The Bragging Rights Idealist: Part 2

Read this first.

You can suffer for fashion.  You can suffer for beauty.  You can suffer for art. You can suffer to do good.  You can suffer for your religion.  You can suffer for a cause.

Just as shoving your feet into painful shoes or having cosmetic surgery may seem silly to one, giving up worldly comforts or personal desires to stand for a cause may seem ridiculous to another.  For whatever you choose to suffer, it does not automatically make you more attractive, other-worldly, superior, above the trivial, or nobler.  Depending on your chosen affliction, it just makes you cold, hot, miserable, uncomfortable, bored or hungry.  You may have earned “bragging rights” but if you use them, you’re a fraud.

My most recent post was based loosely on this statement.  It focused mainly on the desire to suffer for misguided idealism.   Now, I’m going to focus on a group of people that suffer for their art (and enjoy the use of their bragging rights).

My two-year diversion as an architecture major served as my introduction to the world of such people.  Professors focused on art and designing for the greater good, turning their noses up at practical profiteering and abandoning reality.  Students spent 48-hour days in the studio ruthlessly competing, claiming themselves martyrs for their craft.  Together, Professor and Student focused on developing an environmental conscience and integrating community with structure (whatever that means), such is the mindset of Architectural Academia.

This attitude and lifestyle is all fine and good until you join the working ranks as a mere plastic cog in the corporate toy set.  Your life: creating strip malls and expanding suburban sprawl.  It is the bread and butter of your company, but it’s also what your oh-so-esteemed professors deemed unconscionable.

Weren’t you taught better than that?  The past four years, a slave to your art, awake during perfectly good sleep time to reach spatial nirvana.  Friends would question the various cuts on your fingers, your constant MIA status, and in return all you could really talk about for an entire semester was “creating space”.  Without thinking twice you’d spout off about watching the sun rise and set twice before finally sleeping, going three days without a shower, and surviving off Red Bull and vending machine peanuts.  If questioned further, you’d mention that your academic major was more demanding because you had the lofty task of saving the world with design.  Your (self inflicted) suffering for architectural utopia would not go without notice.

I know this description sounds absurd, but it’s not far from what I was surrounded by, or what I was.  I’m not proud of it, playing up my “sufferings” along with the rest, but I did it.  There was even a point when I was banned from speaking of my architectural theory class when around my roommates.  They even made a facebook group recommending that I quit architecture and got quite a few people to join in agreement.  In my defense I must mention that the class was such a pain the admins changed it multiple times before nixing it as a required class.

When you break down the exact motives, ideals, and aspirations of my former classmates, what I described was pretty much it.  After all, do you think famous architects just wanted to make money or did they have a desire to revolutionize their field?  They wouldn’t have been any good otherwise.  We were encouraged to “do good” and aspire for prominence, but great would be the fall after our four year climb up Mt. Make-believe into our grey cubicle and collared shirts.

At least we got to feel important and complain about it?

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