Friday, June 6, 2014

Descending to the Norm

I went to the gym yesterday, exercising on the elliptical machine for 20 minutes, swimming for 15 minutes, lounging on the hot tub for 5 minutes and spending about 7 minutes in the steam room. I spent almost an hour at the sports club, arriving home near 8pm for dinner, eating too much, of spicy meat,  bell peppers and rice, watching an indie movie ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ and falling asleep in the couch. I wanted to attend online courses at Coursera and read but I was too tired, drifting to sleep in the living room and, finally, going up to bed at 11:30 pm. It is the same routine of a colleague of mine who also works out at the gym, eating dinner, watching television, falling asleep in the couch and struggling to bed near midnight. I woke up early the next morning, rising at about 5 am, going downstairs and reading a book ‘Organize your Mind, Organize your Life’, paying my insurance bills online and writing a check to my brother. I left home for work at about 7:30 am, at my desk by 8 am, drinking coffee and catching up on work, returning a call to a colleague and attending a meeting which I had organized with participants from Mexico, India and the United States. Later today, I would attend another meeting in the afternoon, leave the office at about 5:30 pm and travel home where the whole routine would repeat itself.

Thus one descends into the usual middle class existence of eating too much; couch surfing, sleeping late and going back to work the next day. But I want to be more productive, to do tasks like writing and exploring business ventures in the Internet, but the pattern keeps repeating itself. I am also preparing to visit the Philippines, where  work is expected of me although I get to see my family and friends, especially my mom and dad, who is recovering from a stroke. It now seems that life is at a standstill until I depart for Asia where one will see the twilight of one’s parents, whose example I follow as a father, retracing all those steps in the past where all seemed sunny and carefree. There will be an accounting in all aspects: medical bills, the folly of one’s siblings, taking care of the elderly, living with dementia, disposing of real estate properties, reconciling with relatives and friends. It is like reestablishing roots in the face of family illness and decline. In the meantime, the struggle continues, barreling through the workload and challenges at the office, trying to keep healthy, sane and the dream of a better life but silently receding in the distance, when illness or tragedy can strike while one is unaware until life takes another path and the dreams fade away as a new reality takes over.

Otherwise, one delves into a trivial life: struggling to lose weight but gaining more pounds, losing interest in going to the gym, eating more and descending into sloth and slumber until the weeks go by, then the years and, finally the decades of one’s life. The plan is simple: eat less, drink tea, and be active after office, keep working on a dream that would lift you out of the rat race. I am reading a book called ‘Scarcity’ where one’s cognitive bandwidth is consumed by all the demands of media, attention to details and the onslaught of work. There is no mental capacity left for other things, so one just descends into triviality until mediocrity is the norm. Perhaps one just needs to throw it all away, to start fresh; one is tired of going through the same illusions of consuming media. A clean break is needed in order to rise above the deadening mediocrity.  But it is also a battle against age, cognitive decline, mental churning, the monkey mind, envy, anger and so on. This morning I read an article in CNN about people living beyond 100 years. The secret seems to be an optimistic attitude, an active life, eating in moderation and being engaged. There is hope yet and considering one life span, another 30 to 50 years is still possible if one is lucky and careful.

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