Thursday, January 22, 2009

Red Light

It's 6 p.m., and you're trying to get across Taft Avenue. Between the giant buses and swerving jeepneys, all you really want to do is to get to the other side without being crushed. At this point, you'd be thankful for a working stoplight.

I know most people take stoplights for granted--and some even blatantly jaywalk all over the place--but for someone who grew up inheriting her mom's paranoia about accidents that can happen anytime, stoplights are a relief.

But since literal stoplights don't really make for an interesting blog, I will, of course, try to relate it to life. (Although I also doubt it will be interesting, but oh well.)

Unfortunately, life has no explicit stoplights. None of those simple, three-colored machines which reliably keep us from crashing and getting crushed (of course, I am not taking into account the perpetually malfunctioning stoplights one can always find in Metro Manila). Things would have easier and less complicated if we had those, but as we all know by now, life is neither easy nor simple.

In fact, taking the commuter analogy further, life isn't just an intersection, nor a highway as the Rascal Flats sang about. For me it a collection of infinitely many intersections, and with different kinds of streets. Some are as big as NLEX, while others mere alleys. To be in the middle of one of these big junctions--I think we all know how that feels. Without a stoplight, in the middle of an intersection, is one of the most terrifying places to be, maybe because we know that if there's nothing to tell everyone else when to stop and when to keep moving, crashes are almost certain.

It's a weird thing, to cross streets without stoplights. I know some people who just walk straight to the other side, without so much as a glance at the cars. But I'm not like that. And maybe there's something about personality in crossing streets. Some of us go through life carefree, stepping out into the asphalt and heading straight to where they ought to go, while others don't trust the cars not to hit them, so they go out of their way to avoid those dangers.

For me, the tough part is knowing when to move and when not to. Of course I'm concerned about a big delivery truck hitting me right on--I know it's something I don't ever want to experience. It's painful and harmful. And that's the reason why in life, we get hurt and do the stupid things that we do--it's because, as we all know, calculating is hard, and often we miscalculate our actions. We're rarely ever certain of anything, so it's normal to get hit by our mistakes. Sometimes they're just bikes, or slow-moving cars--but once in a while we really fuck up and it feels like a speeding ten-wheeler. Sometimes we're lucky to get off with just a bruise or a scratch, but sometimes it cripples us--for a while or for good.

But we have to keep crossing if we want to get anywhere.

And it's not as if life doesn't hand us its fair share of signals. Life has no explicit stoplights, but there are subtle (and sometimes quite obvious) signs which tell us when to keep still. But just like a lot of the Philippine commuting public, we simply choose to ignore them and jaywalk. Maybe we're hurrying, or just stubborn. Careless or over-cautious, it's all up to you. Just keep crossing.

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