Caveat: My Life as a Zen Zenoist

Miscellany….

"I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again." – Oscar Wilde

I took an online quiz that told me what kind of philosopher I am.  It turns out I'm a stoic – I was linked to Zeno of Citium.  The modern meaning of "stoic," by the way, doesn't really capture the original nature of the tradition.   Here is Seneca, perhaps one of the best known exponents of stoicism in its classical incarnation:  "As long as you live, keep learning how to live." – Lucius Annaeus Seneca.

Here's an interesting thought:  does my stoic orientation, combined with my sometime pursuit of mahayana meditation, make me a zen zenoist?  Or maybe a follower of Zeno is a "zenist"?

Here is a vaguely arty photograph I took in 1983, of the mountains east of Eureka (near Kneeland, I think).

1983_KneelandCAHumboldtCounty03

Caveat: Faith-Based-Atheist

I’m a “faith-based atheist.”

What in the world is that?

It means that, unlike an agnostic, I’m certain about god: specifically, that there isn’t one. But such certainty isn’t something that submits to any kind of objective proof: just as the religious person must accept the existence of his or her god(s) as a matter of faith, so must the true atheist rely on belief over material evidence – after all, how do you prove god doesn’t exist? Anything short of this standard-of-proof makes one an agnostic, not an atheist.

What’s still more difficult, is to strive for an ethical existence when the most commonly invoked “cause” (or source) of human ethics (namely, the alleged “higher powers”) have been unequivocally rejected. It seems to me that the only ethical atheist is one who accepts that his or her belief is indeed just that – a belief, not a demonstrated “fact.”

Atheists who assert some kind of exceptionalism for their own beliefs vis-a-vis the beliefs of non-atheists strike me as hypocritical. I’m profoundly uncomfortable with many atheists – of the secular-humanist stripe – who attempt to position themselves as rationalists – I think it’s not only philosophically perilous but ultimately unethical due to this inherent hypocrisy.

Despite this, I’m also displeased with the tendency of humanists (again, i.e. “secular humanists”) to categorically place human beings in the center of things. Such pre- (or even anti-) Copernican posturing is just as irrational as the traditional, god-centered systems they presume to criticize – in my judgement, anyway.

With the categorical rejection of the transcendental and god-centric, I believe that  there must come a similarly vehement rejection of the anthropocentric. So… but what’s left, then?

Let me get back to you on that one. Does this make me sound like a nihilist? This is a possibility.  I’m most comfortable with a sort of aesthetic take on the whole matter, a la Robinson Jeffers Inhumanism.  But that doesn’t really resolve the epistemological issues – which are what seem to most interest me.

Another issue is how I can reconcile my committed atheism with my frequent self-description as a “Buddhist.” However, one has to understand that Buddhism, in most conceptions, is doctrinally agnostic with respect to the theist question. To attempt to paraphrase Gautama Siddhartha, as I have understood it: when asked about the existence of deities or God, he reportedly answered that, like everything else, it was both true and not true. Thus there is room within Buddhism for both atheists and theists, as well as whatever falls in between. 

[Last updated 2015-10-08]

Caveat: Life-since-high-school

Lately, because of facebook, I’ve been “reconnecting” with people I haven’t interacted with or known about for up to 25 years.   People from high school!  Jeannine, Kray, Richard…. People from elementary school! Tammy.  People from the Mexico City time! Aura, Vlady.

Anyway, questions crop up:  Didn’t you go to university in Missouri? (No, it was Minnesota). I heard you joined the Army? (Yes). Is it true you were married? (Yes). And then you got divorced? (Um, not exactly – separated-then-widowed).

Being a fundamentally lazy person, I have decided to answer a whole pile of these questions at once. I’ve created a year-by-year timeline of my life-since-high-school. Each year has 2 to 6 telegraphic sentences summarizing what I recall as the salient aspects of that year.

I can now point interested people to it – if they’re interested. More me out there, for all the world to see: I believe in transparency – it cleanses the soul.

