HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 8, 2017 – 12:00am
I am six and a half decades old. I have learned a lot of things. Yes, a lot! But I have not learned everything I need to navigate through life without pain and hardship.
I don’t think I am even close to knowing half of what I should know to be true, and be sure of by now. Life is simply too big to master. ?Joseph Campbell likened life to entering a movie house in the middle of the movie and leaving before it ends.
What you saw is what life is to you. From there, you draw your own conclusions. It is a good metaphor, but I am guessing it is even more complicated than that. Not all of us may have even watched the same movie.?
One of the most difficult lessons to learn is how to be a good or outstanding human being. It is not easy because all our mistakes and weaknesses come from our being human.
But so do our strengths and blessings. It’s a double-edged sword. You live with who you are and what you are given, learn to accept it and thrive on how your cards are dealt in this life. And hopefully you come out of it okay.?
As I get older, I realize more and more that to be an outstanding human being, one must go against the ways of the world. One must take the uncharted path, and walk and march against the tide, the wind, and the forces of the world.?
The ways of the world are what many see as “the practical way.” Don’t question. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t create trouble. And don’t challenge the order.
Many people can live like this. I find that I cannot.?The rewards of the world — if you follow its ways and value systems — are wealth, fame, respectability, privilege, entitlement, power, authority, comfort and pleasure, and sometimes all these are given in doses way beyond what you can imagine. It must be great to have it all. This must be how it appears to both the rich and those who have barely enough to live on.
?And yet, we hear of people who have most or all of these things but are still unhappy. Something must be wrong with the setup.?What I have learned in life so far is that all these rewards are great when you know how to handle them.
They are wonderful gifts until you obsess over them. Then they become a hunger that can’t be filled, a desire that can’t be quenched, an addiction that can’t be sated.?A person can look at his last P50 and feel rich when he can share it with someone. A man with P50 million may feel impoverished if he just lost P200 million. The thing is to have no attachment.
It is easy to say but it takes some difficulty to actually be comfortable with this attitude.?In my life, I have experienced a modicum of fame, wealth, reputation, authority, comforts and pleasures of life. I have seen my fame rise and fall many times. For all my modest achievements, there will come a day when all my songs will be forgotten.
My youthful looks in my 20s, my energy and health, have dissipated over time. There will come a day when no one will even remember me. ?I have no problem with that. This is one of the ways of the world I have accepted to be true. Nothing is permanent.?
I do have a problem when I look at the world and see how lost we are in our own noise and conflicting visions. We want peace, security and happiness but we are intolerant of others who are different from us. We want a world of abundance yet we wantonly destroy the environment. ?We have given so much value to speed, connectivity, physical beauty, ego, wealth, modernity, convenience, comfort and instant gratification but we have lost our ability to pay attention. We have also lost the wisdom that tells us that true human connections like love, friendship, relationships take time and patience, and that everything we have that is of value took effort and time to make it that way.
How many still see the value of reading the old classics? History? Read our newspapers. How many of us see the importance of changing society? How many are willing to question our leaders about their policies or their integrity? How many really want to understand and have compassion for people who live with less? Or would we rather just be quiet, not question or rock the boat and just accept things as they are since changing things for the better is just too hard??
Apply the same rigor that we use to judge the world to ourselves. How many are willing to get deep down and real below the noise level of the world and question their own motives??
Civilization has moved from savagery to moments of great civility because people have defied laziness, fear, hate, ignorance and cynicism. We have defied physical and moral entropy. We have to do more to keep moving forward. We can easily slide backwards if we don’t watch out.
Entropy, the rule of physics that governs the built-in tendency of things to rot and be destroyed by time and gravity, is way too compelling.?This is where the call to paradox must be followed to. To save the world and ourselves, one must, to some extent, reject its ways. To live a life of meaning, one must be willing to give up a lot, or even lose it. To be a good human being, one must be able to deny oneself, especially one’s ego.
To see hope in a disappointing world, one must be instilled with the capacity for gratitude and faith in humanity.?When you think about it, this is how man has managed to survive through the eons. A few have dared to challenge the ways of the world. It has not always been a forward march. Sometimes, humanity slacked. Let us not forget this especially at this time. Let us keep going against the world.