Everybody has one, or a hundred. This thought occurred to me as I watched Colbert Report over breakfast, and what will sadly be one of the last ever episode of America’s favorite pundit, Stephen Colbert in his character, interviewing POTUS in Washington D.C. Obama’s appearance on the show reminded me of the day he was inaugurated in 2009, feeling tears well up and my nose tingling at the bridge as I watched it being televised live in New Zealand. It surprised me.
Who is your role model?
The last time I was posed the question was many years ago, and funnily enough all I can now recall is not the person I admired at the time, bur rather my own reaction to the question. I was having to take a long pause and ponder it with perhaps as much seriousness as though your life depended on it (and such extreme existential perception seems to typify my adolescence), as if the great Sphinx suddenly appeared in front of you and demanded that you solve her riddle and get it right the first time or else she would devour your soul. And just as well, because the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three in the evening has some semblance to what would also make a good role model, since a mortal being generally aspires to be the best version of him or herself within the organic bounds of what is physically possible. In this Digital Age, however, you could equally argue that technology has finally unleashed the human potential beyond the physical, but in any case, the realm of the super-human and the post-human are still within the realm of our imagination: a byproduct of our consciousness, which is an extension of our organic properties, ergo, still human.
What is the role of the architect?
Upon reflection, it was my own unresolved answer to whom ought to be the definitive role model for my chosen career in architecture that had led me to pursue a PhD, which you could also say was a manifestation of more advanced state of existential crisis relapsing in my mid-20s. Luckily this question continued to evolve and I had moved on to something much more productive and interesting for the rest of the academia, but had I stuck to looking for that one definitive figure, current or past, I would most likely still be searching, and eventually discover that my “prize” is in a different castle altogether.
What role do you play?
Our first role model upon birth, at least until we are conscious enough to develop our own ego, are our parents. They not only pass on the genetic footprint of our habits but also shape how we would respond to external stimuli surrounding us, including friends, neighbors, and some 7 billion others with whom we will share this planet and will interact with at some point or another. So it is only natural that we continue to change as we learn, adapt, and apply ourselves to different situations, drawing from our past experiences, based on the subconscious muscle memory of similar roles that others before us have exhibited for us to mimic at an opportune time. As such, it is to be expected that the role model that we appoint and elevate to the pedestal of our own human aspirations also evolve and change over time, under different circumstances and conditions. Monkeys do fall from trees.
So what do you do then? Well, the first time it happens you might just fall straight to the bottom and walk away with a sore derriere. When it happens again, you might break your arm because you were overthinking your fall and hurt yourself by overextending your self. The third time you fall, well, by then you should seriously consider installing a safety net. In the next post I’ll write about why we may need multiple role models.