Timeline

  • 1983. I graduate from Arcata High, Arcata California. My summer internship at a civil engineering office turns me off of the idea of pursuing engineering, careerwise. I walked a lot in high school – mostly in the fog.  I start college at Macalester College, St Paul, Minnesota – the main reason for my choice of Macalester: it’s very far away from home. I meet my best friend Bob on day one (he is still my best friend 25 years later).
  • 1984. I change my declared major from math to religious studies – not out of any sense of religiosity, but because I’m looking for answers, and because a math professor left my self-confidence in ruins. I work for Mondale Campaign that summer.
  • 1985. I study art history in Paris in January term. By May, however, alcohol and drug issues have caused me to drop out of college. I live in my car, first passing through Duluth and Ottawa, and then up and down the East Coast (mostly Boston, New York City, with a week in New Orleans). By fall, I’m living a few blocks from Barack Obama (not that I, like, know him or anything) on Chicago’s South Side, and working in a hardware store. My unabiding love for instant ramen is formed during this period.
  • 1986. I travel to Mexico and end up with a job at Casa de los Amigos, a Quaker meetinghouse / leftist hostel in Mexico City. I travel to El Salvador for a few weeks in the fall, and get to see a civil war up close and personal.
  • 1987. After a year working in Mexico City, I travel (somewhat aimlessly) with a friend by horseback in the mountains of Michoacan (southwestern Mexico). I meet lots of interesting people, including many indians, hippies, a draft dodger or two, and a dangerous, drunk, angry man with a gun. That shoots bullets.  Eventually, I return to Minnesota.
  • 1988. I enroll at the University of Minnesota (having forfeited my scholarship at Macalester by dropping out in 85).  My declared major is computer science, but soon changes to linguistics. I dabble in languages: Portuguese, Medieval Welsh, Japanese, Russian, Ancient Sumerian, Georgian (Kartuli). I work hard at a book bindery (book-making factory). I study hard. Bob and Mark are my housemates, among others.
  • 1989. I graduate (cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) from the Univ of Minnesota (Twin Cities), despite the “lost semester” from Spring of 85 at Macalaster on my transcript. My major: Llinguistics; minor: Computer Science; undeclared minors: Spanish, Botany.  I return to Mexico, spend 2 months in Guatemala, and 2 weeks in Cuba. I become very sick.  Return to Humboldt County.
  • 1990. I’ve ended up in Eureka, somehow – broke and directionless. I deal with this directionlessness by enlisting in the U.S. Army, as a truck mechanic. I complete my training in South Carolina, and narrowly miss getting sent to Kuwait for the first Gulf War. I end up in South Korea on December 28th.
  • 1991. I am stationed at Camp Edwards, Geumcheon (about 7 km from my current home) – 296th Support Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division. I drive a giant camo green tow truck (named Rocinante) around northwest Gyeonggi province. I am a competent mechanic, but an indifferent soldier. The Army is downsizing in the wake of the end of the cold war, and when it’s offered, I grab honorable “early out”discharge.
  • 1992. I live in Pasadena (in the house my great grandfather built around 1910), taking art classes and trying to learn Arabic. I’m a bit aimless on the job front – I remember working as a temp at a Robinsons May department store warehouse. I move back to Minnesota, and Bob and I become housemates again. I start working in a bookstore. I meet Michelle and Jeffrey (her son, who is 5 at this time).
  • 1993. I do graduate-level coursework in Spanish Literature and Literary and Cultural Criticism (Lit-Crit), as well as the Dakota (Native American Great Plains) Language, at the University of Minnesota – tuition is cheap because I’m an alum. I work in a bookstore. At some point, during an initially platonic camping trip on Michigan’s U.P., Michelle and I begin dating.
  • 1994. Michelle and I move in together. Then I spend 6 months studying the Mapuche (Native American Patagonian) Language in Valdivia, Chile, and I get to see Buenos Aires, Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, Uruguay, etc. I’m back in Minnesota with Michelle and Jeffrey for Christmas.
  • 1995. I work nights for UPS to save up money (which means I can say I’ve been a card-carrying Teamster), and I apply to graduate schools.  My first choice is UCLA, but I start at the University of Pennsylvania in August, in Department of Romance Languages, because of Michelle’s eventual East Coast job prospects.
  • 1996. Work very, very hard at Penn., teaching Spanish to lazy, over-privileged Ivy League undergrads and taking qualifying exams. Michelle and I get married in a pizza joint in Minneapolis over the summer (the Judge came on a motorcycle). Michelle and Jeffrey then join me in Philadelphia, after she graduates in Chemical Engineering from the University of Minnesota.
