Yesterday, mama Sylvia took me and some of the kids out for lunch. We had dim sum at Ten Ten in Artesia. It was good. She was telling us about how some of her friends (from the Philippines) seem to operate on their own time schedules and how they would arrive hours late to parties or other gatherings. One of the interesting things that she mentioned was how her friends had no sense of remorse for their tardiness while at the same time were semi-apologetic for their lateness.
I began to think that maybe Filipinos have a different perception of time. Perhaps, this notion of time is rooted in a resistance against our former colonizers who imposed their views of the universe (time included) upon the people on those islands. I’m not sure how those ancient civilizations kept time, but I would bet that it didn’t include an “o’clock” or calendars with months named after Roman emperors. So the Filipino’s tardiness is like Lapu Lapu’s spear entering the heart of Magellan. The blood that surges out his chest are the ticking seconds that we count on our imitation Rolex watches.
We see this unconscious resistance in several ways. First, there is that well known notion of “Filipino time” where we wait frustratingly for our family members to arrive at a wedding that should’ve started an hour and a half ago. Our elderly grandparents have the uncanny power to stop time to a grinding halt as we strive to make it to that baptism or that birthday party with them in tow. They have achieved what Einstein could not and can bend time to their will. This ability is not limited to our elderly, but to the generations that came after them. Our fathers and mothers have the same ability but without the awareness and grace that comes with old age. They make excuses with apologetic tones but never directly admit their lateness to the offended. So today, Filipino-Americans are stuck between cultures of blinding speed through technology and an ancient past when time was told through myth.
Another way we see this resistance against time is how we Filipinos age. We resist time through our seemingly youthful appearances. When Filipinas turn 21, they still look like they’re getting ready to start high school. Perhaps that is why the Filipino woman occupies the fantasies of lonely white men both young and old. Californians worship the sun and sacrifice their skin to the sun god. Their envy of us exponentially increases with every wrinkle and jealous tears fall from the clenched talons of crow’s feet. Maybe we shouldn’t worry when we turn 40 because we’ll still look like we just walked across a stage to get our college diploma.
So, the next time I start to get frustrated when I’m the only one on time to a dinner party, I’ll think twice. I’ll try to respect the time of my employers, my clients, my family, and my friends. However, I’ll try to see my Filipino friends as unknowing participants in a resistance against Catholic popes, Roman emperors, and American presidents and railroad moguls.
What does it mean to be human? It means one can consume copious amounts of Nutella which results in an existential crisis. We only see the tip of the iceberg of human experience, but this I know: Nutella makes it betta. (You can have that for free, Nutella. I expect to find a case of Nutella at my door soon.)
“Listen. You should know something. All younger people should know something. If you’re always battling against getting older, you’re always going to be unhappy, because it will happen anyhow.”
Reading about the last days of Morrie Schwartz is like taking a crash course on the power of paradox. Everything through his eyes is turned over on it’s head. Younger people today live lethargic lives, while Morrie was out dancing. I am burdened by worry and he was playful like a child. We are free to move around physically but are stuck behind computers, stuck behind desks, paralyzed by doubt, and enslaved to the fear of uncertainty. Morrie was bound by a physical illness but the people who admired him carried him in their thoughts. ”The tension of the opposites.”
Tuesdays with Morrie was a film (a product of Oprah’s apparent omnipotence) that was being shown in my lifespan development class that I took this summer. The timing of my viewing was opportune. I was compelled to buy the book when I got home that night. I think his ideas are most attractive to people in transition. In transition as a high school senior to moving out of state for college. In transition from the safety of college to the impersonal and merciless job market. In transition from adolescence to manhood. In transition from dependence to independence and then back again. Seeing someone else’s struggles in transition calls my own into question. Are my worries worth holding? What do I value?
As a final assignment, I was asked to write my eulogy. A strange assignment that actually turned into something revelatory. I found that what I want to achieve and what I value are things that are universal: to be connected to a family, to be connected to a broader community, to stay connected to music. I also learned that I can be content and experience what I have to experience in the present - a suggestion I regularly make to my clients but have failed to fully achieve for myself.
Now that I have some broad perspective on the human lifespan, I have to learn to fall back to earth and remain in the present. I can feel the pain of regrets and then let them go. I can worry about the future and then let that go, too. I’ll see if that really happens.
Hey everybody! Apparently there’s this new, new hip hop album called Watch The Game of Thrones. Jay-Z & Kanye rap about time travelling to a medieval land called Westeros. They compete (through lyrical battles) for the hand of a blondie named “Dany.”
I guess you really can’t judge a book by it’s cover.