on the plane, 8 hours in
hovered fingers over keys a few times now to speak about what this has been, this time, and each time somehow hesitated to write anything conclusive.
somehow this time around things have been transformative, manifesting differences in a startling way. I know not how exactly, but the panoply of experiences this time makes me feel like I'm leaving a life that I lived behind and moving back to an older one, or a different one, that is somehow less urgent and more vivid, like old prints of film photographs, sharper color contrast, those rich reds popping out, beautiful bokeh, all framed by critical/emotional/sentimental distance of not-there-anymore. and for a few days, or maybe just a few hours, this feeling will persist, and everything will fade in importance. what is important? like when J died this summer, and after I came back from the funeral dressed in snappy blacks and grays having just had a painfully gorgeous day with friends in a kind of tribute. certain things are more important, less important. why read those blogs? why read those new york times articles? why keep up with the machine-gun-rapidity of the world?
this has less to do with an anti-technological withdrawal of the world and more to do with a respite, pause, scope. I remember vividly being on a trip to europe sometime ten years ago, and going to a food place where we sat down and ate fried fish and a salad. the memory is sharp and vivid not because of the food, which I recall as tasting as expected, but because everything outside the food (extra-culinary?) was different, down to the shape of the packaging, the font of the logo, the size of the tray, the cartoon mascot, etc, the difference of infrastructure and culture really oozing out at one of the primary sites of cultural production, casual-food-franchises (I mean this with utter sincerity), and I remember really eating that difference in, really drinking in and enjoying that feeling of 'elsewhere'. how altered you are. that moment of displacement like running fast enough to create sonic booms, a function of sound of speed itself being expressed through the medium that you move through, or standing in front of a mirror and trying to blink fast enough to see yourself with your eyes closed.
and there are so many of these moments to drink in; so many places to go to and to feel here, not other, but here as in I-am-not-there-where-I-used-to-be. that is why I like going to Japan, sometimes, because it is recognizable yet different; it is like Korea but with a reset; to some degree I understand these things, these processes, but I can't read anything, so it is like some temporarily created pause from the world where I am rendered into an infant, or a sage, or something, in which I can drift around and just observe certain things like the quality of sunlight dancing off buildings, or the rhythm with which the city lives its life, or the patterns of the aesthetics fried-fish restaurants, so to speak.
but we were talking about korea. korea korea. this time around something is different, perhaps more vivid, more sharply rendered. or: more autonomous.
I think it is because I am starting to encounter korea on its own terms, on my own terms; not as a loss from which I am continually recovering from, but as a new entity to be regarded and to be re-encountered. there is much there. living, breathing.
this visit, in which:
1) korea is deep, and holds a lot, and grows. it is not a place that I have left behind or even a landscape that has changed but a society of active, changing beings. and perhaps this time around I am feeling this viscerally for the first time.
2) in which: I learn a little bit more about where I come from, and the forces that have shaped me, and I further trace back the trajectories that have been formative to understand a little bit more about my present stance in the world and about things.
3) in which: I open the first page of my mother's dissertation, like as if in a novel, and read the first page, and somehow realize the fullness of my parents' being, again, in the way that one day a few months after finishing college, I was at T's parents' home taking a piss in the bathroom and looking at a photo of his kindergarten class, and realizing suddenly that the kindergarten teachers were my age, my peers, just decades ago; that what was once impossibly old was the present, and recognizing this sensation of overlaying would continue to lap up onto the shore
4) in which: I meet old friends and see how much we have changed, and how much we have not, and how different our trajectories have been, and how similar they have been shaped, with similar privileges and burdens. and I understand a little bit more the function of food and alcohol really, as charms, incantations to ward off the night and the sense of deep isolation. or is it just the island-like isolation of a new city? either way, this groupedness that is so much the default in korea, and the friendly drunken gesture of 'let's hang out' from a stranger, these things I now read as desires on behalf of civilization, against the absence of such, the creation of family, society, support structures, against the absence of these things. and as I fly back to NYC as we speak, I realize to an extent that I am in the midst of plunging back into that realm, of clenched teeth and a certain kind of solo embarkation (what? the thirteenth year now, is it?) and wonder a tiny tiny bit for the first time, ever, why I was in such a hurry to fly that coop at the tender excited age of fourteen.
so many words to express something along the lines of doubt? concern? questions. watching the trajectory of my life unfold. thinking about desire, ambition, stability, flexibility, freedom, all of these things. these words are hard, because really they are these tendrils stretching out; each word is like the utterance of the word, "tree," spoken by someone who grew up with a strong elm, all her life, grew up swinging on it, climbing through it, hiding underneath it, playing in raked leaves, and one day came home to a thunderstorm that had struck it dead, and as an adult made the call to have it hauled away by a crew who knew nothing about this tree, and there, standing in front of the yard watching it being felled, catches themselves mouthing the word silently in appreciation and gratitude of a layered past, all shel silverstein-like, but really, it was true, about that tree, or maybe it was a house, or an apartment, or a bicycle with a name, or a worn book, or a pen, or a warm sweater, or something or anything, distilled into 'tree', as if I would ever understand, especially since I wouldn't not understand either. 'tree'. and it goes the same. 'desire'. 'flexibility'. behind these words lie too many layers of soil and sediment to even begin to explain.
happy new years