Tag Archives: thinking

slightly cloudy night

22 Nov

(Back from hiatus though the updates will be somewhat sporadic. But back from hiatus nevertheless.)

I like taking walks around my neighborhood, especially at night. Silence is the first word I like to describe it, but there is some noise like the leaves being blown by the wind and making a scraping sound against the cement. The occasional car going passing by. I guess tender silence might be more accurate, poetically justifyingly speaking.

And I looked up at the sky. I’ll spare you the overused cliche of how it looked like Van Gogh’s Starry Night with the moon shaped like his dismembered ear. Nah, not quite. Definitely not quite.

*

Clumps of clouds can be seen covering most of the sky and still tinged with the deepest shade of red from the sunset. But what captivated me was the sight of the moon. The moon was brighter than usual looks as though it was resting on a small cloud with some bits scattered around it. Just how the clouds are placed made the sky look like a huge ceiling. The same experience I had was the same as the sky I saw at Caesar’s Place, the hotel in Las Vegas. It looked so fake that it was real… a weird way to put it. Maybe it’s just not that everyday you see a blue with patches of white ceiling.

The night sky I saw tonight made me feel small but also gave me a hope that there is much more to life to pursue and enjoy.

Advertisements

figuring stuff out with help from above

25 Jun

Last week, I logged onto the public wi-fi at a local library and visited Yahoo!, which is one of my digital habits to get a glimpse of what’s happening in this world. I saw the homepage, which looked like it vomited most of its web 2.0 and leaving only html-only with links on the left side and a mesh of text congregating in the center. This was probably due to the website not playing nice with the wireless network. So I scrolled down to find something legible to read and came across this quote:

Your deeper brain is engaged with reality in a new way today — so make sure that you’re giving yourself all the time you need to figure stuff out. Your philosophical leanings start to shine through!

Thoughtful with implications of being thought-provoking. Was this something Lincoln or Gandhi? Nope. This was actually from today’s horoscope for a Taurus, and yes, I told Yahoo! my sign.

I would usually see the horoscope on the down-right side, and it would have one for another sign (Aries). I thought, “Might as well have something that’s my sign. Humor me.”

So I changed it to Taurus, and I would usually read the day’s horoscope more for my amusement than a legitimate means of asking The Universe of my purpose through daily updates, probably written by a psychic reader or an harried intern on prozac.

Except it was, you could say, relevant this time as I am gradually developing my life’s philosophy. You know the cliche, finding my place in the world as a twentysomething and answering again the “who am I” question so I could be confident to say who I am.

*

I know, such silly fortunes are to be eschewed much as possible and instead chew on something more substantial and meaningful, like cooking recipes and poetry. Yet I must admit that I do indulge in the occasional pleasure of the fortune cookie.

Unlike horoscopes, the fortune cookie is exciting because there is something special for you, like a Happy Meal or one of those “blind  boxes” containing a random figurine or a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. Of course, I know that I cherry-pick my slips of fortune that. “Oh, I don’t really see myself as being a leader” or “Yes, I do have a captivating style of my own.”

(The 21st century equivalent of the fortune cookie is the Emergency Compliment. Keep on clicking still you stop feeling crappy. Or submit one and then hope to choose it so you can be your own self-fulfilling prophesy, for the better!)

the cardboard guilt trip

20 May

A few weeks ago, I had something to deposit at my bank, which was located at a nearby strip mall. Unlike the usual day when there would be plenty of empty spots in front, the parking lot was packed. Even all the green-colored 15 minutes only spots were taken. The grand opening of a Big Lot must have been the source for this unusual increase of activity.

I circled around the parking lot and a spot finally opened up, which was nearby the bank. I parked and just as I was about to exit the car, I saw something that made me uncomfortable.

A family was standing nearby the exit that led out the strip mall and into the street. Just to see them standing with their eyes transfixed to the direction of the cars going out, I knew why they were there. Actually, it was the cardboard sign one of them was holding that gave it away. So when drivers would exit the strip mall, they would be victims of a stand-by panhandling.

I took a deep breath, aware of the possibility of being approached by them, got out of my car and walked into to the bank.

After I deposited my money and left the bank, I was heading toward my car and the woman spotted me and let out a small shout. She left the spot where she was standing at and jogged down the small dirt mound. She approached me and began lamenting about her family having nothing to eat in broken English. I was taken aback by her facial features. The wrinkles etched on her cheeks and forehead, and three of her golden teeth glimmered as she pleaded. Yet it was her pitiful, sobbing tone that grated my nerves. Pleas for alms at point blank range.

Even though it was not my first time being solicited for money, the emotions that I felt were the same: repulsion, bitterness, and pity. Repulsion for her popping my peaceful suburban bubble, bitterness for her pulling my heart strings like it was a slot machine, and pity for the both of us, always perpetually always in need.

