Friday, April 20, 2007

Taking measure

ON MY way out of the office, I passed by a man weighing stacks of newspaper. The sight stopped me on the stairs.

It made me remember being in an outhouse in the uplands recently. Looking around for a bin to deposit my used tissue, I espied, dangling from the side, a sack full of pieces of paper, including several balled-up sheets torn from tabloids.

Paper, when it’s available in remote places, is often crushed in the hand until it’s soft enough to wipe away waste. After its use, the paper is collected and burnt under some fruit trees to aid flowering. Water being scarce, the paper is rarely flushed away as it uses up too much of this rare resource.

This memory rushed in while my co-worker was weighing and bundling newspapers for recycling.

Ending up to fertilize mango trees is not as bad as being unread or recycled into handbills posted where it’s explicitly stated to “post no bill.”

The relativity of measures came up again after I read Apr. 13’s publication of the Pulse Asia survey. According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) report, 54 percent of Filipinos feel that “their quality of life today is worse than their situation two years ago.”

The trend of disgruntled Filipinos is true in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, as well as across all socio-economic brackets.

While “quality of life” may mean different things to individuals, the report quoted Pulse Asia founder Felipe Miranda as saying that the phrase can refer to life “as a whole.”

It’s notable though that, from the United Nations to the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), for the rich and for the poor, “quality of life” is generally defined by economics and politics.

So, according to the KMU, the poor is worse off now because noodles, no longer rice, is the staple food.

Veering away from fuel, transport and power rates as barometers of life was the writer May Sarton.

By the time she passed away in 1995 at the age of 83, Sarton wrote “53 books: 19 novels, 17 books of poetry, 15 nonfiction works including her acclaimed journals, 2 children's books, a play, and some screenplays,” according to

More impressive than her prodigious creativity is the honesty with which she examined her life.

In her “Journal of a Solitude,” she is 60, struggling with bouts of depression and loneliness, the former making it impossible for her to live with another beyond a few hours and the latter, restraining her from touching the bottom of the solitude needed to “resume old conversations” with the self, essential for a life of creating.

Yet this soul, who often woke up in tears, who whines that she “wrote too many letters and too few poems,” believed that “absolute attention is prayer.”

“I woke to the sun on a daffodil,” wrote Sarton who often rewarded a morning of preparing tax statements with ordering seeds for her garden. “It is only when we can believe that we are creating the soul that life has any meaning, but when we can believe it… then there is nothing we do that is without meaning and nothing that we suffer that does not hold the seed of creation in it.” 0917-3226131

* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Apr. 15, 2007 issue

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