Yo no quiero mar sin marea. I have no yearning for a sea without its tide. Pablo Neruda
I cannot sit still. I am known for my deftness, fluttering through both responsibility and pleasure. It is, as though I feel life fleeting and that I have to keep pace, or else lose moments. My pet name was “Prancing Shrimp” (in Ilonggo) while law school friends named me “Flash.” I attempted to work. However, the day the firm gave me a view was the day they lost me to the frenzy of the outside world. Even now when I work for me, there is always the coffee break, walking, remembering an errand, sitting at the park, or an excuse to stay out in the sun. I could feel my heart skipping beats. I have survived hours of lecturing looking serene and deeply interested. But, keep an eye on my fingers, my pen and then glance at my paper. My philosophy teacher once asked me, what I could now grasp as an existential question: “Why are you always doodling?”
I spoke about my restlessness to a friend. I alluded that it was my element, my persona, or a part of my nature. Like a sage, he said: “Honor the restlessness. There’s a reason for it.” I dismissed that colossal chunk of wisdom and went back to filling my days with mayhem. There were days when I wanted to flee, find the ocean and Om my way to peace. And then today, after two nights of intoxicating red grape and grain whose purpose was to numb my restlessness, I find this:
“[A] measure of disquiet is a divine gift (Marcel Proust).”
My restlessness can be likened to being in deep sleep and having a marching band bang cymbals and blow trumpets in your ear. I would have preferred gentle prodding with the sultry whisper of: “Arise my love.” Still, one cannot elect the way by which the divine chooses to bestow its gift. I understand now that I am not to kill my restlessness and in the process crush myself. It would be like a sea without its tide. Beneath this restlessness, a great many things can unfold or be transformed. In fact, all of nature sings with restlessness. Take nighttime for example. Amidst the dark solitude of the night lurks restiveness. It is no wonder I love listening to crickets serenading the night!
So what am I to do with sacred restlessness? “Restless reason inaugurated the seas and made buildings rise out of chaos” (Pablo Neruda). I do not know. Yet. I do know that I should abandon my search for an antidote that would subdue the unease. Instead, I should hark to the tacit message of the cymbals and trumpets. More than taking heed, I should awaken from my sleep and march on. All throughout life, I am impelled by the desire to do certain things. Doodling will no longer be enough nor can I endure further philosophical or existential lecturing. Momentary bursts of noble acts that I start recklessly and never finish will continue to hound me, like hooves and a stampede. I own this restlessness and I merit it. There is so much I should do. And that is why I cannot and will not sit still.
Thomas Merton wrote: ‘There is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.’ There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage. I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.” Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek