잠깐 와서 잠깐 가다.
묘한 기분이 가습에서 올라와서 넘친다. pouring too much wine into a laughing friend's cup. laughter, the joy of sadness, of the way things went, of the drama that we play out, you know, you know, you know?
in the corner of a 포장마차 Y and I sit together; we have agreed that we were married in a past life, so here we are, a strange companionship knitting us together. we are together and we are not.
we compare notes. how have you been? how have you been? what happened to you, in all of this time? how did the world pass for you, too?
I try to grasp this feeling with cupped hands, gently.
a quiet in the winter that reveals everything that is present. in the NYC it feels like this kind of soulfulness finally emerges when things become quiet. in Seoul, it feels like it's always present, a city born around and through this acknowledgment of life's deep fears. you know? the things we fear are going to happen, you know? I'm going to be full of regret, you know? and sadness?
it's in this winter night that I can realize. it took thirty five years for this feeling to fully emerge for one of the first times of my life. I am going to miss my parents when they are gone, I am certain, I know, desperately, achingly, sobbingly, I will miss friends, former friends, lovers, loved ones, I will, and I also know that life will then continue on, strangely enough. you know?
in this 포장마차 the world moves on with all of its splendor and squalor. 아주머니 chopping in a corner, minding the cooking, half-listening. steam billowing from a pot, the dirty gas heater doing its thing 열심히, a gaggle of other guests also finding shelter from the winter in this thin plastic bubble, this archetypical space, sitting on plastic chairs leaning on plastic tables drinking out of paper cups with a bottle of soju, having the most important conversations of our lives. somehow fitting, or even helpful, squalor necessary for the splendor, the sacred found precisely in the profane.
그래, 정말 특별한 분위기지.
a few months ago P asked me why I had to travel all the way to that thing in the desert to have a sacred moment, why I couldn't just do it here, why, why.
I didn't know how to answer because I didn't know how to explain what it means to not know how to explain, because I didn't know that which I was touching, that thing in the horizon, the taste in my mouth when I saw the sky,
(perhaps probably because I understood, intuitively, that no explanation would have fulfilled, that their question held a determinism and an end within it already, not within the bounds of the question but in the asking of it. a kind of meta-rhetorical question, a question asked where the answer is asked, not to make a persuasive effect, but a response to indicate the depth of a closure, a withdrawal, ears turned away)
and naively was ashamed of finding the sacred in the profane, or even calling anything profane or sacred in the first place, and didn't know how to say that it's a flawed place, and that's the point. the word 'pilgrimage' elided my mouth because it felt, well, silly, to find it in the profane and problematic, the easily misunderstood and judged.
but of course now I see that that's the point, the sacred becomes possible there because it's so impure, so immanent, so present, so imbricated, it's a heap, a mishmash, a whole conglomeration, a confederancy of dunces, all sorts of people, and yes that is it and yes that is what we are, this roilicking tumbling world, there's me and you and us all in it, and we play out the psychodrama of our lives, casting ourselves in familiar roles, playing them out. in the desert I find the profane, in the desert I find a polluted earth that's getting worse, in the desert I find a strange society I usually don't belong to, but people whom I find beautiful, and thus I find a human condition and the sacred
(they could speak, but could they listen, I should have asked myself; could they listen to that sound)
Y listens to my story, oh, the story, what a story. and when she speaks she asks piercing questions, 꿰뚫어서 보이는, statements that grasp the heart of the matter and leave me gasping with sudden perspective. I can't stop grinning, can't stop laughing out loud at the absurd accuracy of what she perceives. the story is about: how people felt love, how people felt fear because they wanted love, and what happens when we move with fear because we fear losing love. an age-old story, a sad one. but somehow, and maybe it's because we speak in korean, maybe because english cannot hold this energy, or maybe it's because the half of me that is korean starts unfolding and blossoming out, I am able to feel this laughter, this joy at sorrow, underneath it all a deep humor in the workings of how we relate to each other, Y's acceptance of sorrow and death and grief grounding me in the light of life, and so there I am, awed and moved by her sense of presentness and spirit and the space of exchange that we happen to be in, spending hours and hours and hours on that winter night, telling our stories to each other.
