Such is a life that if we cannot do multi-tasking in our work, we have to do it in our thinking. We have no choice. Too many seemingly interesting things grab our attention, we cannot escape them. While some are truly relevant to our daily lives, much is dismissible. And when we do dismiss them from our focus and attention, we will realize that our lives did not change at all for the worse.
Life can be confusing when there are so many options to choose from. That, however, is more a welcome confusion than the one brought about because one has too few options. The very rich have many options; in fact, to many, the very rich have too much. The very poor, on the other hand, have little options. Their confusion is not from wondering which choice to take, but rather the inner questioning why they have little choice in the face of so much for others. Most of us are not from the very rich or the very poor. Still, we are not exempted from the pressure of choices, whether none, little or so much.
We worry about income and our jobs. Burdened by the traffic, we miss several hours with our families in exchange for four to six hours of commute. We sacrifice our health, pay high for drinking water and electricity, cough from viruses and pollution, wonder when pork will have no more disease. Rice farmers despair over weak palay prices. Sugar farmers fear unfettered importations.
Drugs scare us and threaten to steal the lives of our young. The police scare us, too, because we hear about ninja cops and EJK, whether true or not. The NPAs and the military continue an endless war and terrorize everyone in between. China is claiming our islands and building on them. Our relatives working abroad face uncertainty because of hostilities in the countries where they work, especially the Middle East and Hong Kong.
That is a lot of worries. From big-ticket items, there are not as grave but often noisier. They penetrate our space and we pay attention to them, too, even if they cut into our productive or quiet time. We are enticed to listen to the chismis of sisters fighting one another, of politicians arguing whether Build Build Build is building enough or just all talk, of whether Leni Robredo should or should not trust Duterte’s motives in inviting her to co-chair our national drug effort, and whether Duterte should or should not trust Robredo with sensitive information on drugs, After the constant barrage of news like these, and our constant surrender to the lure of paying attention to them, we can wake up just once a month and assess how much our lives have been benefited or diverted from more useful efforts.
In other words, even for the most ordinary among us, there seems to be a steady stream of pressure we have to contend with every day. Plus Christmas is around the corner. Christmas is pressure all the way until it actually comes and allows us to enjoy the fruits of our preparations.
It is not only constant clean water and fresh air that have become scarce but quiet restful time and space. If there is continuing pressure, there must be the counterpart of inner peace, enough of it to balance the day. We cannot afford to be in confusion about our time, attention and resources. Yet, any distraction from our priorities, no matter how blurry, makes things even worse. We need clarity. In the midst of a myriad of concerns, we get lost in mental and emotional clutter. Clarity is crucial. It opens a large window that allows sunlight to come in. There will be no rest from inner turmoil without clarity.
Clarity does not mean that we have all the answers. At the very least, clarity will make us realize that, precisely, we do not have the answers. Even if only our questions become clear, we will know where we ought not to go. If we have to pursue the answers, we avoid the irrelevant and the attendant waste of time. There can be no clarity with a mind wallowing in prejudice. There can be no prejudice when one does not nurture partisanship in the dynamics of life. An attitude of partisanship necessarily produces prejudice, and prejudice colors everything. Partisanship and prejudice also upset the heart, and unstable emotions disable our capacity for clarity.
We do not have to know everything. In fact, we do not know enough about the things that matter. If we prioritize questions and answers to what can achieve our personal, familial and collective well-being, we will not only be more responsible, more focused and productive but also become nation-building blocks as good citizens of the land. Clarity can guide us where to go, what to ask and how to do.
Virtues are like that – naturally beneficial and attractive. It is always the challenge of nurturing virtues to become character traits. The pathway is simple but almost impossible when one has to live in our normal daily environment. A virtue like clarity would need for us to attain some stillness and silence. It is impossible to review and reflect our own actions and patterns, to see where we were strong, where we were weak, where we were blind, and where we were clear. In a daily pace that is jampacked with concerns and lack of time, the simplest of the requirement of stepping back and find the quiet in us becomes daunting.
In a partisan environment, clarity disappears. It is among the first casualty. What follows is a downward spiral. That is how critical clarity it – that we hold on to it as though as lives depended on it. Because in more ways than one, our lives do depend on it. Imagine when what you are seeing and thinking have no clarity. What does that make us?