  • 1997. I resign from the graduate program at Penn, very unhappy with departmental politics. I get to try to be a “soccer dad” with Jeffrey for several months, while Michelle puts in ungodly hours with Merck, Inc., in her new job as a chemical engineer. I start teaching high school Spanish and Social Studies that fall, with an ungodly commute to Moorestown, New Jersey. Neither Michelle nor I particularly like living in suburban Philadelphia.
  • 1998. Things begin to break down with Michelle. I’m not doing very well with it. In August, we decide on a “trial seperation,” but I’m not able to handle this well, and by September, I’ve run off (somewhat irresponsibly, I realize) to stay on my uncle Arthur’s land in Alaska. I cut trees and brush with a chainsaw (in the rain), and shovel gravel (in the rain), and write (in a white van, in the rain). In November, I give up on Alaska and on solitude, and I go to LA to stay with my father, who has recently divorced my stepmother, who I have sometimes idolized. This is a very bad period for me. Closing out the year with a bang, I attempt suicide while parked alongside the Pacific Coast Highway north of San Simeon, and nearly succeed.  Time-in-hospital (the parallels with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance are, um, disconcerting).
  • 1999. I begin working at ARAMARK Corporation in Burbank, as a temp in the finance department. I prove sufficiently competent that they offer me a permanent position. Michelle and I occasionally discuss getting back together (long distance, her still in Philly and me in L.A. (well, Burbank)), but we both clearly have difficult-to resolve “issues.”
  • 2000. Michelle commits suicide in June: “So there!” I work hard at ARAMARK.
  • 2001. I migrate from the finance department at ARAMARK into the IT department, working as a programmer.
  • 2002. I rent a horrible apartment in North Hollywood. But work is going well – workaholically, in fact.
  • 2003. I migrate again, at ARAMARK, into the Sales and Marketing department. I develop the infamous National Accounts Data Analysis intranet site for my company, basically on my own, and it’s a huge hit. I am promoted and recognized for this. Failure in life… success in business. I move into the tiny house next to my dad’s on the hill in Highland Park. I take my first trip to Australia to visit my mother.
  • 2004. I solve some amazing technical challenges for the Sales department, but I’ve created bad blood with my former colleagues in the IT department. Company politics get nasty. I resign in December. But, in 5 years, I’d managed to get promoted 4 times and quadruple my original salary.
  • 2005. I spend 6 weeks in Europe, 2 of them with bestfriend Bob who is there for an audition in Utrecht. I fall in love with Lisbon. I then come back to LA and start a new job with HealthSmart Pacific as a Database Administrator and Applications Designer. I move to Long Beach, but I end up commuting part time to Orange County.  I hate commuting, even though driving for 45 minutes along the Pacific Coast Highway each way is oddly resonant.
  • 2006. I put in several months of ungodly 80-100 hour work weeks. So I resign, and try to succeed as an independent database consultant.  My heart’s not in it. I take a second trip to Australia. I move back to Minneapolis. I find a wonderful apartment near Lake Calhoun in Uptown.
  • 2007. Some interesting projects, but the computer gig is losing its lustre. I decide to return to teaching – I have overcome my prior financial difficulties. Jeffrey has started college, and the trust fund I’d created for him will cover costs, so I’m free, financially. I apply to overseas jobs. I start teaching at “Tomorrow School” in Ilsan, Gyeonggi, South Korea, in September.
  • 2008. Tomorrow School gets taken over by LinguaForum, which in turn gets taken over by L-Bridge. I spend a week in Australia with my mother in August – with a brief visit to Hong Kong.
  • 2009. I continue at L-Bridge until September. I love teaching elementary-age kids. Am I happy? Not completely. But I’m happier than during most of the above. So, all things being relative, it seems like a good “career.”  But nevertheless, since more than a few days’ vacation is unheard of in the hagwon biz, I decide I need to “check in” back in the U.S., so I resign my job (with the idea of re-taking it, or something similar, upon return) and go back to the U.S. for a few months.  I put 10000 miles on my pickup truck in 3 months, and then sell it.  I spend 10 days at a Buddhist Monastery outside Chicago.
  • 2010. I return to Korea, but the job market isn’t what I’d hoped.  I enroll full-time in a Korean language school, and hunker down for a long-term job search, living at a cheap hostel in Suwon (south of Seoul).  I travel to Japan (Kyushu) in April, and start a new job at Hongnong Elementary (public school) in rural Jeollanam Province, at the end of that month.  I really like being an elementary school teacher, and I make a lot of friends among my Korean co-workers, but my principal (boss) is xenophobic (hates foreigners) and the housing situation is unstable (4 different apartments over a 1 year contract).
  • 2011.  I let my contract at Hongnong run out, and with some sadness, I say good-bye to Yeonggwang County and return to Ilsan.  I work at Karma Academy.  I have a more stable housing situation (like!) and fewer elementary students (not like!).