I asked her what was her ethnicity, and she replied that she and her family came from Romania. Then I asked whether her family had a home or not, and she said that they did, but they were running out of food and supplies. (That’s how interpreted what she was saying.)

Knowing that there was a Target nearby, I told her that I’ll be back and get them a gift card. I didn’t feel comfortable handing out cash, but felt compelled to hand something helpful that they could use it as they see fit.

I drove over to Target and went inside to buy a gift card for $25. Then I drove to where the family stood, and handed the card to the man, who I presumed to be the father. Both the man and the woman said God bless you (I don’t clearly recall if the child did say it too) as I turned onto the street.

Even after having given the gift card, I should have felt less bitter. I did feel less guilty, but still bitter. Maybe it was that nagging feeling in the back of my cranium that my compassion had been duped into giving, again.

*

This is not to be interpreted as a brief, heroic narrative of a dashing protagonist (thought you’re still welcome to consider me dashing, or quixotic) who went out to save the ails of an immigrant family by providing them with a Target gift card. The one who carried his share of the white man’s burden. Okay, that term coined by Rudyard Kipling doesn’t fly well for two reasons:

(1) This term has a negative connotation, imbued with imperialistic agenda from the past. Don’t make this phrase as a part of your swag because you’re just going to end up as a swog instead.

(2) I don’t think Asians are perceived as white, and to call it yellow man’s burden instead would sound quite racist as the yellow peril.

*

I always feel reluctant when people solicit me for handouts. I find myself walking the fine line between being too legalistic and too emotional when assessing another person’s needs.

The amount of the gift card may seem much, but at the time, I considered it decent enough for the family to get what they needed. To have the whole family panhandling in public. Now that’s quite bold if you ask me.

If they chose to be the few rotten apples who manipulate people’s sympathy for their own selfish gains, I hope their scheme will be called out. If they were greatly in need of some alms and took the drastic measure of begging in public, I do hope what I gave (and what other people gave) helps them much as possible.

I do hope it was the latter.

Aside

whim aside #2: the korean-american identity

16 Apr

whim aside #2: the korean-american identity

Other than the one I wrote when I started this blog last May, I have been stumped on how to write about the Korean American. It’s ironic because I’m K-A myself, a second-generation child of immigrants. Maybe it’s just harder because it’s like telling a fish to describe what it’s like to breathe underwater.

Looks like it’s James Joyce’s magic to the rescue with to let my mind go on stream-of-consciousness mode though of course, there’s going to be a bit revising and proofreading here and there to make this more readable.

*

So I’m an American Born Korean. When people see me, they see me first an Asian and then as an American on the way I dress or speak. That’s how I perceive it, but I don’t think much about my ethnicity when actually talking to them.

I have been fortunate to grow up in a city with a vibrant Korean community and located near Los Angeles, the mecca of Korean America. I even attended a public high school where it was about 50% Asians and of those Asians, about 80% were Koreans.

Other than the physical features, I wonder what makes a Korean American, a Korean. Is it because they could speak Korean fluently? Is it that they relish in eating Bibimbap and plenty of Kimchi (and not just K-BBQ)? Are they active in Korean traditional activities like drumming or dancing? Or is it that they have an thorough knowledge and interest in Korean literature?

If a non-Korean can say yes to all these things, can he be considered Korean?

Or is it because you’re Korean by blood even if you get your 안녕히가세요 and 안녕히계세요 mixed up? Then what about those who are part-Korean? Does that mean they are…less Korean?

(Aside-in-aside: I recommend watching David Boyle’s quirky indie flick Big Dreams, Little Tokyo and while it’s not about Koreans, it is about a white guy who is “more Asian” than his Japanese-American roommate, aspiring to be a sumo wrestler.)

*

I’ll conclude with three questions I imagine a reader asking me:

Are you related to Kim Jong-Un?

It is unlikely he’s my cousin, uncle, or nephew separated by the nineth degree; however, if you go back somewhere in the 1200’s, I might be. Or if you play the sixth degree of separation game, I might be, but then that also means you might be too, whether you’re Korean or not.

Are you related to Psy?

Wait, what? Okay, maybe you might think so because we have the same dance moves (actually no) or we both wear classy shades (mine’s better). But no, but probably years ago, my great-[insert many greats] grandfather probably danced with his.

Okay, how about something not pop culture oriented?

Are you North or South Korean?

I’ve been living in Orange County, California since I was in kindergarden. So I consider myself to be Southern Korean. And no, I don’t have a drawl in my speech, and with this, see ya’ll.

