Los estudiantes de arquitectura no duermen

Los estudiantes de arquitectura no duermen: verdad verdadera. Uno se inscribe en esa carrera-tortura-para-masoquistas y drogarse a cafés noche tras noche parece el camino lógico que, en su día, abrió el levantarse a las 07:30 para ver los dibujos animados, muchos años atrás. Los iniciados en el culto a la Arquitectura sub-comprenden al instante las razones del no dormir y ejecutan con alegría el rito supremo de su culto. Quien es capaz de dormir 24 horas a la semana puede llamarse profeta; quien sólo 7, está en contacto directo con la Diosa. Fanfarronear de la vigilia es un acontecimiento colectivo y, por ende, las masas reprueban al perezoso y bufan ante los hábitos de los no iniciados.

Los estudiantes de arquitectura no duermen: verdad a medias. La noche se dedica al esfuerzo intensivo y frenético del dibujo técnico, penitencia por los pecados del futuro; a saber, la pedantería de saberse miembros ilustres de la sociedad. La hora de la siesta se pasa entre libros de estudio, cuando no enredado en complejos cálculos estructurales que preconizan el sostén del mundo. Las horas intermedias quedan disueltas en un duermevela lánguido y acuoso. Algunas veces el despertar viene de la mano de un conductor de autobús, cuando el estudiante ha quedado rendido de cansancio hasta el final de la línea. Otras veces el hacedor es un profesor que levanta la voz para despertar a las últimas filas.

Me declaro hereje, reincidente y causa perdida. Hice caso -¡sacrilegio!- de un consejo de mi madre: persigue objetivos cercanos. Osé, a la tierna edad de 20 años, parcelar la carrera en años, los años en asignaturas, las asignaturas en proyectos y los proyectos en partes y tiempos. Me aparté del dogma del todo vale y acaté la regla del método. Me plegué a la infame sentencia de que la inspiración me venga cuando estoy trabajando, y trabajé, trabajé, trabajé; incansablemente pero en tiempos medidos, con tiempos espejo para el descanso y los intereses personales. Enturbié mi mente con la idea de que la Arquitectura podía nutrirse de mis experiencias y de mis aficiones y me di, sin pudor, al aprendizaje de la guitarra, la composición de la poesía, el estudio primerizo e inocente del idioma alemán, la lectura y el gimnasio, al que sigo yendo todos los días antes de ir a trabajar sin ápice de vergüenza. Llegué a la conclusión de que no dormir es inversamente proporcional a los resultados y directamente proporcional a la estupidez. Para los que son de letras: deduje que no dormir es síntoma de imbecilidad.

Cochinamente aprobé examen tras examen y entrega tras entrega, en tanto que mis ilustres compañeros bregaban noches de insomnio y lodazales de café frío. Algunas veces me tentaron sus heroicidades y recaí en el culto supremo de No Dormir. Desafortunadamente, tales accesos de excelsitud decayeron con el tiempo.

Hoy en día reconozco que fui parte de una secta criminal, suicida y tan mayoritaria como el perverso ateísmo: la de los Estudiantes de Arquitectura que No Duermen. Aunque no conozco el arrepentimiento por mi herejía, pienso que me hubiera gustado romper su culto a los 18 años en lugar de a los 20. Ellos siguen ahí, vigilantes en la noche, con los ojos inyectados en sangre. Quiera la providencia que esos ojos no se posen sobre vosotros.

Asian Literature is Always Forgotten

Asian literature is largely unknown. I must admit my utter ignorance about it as almost every European reader should. We Western people blush unless we have read Shakespeare or Cervantes while we do not care about any well-known Asian writer. The lack of Asian works in Western bookshops and reviews is simply appalling.

As I did regarding Latin American literature, I shook my memory tree in order to gather every piece of Asian literature I ever read. My sparse Far-East’s readings include two works by the Japanese author Yukio Mishima (The Temple of Golden Pavilion and The Music), Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by the also Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, The Art of War by Sun Tzu, the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu and a few poems by the Chinese poet Li Bai. I also read some Middle East works such as Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, the Innana’s Descent to the Underworld and Erra and Ishum, apart from scattered poems by medieval Persian poets. This short list is almost completed by adding some Asian-born writers of Western traditions, including ancient ones such as Herodotus and Heraclitus. There is nothing else save for fragments of the Bible, an almost European version of One Thousand and One Night, a few haikus and tankas and a handful of manga graphic stories. To top it off, I read none of them in their original languages.

Some time ago I read about this girl who aimed to read one book from almost every country in the world. I thought then it was a great idea. I have scarcely read anything from Asia and I miss large areas of this continent as for literature. I used to consider myself a good reader though I do not hold such a smarty claim anymore.

In the future I will try to diversify my readings so that taking more Asian works. I think this is a great way to overcome our Euro-centric thinking.

I will appreciate any fresh Asian suggestion.

Latin American Literature

post23_1Shortly after my coming-of-age I first read Jorge Luis Borges and was immediately beguiled by El Aleph. I’ve been since in love with Latin American literature. It is a fruitful love, since I am aware of the great deal of books and authors I haven’t read yet.

