Heart

“사람의 마음이란 이렇게 번잡하다. 마음이라는 부분이 육체의 어디에 붙어 있는지 모르는 탓도 있다. 그래서 마음이 아프지만, 어깨나 발목의 아픔과는 달리 어떻게 처리할 길이 없다. 그래서 생각해 본다.”
-냉정과 열정 사이

“That’s why a person’s heart is confusing. It might be because you don’t know where the heart resides in the body. So, unlike ankle or shoulder pain, there isn’t a way to alleviate one’s heartache. So we just think.”
-Between Calm and Passion

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생각

한국에 있으면 한글로 글을 쓰고 싶은 생각이 든다.
항상 느낀 점인데, 한글을 읽는게 영어로 읽는 것 보다 더 마음에 와닿는다.
그래서 더욱 안타까운 것 같다. 한글로 내 안에 있는 내면을 표현하고 싶은 마음이 굴뚝같지만, 언어의 장벽 앞에서 나는 내가 하고 싶은 말을 다 못 하는 것 같다.
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지난 2016년 가을 이후 처음으로 한국에 다시 들어왔다. 그 때는 졸업하기 전, 지금은 졸업한 후.
나는 많이 달라졌지만, 한국은 별다른 차이점을 느끼지 못했다. 아, 사람들이 입는 옷, 아이돌 유행, 정치권을 잡은 당, 이런 것들은 조금 달랐지만 그 나머지는 다 똑같은 것 같았다.
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그럼에도 불구하고 지금 나에게 한국은 다르다. 언제나 느낀 점이지만 한국에 들어올때마다 다르게 느껴진다. 지난번에 왔을땐 거센 파도처럼 한국은 내 정체성과 이념을 흔들어 놓았지만, 이번엔 물 흐르듯 잔잔히 흘러가는 듯 하다. 뭐가 달라졌을까. 궁금하지만 파헤치고 싶진 않다. 그저 흐르는 데에 몸을 싣고 싶다.
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재즈를 좋아한다. 재즈바를 다녔고 (홍대, 합정 압구정, 교대, 이태원), 다닐 계획이다 (종로, 삼청동, 청담). 재즈음악 중에서도 재즈 피아노를 좋아한다. 칙 코레아, 키스 자렛, 빌 에반스, 버드 파웰 등을 좋아한다. 미국에서 유년기를 보냈기 때문에, 나한테 재즈는 미국사회에 입성하는 계기였던것 같다. 한국 전통음악과 재즈는 비슷한 점도 많다. 한국 고유의 “한”, 그리고 재즈의 “소울”. 둘 다 슬픔을 음악으로 고스란히 전달하는 과정에서 표출되는 감정이다. 재즈 평론가 남무성은 <재즈 잇 업> 에서 말한다. 재즈는 완성의 음악이 아닌 과정의 음악이라고. 맞는 말이다.
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영화도 무지 좋아한다. 솔직히 처음에는 책 읽기 싫어서 였는데, 이제는 영화도 하나의 비주얼 에세이라는 생각을 가지고 본다. 그래서인지 액션 영화, 히어로물을 별로 안 좋아한다 (약간 재수 없을수도 있다). 오히려 대화를 위주로 등장인물들의 감정선을 잘 전달하는 영화들을 좋아한다. 그래서 어쩔수 없이 대화/감정/영상미를 두루 겸비한 멜로영화들을 좋아한다. 좋아하는 감독은 왕가위, 고다드, 카프맨, 허진호, 이창동, 웨스 안데르센. 좋아하는 영화는 <화양연화>, <중경삼림>, <이터널 선샤인>, <봄날은 간다>, <위플래쉬>, <로마의 휴일>, <400번의 구타> 등등 있다.
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내가 좋아하는 것들만 늘어놨다. 아직은 좋아하는 것들만 많이 알고, 내가 진정 안 좋아하는 것들은 무엇인지 잘은 모르겠다. 그러고 보니 나는 내가 좋아하는 것들에 더욱 민감했던 것 같다. 좋아하는 것들을 추구하기 위에 안 좋아하는 것들에 대한 진지한 성찰은 하지 않았던 것 같다. 언젠가 더 뚜렷해 지겠지.
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고속터미널역에 있는 반디앤루니스라는 서점 안을 서성거리고 있었는데, 이기주 작가의 <언어의 온도>라는 책이 눈에 들어 왔다. 일단 책 표지가 되게 예뻐서 책을 집어 들었는데, 안에 있는 글귀들도 참 예뻤다. 시간이 되면 읽어봐야 겠다.
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횡설수설도 글이다.

