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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Friday, July 03, 2009

entry arrow5:37 PM | Short Notes in a Hurry

Just the other day, a friend taking up her MA texted me for permission to use my Facebook status updates for her research. I gave the request an amused pause. My creative output—in blogging and in short stories—have been fodder for graduate work before, but this was completely new. And so I texted her: “Sure, no problem. But it makes me wonder: am I that much of a Facebook addict that I have actually become a case study?” She texted back a smiley, and said, “Let’s just say, the things you have to say are very interesting.” Thank you very much.

Once I told a friend, “If somebody compiles all my status updates in Facebook into a book, that already amounts to my biography.”

It’s true. I seem to have grown an affinity to broadcasting to the online world whatever momentary craziness grips me—and what is perhaps scarier is that nobody’s complaining. The one 24-hour period when I deactivated my Facebook account [there is no such thing as “delete” in Facebook] in an unsuccessful resolve to have a more engaging offline life resulted to many email and text messages from friends and acquaintances asking for my whereabouts. And begrudgingly—and (secretly) gladly—I returned to Facebook. It has become so much a part of my life, and my friends’ lives. It can become addicting, and so the trick becomes this: how to exactly balance this with the rest of your waking life.

I like status updates, whether in Facebook or Twitter. In brief messages (140-characters is the limit in Twitter), you basically answer a simple question: “What are you doing now?”

In the past 24 hours, for example, these have been my status updates: “[Ian] is always breathless after beholding beauty. It’s so fascinating—to see all that work of divinity dancing on your face :).” “[Ian] just got back from his swanky new gym with a good view of Dumaguete. Had no idea he was doing his workout with the wrong form before in the old one. Grrrr.... Oh well. Here's Date Night!” “[Ian] wishes Facebook had ‘In a Non-committed Pseudo-Relationship Because Why Ruin a Good Thing By Being Officially Hitched and Then You Start Demanding Too Much of Each Other?’ for a Relationship Status. Too wordy, perhaps?” “[Ian] just broke his perfume bottle. Now my room smells of citrusy fantasy.” “[Ian] needed that power nap. Now back to work. [Brewing coffee first.]” “[Ian] is still playing catch up with his life. And wonders when this whole thing will ever settle down.”

And the comments from friends pour in, creating a virtual community of voices, an ongoing conversation that sometimes prove more interesting than the original status message.

What are you doing now? What can be more existential than that? As a fan of Sartre, the whole confessional platform had me hooked from the get-go. Most of my friends, too, have taken to status updates to inscribe the mundane and the inspired in their lives. Often they are very witty. Even when they declare they’re bored, they can be witty. And gradually, because we see an almost real-time development of a friend’s day, a sense of familiarity, even kinship, develops. I must say I understand most of my friends and their quirks now, simply because of Facebook and Twitter status updates. In a sense, they are the Web 2.0 equivalent of introspection, albeit done with the entire world as an audience. It is not for everyone—but for those who know how to work it, it is the one Internet craze that makes us all feel connected, and human.

Sometimes though, I ask myself, What did I do before there was Facebook status updates? I scoured my computer’s hard disk drive, and found that I actually scribble short notes about my days, sometimes to just make sense of something that had recently happened, or that has impacted me deeply. I’m not sure I wrote these down to become fodder for future essays—but they are short, and in many ways they make a life. A sampling:

On Living in a Cyber Glass Cage. There are many things in life one does not blog about. Which begs the question: for whom do we blog? For ourselves? Or for the rest of the online world? This is supposed to be my journal, a very important part of myself because blogging allows me to weigh the ideas I have, or the stories I need to tell, complete with that welcome mechanism of instant feedback from my audience of two (or three)—but the public nature of blogging, I know, basically censors my tendencies to complain, to be snide about things, to be graphic about adventures nobody talks about in polite society. And yet, despite that, I still pursue this very public of exercises. And often for the strangest reasons, too. Moments, Merely once said that conventional blogging has become a blah ritual of personal angst openly displayed. Which is true: I barely blog about my happy moments; I barely even blog about my adventures, about my “exciting” offline life. I blog only when I am alone, when I am deep in thought, when I am troubled. I guess this whole thing has become my proxy for therapy, with the world as my psychiatrist. Sometimes, I think, I dot this from primal urge to live in a glass house. Maybe I like being the object of voyeurism. Maybe I am just full of myself. Maybe...

