Sunday, March 05, 2006

parallel lines

Current M- Theory posits the existence of a multiverse. In the Nirvana-like sea of everything and nothing, there exist countless bubble realities, one of which is ours (M-theory somehow elegant reconciles Christian and Buddhist outlooks on the universe). I look at a few of those bubbles and ask myself this: if I were not what I am today, career-wise, what would my alternate reflections reveal?

a. Lawyer – my analytical nature plus my naturally argumentative character in combination with my ability to reason verbally would make this job a prefect fit. When I was younger, this was one of Big Two career paths that my parents wanted me to walk (the other was the medical road) and I naturally refused. I thought that law was dry and boring, and did not want to spend my days cooped up in a law office dressed in a barong. For a while I was really tempted until I realized that the courtroom setup in the Philippines is different from the US – no jury. And I wanted to grandstand in front of a jury, pleading my client’s case, in the fashion of all those wonderful TV shows. Instead, here, we just have a judge. Usually old and wrinkled. My stepdad attempted to sway me into entering UP Law by dangling a carrot: “You can write briefs and studies”. Oh, joy beyond compare. In a parallel world where I am a lawyer, I’m filthy rich and influential, chatting up the politicos and planning coups. I’d have a 8 children by 3 women, including my ex-wife’s. I’d travel to the US and Europe twice a year and collect expensive senseless things like knives which I’d display at one of my three houses. I’d have long coffee meetings (I’d have other young and desperate lawyers to do my actual work) and pontificate on how I would make the country a better place.

b. Politico – One of my classmates, I’m shamed to say, is Mike Defensor, whose tuko-like deathgrip on the Lady President is simply appalling. And yet, in an alterate reality, I’d be a politician too. I’d abandon my early collegiate leftist leanings (one of my stories got me a nice letter from Satur Ocampo when he was incarcerated in Fort Bonifacio) and go for powerplays, dazzled by the promise of wealth and power. Sad but true. I’d leverage my position for personal gain but not in a painfully obvious way, with a little élan so I’m not perceived as greedier than the rest, and attempt to do some good for my constituency. I’d have my moral and ethical crises early on so I wouldn’t be bothered by a guilty conscience later as a I dance the fandango with the powerbrokers, dynastic scions and rich special interest groups. Occasionally, I will flipflop on issues and allegiances, flitting from one point of the political spectrum to the other, with always my best interest in mind. Assuming I survive the various coups and reconfigurations of government, I will retire to be a consultant to some young upstart and begin the terrible cycle anew.

c. Teacher – I’m good at teaching things I care about to people who possess more than a modicum of intelligence. So in another world, I teach graduate level courses in something related to writing. I’d be simultaneously reviled and loved by my students because of my blistering tirades that contain nuggets of wisdom. I’d challenge my charges to do better and tell those who lag behind to give up their dreams (again, sad but true). Life is too short to be deluded – better to apply yourself to something that suits you. I’d be seen as a monster by the people I kick out of class; and an angel by those I spend time with, push and encourage to excellence. I’d be at it for years and decades until I become a fossil, my ethereal weight borne by the wind in the academe’s corridors as I glide like an angry ghost to my classes. My students will become successful and think of me with a shudder; researchers will attempt to divine my methodology and despair when they fail to replicate it. I will be given a house in UP Village and I will admit only the most brilliant minds. And when I die, I will haunt it, and the classrooms, and the faculty lounge, and begin my new career as an urban legend, frightening young graduate students with weak wills and shrill voices.

d. Corporate Grunt – For some time, I was content with just working for someone else, so its possible that in a different world, I’m still there, plowing away my years in exchange for my rent payment, groceries and educational plans for my 4 kids. My wife also works because we need the double income and we live in an apartment next to my in-laws. I’m mostly unhappy but stay with the company because how else can I afford to pay off the appliances I got via credit card installment plans? Not having planned my career path early, I most likely have gone as far as I can go up the corporate ladder (or what passes for it in a small to medium-sized company) and am stuck at my current pay. I’m threatened by the young people hired by the company and especially by a brilliant young man who speaks just as well as I do and is favored by the president. I’m overweight and besieged by smoker’s cough but love my family dearly. I’m concerned about the future and just spiral helplessly into its grasp. Or, alternately, I find God and hope to transform my dejection into something more positive.

e. Bad-tempered Plant – Not every alternate bubble is necessarily akin to how history occurred in ours, so, yes, I’m a plant. Something that grows in the shadows and, like a Venus fly trap, eats insects. And if somehow I can have a cigarette (which would make me a sort of horrible plant-smoking-plant), I’d be okay.


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