Courage and the Cowardly Adult

The operative word of the day:

Courage.

Why is this so hard to come by, the older one gets?

From small things (texting a person you like) to big ones (job hunting, talking to an irate boss) it all seems to take a herculean amount of willpower and cahones to do.

Was it any easier when we were younger?

It couldn’t be. A lot of things were deathly scary back then too.

I remember breaking out in sweat and testing the limits of my deodorant (already at peak capacity thanks to puberty) during those parent-teacher conferences in high school. My Math teacher would pull my parents to the side to discuss my failing grades, adopting a grim look only a Mafia lord could pull. Then, all three of them would turn to me in unison — the teacher shaking his head, my dad’s eyebrows knotted and crumpled up, my mother choking back tears (a wee bit of a drama queen, that one). The expression on their face told me I’ve disappointed them, as if I suddenly revealed a plan to  forego college and just take up competitive yo-yo as a profession.

I dreaded those conferences mainly because of what followed. But, that was ages ago, back when I was a kid. You’d think that as an adult, courage would come in spades. After all, we did survive all the things the universe has thrown at us for 20+ years: a Y2K bug, the 2012 doomsday prophecy,  Donald Trump, etc.

And yet, here I am, still afraid.

Afraid of a lot of things.

I’m afraid of booking plane tickets. I’m afraid of being judged for my writing, and of what the imagined audience would say.

I’m afraid of mixing up my tenses, of interchanging “your” and “you’re” and accidentally sending that to a grammar nazi friend and being forever thought of as ignoramus.

I’m NOT afraid of heights anymore, but i’m STILL afraid of red ants (long story involving a bath towel, a branch, and a line of red ants. Go figure it out, if you have an active imagination).

I’m afraid of dating in the 21st century. And from there, I’m afraid of taking a gamble and loving again.

Heck, I’m afraid of telling others what I’m afraid of — to be meta about it.

But what really terrifies me shitless, what keeps me up at night, is the thought of letting these fears paralyze me into inaction.

Because true courage isn’t lack of fear; it’s moving forward in spite of it.

Sometimes, it might get too tiring. We are too beat up by our responsibilities that we justify not facing our fears. We stop moving and accept defeat.

Wait long enough and this becomes the default state. And then you’ll realize you don’t feel scared anymore.

…in fact, you rarely feel anything at all.

That’s when the real nightmare begins.

So before that happens, shake yourself awake. Opt for the hard right, instead of doing the whatever easy option is left. It’s a mantra I need to tell myself often, considering there are still lots of things I run away from. I don’t want to one day look at the mirror, and see an all-familiar disappointed expression, one I thought I had left in high school.

My Conversation with the Cosmos

cosmosIf the Universe is trying to tell you something, by all means, pay attention.

The Universe is a very busy, er, creation. It could be doing something Universe-related (like creating planets or making sure the plot of Interstellar holds up). Instead, it chose to talk to you. That’s like the President of the World coming to your house personally to organize your post-it notes (or as we call it in the Philippines, “sucking up to the voters”).

When the times comes and you feel as if the cosmos are sending you a signal, here are some things to remember:

1. You can’t afford being dense. The message comes in unexpected forms, delivered through various medium: it could sneak up in a casual conversation with a friend, who suddenly calls you out for not writing anything recent.

“Whatever happened to your public blog?” she would ask. “Why haven’t you produced anything new?” And you squirm uncomfortably and utter the same, rehearsed excuses — not to her but mostly to yourself, to justify your inaction.

Sure, that friend may have dropped a scathing truth bomb on you (and she might need to read up on “The Art of Transitioning Properly into a Touchy Subject”) but it is only because she sees the value of your work — even though you might have trouble seeing it yourself.

When you feel as if your friend is acting as the mouthpiece of the Universe, heed her words. Use it as a conduit of change.
Most importantly, hang on to that friend; she’s the real deal.

2. Sometimes, the Universe takes a creative approach. There are many instances when you feel as if a work of art is speaking to you.

Like during a movie, you feel as if the lines were written specifically for you….that’s because you are egotistic and probably a closet narcissist like me. But, it might also be the Universe telling you something important, and it just decided to do it with more pizzazz this time.

