Tilya-Kori Madrash: Communicating Non-verbally Through Architecture

In this essay, I’ll write about Tilya-Kori Madrasah and what I perceive as the ‘architectural thought’ conveyed in its design. Architectural Thought as defined by Michael Brawne in his bookArchitectural Thought: The Design Process and the Expectantis “… primarily non-verbal thought.” Architects, or designers in general, have the power to convey something non-verbally either through drawings, models, or the structure itself. Though that is not to say that they are the only ones who can communicate non-verbally, there are musicians, artists, filmmakers too. However, in this paper, I’ll be focusing on an architectural work.

Tilya-Kori Madrasah is a mosque and a school building in Uzbekistan. It is mostly known for its facade adorned with rich patterns. In general, Islamic Architecture is very much detailed and adorned with intricate designs and those designs are what I perceive as the architectural thought of Tilya-Kori Madrasah. Something that isn’t verbal to begin with, but it communicates and resonates with people.

Tilya-Kori Madrasah. Retrieved from https://www.orientalarchitecture.com/sid/1349/uzbekistan/samarkand/tilya-kori-madrasa

Islamic Architecture are mosques with the exception (or probably the only exception) of Taj Mahal, because it is a mausoleum. It’s highly important to point out that patterns, for them, are simply not just to make the structure appear more visually appealing. It’s deeper than that. The patterns are connected to the emotion ‘awe’ which then leads to transcendent, spiritual joy,

The emotion that we feel as we see large-scale structures or natural landforms like mountain ranges or cathedrals is called awe. It’s related to the feeling of “small”-ness and this feeling is one step closer to transcendence. Having this enormous thing in front of you can get you off your mind and instead focus on the now. Then, the mind goes for the patterns. 

In the book Architecture of Happiness, philosopher Alain de Botton explains why islamic architecture is adorned with patterns, “Muslim artisans covered the walls of houses and mosques with repeating sequences of delicate and complicated geometries, through which the infinite wisdom of God might be intimated. This ornamentation, so pleasingly intricate on a rug or a cup, was nothing less than hallucinatory when applied to an entire hall. Eyes accustomed to seeing only the practical and humdrum objects of daily life could, inside such a room, survey a world shorn of all associations with the everyday. They would sense a symmetry, without quite being able to grasp its underlying logic. Such works were like the products of a mind with none of our human limitations, of a higher power untainted by human coarseness and therefore worthy of unconditional reverence.” That is the architectural thought that I perceive in the mosque above.

The pattern in the facade has the ability to resonate with people even if it’s, in a sense, non-readable. Alongside with the huge-scale, the patterns can stop your mind from ruminating and get lost in the beauty of something that you do not usually see in the mundane of life, something that is Allah-like*. 

From their usual state, people will begin to feel awe, solely from its huge presence alone, and then the patterns will have transcended them and that this is a place of Allah. of someone holy and larger than the rest of us. 

To end, in general, the designers of every islamic architecture building wanted its people to feel the presence of Allah from the buildings itself and to have the buildings support them through their religious journey. This is my view on architectural thought of Tilya-Kori Madrasah and I dare say that it’s interesting how they can make people feel even without actually “saying” something and that is also what’s interesting about architecture- the ability to convey narratives through design.

*In context, I used the word “Allah” instead of “God” out of respect as I am discussing an example of Islamic Architecture

Learning A New Language (ft. Schema Theory)

Kids learn a new language (or, arguably, any skill) better than adult beginners.

In the book, Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning, author Tom Vanderbilt shared what he and his daughter’s chess coach’s answer to the question, what was difference between teaching child chess beginners and adult chess beginners,

He thought for a moment and said, “Adults need to explain to themselves why they play what they play.” Kids, he said, “don’t do that.” He compared it to languages. “Beginner adults learn the rules of grammar and pronunciation and use those to put sentences together. Little kids learn languages by talking.

His answer made Vanderbilt reflect on his and his daughter’s learning experience,

My daughter was, in effect, learning chess like a first language, whereas I was learning it like a second language. Even more important, she was learning it young...

