The world is not ending. Not just yet. But it has changed. In our brand new world, the Statue of Liberty could soon be standing behind a wall. Filipinos can fish in the West Philippine Sea because China says it’s OK. And the Luk Yuen restaurants no longer serve lapu-lapu congee. Oh em gee.
Everybody’s talking about change—change is coming, change is here, change this, change that—right? Let’s talk about change. We’ve all experienced some kind of bone jarring, earth shattering, unwanted change. Moving up to the big school. Being forced to live in a dorm or boarding house. Breaking up with a girlfriend. As Rico J. Puno narrated, “Pero bakit ganun ang panahon? Kung sino pa yung mahal na mahal mo, siya pa yung mawawala sa ‘yo, siya pa na kasing halaga ng buhay mo.”
In our corporate lives, we might have had to change jobs or maybe we got a new boss with a completely different way of doing things. Our business might have been disrupted by the so-called death of distance, by the emergence of new media or by the popularity of mobile apps. And, surely, we’ve all gone through the most painful transition of all: reconfiguring our entire lives because we have a new phone.
The phone company’s slogan is Welcome Change. That’s all well and good, but in a way and at this time, I worry that it’s a nice corporate way of saying surrender to change because as The Borg put it on Star Trek, “Resistance is futile.”
Spiritual mentor Dennis Merritt Jones describes the pointlessness of resisting change with this metaphor: In a contest between a river and a rock the river always wins. The river is willing to follow the natural call of gravity, going over, under, around or, eventually, through the rock, to its destiny which, as with all water, is to ultimately merge with the ocean. The rock is stuck where it is, relentlessly pushing against the river, resisting the natural flow of water until, over a long enough period of time, it’s worn down to a pebble.
I have difficulty agreeing. As every self-respecting Trekkie knows, The Borg are a villainous race, and they are beatable. There is nobility in standing as a rock in a river. There is a purpose to resistance. There is also a chance of success. I’m the guy who brings a ballpen and yellow pad to meetings when everyone else has moved from laptops to tablets to smartphones for taking notes. In my dream scenario, all digital files will disappear as the Cloud evaporates in a massive hacker attack, and the only source of information will be my paper records. Besides, studies say that you remember and learn more when you take notes by hand, especially when compared, I guess, with taking a photo of the white board.
To be clear, however, I’m not a Luddite. I write this column on a MacBook with Retina Display and my contacts and calendars are synced across several devices. The only reason I’m collecting Starbucks stickers is because my wife who does not have a Facebook account likes the new planner.
So, how do we deal with change?
Well, we can’t deny or ignore the change forever. Neither does it help to mourn inconsolably or clog social media with invective. On the other hand, we shouldn’t go full balimbing and give immediate unqualified support to the change. Rather than embrace all change, I recommend holding it at arm’s length. Turn it around first. Look it over, up and down, side to side. Study it. Then stop and think. A time of profound change is an opportunity to reexamine objectives and reaffirm core beliefs. Once we have our priorities straight, we’ll know what to do.
What I do not recommend is thinking that there’s nothing we can do, that certain things are beyond our control or that opposition is useless. Peaceful protest brought back Classic Coke! Who says we can’t bring back lapu-lapu congee? While we’re at it, let’s bring back Tropical Hut hamburgers wrapped in foil, Minggoy’s paella and Coney Island ice cream.
But seriously, if, despite being the biggest immigrant community to support Donald Trump, Filipinos find themselves on the wrong side of the wall, we can always focus on winning the Got Talent shows in Australia, Israel and France. And if China eventually annexes the entire archipelago, we can then claim to live in a country that wins a lot of gold medals at the Olympics.
Sometimes change feels like a great big effing deal, but if you live long enough, you come to realize that everything changes all the time. Chill. In the end, there’s this bit of apocrypha passed on to me by a good friend:
“You cannot be always given change. Sometimes you must bring the change.”
--unnamed taxi driver