Sunday, January 21, 2007

[Essay] Candles, Oils, and Blackouts

After so many years, Manila once again was in the center of a storm – a wind storm at that and the second storm to directly hit Manila that I’ve witnessed and yes – survived.

It was a Thursday when the storm came and the wind was howling like a banshee in a rage – or perhaps Mother Nature was. Thank God it was all wind and very few rains otherwise the whole city would be flooded.

Electricity has been cut off by Thursday afternoon to prevent fires caused by faulty wirings, etcetera. Well, in the subdivision where I live, having no electricity means having no water as well because the water here comes from deep below the ground and you have to have a motor, which is powered by electricity, so you can get water into your tank. Thank God our tanks were full but it ran out on the third day. Yes, electricity was restored after three and a half days.

During those days without electricity, we used flashlights inside the house, candles at the dining table, and scented oils filled the bedroom I shared with my older sister.

It was a Friday night and I was lying on the bed, facing the Southern window of my room and watching flashes of lightning streak across the dark night sky with not a moon or star in sight and feeling relaxed and dreamy with the ambience our bedroom had which was caused by whatever scented oil my sister is currently burning in the burner, did thoughts of how inconvenient things currently are because I can’t access my pc and chat with my friends but instead, I had to use my mobile browser in order to do so but it’s still a bit inconvenient because due to network traffic at that time, the browser was a bit slow in downloading information so it’s much more expensive compared to when I’m using my pc and I have to conserve my mobile’s battery – who knows when electricity will be restored at that time? So no chatting and surfing for me. Being a gadget freak that I am, well, it’s sometimes a real torture especially when you have something important to do – and I have some very pressing personal matters to clear up at that time.

Anyway, as I was in a dreamy state, and in a dark room illuminated by a single tea light candle, I asked myself a few dozen questions and first in the list was “Is this how people in the past had live their lives, in darkness?” I sought answers but of course common sense dictated that people in the past slept as soon as the sun goes down and gets up as soon as the sun rises. Not much of a challenge in that area. So the next question that came to mind was “If a modern day person is to travel to the past wherein electricity has not yet been discovered, how will that person fare? Or vice versa, a person from the past is to travel to the future?” Shifting my gaze back to the darkness beyond my window, I imagined myself time traveling to the past and I took this experience of having no electricity for days an example of how a modern day person would cope. Of course, the coping mechanism of each person differs so I’m speaking for myself. As mentioned above that I’m quite attached to my pc, my mobile phone, my digital camera, my mp3 player, and other important items that are powered by electricity. I’m quite attached to all these things that I had a hard time entertaining myself that first night without any of it and opted to sleep the night away and I didn’t have a hard time falling asleep! Somehow, the complete darkness that surrounds me once the candle winked out seemed to coax me to close my eyes and the sound of thunder rumbling in the distance seemed to lull me further into sleep without me ever realizing that I had indeed slept the night away until I woke up the next day to the sound of my alarm clock, feeling refreshed and energized. The next night had me thinking about all these things. The third night saw me thinking or rather reflecting on the life I’ve lead, the choices I made then and the choices I’ll be going to make and if there was one thing in my past that I would want changed.

Is there indeed? It’s a tough question to ask anyone let alone myself when I’m at a crossroad in my life wherein I have to choose between happiness and duty. These two wonderful adjectives should come hand in hand but in this instance, they’re miles apart. Happiness for me is creating and indulging my heart’s desire with art whether it is music, painting, dancing or writing stories and poetry. On the other hand is duty which is for me, a job though I don’t hate doesn’t truly appeal to me and is therefore boring and without much of a challenge but it gives me the purchasing power to be able to survive.

I’m a practical person but at the same time, I can also be impulsive. I have read in a book that one must take on a job that makes him happy and the money will follow because if you’re happy with your job, you will be great at it and being great at it you will be paid more for it. Now I’m wondering if that could be true for me as well.

So would I want to change something in my past, a decision perhaps, or take that road less traveled?

Maybe I would have gone on to Conservatory of Music instead of Accountancy and suffered gladly of the rigorous training students of music subject themselves to and work hard to be able to play each note, each melody perfectly with whatever instrument I choose to major in and probably join in an orchestra, produce an album, go on album tours and see the world. Or I would have taken Creative Writing instead and write for a living, get published, go on book tours and book signing events my publicist stick me with.

But since this is reality and people are not given the chance to go back just like in Jude Deveraux’s novel entitled The Summerhouse, I guess we all have to deal with the present, make the best out of it and if you really want to be other than what you are right now and you have the burning passion, the determination and the means to go for that dream, then work towards attaining it – even if you take small baby steps. It doesn’t really matter how big the step you’re doing or how soon you’ll be attaining it. What is important though is that you have what it takes to make that change. Remember that all it takes is one single step at a time.

Of course, if a magical person such as that Madam Zoya character in the above novel I mentioned does exists and offers me a chance to live out the what ifs of my life before making a decision, I would grab the offer and not hesitate and when I come back, I’d choose whatever life feels right and that life which makes me happier.