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Writing and Building Something

1. Writing something

I've always felt uncomfortable being around writers, not because they are snobby or they have inside (literary) jokes that exclude poor readers like me--for they are some of the kindest you can ever be with--but because precisely of their lack of pretentiousness which only magnifies their mental and emotional powers. When something is hidden from your view, inaccessible, all the more do you revere it or fear it. I respect them to the point of being insecure partly because I had once wanted to be one of them, partly because I've realized I won't. But most of all, I respect them because they know very well where creation is accomplished--never in cafes or artsy restaurants nor in conference rooms or before an audience, but always only in the humility of a chair, a desk, where passions have to be named and Jacob's silent angel to be wrestled with till morn.

They look into each other's eyes, and you know they recognize each one's labors. They know how nights are longer for poets most of all, and how tiring it is to be overwhelmed by thoughts that you have not written but eventually must. They recognize that theirs is a craft usually without reward, and so they also respect each one's decision to dedicate a life to words and thoughts especially in a context which does not give importance and credit to both. Each one has his own reasons and his own insanity, and they don't have to ask why this art was chosen and that job forsaken. They know why they do what they do--while knowing as well that bylines are not given away or that the world will never truly understand your poem. And for me that is scary.   

2. Building something

Every once in a while a man needs to build something concrete.

He becomes challenged to envision a product he foresees he will use and enjoy.

To gather materials and construct something with them.

To survey the progress, to make some changes and adjustments, to tinker with it, that is, to play with it.

To use his hands, more importantly.

Perhaps nothing is more immediately satisfying that concrete creation. The male species has been programmed to find satisfaction in building and repairing things due to millennia of having to construct sheds, houses, pyramids, structures, buildings, and cities. The satisfaction comes first of all in producing something necessary for survival; next in creating something useful; then at last in participating in the manifestation of beauty.

In contrast to understanding the world through concepts--the desire and vocation of the philosopher and the poet, the business of the scientist and the analyst--the builder creates what will be part of the visible world. While it is important to see with the mind, making something real and beautiful appear is not too shabby either. It is said that of all the art forms, it is architecture which is the most visible in terms of number, size, and use.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, one of the twentieth century's most important thinkers, left teaching for three years so that he can help his sister build her house. When rulers and hammers and stones beckoned him, the philosopher of language abandoned the cool of the lecture hall.

The genius soon observed thus: "You think philosophy is difficult, but I tell you, it is nothing compared to the difficulty of being a good architect."

Gretl Wittgenstein's house in Vienna
designed and constructed by her brother Ludwig.


  1. Anonymous5/28/2012

    Quoted from you, "They know why they do what they do--while knowing as well that bylines are not given away or that the world will never truly understand your poem. And for me that is scary."
    Perhaps you do not see the talent that you have in writing but it's there. It always has been. I clearly remember two of my professors: one in English and the other in Filipino. My English professor was really critical, giving me low grades-but I needed that. I learned from it but I admit I was hurt because at first, I interpreted it as "You're not a good writer at all," when writing was one of my biggest dreams when I was a little girl (being an astronaut was the other.) Then, came my Filipino teacher to whom I submitted some things that I wrote and to my joy, he encouraged me to continue writing as he sees the potential. I feel grateful for that because at least one person believed in me. Sometimes that's all it takes for you. To know someone who believes in you is empowering. It stirs the heart - at least that's what I felt during that time. Or am I boring you with my stories? :)

  2. True. As in anything, it cannot be denied that we sometimes seek some encouragement, however we admit this or not, especially when we are trying new things or aiming to achieve our dreams.

    The challenge, however, is to reach that point when you do what you do even if you might not be affirmed by others. As Epictetus said, we can only be responsible for our actions and intentions, but how these are accepted by others is no longer in our control.

    But we beginners need some guidance and encouragement first, naturally. Everyone I guess has (or must have) that somebody who saw the potential we couldn't see in us, and saw us through.

  3. Anonymous5/31/2012

    The challenge you just mentioned, it is something that has to apply to everything that we do - not just in writing. It's difficult though, for me, because I (and perhaps most people or just a few people) want to be appreciated for the things I (we) do. There's that nice feeling inside when your affirmed by somebody - whether a beloved, a friend, a stranger. It feels good. Then again I ask myself, will I stop doing what I do, simply because nobody notices? If that's the case, then I may not be doing the things I do because it's what I really want to do but rather I do them because I want other people to see me. I guess it all becomes vanity then. So I go back to the challenge of how I will be able to stop myself from expecting praise or appreciation or affirmation from people in general.

    What my mom told me though, is that it’s important for me to know who I really am. “Kilalanin mo ang sarili mo,” she said. What she said made sense because when I do truly discover who I am, it would not matter what other people would say. I know who I am and I have nothing to prove. Whether people say praises or bad things, it would not change the person that I am. Their affirming words would not really mean much anymore, because I simply know. I must add though, that this knowing is not that of being an arrogant, close-minded, or narcissistic person but a person who knows where he stands, what he can and cannot do, what he can and cannot give, both his strengths and weaknesses acknowledged and embraced. Perhaps I can call this confidence or self-love but of a humble kind. Does it make sense?

    It’s really interesting how I have an idea (theory) of it already yet I still have not achieved it (application.) I guess it comes with being young and how I still need to see more of life to be able to come to terms with myself. I just hope it will be sooner rather than later because I think that when I finally achieve this, I’ll have some kind of freedom (because I don’t have to think about what other people would say.) I’m not saying that what other people’s opinions would not matter anymore (because there are opinions that are helpful or needed by a person to realize something) but then at least, the expectations are gone. True enjoyment of the things I do or of being myself begin.

    The conversation with my mom took place last night that’s why your reply to my comment struck me. It all seems relevant to me right now and I’m positively surprised on how life (or God) reveals what He wants to tell me in the most unexpected ways. Thank you Sir! Cheers!


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