95. Drawn towards death

May 31, 2011 § 2 Comments

Hello all!  How was your weekend?  To those of you in the States, it seems that life has become a flurry of activity with graduations, transitions, and weather changes.  Hope you’re all adjusting well and enjoying the onset of pre-summer air.

As for me, during the past weekend I attended a public speaking conference in Busan, a large seaport city on the southern tip of Korea.  It is what I would classify as a “great weekend.”  Heard some memorable (and also not-so-memorable) speeches, dipped my feet and splashed around on the beach, partied at my first Korean nightclub, and forged friendships (or stronger acquaintanceships) with other individuals.

…But I’m actually not going to talk about all that fun stuff right now.  What I do want to share is an experience I had with death.  Not my own death, but the death of thousands of unknown people and the impact that these anonymous sacrifices have on our lives today.

Allow me to start from the beginning.

After a four-hour bus ride to Busan with no breakfast, my tummy was aching with hunger and I was more than enthusiastic to join the group to eat at a famous local restaurant serving pork rice soup. But odd things started happening.  As we were walking towards the location I started feeling queasy.  I could feel the knots in my stomach start to form and once we got to the restaurant and had our meals in front of us, my appetite was gone.

As I laboriously shoved the food into my mouth, I noticed that the meal did taste delicious on my tongue — but a lump in my throat created a roadblock from swallowing the food.  Dribbles of rice spewed out of my lips and I had a bad coughing fit after choking on a piece of meat.

What the hell was going on?  Instead of enjoying my hearty meal, what I experienced was nervousness, anxiety, and a hint of strangeness.

It was all just very strange.

After lunch, everyone started returning to the subway station to go back to the conference.  While I initially felt inclined to join the group, I felt this nagging pull to walk the opposite direction.  A nagging pull that was oddly consistent with my feeling of strangeness during the meal.  So I quietly told a friend I’d be going off and quickly scurried away by myself.

…I knew exactly where I had to go, and at that moment I knew why I was feeling strange.  I was in the presence of great death, and I was walking towards its pull.  A couple  blocks away was the UN memorial for the veterans of the Korean war where hundreds of soldiers lie underground.

I had looked up the memorial before coming to Busan and figured it would be a ‘oh I guess I’ll drop by if i have time’ kind of thing, but once I was in the vicinity, the pull I felt to the area was like two magnets on ice.   Never had I felt such a strong pull to a location in space and time.  Like a million strings attached to me started tugging me in.  Slowly.  Compulsively. It was just strange.  Strange strange strange.

I walked past the sculpture garden and entered the cemetery from the back entrance.  Passed by beautifully sculpted trees and the air was quiet and still and sweetly solemn.

The energy of the area was formidable.  As I stepped closer and closer to the graves I felt this neither underwhelming nor overwhelming bubble form in my chest where tears were not quite in my eyes but something untouchably deep was stirring and welling up within me.

It was powerful.  walked along the graves, stepping along the cemented path reserved for the living as the dead lay under their stone tombstones and green earth.  It was humbling and chest opening.

I don’t like saying I believe in spirits because I don’t think I believe in spirits and ghosts (especially given my scientific background), but the energy of that place was ridiculously undeniable and “otherworldly.”  There was an inexplicable presence there.  The presence of hundreds of deceased veterans, from Norway, from Korea, from the US, from South Africa, from all over the United Nations, some Christian, some Muslim, some identifiable with names, some unknown.  It made me…not sad…not bittersweet…I just don’t know.

…But one thing I do know is that as I was standing there, staring at the rows of tombstones and walking along the walls of thousands of casualties, images of unknown souls with unknown bodies with unknown lives crawled around my vision and all I could think was ‘Wow. I hope your lives were worth it. I hope our society, our world, our futures, were well worth your sacrifice of life.’

****

What a blessing it is that we live in a world of relative peace.

We are priviledged individuals.   The mere fact that I can write these words mean I am extremely priviliedged.  If you’re reading this, you are priviledged.  To be sitting under a roof, with your own laptop or desktop, with lunch plans in a restaurant with your friends, literate enough to read, healthy enough to breathe, rich enough to live.

We are so privileged.  No loved one at war facing constant gunfire, no threats of your sisters being abducted, no air raids, no bomb threats, no rationing.

We are so fortunate to be living in our era. But it is so easy to forget.  Too easy to forget that our privilege is not free.  That we are living on the account of thousands of others’ lives and sacrifices.  People we will never know or remember or even acknowledge.

…Are our sad little lives worth the thousands of others who sacrificed themselves in the name of world peace and a better future?

…Would their spirits look at the state of our world today without regret?

I sure do hope so.

94. wow.

May 27, 2011 § 4 Comments

Breathtakingly beautiful.  Heart-wrenchingly tragically beautiful.  Just finished it and laid in bed for a while, frozen between heartbreak and ecstasy.

