Rain is the great equalizer. When it falls it falls on everyone rich or poor. And all derive from it an equal share of consequence, good or bad. Or this, according to the farmer from Oslob. The young writer thought the same thing although he thought this with an entirely different set of words. Once again, this rainy afternoon was spent writing poetry and worrying if it was good enough.
But how does one really know?
To whom is it good enough? That is the better question to ask. Like rain, words strike always in their own peculiar way to peculiar sorts of people. Some like what others do not. And words always have their predetermined function, its specific use for specific people.
Used to be, we aimed always for the universal. We thought words, if they are beautiful or useful must be beautiful and useful for everyone, without exception. But the world has grown too complex for that. And rightly so. In the real world, some words that are good for some may be awful for others, and vice versa. Who decides finally what poetry, what words are good?
Listen. If the words survive, then they must be good. There is natural selection for everything, including words, whether prose or poetry. Who thought in the 1970s that Bob Marley would ever be considered a true poet of his generation? Just a few dope-heads who had nothing better to do. And yet, in the few years following after his death, who would’ve thought his words would be everywhere and all over the planet crying out: No woman no cry. No woman no cry.
The young writer was listening through his earphones to what seemed to him like the nth remake of that same song. And still he loved it. Not just the song itself but the very thought of it. Words surviving by themselves over generations passing from one ear to the next. No woman no cry. No woman no cry.
And he marveled at it. How words being just mere symbols or if you will, signs, on a piece paper when they are written down, could carry truckloads of meaning. And the meanings can only multiply when they are spoken, or heard, or sang in song.
Do you ever wonder if they mean the same thing to everyone? Do not even think about it. They do not. That the words mean the same thing to everyone is not the concern of the writer. He or she knows they do not. Accept instead the inevitable. That the words are lovable. That is the better concern. When the words are lovable, people will read them. And they will like what they read. And some will take those same words with them in their journey through life. They will carry them for a while, while they can. Poems are still memorized by kids in this day and age even when it seems reading has become quite old fashioned. That too will pass.
But what should a young writer aspire for then? How does anyone become a writer? If you ask the elders they will reply mostly the same thing: Keep writing! Write! Write! Write! Do not ever stop!
If you press them some more, they might reveal something else. They might say: If you can find a way to get paid for what you write, then you know you are on the right track. And that is why he is here.
It is only a small residential house in an anonymous little old subdivision somewhere in the city. But here is where he comes to work. Here is where he gets paid for writing. What he writes are fictitious blogs for a beach resort he has never been to. They give him only pictures. And what they expect him to do with the pictures is to write short anecdotes about how wonderful the experience of it is. How exciting the beach! How cool the rooms! And the kitchen has a master chef, serving native cuisine in a way that would make you remember this place forever.
But it is only fiction in his mind that he writes about. But what he writes, he writes well and effectively. So that anyone reading his words will want to see this place and test as well as perhaps even taste the veracity of his words. And how would he know if his words are truthful?
One of these days, when he is old and much better than he is now, he might aspire for the truthfulness of his words. But that would not be till later. In the meantime, he must have to write what people pay him to write. Things not too close to truth, but not too far from it either.
Words are commodity. He knows that for a fact. But still, he writes as best he can. He gets better with every word. That is enough. Stuck inside his writing cell listening to Bob Marley, he missed the rain completely. He found this out only much later on his way home. He reminded himself not to stay too long at this job.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.