this is a rant and very sad but i think it needs to be preserved here for some sick reason.. happy senior fall, if i make it the next few weeks(more…)
When I made a living out of abstraction, I didn’t know that with it would come a universally-mandated detachment from the self and what is loved. To put it more simply: everything I have known about making, I knew mostly from birth. Now I’m being taught that there are these parts of me that must be freed. All I want is to live my truth.
Creation is the act or process of bringing something into existence. The Google Card (at least when I look it up) suggests that the closest synonym to be design; the act of conception after the coming of the self is the world’s natural order. After I am made, all I must do is make.
All these other things are add-ons, nice-to-haves, far from the key results. When I was growing up and first absorbing the truths of this world (and then later, marking what was ‘truth’ and what was up for debate––the complexity of observation and being), there was nothing more innate to me than production.
Mankind lives, so mankind must create tools. The dawn of this some 2.6 million years ago has dictated the course of history––rather, the course of human history. Rock sparks against rock, one strike against another directed to flint instead of the other, crushes edges of its own device and butchers animal bone. (Another thing is that we too, are animal, but draw this distinction out of convenience, self-preservation, man’s sense of superiority.) Bone fosters bone. Amidst all of its unlikelihood (australopithecine-sized brains), we gut skin and hide off, fastened our teeth against the strain of flesh, detached muscle and traced the grain, split bone open to drink marrow.
Millennia later, I stood against the promise of living in a world of desire and war because the act of toolsmaking would teach me endurance. From struggle and strife, man would create the means to modify the environment, everything––in all of its complexity, abandonment of equilibrium––so that another would never have to fall apart again. Human ambition is at its most meaningful when it’s taken to be collaborative; if our determination extends so far unto selflessness, we consider the limits of humanity than any one man. One man cuts a blade, spears a fish. One man builds upon the acts of a million man before him, whether he knows it or not. Suddenly, this collectivism makes the world seem far less alone than it normally does.
From conflict and hatred, man reconsiders meaning. Pain affords itself as a utility. I drive a better self, and subsequently, a better world.
For the world to be interesting, you have to be manipulating it all the time.Brian Eno
Toolsmaking becomes the engine of the world. It comes in all forms: the droll of mass production and its own implications towards the world’s systems, a father reeling from the underside of a trunk and imparting unto his son not only the brilliance of the act but the trust of the world ahead, the light of my screen and windows against the lull of a neighborhood before me.
I’m not here to distinguish between which pixel is realer than the other, or the interest in the metareality and the nature of imparting our interactions into the cyberspace. The role of a technologist ultimately, is the act of toolsmaking. Design is almost the same as creation. Design (no matter how feeble the human brain is later described to be as) comes making, even if we drop the tool and never pick it up again. My consciousness, after all, holds both the conditions and memories and the desire to change––timelines melding, potentiality seen in both the past, present, and future. The process of ‘manifesting’ falls somewhere here: creation too, is the act of manifestation, the changing of ourselves so it comes into the world of appearance. After all, man has directed the world for centuries uncountable against our own fingers (even if to a path of self-destruction), so too can we follow it into the grave.
All this to say that I am tired, alternatively, of the premise that creation means productivity––especially in the laborious sense. Here, the designer is the saddest kind for playing with pixels and photographs on the weekend; for immersing themselves and recognizing the ever-shifting world before them. Creation has become mangled with labor in a world that demands man to monetize all of their hobbies and pursuits. In return, it seems empty, almost sad, really––to be the designer spending weekends again on the screen.
I’ve spent a whole summer thinking about what I do for “fun”, and how the increased consciousness of the workplace makes it all the more damning: e.g. I introduce myself with they/them pronouns that everyone immediately forgets, and then hobbies where I must avoid saying I like doing what I do here for fun otherwise people who talk about maintaining succulents have this weird sense of scorn for you.
To tell you what I like to do in the weekends, I like to do the sad thing. (To be more precise, nowadays, it’s more about wanting to do the “sad” thing and hoping no one judges me for it.) I draw the blinds, I listen to the same indie music, and I sit in front of the world and make for it.
The ‘good’ people tell you to detach your life from your workspace, but this summer, I think I’ve just realized how much I adore what I have the luxury of working on everyday. A mangled sense of dictating what one finds ‘valid’, I am the saddest kind of designer who only knows design: its form, its unlearning, all the things it could be. I choose it for all its potency.
Perhaps this seems like someone who lives and breathes design is asking for pity. Less so that. It’s that design, once a malleable act imbued with tenderness, has lost its connection with self-expression & desire and has become one of the many things we cast off for the weekend. It was my weekend, it was my everyday, it was my entire world. There is no shortage of the enormity of gratitude I bear for how my career is not ‘intensive’ or mechanically laborious like the many others: I sit at a computer, and sometimes there I have the audacity to think I can change the world. Many times, I think I have––depending on your scope of what the world is. Sixteen putting together the terrible graphics that would turn into the face for one of Asia’s largest pride festivals, eighteen touching over a million Filipinos as the elections encroached, twenty…
Twenty-one and uncertain again about the things I love and am good at. I should have gotten over this a decade ago. There’s no use for precarity here: I was born into something and must fall into it again.