By contrast, because I am an adult, expert speaker of English, my brain may be so “tuned” to the sounds of my native language that it is harder for me to take on new grammar. What I know already gets in the way of what I want to learn. Kids, by knowing less, can actually learn more.

While its easier to learn different languages as a kid as aforementioned, we, adults, can utilize our experiences (which is certainly much vast and broad compared to kids) to make up for our age. This is best described by Linguistic Schemata Theory.

According to The Evolllution (2018), “Linguistic schemata refer to a reader’s existing language proficiency in vocabulary, grammar and jargon. Without it, it may be impossible for the reader to decode and subsequently comprehend the text. “

For example, when I was first learning Hangul, I used my knowledge in English to memorize the alphabet better. In Hangul, ㄹ is pronounced like the letter ‘r’ in Roman Alphabet. To memorize it, I connected the letter ㄹ to the word ‘rattlesnake’ since the letter looked like it. Another example, I used to associate the letter ㅁ (which sounds like the letter ‘m’) to the word ‘map’ because of its rectangle shape.

I am having a hard time because the grammar and pronunciation of Hangul is extremely different from Filipino and English. But because of my experiences, I can make learning Hangul less harder than how it should be like.

All of these just boils down to: Learning can be hard as we grow older (take the boomers that struggle with new technology today as an example) but we cannot deny that our past experiences make learning less harder. Yet, even though learning something new makes my head ache (research has confirmed that learning something new really makes your head ache), learning and growing gives me so much joy.

My nights are filled with “I’m better than who I was yesterday.” and my mornings with excitement, “In which area will I improve today?”

I Go Where I Look

When I’m doing school works, every after a few minutes, I will hear someone saying, “Pabili po! (Can I buy…?)”. Right then, I have to stop whatever I’m doing and attend to the customer immediately. This does not only happen when I’m doing school works, I’m expected to look after the store even while I’m in classes.

In context, our home has a small neighborhood store on its front, and my task is to attend to it while I’m doing school works. Also, there are times when my mom will call for me to do household chores.

I’m not complaining at all. I have long accepted that this is my life, for now. It’s no use to fight against it. It’s my responsibility. Though, the amount of interruptions that happen to me every day is extremely unhealthy. I’m almost worried about how my attention span will be like in the long-term.

Studies have shown that once you got interrupted by something that you are working on, it takes more or less 25 minutes to get your brain focused again on the task at hand. For instance, if I get interrupted while drawing, I have to attend to a customer for a minute, and it would take me 25 minutes to get back to focusing again. When that happens, I, sometimes, find myself doomscrolling.

While online classes have benefits (no need to travel, lesser time in classes, etc.), this is one thing that I struggle with: my attention span. I had a hard time focusing on something for a long time because it’s like my brain’s on alert mode most of the time like it’s saying, “I know that I’ll get interrupted at any minute now so I’m not gonna focus so much in this task.” This awareness keeps me away from flow

When I wanted to focus, I either go to my room to write or wake up before the sun rises, to get some peace. But still, I know that I waste a lot of time each day because of the constant interruption.

We go where we look

Grammy-Award winning music superstar and actor Tim McGraw says, “I go where I look.”

He explains further, “Look left-the TV’s reporting breaking news! Look right- that person is way fitter than you! Look down- I bet work has e-mailed you and they need an answer now! There’s nothing that will tempt you to change the channel on what you’re doing- or hit pause entirely- like asking your body to perform harder than normal… If you look down and get caught in distraction or comparison or endless bad news, that’s where you go- down and stuck. If you check your phone between sets or take sly selfies at the weight rack, it doesn’t just disrupt your personal effort, it sabotages any chance of achieving a sense of flow, it disconnects you from your body, and if you’re exercising in a gym, it also drags down everyone else in the room.”

I go where I look- a principle that I am practicing nowadays. Whenever it’s the rush hour (the hour when a lot of people come and buy stuff from our store), I stopped doing academic work and focused on the store. During classes, when I’m tempted to open my social media on a new tab, I repeat this mantra: I go where I look.