“Stop living comfortably for yourself, for your family,” says the mustachioed actor playing a General on-screen, during a Saturday viewing of the movie Heneral Luna. And before delivering the next line, he looks at the audience, summons his inner Shia Le Bouf and shouts: “SACRIFICE for the greater good!”

A little melodramatic? Probably. Is he wrong though? Definitely not.

Art is the best way to get a message across. It isn’t too hard sell, and we all interpret it differently, depending on how applicable it is to our situation. This makes it more likely to stick. Besides, the livid face of a mustachioed man 30-feet big is always an effective way to get someone’s attention.

Heneral-Luna-2015-Jerrold-Tarog

3. It’s up to you to form the big picture.Sometimes, all you get are bits and pieces. Put them together and you get a general idea of what the Cosmos are trying to tell you:

  • “You are starting to write too corporate — break that!”
  • “Your article came back. Pardon my editor’s harsh notes.”
  • [Writes something. Stops after a few lines. Gets distracted. Finishes 7 hours later — if at all]
  • (Boss reads something I wrote, then crosses out the whole page) “NO. This is wrong.”
  • “Call me when you are finished doing that copy.” (or “Damn, what’s taking you this long? That’s just a few lines!”)
  • [Tries to finish an article. Goes to one room to the next to unclog brain. Futile]

All from different sources. One underlying message: “Your writing sucks.”

No surprises there. I know my writing had become rusty (and not just rusty-rusty, but Mad Max level rustiness in a sandstorm). I do write regularly on my journal, as mentioned in my previous post, but.. it feels inadequate. Art needs to give back. You can’t keep creating something for your own consumption, in your own vacuum.

So yes, I hear you loud and clear, cosmos: I’m sorry if I was selfish with my writing for far too long. I think I’m ready to start sharing some of the stories here again. I swear I will work doubly hard to shake off the rust and get back to fighting form.

I get your message. You can stop sending me Snapchats now.

A message to Future Me

I chanced upon my old journals last night, as I was cleaning out my closet.

You could say that these were my “skeletons”, as they revealed a side of me I wasn’t proud of. Not only was Young Me an atrocious writer with horrible grammar, he also came off as a Walking Penis with a Brain.  Mind you, this was from 6 years ago, when I was still in college. Distractions of youth is partly to blame, but only by a little bit.

Some excerpts from my 2009 journal:
“_______ is hot. I wonder if I have a chance with her?” 

“Went to a party. Lots of hot girls there. Awesome time”

“(basically a caricature of someone, with lady parts exaggerated)”

Great journalling there from an aspiring writer. I couldn’t even string a couple of words together to form a creative thought. Young, College Me was a sex-obsessed douche, which is only marginally different from what I am now (sans the “young” part).

But Young Me DID get something right, and it was that he wrote often, even if it was just snippets. The same can’t be said about Current Me. The last blog entry I did was about a month ago. Granted, I write privately on the side for personal consumption. But I’ve yet to develop this into a habit, and that’s what worries me.

Back to the journal. I loved reminiscing about the past, trying to interpret what I meant back then with my more cryptic entries (just a guess: it’s probably connected to sex). For a brief moment, I was brought back to relive my most cherished memories:  to when I was in Grande Island, consoling a distraught friend by the poolside while our orgmates loudly partied in the distance. Or to the terror I felt facing the selection committee, being interviewed for the editor in chief position.

Reading those convinced me to get back to journalling regularly, to try to capture the stories i’ll have this year (the more fun ones I’ll share here and some i’ll take with me to the grave). I have a feeling that 2015 will be a time of transition and many change. And documenting all that will help me reflect on the year that was.

If nothing else, I’ll return to journalling so that Future Me will have something to read that will make him slap his forehead and realize what a dork I was. At least not a sex-obsessed one but dorky nonetheless.

Just before 2015 wakes up…

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It’s been hours and I still haven’t the foggiest on what to write. Go figure — the first day of 2015 and already I have Writer’s Block.

I was supposed to write about mountain-climbing, but that got stalled and it didn’t seem appropriate for the New Year. Everyone’s writing about the “Year That Was”, even my favorite humor columnist did so. But as I mentioned in my recent post, “the year that was” is “a year I’d rather forget”.

