Category: creative thinking

Collect 200

I’d been thinking about what to do for my project for many weeks now, but it was only recently that I was able to come up with a more concrete idea based on the things I’ve explored related to love. The professor had explained to me that I needed to be more specific about my final statement about love, because the idea I’d pitched was too broad and vague. And when I was asked to articulate about my idea/statement, I realized that I still had difficulty explaining it, because my statement lacked details. And so, everyday for many weeks, I would think of my statement and tried to narrow it down to a more specific topic.

Since our professor wanted us to stick to our original idea, I tried to explore more about the concept of a journey—its nature, and the things usually related/involved with it. Again, I tried to organize my ideas using a mindmap (a tool which I never realized could be so useful), which I drew by hand on a sketchpad. I’ve attached a photo of the mindmap so you can see what I came up with so far (click on the image to see the original size). A few weeks after I drew this mindmap, I realized that I wanted to focus on the nature of a journey, because I think love is just like a journey that we undertake throughout our lifetime.

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Considering that each person’s understanding and meaning of love is unique, and that love is very much unpredictable, I began thinking of how a journey could be represented/applicable in real-life situations. And then I remembered the Monopoly board game (which I was fond of playing when I was younger), whose gameplay is indeed unpredictable because of the rolling of dice. The dice signify the concept of “chance” or “fate,” which then contributes to a varying or uncertain journey around the game board.

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The title of “Collect 200” was then developed as a diminutive of the name of the starting box in Monopoly–which is “Collect $200 Salary As You Pass Go.” I’d chosen this part of the game board as a title because it represents the starting and ending point of a journey, in addition to being a place that provides free money. For anyone who has experience playing the game, “Collect 200” is a phrase often said by players throughout a game session, because players are eager to collect money. In a sense, reaching or passing through “Collect 200” is each player’s goal—something that keeps them going. But getting to that box is not easy, especially when all the properties on the board have been bought by players, and you are required to pay rent when you land on a property you don’t own. Suddenly, the free money is no longer just that, it becomes a form of “reward” for completing the circuit and surviving the game.

Indeed, there are many aspects of the board game that can describe love even further, but I’ve only summarized the most important ones in the short draft of the narrative I’ve written during the weekend. Hopefully I can develop more ideas as I go along, but for now I just wanted to introduce what I’ve worked out so far.

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Thin Line Between Love and Life

How you define love is similar to how you define life. It’s how you see the world and how you react to whatever life throws at you. You have the option of holding on to life or letting go. Whichever you choose tells a little bit of your values, and what you hold dear.

A lot of things won’t make sense, and you don’t know why things happen. At first you think you know what you’re doing, but later on you realize that you totally had no idea on how to go on. And so you experiment. But you’re not 100% sure if things will work your way or not. And then you learn from mistakes.

Be prepared to feel baffled, disappointed, frustrated, ecstatic, intrigued, impressed, and a whole lot more of crazy emotions. Life wasn’t meant to be always easy. Sometimes we have to experience pain and grief to be able to fully grasp the idea of happiness, however fleeting it might be.

There’s bound to be conflicts between people, because each person’s definition of life is different. How you make use of your time and resources throughout your lifetime speaks loudly of what you want from it. Of course, we may be cautious occasionally, especially when we’re comparing our investments and dividends/returns. No one wants to be on the losing side, unless you’re the type of person who is content with giving rather than taking.

Symbolism

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The ideograph of a red heart (displayed on Taipei 101) is widely known and recognized all around the world. Even young children learning their letters and shapes are being taught to associate the shape with the word “heart” and “love.” Valentine’s cards, balloons, and even cakes being sold sometimes come in this shape. There are three theories (none of which can be proven to be more valid than the others) of how the heart symbol came about: it was modeled after the human heart; the form and shape of the female body; and following the shape of the Silphium plant seed.

To the curious, the human heart is nowhere close to the shape of a real heart. If you’ve never seen an image of a real heart, this cartoon/drawing version might help:

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Stock photo from Susology

It’s not quite the same, right? It doesn’t appear to be symmetric, nor does it taper to a sharp point at the bottom, even when looking at it from different angles.But then, there are some people who might argue that the human heart resembles the heart symbol we’ve all been accustomed to. Their interpretation of how the human heart appears to them could be different from how we look at it (in an objective manner, of course).

There are even people who associate the heart symbol with the female torso—the pattern made by the breasts to the genitals (some even say the buttocks). I honestly don’t know what to make of this, but it is just a theory anyway.