If I have a class, that’s where I go. If I’m reading a book, that’s where I go. When I have an immensely hard time focusing, I go for a timer. I set an hour to do the task and focused on it for an hour. So far, it works all of the time. The idea that “One hour. Only one hour of my 24 hours that I have to do this thing. Then, I could go back to being a wasteman or whatever.” is great.

On the contrary, when I’m done, I’m more determined to do another “one hour to accomplish something”. When I think of the things that I needed to do in “one-hour blocks”, I get more things done. It’s because this sense that ‘it’s going to take me a whole day to finish this certain task’ is gone. The task becomes much more bearable because it’s only an hour and not two or five hours. Just one hour of my twenty-four hours.

Going back, while my circumstances cannot be changed and my attention span might worsen, so far, the “I go where I look” mantra had been extremely helpful. It helped me eliminate a lot of things that I do not need to focus on, and instead, I follow my gaze and go where I am looking.

As I Wake Up Every Day, I’m Always At The Bottom of the Mountain

Just like in every post that I wrote, I am struggling in writing this post. Hence, every after writing something, I’m washed with mixed emotions- joy that I get to create something and dread because it doesn’t end there; there are still more ideas waiting to be written.

I started journalling five years ago and yet, I still struggle with writing. Author Dani Shapiro perfectly captures this feeling as she wrote in her book, Still Writing,

“When writers who are starting out ask me when it gets easier, my answer is never. It never gets easier. I don’t want to scare them, so rarely say more than that, but the truth is that if anything, it gets harder. The writing life isn’t just filled with predictable uncertainties but with the awareness that we are always starting over again. That everything we ever write will be flawed. We may have written one book, or many, but all we know— if we know anything at all—is how to write the book we’re writing. All novels are failures. Perfection itself would be a failure. All we can hope is the we will fail better. That we won’t succumb to the fear of the unknown. That we will not fall prey to the easy enchantments of repeating what may have worker in the past. I try to remember that the job — as well as the plight, and the unexpected joy — of the artist is to embrace uncertainly, to be sharpened and honed by it. To be birthed by it. Each time we come to the end of a piece of work, we have failed as we have leapt—spectacularly, brazenly—into the unknown.”

But I know my younger self wrote diligently on her journal not because she believed it will be easier in the future, but because she just wanted to write.

Right now, I struggle in writing probably more than how I felt five years ago. However, just like what Dani Shapiro wrote, when I’m struggling, I try to remember the joy of creating something, the joy of having my thoughts realized, and the clarity that comes when I started to jot down what’s troubling me.

Write, write, write and read, read, read

The last few days are when I felt like my brain was a desert.

I had a hard time stringing sentences together. I have no idea on how to angle the article that I was working on. I tried to sleep on it but when I woke up, I felt guilty because I haven’t finished writing the article. I still have no idea on how I’ll present the narrative of the person that I was featuring and yet, here I was, sleeping.

Stephen King advised, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut… If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”

I recently gave all my time in finishing requirements (end of the semester season) and this is the reason why my creative juices are frozen like a lake during winter; I stopped journaling and reading. My lack of input does not only affect how I write articles, it left me quite irritated, having trouble concentrating, and sleepy.

“Creativity reduces anxiety, depression, and stress… And it can also help you process trauma.” writes author and podcast host Ashley Stahl in Forbes, “Studies have found that writing helps people manage their negative emotions in a productive way, and painting or drawing helps people express trauma or experiences that they find too difficult to put in to words.”

My lack of activity in terms of my hobbies affected me psychologically and the people around me as well.

Fortunately, after hours of reading and writing, I’m more better. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a hard time writing like I wrote in the first paragraph. By reading and writing a lot, I had better flow of how the sentences in my article come tome together but that doesn’t mean that writing is not hard or that writing is labor.

Every day, no matter how many posts I’ve wrote in the past few days or months, when I face a blank piece of paper, I can feel that I am at the bottom of the mountain.

“Improvement is battle that must be fought anew each day.” writes James Clear in his 3-2-1 weekly newsletter, “You next workout doesn’t care how strong your last one was. Your next essay doesn’t care how popular your last one was… Your best effort, again.”