So, after burning a hole through my monitor from prolonged staring, it was obvious that inspiration wouldn’t come pouring out of my fingertips anytime soon. I decided to go out for a walk.

This was after midnight. The firecrackers have long been spent, the people are sleeping off their food coma, or have passed out in a drunken stupor (good luck nursing a hang-over tomorrow, with the racket from left-over firecrackers). The city itself was slumbering, wrapped in a thin blanket of smoke.

Outside our apartment building, a group of friends have set up by the gate and were having a grand time, breaking the silence of the night with their boisterous conversation. The street was void of any living soul, save mine and a passing cat. I laughed when I remembered what my sister said earlier, about cats secretly lighting fireworks to scare dogs. The cat didn’t even bother avoiding me; it was in a hurry to get somewhere. It’s then that I wondered if animals also celebrated the New Year, holding feasts of their own with their families (Ithe sulfur must be affecting my brain at that point)

The nearby 7-11 was still open so I went in and bought a cold can of Nescafe Latte. It was heartbreaking to see a lone woman by the cashier, someone who’s forced to work on New Year’s Eve. I paid for my drink, flashed her an apologetic smile, and hurried out so she could close shop. Thankfully, a male employee entered as I left. That’s one less lonely soul tonight.

This was near Buendia, a traffic-ridden street any other day of the week,  Around this time, skaters would claim the sidewalk as their own, doing tricks perilously as buses zoomed past them (they’re always one Ollie away from a Final Destination-esque death) But on New Year’s eve, they were nowhere in sight. Buendia was deathly still — a perfect setting to pause for a bit, finish my drink by the neon sign of a gas station, and contemplate on the passing year.

I guess 2014 wasn’t all bad. Among the highlights:

  • Started a new job at a corporation, where the most fulfilling aspect is learning new corporate terms and using them in everyday conversation with friends, all snooty-like (“About our reunion, we should first cascade that plan to all parties concerned. For the meantime, I’m going to put a placeholder on the venue, so we could align our calendars at the soonest”) You can bet that my friends hated me after;
  • Regularly contributed stories to a sports magazine, where the editor even lauded my write-up. And it only took me 2 months after the deadline to pass the article. #progress;
  • Took up mountaineering as a hobby. Although “took up” might be the wrong word. You “take up” painting, knitting, or competitive beer pong, things that are less strenuous. A more apt wording: “decided to be a masochist and punish oneself by climbing a piece of rock for no discernible reason. Then repeating this several times”;
  • Went on my first Simbang Gabi. Or Christmas Novena, as it is known in other countries. I haven’t been to mass in a while (the last one was five years ago), so I didn’t know most of the lyrics to the hymns. These were actual lyrics with substance and meaning, which can’t be said about most of our pop-songs today (looking at you, Anaconda);
  • Got out of a toxic relationship. Self-explanatory.

I went back to the apartment upon finishing my drink, confident that I now have a topic for my blog. Inside, my father was snoring softly on the living room couch, while classical music played in the background. My sister and mother were in the other rooms, fast asleep. The only other sound was the gently clacking of keys as I started typing this entry.

Occasionally, I would glace around the room, breathing in the tranquility of the night. I smiled upon seeing my my dad’s tablet, which was playing a visualizer app to the sound of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. This was a 58-year-old man — an intimidating lawyer by day — and yet he still needed a lullaby to help him fall asleep.

And damned if it wasn’t the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen.

I guess this is what happiness looks like at 4:00 in the morning. To be the only one awake while your loved ones slumber peacefully next to you. A rare kind of bliss that comes with age.

It may not be much to some, especially to those who claimed they had a spectacular year (just go to FB and you’ll see a lot of these). But, this is how I choose to remember 2014. And I’m perfectly fine with that.

Writing amid static

http://eppsnet.com/

This is your brain without WordPress

Ever since I joined the “corporate arena” (an annoying term I got from an officemate), I haven’t been able to write things that aren’t, er… corporate-y.

