Call of the West

Another critical distinction in the Chicago/Los Angeles comparison: Los Angeles is a more inspiring town for the artist.

I feel more in touch with reality in Los Angeles. Being at the western edge of the country, it feels as thought it is able to pursue and run through its coastline the possibilities of how art can be pushed further. New York has probably the same motivating energy, but whenever I’m there I am too distracted by my sensory receptors to focus and too investigative of the material world that I am unable to detach myself from the noisy demands of life and allow time for my ideas to flourish.

L.A. pushes for a more progressive, artistic culture and it doesn’t apologize for any of it. Everyone holds a creative license, it seems like. Whereas Chicagoans want to have the same coastal aesthetic and feel, it produces something halfway. Chicago has its own appeal, a more sophisticated metropolitan orientation, but for it to nurture the same culture as Los Angeles, it is just not possible. Many Chicagoans try– from art to fashion evident in galleries and the streets. Every time I see photography in Chicago that evokes a seaside tone, or a freespirited mood, wherein the photographer hopes to capture the blithe wonder palpable in the corners of southern California, I do not imagine the transference the coastal culture of the west to Chicago nor am I transported to Los Angeles– I am even more aware of the fact that I am planted in this midwest town, with no ocean nor mountains to speak of, and I feel a sense of displacement.

The west coast is the place to be for those serious about their art. It nurtures not just the practice of creation conducive to the surroundings within, but also the pressure to identify the art you’re making and question what it is that makes it special in a place where that same art is likely practiced by the next passerby on the street or your neighbors on both sides.

It could be the ocean that creates this mood. The rhythm of the waves is a piece of classical music played by nature that encourages the meditative stance that allows the emergence of content on which you base your creation. Beyond its calming effects, it could be the concept of a moving entity that extends the contrast of constancy and impermanence at once.

There’s something about the mobility and strength of the ocean that cannot be captured by any other body of water, with or without a manmade shoreline.

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Open your mind and your mouth, unlock a few doors

Learning Spanish has been a long pursuit of mine. Since I started taking Spanish classes in high school, I knew that I’m going to study this language until I achieve advanced fluency. I was only able to take 2 years of Spanish in high school, but in college, I took conversational classes and continued my structured education in the language to arrive at Spanish 5. I have read short stories, written short essays, and engaged in numerous hours of conversation. I still don’t feel nearly fluent as I converse with my other classmates in Spanish class.

It is not easy, but it’s worth learning.

My language skills got tested in Costa Rica when I realized the only way I can communicate with people is in Spanish. Many of the Ticos I encountered don’t speak English at all, and since I knew some Spanish I was made to speak with them. I knew enough to get communicate and get through everyday. I knew how to act and respond in case someone is about to put me in danger. While my relationship with the language wasn’t as intimate as a native speakers’s, I held on to it as a tool within my survival toolbox while I was there. Only a few months later, as I was sitting in a conversational Spanish class in Chicago did I realize that it also serves another important purpose: it is a key. I try to take a Spanish conversational class at least once a month, planning for continuity in my lessons. In each class I’ve taken so far, I’ve learned so much more about different cultures in other countries, including the States. It makes you realize there is such a bigger world out there, with people who lead different lifestyles, who believe in a different set of political issues, much more different than our initial construction of the world where the world consists of everyone like us.

A new language is a key to unlock a different world. Much more than a collection of words, expressions and tones, Spanish to me is about unpacking multiple cultural gifts. Speaking the language tells me a lot about the places where it originated (Spain), where it is currently spoken (los paises hispanohablantes), and where it is not spoken anymore (Philippines). It teaches us how to be modest; it is a lesson in humility. Many of us are considered illiterate when thrusted in a foreign place, especially when we haven’t had much formal education in the language or culture. While I was on the bus going to the school, I realized that everything I know about this world was created, bred and defined in the realm of two languages- English and Tagalog. Everything that I produce and cultivate are meant to be received by those who understand these languages, which all too often we naively believe as the entirety which constitutes the whole world. Conceptually, it made me wonder if content is translatable at all. This brought me back to discussions of structuralism in literary criticism during college where abstract concepts exist, such as the main idea contained in say, a piece of essay, which is then interpreted by a signifier that I would argue as language, in this case. The separation of these two things and the belief that the ideas contained in an essay are not determined by language, it allows for a more fluid and universal potential interpretation of ideas. Ideas exist as general concepts that can then taken and interpreted in different languages.

Perhaps much more than knowledge of a different language allows you to open new doors, it reveals clears paths within that allow you to have a richer view of the world. It is all the more imperative to explore the world whenever possible.