Today when the train stopped at Taft Station, I felt guilty about thinking of pushing an old lady who was taking a long time getting out of the compartment. She was looking at her feet, where she’s standing. Minding the gap between the train and the old tiles of the platform like nobody’s business. Behind her was a massive lump of impatient people scrambling to get out, me included. A big, sticky dam of people secretly clucking their tongues (for fear of violating the codes of proper public decorum.) The thing is, I always feel a little flustered whenever the train stops at the last station, only to see a mob waiting to enter the compartment I’m about to exit.
So the old lady, she takes her time. And there’s a mother and a little boy before her who were also taking their time to best avoid the paparazzi-like congregation of would-be passengers waiting by the doors. As I was watching them luxuriantly step out of the compartment, I began feeling disgusted about myself. During my twenty-minute train ride, I re-read “This is Water”, a copy of which I found tucked inside my notebook.
That was when I understood how right DFW was about the “default setting” of human thought. Only minutes after reading a damn-good speech by a damn-good writer, whose main point was to refute the default setting of self-centered, arrogant thought, there I was, morbidly thinking of pushing an old lady out of my way because I wanted to get home and rest.
“And so do the rest of us,” a voice somewhere at the back of my head said, stopping me from mentally bitching about people who were moving too slow for my lofty, 2fast2furious standards. Like I was never late for school. Like I never walked at Taft Station thinking of the pro-slow cliche “stopping to smell the proverbial roses” when all I was really smelling was the sour stench of work-day sweat. That, my friends, is what you call hypocrisy. (I just admitted to the vile crime of being a hypocrite but aren’t you being a hypocrite too if you judged me as a hypocrite before reading this parentheses-ed confession?)
One of the greatest challenges faced by me and you, the person who is reading this right now, and everybody else, is to veer away from unconscious selfish thought by choosing what to think. Well, at least according to DFW, who, I noticed upon reading The Pale King–which I haven’t finished yet–liked to talk about human selfishness and how best to avoid it. See the passage I copied on my notebook:
(I wrote the ‘blog’ above a few weeks ago. Never got around to posting it, maybe because of the erratic WiFi connection we have at home. And so, I continue…)
The Philippines was recently ravaged by floods brought about by a destructive monsoon. As of today, 60 people have been reported dead. Thousands of families lost their homes, and so, had to be evacuated to safer places. My family was lucky not to have felt the adverse effects of the ‘habagat.’ The worst thing that happened was my father was only able to reach home at 6am, after leaving his workplace at 11:30pm. The traffic was terrible and the water rose fast. He stayed at the McDonald’s beside Starbucks until the flood in our subdivision subsided.
The rain was pounding hard outside but it didn’t bother us too much because we had plenty of food and a roof above our heads. It rarely floods where we live. The electricity never went out, hence, I was able to keep in touch with my friends on the internet. I don’t like going on Facebook so I spend most of my time on Twitter, where it’s much easier to ‘people-watch’–you know, getting updates by just letting tweets appear on your homepage. It was nice when people tweeted or retweeted things that were helpful to the relief operations: finding missing persons, reporting families who needed rescue, informing others about relevant hotline numbers, etc. But it wasn’t so nice when someone tweeted about wanting to buy “butt tight fitting neon pants” or whatever when so many people were feeling hopeless about their lives because the flood took away all of their belongings with it. And how about that person who was worried about passing his exam and that person who was happy about the way her bank privileges was looking up?
There are reasons that you can’t physically help the people who were affected by the disaster, but you can do it some other way. Using social media to help out. Praying, as the pious love to suggest. However, if you’re not a particularly religious person, if you don’t believe in the so-called Power of Prayer, then the least you can do is to think about the victims’ situation. Put yourself in their shoes even for a little while. Choose what to think. Step away from your naturally programmed self-indulgence by caring. Sincerely caring.
I know I cannot live up to the whole point of this blog at all times, short-tempered person that I am. Sensitivity, the real kind, takes years to develop. It necessitates the occurrence of many mistakes. It requires lots of practice. It needs tons and tons of patience. So why don’t you start now?#