¹There are two ways to say goodbye in Korean, and it depends on who is leaving and who is staying behind. This Yahoo! answer post explains it and it is also where I copied and paste it because typing Korean on the keyboard is a pain for a K-A like me.

i am a blogger

12 Apr

For quite some time, I thought of myself “writing on my blog” or “updating my blog.” I avoided the terms blog (as a verb) and blogger. Probably it was the negative preconceptions like this comic that made me think blogging is some coping mechanism that unpublished writers go through.

Growing up in the 1990s to the early 2000s, I became drawn to the popular dream of being published. I always read books at the public library in the 808’s, which consists mostly of inspirational thoughts about writing. So I began thinking that great writing must start with submitting a bunch of manuscripts to magazines and being rejected some thousand times. (I read too many comic strips with Snoopy getting his manuscript rejected.) I once submitted a collection of poems, and yes, got a small, impersonal rejection letter, which I still keep as a souvenir.

Thus this developed some negative impression of blogging somewhere in my unconscious. Sure, I’ll admit that I did use Xanga in my high school days, but even then, I knew it wasn’t going to be Pulitzer Prize material. I thought great, serious, and awesome writing only resided in magazines and literary journals.

*

I must admit, there is that magic when it comes to blogging. Instead of sending your manuscripts to mysterious editors hidden in the shadows of literary elitism, your posts are instantly available to the everyday Joe, Jane, and [insert your name here] browsing on the blogging website and the Internet. You can write whatever you are passionate or introspective about, and reach out to your audience who look forward to reading your latest posts. You can view the likes and respond to the comments in real time without waiting a few weeks if your manuscript got accepted. (Of course, it would be nice to get a physical letter saying your work is accepted.)

I have finally come to the point to admit this: I am a blogger, who blogs.

between a faith and a skeptic place

10 Feb

It has already been months since I had regularly attended church and read the Bible. I could already sense people murmuring to themselves, “well, he already stated his spiritual problem by avoiding to do those things.” Or maybe the occasional “he’s going to burn in hell, that backslider.”

If I had a choice while growing up, I would have preferred any sensible religion (or lack of, i.e. Atheism) but Christianity. Not that I had a burning penchant to go below in the afterlife, but my reason would be that I could better understand and experience the Gospel as an outsider rather than an insider. Because its message has been tangible to tax collectors and prostitutes who knew sin first hand while the Pharisees felt entitled to God’s favor when unbeknownst to them they had a plank stuck in their eye.

*

If a believer has not at least once experience any skepticism about his beliefs, I wonder whether his faith is really genuine or just an attractive cardboard cutout.

Last year, I went through an intense spiritual epiphany that led to months of disillusionment. As of this writing, it’s still difficult for me to talk about it because I can’t find the right words to string my thoughts. A few misplaced words can cause the reader to easily misconstrue what I’m trying to communicate.

The only thing I could safely note from this period is that I thought I had finally “figured the Gospel all out” and weeks later the euphoria dissipated, leaving me in the pitch black night, not yielding an inch to dawn.

*

I do hope to begin attending church again someday soon, but I don’t want to impose this on myself out of obligation or out of fear getting a one-way trip to Brimstone Acres.

Also, I don’t want to remove my skepticism and hesitation and call it “trusting in God.” In some ways, I had already did this and over time it eroded my critical thinking and logic significantly. I was just getting by with pastors’ interpretations of the Bible passage and being passive in just being soaking it in without a second thought. (I have a gutsy feeling a good numbers of earnest believers do this, which only makes them more naive and prone to disillusionment.)

Jesus talks about the narrow road. How narrow is that road? Seeing Christianity is one of the dominant religions in the United States, I don’t know if the path could support the weight of millions let alone the image of believers shoving each other out of the way.

Better to pause a moment and ponder while letting others pass by me rather than to blindly follow the path ahead without any set conviction.

*

Again, I should clarify the purpose of these posts about the religion I was raised in.

It will be a challenge writing these posts; to avoid the extremes of letting my ego boastfully rant to its dark-hearted content and my people-pleasing self emit only a few sentences out of political correctness. Instead, to find that balance where I share my contemplations and observations including past church experiences to make sense of Christianity during a period of disillusionment and search.

If you were expecting Five Easy Steps to Loving God the Right Way¹ including a group reading guide, you found the wrong author.

¹Actually, the correct title by the fictitious author is One Easy Step to Loving God the Right Way, and I could sum his book in four words: Do it my way.

at a political crossroad

4 Aug

i came all this way and there's no lemonade stand?

I know about politics. There’s the conservatives, the liberals, Ann Coulter, and Michael Moore. Then you got your issues over abortion and gay marriage.

Now, I find a question haunting me: what are YOUR political beliefs?

This is going to take some time to solidify in my mind. Not to base mine on what my family or friends or the media think, but because that is my honest conviction.

I don’t want to be naive or ignorant, but informed and thoughtful.