For half a decade of teaching at universities, I get the chance to meet countless of young people whose talents brim so much that I can imagine how far can they get later in life. One of my ambitions is that my students do something with their talents which their community might benefit.
But there are also these kind of kids who run to me and ask, how do I become awesome? How do I become as talented as Student A? How do I get recognised like Student B? And, brace this, how do I become as great as as you? I cringe as I type this.
I have a friend who’s covering Mindanao as an underpaid journalist for decades yet when we write the story together, she keeps on telling herself “I’m going nuts with this story.” I had an editor who’s virtually with me in coverages to tell me what leads to pursue yet her efforts are unsung because the one who earns a byline in the stories is me. I have a former boss who holds a PhD in English and has published books yet tells me I write better. Just this week, I became friends with a 37-year-old articulate public speaker at a Toastmasters gathering in Malang who offered me to come at his house anytime to play the piano, yet never told me how popular he is as a standup comedian. They, ladies and gentlemen, are great people.
Sometime in 2012, after going down from a kidney-jarring ride from a school that serves Ata-Manobo kids up in the mountains of Talaingod, Davao del Norte, Lorie and I had a conversation about this tendency of many young journalists to get obsessed with fame. In this career, we are often seduced to put things into our head when people start to recognise us by the bylines on print/online, or by our faces they see online or on television, local or international. I understand that the published works serve as one of our motivating forces to do more, but the danger that comes with it is that we get obsessed that we’re great — because with it, everywhere we go, people recognise us, and that they would want to pose a selfie with us.
Lucifer was a fallen angel who was not contented of who he was: one of the highest of all angels in heaven. He wanted to be great. He wanted to be god. In doing so, he disobeyed god, and as a consequence, god kicked him out of heaven. He descended into hell, and became Satan, who in the biblical metanarrative, is the beginning of the universe’s force of evil.
On Monday, I began sitting in as one of the editors at DavaoToday, an online news agency from the Durian capital of the Philippines. I announced the news to my friends on Facebook, with the intention of informing where I want their news releases sent (just in case they’re connected to public/private agencies). Many were congratulating, though one of them quipped that I was bragging my position. Personally, my intention of editing stories for DT is to thank them for how they shaped me back in 2012 where I was paid meagerly in exchange for stories many mainstream media outfits do not like touching: human rights and one of the longest running insurgencies in Asia. My colleagues there taught me how to stretch a P2,000 pay for a month.
Going back, the word great comes from an Old English term that means “big, tall, thick, stout, massive; course” which, in turn, could be traced from a West Germanic term grautaz which means “coarse, thick.” To ask how to be great would seem to me that such person is asking how to be big? How to be massive? It reminds me of what could be one of Lucifer’s question: How to be God?
A day before I took the role as one of DT’s editors, I attended a gathering of bloggers in Malang. I joined a flock of college students who manage their own blogs. At the event, they were curious on how to be as popular as those people who were invited to speak due to their influence in social media. How do we get more Twitter followers? How do we blog so that we get invited to restaurants for free?Our generation is so obsessed with fame and influence, and that we’re so impatient that we want to achieve the two as soon as we can — so, without shame, we ask great people their secrets to success. Along the way, virtues like wisdom, justice, fortitude, self-control, love, positive attitude, hard work, integrity, gratitude, and humility are forgotten.