It’s not for lack of trying. Every lunchbreak, I would go to a nearby fountain — orange journal tucked under my sweaty pits — and sit quietly for half an hour, trying to write. I’d like to think I do this solely to please my Muse and act like a writer dedicated to his craft. But mostly, it’s because the food around BGC is hella expensive and I’m a cheapskate

I’d try and make an essay, a poem, even a song lyric — anything to get that pen moving across the page. Sometimes, I would be successful in roping a few words, making a coherent paragraph that captures my thoughts. Other times, I would go back to the office, frustrated and hungry, the scent of failure mixing with a tinge of sweat and B.O.

Stephen King once said that waiting for inspiration to strike is for amateurs, and that real writers just power through and write. And though I agree with that sentiment (who am I to disagree with the King of Horror? I wouldn’t want him to sic his creations on me), it’s hard to power through when all you hear is “static”.

That’s how it feels lately, whenever I try to write for pleasure. The voice in my head  — the good one, not the one who tells me streaking in public is a great idea — is trapped behind a wall of static, unable to narrate anything. It’s like watching telenovela with bad reception, trying to piece a story together using fuzzy images, incomprehensible noise, and the passionate squawking of characters. Utter chaos.

I may be suffering from the writer’s equivalent of erectile dysfunction. Even the fountain seemed to agree during one of my lunch sessions: from a strong water cannon, it turned into a tiny sprout — a fitting metaphor for the lack of passion in my writing.

I need to try the two sure-fire methods of getting your mojo back: reading more and writing more. The last time I picked up a book (In Evil Hour by Gabriel Garcia Marquez), I found the whole thing tiring. I couldn’t even finish 20 pages in a week. I’ve also been neglecting my blog updates, since I’m transitioning at my new work.

I’ll update more often from now on, til I reach the point where static becomes clear and the voice is audible. Because to “power through” means to continue producing work until you become an unstoppable force, that not even something as concrete as Writer’s Block can stop you (think Juggernaut meets Mark Twain).

"Tis thee Juggernaut, bitch!"

“Tis thee Juggernaut, bitch!”

Lessons on activism from an ice-bucket

A scene from Flashdance: The Fundraising Ball

A scene from Flashdance 2: The Fundraiser

I’m a big fan of the ALS Ice-bucket Challenge.

From the point-of-view of an aspiring (at times: failed, frustrated) copywriter, the Ice-bucket challenge was an effective digital campaign. It easily went viral, thanks to the click-bait appeal of seeing your favorite celebrities pour ice-cold water on themselves, and then nominate other famous celebrities to do the same within 24 hours, or donate to charity. It’s like the best Celebrity Pyramid Scheme ever.

Some criticize the Ice-bucket Challenge for taking the spotlight off ALS, (or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), or for “stealing attention” from other more prevalent diseases.

But I’m not here to argue the validity of these points. Rather, I’m here to discuss how the Ice-Bucket Challenge (IBC) changed the face of activism.

3. It showed us the power of “likes” and “shares” in promoting a movement.

It seems far-fetched to connect ice cubes to activism, like trying to connect binge-eating fajitas to the Occupy movement.

However, if we accept that activism’s goal is to promote social or economic change — in its rawest form, to “make a difference” — then we can see how the IBC fulfilled this: it brought an obscure, unknown condition to public consciousness, and revitalized funding for ALS research. Near the end of August, the ALS foundation had a cool $22.9-M in donations, compared to a paltry $1.9-M the same period last year.

Not bad, for a movement others consider “juvenile” or “stupid”.

How was this possible? Through the unlikeliest method: social media sharing.

Remember those depressing FB posts with pictures of children in war or famine-stricken areas, where the post-maker had the gall to include the caption “1 share = 1 prayer”? Sorry but those things do nothing, no matter how much you abuse the “share” button. You’d be better off personally praying for the kid, or actually donating to charity than to think that your “share” can alleviate the child’s condition.

The assumption is that “sharing” magically sends a prayer to God’s FB wall, as if God doesn’t have anything better to do than to browse Facebook all day:

“Wow, already 22 million shares? Hmm I better do something about that famine!”FB1

But with the IBC, your “shares” actually does something.  It promotes ALS awareness and adds another coating to the snowball, making it big enough to reach those in the capacity to donate big, like Bill Gates and other millionaire-philanthropists.

