“My Heart is Full”

13 11 2018

In the world of social media, this phrase, “my heart is full,” is oft use to cap off a post descriptive of a wonderful experience, but perhaps, not only on good occasion. Hillary Clinton concerning her most unprecedented loss to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election uses the term to tweak out any sense of good in what was clearly a ridiculous, irresponsible defeat (in What Happened):

“I want to thank everyone who welcomed me into their homes, businesses, schools, and churches over those two long, crazy years; every little girl and boy who ran into my arms at full speed or high-fived me with all their might; and the long chain of brave, adventurous people, stretching back generations, whose love and strength made it possible for me to lead such a rewarding life in the country I love. Thanks to them, despite everything else, my heart is full.”

This phrase that seemingly punctuates as an emotional exclamation, always leaves me with a sense of cringe. It may appear that most of my reaction could be attributed to my aversion towards fuzzy-wuzzy emotions, or what have you, but in reality, much is a logical reaction of sorts. It causes too much vagueness, at best, and it stunts practical community, at worst.

This phrase, which I could only trace its etymology to Morrissey’s song “Now My Heart Is Full,” causes such emotional equivocation because of, I believe, conflation. It says to me, ‘I feel good because today I experienced such and such.’ There is little variegation on the spectrum of emotion, and it seems to be stated to elicit positive response rather than to convey true growth in experience. But such equivocation isn’t my biggest cause of cringe.

The more prominent reason I cringe, every time I read it on social media, is because it stunts practical community particularly in the religious community. Because of its function as an emotional exclamation, by effect, it equates a feel good experience as a beneficial spiritual experience. From my observation, hardships and sufferings claim a large part of the real estate, when it comes to grounds for biblical change and growth. Granted, there are good, loving experiences that help us mature spiritually and as a community, but experience after which our hearts are full, do not necessarily mean that there was spiritual growth. It seems to me that it merely means that ‘one feels good’ or ‘one is happy’. Happiness is not spiritual maturity. At this point, the reader may think of me as the Grinch looking to steal any of the merry and cheer that one feels upon any happy experience. Perhaps. No one has ever accused me of being overly jovial. But my cringe, I still hold as legitimate. Mainly because in our social media flooded lives, we mistaken “I feel good” with “I am doing spiritually well.” And if I may go out on a limb to suggest, it messes with our spiritual grit. We have a hard time with God when times are sour. We’ve essentially practiced what may sociologist have already diagnosed American Christianity as: moralistic therapeutic deism.

I hope I am wrong. Perhaps, people really are growing in these ‘heart-filling’ experiences. I hope I am wrong, because that is the only way upon writing this that my heart will feel full.



27 10 2018

나란 기적을 있게하시고
언제나 나의 편에 서 계신다.

세상을 등져도
보이지 않았다, 내 등, 누구에게도
그저 천사의 얼굴만 보일뿐,

보이지 않는 강함과
연약할뜻한 아름다움에 가려진
굳건한 의지.

서서히 강함이 주름의 가려지고
조금씩 의지도 피로에 손을든다,
허나 변함없는 내편.

언제나 영원히 함께일줄만 알았다
그러나 이 아름다운, 언제나 내편인 수호천사,
이제는 내가 이 천사를 수호할 차례인가 보다.



19 10 2018



There’s a scene from my favorite childhood manga (만화), Slam Dunk, a basketball manga, where the captain (who plays center) of the main team is struggling against a very strong opponent team’s counterpart in the second round of the national tournament. He’s not only struggling from a lack of skill, but he is also demoralized and dejected that he cannot single-handedly bring his team out of a rut. His friend (also plays the center position) and rival, whose team was knocked out in the regionals, comes to the side of the court and starts slicing a turnip. Ridiculous, I know. But what is going on? This rival friend had retired from pursing basketball in college and had taken up the culinary arts to inherit his family restaurant business. Watching his friend and rival in the national tournament, he could not bear to see him struggling so demoralized. So he comes to the court to encourage him. He tells him, ‘Your opponent is a porgy (bream). Do you think you should also be a porgy?? No, you are a flounder. Don’t try to shine. Be the dirt!’ [신현철은 화려한 도미다. 네게 도미가 어올린다고 생각하는가? 너는 가자미다. 진흙투성이가 되어라, 채치수!] The point of this rather ridiculous and comical scene was to convey the dramatic statement saying: You don’t have to be the star to win. It was a call to say that he doesn’t have to be the main, like the flounder. It is ok, or even necessary to be the often forgotten, unglamorous supporting ingredient. Playing the supporting cast enhances the team. Become the flounder. Become the dirt. Become forgotten. And in doing so, win.

As of late, I have often found myself wanting to be a porgy, and yet, I have been raised to be a flounder. My entire profession frowns upon any desire for one to be a porgy, but at the same time, it very rarely celebrates the flounder. Whether you want to be porgy, or bask in being a flounder, you can’t win. One is bad and the other, forgotten. As of late, I’ve realized an added difficulty which arises from having been an intern for so long: my innate desire for glory is increasingly harder and harder to suppress. But perhaps, it isn’t a blatant desire for glory or wanting to be the center of attention that is at root. Perhaps the issue is circumstantial, or is it? Why am I so restless? Do I want to be a porgy when I am not? Or am I a porgy being told to be a flounder? Does it even matter what genus of fish I am? Ridiculous meanderings.

