the persistence of being earnest


Sometimes I swear it is easy to just give up whenever the universe is sending me signals that it doesn’t care about what I’m trying my best to accomplish—machines breaking down halfway towards a deadline, people in public places moving at a glacial pace, the omnipresence of cigarettes despite a rather stern warning from a doctor and a desperate new year’s resolution.

Why do we insist so thoroughly on persevering despite the odds? Why do we even give a rat’s ass? According to very wise biologists, there is such a thing called “biological imperatives,” a neat term that refers to the needs of living organisms to perpetuate their existence and defend themselves from harm and death. Survival and the desire for a better quality of life are two of these biological imperatives.

It is an enlightening fact, really—considering even bacteria and other lower life forms practise this sort of behaviour. Take street cats for example. Theirs is a cruel world and they go through a lot of undeserved brutality—an unhealthy diet of sewer mice, madmen throwing them into the air by the tail for no logical reason other than a sadist source of entertainment, the ever-present danger of being rounded-up and slaughtered for dimsum.

Yet we don’t see them dwindling in numbers and we definitely do not hear them whining about feline troubles—they just sharpen their claws and prepare for the next encounter with a bored kid.

Scientists say we humans are no exception. Hard-wired for survival and drawing from an evolutionary experience of about 200,000 years, we try our best to raise the middle finger to the universe whenever faced with obstacles. And by “raise the middle finger,” they meant that it is natural for us to transcend the limits of our persistence—especially those artificial rules imposed by a social order perpetuated by so-called leaders of the pack.

There is a vast amount of empirical evidence to support this claim. Though we also go through a lot of terrible things that street cats would probably never consider trading places with us, there are many members of our own species who uphold not just the imperative of survival but also the biological need to improve life by working collectively.

They are farmers at Hacienda Luisita. They are union labourers. They are student activists. They are those who have taken up arms, because history tells us change is possible and necessary amidst crisis.

This high level of evolutionary adaptation is inspiring—so inspiring, in fact, that it makes me sick of myself whenever I am tempted to complain about my own often petty, bourgeois concerns. For once, I guess #YOLO might just make sense. “You only live once.” Why not fight until the last breath?

I think Darwin himself would have been proud. I have always thought the guy was awesome.

(First published in the Philippine Collegian, Issue 21)

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