Tuesday, October 02, 2007

surge of the slowpoke: take three

PROCRASTINATION IS A COUNTRY where I'm a constant inhabitant. That explains the laggardly pace of this blog lately, I concede. Allow me to cram and make up for the delay by posting the last three of my opinions columns in the op-ed pages of Sun.Star Cebu for last month. As they say, better late than...

No Hurry, No Worry

NO way, speed is not for snails.

Neither do they smash each other’s shell to smithereens down the road and turn turtle.

Of happiness and contentment, the secret may be for the snail to tell. But, come on, who’s not in a hurry to spare time enough to lend an ear?

Not the Mandaue City police official who might as well have heard thunder after his car collided with that of a TV news crew. Neither they who got more than deadline to beat, according to the allegation of the browbeaten officer.

Suffice it to say that the whole affair was too tawdry to stimulate the offbeat characters in David Cronenberg’s “Crash” who, by the way, are sexually excited with injury in the wake of highway wrecks — an awful metaphor for the mishap of human connection in the age of technology.

Last we heard, both parties were reportedly driving drunk. Did they deem it liberating to leave sobriety at full throttle, in the thrill of living in a whirl? So that there’ll be no more time left, perhaps, to fret about the drudge of catching up with criminals who are often faster at cutting corners with the law; which, by the way, always leave the TV news crew and the rest of the media breathless in the blur between the quick and the dead.

In a culture that covets what’s instant —from noodles and coffee to reality show on fame and luck in the way of lotto — there’s nothing faster than the flyblown irony of the essentials — justice, truth, progress, peace — moving with a worm’s poise.

But fast is not how bliss could be found, we know. In the same manner that satisfaction can hardly be reached in the dismal distance between premature ejaculation and orgasm.

In sex as in eating and the rest of human exertions, nothing’s more desired than deceleration.

That’s the favorite word of Carl Honoré, the best-selling author of In Praise of Slowness as he spreads the gospel against the tyranny of time in modern life. With its cocktail of reportage, statistic, anecdotes of personal testimony, history and intellectual inquiry, the book clarifies “how the world got so fast and why slowing down can pay dividends in every walk of life.”

Consider the advantage of deceleration as the book unravels what happens in “a Tantric sex workshop in London to a meditation room for executives in Tokyo, from a Chi Kung squash class in Edinburgh to a SuperSlow exercise studio in New York City, from a TV-free household in Toronto to Italy.”

Beyond the exigencies of a deadline, there’s a lifeline. So argues Honoré: “These days, many of us live in fast forward — and pay a heavy price for it. Our work, health and relationships suffer. Over-stimulated, over-scheduled and overwrought, we struggle to relax, to enjoy things properly, to spend time with family and friends.”

Lest he be misconstrued as a Luddite out to mock the convenience of all things modern, he avers: “You don’t have to shun technology, live in the wilderness or do everything at a snail’s pace.”

Just breathe for a change. Yes, after spitting and cursing. You, too, can burn slow.
(September 25, 2007)

On Our Feet

LET the others dream of flying. Long after the invention of rubber shoes, leave it to me to levitate horizontally with the repose of walking, to have a whistle of a time even if it means startling the birds away.

It’s good for the body, they say. Never mind if the obstinate inhabitants under the skin of my beer belly strains to disagree. It bodes well, too, for the business of footwear and all related products for preventing the spirit of a dead rat to emanate from the purgatory between our toes.

If I follow those who spread the gospel of a good hike, it’s also because it seems devoid of the breathless distress of joggers. Can’t hum or whistle, see, while they appear desperate not to bite the dust, or fall behind their inner slobs.

Against the motions of the overweight trotting around Central Park, consider the condescending soliloquy of Woody Allen’s character in Hannah and Her Sisters as he goes on walking, waxing morbid about our common ground. Death, he ruminates, will overtake us all, health buffs or not, just the same in the end.

Thus a sage once snorted: Why hurry if life is short?

Maybe we walk to steer clear from the awful possibility that we’re better off crawling or groveling in the growl of everything gone awry with the world.