[Last updated 2011-07-31]

Caveat: 76) 자연이 생명 순환의 법칙이라는 것을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다

“I bow with a thankful heart and become aware that nature follows the law of life cycles.”

This is #76 out of a series of 108 daily Buddhist affirmations that I am attempting to translate with my hands tied behind my back (well not really that, but I’m deliberately not seeking out translations on the internet, using only dictionary and grammar).

74. 무지개의 황홀함을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다.
        “I bow with a thankful heart and become aware of the ecstacy of rainbows.”

75. 자연에 순응하면 몸과 마음이 편안하다는 것을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다.
        “I bow with a thankful heart and become aware of the tranquility of body and mind as they accommodate [the demands of] nature.”

76. 자연이 생명 순환의 법칙이라는 것을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다.

I would read this seventy-sixth affirmation as: “I bow with a thankful heart and become aware that nature follows the law of life cycles.”

Once again, I took some liberties in trying to translate this.  There’s no word “follows” in the above – the phrase is, literally, roughly something like “…become aware of [the fact] that nature is a law of life cycle(s).”  The nominalized copula suffix -이라는 것- fulfills the “[the fact] that… is” role, but I think “follows” captures the meaning better in English.  I’m just pleased I was even able to recognize and more or less understand the convoluted use of the copula – this is so common in Korean but I’m still really bad at recognizing what’s going on.

12065691761506967084johnny_automatic_Services_10.svg.med I’ve decided to dedicate my little “holiday” to being eremetic and trying to “study”: study Korean, study my various literary pursuits, study the monkey mind (aka trying to meditate).

My friends and coworkers no doubt would find this a stunningly boring way to spend a holiday, but I am so often a rather unsocial person, and I’ve reached a sort of general acceptance and possibly even comfort level (meaning a most-of-the-time acceptance, and ambivalent comfort level, I suppose) with my mostly solitary nature.

I’m not sure if this “solitary nature” is part of the “nature” referred to above in the affirmation.

Caveat: Old School

Working at my current hagwon is definitely "old school" Korea, in some ways.  I suppose what I mean is that it's a small business, where the human relationships are what dominate the employer-employee interactions, as opposed to the pseudo-professional character of the big chain hagwon (such as I experienced at LBridge) or the bureaucratic-but-hopefully-benign neglect that seems to reign in public schools (such as I experienced at Hongong Chodeung – minus the benignity).

Gold 002 This was underscored for me last night.  Our hagwon is going to have a short little couple-of-days-vacation (not because it wants to – it's a new provincial-level regulation that's being forced on all the hagwon industry, apparently).  Curt gave a little speech thanking all the hard work from the teachers and staff (July has been a tough month, the combination of increased class offerings and enrollment due to summer vacation, combined with Grace being on her long vacation meaning we're short one teacher).

Then he handed out envelopes of cash. 

I suppose there might be, um, er, "tax reasons" for handing out envelopes of cash, too – as opposed to simply paying higher salaries.  But there's nothing like two crisp gold-colored bills to make one feel appreciated, eh?  The note reads "즐거운 휴가 되세요^^ 감사합니다." [Have a pleasant holiday^^ Thank you.]  Actually, I knew Curt did things like this – I've witnessed him doing it before, but had never been on the receiving end of it up until now.