How did it go supernova in such a short time? By having a highly shareable content, thanks to the presence of celebrities. You wouldn’t think twice about sharing a video of a drenched Tom Hiddleston, or a soaking Iggy Azalea, would you? Half of the internet does that on their free time, sans charity.

mcfly

“…And your fedora looks stupid too!”

I can only imagine the pressure celebrities feel upon being nominated, knowing that all eyes are on them. It’s like Biff calling Marty McFly “chicken”, except this time, you have a whole crowd watching what you do next, each one with an MA in Internet Bashing.

In short, “shares” and “likes” can make your activist movement big enough to reach the doorsteps of the politicians/leaders you want to target. Just try ignoring the knock of something a million people support.

2. It gave us a template for future demonstrations

Rice bucket. Rubble bucket. Book bucket.

All of these sprung from the IBC. The Rice Bucket gave food to poor families in India. The Rubble Bucket raised awareness about the devastation in Gaza Strip. Book Bucket aimed to erase illiteracy by giving books. In the Philippines, our MRT challenge called for politicians to take the public train, to see its deplorable condition.

These campaigns leveraged on the IBC’s popularity, to put their own agendas across. And the best part? They didn’t even like the original movement.

In fact, the proponent of the Rice bucket challenge said that a person does not need to go through the torturous experience of pouring ice-cold water on his head, just to help out.

Still, they used the IBC as the template because it was effective and results-driven. The whole thing worked because of an easy-to-follow set of rules.

Its success can also be attributed to these:

  1. A sense of urgency via the imposed 24-hour time limit.
  2. A win-win situation. Do the challenge and raise awareness. Don’t do it and raise funds. (Do both and be in the running for the next Dalai Llama)
  3. A chance to pay it forward. By nominating someone else, you keep the movement alive. As Time puts it: “the challenge’s visual component fostered a sort of casual one-upmanship, especially once celebrities started doing it, knowing they had large audiences.”

Wait a minute. Now that I think about it, the roots of the IBC seem pretty familiar…

Holy crap.  Is the IBC just a modern version of a chain letter?

A chain where, instead of cursing someone with a visit from Bloody Mary, you pass on the opportunity to do a good deed?

I can dig that.

Chain-Letter

The postal service has really gone downhill.

1. Everyone can participate — and debate

Some things you can’t ignore, especially if it’s force-fed to you 24/7.

The IBC craze may be over. But I remember how last August, you couldn’t go anywhere without running into the phenomenon.

You see it on your FB wall, you learn about it on the news, you view it on YouTube, or on your seatmate’s iPhone screen. It’s like a B-movie monster that refuses to die and shows up at every corner, just in time for murder.

Even if you don’t want to participate, you get pulled right in by the massive viral wave. Finally, you cave and watch a 3-minute video of someone doing the challenge.

From here, several things could happen: 1.) you like the IBC and don’t mind sharing the video; 2.) you think it is stupid and express your opposition of it online; or 3.) you think the challenge could use a little tweaking, to make it more relevant to the cause it promotes. There’s also a fourth option where you don’t give a flying fuck about ALS or about donating to charity, by which I assume you are an emotionless plant/robot, or is the same guy who made the 1 share=1 prayer post to capitalize on tragedy because you seek attention.

Save for the last one, all those reactions are valid and open the doors for discussion on what the movement lacks, what needs to be fixed, what makes it work/fail, etc. You become a participant of the phenomenon, without having to douse yourself with cold water.

This back-and-forth of ideas lead to revisions, realignment of goals, spin-off campaigns (Rice Bucket and the others), or calls to stop everything once and for all.

It’s the same reason why long-running demonstrations can sometimes change or take a life of its own. It adapts and evolves, depending on the needs of the majority.

This is why I think digital activism is something we should utilize to the fullest, to implement the changes we want (especially here in the Philippines, where corruption and crime is rampant).

I’m not saying that this should totally replace traditional forms of activism. Rather, it should complement it by transforming social media into an alternative protest ground that is connected to the rest of the world. Once the international community sees your plight, the pressure would be enough to make our politicians actually get off their asses and do something to fix the problem.

Because having genuine progress? That’s our greatest challenge.

