HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated November 28, 2010 12:00 AM
Having the power of choice is generally good. To be able to choose one’s course in college, or one’s career, or one’s spouse is an exercise in freedom. Making a choice makes one feel good and powerful. It makes one feel alive and autonomous and responsible.
I often marvel at the many choices open to today’s kids. Their baby-boomer parents have made them the generation with the most alternatives and choices. Today’s kids have more choices about what they can eat and wear, how they look, how they want to be entertained, what educational path to pursue, and how they want to live their lives. There is no dearth of lifestyles they can adopt.
Many things that used to be inaccessible because of cost considerations are now open to them. They have easy access to cars, gadgets, computers, etc. Even in their love lives, the conservative norms and strict rules of courtship have been largely relaxed and kids have more exposure and interaction with the opposite sex than their parents ever did.
As an adult, my generation, too, has had more choices open to us than our parents ever had. We had generally better education, and had more opportunities open to us in ways not possible before.
And yet as much as I value the importance of having choices and making the right decisions, I have on occasion made the choice to put an end to the possibility of changing my mind in the future. One might say, I have made final immutable choices and I made them consciously.
Before I got married, I learned that a marital union can be annulled even years after if there was proof of hesitation in any of the spouses before they got married. I was told by an expert that hesitation, or doubt before getting married, could be interpreted as not having gone into the union with full consent, and therefore was not binding from the outset. It was not a union of free persons making free decisions.
Having heard that, I went to my mother the week I was to be married to tell her that I was so sure I wanted to marry Lydia and I wanted my mom to be my witness. In effect, I was closing any possibility of our marriage being annulled because there was full knowledge and full consent on my end at the time I got married.
I also made another decision that I thought would permanently seal my fate in some way. In 1989, at the height of the biggest, most dangerous coup against the Cory government, I went to the US embassy bringing my green card and those of my entire family to inform the US authorities that I was not interested in living in the US anymore. In effect, I told them I was giving up our green cards to live in the Philippines, much to their amazement since the officer who received the cards said these were much desired by many Pinoys.
I gave them the vague excuse that there were many things I needed to do in the Philippines at that time. But my real reason was I felt that as an EDSA1 veteran and a minor but committed player in the regime change that overthrew Marcos, I had to be like everyone else who gambled on our new democracy and hoped to make changes in the country. To my mind, there was something not right with the idea that I and my family had an escape hatch, so to speak, and could leave the Philippines any time things got out of hand. In effect, by returning our green cards, I made a major decision to simply stay put here through thick and thin.
Or so I thought.
Years later, when Erap won as president, I was depressed about it in a major way. I told my wife that if she was game, we could skip the Erap years and pick up our aborted plan of living abroad even for a while like we had planned on doing years earlier as a newly married couple. We were still young enough to do it. But EDSA 2 happened and that plan was postponed.
Years later, after Lydia’s bout with cancer and the death of her parents by cancer, we decided to finally migrate. It would be a perfect respite for her and an opportunity for the family to heal from all the sickness and death we had recently experienced. And so we ended up moving to Australia.
It is hard making major or final choices. But the way the world is now, deciding on something with finality is no longer as final as it used to be. Life continues to present choices even after we think we have made our final ones.
The ease of travel has made moving to another country less drastic, less “final” and thus much easier. With cable TV and the Internet, the Philippines is a click away. One no longer has to leave the old in exchange for the new. One can now have both.
But even so, decisions mean commitments we should honor. Making a choice makes us committed to one range of possibilities while letting go of others. The hardest thing to learn is which bridge to cross and which to burn, as writer David Russell pointed out. With many bridges come many decision points. I think of Ninoy who gave up the comfort of family life in the US to come home.
Sometimes, I wonder whether having choices is a blessing or a curse.
These days, my choices are getting simpler. I know I am probably in the last 20 years of life and I decide a lot of things based on that. On the whole, I choose to do things that matter, in line with what I believe in. While I haven’t lost the need to pursue and acquire material wealth, it is no longer as urgent and burning as it used to be. More and more, I find that teaching, mentoring, writing music, articles and books, spending time with family and friends are increasing in importance and even in urgency. On what causes to espouse, I tend to choose those that will leave a greater positive impact on the most number of people.
Albert Camus wrote that our lives are the sum total of our decisions. A life well lived is made up of good experiences, culled from the choices we make, even if, ironically, such experiences may have been the result of previous bad decisions.
The point is, even when we make wrong choices, or find ourselves in situations where we seem to have no choice, trust that there always is. We can always learn from everything. It’s our choice.
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My last workshops for the year.
Songwriting Class: Learn the rudiments of songwriting. Learn what makes a good song. And yes, actually write songs during the workshop and after. Dec. 4 and 5, 1 to 6 p.m. Student must play guitar or piano. Fee: P5,000. Call 426-5375 or 0916-8554303 or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Sydney, Basic Photo Workshop on Dec. 18, 1 to 6:30 p.m. at 4 Harcourt Grove, Glenwood, NSW. Call 98363494 or write for reservations, AU$100.
For info on all workshops I offer, go to http://jimparedes-workshops.com.