In search of regularity
PREDICTABLE, rote, patterned.
Those were the three words seemingly apt to describe a spectacle before me—a deep valley lush with tall trees and savage vegetation. On the horizon, a tall waterfall spewed water endlessly from the mouth of a dark cave. Surely it will keep on feeding the racing stream below. Predictable. Meanwhile, the water will continue its route from that waterfall to the stream nearby, dislocating pebbles and tugging at rooted shrubs along its way. Rote. And nature will take its course, as seedlings grow into trees and clouds disgorge rain. Patterned.
And yet these are words we have grown to hate, even if nature survives and thrives on the predictability of routine. We have become evasive of patterns and routines, distressed by endless days of clocking in and clocking out. Ask a young job-seeker what kind of working environment he or she would like to be employed in and most likely the answer would describe something that involves adventure and unpredictability. Ask a young person looking for love who she or he wants as a partner, and the answer would likely be: someone who is full of surprises. There is such a hyped thrill over reckless abandon and constant soul-searching that we have become a generation eager to Eat, Pray, Love our way through everything.
A detour, a little bump, or a slight nudge is necessary, especially in institutions stiffened by routines and patterns, or social constructs made predictable in the course of time. Rigid doctrine and cookie-cutter norms upheld by a conservative society are being eroded at the roots. And the expectations we have subconsciously laid out in a once patriarchal or homophobic society are dimming, dying in the face of enlightenment and education. But while the Establishment is crumbling, we are the generation that wields sledgehammers. We campaign strongly against the monotonous and fight against it with ardor. We don’t just oppose patterns by watching them crumble. We smash them to pieces.
But there is no escaping the rhythms of routine; there is no preventing patterns manifesting even in areas where we thought humanity is given the choice. For indeed, even history repeats itself, and in the advent of another historic presidential election, we can expect a pattern of some sort.
In a psychology class in college under Bro. Hans Moran, FSC, we were introduced to a distinct pattern that has displayed itself in our list of presidents. The pattern goes like this: iron fist, holy person, merchant or businessman, joker or lover boy. Repeat cycle.
The Philippines experienced Ferdinand Marcos’ iron fist during his dictatorship, as the suspension of various freedoms and the human rights violations cast a dark shadow on our democracy. Then Corazon Aquino assumed the presidency and embodied the role of the holy woman, managing to restore and maintain the democratic space in spite of several coup attempts against her administration. Fidel V. Ramos was the merchant, whose presidency earned the country the title of “Asia’s Next Economic Tiger.” Joseph Estrada, his successor, was indeed the lover boy, whose landslide victory was largest in Philippine history.
The pattern repeated itself with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s iron fist, as she declared a state of rebellion in 2001 and a state of emergency in 2006 after threats against the government were uncovered. Her presidency saw the imprisonment of several alleged enemies of her administration and the raid of newspaper office. Benigno Aquino III, and his “straight path” campaign was the holy man, with the unprecedented detention of sitting senators accused of corruption. Who will come next? The merchant or businessman, if the pattern will prevail.
We have sought to fight predictability, rote and patterns. Besides, this is a period marked by the massive collapse of institutions, both figurative and literal ones. Thus, we have refused to believe that there is only one way to do things, only one way to live. Ours is a generation that questions the system, counters the flow, and frowns at the practical.
We rebel against patterns when we quit an unhappy job, when we pack our bags and fly off on cheap airfare, or when we move on to new addresses and new relationships. But we find that in this incessant stream of picking and quitting, we have created a pattern—one that involves landing and leaving, never staying. In our thirst for movement we have failed to grow roots, and are unable to bank on billable hours or remarkable human interaction. In our desire for unpredictability, we have failed to learn from our past. And in our disdain for patterns, we find ourselves creating new ones.
Novelist Chuck Palahniuk says that what we call chaos is just patterns we haven’t recognized; that what we call random is just patterns we can’t decipher; that there are only patterns, patterns on top of patterns, patterns that affect other patterns.
Is this something that we fight? Is this something about which we should be anxious? Should we worry about the water in the stream, the merchant president (whoever he or she may be), or the cycle of life awaiting us? It takes courage to get out of predictable routines, whether in nature or in history, or in ourselves. But it takes a lot of strength to be able to embrace them.
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