“So everything that I had worked before was useless, or irrelevant even?”

No. It wasn’t. I’ve written a lot in those five years and the fact that I still struggle with writing until now, doesn’t mean that what I did was all for nothing. As Jake Butcher puts it, “We all make forgettable things in the pursuit of making less forgettable things.”

To label which ones we make are forgettable or unforgettable is not up to us, because our job is to do the work. That’s it.

Austin Kleon wrote in his blog, “Bill Cunningham in Bill Cunningham New York, who gets up every day, gets on his bike, and takes pictures. Joan Rivers in Piece Of Work, who, right up until her death, was playing gig after gig. And Jiro, from Jiro Dreams of Sushi, who gets up everyday and makes the sushi.

These are the people I think we should be looking to for inspiration —
the people who every day of their lives, they get up do the work, regardless of success or failure.”

Whether what I create is a success or a failure, it is not within my hands anymore. I’ve done the work. I’m now going on to the next, which would take me again to the bottom of the mountain. Nevertheless, I enjoy the process of trekking up and down as much as I enjoy the feeling of being on the peak.

Grateful For The Hard Things

The first semester for this academic year has ended. It was the longest semester (five months) and the semester where I struggled the most.

While it may be easier to be angry at how big the academic workload is, how a lot of our professors never actually teach us, etc., I wanted to relieve my experiences and be grateful for each and everything that happened. I wanted to honor what I had experienced because I am aware that no experience is a waste. Everything happens for a reason. Everything that happened had made my soul grow. For that, I cannot be grateful enough.

“Our experiences—both sweet and sour—are lessons. We honor those lessons by writing them down so we can study them and see what they have to teach us. This is how we learn, this is how we grow. If we forfeit the opportunity to learn from our experiences, as the saying goes, we condemn ourselves to repeat our mistakes.”

– Ryder Caroll

I am grateful for the heavy academic workload. This is a hard thing to admit, or even, to say. When there are so many things to do that it piles up like walls surrounding you, you tend to not see what’s out there—your loved ones, the environment around you, and other things that give you joy. Surprisingly, due to my heavy workload, I learned how to prioritize my health and my family. I learned how to set boundaries for myself. I learned how to deal with the voice in the back of my head that says, “You shouldn’t be sleeping or reading right now. You shouldn’t be playing with your family. You got plates to do.” even when I had worked already for almost 12 hours. I learned to not worry about the things that some people think are what’s important for me instead, give only a f*** on the things that are meaningful to me.

“Finding something important and meaningful in your life is the most productive use of your time and energy. This is true because every life has problems associated with it and finding meaning in your life will help you sustain the effort needed to overcome the particular problems you face. Thus, we can say that the key to living a good life is not giving a f*** about more thing, but rather, giving a f*** only about the things that align with your personal values.”

– James Clear’s 3-sentence summary of the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck

I am grateful for my org work. I enjoy my org work a lot but, it was a challenge to write articles for my org on top of my skyscraper academic work. However, the articles that I wrote for my org were one of the things that brought joy to my life. Throughout the first semester, it was heartwarming to meet new people, listen to their stories, and allow them to be heard. What a joy to connect with people even without being physically present.

I am grateful for my assignments in History of Architecture that requires us to render a lot of architecture from Asian countries. This one’s too specific but I was truly grateful for this academic work because I got to practice my skills. We grow a lot through quantity and I am grateful that it was a lot, because then I had a lot opportunities to practice.

I am grateful that some professors do not teach. This one was hard to say as well. But at most times this semester, their lack of teaching led me to take responsibility for my own education. However, I still need someone to guide me whether my understanding of the subject matter is correct or not. Though overall, the best thing that I could get from this experience is that instead of putting it in other people’s hands, I am the one holding the reins of my education.

I am grateful that I spent the semester in my home. There are a lot of things that I do not like in the online mode of studying but the silver lining in the situation is that I got to read more books, I had more time to spend with my family, I got to focus more on my personal growth, and I got to help around the house.

Being grateful for the hard things was inspired by Ryan Holiday’s practice.