Every now and then I read or re-read a book by Borges. I devour his books cover to cover as soon as I start reading one. But I cannot judge Latin American literature by knowing a sole writer. In my opinion, another extremely talented Latin writer is Julio Cortázar. His short stories compete in quality with Borges’s, though I will always remember him due to the dazzling Rayuela.

I had also the occasion of reading some books by Alejo Carpentier. Sometimes tough, Carpentier deploys the richness of his language in order to crumble the Caribbean idiosyncrasy. I read just two books by him, entitled El siglo de las luces and El reino de este mundo. I can’t wait for reading more. The arguably best Mexican author Juan Rulfo also deserves a try. I didn’t enjoy Pedro Páramo as much as I expected, though I really liked some short stories of El llano en llamas. Gabriel García Márquez is well-known by English speaking readers because of his Cien años de soledad. I beg your pardon; I haven’t read this title yet. However, I can’t help recommending El coronel no tiene quien le escriba, a short though beautiful tale which depicts a hopeless retired soldier who longs for a never-paid salary. Mario Vargas Llosa is also author of stunning stories such as La ciudad y los perros. The Uruguayan Juan Carlos Onetti is also remarkable because of his particular style. O alquimista is a commendable novel by the Brazilian writer Paulo Cohelo. It is probably easier to read than all the others aforementioned, though it is not less worthwhile reading.

Latin American poetry draws to me as least as much as its prose. Borges outstands again with books such as El oro de los tigres or El otro, el mismo. I actually owe him the love for the poetry, which I used to hate. Nowadays I appreciate the poetry written by a great amount of Latin American poets including Rubén Darío, Vicente Huidobro, Alfonsina Storni and César Vallejo among many others. I am into a love-hate relationship with Pablo Neruda. I can read breathlessly some of his poems while chocking at others. Kind of the same happens to me with the also Chilean poets Gabriela Mistral and Nicanor Parra as well as with the Uruguayan Mario Benedetti. I recently discovered the poems by the Mexican José Emilio Pacheco and like them. I read a few  poems by the Ecuatorian Medardo Ángel Silva from time to time (‘Ah, no abras la ventana todavía, / ¡es tan vulgar el sol!… La luz incierta / conviene tanto a mi melancolía…). Surprisingly I don’t like too much the poetry by Xavier Villaurrutia nor Cortázar, though it’s surely due to my personal tastes since I discriminate more poetry than prose. Finally, I read around two years ago the anthology Poesía ante la incertumbre. This book showed me some more interesting young Latin American poets, i.e. Ana Wajszczuk.

Latin American literature has a sterling quality. As a whole, it is possibly the best literature I have ever read. I nevertheless realise that I know it better than other literatures apart from reading it in Spanish, which is the original language of most of its books.

I commend everyone to delve into its treasures. Do you like it? Are there other titles I should read as a must?

Small Actions to Save the World

Architecture claims to remedy some of the world’s major problems. On the turn of the twentieth century it meant to solve the hygienic conditions of the increasing urban population, and it rapidly lead to the mental welfare. Nowadays, one of the biggest concerns of the world is the sustainability. Many contemporary architects note the importance of designing sustainable projects. All in all, the truth is that architecture is still a problem instead of a solution. Buildings pollute a lot and passive sustainability measures are not enough to solve the energetic problems, while active measures are still expensive for the average client.

However, not too many architects realise that they can do better. Apart from the sustainable design whose drawbacks ought to be discussed with clients, architects can also take some decisions regarding materials. They can for instance choose the materials according to certificates of good environmental practises. For example, there is an outstanding certificate for wooden products called FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). Basically, it certificates that all the stages of the industrial process have followed the basic principle of the sustainability. It is that the extracted goods are less than the existing ones, and that extraction follows measures which are respectful with the environment. The FSC certification includes the surveillance of the forest care, the timber extraction and the wooden products by a company which is not related with the process.

Clients do not know or do not care about this. It is actually difficult to get to know which certificate is really excellent and which one is just rubbish. There are even certificates which do not follow measurable requirements and yet others which allow the companies to certificate themselves. Deeming the worth of such a thing is a new task for the architect since he must choose the materials of his project. In doing so, he could take a small action which helps the world.

A teima do galego

Onte lin que o pobo yiddish di que unha lingua non é máis ca un dialecto cunha armada e un exército. Uns intres paseinos cavilando arredor da idea e nisto que apareceu na miña cabeza o tema do galego. Aínda que é unha lingua recoñecida de maneira oficial, moita xente pensa nela coma parte do castelán ou do portugués. Máis doe que incluso algunha xente que a estuda leda e agarimosamente non a conta coma lingua, senón coma unha fala rexional a medio camiño entre outras linguas “de verdade”. De súpeto pensei nos meus esforzos por aprender galego e senón perdo o tempo facéndoo.

