Agents of strange
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE - Rod Nepomuceno () - March 19, 2012 - 12:00am

We’re living in very interesting times.  Over the past weeks, we’ve been glued to our TV sets watching the Corona impeachment trial and the Jeremy Lin mania that took New York — and the whole world — by storm.  These two developments made me realize how strange the world has become.  Things have turned around in an odd kind of way.   There once was a time when “ordinary” folks — i.e., people who are not law-educated, would be accused of committing a crime, be on trial — while a learned, honorable, respectable judge would be sitting there on an elevated podium, dressed in a robe, evaluating the evidence and rendering judgment. But now, we have the highest-ranking judge in the land being accused of crimes, being tried by ordinary folks in robes.  And then you watch the NBA and expect some black dude to be the superstar.  But now, what do we have?  A short, lanky, Harvard-educated A-student, economics graduate, Taiwanese-American leading his ragtag team to a seven-game winning streak, averaging 24 points a game. As John Lennon sang in his song Nobody Told Me, “Strange days indeed!”

In a way, all this shouldn’t really surprise us. The world, as we know it, is constantly changing.  What we once thought was normal is no longer normal.  Speaking of that John Lennon song, I’d like to quote one line that goes, “They’re starving back in China, so finish what you’ve got.”  It’s amazing. Hunger in China?  These days, China is second in terms of number of millionaires, next only to the US.  Who would have thought, right?  In the olden days, when artists, dancers, and singers performed onstage, the general public would judge whether they liked them or not.  Nowadays, ordinary folks perform, and artists, dancers, and singers (e.g., Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, Paula Abdul) would judge whether they like them or not.   Before, when you were a loser, you were really a loser, and if you were a winner, you were really a winner.  Today, the Biggest Loser is the biggest winner. Decades ago, when you wanted to escape from reality, you watched family shows on TV.  Nowadays, when you want to escape from your family, you watch reality shows on TV.   Before, if you wanted your relatives in the US to see and hear you, you would tape your voice on a cassette tape, take pictures that would take three days to develop, mail the cassette tape and the pictures, and then wait for a month or two before your relatives actually got to see the pictures and hear the tape.  Today, you take a picture or a video with your BlackBerry, post it on Facebook, and you have a “like” or a comment from your relative a few seconds after you post. In the ’70s, when you said, “I want an apple,” the follow-up question would be, “Do you want red or green?” Today, when you say, “I want an apple,” the follow up question would be “What Apple? Do you want an iPod, iPod Nano, iPod Shuffle, iMac, MacBook Powerbook, MacBook Air, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPad 16 gig, iPad 32 gig, iPad 64 gig?”

Clearly, the world has changed, and continues to change.  Some changes are for the better, and some for the worse.  But the fact is, the world is changing and doggone it, it’s changing really fast.  Six years ago if you said you were on Friendster, you’d have a lot of friends in a jiffy.  In fact, you’d have more friends than you’d ever like.  Nowadays, if you’re having a group shot and you say, “Hey, post this on Friendster, okay?” it’s one big joke.  Everyone would laugh and scoff at you.  Because Friendster, as we know it, is dead.  It’s still there, but it’s no longer the social networking site that we knew. That’s how quick things can turn around for you these days.  If you don’t adapt to change, it will kill you.

It’s been said countless times before by so many authors and philosophers but it’s worth saying again:  Change is inevitable.  We can’t stop it.  We can’t prevent it.  We can’t delay it.  In fact, as the saying goes, change is the only constant in this world.

Unfortunately, a good number of people — including me at times — refuse to accept change.  People are stuck in their comfort zones and would rather not venture into uncharted territory.  But the fact is, we don’t really have a choice.  Even if you just stay still and sit on a La-Z-Boy, for every second that passes, you’re pushed to a different place.  The earth would have moved and spun, and you would be in a totally different space than you were 10 seconds before.  Your position would have changed, whether you like it or not, and whether you accept it or not. 

There are five types of people:

People who refuse change, e.g. people who still keep their cassette recorders, in the hope that music labels will produce cassette tapes again; 

People who adjust to change but are late in adjusting, e.g. people who still use CDs and buy CDs, even if CDs are on the way out;

People who adapt to change, e.g. people who still buy CDs and borrow CDs from friends and rip them into MPEG files;

People who embrace change, e.g. people who have ripped all their CDs, download music from iTunes and who have catalogued every song according to artist, album, genre, and song;

People who initiate change and consequently change the world, e.g. Steve Jobs and the whole Apple design team.

Now, not everyone is born to be a Steve Jobs.  Not everyone is destined to be a global change agent.  But no one was born stuck in mud, either.  If you’re number one, two or three, you’re in big trouble.  Because if you don’t adapt and embrace change, believe it or not, your life will become even stranger.  As the world around you changes, the more you will dig yourself deeper in the hole of mediocrity and consequently, you’ll end up in the bottom of the pit of irrelevance.

I have an uncle, Jave Nepomuceno, who is 92 years old.  He has an iPod, writes and surfs on his Mac, and is very much in touch with the world, his friends and relatives.  I know people who are 30 years younger who don’t even know how to text.  It’s no surprise that my Uncle Jave is a very accomplished man.  He keeps abreast by adapting to change.

The thing to remember is this:  Change is not something to be afraid of.  If you really think about it, change — especially change in modern technology — makes life simpler and more relaxing.  My mom is 80 years old but because she was able to adapt to changes in technology she can keep in touch with her children (including me) at any given time, whenever she wants. She can Skype or Magic Jack or text any one of us, and when we respond, she immediately has peace of mind.  If she got stuck with the landline and refused cell phones, she’d always be in the dark as to where we were or what we were doing. And that’s not a good thing.

Sure, change has made the world strange.  But “strange” is not necessarily a bad thing.  There’s Charlie Sheen strange, which you should avoid at all costs.  Then there’s Katy Perry strange: young, vibrant, appealing, and compelling.

So go ahead and be ahead. Accept the strange. Embrace change.  In fact, be an agent of strange, because it’s the people who initiate strange things that make this world a lot more interesting.

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Thanks for your letters, folks!  You may e-mail me at

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