“Now in the mornings, when I journal, I try to do this as often as I can. I try to find ways to express gratitude not for the things that are easy to be grateful for, but for what is hard.” writes Ryan Holiday in his blog, “Gratitude for that nagging pain in my leg, gratitude for that troublesome client, gratitude for that delayed flight, gratitude for that damage from the storm. Because it’s making me take things slow, because its helping me develop better boundaries, because some flights are going to be delayed and I’m glad it wasn’t a more important flight, because the damage could have been worse, because the damage exposed a more serious problem that now we’re solving. And on and on.”

While I cannot change what happened, this practice of being grateful for the hard things allows me to see that there a lot of things outside of my control. I can only control how I react to it. Also, it allows me to enjoy what happened.

“Instead of simply accepting what happens, they urge us to actually enjoy what has happened—whatever it is. Nietzsche coined the perfect expression to capture this idea: amor fati (a love of fate). It’s not just accepting, it’s loving everything that happens.” – Ryan Holiday

Its better to look back knowing that I did not take my experiences for granted. Whether they were hard or easy, they are important, because they taught me something.

Note: I am grateful for a lot of things for the past semester- people, books, music, the sun, etc. But as stated from the title, I am focusing on the hard things. The ones that are hard to be grateful for (at first glance).

5 Things That I Want To Guide Me As I Turn 20

In the introduction of their book, So Who’s Counting?, authors Emily Luchetti and Erin McHugh wrote, “But really, things are just beginning to happen. We’re healthier, we live longer than the generations before us; we have later-in-life careers; we go on dating websites; we’re more engaged and travel farther. Older is getting younger every day.

It’s important to note that these two amazing women, Luchetti and McHugh, are both in their 60s at the time of the book publication. That is why their introduction resonated with me so much. They are in their 60s and feel that they still have so much time to do things that they wanted whereas I know a lot of people who are in their 20s that feel like it’s too late to try something new.

In a few days, I’ll turn decades old and there are three things that I want to remember as I’ll begin my journey to another decade wherein I’ll graduate college, get a job, and move out of my parent’s house.

  • To feel as if time is “slowing down”, do/learn something new every day.

I have read countless posts from people in their 20s-40s that say that they feel like time moves faster compared to when they were kids. This is because when we were kids, we are constantly exposed to new things, experiences, and learning. We even have spontaneous night-outs with friends. However, when we graduate from college and get a job, our days somehow get repetitive except for occasional events and day-offs.

Novelty creates the feeling of a “long” day. On the other hand, when we do the same thing every day (ex. wake up-shower-eat-work-eat-work-shower-sleep), it feels like time’s slipping away.

The more I get older, the more I am susceptible to the barrenness of a busy life. I might get caught up with work and one day, I wake up and found out that I am already 33 or 42. 

To savor life and make the most of everything while I am still here, I’ll do something new every day or simply, continuing to follow my curiosities.

Reading a mind-boggling novel. Learning how to *insert any form of art*. Learning a new language. Learning a new topic. Writing my experiences every day. Writing something interesting.

  • Whatever happens, continue doing things that are meaningful to you.

I may be worrying about my studies right now and the next three years or so. But after that, I’ll worry about my job next. There will never be a perfect situation. There will always be something.

One thing that will keep me grounded and have healthier well-being amidst everything is to do the things that I find meaningful.

I struggled a lot during the last few months and one of the things that helped me cope up with it is through interviews and listening to peoples’ stories, sharing it through writing, talking with my friends and family, sun-bathing, writing in my journal, and reading a book. These actions are the typical things that bring joy to my life.

And I hope, even in the succeeding years, I will not forget to choose joy.

  • Optimize, literally, for tomorrow.

This past year, I realize how much of my small daily actions affected my life positively. Reading and writing constantly helped me tremendously in terms of generating ideas- saved me tons of time and I’m able to do more meaningful work. Whatever I do today, it adds up. Just continue.

  • Don’t rush. Live life. Experience it.

