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, an overt vacuum on the backside, it is only inevitable to sense 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…


자취방 (Rented Room)

1 05 2018

“…한다고 했던 일이
내 맘대로 참 흘러가지 않아
주위를 둘러봐도
모두 나만 바라보고 있네…”

Time is so fleeting. Time is so limited. Time is so cruel. This pensive song about young folk who are struggling to materialize their hopes and dreams, yet failing, falling behind, and ultimately feeling lonely strangely reminds me of privilege. I have seen that the rented room is not the same for all. Some rent to chase their dreams and eventually make it to ownership. Many go from rent, fail to hit their goals (a lot not to their fault), and return home with their heads down and shoulders heavy. Renting is easy, but getting out of it takes hard work, perseverance, and a little bit of luck.

But when I think of privilege, it reminds me of those that rent without a heartbeat of worry. It is guaranteed. It is granted. It is merely a fun pit stop with the illusion of struggles toward a guaranteed success. Privilege is a frightening thing. While it guarantees material success and comfort, it eats away at the soul. Privilege is a dampening thing. While it guarantees opportunities of enjoying the things of this life, it numbs the heart away from true joy.

Lately, I wonder at the world. I see so much privilege. Not much courage, not much humility, not much sacrifice. Maybe there are, at times, a tossing of crumbs, things we don’t care to lose. Some generosity. Privilege. Lately, I am craving to see true sacrifice. Why is it so rare while we preach so much grace? Comfort. Lately, I ponder at how I have spent my years. I am so depressingly quick to ask, “What have I accomplished?” instead of asking, “Why have I not sacrificed?” Privilege.

Bonhoeffer’s famous quote crawls back into my memory these days either to haunt me or indict me. I sit in my rented room, wondering. When will it be my turn to leave? Will my hopes and dreams ever materialize? When will time stop chasing me? When will I stop making excuses and stop making the valuable grace of God cheap?

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it cost a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

Cheap grace has much room for privilege. They love each other.

Costly grace only rents rooms to those who lay down privilege. It is not important, in the final sense, that we dream our dreams and hope our hopes. It is ultimately important who we dream for and who we are living for. The cost will be demanded on that difference.


16 04 2018

난 한때 사랑의 반대 말이 증오, 미움
그런건 줄만 알았다.

그런데 사랑을 하다보니, 사랑을 찾다보니
전혀 그러질 안았다.

사랑이 제일 느껴질떼는 편안함, 포근함
자연스러움과 점점 가까워지게 하는것이 사랑의 힘이다.

사랑이 제일 멀게 느껴질떼는 미움도 증오도
느껴지질 안는다.

미움과 증오에는 관심이란 두글자가
비롯 틀어저서일지라도 존재한다.

사랑이 없는 것, 아니, 없는 곳
경직이란 곳이다.

느낌을 멈추고, 관심을 짓누루고,
발 걸음을 돌린다
웃음을 가식으로 변하고,
따뜻함으로 둘러싸였던 사랑이 추위로만 느껴진다.

무섭다. 경직.
차라리 증오해 주었으면.