 

Movies II

Some movies I watched recently that expressed things better than I ever would or will –

1. One Fine Spring Day, 2001, Hur Jin Ho

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An extraordinarily plain movie about two individuals who meet, fall in love, fall out of love, and reflect on what it meant for them to be in love. By plain, I mean how relatable the content is to many of the viewers who empathize with either the guy – or the girl – character. Hur paints his characters as complex agents of emotions. I empathized with the male character more, but in the end, I understood both side of their stories. Love does not meet eye to eye, and that’s okay.

2. Annie Hall, 1977, Woody Allen

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I know, Woody Allen’s personal life has been scrutinized, criticized, and vilified by the public. And it’s understandable why that’s the case – he ended up marrying Soon Yi Previn, a woman more than two decades younger than him and who was an adopted child of Allen’s ex wife. Despite this disclaimer, Allen’s Annie Hall is one of the most innovative romantic comedy movies I have watched recently. It’s kind of like the 70s’ 500 Days of Summer. I was particularly enamored by the character Allen played – a cynical, self-deprecating, self-loathing pseudo-intellectual comedian named Alvy Singer. Alvy frequently breaks the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience, and while these moments of cinematic rupture may feel intrusive to the movie-watching experience, I found it to be an effective film technique. I’m also moving to New York in July, so the fact that the mise-en-scene of the movie took place mostly in Manhattan was a plus. I should probably watch Allen’s other tribute to his favorite city, fittingly titled Manhattan (1977).

3. The King of Pigs2011, Yeon Sang Ho 

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I won’t lie, this movie made me feel uncomfortable the entire time I was watching it. First off, the animation was amateurish – the characters moved like marionettes, as if they were being controlled by some invisible puppeteer. The voice-over job sounded like it was done by a ventriloquist. Many moments during the movie, I cringed.
Despite the movie’s cinematographic shortcomings, it does address some important issues surrounding the state of Korean society. The director does not hesitate to collide head-on with the problem of debilitating social hierarchy thriving in every sector of Korean society. Instead of portraying the problem as a black-and-white, weak versus strong type of deal, the director complicates the narrative by focusing intently on the psyche of the weak. Do they choose to stand their ground and not curb under the strong’s demand? Or do they comply, hoping that their compliance manifests as some form of favor in the long run? The last sequence of the movie will surely leave many viewers agitated, but rightfully so.

4. Josee, The Tiger, and the Fish, 2003, Isshin Inudo

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I’m realizing more and more that I am intimately drawn to calm movies that focus on the interpersonal interactions between two main characters rather than blockbuster action movies. The movies that fit my predilection, by default, then, are almost always romance movies. It makes sense: two main characters + deep conversations = some form of budding romance.
Josee, The Tiger, and the Fish is no exception to this groundbreaking formula I have just developed. The movie narrates the story of Tsuneo, a loose-moralled undergraduate student who falls in love with a disabled stay-at-home girl named Josee. Despite having a disability that hinders Josee from walking, the movie does not treat the romance between the two as an able-bodied person developing feelings for a disabled person out of pity. Rather, it is through and through a story of two people who, like any other couple, fall in love, endure hardship of being in a relationship, and part ways when things don’t work out the way they wish it did.
It’s also prudent to pay attention to what the tiger and the fish mean to both Josee and Tsuneo in the movie. Josee and Tsuneo both succeed in going to see the tiger in the zoo; however, when they go to see the fish, they realize the aquarium is closed, much to their dismay. The tiger and the fish represent different tropes in the life of Josee and Tsuneo (I won’t give away what they are), and likewise, we all live with our own inner tiger and fish. We’re just not sure what they are – and maybe we won’t know for a while.

 

*I also watched A Beautiful Mind and Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, but I’m too lazy to write stuff on them. Maybe later.

Visitor

A Korean poem translated by yours truly –

Visitor

it is a colossal event
for a person to come.

that is,
the person’s past
present
and future come with it.
a person’s life comes with it.
a fragile heart
easily broken
comes with it.

a wind
may perhaps examine
the heart’s thread.

if my heart can imitate the wind
it will surely be welcome.

Jung Hyun Jong

Meaning

One night, while walking back to my dorm after studying in the library for some time, my friend, who was accompanying me in my journey back, said this to me. “We’re dissatisfied with how our time at Amherst is coming to an end because we are desperately seeking for some sort of meaning to the imminent end. But there is no meaning to our time here – and that’s why it’s so sad.”

