No Wonder You Were Afraid to Ask #29 – Mladen Borovic – Origami can mend a broken heart

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I was born in Maribor, Slovenia. My childhood was quite interesting and hard at the same time. We used to live in a small basement apartment and financially our family was always struggling. I have very few nice memories of my childhood because there always seemed to be a lot of negative energy around, mixed with domestic violence and constant arguing. I just thought this type of environment was completely normal.

Since we were a family of five and financially struggling, my father decided to start working abroad to try and earn better money – in Canada. That happened in 1999 and the whole family moved to Canada the same year. I had almost no knowledge of the English language when I started visiting school there. I still remember going to school from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then staying extra hours at school with my E.S.L. (English as a Second Language) teacher to work on my English.

I managed to excel in school and for the first time really felt like I accomplished something. My parents decided that we should still speak Slovenian at home and I think that was the right decision. At home (now in Canada), things weren’t much better than in Slovenia – I still didn’t have my own room, all the negativity was still going on, and financially things might have been just a fraction better.

After three years, the company my father worked for was shut down and that meant either one of two things would happen – either he would look for another job since he was the only provider, or we would move back to Slovenia. The first option didn’t seem like a viable option since he didn’t really speak English well. That’s how our quick spell in Canada ended and we flew back to Slovenia in 2002.

I started programming when I was about 13 years old. It all began with my personal website. The motivation behind it was actually to try and connect two groups of people together. I decided to do this without any prior knowledge of web development. It took a while, but I managed to make a very simple website and I would update it with MSN Messenger e-mails so people could connect over this instant messaging platform. This kind of served as a pen-pal-like service in the end and I think it helped my Slovenian friends with learning the English language.

In high school, I started to discover the beauty of mathematics and physics – both of these fields are strongly connected to computer science which spurred my interest into them even more. I solve at least 20 Sudoku puzzles every day. I feel this helps me be more objective in life, whether it’s when I’m giving advice or getting advice from someone. By being objective you can truly evaluate your actions and realize your mistakes, which in turn gives you an excellent opportunity to better yourself.

Currently, I live in Maribor, Slovenia, a small European country bordering Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia. I’m work as a teaching assistant at the Faculty for computing and electrical engineering, which is a part of the University of Maribor. I hold a Master’s degree in computer science and am finishing up my Doctorate (Ph. D.) in the field of computer science and informatics.

I’m really proud of my ability to channel negative energy into something good. For instance, when I’m having a bad day, I either try to express it through art or try doing something good for myself or others. I use many ways to express myself through art. Recently, I do it through origami, but I also do it through playing music and even computer programming. I believe computer programming is also an art because like in other forms of art, such as painting or playing music, you have no boundaries. You can program pretty much anything you want. This could be a little hard to understand for someone who is not a computer scientist, but we have all the tools to do so. Even recent trends show that there is a tendency to create computer software which mimics the human behaviour. Basically, we’re trying to create a machine which acts like a human. I feel that this kind of machine could be as much a great work of art as a famous painting like Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

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I spend a lot of time thinking about my actions. Especially at work, where I have to grade undergraduate students. Do I let them pass or should I tell them it’s simply not enough and be prepared for a potential ego clash? The latter is quite common these days, because I feel that more and more people think they can’t better themselves. I always tell my students that there is nothing wrong with failure, since a grade is only a measure of one’s knowledge at that specific moment. Maybe you had a bad day and would have done better on any other day. Maybe the whole week has been a wreck for you and you just need to step back, relax, breathe in and out a few times and then do the assignment over. Most of them seem to agree, but there is always that small percent of people who think that they’re the best, the smartest and that they should be treated as gods. I really don’t like that. One should always be humble enough to at least admit that they can make mistakes.

I found a nice analogy regarding this ego problem a few months back while training Ju-jitsu at my club. For those who don’t know, Ju-jitsu is a self-defence oriented martial art which is based on a simple principle: if your opponent uses force on you, let them, but redirect this force back onto them. For instance, if someone was to try to push you, you would do a series of movements which would transfer the attacker’s energy to your benefit, eventually resulting in you throwing the opponent ever so efficiently and putting them into a state where you have complete control over their body either by mounting them (sitting on them) or putting them into a submission hold such as a choke hold or something similar. You see, when you have that control over somebody, something beautiful presents itself to you. You are there, ready to break someone’s arm or choke them until they’re unconscious. But you have a choice – you either go to the end and do the damage, or you talk to the person and let them know that if they don’t chill out, something bad is going to happen to them.

Personally, this is what I like about Ju-jitsu the most. Not only do you get a very satisfying boost of self-confidence by obtaining control over your attacker, but you can also decide to give them a second chance to realize they’ve done something wrong without anyone getting hurt. Also, you’ve taken action to prevent something bad from happening and perhaps turned it into something good, should that person somehow realize that they need to change something about themselves. Following up on this, I tend to give my students plenty of chances to successfully finish the semester with a good grade, but I don’t do it the traditional way by extending due dates. I simply talk to them. I give them questions. If I see they’re confused, I go a few steps back and try to get them to think about what they’re going to answer. I feel this is the only correct way to teach – that is to make the learner really think about what you are teaching them.

