EcoScholars 1

One of the many things that my friend Lynnette has planned to do with her new home is to make it a breeding ground for ideas – ideas for design, ideas for life, and everything that falls in between. So, yesterday, we had the very first EcoScholar session with some of Lynnette’s tightest circle of friends. Many of them I met for the first time, which was a sweet deal because through these gatherings, my social (maybe professional, too) circle is expanding. Adding variety to the people I hang out with, adding variety to the things I do as a researcher, a designer, a person.

Before the designated speakers shared their experience, we had cakes! Courtesy of Phyllis from Hong Kong who now owns Wash Bakery (address and map). Don’t these just look mouth-watering – it doesn’t stop there – they ARE sinfully delicious!

Cakes from Wash Bakery – my favorite Napoleon, so light and flaky in spite of the heavy historical association, creamy tiramisu and delightful chocolate fudge cake.

While the uncles and aunties are having their sweets, this little one is all ready for the talk to start.

Lynnette kick-started the afternoon’s session with a sharing of her experience building the EcoSOHO for under RMB50,000, challenging boundaries and rebutting naysayers. Good human-centered design really isn’t just what fancy designers create, neither does it need to be so goddamn expensive. It just needs to be done with a lot of heart and empathy for who the design is for. Like how her mother makes the perfect curry, always. Yes, like how my mom makes the perfect everything always too. Darn, I’m missing home-cooked food and home.

Even more so, how can designers take human-centered design into everyday life for everyone and everything they care for (since they can’t save the world, they can do their bit for just that one thing they care for)?

After Lynnette, Raf Adams took the stage with an interactive session that raised questions about life, death, growth, HAPPINESS. I truly appreciated the session because it raised questions for me since this is a topic I’ve been exploring as well. Of course, Raf’s throw-back to Walt Disney’s mad quest to create the happiest place on earth got me listening ever more intently. I added to this something from Uncle Walt about common sense being the killer of dreams. The full quote is:

“When I was about twenty-one, I went broke for the first time. I slept on chair cushions in my ‘studio’ in Kansas City and I ate cold beans out of a can. But I took another look at my dreams and set out for Hollywood. Foolish? Not to a youngster. An older person might have too much ‘common sense’ to do it. Sometimes I wonder if ‘common sense’ isn’t another way of saying ‘fear’. And ‘fear’ often spells failure.” — Walt DisneyAnimator, Dreamer, Father

Here is Raf telling us what creates that gap between mind and soul, the narrowing of which will improve our happiness index, the equilibrium that is eventually achieved is the Enlightenment that Gautama Buddha experienced.

Attentive students from the USA, Germany, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Czechoslovakia.

Ha, my final question to Raf was: “Is it possible for people to exist in a state that is neither happy nor unhappy. Would that be a good thing or vice versa?” Well, because I think I am kinda like that now – not particularly unhappy, not particularly happy.

Okay, here’s what Raf said, to which I was taken aback: “That is the best state. Because the balance is achieved. Like Buddha. There is no longer any attachment (to the material or the spiritual).” I take it as, there is that sense of freedom, of contentedness already, that anything goes. Not sure about the reference to Buddha, but perhaps to be able to accept and to let go and to appreciate NOW is what matters.

What about dreams, what about goals? Frankly, I’m not a big fan of goals. They create too much stress, and if I understand correctly, they are part of the material world, that make us unhappy if we rely too much on them. Goals are like road signs that tell us how far we are from the destination. But what if we are on the wrong road? Chasing something visible but wrong is worse than pursuing the invisible gut feel. Dreams, I feel, are just that – the kiryoku – the inner strength. You don’t consciously express them. Maybe you aren’t even aware that on day-to-day basis, important decisions are made based on them.

I know this, because when I look back five, ten years, I can see quite clearly why things happened the way they did which led to who/where I am today. Unbeknownst to my conscious self at that point, I had always been working toward a common something. Quoting Haruki Murakami, “everything happens for a reason”. And not just any reason, I guess, it’s that dream we always have inside of us.

This is the book that Raf has written, I’m sure it’ll be worth a read with an open mind.


About transez

Design researcher: curious about people, passionate about life.
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