Our life’s work
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes
Sunday, September 21, 2008
It’s been a grueling month and an especially backbreaking two weeks leading to Sept. 20. Danny and Boboy and I worked very hard to put on the best show we possibly could for our 39th year anniversary at the Big Dome.
It is the Wednesday before September 20 as I write this so I cannot say with certainty how the show actually went since it has not yet transpired. I only hope it went well. But what I can tell you is that it was our best. It has to be. Because every show we do is the best we’ve ever done, as far as we are concerned. Anything that we could have done better is hindsight. As in everything we do in life, each time we do a show, we can only conclude that we really couldn’t have done it better.
The whole past month got me not just thinking but, more importantly, realizing that APO can actually lay claim to a life’s work. I remember one of my sisters telling me about a guy she dated who asked her what her life’s work was. At that time, she did not know what to answer since she didn’t feel she had achieved anything or had done anything significant for any length of time.
I know it can sound a bit pretentious to talk about our life’s work until you consider that we have actually been doing APO — including writing, singing and performing — for a very long time. All the songs we have written and sung and performed, all the places and venues we have visited, and all the patrons who have seen us or bought our albums, or liked what we do are witnesses to our accomplishment.
A distinguished, seasoned and accomplished architect can show off the buildings and houses he has designed as physical evidence of his life’s work. In our case, what we can show as performers for all these 39 years is far less tangible. No matter how good a show we mount, people eventually forget how great it was until we do it again. Our so-called “body of work” is hard to define since performance is fleeting. Whatever is real about what we do, though magical, disappears into thin air at the end of the show. In the end, we, through our representations — such as the songs we have made — live in the hearts and memories of our public where we share space with other songs written by other people.
A life’s work is what you have done to define yourself. It is the entire effort you have put in through the years, on a day-to-day basis. It is the lifelong effort of chipping off chunks and slivers out of a solid undefined block of potential, and carving an image and persona that you long ago decided was how you wanted to be represented in the world.
That is only one part of it. The other part is, with the same image and persona you have created, you can act on the world and fashion it accordingly. People are potential students in the eyes of a teacher. To a businessman, they are potential consumers. To a performer, people are his audience.
German Moreno starts his radio program with the classic line from an old Hollywood song that goes, “Everything that happens in life, happens in a show.” To a performer who does nothing but perform, the show is his life, and life is everything. The show therefore is everything.
Danny, Boboy and I subscribe to this, and will continue to do so. Even amid personal tragedies like the death of loved ones, relationship breakups, or whatever else life has dished out to us, we have showed up for our scheduled gigs. The show has gone on. And even in those times when we were not really up to it, we pretended that we were, until we brought back the true joy of performing.
The show is life. You default on one, you miss out on the other.
There is an intimacy we experience when we dedicate ourselves to something we love. Like a woman to a man who desires her, a career or a calling is something you show up for, fall in love with, and yes, even marry. A cousin of mine, cynically humorous as he was, warned us about this. He said that you should never fall in love with your job because you end up marrying it, and then you screw it!
But I believe that with a real life’s work, it is a perfect match where you and your career do the day-to-day work of putting it all together. Contrary to how my cousin put it, you make love to it at every opportunity, not just to tame it, get familiar with it and enjoy it, but to be conquered and enjoyed by it as well. And the more you do this, the better it gets.
But just like in any relationship, there is also the downside when, at times, you feel alienated in the world you have chosen, and without that spark to keep going at it. The road is long; it’s quite a distance through the desert and there aren’t any sure signs of an oasis on the horizon. But if you plod on, sure enough, little patches of green will begin to appear.
With APO, sometimes it is work. Rejections happen. But the journey isn’t over until you give up. Sometimes, it feels like all we do is bump our heads on a wall hoping that the wall breaks first.
Thirty-nine years is a long time to look back on. But it’s been a good span for me and my friends. We have put in a lot of effort, shed tears, and done physically exhausting work. In turn, it has helped us provide pretty well for our families, and supported our other dreams as well. More importantly, it has given us a sense of place in this thing called life.
How much longer will APO last? None of us really knows. Sometimes it seems like we are running on empty with only hubris keeping us going. At other times, we feel like a brand-new solar car that can keep on going forever.
Whichever of these we are, at this point, it doesn’t really matter. What is important is that we made a choice, showed up and did what it took all through these years, and continue to do so. It was a choice well made and a decision well-kept.
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One of my passions is photography.
I am having an exhibit and it will be open to the public starting this Wednesday. Do drop by.
“Skin: A Photo Exhibit by Jim Paredes in Black and White and Red” runs from Sept. 24 to Oct. 2 at Renaissance Gallery, fourth floor, Megamall Building A.