Growing old is not what I thought it would be.
As the Polish poet and essayist Zbigniew Herbert wrote, it’s like owning a dog-eared dictionary, published long ago, with absentee words clinging at the hem of its tattered cover jacket.
A new take on language has formed, on politics, too, leaving the tired and worn words in the cobwebs of memory. The old rules had fallen also into disarray, the former virtues gone. It’s like being a square peg in a round hole, the once revered wisdom of the ages falling like dandruff.
If truth be told, I don’t particularly feel welcome in today’s era. This stiff, humorless, sepulcher-solemn epoch of the social justice warriors who can’t tell their right hand from their left. They’re strangers to fun, aliens to what my generation called the much-needed weekend joyride.
They live their lives poking at everyone’s noses, a young “woke” generation marked by whining endlessly about other people’s business. They comment without study, speak without thinking. It’s as if the little over twenty years they spent on this Earth have earned them the astuteness to mangle everything which they judged to be passé.
Their own idea of getting a head-start is to trample underfoot the old, time-tested ways as though new presupposes better. Don’t get me wrong. I am 100% for change, for fresh new starts.
However, I have long since learned that history is much a part of our present and future and not only the past. It serves as a veritable anchor to our destinations, to keep us from being swayed hither or thither.
This is the reason why I believe the longer I stay alive, the more I realize I am practically a stranger to this generation. I belong more to that era between the start of the 1970s and the late ‘80s. Life back then was carefree and rather loosely lived by someone as bullheaded and disobedient to the establishment as I was.
Yes, that was my turf. It was a time when arriving home with a shirt torn along the collar and a bloody lip was something I looked forward to each week.
Of course, there’s that other fetish I spent time and effort on: Books. However, to be caught reading a book back then was to endanger my ever floundering reputation as a “bad boy”. So I kept to the University of Santo Tomas’ chapel’s left wing, mostly after school, while in the throes of finishing a novel or a collection of poetry.
That is, if wasn’t in a bar spending the week’s recess money on beer. Back then the world was simpler, by and large fun, bereft of a “woke” culture which weighs on you like a monkey on your back.
Truth to tell, we had time to experiment, to seek newer ways to live the life we chose for ourselves regardless of our parents’ warnings. There was no internet, no social media, no trolls to mess with our day. For me, there was only life and books.
I made tons of mistakes, so did other youngsters like me, but mistakes well worth the experience. They taught me to be strong, to tend to my needs without depending on someone else’s show of empathy, not even my parents’.
I took these lessons to heart, reminding myself every so often that if I ever catch myself on the verge of quitting, of hanging up the gloves as the cliché goes, I only have myself to blame.
Whining was out of the question. Very little of help groups existed back then, those that I could pester endlessly with my problems.
I didn’t believe in institutions with the gall to tell me what to do. Ergo, I wrestled with myself each day, slogged my way through hell with just a spoonful of water. I worked a year as a messenger, then four years as a stevedore, all this time trying to make ends meet for the sake of my first two kids.
I messed up my college life so bad, the officials and faculty couldn’t wait to kick me out. I couldn’t wait to be kicked out either. School was such a drag. There was more solace offered me by way of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books than any other school can give.
On the side, I worked freelance as a writer for school newsletters and some magazines. I also earned a bit writing love letters for grammatically-challenged Romeos, beating up bullies, and selling imported cigarettes.
I miss those days when I could be myself, flaws and all, without anyone judging me and my actions through a comment box. During my time, that was called intrusion. There was a privacy to our words and actions which, when breached, could send the intruder hurtling into space—broken jaw and all.
I miss those days when fun was fun, a joke was a joke, and arriving at class drunk as a water canon hardly got nasty stares from classmates. I was still able to thrive academically, at least, save in the classes of professors who were as imperturbable in their impishness as I was.
This led me to think that the likes of me today are discriminated upon each and every passing hour. I feel unwanted, superfluous and useless in an era where people are no fun to be with.
Their idea of courage is to hurl insults while hiding behind avatars and pixilated photos, offer comments without thinking, and worse, make it seem like every attempt at a shaggy dog story is a terrorist’s car bomb waiting to explode.
With little to offer but a level of uptight-ness too fat to dislodge from a rock, they march on and creep up on people like fire ants. No wonder some of them believe the Earth is flat and that Duterte should be President. Aarrgh.
I’m all for discarding the lethargy of past generations: Its blindness to social ills, and its absentminded treatment of historical facts. To wake up from this stupor is always a welcome development.
But “woke,” as in waking up in another dimension, in some other universe marked by twisted, perverse logic, of history mangled and disabused of the facts, largely a barren, humorless wasteland topped with a sense of “wisdom” the likes of which could horrify even Cthulhu, well, that ain’t “woke,” folks.
In my generation, that’s called an effing nightmare, pockmarked by cesspools of morons.
If so, then I am left with one of two choices: Either to write as an author of catastrophe and apocalypse, or just sleep this off till the next karma comes along.
Better yet, grow old as a couch potato until Stephen Spielberg does a remake of Grease, filmed in outer space—this boogie wonderland where no one has boogied before. G