Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for February 5th, 2012

The way they were, the way they are 1

Posted on February 05, 2012 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated February 05, 2012 12:00 AM

It seems to happen every semester.

These past years, since I started teaching, I have had the privilege of interacting with many young people and I hear many of them say how fun, exciting and romantic the ‘70s, which is the decade of my generation’s youth, must have been. Every time I teach a module on the origins of OPM in the ‘70s and the milieu and mood of the times then — the protests, the drugs, the challenging of authority, the political underground, religion, sex taboos, etc. — I sense a longing in my audience. They seem to look at my generation’s formative years as a time when people were more alive, and challenged.

Sometimes, I wonder if I over-romanticize the era in the telling. But the truth is, those were really heady days when it seemed like a big chunk of life as our parents knew it was undergoing massive outer and inner transformations.

Physically, my generation looked different from our parents. Aside from the fact that we seemed taller, perhaps because of the better nutrition we had, men wore their hair longer, and attempted to grow beards and mustaches. And we wore psychedelic clothes, spoke a different language, and embraced ideals and morals that shocked our parents and teachers.

The women were also less Maria Clara and more Mary Travers (of Peter, Paul and Mary) or Sampaguita — more openly expressive in showing affection, more daring and hip in dress, rebellious, sexually liberated, loud — certainly shocking in the eyes of the older generation.

Kids today are riveted by narratives from the bygone ‘70s era, stories of my generation’s attempts at making original music that became the soundtrack of Filipino lives, and the life-and-death adventures of the college kids who dropped out of school and society to join the underground movement against the Marcos dictatorship. Heady times they were, indeed.

The romance of it all is attractive to many kids today perhaps because the reckless spirit, the call and the response to ideals that my generation took on, make our era seem more “far out” than their era today. Whereas today, much of life seems safe, predictable, easy and measurable, my generation lived in more difficult times, where nothing was predictable and no outcomes were assured. We had no cell phones, iPads, laptops, Wikipedia, geo-tagging, or even the MRT. Ours was an analogue, linear world. We had the telephone, for example, that took years to apply for and if and when you got one, a “party line” went with it. People met and planned their appointments, dates, meetings, parties, etc. by using the telephone or writing letters sent by mail. Social media was unheard of. Even beepers came only a decade and a half later. Yet we accomplished a lot, with remarkable efficiency.

We drove our cars without seatbelts, consumed many things as we were growing up that are now considered toxic, smoked, and had no idea whether some of us had ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s condition or whatever else we know today about learning disabilities.

While kids today are fascinated by life in the ‘70s, I am ecstatic over many things about our current modern (or postmodern) life. I love the technologies available to practically everyone — from cell phones, Internet, e-mail, FB, Twitter, instant communication, Google Maps, air travel and access to digital archives from practically everywhere, to many great thinkers, intellectuals, leaders and famous people through the net. I also love how quickly the flow of ideas from one part of the world can influence another part. People can also now migrate or travel to places that seemed inaccessible before.

This is the world our kids today were born into. It is life as they know it. And they may in fact even be bored with it. The speed of life today may find them with shorter attention spans and an appetite for ever greater stimulation. But for a ‘70s guy like me, this is the second big wave I am experiencing in my lifetime. The ‘70s opened the world to a lot of changes. And now, this!

Every age has its challenges and opportunities and it is incumbent upon the current generation to take them on. Perhaps every age seems more exciting, romantic or wonderful than it really was when seen in hindsight. But as John F. Kennedy said in a speech during his equally challenging decade, the ‘60s, “We would like to live as we once lived but history will not allow it.” The reason why I am feeling the way I do is probably because I have the advantage of hindsight. There is the present to compare the past with. In time, the kids today will probably feel as excited about their time, too.

This generation will one day give way to another and they will talk animatedly about “their” time when they invented rap, ecstasy, meth, social networking, planking, “occupy Wall street,” laptops, YouTube, smart phones and other stuff as they brandish artifacts and ideas from their “bygone” era. And the younger generation will marvel in disbelief at how boldly innovative and cutting-edge their parents lived their lives.

But one thing that ties all these generations together is man’s eternal yearning to feel alive. And this means living in a way where one is engaged fully with the life and the times one is in. Fashion, lifestyles and morals may change but the quest to make a mark on the world, to matter and touch other people’s lives, and to feel awake to one’s own existence is perennial.

If the ‘70s were our heady days, this early 21st century, for the present generation, will someday be remembered and reminisced gloriously as “the way they were.”

I know this era, regardless of its generation’s seeming boredom and indifference with it, will someday be romanticized about and retold with exciting narratives, and future generations will also gawk at and be inspired by them.

* * *

1) Basic Photography classes on Saturday, Feb. 18, from 1 to 6:30 p.m. Cost is P3,920. Venue is at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Call 426-5375 or 0916-8554303 to reserve.

2) Songwriting Workshop on Sunday, Feb. 19, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Learn the basics and actually write songs during the session. Very hands-on! Student must play the guitar or the piano. Venue is at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Call 426-5375 or 0916-8554303 to reserve.

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