This is life. Yes, there are problems, probably, everywhere, but that’s part of life. I may leave the world tomorrow or next year. I might as well take advantage of what’s in front of me right now. Savoring every food my mother cooks. Treasuring the free time that I have from school for my hobbies (because I may never get this chance again when I graduate and have a job). Soaking up the, still, warm sunlight right now because, in a month or two, the sunlight will get too warm that it will hurt my skin whenever I am outside.

Whatever that’s in front of me right now. I am gonna treasure it and experience it fully because I may never have the same opportunity again.

Looking at it more deeply, nothing really changes except that I am much closer to death than the years before and I had a higher number to write/say in a question that asks, “How old are you?”

But, the beauty in birthdays is that it allows you to reassess yourself- your priorities, desires, wants, dreams, and goals. Birthdays are a perfect example of beginning something. If we fail to achieve some goals, there are still 85 more days in a year that we can use to begin again.

This is the list, according to When by Daniel Pink:

  • The first day of the month (twelve)
  • Mondays (fifty-two)
  • The first day of spring, summer, fall, and winter (four)
  • Your country’s Independence Day or the equivalent (one)
  • The day of an important religious holiday—for example, Easter, Rosh Hashanah, Eid al-Fitr (one)
  • A loved one’s birthday (one)
  • The first day of school or the first day of a semester (two)
  • The first day of a new job (one)
  • The day after graduation (one)
  • The first day back from vacation (two)
  • The anniversary of your wedding, first date, or divorce (three)
  • The anniversary of the day you started your job, the day you became a citizen, the day you adopted your dog or cat, the day you graduated from school or university (four)
  • The day you finish this book (one)

Finally, this has been my guiding principle the past year and I still want it to guide my life:

“Doubts in one’s creative ability can be cured by guiding people through a series of small successes. And the experience can have a powerful effect on the rest of their lives.” – Tom Kelley & David Kelley, Creative Confidence

I have insecurities. I have self-doubt. I barely have any confidence. I failed a lot more times than I had ever won. I’ve been to rock-bottom so many times that I think I might have married the “rock bottom” itself.

But every time that I can do something that I thought was impossible for me to do, the little voice in my head that says, “I can do this.” becomes less soft and more assured.

It doesn’t really matter if I have married the rock bottom itself because of my constant visitations within it. It is worth it because I am aware that I get to learn something new whenever I am in there. And when you are at rock bottom, the only way to go is up.

What if I chose the wrong degree?

This question was in my head after reading a newsletter from Srinivas Rao, author of Unmistakable Creative, entitled, “A Letter to An Aspiring Young Writer Struggling to Find Her Way in the World”

A young woman asked Srini, “What can I tell people when I have made the great mistake of choosing the wrong degree?

Srini wrote back, “We all make the best decisions we can with the information we have. Robert Greene once said to me, “no experience in life should be thought of as wasted.” You are not defined or limited by your degree or any other label society places on you.

The road ahead is much longer than you might think it is when you’re 20. You also don’t owe anyone any explanation for your choices, regardless of how they judge you.

…Throughout life, you collect data points or dots. And you probably don’t have a clue how those dots will connect in the future. As Steve Jobs said, you can only connect the dots looking backward. But you have to collect them going forward.

… You might choose the wrong degree, but it doesn’t prevent you from living the life you want to live.”

Their exchange made me reflect. I asked myself, “What if I chose a wrong degree?” Then, I remembered my parents.

My mom studied Nursing in college but thirty years later, she’s now working in Real Estate. My father studied engineering in college and now, he’s working as a delivery rider.

If in the future, I will not be practicing Architecture, the same way that my parents are not practicing their college degree, I don’t think I can say that “I chose a wrong degree.” Having been almost three years in college, I got to learn a lot of skills, learned tons of personal lessons that I might not have learned if I haven’t been in this path, and met tons of amazing people that I would not had met (or even crossed paths with) if I weren’t taking up architecture.

I can only understood life while looking backwards but I can only live it forward. While I look back on my college journey for the past two years, I can say that those things had to happened because they have to happen. I don’t think I am who I am today if it weren’t for those decisions and actions that I made in the past.

There are still things that doesn’t make sense to me. But now, I’m completely at peace with the fact that there are things that I have to go through first or I needed to grow more older to understand a few things.