I am growing, mom, dad, I am growing, I am changing, I am morphing, I can feel it, I am getting older, I am finding perspective, I am listening to my body, I am getting sadder and happier, I can start to see these arcs of sorrow and love.
I try on a jacket my dad wore in the 90s ("입어봐", mom eggs on, holding it open with outstretched arms, as Q observes, relaxed), and imagine large rimmed glasses, imagine an older Seoul in the winter that I can only vaguely remember, a 김포공항 era, angular cars, shrill horns, street carts, wisps of white smoke, hard branches, a tofuseller's melancholic yodel,and people grasping onto their own cold bodies and hurrying from destination to destination, from place to place. What does it mean to gather together, to do it together, to be together? 같이, 같이, 같이.
ah, I realize. I am starting to miss my parents before they are gone. (perhaps, who they have been)
you who will read this, you, you, know: know that all there is is people, because we were born of people and relations, literally, born into families that worked and didn't, that loved and hurt us (love and fear), and that then we get shaped as beings who fear fear and love love, but also become familiarly close to fear and far from love, and that these formations fling us into orbits that shape us, that make us into explorers, or seekers, take us towards places in the hopes that we might find what we have been looking for all our lives, not knowing that it was always at home, within us already, the bildungsroman or the hero's journey needs no conquest, just us returning to ourselves, me returning to me. is this not the case? when is the season of being loved, when is the season for being hurt, when is the season of being assuredly angry, when is the season for simmering resentment, when is the season of anguished leaving, when is the season of exuberant freedom, when is the season of complicated struggle, when is the season of surprising perspective, when is the season of reluctant realization, when is the season of tender reflection, when is the when is the season of bittersweet regret, when is the season of wistful acknowledgment, when is the season of acceptance, when is the season of joyous beauty, when is the season of sincere gratitude, when is the season of love? will we not enter into these cycles? will this not be how it works, again and again and again?
and yes yes yes, there will always be the fumbling and desperate attempts to pin a name onto this, to hold it down, to force a guarantee, to kill a living thing in the name of certainty, to anesthetize the relationships between us in the name of safety, when life is this living crackling moving thing, life is alive with a mind of its own, and we make deep mistakes and hurt each other, and then what? and we talk about it, hopefully, '대놓고 얘기하자' 라고, just entering forward. but you can only do this if you have a shared language, or if the other person is already present, or if we are ready to talk about about the ties that hold us to this net, this thing we're born out of, if we are stepping into the same space, see how we're looking out onto perspectives similar and different, if we are able to sit in quietude and savor the view from here, and how it affects both of us, both of us who have a body, and ears that hear each other, and a mouth and a belly that gets hungry, and a skin that wants to feel each other, and a nose that finds longing, and eyes that fall in love, both of us who have a body, and were born from people, born inside of a person who tried to care for us, the operative word: tried, and failed, and still tried. the eternal story, the psychodrama of family and of self that we carry with us throughout our lives.
and so! yes, I can be scared and fearful, scared of love, afraid of fear, but that can be the 솥뚜껑 to a 자라, because it's not that 'all I have is my heart, but that with my heart I have it all, and that is so much, to move with 진심, 진심, a true heart and true integrity and honesty with myself and trying the best I can, that is so, so, so, much, so much, abundance, thriving, enough, bountiful, you know?
so. what matters? this does, this work, these relations, and whatever supports them, whatever allows them to exist. I know with yearning that I want to make a life, a way of being, a practice of living. I am here, already, thinking about this, wondering what it means to live, to be alive, 나의 진심을 찾아가는 길 위에서, 아니, 진심을 따라가서 길을 만드는 과정 중에서, finding it. I want to study this, or follow it, find others on their path, to be in a community of practice.
이번 겨울, winter in seoul, oh winter in seoul, thank you, thank you for being what you were, steam from our mouths, our shivering bodies, soft technological chimes on the subway, a dark dark night sky, the glow of a neighborhood street, the warmth of a life, the soulfuless of being suffusing through everything. it took me this long to really realize, to really see what I somehow felt, to really see you, a city that is, underneath it all, always deeply present to the question of what it means to be alive, hurt, sorrowful, pained, yearning, surviving, changing, trying, growing, loving, living.