The third theory is related to the now-extinct plant seed of silphium, which was traded in the 7th century BC in Cyrene. It was originally used as a seasoning, but it was later used as a form of birth-control. The seedpod of the plant looked a lot like the heart symbol we are familiar with, and this shape was found in the Cyrene coins.

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Photo from Heartsmith

So how did it happen that when we see the ♥ or ♡ shape, we easily remember it to be a representation of a heart? I think we’ll never know, considering even the history of it cannot be traced. Nor would we know how that symbol became popular. I’m guessing the heart symbol only became widely popular  after the 1800’s or 1900’s, because people wrote love letters using more of poetic words than graphic symbols.

I believe the usage of the heart symbol has simplified the act of expressing love, even though the symbol has decreased the necessity of articulating what a person really means. When using language, a person has to think of (or try to grasp) the word that best describes their exact feelings. With graphics, one can simply use the heart symbol, but the recipient cannot accurately gauge the extent of the sender’s feelings, just that they know the “love” exists. And I think that’s the complex thing about graphics or symbolism nowadays—it can be interpreted in so many ways. Nevertheless, what really matters is its capability to express ideas and emotions.

 

References:
The Shape of My Heart
Silphium  

Inspirations for Change

I’ve never really liked science (mostly biological sciences) or mathematics when I was young. As I’ve mentioned in one of my previous posts, I’ve been more into reading fiction than anything else. I disliked reading school-related textbooks, probably just like every other “average” kid in the world. It was also the time that I wanted to learn more about different languages like Spanish and Japanese (which I still haven’t done). Having read fiction books for years, I knew I was much better in English grammar, spelling, and vocabulary than my other classmates. But for science and math, I did not really mind if I didn’t excel in them.

Overcoming Mathematics

When I stepped into my third year in high school, we had a really funny and kindhearted Geometry teacher. His way of teaching was very different from others–he taught in a lively manner, and he was always smiling despite the students providing the wrong answer. Instead of frowning, he would say some witty comment and encourage another student to try figuring out the problem. I believe many of the students liked him, even if they did not completely understand the lessons.

Geometry was the subject in which I did not have to worry about solving problems numerically. Instead, we were taught about proofing–we had to prove that one triangle was equal to another based on theorems and corollaries. I had no idea why or how, just that I began to like (and appreciate) math just because I suddenly “understood” the logic of proofing. I was actually excited to learn more about math; and when a classmate would ask how I got the answer, I was happy to explain the process to them. And sure enough, my efforts paid off and began to excel in that class.

Fourth-year Physics and Trigonometry ended being not so bad, either. The teachers were less dynamic than the Geometry teacher, but they were nice. Yes, we were back to numerical calculations, but the science and math subjects were not as intimidating as before. Our Geometry teacher showed us that math can be interesting–that we could learn how to like math despite its complexity. He also displayed a very inspiring love for teaching and for God. Having studied in a Christian school, he was probably the first non-Bible teacher who would encourage us to have faith in God. And, the last I heard of him, he had attended a Biblical seminary in order to serve in the ministry.

When I attended university for my undergraduate, despite my initial fears of failing in my math classes (mainly because I did not do well during my primary and the first two years of secondary education), I actually didn’t have much difficulty. Yes, the Plane Geometry was confusing at first, but the other math-related subjects I took for the next four years were not as bad as I thought. Some of them (like Engineering Statics) were pretty easy because I’ve learnt them during my high school Physics class.

Embracing the Sciences

When asked why I chose to study Architecture for my undergraduate, my immediate response would be “Because I want to be an architect.” And the second reason was (which I thought made good sense to me at that time) “I can’t imagine myself studying any Pre-Medicine course. I prefer math than science.” And this was true for many years. Or at least until I was in fourth year of my undergraduate studies.

During that four year, we were required to enroll for a General Psychology class, which I expected not to like. My older sister had studied Psychology for her undergraduate, and I knew she had taken many biological science subjects. I remember her reading many textbooks and class notes, studying for exams, and even taking the cadaver of a cat home to dissect it late at night (I accompanied her in the garage while she dissected the cat). And I didn’t understand why she had to study all those Anatomy, Zoology, Biology classes. Psychology was a mystery to me—I didn’t know what its purpose was until I had to take that Psych class in college.

What I didn’t expect was that my complete aversion (and avoidance) of sciences lessened as I learned more about the history and branches of Psychology. I read our considerably-thin Psych textbook, and ended up doing additional independent research (a.k.a. surfing the Net/Google) about how Psychology could be related to Architecture. Sure enough, there was a branch of Psychology that did apply Psychology concepts to Architecture—Environmental Psychology. Since then, I have occasionally watched TV documentaries (mostly BBC) and audio lectures (from Yale’s OpenCourseWare) to learn more about the field. I grew more and more fascinated about Psych, and a little bit of Neuroscience. It is actually interesting how they are all interrelated—I hope to someday learn more about how people’s behavior can affect architectural design and vice-versa.