I learned a lot of things because of my current degree and I am looking forward on how these things that I learned and the wisdoms of the people that I met will affect my life even outside of architecture. As Robert Greene said, no experience is ever wasted.

Paying More Attention To Life

Artist and author Austin Keon wrote in his book, Keep Going, “Attention is the most basic form of love,” wrote John Tarrant. When you pay attention to your life, it not only provides you with the material for your art, it also helps you fall in love with your life.

This month, February, Claire’s Essays celebrates its first anniversary. For over a year, I published more than 150 posts and reached almost 150k views. From the bottom of my heart, I am grateful to you and to everyone who reads my essays or blog posts. Paraphrasing from the words of author Kurt Vonnegut, I hope through reading my posts, I used your time in such a way that you will feel that your time was not wasted.

If there’s one thing that changed throughout my year of blogging, its that I paid attention more.

Personally, I noticed subtle changes in my mood and my behaviour more often. I noticed the environment around me quite often too. Whenever sunlight hits me, I would take a moment to savor it. When I’m eating something that mom has prepared, I’ll make audible reactions that infers that the food is amaaazing. When I’m reading a good book, I’ll exclaim in my mind how grateful I am that I found again another great book. Everytime I wake up in the morning, I smile- excited for another day ahead.

These are the things that I feel that I do not savor much but as I blogged about my day or my life over the days, I feel like they are magic waiting for me to recognize and acknowledge them.

It was more than two years ago when I was roaming around Fully Booked in Cubao and then I stopped in my tracks as soon as my eyes landed on this quote from Ben Franklin, written on a notebook they were selling, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

I pondered on that quote althroughout my whole ride and I even wrote it on the first page of my journal because I do not want to forget it ever.

I think that quote straight up summarizes my life. I just write something that is worth reading for me (because I think of myself as an audience) or I will do something that I can write about after.

As weeks and months of blogging passed, I noticed how I read more, how I write more, and how I connected ideas because of my wide reading.

Whenever I am jotting down what happened to the day that passed, I took note of my mood and try to compare it with the other days. That’s how I became more aware of what activities should I do less, what activities do I have to do more, when should I write, when is the perfect time to start a book, and when is the time to halt academic work and do the activities that stimulate me.

Blogging aided me to become more aware of myself and the surroundings around me (paying attention). And by paying more attention, I fall in love with life more.

Author Rob Walker wrote in his newsletter, “[O]ne of my favorite responses to a willfully open-ended prompt I give my students — I order them to “practice paying attention” — came from a student who thought he did it wrong. He had made a planter, he explained, for a cactus. He’d done this, he said, on the theory that “by nurturing or caring for something, you pay more attention to it.” And of course he was right!”

I even applied this in my studies. I wasn’t a bit interested in Plumbing before, but I was reminded of Rob Walker’s words and so around last year, on our 3rd class meeting in Plumbing for the semester, I started paying attention. I listened attentively to our professor and taking notes diligently. I even replay class recordings when I missed something. Thankfully, even if I did not paid attention during the previous meetings, I can still understand the lessons that came. Soon enough, I found myself interested in plumbing and understanding the basic principles. I even made a post about it.

In short, the more I pay attention to myself, to the people, and the world around me, the more I love life.

An act of care first, then the love comes.

It is with quantity that one leads to quality work.

In their book, Art & Fear, Ted Orland and David Bayles wrote, “The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work, they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality…. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. it seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work—and learning from their mistakes—the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and piles of dead clay.”

Ever since I took up BS Architecture two years ago (even without prior experience in coloring and drawing), one of the many realizations that I had is that my blocmates are skilled in rendering and drawing better than I am (not a surprise) not because they have talent and I don’t have it or God has favorites and unfortunately, I am not. But rather, it is because they have done it a thousand times or even more.

Our pastor shared a story from the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Jiro Ono, a Japanese chef who is considered around the world as the best sushi maker, had a new apprentice. Jiro told him to cook an egg. He cooked one and showed it to Jiro but after looking at it for only a few seconds, Jiro rejected it and told him to try again. This went on for two years. Until finally, Jiro said this is okay.