Tangentially, below is a picture from the bathroom window at work.  It was raining, and something in the view of all the apartment tower blocks seemed stark yet somehow iconic of life in high-density Ilsan.  Remember, although this looks like something an American would call "housing projects," in Korea this is upper-middle class.  Everyone has a car in the underground parking garages.  All the kids want to go to Harvard or Oxford or Yonsei or KAIST.  One thing that is striking for me, about Ilsan, is that, because it's one of the "oldest" of the 신도시 [sin-do-si = "New City"], it is lushly populated by large, healthy trees: apartment towers in a forest.

Rain 002

 

Caveat: Hace 25 años

I am one of those people who's a little bit distrustful of facebook.  I worry about how it "owns" my social network.  It's partly why I mostly stick to posting and maintaining this blog, instead, where I more explicitly control the content and can curate its exposure to the world. 

Having said that, facebook has proved an amazing experience from the standpoint of how it makes possible the renovation of old friendships, the rediscovery of long-lost friends and acquaintances.  The other day I got a message and a "friend request" from someone I hadn't heard from in 25 years – she'd been a good friend of mine when I lived in Mexico City.  She'd invited me to meet her family and relatives in El Salvador, too, and I had gone in early September, 1986 – at the height of the civil war there.  I remember going through army and guerrilla checkpoints, and the eerie normalcy of helicopter gunships flying overhead and truckloads of armed men racing down the highways.

She'd been a student of mine (although older than me) in my volunteer English class (that I gave at my workplace), but because of our friendship, she ultimately became one of my most important Spanish teachers.  Even today, I would say some of the verbal "tics" of my colloquial Spanish have recognizable echoes of her use of the language.

I suppose I'm thinking of this in part because that summer and fall in Mexico City were the point in time when I feel I reached that "critical mass" of linguistic fluency.  And it happened so quickly.  And my current efforts to learn Korean are clearly hampered in part by the lack of any such parallel "teaching" friendship in my current life's constellations.

Here is a picture, which I scanned some years ago, showing me and her and some of her relatives on the pier in La Libertad, El Salvador.  I am standing a bit off to the side on the left, looking a little bit dazed (which was a frequent expression for me during that strange, immersive, whirlwind trip).  I think it's funny that my hairstyle looks like a Korean pop-star's or something.  Sorry that the picture is pretty poor resolution.

Lalibertad1986

Caveat: 75) 자연에 순응하면 몸과 마음이 편안하다는 것을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다

“I bow with a thankful heart and become aware of the tranquility of body and mind as they accommodate [the demands of] nature.”

This is #75 out of a series of 108 daily Buddhist affirmations that I am attempting to translate with my hands tied behind my back (well not really that, but I’m deliberately not seeking out translations on the internet, using only dictionary and grammar).

73. 새싹들의 강인함을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다.
        “I bow with a thankful heart and become aware of the tenacity of a sprouting plant.”

74. 무지개의 황홀함을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다.
        “I bow with a thankful heart and become aware of the ecstacy of rainbows.”

75. 자연에 순응하면 몸과 마음이 편안하다는 것을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다.

I would read this seventy-fifth affirmation as: “I bow with a thankful heart and become aware of the tranquility of body and mind as they accommodate [the demands of] nature.”

Not feeling particular tranquility lately.

There were some nice thunderstorms yesterday and last night.

Caveat: Hagwon Crunchmode

I've definitely returned to hagwon work – I put in 11 hours yesterday.  It's going to be a long week.

But then, as people know, I have workaholic tendencies, given the right motivational structures.  The public school job was structured in such a way that workaholism was essentially irrelevant if not downright impossible, and all those idle hours took a weird kind of toll on my psyche, maybe.  I seem to seek out and/or prefer the psychic toll exacted by working too much over that correlated with working too little.   Is this virtue?  I actually don't think so.  It's escapism and reality-avoidance, mostly.  Just like those years in Burbank, the 80 hour weeks.  The year in Long Beach / Newport Beach took it a step too far, and the 100 hour workweek was unsustainable. 

OK, this is rambling and not going anywhere and vaguely self-hating.  Whatever.