Putting Them All Together

Truly, I am grateful for that Geometry teacher and Psych instructor for inspiring me to do better; to not fear failure just because I had one or two mistakes on my exam; to believe in my own skills and abilities; and, most of all, to not fear change. The change I refer to is the change in my interests, preferences, and dreams

One would think that it’s important to stay dedicated or committed to a decision, but I think at this point in my life, I think change is good. I’ve been too used to staying in one place and doing the same things like other people. But taking risks (like my decision to apply for graduate studies in Taiwan) is an adventure by itself—I wouldn’t be able to know my limits if I didn’t attempt to push myself towards anything. Experiencing more things provided me with new ideas (whether school-related or just random stuff), and those experiences definitely enhanced my perception of the world around me.

Self-Love

I was checking my Facebook account when I came across a few interesting text-graphics. It’s simple, straightforward, and makes sense.

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There are occasions wherein we worry so much about what other people would think about us, hoping they would like us if we behave like them. Or at least act like the way you think would appeal to them. Humans are social creatures; I doubt there’s anyone who would willingly isolate themselves from society (unless you’re eccentric like Edward Scissorhands). We want to fit in, be able to carry a casual conversation with someone, and expand our social circles. But somewhere along the way, you discover that your personality and identity just doesn’t match/click with a certain group. So you have to make a choice—whether change yourself to fit in with that group, or step away in order to retain yourself.  And so you distance yourself from them, all the while feeling awkward and lonely. Then you move on with your life, thinking there must surely be another group of people who would appreciate you in your entirety. Sure enough, you realize that those kind of friends have been around you for years, and just didn’t realize it.

They’re the type of friends who support you in everything you do, and gives you comments/criticisms/suggestions without fear of offending you. You may have totally different interests, work in different fields/industries, come from different walks of life–the fact remains that you simply enjoy talking to each other (about anything and everything under the sun). They would understand and not take it against you if you have to cancel on a meet-up or appointment, whether your excuse is that you’re busy with work, or too lazy to go out. They accept you for who you are; they do not force you to change your behavior/habits (unless it’s a bad vice that would put your health and life at risk, of course).

And then you realize that because these friends have accepted you–faults and all, you begin to love yourself a little bit more. You learn to appreciate yourself–your dreams, ideas, skills (life, academic, professional), values, personality, looks. And after getting to know different kinds of people, you realize that you’re happier being yourself than trying to change who you are.

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Observing Love part one

Before I even thought of writing about my own interests, I was already inspired by many people who were doing their own thing, because they had the passion for it. What they do may not make sense to us (if not now, maybe never at all), nor will it be fully appreciated, but sometimes they just don’t care what other people think. They are happy doing/creating something, and that’s what really matters.

I’m pretty sure you’ve met someone like that in your life—perhaps a stranger doing spray art in the street (there’s one like that in Ximending actually), a distant relative, an odd classmate or colleague—maybe you’re even one of them. But I’m not saying that it’s good or bad, I just wish to state the existence of these type of people.

Personally, I respect people who, despite the criticisms they receive from others, have made it a point to stand firm in their beliefs, and approach their craft as something valuable to mankind. I don’t have a specific Top Ten list or anything, but I’d like to mention a few people whom I’ve met (if not physically, at least I’m acquainted with them through social networks) that exhibit passion.

Architect Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa

Arch. Mañosa, a Filipino architect and National Artist, is renown for his love of Filipino culture. His architectural designs definitely mirrors that love, and I really admire him for sticking to that belief. I have had the opportunity to meet the legendary Arch. Mañosa in October 2011, when he toured our board exam review class around his house. I admit to being starstruck by him back then, but I was more impressed by how he showed off about the Filipino culture and lifestyle. And he was definitely successful in representing that through his architecture. He actually advocates the existence and the practice of designing Filipino, even though people would argue otherwise.

Indeed, even I am a little hesitant to claim what exactly is designing Filipino, having no firsthand experience of living in bahay kubo (a small hut usually elevated a few meters from the ground) until I visited a distant relative in the province almost 4 years ago. Yes, I knew the basics of what the traditional Filipino house looked like, but I never knew how the people truly lived. And Arch. Mañosa explained how his design accommodated the traditional Filipino lifestyle.