We were already conversing about how we feel about graduating. A curious mixture of confusion, relief, anxiety, excitement, and nostalgia engulfed us as our feelings became real through our words. Such conversation, it seemed like, were had not only by us but by everybody whose time at Amherst were quickly approaching its expiration date. And perhaps, because of the ticking time bomb we were all cast under, many of my friends seemed to have been interlocked in a frantic race to grasp at this ever-elusive “meaning” behind our four years at college.

I did not exempt myself from this race. In fact, I plunged head first into the race, fully equipped with running shoes and compression shorts. I made plans to catch up with all my friends I lost touch with, aggressively visited my professors at their office hours, took long walks through the freshmen quad to relive my bygone days spent there, and hosted late night talks in my room to rekindle some kind of conviviality that we all once had but seemed to have dissipated down the road.

The race, I thought, was exhausting. I told myself, however, that this was the right thing to do to leave Amherst, the place I spent the four most formative years of my life, with no regrets. But the race tired me, wore me down, and ironically, made me grow even more distant from some of my closest friends. And around this time, I started wondering what the purpose of it all was. Why did I feel the need to engage myself in this competition?

The answer, I suppose, lied in the insecurity I felt of many different forms. Perhaps insecurity of being forgotten after I graduate. Insecurity of not having answered the many what-ifs I have asked myself time and time again. Insecurity of not having made the most out of my time at Amherst. Insecurity of leaving behind so many friendships I forged during my time here.

It was around this time of existential inquiry that I had the aforementioned conversation with my friend. Initially, I did not want to believe that there was no meaning behind the four years I spent in Western Massachusetts. To write off my experience here as being meaningless seemed concerning – distasteful, even.

But as I mulled over this question for some time, I realized meaninglessness does not necessarily have to be perceived as being negative. Why do we seek meaning in things, anyway? The answer, in the end, seemed so simple: we don’t want our time here to go to waste, and henceforth, we search for meaning to legitimize the time spent here as one that is of substance.

I now think differently. Imbuing meaning into something, whether that’s an experience, an event, a friendship, or even a failure, does not make that something more “valid” or more “influential.” What matters, in the end, is what one has learned from one’s lived experience and how that alters the course of life one chooses – or does not choose – to take. Insofar as my time at Amherst goes, I have seen myself grow, and with such growth came moments where I questioned things that were once so obvious to me. To move the immovable, to think the unthinkable – these were the markers that guided me through my time here, and for these markers I am grateful.

So, in the end, I don’t really think I found meaning in my undergraduate career. But I now am not burdened by that fact. Another friend (different from earlier) said to me this: “life is fundamentally meaningless, but that’s why it’s so great – because we can choose to fill it with whatever we wish to. That’s how we become we.”

And perhaps, this act of filling is what makes our lives meaningful.

Fragility

One of my favorite movies is Roman Holiday, a 1953 Hollywood film starring Audrey Hepburn Gregory Peck in the lead role. Hepburn plays a discontent European princess Ann who scurries off into the labyrinthine city of Rome by herself. Amidst her prince-and-pauper like escapade, she runs into a stoic journalist Joe Bradley (played by Peck). Quarrelsome at first, the two start budding feelings towards each other as they roam through the streets of Rome (ba-dum-tss) on a way-too-small moped without helmets. All good things must come to an end, and so do their unlikely rendezvous; Ann reluctantly returns to her royal throne, and Joe looks at Ann – or the forlorn vacancy of the throne where Ann once sat in – one last time before smiling and walking away from the scene (words don’t do justice to the poignancy of this last scene. Just look up “Roman Holiday ending” on Youtube).

As I approach the last couple months of my time at Amherst, I find myself empathizing with Joe more and more. The past four years of college have come and gone too fast for me to sit and process exactly what happened. The only true witness to the changes I have undergone in those past four years is myself. But how reliable can I be as a witness when, as I witness things about myself that have changed, I’m simultaneously going through other changes that I am not aware of? I’ve written about this trope many many times in my previous blog posts, but I’m always drawn back to the relentlessness of time and the helplessness of us all when we have to face it.

One thing that’s becoming clearer as I near the end of my four-year stay in this middle-of-nowhere Western mass town is just how fragile human relationships are. Today I can be friends with you, but tomorrow we might be enemies. Somebody that I cared about so deeply could become just one more stranger in the sea of people I encounter every day. You figure after four years of mixing and mingling and partying you would get to know people here pretty decently well, but looking back on the four years, I’m sometimes not even sure which path I even walked on.

Or was I walking in the same place all along?

Nostalgia

I’ve been feeling deeply nostalgic these past few months.

For no particular things, really. I don’t have a specific time frame or memorabilia that I feel nostalgic for; rather, I feel as if I’m in a constant state of longing for something that is nothing in particular.

I wonder why that is the case for me right now.