Caveat: Trolleyology Revisited

Index A few years back I discovered trolleyology.  Well, I already knew about trolleyology, but I didn't know that was what it was called.  Recently, I ran across it again.  Trolleyology is the philosophical practice of setting up hypothetical ethical conundrums involving out-of-control trolleys racing down tracks about to kill oddly helpless innocent bystanders.  Just as an example, from my recent re-encounter with them (linked above): 

A runaway trolley is coming down the track. It is headed towards five people who cannot get out of its way. A passerby realizes that if he pushes a nearby fat man onto the tracks his bulk will stop the trolley before it hits the five, though the fat man himself will be killed.

The question being:  is it right or wrong to sacrifice the fat man to save the five?  There's another conundrum here, far too complicated and full of philosophers' inside jokesThe picture (above right) shows the Green Line trolley at 43rd Street along Baltimore Avenue, half a block from my apartment where I lived in West Philadelphia in 1995, when I was starting graduate school.  Not shown in the picture:  five helpless innocents just out view to the left, down the hill, tied to the tracks – just another day in West Philly, after all.

Caveat: Dream Deferred

 

Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore–
And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

– by Langston Hughes

I don't know. My dreams are feeling deferred, today. So I wondered.

Caveat: 74) 무지개의 황홀함을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다

“I bow with a thankful heart and become aware of the ecstacy of rainbows.”

This is #74 out of a series of 108 daily Buddhist affirmations that I am attempting to translate with my hands tied behind my back (well not really that, but I’m deliberately not seeking out translations on the internet, using only dictionary and grammar).

72. 시냇물 소리의 시원함을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다.
        “I bow with a thankful heart and become aware of the brightness of a running brook’s sound.”

73. 새싹들의 강인함을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다.
        “I bow with a thankful heart and become aware of the tenacity of a sprouting plant.”

74. 무지개의 황홀함을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다.

I would read this seventy-fourth affirmation as: “I bow with a thankful heart and become aware of the ecstacy of rainbows.”

That sounds like it should be a poem. 

I have been doing nothing but working.  I didn’t see a rainbow.

Caveat: Waiting for the Night

What I'm listening to right now.

Depeche Mode – Waiting for the Night.  You know how a particular piece of music gets associated with a place?  This track is forever linked in my mind with the Golden State Freeway (I-5) between Burbank and Glendale – the start of my commute home from work for several years.

Caveat: Pushing; Heartless; Nerd-Angst.

I'm struggling with the fact that I'm actually enjoying work more, now that I'm teaching 35 class-hours a week.  It's because I derive positive energy out of being in the classroom with the kids, whereas I generally find sitting in the staff room dinking around with prep work (or trying to write textbooks) depressing and dull.  But there's a burnout aspect out of pushing this hard, too – it's fulfilling but not sustainable, maybe.  I don't know.

I'm doing OK – I'm doing almost nothing aside from working, lately.   I've set aside my two main hobbies:  fiction and/or poetry writing, and trying to study Korean.   I haven't been jogging every evening like I was before this hard push at work, too.  Good habits die so easily, don't they?  I had barely got the thing off the ground, and all it took was a few nights of "oh-I'm-too-tired."   Well.

What I'm listening to right now.

The Fray – Cover of Kanye West's "Heartless."  I like the video a lot too – talk about awesome animation capturing teen nerd-angst.

Heartless_html_43a36217

Caveat: 73) 새싹들의 강인함을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다

“I bow with a thankful heart and become aware of the tenacity of a sprouting plant.”

This is #73 out of a series of 108 daily Buddhist affirmations that I am attempting to translate with my hands tied behind my back (well not really that, but I’m deliberately not seeking out translations on the internet, using only dictionary and grammar).

71. 바람 소리의 평화로움을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다.
        “I bow with a thankful heart and become aware of the peacefulness of the wind.”

72. 시냇물 소리의 시원함을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다.
        “I bow with a thankful heart and become aware of the brightness of a running brook’s sound.”

73. 새싹들의 강인함을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다.

I would read this seventy-third affirmation as: “I bow with a thankful heart and become aware of the tenacity of a sprouting plant.”

I need more tenacity.

Caveat: A blogging in which I awake from a dream that I had returned to Hongnong…

…only to find that Hongong Elementary had become surrounded by a primeval forest.

I wandered up and down somewhat familiar halls, but each time I looked outside there were only trees and ferns and streams and the peering eyes of barely-seen animals.  There were very few students – it was summer vacation.  I saw one girl, a 2nd-grader who I recognized, but she was too busy talking on her cellphone to even notice me.