I wondered if it is a lack of having power that irks me. No, I do not think it is, for reasons I cannot say. Having given some thought though, it seems that there is a growing sense of dispensability. I know not what it’s like to be on the inside, at best only an add-on. Having known many for long, when push comes to shove, one expects one’s back to be had, and when that is not had, a palpable vacuum on the back, it is only inevitable to sense a sort of betrayal. But I also realize the solution is not changing others, nor is it to become the porgy. I must remain the flounder, the dirt, and win. What then is winning? Am I always to lose for the collective to win? In this particular instance, perhaps winning is not to stay the dirt, but to leave this court. To leave this place. Each season has an expiration, and mine feels long overdue. Feels. It is time to silently make my exit, as the flounder, as the dirt, to perhaps become a flounder elsewhere.



12 10 2018

나의 자리를 두려워 하여서
나의 생각을 듣기 싫어 하여서
나의 행동을 이용하여서
나의 의견을 존중 못하여서
나의 헌신을 짓밟아서
나의 진심을 헤아리지 못하여서

무시 무시하다


나의 자리

1 10 2018

“살아있는 사람도 마찬가지에요.

내가 있을 곳이 여기가 맞나,
이 사람들 한테 내가 필요한가?
아니면…. 폐가 되나?
앞으로는 뭘 해야되나, 어떡해야 되나.

그런 생각 나도 하루에 수십번식 하거든요…”

-박은빈, “오늘의 탐정” 

발음 (Pronunciation)

23 09 2018

Rushing to settle into a seat at a local sbux, after having unsuccessfully tried to claim a seat at the local hipster joint, there was, in front of me in line, a lady with two kids who seemed to have a foreign accent. She made her order, “can I have a tall ‘wut-kah'”. The sbux barista rings her up for a water and tells her that its free even as the lady pulls out her cash. When the water comes out at the ‘bar’ area, the lady clarifies as best as she can, ‘I order a mot-kah’. The two confused baristas try to sort the real order in an air of unspoken discomfort. And the expression on the patron lady’s face read of an exasperation that conveyed a fatigue that comes from a repeated unwanted experience.

This is a common experience in the melting pot of America. The uneasiness and the exasperation is also a common reaction to such an experience. Even I, an irrelevant third party, felt bad for the lady and the baristas, for some odd reason. My gut reaction, as I sit down with my coffee attempting not to procrastinate on wordpress, was to blame the discourteous baristas, who simply told her to get back in line to purchase the drink that they heard wrong in the first place. And while it is true that the baristas should have at least apologized for the misunderstanding, I wondered if the misunderstood lady actually felt the frustration I assumed she was feeling.

I am sure she was feeling some level of discomfort or perhaps even exasperation, but I remember the countless funny anecdotes my father told me about being misunderstood because of pronunciation. One such story involved a preacher yelling at the pinnacle of his sermon, “You must be saved trew face! You must be saved trew your face! (meaning: you must be saved through faith)” And an old lady in the congregation approached the pastor after the service, thoroughly confused, “How do I get saved through my face??”

My father always told of these stories, these cultural hiccups, these postmodern triggers, with levity and delight. He was the first to laugh before the story ended, even for the umpteenth time telling us. I wonder in his experience as an immigrant, especially with an accent, if he was ever exasperated or frustrated from misunderstandings. Maybe I can chalk it up to his resilient and optimistic personality, but I don’t think it bothered him much, at least not to the point he would show it on his face. Or perhaps, his experience was much different than the immigrant experience of the now. Whatever the case, I do think that we in America have become too sensitive FOR the immigrant experience. I don’t mean that their experience does not matter, and I certainly do not mean that their frustrations are insignificant. But perhaps, we project our discomfort to the point that we underestimate the immigrant resilience. Perhaps, we trigger on behalf of them, and the discomfort that we feel for them is not really for them, but really for ourselves. We would rather it not happen. It’s almost like an emotional running away in the other direction. Perhaps, in this post-modern, trigger-warning society, such projections have added to the over-sensitivities and the low level of emotional grit. There has to be a middle ground of affirming their frustrations while giving credit to their resilience and grit.

The lady with the two children did eventually get her Tall Iced Mocha, without an apology. She certainly succeeded in getting her Sunday afternoon sweet fix, but with it, she received another experience of pronunciation misunderstanding. I hope, though, that even with her discomfort and inconvenience, this experience builds upon her grit and more so her character. For her, she has no choice but to have these experiences come to her, but she chugs along. Perhaps, we fluent English speakers can learn from this, not to run from the few and far in-between uncomfortable circumstances, but to engage and face them, to at the least, grow in our emotional resilience.


9 09 2018

점 점 나를 위한 사람들을 찾아간다,
그런 내가 싫어진다.

나를 위한 한 사람, 내 곁에 있을 한 사람
계속 계속…. 찌지리게 찾게된다.

성 프란치프코의 기도가 문득 나를 꾸짖은다,
“위로받기보다는 위로하고,
이해받기보다는 이해하며,
사랑받기보다는 사랑하게 하여주소서.”

사람들이 나를 원하는 것도 부담되고,
그저 무엇이든 귀찮다.

나를 위한 사람은 정작 생각하면 많은데,
내가 필요로 한 걸 아는 사람이 없는 것일까?

겟세마네에서의 예수님, 얼마나 외로웠을까?
주변엔 사람들이 우글 거려도,
주님을 이해하는 사람은 하나도 없었다,
어쩌면 지금도 없다…