Profile: Rui Peng

Each month we ask a member of Incedo a few simple questions. This month we ask Rui Peng the questions.

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1. What is one thing you love that takes up your time regularly?
Dreaming, thinking and creating, centered around justice and social change. I think I’m always working towards something whether I’m conscious of it or not. There seems to be this thing – I don’t know exactly what it is – that hums endlessly in one of the rooms inside my mind like a little steam engine … and I could never find the off switch! I’ll have a hard time pinning this down into one activity but this thing seems to reveal itself from when I have a meaningful conversation with another person, to when I’m up late at night designing urban schemes to proliferate ‘spatial justice’ and the freedom of occupancy, to when I see the glimpses in the eyes of young people discovering self worth, to figuring out which wire goes where and how the steel rods join in our 3D printers, to getting stuff off my chest in a poem or in a painting… to … to…. to…

When I was younger (and when I used to romanticize about being alive in the Renaissance) I described this thing to be an oil painting … the masterpiece, which I will spend the rest of my life discovering by painting. My own Sistine Chapel of sorts. But I as I got older I realised that the majority of the known creative endeavors during the Renaissance was commissioned out of places of wealth and was used to perpetuate the power structures at the time (Rembrandt being one of the brilliant exceptions – especially in his painting “Nightwatching”). So nowadays I call it the ‘spirit of God’ and I try my best to be lead instead. At the end of the day, the Sistine Chapel has a roof.

2. What do you think stops you from being fully human?
I’ve been reflecting a lot on this lately. I’ll call it ‘the invisible cage.’ I’ve heard a similar reflection other’s have called the ‘invisible dome’ but the cage analogy encompasses a bit more. I understand this to be my everyday tendency to return to Egypt as a slave. I build myself my invisible cage when I use my creativity to increase my own fame and social status and wealth. I build myself my invisible cage when I become jealous of other people’s creative brilliance and try in my very subtle ways to tear them down. I build myself my invisible cage when I run away from my problems and turn to pornography… and I build myself my invisible cage when I don’t re-confess to my wife. I create these little hells for myself when I become my own centre of attention… and I become miserable. But it happens and It catches me by surprise. That’s the pattern I’ve noticed. This is where this God makes perfect sense to me – in the most liberating and the most frustrating way.
Another thought: if an idea, an ideal or a belief leads to no action, then it is probably unproductive and destructive.

3. If you could throw caution in the wind you would?
…. e exactly where I am right now doing my best to be fully present to the people I love and have committed to work I have begun. Life is just exciting and so interesting… in so many aspects. Doing life with my beautiful wife, preparing for fatherhood, spending time at home and with our community, starting up a revolutionary design studio with my best friend, sharpening my craft that is architecture, engaging in so many good conversations with the people I encounter….

I am a ‘4’ on the enneagram, which meant that for a long time I thought the grass was always greener on the other side. But my wife reminded me one day of the saying that ‘the grass is greener when you water it..” So I guess that’s what I am increasingly realising to be true.

I’ve also begun to realise as I’m 25 and maturing the excitement of testing and materializing my young and naive ideologies. I am really enjoying the challenge of having responsibility, of realising that the world was not what I thought it was and that I have to actually think even more creatively to change it. I feel like I have so many examples to fill 10 emails … so I guess you’ll just have to talk to me in person.

4. Your ultimate dinner guest would be?
My generic response would be a bit cliche – like Bonhoeffer, Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King. But after some thought I think it would have to be my grandma, who passed away when I was 11. I hear stories and had experiences in my fading memory of the type of selfless woman she was. She was a woman devoted to her family. My mum’s family was very poor, and time after time I’ve heard stories of my grandma giving up her comfort, time, and eventually health for the benefit of her children. I remembered when I was three (before we left China) my mum took me to her village for a visit. I contracted a serious fever one day and the nearest hospital was about a 2 hour hike away. Our family didn’t own a vehicle, not even a bike. I wasn’t sure where my mum was at the time, but I remembered being carried in my grandma arms for those 2 hours to the hospital. I remember an old and frail women walking at a hurried pace and I remember the sweat dripping from her short black hair. When I was 11 I remember my dad walking into my room after being on the phone informing that my grandma had passed. I remember weeping all night. It had turned out that she had been fighting a cancerous growth in the back of her neck which could have been treated if diagnosed early. But she kept it to herself knowing that what little money they had could be put to better use.

5. What is something that would surprise us about you?
You still not surprised enough after question 2?!

6. Do you have abs? (prove it!!!)
I have a permanent 2 pack regardless of my diet. Had a car accident 4 years ago, seat belt ruptured my bowels and fractured my collarbone. Doctors had to open me up to sow the organs. Left me an impressive scar to which sometimes I say to people I got into a fight.

7. What is your top Jesus verse/story/quote?
The return of the prodigal son. Gets me every time. Brings me to tears.

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