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How to cope (in 500 words or less)

How do you deal with the sudden news that someone you know died?

A friend. A relative. An acquaintance who, despite the brief moment you were in each other’s life, still left a mark?

The default reaction is denial of a deliberate kind. This is eventually replaced by acceptance, followed by a fervid desire to remember everything about the person. It’s a coping mechanism of sorts; our mind’s way of making sure the person isn’t completely erased from existence.

We grab at strings in the dark, each one a cherished moment shared with the deceased. Some of the strings turn to air, slipping through one’s fingers, rising and spreading out towards the sky. You start to forget, start to lose the little details which used to mean a lot. You become angry for not having more.

Because in the end, that’s what it all boils down to: we just want more. More time with the person. More memories to hold on to. More of everything, before it’s too late.

This is how I choose to process death, in a way I can best express myself. Blogging is just another way of coping, after all. With this entry, I can make one final memory, one sturdy string tied down with words.

Recently I attended the wake of Lee, a friend from college. Lee was already an outgoing Varsitarian staffer by the time I joined the publication. Hands down, he was the warmest, friendliest person there, helping us newbies learn the ropes of being a student-writer. 

We shared similar interests: Pokemon, anime and other geeky things generally frowned upon by others as being too “childish”. Maybe that’s why we became fast friends.  

Last Monday, Lee succumbed to tuberculosis, at the young age of 27. He will be missed.

Rage into the (mid)Night

Most artists dream of someday holding their own exhibit. It’s probably at the top of their bucket list.

When that day comes (and that’s a big IF), I’m not really sure if I have anything worthy to put up. Probably a series of comics, mediocre paintings, or badly-lit photographs.

My artworks are often layo-genic: you only fully appreciate them when looking from afar, with your eyes scrunched to the point that it’s almost closed. “Wow,” you’ll say, 3-feet-away from a painting, with slits for eyes, “It’s really not THAT bad!”

Fortunately, the bitterness of being a frustrated artist doesn’t hinder me from celebrating the success of others, especially when the successful artist in question is someone dear to me.

 

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The proud artist standing in front of her works

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Thanks to our friend Chuchie, Aencille was able to hold her first exhibit alongside other artists, crossing out an important item from her bucket list. Good job! 🙂

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Aencille vs Chuchie: Clash in QC

Midnight Music

The exhibit was part of an event called This Sentence is False (I’ll let that thought sink in and blow your mind. Go ahead), which celebrated young talents by inviting budding artists and indie rock bands to showcase their artwork/perform. It was held at the Heber Bartolome Gallery in QC, on the same Saturday as our food trip to Tokyo Bubble Tea.

I haven’t been to a rock concert in AGES. I think the last one I went to, Gangnam Style was still a thing and Miley Cyrus hadn’t violated a foam finger yet.

So, imagine my excitement when — for the first time in what felt like forever — I once again heard the thumping of the drums, the wail of the guitar, the other-wordly reverb of the distortion pedal, the tribal beat of the bass, and finally, the gurgling growl of the vocalist, channeling all the rage and emotion he can muster for an epic, once-in-a-lifetime, electrifying performance…

And that’s just the tune-up.

 

I brought Scarlet my red 1100D EOS Canon, to document the concert. I tried to capture the energy and angst of the bands via some nifty zooming action (really the only camera trick I know). Hopefully, that’s what you’ll see in the pictures below, not a Rorschach test:

 

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Danish band Vokadin, my favorite thing about Denmark (aside from Danish cookies)

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Vokadin had the smoothest performance of the night. Awesome band

 

Black-winged.

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Going warp speed

 

My only regret is that I didn’t get enough good shots of Ruweda, an awesome pinoy band who seemingly fed off the audience’s energy. At least, that’s the only explanation that made sense: how else were they able to perform the way they did?  The vocalist literally bounced all over the stage for half an hour, as if part of a furious one-man mosh pit (at times even scaring me a bit as we were inches away from a bloody headbutt), while belting out original compositions that appealed to local sensibilities. Meanwhile, the lead guitarist was adept at making his instrument sing like a lamenting phoenix, the notes washing 0ver us like hypnosis.

