct.

Lately, I have started to become more interested in the little human stories I come across on social media about people I don’t even know.

I remember just weeks ago, I used to offer my condolences to the families of people who have died of COVID-19 perhaps once every three days or so on Facebook. Now I come across such stories so often that I actually offer my condolences a few times a day now. When I come across calls for prayer on Facebook, I actually answer back to let them now I am praying for them. At the end of the day when I say my prayers, the list of people I am praying for has become longer and longer.

One story that really affected me was about a young doctor from UST who got COVID-19. She was a young front liner. About 2 weeks ago, when the post first came out calling out for prayers, it seemed like she was a goner by the way they described her situation. She was so weak, and was intubated. Thousands of people must have read the call for prayers. I was one of them. I reposted her story on Facebook, Twitter and a few groups on Viber. The response was overwhelming.

Five days ago, her parents announced on FB that she had turned the corner and was being transferred to a regular room away from those who were still fighting for their lives in ICU.

I was also touched by pictures, photos and personal observations from ordinary people who have posted before-and-after shots of cities, countrysides, Manila Bay, rivers, etc — all showing palpable signs of environmental recovery. The air seems much cleaner. The absence of smog now allows people to see monuments and landmarks from far away, things that had stopped being visible decades ago.

I also notice people posting messages during their birthdays that decidedly have a more spiritual message of gratitude than the usual materialistic wishes.

In our own neighborhood, people have been sharing information on where to get vegetables, meats, juices, fruits, masks and other protective gear. Some kindly neighbors have even offered to give food to anyone who is unable to eat. Our neighborhood has called for idle hands to help pack goods (while observing social distancing and wearing masks) for the few communities of informal settlers near us. Things have changed. All of a sudden, you realise the abundance of good in the world.

My small stories go something like this: I go out to the garden daily and notice the minute changes Lydia’s plants are undergoing. I check on our big Lanka tree with seven hanging fruits. I walk on the grass without slippers to feel connected to the earth while I expose myself under the sun for a few minutes to get my daily dose of vitamin D.

As I do all these, I find myself being so thankful for everything around me.

I am once again sitting in meditation daily as I join dozens, if not thousands, of people around the world who are doing the same thing. We check in online when we start, and check out when we end. I also belong to many Viber groups where I catch up with friends and family daily, and so I still feel a sense of community, even in my isolation.

One thing I do to keep sane is to ask myself the moment I wake up what my goals for the day are. I am talking about specific things I need to do. They do not have to be many. What is important is to get them done to prevent myself from drifting day to day without purpose. Because of this, I have been able to establish some routine that help keeps me sane.

I have made exercise an important goal every other day. Not only do I feel strong, I feel good afterward with all these endorphins swimming around in my body. It is a struggle against laziness that I must overcome all the time. It makes me feel powerful to declare something and to actually do it. I have also become some sort of gym instructor to my kasambahays. I lead daily to exercise and help them keep fit and busy. Another thing we do every day is pray the rosary promptly at 6 p.m.

The rest of the time, I play the piano or guitar and try to learn something new, or even try to write new songs. I also sing a few songs a day to keep me in performance shape. I try to minimise my time on social media and have been successful.

This enhanced quarantine has made me more aware of the little stories that are happening to people everywhere, including my own little stories.

If you have a religious bent, you probably see the hand of God playing throughout the events all over the world. Right now, my life is in micro mode: I am more focused these days on how the God of small things inspires people to do the tiny but important chore of staying alive and sane.

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