HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Every day, I go on the Internet to check my mail, websites, multiply accounts, etc., and it never ceases to amaze me that from wherever I am, I am communicating with people from different parts of the world. And while I am reading mail and comments, I am chatting with different people simultaneously. If someone had told me 20 years ago that all this would not just be a possibility, but would become routine in our lives, I would have totally dismissed him.
I’ve always enjoyed conversation, and the idea of people popping up at different times of the day via cyberspace is simply great. It does not really matter where cyberspace is located. It’s a dimension where, in real time, one can find out how everything and everyone is.
Clearly, our world has “speeded up” and totally changed from a few centuries back. Just for perspective, I remember reading that when George Washington was the first United States president, he reportedly told his staff that he had not heard from his Secretary of State Ben Franklin for three months, and thus it was time to write him a letter.
I also think of what it was must have been like during Rizal’s time, when it took six to nine months for letters to be delivered from the Philippines to Europe. Can you imagine receiving a letter saying your mom is not well? By today’s standards, the thought of such a long wait to find out more details would be unbearable.
When my sister migrated to the US in the ‘60s, it took almost four weeks for her letters to reach us, and another four weeks for our responses to reach her. When she called long distance, it was during weird hours of the day, and always, the conversations were short and rushed. It took us sometimes eight hours to place a call to the US since there were not enough lines available for overseas communications and we had to wait for our turn.
The time difference, of course, was a big inconvenience. My brother Ducky would try different ways, including laughably ingenious ones to get connected immediately. An example was he would request the operator to connect him now, “before my sedative takes effect.” Sometimes, he got lucky.
Because of the modern access to communication, even migrating isn’t what it used to be. One can live far away in some foreign land, but then there’s The Filipino Channel (TFC) and a host of Filipino communities, if one really needs to be with kababayans. Besides, there’s text messaging. And there’s video chatting. The early migrants, before all this technology was available, certainly had it much tougher.
The greatest thrill about being a cyber citizen is that I am able to have access to people whom I would otherwise not have a chance to meet, much less converse with. I have written to Paolo Coelho twice to discuss his books and have gotten responses each time. Neale Donald Walsch and I have exchanged a few emails. I am even on their mailing list. There are sites like zaadz.com and other forums that discuss topics I like — spirituality, Zen, creativity, technology, where I can join conversations with some anonymous, some famous, but all brilliant people who are passionate about the subjects and causes they espouse. In these forums, one can be anonymous too, even without nationality, and be on equal footing with everyone else.
If the early Native Americans used to send out smoke signals to cross distances to communicate, the very idea of blogging is not much different, except that it’s the whole world that can read your message and someone out there will most likely respond. I am thrilled that my blog gets visited by people from every continent, even if I wonder what universal appeal, if any, I am sending out.
The implications are staggering when you think about it. We already live in a world without boundaries and borders. We can invite people into our little lives and vice versa and learn about our common humanity. From time to time I visit blogs by Iraqis just to see what life is like for them. It’s one way to see them as they are, beyond the differences that separate us like religion, ethnicity, language, customs and political affiliations. I find myself richer just knowing that there are people like them.
I also get a lot of letters from people I don’t know who seem to have put their trust in me. I am not talking about the bogus bank managers from Nigeria or Burkina Faso who want to share a stash they supposedly have. These are people who resonate with something I have written, and wish to talk more about it, or even discuss their personal problems. I am humbled that I am given a chance to inspire, heal, or even just help them see their situations in a different, more liberating light. But the bigger thrill is that I am conversing with the world!
I like to think that the Internet is an offshoot of man’s greatest yearning, the one bigger than science, and the indefatigable quest for knowledge. I am talking of a spiritual yearning to connect to the whole, to experience oneness with everyone and everything. When I started my own journey to introspection years ago, I found myself taking up scuba, perhaps as my way to parallel externally what was happening internally to me. In the same way that we need statues and monuments to “make flesh” our Gods, dreams, and aspirations, I surmise that man invented the Net as an infrastructure to heal the “separation” which people who are alienated experience everywhere.
It is clear that users of the Net can and do affect each other for better or worse. Because of its capacity to make its users present to global issues in a local, “town hall” kind of way, consensus is built much faster. In many ways, regular citizen initiatives can organize opinions faster than governments and corporations can. Just look at the power of YouTube.
Sooner or later, could it perhaps be possible that our higher instincts can really use the Net to experience an unprecedented oneness that can go beyond the World Cup, Olympics and Live Earth events? There are millions who have received and responded to petitions to end the war in Iraq, to curb global warming, to end the violence in Darfur, to promote “conscious capitalism,” etc. Many times, the number of people who do respond to such issues do reach the critical numbers needed to begin to affect world policy.
This shows that at the very least, we are indeed capable and beginning to think as one humanity.