It was only when Ruweda played a cover of RHCP’s “Cant Stop” that the resemblance became all too clear.

 

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Ruweda, a band to watch out for




Wearing my Google-goggles

Google

You’re hanging out with a group of friends, when suddenly, someone asks a random question:

“What do you call the fear of snakes crawling out of the toilet?”

Everyone looks at the person, to try to see if she was serious or not. Finally, a friend curtly replies “GMG” with a mocking smile.

This stands for “Google Mo Gago” (or “Google Mo Gurl” if you want to be polite), a snappy way of saying that the answer is easily within reach, if only there was a search engine where you can type things in a box and have the answer return instantaneously.

Now, wherever can we find that? #sarcasm

Nowadays, if you are connected to the internet, you can consider yourself near-omniscient. All it takes are a few choice words in the Google search engine and voila! Instant knowledge at 320 kbps.

I’ve had a lot of free time lately and when I’m not out looking for a job, I spend most of my time googling random brain-farts. I would be browsing through several LinkedIn articles related to improving a resume when suddenly, the silliest thought would enter my mind, like: “Why are clouds  white?” or “Why is there a face on the moon?”

It would take approximately 5 seconds to know the answer. ( I counted. You can see for yourself if you are doubtful).

1. One second clicking a new tab.

2. Another 2.5 typing the keywords. In this case, it’s “Why is there a face…”.

3. By then Google, cheeky bastard that he is, will auto-suggest the next set of words: “…on the moon?”.

4. Press Enter, wait 1.5 seconds for the wiki page to load…

5. Spend two seconds scanning the paragraph, to ultimately learn that the phenomenon of seeing a face on the moon is called “lunar pareidolia” (para here means instead, and eidolon means image)

Now, is this information important? Definitely not. Will it help me get a new job? Unlikely.

The best I can hope for is that “lunar pareidolia” will be the final answer in an episode of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? where I am a contestant. They’ll then make a movie based on the events, a Slumdog-esque film titled “The Googler” starring Andrew Garfield. But maybe that’s too ambitious.

While not necessarily useful, knowing this bit of trivia satisfies me in several ways (not like that, perv):

At the shallowest level, it quenches my curiosity instantaneously, with minimal effort. Deeper, it builds self-esteem in knowing things that others do not.

On the grandest scale, new knowledge makes the world familiar and accessible.

A deeper understanding of  a phenomenon, like the Man on the Moon for example, or the Ukrainian conflict, places it within the realm of knowable things. By extension, it then becomes part of an individual’s universe (akin to simply seeing a group of stars, versus knowing that these stars are actually white dwarfs and compose a part of Ursa Major).

It is not enough to be a mere spectator. One must actively pursue knowledge in order to expand one’s world.

 

moon

There are obvious disadvantages to instantaneous information, though these deal more with the handling of knowledge.

Before, whenever we had a burning question, it would haunt us for days. Restricted by our ignorance,  we are left to wonder until we stumble upon the answer via an encyclopedia, news clipping, or a know-it-all relative. The effort to obtain a singular fact is sometimes so difficult that the info tends to get seared on our brain.

Compare that to how accessible information is nowadays, where you can access a vast ocean of knowledge with a single click, and it isn’t far-fetched to think how all this can be taken for granted. After all, you’ll always have access to information, is there really a need to memorize every single thing?

There is also less time spent wondering. As soon as you formulate a question, the answer follows shortly within a few seconds. There is not enough time spent savoring curiosity or the pursuit of knowledge.

Why am I writing all this? (aside from promoting Google, in hopes that Google Philippines will read this and contact me) It’s because lately, I have become somewhat of an “information junkie”.

With all the free time in the world, I would literally spend hours researching things on Google. Often I’d get lost in the information blackhole that is Wikipedia, where a simple search for “teetotalism” (complete abstinence from beer) somehow leads to “18th century dueling etiquette” and then to a “brief overview of Henry VIII as a ruler” (spoilers: lots of beheadings). I love living in the gap between “not knowing” and “knowing”.

Turns  out research is something I genuinely enjoy, and I am even toying with the idea of making a career out it. Google has been sort of like a best friend during this time of unemployment. With auto-suggest on, we even finish each other’s sentences. A sign of true love.