In late 2015, I went through a very bad breakup which devastated me. I felt very lonely and had plenty of time on my hands. I’m the kind of person who gets in a semi-delirious state of mind when left alone for too long and that really started to bother me. I was looking for a way out but kept getting swirled into this very negative whirlpool of doom. Then it hit me – I should pick up a new hobby that will at least take my mind off of all the negative thoughts I had.

One night I was watching videos on YouTube and somehow ended up watching origami tutorials. I had a scrap piece of paper near me and in a matter of seconds, I was hooked on making my first origami. It was a traditional Japanese crane also called a “tsuru” or “zuru”. I was interested in the origins of this so I did a little research and found a well-known story about Sadako Sasaki, a little girl who lived in Hiroshima at the time of the atomic bombing. She developed signs of cancer and was hospitalized, but during her time at the hospital she was making these origami cranes in hope of making a thousand of them. There is a Japanese legend which promises one wish (or eternal luck, depending on the variation) to the person who creates one thousand origami cranes. That was just what I needed because I wished for something better for myself.

I ordered some origami paper and started to make cranes. It took me about two months to make 1000 of them. I was doing them in series, about 20 per day, just enough to keep it interesting. So the thing is, when you make 1000 paper cranes, you put them on several strings (usually 40 cranes on 25 strings) and bundle these strings together to get a “senbazuru”. This is usually given as a wedding present in Japan and is ceremonially burned by the groom and the bride at the wedding. Of course, you can also use it as decoration at parties, or at home. It’s a really great project and I would recommend it to anyone who is going through hard times or just has nothing to do. You can also do it as a family project, and it’s quite cheap – the 1000 pieces of paper I used cost me less than $10. By the way, it is also required that you make a “senbazuru” if you want to be an astronaut in the Japanese Space Exploration Agency (JAXA).

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From this I started doing origami flowers. Roses and tulips first, then lilies, daisies and much more. I learned it all from YouTube lessons. After doing the “flower-phase,” I found the art of 3-D origami. This is quite similar to origami but you make these small triangular modules which can be inserted into one another. Insert them in certain patterns and you get a paper model. Here is where it really pulled me in, because I could already see all the math that could describe even a simple model.

My very first 3D origami model was a swan. The triangular shape of the modules kind of emphasizes the shape of feathers, so models of birds are always going to look spectacular. I like birds a lot too, so it was a natural match. After a few 3D origami models, I started to get ideas about combining 3D origami with origami models and my first flower basket was born. Some of my origami art were also requested as wedding gifts and I even managed to make some money. Of course, I didn’t put a price tag on it. It was more of a donation.

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Somehow I decided to share my origami with others by taking pictures and posting them on Instagram. I wanted to be artistic about it and you can see that through my pictures. Perhaps it’s not visible at first sight, but the way I take pictures of my origami art follows some rules. I use my phone camera to take pictures. I do this because I consider myself still an amateur origami artist, because I haven’t made any original designs yet. I use wooden surfaces as a setting for my origami art. Now why wood? Well, everything has a beginning and an ending, and as we know, paper starts out as wood. When I set my origami models on a wooden surface I go for this transformation of plain wood into something more complex. Also, the colour of the wooden surface is quite important. I use maple wood and mahogany wood as surfaces, the former being lighter and the latter being darker. The colour of the wooden surface reflects emotions attached to a certain model – light for positive and dark for negative. This can be seen very clearly in the picture where I present my “senbazuru”. It’s hanging over a dark wooden surface with a white wall behind it and two white swans under it. The “senbazuru” is blocking out the majority of the dark wooden surface, implicating that it is blocking the darkness and instead presenting colourfulness. The two swans in the back are still on a dark wooden surface and are symbolizing love in a dark state.

I could say I’m passionate about a lot of things. Most certainly, I like computers and technology. This is a part of me since my childhood when my father introduced me to a 486 Pentium computer. Back then I mostly played video games on it, but with years I developed a genuine interest in the inner works of this wonderful machine, both hardware and software. Another thing I enjoy a lot are many forms of art. Through the years I’ve developed a strong interest in music and I’ve even learned to play the guitar, piano, clarinet and the saxophone during this process. Nowadays I mostly play the guitar since I don’t have other instruments at home. I’ve also always been a fan of martial arts. As a kid I did Aikido for a few years. Only about 4 years ago I started to train in martial arts again. It started with wrestling and MMA in 2013, but I have since moved to a traditional Japanese martial art of Ju-jitsu. The latest passion of mine is origami art, which started in late 2015 after a bad break-up and has served as a time filler and some kind of therapy ever since.

I don’t really have any events or anything promotion related going on right now. Just follow me on Instagram for updates on my origami art. Currently, I’m working on making 200 kusudama flowers and after that I’m going to be making some 3D origami models of popular superheroes (Batman, Superman, etc.).

Please connect with Mladen on social media:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mladen.borovic
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/mladen.borovic
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mladen-borovi%C4%8D-1b670491

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