The Caregiver of Shit. I have friends who pay good money to enroll in Caregiver School. Some come from rich families. Others are professionals, and quite well-educated. One is a U.P. graduate. I know several who are known for being sosyal. I have one very good friend who makes very good money teaching other people how to be a caregiver. The one thing I have gleaned from these friends and acquaintances is this: it’s not about caring or giving at all; it’s about getting out of a certain hell-hole. (You have to be naïve to think otherwise.) Sometimes, we even sell our souls to the Devil just to be able to get out of here. This is an excerpt from a writer-friend’s blog, the URL of which I don’t think I can tell everybody. Here, my friend gets a call from someone who had just come back to the country: “We met up in a Tomas Morato cafe and there he told me all the horror stories of being a caregiver, and of not lasting the six-month trial period. ‘I cleaned shit from strangers’ butts. Old people with their poo smell and their old people smell. The Americans and Canadians won’t do it, that’s why we Filipinos do it. I’m a college graduate and there I was cleaning the asses of these people I didn’t know and who didn’t know me.’ One time my dear friend wiped some old man’s ass clean and was ready to put on adult diapers. When he came back to the ass, the old man had defecated again, kept defecating the whole day. ‘It was the first time I understood the phrase, the runs.’ He said that among their caregiving ranks in Canada were former public school teachers who got sick and tired of waiting for their delayed promotions and salary adjustments, who had their master’s degrees and were in the middle of their postgraduate studies, but gave it all up to be like himself, washing the poo of old people and then washing the smell of poo from their hands. ’But I’m still lucky,’ he said. ‘One of my kasama when I worked as a service crew wrote to me. He’s based in the United States now. To get his green card, he paid a permanent resident $5,000 to marry him. The fee’s usually $10,000, but he found a kababayan, someone from his province ... you’ll never guess who ... His grade school teacher.” We are in such deep shit.

Sleeping with the Enemy. What is despair, except a quiet secret knowledge that you can do nothing. It is a relentless, unmoving flailing against an unforeseen enemy—yourself, deep in the paralysis that embraces you. You have no idea what keeps you here, in this wretched place of such common sadness, only that you know it is there, and you have no power over it. Despair is a name we give our demons: they sleep with us, and they wake us every single morning, and they embrace us, and in their depraved arms, we sleep like a baby lulled into sweet drowning.

The Heart Above All is a Thing of Astonishing Beauty. I’m amazed by how little moments can give you perfect happiness. I’m having one right now, as I putter about my pad putting right to things messy and what-not. I think about how I am today, and cannot deny the smile on my face. God knows where it comes from. The smell of brewing coffee? The thought of great possibilities that lay before the day? I only have to look at the soft sunshine now outside, coming after a battering rain, and I know for sure that life runs exactly the same way. The trick is to know for sure that there will always be sunshine. There will always be friends. And hope. And most of all, love. I love the feeling of being anchored once more. Like I’m getting to know myself again. And I love the feeling of letting go, of knowing that everything’s gonna be all right.

In the Wee Hours. We heard the first rooster crow in the signs of the coming dawn, and so we finally decided to succumb to sleep, after hours of listening together to songs we both love. But I can’t sleep now though. There are too many things in my mind. Life, for the most part. And beautiful music. And you. You fill everything in my head. A while ago, I told you I can’t exactly remember the date I finally met you last summer. Was that three months ago? More or less? But I can’t bring myself to really care. Calendars have no meaning now in my world, and—to quote Borges—the only thing that matters is that “being with you and not being with you is the only way I have to measure time.” I do remember though that fateful day when you gave me that sweet double-take when I passed by you on that corridor -- a gesture that has led us to where we are right now. Sometimes, I think about how time flies, and how it also crawls, gently, like the passage of truest happiness. How utterly magnificent these days have been.

And that’s the way our lives now go. In short notes. And always in a hurry.

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