But no matter how much I love searching for things, I can never find the correct keywords to know what “fear of toilet snakes” is, which is an irrational fear I actually have.

If someone knows the answer, do tell me. I really need to go to the bathroom.

The Case of the Inverted Pyramid: My first teaching gig

Last month, I was able to do something I’ve always dreamed of: To hold a writing class.

The opportunity came when a former colleague of mine, Levine, invited me to talk about Feature Writing in front of public school students. At first, I was hesitant of my ability –and authority– to instruct these kids. After all, I haven’t won a Palanca, written a short story,or appeared in an instructional Youtube video. I do write a lot of Feature articles for work, but mostly those are fluff pieces with titles like “10 Tips to Eliminate that Mommy-Tummy”, or “5 Ways that Celery can Kill YOU!”. Instructional for some, soul-sucking stuff for writers.

No effin clue what i’m doing. None at all

But my friend was persistent. And he was a Philosophy major. (Never get into an argument with a Philo major; he’ll quote latin to back up his claim. The first time my friend did this, I thought he was enumerating names of Harry Potter spells). Apart from that, he sounded like he was in a bind; the type of problem you get when your initial lecturer backs down at the last minute and you have less than a week to find a replacement.

So I agreed. And I was glad I did. Very few get the opportunity to impart knowledge to others. No matter how small your knowledge

may be, it is still worth knowing. Even though I did not have the credentials compared to other big shots in the industry, I still felt privileged to share what I knew about writing to these kids.

***

For most teachers,  just reaching one kid in a room is enough satisfaction to feel like you’ve done a good job. Fortunately, I did not have to try that hard to achieve this, as there were only three girls who attended my lecture. Most of the other students opted to sit-in for the News Writing or Opinion Writing lectures. Nonetheless, it was a good number; anything more than a dozen would probably have me staring at the blackboard, unable to function properly due to fear. I’ve always hated speaking in front of a crowd, I hated hearing how stupid my points sound, or how my voice sounds like cockroaches having an orgy in your ear. No guesses as to why I chose writing as a medium instead.

Not even a tumbleweed.

I started out by introducing what Feature Writing was, and how to go about writing it (they haven’t written anything of the sort, so the concept was new to them). At first, it was like wading through water and feeling the bottom for depth. Then slowly, after seeing them smile and nod understandingly, I became more at ease with the topic.

It surprised me how easily I can talk about Feature Writing, as if I was simply retelling a funny story. All those years of writing nonsensical (read: stupid, angst-ridden) essays, reading Feature pieces, and sitting through my mother’s lecture (she teaches Feature Writing for catholic universities occasionally) has made me very familiar with the subject matter.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that from the minute I learned how to dot my “i”s and cross my “t”s, my mother has hammered my brain with every fact and technique I needed to know about Feature writing. In fact, I have been around that damned thing for so long that I now see it as a real person — an annoyingly, hyper friend that always comes over and likes to describe things in a colorful, dramatic manner. The kind of friend that tends to get on your nerves, but is good company nonetheless.

It’s only now that I realized what I was doing in front of that classroom, on that hot Thursday afternoon. I wasn’t just lecturing about a worn-out topic — I was describing my “friend” and telling the class details of his life.  I told them about what makes him tick, what his weaknesses and strengths are, even the quirky manner in which he starts off his stories. Corny as it may be, it was the best way I knew how to introduce my three students to the world of Feature Writing (and at least it was better than leading with worn-out advice like the Inverted Pyramid technique. I never learned what this meant, too much Illuminati symbolism for me)

I’m glad I took my friend’s offer, as teaching turned out to be one of the most fulfilling experience I’ve had. Moral of the story: Never turn down an opportunity to share your knowledge on something you’re passionate about –be it dancing, drawing, languages, or such. You never know who you’ll reach.

As for the three who sat down in my class? I sincerely thank them for listening, and I really appreciate how they at least hid their cellphones while they texted midway through my boring lecture (standing in the front as the lecturer, it’s pretty obvious to figure out what they were doing. No one suddenly looks down at their crotch and smiles). Fingers crossed, we hope to see their write-ups someday, both me and my annoying friend.