Monday, March 28, 2005

postal scrotum: fan mail?!?

DW writes:

Dear Mr. Hominid,

You and I never having met (in person or otherwise), it may be somewhat presumptuous of me to write you, as I'm doing now, on no particular item of business.

In brief, I've followed your blog for about a year or so now, and would like to be counted a fan. You've provided me (along with many, many others, doubtless) with both entertainment and food for thought. You've done so in copious quantities, to boot. Count yourself a benefactor of the human race (or at least that small part of it which happens to read your blog: it amounts to the same thing).

I can sympathize with your recent job woes. (I'm from the States myself, by the way, and have spent most of the past 4 yours teaching English here in Korea.) Late last year, I had to make not just one but TWO visa runs to Japan--ouch! The first was strictly because the evil bitch at Mokdong Immigration very rudely refused to extend my tourist visa (her entire explanation amounting to "No!"), the second to secure a job which I've since quit, after having to reimburse the school for the Osaka flight. Yuck.

And then I've been sitting here in my little goshitel room in Itaewon for the past two weeks, between jobs, with a growing realization that I am crazily in love with a Korean woman whom I haven't even seen in the past year and a half: How is such a thing possible? Insanity, clearly. I should take a page out of your book and go climb Namsan on a Saturday afternoon, rather than sitting here moping and staring at my computer screen.

Having at one time in my life been a Benedictine monk (two and a half years in the monastery total: just long enough--for what, I'm not sure--but just long enough, all the same), I take a keen interest in your religious musings. At times your theological vocabulary may be a bit beyond me, but I struggle to keep up. Count me a student as well as a fan.

And as someone with a very perplexed relationship with Korea (it's beginning to seem like home, after all these years, though I've got a visa which is set to expire any day now), and with the newly revived goal of mastering the language, with a view toward someday possibly becoming a Korean-to-English translator, I look forward to following your own experience of this country as it continues to unfold in your blog.

Anyway, forgive the rambling, which may sound nutty. You'd probably be quite correct if you had me figured out by now as "another one of those crazy English teachers." Such is life. Oh well.

Good luck with the job situation, and with life, and so forth, if I may be so bold as to say so, in addition to all the above.

Yours from Itaewon-dong,


Thanks for the email, and good luck with your own struggle. Living in Korea isn't easy; the country often acts like a huge antibody, trying to reject any foreign elements. This is especially hurtful for people with some Korean ethnicity like me, but I can't deny I've seen plenty of non-Korean expats experiencing worse hurt than mine.

No one's ever told me I was a "benefactor of the human race" before. While I'd like to accept such praise, I'm reminded of the Korean Buddhist passage I quoted last night:

Being praised when you lack virtue is truly shameful...

I don't think I'm doing anything special with this blog, though I'm happy to hear it entertains or informs some people on some modest level.

As for your moping: I hope you don't feel guilty about that. People need time to sulk, mope, etc., but it shouldn't become the dominant theme in their lives. If you know your situation is unsatisfactory, you need to set about changing it. Take time to sulk, then get on with life.

When I was with my Korean buddy on Saturday, we ate lunch at an awesome dol-naembi-guksu restaurant (boiling fish-broth noodle soup in a stone bowl), and I told him my whole sad story. He noticed I'd lost some weight, and I said, "Yeah-- anger and depression have driven me to walk up Namsan every day." He smiled and joked, "Then you should stay angry and depressed all the time!"

Strangely, I think the mountain might be wearing down my bitterness. I'm not there yet; I'm still angry about my own mistakes and those of A Certain Someone, but I'm sure that, with time, those feelings will fade and life will return to an even keel. I'm what you might call a "dour optimist," if such a term makes any sense.

This is the problem with writing anything: writing can be misleading because it gives the reader the impression that certain emotions are more deeply felt than others. For instance, when I rant about something in my life, the Smallholder over at Naked Villainy usually makes wisecracks about my angst. It's a bullshit jibe, based on a couple slices of text and no evidence from the other 23.99 hours of my day, so I don't care that he's riding me. But the jibe points to the misleading nature of blogs, too: if we use our blogs to rant and vent, this doesn't mean we spend our days in an eternal huff. Writing is an outlet. It's not all of who we are.

As far as getting through each day goes, I think it helps to have some basic faith. Faith in what? I don't know. Answers vary. For some, the answer is God. For others, the answer is some innominate groundedness-- maybe God, maybe something else. It helps to be fully present in the moment, too: you can't reach the future except by going through the present. When you look out to that horizon, you're seeing it now. Tread wisely. If you don't, you're likely to trip on your way to the goal. That's a stupid way to live, but it's what we so often do, I think.

You were a monastic, so you know a great deal about spiritual discipline-- way more than I do. It's OK to draw on that experience to get through the hard times. Narrow your focus. Live day by day. Both Mahayana Buddhists and Christians agree: don't just seek happiness-- make it. As a friend said to me yesterday, we so often don't enjoy where we are now. We think about the future, and it often stresses us, drawing our focus away from where it should be: on this moment. It's hard to be happy without proper focus. Trust me: it's what I've been dealing with lately.

Anyway, good luck. And I know you were a Benedictine, but I was reminded on Saturday that there's a Franciscan center over by Teoksu Palace. Maybe give them a visit sometime, get back in touch with your Catholic spiritual roots. Who knows, eh?

I sure as hell don't.


No comments: