Epilogue can be too severe a word; I might as well call it the rare door. I’ve always been a big fan of reading forewords and afterwords of books; between line and line, there’s always a kind of timeliness of looking back. I want to give it a look back too. This portfolio, in the end, turns out very personal and reflects who I am as a person. These past few months have been a whirlwind for many, to me as well.
Early in January, in the creative writing class, I wrote the first poem in life, the Perfect Poem; it started off as a nighttime joke, and in less than a day, some major change took place in my life. It was then when I realize the contingency of this poem and many other creative outputs in life that this would only happen right here right now. Throughout the year, with the introduction by Paige Lewis, I began playing with words — fewer words, blanks — smart blanks, newline — meaningful newline, and ideas — strong ones, ones that can’t be beheld. I included a few that relate to the context in the portfolio.
Part of my confusion comes from, what is poetry? What is a poet, a poem? What is literature? What is architecture? A film can be relatively easily defined as it comes along with a specific media, while for the others, the boundary is blurred. It’s about words, but not entirely. It’s about form and material, but maybe there’s something beyond. Is it one’s instinct feeling or the monumentality? They’re yet for me to find.
In retrospect, my college experience, my life has been a zigzagging but colorful one. I remember in the Hamilton course co-taught by the theatre and history department, when I chose Ayn Rand whose the Fountainhead had a direct influence on my life decision, my history professor John Larson said, “for the many past decades since I was young, many young people read Ayn Rand and follow her and later divert to reach some other worlds.” It was quite subtle and comforting to know that I’ve been one of the young. Now that I, like one of the young, left Ayn Rand’s theory, but still very much grateful to have felt empowered at the darkest time, to see myself in the perfectionism in Howard Roarke, and to shout loud “I don’t want to be secondhand and would never want to be.” There’s a word in Chinese Qian Fu Hou Ji, meaning the front goes and the behind follows — the youngs inspired by her words, and also us, the dreamers, the idealists, the practice wannabes that believe in architecture.
Through physics, I was able to untangle some of the misty worlds. The delight when Professor Haugan connects Planck constant and light-speed was so real, could be barely described as feeling electrified; it’s after an entire semester of struggle when we reach a delight simplicity. While working on the portfolio, I experienced somewhat different hardship from solving the Schrödinger equation, in exploring inwards, who I am, how I perceive this world, and what I’d like to cut myself open and tell this world. This ain’t a smooth experience, as I struggled almost every second on what to put down, part of me held the thought that, once I put it down, it’s dead. And my friend would tell me, put it on paper, put it on paper; only it’s first given a shape, can it then be edited. At times like this, I’d think of Flaubert writing on the first row and leave the rest nine blank.
Recall what Eduardo, who was my first instructor in architecture: sometimes it’s not about getting things perfect, but getting things done. Albert Camus: “To write a piece that is challenging. It must be finished (hence the importance of “no tomorrow”). It is the exact opposite of God’s creation. It is finished, finite, clear, and shaped by human persistence. Consistency is in our hands. Using this as an improper excuse, please bear with the imperfection of this workpiece.”
To design, to grasp a fling of thoughts, to watch the sunrise and sets, spend many longest days in the studio, to polish, to give rise to, and to finish.
At this moment, I’m still in search of other forms of self-expression and a proper way to connect to the world, architecture shall it be. I remember watching the ending of Kahn’s documentary — the sunset spreading on the shining river; I asked Steph, is this feeling of loss long-lasting when it comes to architectural design? Sure not, she responded, sometimes it takes a lifetime to obtain a methodology.
Let the golden hour be, let the boat float with the dream, let each and every thought carefully taken care of. “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” and future.
(I suppose I wrote this on Jan. 2nd, 2021 on the last page of my portfolio A Personal Matter.)