This scary thing called technology

These pretty flowers on the side of the road along 1 Hackerway, off Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California remind me of the beauty of life in the valley of tech dreams. (May 2016)

The ironic thing about being a journalist is you never find the time to write about the things you truly care about.

The daily pursuit of a story, the mad rush to the finish line before you hit publish and everything that happens in between takes over your life and railroads any creativity left lurking somewhere in your soul. At the end of the day, there isn’t much time left to pause or breathe and connect the disjointed dots of a day lived on the edge.

I love technology, the single greatest passion of my adult life born out of a surprising, almost inexplicable affinity with machines, gadgets, systems, structures, processes. I like plowing through the jargon and disentangling the Gordian knot of words and concepts that only geeks truly understand. I share this Utopian dream with every technophile that someday, machines will rule the world through code.

But tech isn’t always what I wanted to write about. In the ‘man-versus-machines’ debate, I still say ‘man’ hands down and I will continue to vote for humanity because there is nothing like the human mind or the human soul; everything is just a simulacrum, nothing will ever come close, my fingers crossed.

And so what do I want to write beyond the borders of my professional beat? Life, love, the colors of a vermilion sunset.

Years ago, I was trying to find the right color for a dress that daughter needs for a dance recital. I turned to my Facebook buddies for help. “What is the color of sunset?” I shouted out. A friend came up immediately with a link that says sunset orange is 0.99 percent red, 0.37 green and 0.33 blue. In 24-bit RGB form, it’s 243 red, 94 green and 83 blue. I got that one right away and headed to the mall.

Back from the store with a fiery sunset orange dress, I had this scary realization that I was turning into an automaton. Back then, I was thinking: as I increasingly view and understand the world in terms of numbers and bits, does it make me less human?

In a poetry class decades ago, my creative writing teacher asked our class to close our eyes and conjure a picture of a vermilion sunset. She added, “What emotions or experiences were summoned by this mental picture?”

I remember closing my eyes, seeing a symphony of metaphors in my mind’s eye. “Connect it to a larger picture of life. What do these colors say about your state of mind?” she instructed.

Back in my digital world on that hot, humid, summer afternoon I bought the fiery sunset orange dress, I thought: can binary codes also summon the muse and allow verses to form in the mind before they are ever written on paper or on screen? The scary thing is that I don’t know. Ten years or so ago, I can already say that it has been ages since I last wrote and read verses. The question, then and now, is this: can I still find the words to sing the songs of life as they mysteriously unravel in the heart?

With the exactness and rigidness of numbers and formula, the tech world may be devoid of human drama. But verse making is also mathematical in its own way; the technique calls for an exact count of syllables strung together in a rhythmic pattern to form thoughts from a deep well of emotions.

Golden Sunset Resort, Batangas (November 2008)

Someday, maybe I can make better sense of these seemingly disparate but intertwined skill sets. But until that day comes, I’ll probably never truly know (even with a journalist’s eye for objectivity) where one ended and the other began.

It’s summertime again and on a laid-back Sunday morning, I found myself mulling these same set of questions. Haven’t I had enough of tech? Am I not done with the geek world yet? What worlds are there to explore within the confines of my interests and competencies? Maybe I should thank my lucky stars that I don’t really need a job, but faced with a universe of options, it is still downright difficult to sift the possibilities.

Maybe, I should start with what I love.

I love the kindness of people, the gentleness of spirit of the truly wise, the warmth of friendships and relationships tested by fire and rain. I love walking barefoot on the beach, the feel of the finest grains of white sand on my feet, the soothing whisper of the ocean not far away. I love the sunrise and the breaking of a new day. I love the sunset, the end of something to give way for a proper rest. I love the distant ringing of church bells, an ancient way of summoning a community to prayer. I love this country — chaos, blemishes, traffic, noise, political mayhem — and all.

What can I do to make things right considering that I think I know how to write?

The scary thing about technology and having been enamored with it for so long is that there is really no similar algorithmic formula for life. You have to find it in you — deep inside that heart that still beats, that still cares.

Geeks unwinding in Boracay after the ‘Geeks On A Beach’ conference (August 2015)