The importance of small things
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 6, 2016
I do not mean to be morbid, but there isn’t a day that passes when I do not think of death. Lots of musicians I idolize have recently passed on. Some friends much younger than me have died recently. My generation has started marching towards the sunset. It won’t be long before we speed up the pace and we all get there.
I am still healthy. I have no serious illnesses. My numbers are very good, in fact. My doctors are proud of me. I do a lot of walking and I work out in the gym. I do not overeat. Neither do I deprive myself of rich good food. I never worry about weight gain. I simply do not gain weight no matter how much I eat. It is probably due to my genes. I barely have a tummy. I can do 60 push-ups straight and I can manage 19 pull-ups.
But I also notice that my body does not react as quickly as it used to. I am not as agile. My hands can’t touch each other when I try to reach them behind my back. I have occasional aches and pains that seem to stay longer when they appear. I need to nap every afternoon before dinner.
I try to guess how many more years I have where I will still be strong enough to do what I want to do. I figure I would be happy with 15 more years before I slow down and can no longer travel or just take off on my own anymore. That’s OK. I would be
I feel more than ever that I have a mission. It is an urgency that comes with age.
These days, I am always thinking of what else I want to do. I know I want to do a lot more music. I want to do maybe six more albums. I also want to start writing books again. I have written four books but I feel I should do 11 to 15 more if I want to be considered a real writer.
I also want to travel more here at home and abroad. I have always had wanderlust and I do not think I will lose it anytime soon.
When I look around the world, I feel depressed and pessimistic on some days, and joyful and optimistic on other days. The yin says I should give up, but the yang says there is much I can do to shape it in the image and likeness of how I understand compassion and goodness to be.
When I was much younger, I thought what were important were big, dramatic steps that would solve the problems of the world. We fought a dictatorship that brought our country to a different and better direction. I made songs with my group, the APO Hiking Society that became hugely popular. We were one of the leaders of the OPM movement. We performed for huge crowds in many parts of the world. I liked living a large life.
Because of the scale of the life I was living, I often missed out on opportunities to do small but meaningful actions. I glossed over many things I could have paid more attention to that were equally important. The folly of youth, and my own ego blinded me to the value of small things, giving them less importance.
Time has passed. I am no longer young. A new world has emerged. I am happy to have settled quite well into the smaller life I live now. These days, I am a teacher of 15 students in a songwriting class at the Ateneo de Manila University. I write a weekly column for a major daily. I give small talks here and there, and I do a few solo concerts, and occasionally with Boboy Garrovillo, one of my buddies in APO. I am also still politically involved.
I now I touch fewer people’s lives and in smaller ways. I am comfortable helping when I can to improve little situations or move things forward. I am happy when I open discussions that lead people to adopt a wider perspective.
I’ve always believed I live a charmed life. For many years I thought that it had everything to do with the scale of it. But as I grew older and learned to pay more attention to the small things, I realized that the ‘largeness of life’ came not from what I have encountered and experienced in the outside world, but how much I actually and consciously took in.
It is not about the size of the concert crowds, the popularity, the wealth, or even how many people whose lives I touched, even superficially. It is not the physical size of the universe I live in. It is more about how much and how often I pay attention that matters.
In the end, paying attention is what is leading me to what I should be doing. And what we do consciously however small, what we love and spend time on is what life is all about.