HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 13, 2014 – 12:00am
Many will agree that the world is screwed up.
Global warming, according to a UN report, will affect everyone on the planet. Everyone will suffer its adverse effects. No one will be spared. That should scare anyone, but it hasn’t. People are still burning fossil fuels, cutting trees, overfishing, and emitting toxic gases while the ice caps melt at ever-greater rates.
The world economic system is undercutting the middle class and increasing the numbers of the poor in many countries.
Russia is expanding again by annexing the territory of its neighbors. China is flexing its muscles all over Asia trying to grab as much land as it can from other countries. Iraq and Egypt are a bigger mess than ever.
So, what is not wrong with the world?
It can be so easy to fall into despair and cynicism, and be negative about everything. But there are things I believe in and rely on that keep me immune from pessimism. Call me a cockeyed optimist, but these I believe to be true:
1. There will always be a day after. Sometimes we feel so trapped in a situation that it can seem like we will be stuck in it forever. By just trusting that there will always be another time, another tomorrow offers new hope and possibilities. Nothing is the end.
2. Nothing is permanent. While this thought can make some people uncomfortable or anxious, I embrace it, most of the time. I fully accept the fact that, as trees shed their leaves and plants grow and die, so does everything change. I remember being young once and getting older every year. Now I am in my early 60s. Ironically, the youth narrative of people my age has become the old story, and our aging is now the new one. Time is short and life is always in a state of flux. In time, we leave the old and experience the new.
3. Life is what you want it to be. There is nothing that is written in stone. There is only history that makes it seem like there is. But even the trajectory of history can be changed. And it has changed, many times. Unknowingly or deliberately, we create and recreate everything.
We can be anything we choose to be, and we can create the world into any image that we desire. Often, I look outside and wonder in whose image the world was created. I can be sure it is the collective creation of some people. If they can do it, so can the rest of us.
4. Changes are always started by the few, not the many. While sometimes, it is easy to despair at the ignorance of the masses and the oppressiveness of the status quo, history tells us that societies that have changed have done so with a small group of committed people initiating the change. It is not always the majority’s interest to change things. Change is, more often, instigated by a few committed individuals who believe its time has come. Nelson Mandela was once a lonely voice plotting behind bars against the apartheid status quo. Before the Catholic Church was formed, there was only Jesus and his 12 apostles. People power started years ago when just a few people got together and defied the dictatorship. It took Ninoy’s death in 1983 to galvanize society to act against martial rule. It only takes the ideas and commitment of very few people to get something rolling.
5. People get wiser with age. For young people reading this, wisdom may not be something you are interested in right now. Many young people think they already know everything. Believe me, everyone will commit mistakes until they die. But I know that as one gets older, one learns many things from past experience so that, hopefully, one does not repeat them too many times.
6. The moon reflects on both the big lake and the small puddle. This is a Zen saying. Wisdom, truth, enlightenment are not the monopoly of one class of people. Regardless of one’s station in life, truth is self-evident and attainable. It is good to know this because it makes us open up to knowledge and wisdom not just from an elite class of thinkers but from everyone else. The bright idea can come from anywhere and anyone.
7. Evolution is an upward spiral towards greater freedom and knowledge. During Roman times, fathers were allowed to kill their children if they brought dishonor or disrespect to the family name. Not too long ago, women were not allowed to vote. There were also slavery, and other inhumane practices. It was just a little over a century ago when governments in Europe still hanged criminals in public squares.
I believe that as societies become more enlightened, their laws and beliefs also evolve into something more noble and progressive, including and accommodating the rights of the greater number of people.
A great portion of the world still persecutes women, gays, people with deformities, people of color, and other so-called lesser beings. But I believe that the wheel continues to turn forward towards more progress in the areas of equality, education, opportunities and human rights.
8. People change. Indeed people do. And I believe there are enough of them who have changed and will continue to change to meet and avert the challenges posed by the human disasters headed our way.
How do I know that? Our own government just recently signed a peace pact with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which represents the Bangsamoro. We also got the Supreme Court to recognize the constitutionality of the RH Law. I never imagined these things would happen in my lifetime. As I said, all we really need are a few good men and women who will step up to the plate and inspire everyone to alter the future.
And that, I believe, is already happening. And the momentum will be unstoppable.