I want to live my life in pursuit of something. I am so lucky that this pursuit can happen in the day, in the night, and is a truth that I can (mostly) say with freedom and no fear of respite. I do what my ancestors have done when it was necessary to live, and now I reinvent what the act of invention itself means. Design is moving, design is synonymous with creation, design is the act of telling my story, design is the process entrusted onto me after years of being, design is maintenance, design is fluid and collaborative, design is loving to the point of invention, design is about people, for people.
There are stories I only have so much time to tell. With the gift of this craft, I have so much of the world to veer towards, a relative history of my own being and the things I solve for me that others may find use in carrying, and sometimes even the sadistic idea that my death will then impart some revelations to the others. Design is my form of resilience, a form of self-preservation, and a form of revolt ingrained. Design is ontological, divine, mine. My very familiarity with how the systems among it can cede to numbers, shelter false narratives, and rehabilitate potentialities lost to time tells me that the uncertainty of circumstance––and the certainty of how I myself, in all of human singularity and with the tools of my forefathers before me, can create something tangible––positions us far from cessation.
The necessity of invention means that to make for people, the self, to maintain the world around, to bestow unto the next the artifacts we have made to sustain ourselves in a never-ending fight for survival has meant something to ourselves and the universe for a long time. It is marvelous. It is my whole self, long before I have known.
So in the weekend, I make. I make not because it’s the only thing I have ever known, but because it’s the most certain way forward.
I moved into Seattle about four days ago and will be here for the next three or so months! Everything is immensely bumpy and my first Sunday touchdown bursted blisters on my feet. Breaking in wounds feels almost like the ritual of renewal.
I think about how five years ago, I never thought that I would be in the places I am now. I mean this in the physical sense moreso than the experiential — and I think that disconnect is what I’ve been reconciling with for decades. I know I was going to do good work in Manila, under the same familiar blistering sun that sets at 9PM in the Seattle evening as opposed to 4:30PM on the way home from school. I didn’t know that I would be tangibly placed so far from everything familiar–in a state where I know little to nothing but the companies situated here (Amazon, Microsoft) and some vague notes about my friends who go to school here but aren’t presently here (watching people take graduation photos in front of a W, trying to process how people live out four years of their lives here in less-than-four short months).
Living stagnant for 18 years and seeing little else than the same roadways messes up your sense of perception and wonder–at least it did for me. Suddenly I don’t know how to take things in. I still feel as naive as to think that I can absorb the history and atmosphere of every place I step foot in within moments–as if my footsteps can’t retrace the experiences of those who lived past; and I fall victim to the condescending pull of time who makes me feel as if I have the resource to spend another decade or so dwelling in something. I find it cruel suddenly that the world is so enormous, beautiful, and designed for us to stay sedentary. All I experience is framed through what I can bring back to Manila… teach to the people I’ve loved… I take the schools and thought and miraculous moments and hope to rekindle them in places that simply do not have the same structures to maintain this wonder. I underestimate the grandeur of place. The endless gratitude we give to the people who discover these lands, rediscover them, and have birthed them for those who dare reclaim it hundreds of years later.
Nothing is really mine. I stay in this city to feel it in for a few months, and perhaps that alone suffices. Inwards, I build my own city and kingdom. People are alive, unforgiving, relentless in the pursuit of living. Oftentimes this acts in direct disagreement with the nature of institutions: ever-so-grand, persistent, abiding of customs. Human nature is fundamentally against constants; thus life is about merely reducing the number of variables at play, thus ‘settling down’ in the traditional sense implies the creation of new life and til-death-do-us-part, thus we have broken a world that demanded more nurturing, still actors.
I wonder then, why prestige is distinguished by the volume and breadth of those who recognize us instead of the depth of singular being–almost omniscient of our efforts and worth?
Depth triumphs. I wish to be understood by one over all. The cities I love are run by those born in it, empathetic of every minute experience. Suddenly the bargain stores that frame the streets with signs that talk of their 24 years of running, the ever-changing and constantly-empty gardens, and the empty parking lots feel much more resonant with these cities than anything else designed to appeal to the nomad like me… where time is the most valuable resource, understanding how it has withered places in areas where it never feels the need to be unnaturally kempt.
I twist my ankles on the same hills that have long carved these grounds. Go to tourist spots, because cheesy is cheesy but cheesy is often built by those who seek to highlight what they most love. Closely note how the same sun rises and falls ever so slightly different… the way a city that knows any interim visitor likes me is still worth kissing gold.
If you’re around Seattle or have recommendations for what I should check out, definitely let me know! I’m here until the end of August — and very excited for all to come.