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How to upstage a billionaire and other thoughts for 2022

By LISA GUERRERO NAKPIL, The Philippine STAR Published Dec 26, 2021 5:00 am

Just when the coming year was beginning to look hopeful and normal, the dreaded “Omicron” appeared, followed by the high winds of “Odette.”

Space travel is the tantalizing proposition to get away — once and for all — from this malicious pandemic and pernicious climate change.

The question is who can really spend $250,000 for a three-minute pop into outer space? The answer for the weary is: you can have an even more breathtaking time right here on planet earth for just $39 if you manage to go to New York City.

Upstaging Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and their billion-dollar space programs for the rich and famous is a stupendous new project strictly for us earthlings: part skyscraper view, part art installation, and — in even larger part — a mind-bending riff on what is real and what is not, “Air” at One Vanderbilt has arrived at one of the tallest buildings in the city. You can understand why people are longing for it, even if only reading about it from afar in distant Manila.

The artist known as Kenzo Digital, creator of “Air”

In a year spent, for most of us anyway, in alternating states of panic and resignation, “Air” is three connected floors of non-stop optimism and readymade adventure.

Created by the artist known as Kenzo Digital, it is an opportunity to reboot one’s senses as you rise 91 floors in an ear-popping 43 seconds —defying gravity, weather, and time. Kenzo took reportedly three years to design this total experience, drawing inspiration from what he terms as “the intoxicating sense of aspiration and inspiration that New York gives me with everyone who visits it — a beacon of possibility that pays tribute to all that New York is, can be, will be.” It’s a heady tonic for the pandemic woes that ail us.

Kenzo’s ability to tap into the current zeitgeist has always made him an in-demand guru for wraparound projects for Nike to Beyoncé (for both her Billboard performance and an even more prestigious turn at the United Nations).

“Air” begins with a darkened corridor and futuristic videos, followed by a burst of mirrors and Mylar and a stunning view of the biggest, richest metropolis in the United States of America, perhaps the world.

Free-floating away from the pandemic at “Air.”

There’s an area called “Affinity—Infinity—Reflect” filled with silver balloons that only accentuate a feeling of free-floating in outer space. A second level is named “Unity—Levitation—Transcendence 2.”

The various sections of “Air” have names drawn from yoga, indicating the peacefulness and calm it is intended to achieve. There are also skyboxes with glass floors that give you the feeling of literally prancing on air; while an elevator called “Ascent” takes you breathless to the pinnacle of the highest point of the building, aptly called “The Summit,” just like with the Himalayas.

The Transcendence level of “Air”

In many ways, it’s an apt parable for the year that was; and yes, the year to come in 2022.

The democratization of disasters — but also happiness, too

Disasters don’t really care if you drive a Maserati or a Mazda. When your time is up, they will come for you.

Yes, you may be insulated by concierge doctors (the term used for private medical services that come to your penthouse and not the tiresome other way around) and private planes, but if you come down with COVID-19, the virus will mess with your system, as with any other human.

Lucky for us, say the mental health gurus, happiness is where you find it; and that would be within your home. Expect, in 2022, a continued interest in self-help, self-health and self-comfort. People are expected to indulge themselves — Omicron permitting —with carefully calculated (and QR-coded) trips to the salon or spas, or “beauty days” at home with properly swabbed and kitted facial and massage specialists.

Private trainers, nutrition coaches, not to mention portable shampoo bowls (for cut and coloring) will come even further to the fore in 2022 as people work at losing — or at least disguising— the dreaded “COVID-15,” otherwise known as the 15 pounds all of us have gained over the last two years in lockdown.

Be ready to be uncomfortable

One realization, perhaps most stunning for the millennial, is that life is gosh-darn uncomfortable and, what is worse, inconveniently unpredictable. Beset by uncertainty on every front, there are questions that beg answers: When will the pandemic actually end? Will my vaccine actually protect me from a new variant? Should I risk going Christmas shopping at the mall? In short, people are just plain exhausted by it all.

We stare at 2022 with the prospect of little or no change at all. No wonder tempers fray and airline stewardesses are clobbered. In the United States, murder is apparently at an all-time high.

Today’s life coaches prescribe an exercise called “square breathing,” developed for soldiers in war-torn conditions. It’s intended to train your sense of resolve and thus induce calm amid chaos. More importantly, it makes you comfortable with being uncomfortable and develop that stoicism that we will definitely all need in 2022.

Pandemic-proofing your life. Yet again

As the second straight year of “online-everything” draws to a close, people are now raring for a bit or what retailers call “in-person shopping” and actually trying on clothes and shoes for a change. Crowds now throng the malls, as they do at various multi-colored political rallies.

One fearless forecast has it that there will be no more lockdowns until the vote is safely counted in May; the electorate simply will not have it.

Logic tells us that 2022 will be as demanding of our inner resources as the last two years. Time to batten down the hatches and set sail for those inner voyages — that hopefully will take us to that place and not-so-new realization that life is what you make of it.