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Breaking free of white noise |

Arts and Culture

Breaking free of white noise

KRIPOTKIN - Alfred A. Yuson - The Philippine Star

Far from suffering, I only occasionally wince a bit as a creature of habit.

While I welcome the idea of change, I can’t ever seem to get onto any bandwagon soon enough. It always takes some time for me to be persuaded to go along for the ride, eventually join the tail end of an army of adherents who’ve quickly taken up after evolutionary pioneers.

Inertia may be my middle name. Once I’ve reclined, I usually decline any other position.

When the pandemic is officially declared over, I will celebrate with relief and joy like everyone else, but will likely continue to stay isolated at home since that’s what I’ve gotten used to for the past two years.

The three times a month at most I’ve had to drive out to settle regular needs at an SM Hypermarket a kilometer away, I start getting antsy after about an hour of being away from home. Settling bills at a bank, purchasing meds, food and groceries normally takes 90 minutes, so the last half-hour is spent racing through the supermarket shelves, at the risk of missing out on some items marked on a list.

The urgent need is to get to a cashier’s priority line, fidget as a trainee takes her time while discovering missing bar codes, tell her never mind having those items replaced, have my card swiped, and rush off for the final act of picking up a couple of bowls or warm taho. Then I take the lift a floor down to the basement parking area, transfer my bundles into the car boot, get in, light a cigarette, and breathe a sigh of relief as I start to drive back home, five minutes away.

Once safely past the village gate, I pull up the roadside for a moment to Viber my helper to get ready to help bring all the stuff up. Or most of it.

Once ensconced back in my seat at the dining table, I am now content to be sheltered in my comfort zone anew, and celebrate by digging into my bowl of taho. I know I’ll spend the next 10 days alternating between that spot and my bedroom, with occasional sallies out on the modest balcony where I care for over a dozen varieties of favored flora in different sizes of pots. Oh, and to the kitchen to brew coffee. Happily would I then shun the rest of the world other than what I allow to filter in through a reliable WiFi connection.

Oh, in true Yuletide spirit, I gifted myself with an iPhone 13 to replace the three-year-old iPhone 6+, and a MacPro M1 of the same size as my 13-inch MacPro that has served me well for over 10 years, only absent its sound volume the last two years.

I should be joyous with my new pair of gizmos. But now I don’t know what to do with them. After three weeks, they’re both just lying there, primping as backups for when what they were intended to replace really need to be replaced.

Oh, I’ve been shown how they function. A nice lad of a techie who delivered the laptop took me through the paces, making sure I had all my customary apps in place, even adding my favorite font (New York), which he pulled out fast from some nether-space when I showed him what it looked like.

Why, that font had been installed in my old Mac by buddy Butch Dalisay himself — who has helped me acquire (at good prices) my last two Macs. Before that, an iBook had lasted some five years. The second, a MacPro, gave up the Apple ghost after eight.

But now that I’ve checked out the latest MacPro, I can’t quite find myself appreciating the slimmer margins around the screen, when every other new feature seems so unfamiliar. And while my daughter has patiently revved up the iPhone 13 as an introductory course, I gasp to learn that it’s now missing the start-up button.

Why must technology have to evolve that way, I ask, by first dropping what has become customary, indeed habitual?

I suppose my problem with rapid change, more than experiential, is essentially existential. Meaning personal.

Last week, FB’s memory feature resurfaced a Pico Iyer essay I had shared 10 years ago. Titled “The Joy of Quiet,” the invaluable commentary reflected on the increasing dilemma of having to keep up with, and consequently escape, information and communication overload.

“In barely one generation,” the pensive writer who’s never used a cellphone notes, “we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them — often in order to make more time. The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug. Like teenagers, we appear to have gone from knowing nothing about the world to knowing too much all but overnight.”
Iyer makes a case for “the urgency of slowing down,” citing the 17th-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal who “famously remarked that all of man’s problems come from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Ouch. A terrible habit I’ve indulged in that somehow affirms single-blessedness has been to keep the bedroom TV on the whole night. The white noise generated by CNN even at low volume soothes me to sleep. Even as world news still manages to intrude into my consciousness when it’s of the breaking type, especially about sports. Or when the Pope is reported to have said that choosing pets over babies is “selfish and diminishes us.”

I really hope SkyCable offers a classical music channel soon. It’s one way I can try to start reducing white noise. Or changing its quality entirely. It might take more of an effort to banish the TV set altogether, and keep my cellphone off for longer hours.

Once whetted, the need to keep track of snippets of global noise is tough to suppress. As it is to avoid saying “merese” or sharing in the schadenfreude that will reverberate among us pro-vaxxers once Novak Djokovich is finally deported from Down Under, or Kyrie Irving hobbles back to the bench after a bad fall.

Locally, the insignificant din that’ll continue to draw my interest would have to do with whether pole-vaulter EJ Obiena clears the mark of estafa stamped on him by PATAFA’s Philip Ella Juico. Or how long it’ll take before “Poblacion Girl” becomes a movie title.

Such enchanting trivia can only be deprioritized should I manage to live in an internet-free mountain cabin again, as I had decades ago, or in a seaside hut that I’ve missed all throughout pandemic time.

The wind across a valley that rustles up pine needles, or waves gently lapping onto shore, are the natural sounds, not noise, that complement the rhythms of mind, body and spirit.

They’re what Iyer says may summon “exactly the emotional and moral clarity that can’t be found on any screen.” And return us to being the “child of tomorrow… in terms of sensing not what’s new, but what’s essential.”

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