Highly recommended 

***

Enjoy your weekend – soak up the air and relax yourselves.  Off I am to the southern tip of Southern Korea.

93. depressed

May 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Hm…

There is no sun today.

There are no words in my head today.

No words in my head makes me want to spend all day in bed.

***

Hm.

I’m not feeling too peachy keen today.

Though I really have no reason not to.

I gave my fourth public speech last Monday and it went pretty well.  I received a lot of positive feedback from the audience and I was somewhat satisfied with my performance.  But as I reviewed my videotape, I realized that my voice is quite monotonous and I really suck at expressing emotions.

Another interesting thing about public speaking — externally, I look pretty calm and confident.  People even say I look very “natural.”  I think this is funny because internally, all my anxiety bells are ringing and I feel my guts sinking to the floor and swallowing up my overdriven heart and that in any second I’m going to projectile vomit my pounding nervous energy and spew them out as ugly chunks of verbal vomit onto the world.

But when you watch me speak I’m pretty level-headed.

Calm.

Cool.

& Collected.

& Unwavering.

(but it’s all a lie)

…How is it possible that the internal state of being you foster and the external state you project are so contradictory at times?

Speaking of public speaking, I’m attending a national public speaking conference this weekend.

…What the hell am I doing with my life?  Why am I attending a public speaking conference?!?!

I confuse myself at times.

My actions amuse me at times.

Anyways.

In other news, everyday for the past week I’ve been having a reoccurring dream involving physical intimacy.  It was nice at first but now it’s just annoying.  Hormones. are. annoying.

“…Rahel put her mouth on Ammu’s stomach and sucked at it, pulling the soft flesh into her mouth and drawing her head back to admire the shining oval of spit and the faint red imprint of her teeth on her mother’s skin.

Ammu wondered at the transparency of that kiss.  It was a clear-glass kiss.  Unclouded by passion or desire — that pair of dogs that sleep so soundly inside children, waiting for them to grow up.  It was a kiss that demanded no kiss-back.”

-Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Um…are my “pair of dogs” awakening?

Because if they are…that’s not cool.   Really bad timing.  Because I need to find myself a job first.

92. let’s be friends and not waste time together

May 23, 2011 § 1 Comment

Celebrating Buddha’s birthday

So. I’ve been quite social these days. This is quite odd for me because I’m usually the type of person who would prefer to sit alone in her room and do one of the following: (1) stare at the wall, (2) stare at the ceiling, (3) stare at a book, (4) stare at a computer screen, (5) stare at her uneven nails – and once in a while step outside to stare at the sky.

However, lately I’ve been uncharacteristically inclined to pursue social interaction in favor of my usual day-to-day sit-stare-think. I’m actively seeking out playdates with people, and accepting invitations to selected outings.

Why is this happening to me? After a prolonged period of preferred solitude, why do I enjoy the presence of people?

Well, I think it’s because I’m learning how to spend quality time.  With quality people.

In the past, I had the mainstream-Americanized-big-city notion that “going out” and “having fun” must involve costuming oneself in showy outfits, getting exuberantly drunk, and taking lots of photographs to prove that one indeed was enjoying life. Having fun meant taking pictures in revealing outfits with the “cool people.” Your capacity to enjoy life was a function of the best “OMG remember when I got so wasted and did XYZ” you had to offer.

But in actuality, getting dressed up in clothes I wasn’t comfortable in and drinking so much I couldn’t remember half the night was not that fun. Sure, it offers moments of hilarity and amusement as you play the “So, what did I do last night?” game with your friends, but what is it worth when you were so busy feeling uncomfortable or drunk that the moments just pass you by without notice?

These days, “hanging out” has taken on a completely different meaning. “Hanging out” includes listening to a friend’s PhD dissertation presentation inside a donut shop (T-type calcium channels FTW!), sitting around a bunch of home-sliced apples and laughing at our ridiculous tendencies, standing along the seaside on a rainy day and climbing rocks as the wind trails against our bodies, sharing a cupcake that apparently tastes like a bunny, watching my friends comfortably enjoy a meal or a shot of freshly-made wine provided by my parents, zoning in and out of sleepiness in a car, exploring and sharing our thoughts as we weave through art galleries, and breathing in fresh mountain air while walking alongside giant monuments of brightly effervescent trees.

I so enjoy myself these days. Sans slutty clothes, sans excessive alcohol, sans photographs to prove to others I was there.

…Obviously that last one is a lie. Of course I took photos. Here are my most recent ones from a road trip to northern Jeolla province in Korea:


But in all seriousness – wow. People are great sometimes. More specifically, what I mean to say is this: quality people are great during quality times. During these times, with these people — the whole experience just uplifts you. Subconsciously or consciously, you ride through their trails of insight and experience, and you learn something unknowable. Something precious. And you continue on – a human being of slightly better quality than you were before.

