Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Our Days Of Disquiet

FOR THE LIVING who are no better than those who rest in peace, here's my All Souls' Day column in the opinion page of Sun.Star Cebu:


If he were a ghost, his grimace seemed not enough to spook City Hall into action.

“I would like, at least, to have my complaints noted and my questions answered,” rues a certain Alvin John Osmeña who hopes for city officials’ attention so they can “address the recurring problem on noise.” All that sound—loud music played inside vehicles and highly sensitive car alarms—reportedly bothers him wherever he is.

Must he consign himself to wait until he’d be six feet under before he’d experience what it takes to be tranquil?

That his grievances have fallen on deaf ears is indication enough that City Hall ought to be reminded what Desiderata intoned so solemnly: “Remember what peace there may be in

But as its ears register nothing less than high frequency of the forthcoming Asean Summit, is City Hall up to the challenge for calm?

Isn’t its desperate need to live up to expectation or to prove that the city is no cemetery of progress a symptom of modern world’s neurosis?

It’s supposed to be a luxury, but taking things slow has become a liability. The go-getting mania has rendered it quaint to quell the cliché and, yes, smell the flowers. The quick and the dead, alas, have one thing in common: Too unconscious to find loveliness in their ornate funeral wreath.

Who has time to catch a whiff of grace as we reek of rage throughout our constant brush with rush hours, deadlines, quotas? Blessed are the departed, indeed, for having gone past the zone of discomfort Thoreau scoffed at: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

Indeed, pity the taxpayer in dire need for an accessible refuge in the midst of the city’s hustle and bustle. Where are our public spaces with trees to sit under? Breezy does it, if you ask the dead in memorial parks from which real estate developers are literally making a killing.

Indeed, anguish is when we have to puncture our eardrums to the feet-stomping tune of “Let’s Get Loud” so that we get a kick out of the doldrums. Ah, doesn’t that explain our private emergencies to lull ourselves with our iPod so can we insulate our head and shut the hysterical world out of our ears?

Hear, too, the prognosis from the World Health Organization: Depression will soon be the second leading cause of disability in the world where suicide ranks as the third leading cause of death among dismally spirited adolescents.

“Quiet is going extinct,” says Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist who’s espousing a campaign on behalf of American parks called “One Square Inch of Silence” meant to protect a tiny spot of serenity from man-made sound. “I wanted to find a quiet place and hang on to it and protect it.”

Man, he’d better be dead than find himself fuming from both ears here this side of purgatory. (31 October 2006, Sun.Star Cebu)

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