See how the streets pave the march of placard-waving militants. Or the Zen-like rhythm of those rambling out of dire straits, like the jobless man kicking a can down the road.

Walking affords one ample space to keep apace with the voices in one’s head, as Allen’s character in Central Park proves. That may explain why the deranged would rather loiter out of asylum walls.

Here in America, where hikers’ trails under the shadows of trees would soon be carpeted with leaves falling colorful in autumn, nothing’s stranger than stray thoughts gravitating towards home.
Where, last I looked at the news, there was nothing more relentless than rain. Where dead rivers often roar back in fury to sweep houses away, swamp the streets, and sometimes suck a toddler down a manhole. Which, by the way, ought to stay yawning wide if this were all it would take to swallow cell-phone snatchers off their tracks.

That’s when homesickness becomes a watered-down version of happiness.

That sounds off-kilter, off course, and utterly cloying like Charlie Chaplin, declaring, “I love walking in rain, because nobody can see me crying.”

Last I heard, the Cebu City Council seemed like a bunch of rain-soaked chicks, squeaking while stumped about the city’s congested roads. Now here comes City Hall needing more money to construct mini-dikes in rivers often flaunting its habit of overflowing. Oh, as if their concerns are not up their necks, the City Council is also asking all barangay officials “to apprehend under-aged youth seen loitering in the streets beyond the 10 p.m. curfew to deter the prostitution of minors.”

That, of course, is no less ill-fated than our boys and girls falling in manholes or drowning in the flood.

Calamity funds are afoot, they promise. The city will stay above water, they say.

Wish they can walk their talk. (September 18, 2007)

In The Mood For Blood

SO it happened that criminals up for execution were privileged to have their fill of their request for a last meal. There’s even this joke about a death-row fellow who dreamed, before the executioner could say grace, of getting a big bowl of strawberries.

“Sorry, but strawberries are out of season,” the warden mumbled. “Ah, no problem,” the prisoner replied as if he got the luxury of time to relax until harvest. “I’ll wait.”

But gallows humor like that does hit home. Go ask those gnashing their teeth, grieving for the victims of “vigilante killings” in Cebu or thumbing down the daredevil stunts by serial murderers gung-ho against alleged criminals.

Confronted with such callous scorn of what he calls “the gift of life,” Cardinal Vidal reportedly muttered “with a laugh” regarding the recent slaying near the Archbishop’s Palace of an alleged robber who just got out on a bail: “It was very near my house pa naman. Is it coming my way?”

It would have been breezy for the bloodthirsty squad —believed to be responsible for summary executions in Cebu City that have claimed about 180 lives since December 2004 — to knock on the door of the good cardinal in case their knees would crumple down under the weight of a conscience. If that could happen, would the cardinal be sure they’re not kidding him?

Why can’t the police do anything about it, he whined in wonder. Now that’s enough to stir a stand-up comedian into rattling off a litany of rib-tickling reasons. Foremost of which, concur the cynics, could be that law enforcement has two faces enough for a clown’s masks handy for crying and chuckling his tonsils out at the same time.

Also funny how this cradle of Christianity, in a city where piety is often worn on its devotees’ foreheads, gangland gore loosens its hair down. All because the silence of public apathy resounds like a choric undertone of “amen” for the shadowy squad playing angels of an avenging god.

Most of the victims had been convicted or served time in jail, stressed the cardinal who believed they could have availed themselves of deliverance and the grace of second chance. Or, maybe the vigilantes are not vocal enough about humming along to the tune of “Let Me Try Again.”

Flaunting their sharp-shooting acumen, perhaps they’d be handy to win the war for American troops in Iraq. Or, considering their surgical precision at tracking down public enemies, why not push them to earn brownie points for Cebu by deploying them abroad and tracing the remnants of 9/11 terrorists or Osama Bin Laden?

A good career move, God knows, is long overdue for publicity-prone executioners who might be itching behind their bonnets for the chance to show their faces.
(September 11, 2009)

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