Despois dinme conta de que eu nunca estudiei galego nin aprendín palabra algunha coma fixen co inglés, todas en ringleira e deseguido. De feito, eu non fago esforzo ningún. Sinxelamente o aprendo cando leo ou falo coa xente de alá, procurando escoitar ben e rexistrar a maioría do que ouzo. E cando leo fagoo a gusto e non vou ao dicionario para procurar axiña o significado de cada nova palabra atopada. Esta aprendizaxe do galego é moi distinta daquela que seguín para falar inglés, e moito máis relaxada. E tampouco me da a gana de acadar cedo o punto do bilingüismo. Para min, falante non nativo de galego, esta lingua é máis un xeito de gozar dalgunhas cousas que me gustan que non un engadido á meu currículo, e facéndoo pouco importa se é lingua ou dialecto. Entrementres, xa pode levar o demo aos que inquiren cousas tan profundas e tolas.

Polo demais, pouco me queda por dicir. Seguirei sen estudalo aínda que disfrutándoo, e teño o convencemento de que rosmar, aínda que sexa un pouco, calquera lingua, dialecto o variedade só poder ser bo, aínda que xa non viva en Galicia e que as fontes de coñecemento e divertimento dispoñibles en galego están lonxe de ser tantas coma as dispoñibles en inglés ou noutras linguas que estudo.

Dialectos do galego (Fonte: Commons, imaxe no domiño público)

Alegato sobre la sorpresa

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Hoy he visto saltar a un pato. Ayer vi a otro encaramado a un pilono de madera hundido en un canal, elevado sobre el agua y totalmente aislado. La gente que vive aquí ve patos casi cada día sin saber que vuelan y saltan. Se sonríen cuando se lo dices, asegurándote que debes estar equivocado. Pero ahí están las pruebas, ante todos. Para verlas hace falta fijarse un poquito, sentir una pequeña sorpresa. Ellos, ¿han perdido la capacidad de sorprenderse?

Sorprenderse no es solamente un acto inconsciente, también tiene su parte de habilidad y, como tal, debe ejercitarse. Lo distinto sorprende, y el modo de entrenarse para ver lo distinto no es otro que estudiar lo similar y comparar. Creo que entrenar esa manera de sorprenderse casi consciente, casi racional, merece la pena.

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Cuando lo distinto sucede siempre la sorpresa desaparece. Cuando la crisis de la arquitectura el mercado inmobiliario se alarga la sorpresa desaparece. Cuando te enfrentas al paro, al sueldo mísero y a la inactividad profesional, la sorpresa por no desear nada más, por no creer merecer nada más, por saber que puede existir algo diferente, también desaparece.

Esa sorpresa también puede entrenarse. La ambición bien entendida es un antídoto contra lo mundano y la espolea. Algunos lo llaman esperanza, pero la esperanza se me antoja una condición externa que no podemos controlar. El raciocinio de la sorpresa es una cura contra el conformismo gregario. Pero no basta desear sorprenderse, hay que sorprenderse. Sorprendámonos pues.

Commons (Public Domain)

Commons (Public Domain)

Would-be languages

Roughly half of world’s tongues are endangered by the time being and a great deal of them has recently disappeared. It is said a few languages will remain by next century. Most of people think that either one single language will be universally spoken or the main ones will mess up altogether into a global tongue. They are probably right, but what they say is just one among lots of possibilities. I think that in the future every person will speak a unique language.

OK crackerjack, but why?

Because although the first aim of a language is communication, the second and inalienable one is expression. When we utter words and sentences we always sacrifice the complexity in order to convey the main ideas. Literature is alike. Long –good– novels skirt round the plot time after time as long as tiny details unveil layers and insights about it. Similarly, poetry is as difficult to make as beautiful because it must convey as many things as necessary with as less words as possible. If we could develop our own language, we would not suffer to explain others what we exactly mean by means of inaccuracies. Of course we ought to solve the communication issue first.

Well_ How?

Informatics is drastically changing every professional field and lifestyle in spite of its novelty. It is based on programming and that means languages. Concealed numbers’ series encode the natural languages in simplified ones and translate almost any language into another. At the same time that the accuracy of translations rises, humans rely more and more on them as well as spend longer time in front of the computer while it turns into a vital tool to keep our relationships updated. Someday this situation will be seized to encode our feelings and complex thoughts instead of just mere hackneyed words. Meanwhile, the distance among people the computer offers will serve as a boost to develop our own language.

I can’t wait. When?

It is hard to say. European languages dominate as studied languages and means of communication among peoples. Languages such as Russian and Chinese, nevertheless, enjoy healthier economies nowadays. Had they attempted to spread, both their difficulty and the extension of the European ones would make such endeavour terribly difficult and slow. I think informatics will have reached high benchmarks by then, so that would be an excellent moment for people’s minds to be lit.

Nice. Where would it happen?

That is the easiest answer though the most difficult to happen. People shall realise one language is not better than another. Then this idea could blossom inside them.

What do you really think it’s going to happen?

Who knows? As I do not know I can imagine many possibilities instead of being stuck in a would-be false one. Don’t you think so?