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For example, the house was elevated to almost a full storey high. The kitchen actually faced the main gate, rather than the front door (which was a little to the side), because people in the kitchen would easily see anyone who might ring the doorbell. Also, there were very few doors between every room—the only ones that had an opaque door were the washrooms and the bedrooms. That way, people can conveniently move around the house, and to encourage good air ventilation.

The living room was set in the center of the house, partially enclosed by walls and is illuminated through clerestory windows. Around this living area were several sets of informal tables and chairs, benches. There was no specific dining table in sight—Arch. Mañosa explains that they prefer the freedom to choose wherever they want to sit and eat. They did not need to be confined to one specific table in order to partake of their food.

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The building materials used in his house were organic and native; the way he used bamboo is noteworthy and impressive. Decorative elements in his home were diverse, from wooden spoons, shells/conches, to framed photographs. Arch. Mañosa also showed us the playroom and outdoor custom-made bahay kubo of his grandchildren, demonstrating that he doted on the kids. Even the room in which he uses to relax and watch TV has a miniature table and chairs, most likely to accommodate the kids. Truly, the house was family-oriented, even the shed underneath the main floor of the house were filled with lounge chairs and furniture that encourages interaction between people. There’s even a “treehouse” built in one of the big trees in their yard, to allow people to interact with nature as well.

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Indeed, despite the growing trend towards modern architecture, Arch. Mañosa has always been committed to designing Filipino. He is confident about and proud of his identity as a Filipino, and is encouraging everyone else in the country to be the same. I do hope that somehow this incredible passion would rub off on me, and I could treat my craft as a way of expressing my ideals, values, and hopes to others.

 

To Love Reading

I remember getting hooked to reading was when I was in second grade, and I borrowed books from my cousin’s library. Of course, the books were not too intellectual, they were actually kid’s fiction (Sweet Valley Kids), created by Francine Pascal. Every other week I would visit my cousin’s house to borrow the books and return them the next time I visited. When I got older (and when I’ve finished reading all the books my cousins had on Sweet Valley Kids), I moved on to Sweet Valley Twins, then Sweet Valley High (SVH), and eventually Sweet Valley University (SVU).

I started collecting books when I read SVU, scouring the secondhand bookstores for it whenever I can. By the time I got to high school, I began reading+collecting romance novels because of my bookworm friends. One of my high school friends loved reading historical romance novels, and encouraged me to read Judith McNaught’s novels. And another friend gave me a Judith McNaught novel (Once and Always) for my birthday. Since then, I would buy (mostly secondhand, because new copies were expensive) historical romance novels.

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Reading historical romance novels has always been enjoyable for me, especially when there are interesting plot twists and interactions between the main characters. And I especially like the 19th century setting, where the British peerage was still very much part of the culture. I can’t exactly pinpoint why I’m so interested in that time period, but it’s fascinating to know that people’s actions and behavior were somewhat influenced by their social status and the Ton’s definition of good manners. But I digress.

In addition to collecting novels, I also began buying a few books related to Architecture when I stepped into college. I admit I haven’t read all the books I bought back in college (even until now), but seeing the books on my shelf, I feel happy. Knowing that I can read and access the books whenever I want, I feel a sense of comfort and relief. Now I don’t need to go to a cousin’s house to borrow books, or visit libraries to check-out books (don’t get me wrong, I love libraries too) when I want to read my favorite books.

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When the Internet became popular (I must’ve been in fourth grade then), I learned to surf the web and access websites. Later I found another way of reading stories—online. I got hooked to reading fanfictions (I was so into Japanese animé back then, like Sailormoon) that were uploaded to websites. The technology introduced me to the world of paperless/digital reading, and it allowed me to read fanfictions as long as I had access to a computer and the Internet.

Eventually, electronic books (or e-books) became a widely popular format for reading books. Amazon invented the Kindle, where people can read books displayed using e-ink technology. Although I was only able to get my hands on a 3rd generation Kindle (it was my cousin’s, not mine), I must say that the e-ink technology was brilliant. The text were displayed in a way that looks similar to an actual paperback. I’ve yearned to buy a Kindle, but I finally settled on a Barnes and Noble Nook Color. With the Nook Color, I can read books even at night, just before I go to sleep. Of course, there were many occasions that I slept late because I was too hooked on the story I was reading.

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Indeed, the advent of technology allowed me to support my love of reading. Now, possessing a smartphone allows me to read Kindle-version books I’ve bought from Amazon. Portability has become important for me, hence the reason why I buy some books online. But I still do buy hardbound or paperback books occasionally, when I see them in bookstores. Yes, I can be a shopaholic (remember Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella?), but I find I only have that tendency when it comes to books.