Jiro’s new apprentice wasn’t talented or even started out knowing how to cook a proper egg. In other words, he did not have any advantage. But by doing it for a hundred, probably even a thousand times, for two years, he finally mastered it.

In the same way, my blocmates are extremely great at rendering and drawing because they had put in a lot of work whereas I am just starting out. An article in DO Lectures blog states, “We have to understand doing our best work is a journey. We don’t start off being brilliant. We start off at ‘mediocre’. Then we go to ‘not too bad’. Then we go to ‘OK’. Then we go to ‘good’. Then eventually we arrive at ‘excellent’. And, occasionally we will go to ‘great’.”

Last January, I started learning how to watercolor. Honestly, it terrified me. I feel like I have to watch more YouTube tutorials on how to watercolor before I can finally start doing but it is through doing that I learn and so I started.

It feels frustrating. This gap between how I wanted my work to look like and how my current work looks like. But I become more patient. I cannot go from Level 0 to Level 100 right away. I had to go through each and every level.

Before, whenever I think of using watercolor, I started having anxious thoughts and soon I’ll find myself procrastinating because I’m avoiding this feeling of fear of creating a bad work. Right now, I am extremely comfortable using it that I just picked it up right away whenever I need to render.

Author james Clear wrote, “Your 1st blog post will be bad, but your 100th will be great. Your 1st workout will be weak, but your 1000th will be strong. Your 1st meditation will be scattered, but your 1000th will be focused. Put in your reps.”

There is no secret on how to be great at what you do. Its by doing and putting in a lot of work that we get better. No shortcuts. Just doing.

Whenever I am doing an academic work, there are times when I just blurt, “This is not nice.” but then I’ll remind myself that I am just starting out. I have to create bad work in order to know what’s better. It is by doing something a thousand or a million times that we can be better at it.

It is with quantity that one leads to quality work.

Lessons from Soul (2020)

Joe, the main lead in the film, wants to become a jazz musician. He’s so focused on the goal that he missed out on living. He thought, “I’ll be happy when I will finally landed on this big break. My life will finally change forever.”

To make the story short, he finally landed on this “big break”. But after performing, he felt odd because nothing changed in how he perceived his life, he still is him.

On a post entitled, 10 lessons I Learned This Year (2020) I wrote,

When this blog reached 1,000 views, I feel grateful but things just went back to the way it was. I am still reading and writing. When this blog reached 80,000 views, I am still feeling grateful but that’s it. I’m still me. My mindset did not magically change. I am still reading, writing, doing homework, and doing household chores.

And this is why I am thankful that I do not depend my happiness on external outcomes such as “I will be happy once I reached 10k views.” or “I’ll be happy once I passed this project.” because once I achieved any of that, nothing really much changed. I still have more work to do. There are still things to check off in my to-do list.

So with that, I learned to do things just for the sake of doing it because depending my happiness on the things that I do not have control over will make me want “more.”

In other words, I will never be satisfied because I will keep chasing that feeling of “I made it” but the truth is, there never really is that feeling of “I made it.” There will always be another thing to do. So the enjoyment itself is not on the results but on the process of doing it.”

And this is why I love the very last scene of Soul the most, because it shows us a scene wherein Joe, the main character, taking account his environment—feeling the breeze, smelling the wind, and looking at the sky.

Soemtimes, when we rush through life we forgot to live. We missed out on the subtleties of life. Hence, even when there is so many academic works to do (hooray! finals month!), I make time to hangout under the sun, play games and watch movies with my family, reading a book, listening to music, and writing. Because, Now is the only moment I will ever get to have. I want it to be well-lived.

My main takeaway from the film is that your spark or what keeps you going in life doesn’t have to be this big dream of wanting to be a jazz musician or a scientist, or a CEO. Sometimes, it can be sky-watching, walking, talking to other people, teaching/coaching, or even eating.

Life doesn’t start after reaching a goal. Life is today. It is where we all are in right now. In the movie, someone asked Joe what he will do in his life right now and he said “I don’t know. But I’m gonna seize every moment.” (non-verbatim)