Friday, December 28, 2012

Much ado about nothing

AMONG many things, I mourn the lost art of doing nothing.

Pretending to do something while doing nothing has moved up to the list of survival skills.

But doing nothing while doing nothing at all is so difficult as to be humanly impossible.

I remember how, during a weekend retreat among student leaders, our discussions were cut short by the sound of a teacher, J.V., falling sideways like a tree cut down if trees attempted yoga and fell asleep.

When we saw him in the morning, J.V. was still lying on his side. We were hopeful that he died in the night. A death would have taken our minds off another badly cooked breakfast by a student who couldn’t keep his hands off his book.

Unfortunately, J.V. woke up and said he had dreamt he was climbing out of the deepest pit of depression when his foot slipped. I suspected our teacher-chaperone was doing nothing while pretending to do something but I’ve never been able to prove this up to now. If I could, I would be duplicating his feat.

Now that I’m sitting again with classmates who could be my biological children, I’m learning how generations improve by leaps and bounds. Instead of the old trick of reading a novel hidden in a tome of unimpeachable thickness, one only taps notes in a netbook with the rapt air of a scholar catching pearls of wisdom dropping from a professor’s lecture. In actuality, the scholar can be Facebooking, Tweeting, Instagramming or just turning nouns into verbs in that horrid cyberbabble.

However, never wear a pair of glasses.

My professor forgot to take his off and sat in front of five of us during a report of terminal profundity. From the flickering reflections on his lenses, I learned that he preferred looking at photos than reading text on Facebook.

The examples I’ve given, though, don’t exemplify the art of doing nothing. These are normal things, if by norm we mean the survival of, if not the fittest, then the least fit but the most attached to their continued existence.

Take, for instance, the debate on the phrase, “safe and satisfying sex life,” which coyly interrupted senators trying to pass or not to pass the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill.

Evening news programs on the TV networks showed the exchange of questions that took place between Sen. Pia Cayetano and Sen. Francis Escudero. The principal sponsor of the RH Bill, Cayetano rejected the proposal of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to remove the phrase from the bill’s definition of RH.

Although other male senators supporting or elaborating on Enrile’s amendment drew laughs, it was Escudero’s reply that occupied news air time. Asked by Cayetano if he preferred a safe or satisfying sex life for his daughter and wife, Escudero turned coy and said he preferred “safe” for his daughter but could not answer anymore for his wife. Escudero is publicly known as separated from his wife but romantically involved with actress Heart Evangelista.

Perhaps TV should not be faulted for being able to magnify an event a hundred times more than its triviality warrants. Or its unparalleled power to single out the booger hanging by a filmy tendril from the nostril of an otherwise pluperfect human specimen anchoring the news.

Wondering if the RH Bill was finally proof that legislators could get away with seemingly doing something while doing nothing at all, I looked up the “safe and satisfying sex life” incident on the Net. A report on placed the seemingly trivial debate in context.

Cayetano explained that as used in the International Conference on Population and Development, “safe and satisfying sex life” refers to an often ignored need of many women who are forced to have sex or have sex without the use of contraceptives that guarantees they are safe from unwanted pregnancy.

Conservatives oppose the passage of the RH Bill for promoting promiscuity. Yet, as the male senators demonstrated with their prudish vehemence against an RH definition that caused so much “discomfort,” more empathy and listening to partners should redefine acts of intimacy.

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*First published in Sun.Star Cebus Dec. 9, 2012 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday main op-ed column

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