Friday, October 25, 2013

Why I stopped and "smelled the roses"

One day, the harsh words all over Facebook prompted me to get out of the social networking site. The words didn’t have to be directed at me for the abrasiveness to make me go “enough is enough!” They were crass, they were full of contempt. It’s like You want to feel rotten? Log in to Facebook! You’ll get a megadose of anger/condescension/pronouncements on what’s wrong with the world and why everyone is doomed! 

"I'm under the impression that this notion of decency is disappearing from our society where conflicts are made worse on cinema and on television, where people are nasty and cruel on the Internet and where, in general, everybody seems to be very angry," actress Helen Mirren reportedly said. She gets what's happening.

Bad fashion sense, bad English, bad singing, bad taste in aesthetics – complaints about everything surfaced on status messages. The last straw for me at the time was the barrage of below-the-belt remarks ridiculing skin color (guess what shade – it’s definitely not the light one) as well as high-profile people who happened to be born with it.

Self-expression in public had hit an all-time low, and I wasn’t going to stick around to be a willing audience. So I left Facebook.

I didn’t delete my account – I simply deactivated it and stayed away for a month.  What joy! “Detox! Cool!” observed a friend. Yes, that was it – a mental and emotional cleansing from the filth that collective contempt can produce.

This is basically what directed me away from checking out status messages, pictures, news, videos, and endless scrolling that the site tends to make any netizen do. Instead, from the first moment of the day, I devoted my time and attention to real people, real concerns – not images, and not concerns manufactured by news or promotional materials meant to amplify some incident or celebrity, in turn to generate buzz and lead to countless page hits, likes, shares and whatever will send it skyrocketing on the popularity index.

Without the constant digital noise, the early morning minutes I used to spend reading the endless stream of updates had me instead roaming our small garden daily. What little charming flowers we have, I thought, gazing at the hedge right outside our front door as if seeing the lantana blooms for the first time.  They’re little alright, but dozens of the floral beauties spread out across the hedge resulted in an explosion of brilliant colors!

“Stop and smell the roses,” we’re often reminded, especially in these times when a really fast pace and the ability to go even faster can make us lose sight of the essentials of a life with meaning. Well, eliminating Facebook from my daily routine was a de-cluttering of sorts, a way to get back to the essentials – the proverbial roses I had come to overlook. No roses found their way into our picturesque hedge, but no matter – pretty soon I realized I was not the only one appreciating the lantana buds that blossomed. If you spend enough time around the stillness of the garden, you’ll see various winged creatures flower-hopping throughout the day. The lantana may not be as fragrant as roses (in fact, they have a peculiar smell) but they sure can draw the butterflies and bees to their lovely petals and keep them coming back throughout the day.

Of course it’s the butterflies, with their fascinating prints and colors, which easily captured my fancy. This was National Geographic up close! Gazing at images of something on a screen and looking at it in the flesh, in all its 3-dimensional wonder, are completely different experiences – even if it’s only the slow wing-flapping of a lacewing perched on a leaf or the flower-hopping of a frolicsome bumblebee.

What I found most reassuring in those sightings of foliage, flora and insects was their predictability. While news of planes crashing and ships colliding was reported, as the world waited with Kate and William for the “royal birth,” while fans and cynics got all emotional over the FIBA games, and as the “pork” situation progressed from bad to worse, the buds bloomed like they were supposed to. The butterflies arrived as scheduled each day and did their job. Through all the good and bad news, other creatures predictably followed their natural course. Even amid unfortunate incidents, life went on -- and beauty was there if one took the time to look around.
One afternoon I noticed one of the black-and-white butterflies, motionless, on a leaf. Its wings were spread open; I took a snapshot. Then I realized parts of its right wing were torn off. Oh no, it's hurt! How will
it fly now? Will it crash in flight? Is it going to die soon?
I was concerned for the little insect. When I left it, it still hadn’t moved.

The next morning it was gone. I hope it’s okay, I thought, wondering if butterflies could grow back damaged wings. Well, what do you know? Hours later, a butterfly that looked just like the injured one – broken wing and all – flitted from one end of the garden and landed on a leaf along the steel fence. Obviously it was not missing any action. Now that’s fighting spirit! I couldn’t help but think how the injured creature displayed more resilience than some people do (myself included) when faced with adversity. This butterfly has nearly half a wing torn off and it flies around as usual as if nothing happened. Talk about rolling with the punches!

In the weeks that followed, I discovered that broken wings weren’t all that unusual among the creatures that flew in and out of our yard.  There was the little tiger moth with a wee part of its left wing damaged. Then there was “Brownie,” another butterfly, whose impeccably edged wings remained awesome despite a missing rounded corner.  And who wouldn’t be astounded by the little beauty that zoomed from one end of the hedge to the other with its remarkably tattered wings? I spied it almost daily; one time it even landed on my outstretched hand.  Whatever tore apart its wings to such a frayed condition apparently did not tear down the insect’s spunk (and curiosity).

This butterfly with the jagged wings now holds my fascination the most. Never mind the asymmetrical form – a delicate creature that insists on being airborne despite its tattered state is all the reminder one needs that tempests are to be faced bravely. Facebook may be full of messages about persistence despite the odds or hardship bringing out the grit in people, but right here before me were more graphic – and prettier— examples of such determination. 

It’s amazing how stopping to “smell the roses” can end up with being shown so much unexpected beauty.  And all I needed was a reason to seek the roses in the first place.


ignored_genius said...

Yup, normal lang sa butterflies ang damaged wings. Like fishes with damaged fins. :D

"Detoxification" via leaving Facebook is a good exercise. I do it also once in a while. Isang buong araw nga lang ang pinakamahaba. hehehehe. Now I see why you like that line I posted as a comment to one of your statuses. No, not the Bieber quote. It's the Bamboo one.

And with that Nat Geo experience of yours, nanghihinayang talaga ako at wala akong vid ng "Nat Geo" experience ko sa bakuran namin. The cat chasing the maya on mid air. wow! Swish, chomp, yum yum yum! :D

sunnyday said...

Wow, 1day detox. How refreshing :-D Well, you can move on to 1-week detox -- just do the one-day thing 7 times one after the other, hehe.

Just have your camera at the ready whenever you see a cat strutting around, though I'm not sure I'd like to watch anything with chomping action involving a cat! Unless the chow is from a can or plastic pack from the grocery ^_^

Cynthia U. Santiago said...


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