A Photograph

Evening at irrigation road

I’m back in Los Baños yesterday. We left Pangasinan around one in the afternoon and arrived in Calamba by five. I was in Los Baños by six, carrying a heavy backpack and another bag filled with books. I wanted to walk since, hey, I’m already in LB! But my luggage was too heavy to carry. I called a tricy to help me out.

The week-long vacation back in Pangasinan was a blast. I brought with me important insights I will be processing in the coming days, some of which I already shared in the previous issue. But in some way, I am also quite relieved to be back home in LB. “Covid peer pressure” was just too strong in Pangasinan.

All of my relatives have been vaccinated. All of them believe that the virus is the greatest most important enemy they will ever face in their entire life and that they need to do whatever it takes to protect themselves and their loved ones from it. I have many relatives in the medical profession, so it is understandable that they repeat what their superiors in the medical system tell them—the virus is bad! Get vaccinated! Lockdown everything! Fuck the anti-vaxxers! Wear masks everywhere! Forget fun and stay at home for 50 years or until this is all over!

Well, I don’t share this enthusiasm. And I am not alone.

I do not deny the existence of the virus. I just don’t think we are showing enough critical thinking about what medical authorities are telling us, especially with these drastic measures they are endorsing that are affecting the economy severely—something that, believe it or not, trickles down to the poorest members of society. And should I mention the toll all of these are taking on our collective mental health? How about the violation of our liberties, e.g., possibly being forced to put something in our body we are not even sure is safe?

But this isn’t at all surprising. We’re intellectually impatient. We don’t spend enough time thinking about our beliefs, reading enough about ideas that are different from ours. We choose what’s easy and most of the time, what’s easy is what’s on our social media feed. Unfortunately, these feeds are designed to confirm our own unchecked biases. And traditional media is not helpful either.

When I think about all this covid mayhem, I feel like what I felt while I walked a nearby narrow farm-to-market road on my last evening in Pangasinan. The photo above captures what it looks like to walk by yourself, alone, in the middle of rice fields with only a small light to guide you.

These are frightening times. But I’m not sure what I should fear more—the virus or how unkind we seem to be to people who don’t share our beliefs about the virus.

A Thought

Doubt is an important part of a rich life.

When you doubt your beliefs, you start to listen to the points of view of others. You become more empathetic to your “enemies.” Artificial divisions are diminished and dialogue and conciliation can be more possible.

Doubt has practical benefits as well.

When you doubt your current job, you will start looking for other places that can make better use of your talents and strengths. Possibilities are opened. You become more connected to yourself and those you are meant to serve.

Doubt is an important part of a rich life.

Doubt is a space where we finally meet our true selves and those of others.

Doubt leads to freedom, and freedom is a prerequisite to a happier existence.

A Quote

What sort of life do we think we are protecting? There is more to life than the avoidance of death. Life is a drink with friends. Life is a crowded football match or a live concert. Life is a family celebration with children and grandchildren. Life is companionship, an arm around one’s back, laughter or tears shared at less than two meters. These things are not just optional extras. They are life itself. They are fundamental to our humanity, to our existence as social beings. Of course death is permanent, whereas joy may be temporarily suspended. But the force of that point depends on how temporary it really is.

— Jonathan Sumption

A Question

How much freedom and quality of life are you willing to sacrifice just to avoid death?


Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this issue, please consider forwarding to a friend.