Good people outshine grey weather

*****

91. i literally cannot stop watching this video

May 19, 2011 § 7 Comments

I don’t know why, but I’ve been quite sensitive to visual imagery these days.  My latest fascination is Synesthesia, a short film directed by Terri Timley not too long ago:



The film cleverly attempts to expose the inner experiences of people with synesthesia, a neurological syndrome in which the senses merge with one another.  For example, in synesthetic individuals, the activation of a visual pathway will also activate the auditory signals so that one may “hear” the color blue as distinct from “hearing” the color yellow.  There are many fascinating varieties of synesthesia — some individuals automatically have a color association to a given letter or number, some will hear different sounds depending on the movements they see, and some “feel the personalities” of different days of the week.  Amazing isn’t it?!?

Gosh.  Why do drugs exist?  All we need is fascinating art combined with our fascinating brains.

*******

Dear friends and acquaintances and nonexistent lovers, enjoy your day.  Breathe in good air and smile!  :)

90. let us mess our minds

May 18, 2011 § 2 Comments

Excuse my language, but those images mindfuck me to the core.

Daehyun Kim (also known as Moonassi), a Seoul-based artist with a background in oriental art, conveys poignant portrayals of our fundamentally solitary minds.  They resonate with disturbing honesty.

Upon first laying my eyes on these drawings something odd happened — a wave of impact forced my head back and I felt a rush of energy flowing from my head, through my neck, shoulders, upper arms…all the way to each fingertip.

I’ve never reacted so strongly (and consciously) to art before.

Imagine someone out there had peered into the confines of your mind. Or no. It’s the other way around. You are peering into the confines of another’s mind. And it is both scary and exciting because you realize that the artist’s confines mirror your own.  You almost feel exposed.

Kind thanks to the artist for allowing me to share and Claudia at the science of design for the reference.  More thought-provoking images can be found at moonassi.com.

*******

This is quite a shift from happy Asian babies isn’t it?  Ah well, we can all use a little mind perplexion every once in a while.  Hope all of you are doing well — enjoy your day!

89. let’s get together, yeah yeah yeah

May 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

“Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I do have faith that things come together someday.  But what is my next step?  Am I even on a staircase?

No matter where I am or what I do this whole job search/navigating my life path seems to be runs through the back of my subconscious mind.  ^^;;

Anyways.

It is currently Saturday morning and I’m sitting in a complimentary hotel room in Seoul.  Yesterday was filled with a continuous stream of enjoyable conversation, art, architecture, and food.  The last time I spent the day in Seoul I ended up thoroughly exhausted and dizzy, but yesterday was surprisingly energizing.

It was also quite weird.  I went to the Leeum Museum, one of Seoul’s premier art museums, and saw a variety of pieces by a variety of artists.  Afterwards my friend (who is an artist herself) took me to a gallery and there I met (more like stared at) some of the famous artists who were featured in the museum.  Imagine watching Jessica Alba on screen and then ten minutes later meeting her in real life.  At first you think ‘Whoa, it’s Jessica Alba’ but as you talk and observe you realize she’s another human being.  It’s quite interesting.

These famous or legendary artists are actually just human beings with legs and arms who wear jeans and eat meat and drink soju and have struggles and financial woes and enjoy good company and have kids or don’t have kids and talk and talk and laugh and talk.  They just also happen to be world-renowned artists.  But only world-renowned to the people who consider them world-renowned.

So which world do you, dear reader, would you like to be renowned in?  Would you like to be renowned at all?

As the night came to a close I checked into the hotel and eventually found my way up to the rooftop of the nineteen-story building.  It was quite high, but not high enough to make you feel sick.  There I witnessed a nice view of the variety of modern (and not so modern) buildings illuminated by nighttime lights and traffic.

Sometimes when I’m on top of a building I have this desire to dive off.  Not in the suicidal sense that I want to kill myself – no, I hardly think I should die quiet yet, nor is it really my decision to make.  Rather, the desire to fall and dive (or dive and fall) represents a longing to fly.   To fly and fall endlessly and to feel that sense of release because all you have left do is fall.  And then fall some more.  There is nowhere to go, nothing to do.  Gravity takes a hold of you, you feel the good wind against your face and your hair flows amongst the full breeze.  You utterly let go because there is nothing else you can, or want, to do.

*****

In other news, I’m feeling quite fat and bloated this morning because I did not drink enough water to balance the presumably large amount of sodium I ingested from all the restaurant food I ate yesterday.

That is all.

I’m off to socialize with people now.  I’m being awfully social this weekend.  This is quite odd for me.  ^^* (For those of you unfamiliar with Asian emoticons, that one is a cheery smile with a twinkle in one eye)

Anyways.

Have a great weekend guys — soak up the sun or rain and relax~

Sitting on an artsy bench in front of the Leeum Museum.  Great weather – full sun balanced by a cool breeze. Photo courtesy JHC.

See ya laters alligators!

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