I then saw the principal.  I bowed to him appropriately, but he didn't recognize me.  I went to the cafeteria, and only teachers were there.  It was dark inside, because the windows were all covered by thick, lush, green vegetation.  The vegetable garden on the west side of the cafeteria was shadowed by immense, ancient, gnarled trees, but the field to the north had been replaced by a face of rock, strewn with wet moss and miniature waterfalls and tiny purple flowers.

I saw fellow-foreign-teacher Moyer, and another group of foreigners who were ignoring him and who I didn't recognize.  I went over to speak to them, and one woman said she thought she knew who I was.  I said to her that she looked familiar, too.  I sat down to eat the standard Hongnong cafeteria lunch – some kind of soup, rice, not-so-good kimchi, one or two other banchan.  But there was canned iced coffee, too.

Suddenly I was uninterested in eating – I felt compelled to leave.  I made my way to the main entrance of the school and walked outside.  I had to walk across a log across a stream where the soccer field should be.  At the log bridge, I ran into Mr Lee and Mr Choi, but I was in too much of a hurry to stop and speak to them.  They called after me.  I went up a steep mountain path, and suddenly I came to a parking lot paved in discarded plastic containers.  And suddenly I was at Mad River beach, which is west of Arcata.  It felt unnaturally warm, though, and there were still too many trees around.  And then I was running, barefoot, alternating on redwood forest trails and the narrow one-lane, perfectly straight Arcata bottomland roads.  The old asphalt of the road felt rough and real under my feet.  It was raining.  And there were Koreans looking at me curiously – why is that man running barefoot?  I felt like a wild monkey in a wildlife park.  I felt free and afraid.

I woke up and had rice and kimchi for breakfast – I stir it together with some seasoned salty seaweed and a dollop of bibimbap sauce and a bit of cooked egg that I'm trying to eat before it goes bad, as kind of poor-man's bibimbap.  But I had canned iced coffee, too.  The summer morning sun is glaring in my window.

Caveat: One and a half

I'm working hard, nowadays.  I'm working one-and-a-half jobs – mine and half of Grace's while she's on vacation in Canada.  I have 7 classes almost every day, so out of the 8 period day, I have one prep period.  So.  I'm staying very busy.  I started coming to work one hour earlier, since I need more prep time.

And it stopped raining on Sunday.  That's the first time it stopped raining since sometime in June, maybe.  So it got hot.  Ah, the busy times of hagwon during school vacations.

What I'm listening to right now.

Hwayobi15057868 화요비 – 반쪽 [Hwayobi – ban-jjok = "Half"].  Korean R&B, I somehow ended up with this song on my frequent play list.  I like it.

Caveat: la tristeza hecha verso no parece

Poesías.

TRÁNSITO DE LA ESPINA A LA ROSA

Labré el aire, y en cárcel de sonido
eché a volar el corazón sediento;
triste jilguero, al parecer contento,
que canta entre palabras oprimido.

Tejí la estrofa cual si fuere un nido;
incubé mi dolor, le di alimento,
y al trocarse un alado pensamiento,
emprendió un largo vuelo hacia el olvido.

Así libra el dolor quien lo embellece.
En la magia verbal de hechicería
la tristeza hecha verso no parece;

siempre el vuelo semeja una alegría;
¡y es el rosal una ascensión de espina
en tránsito a la rosa en que termina!

– Pedro Prado, en No más que una rosa, 1946.

Llevo cerca de mi corazón una ilusión de que sea un escritor, pero la verdad es que no escribo, sino sólo leo.  Ayer, en frente de una clase, dije que escribo novelas y poesías – pero ¿cuando fue la última vez que esribía más que en este blog?

TRÁNSITO DE LA ESPINA A LA ROSA

Labré el aire, y en cárcel de sonido
eché a volar el corazón sediento;
triste jilguero, al parecer contento,
que canta entre palabras oprimido.

Tejí la estrofa cual si fuere un nido;
incubé mi dolor, le di alimento,
y al trocarse un alado pensamiento,
emprendió un largo vuelo hacia el olvido.

Así libra el dolor quien lo embellece.
En la magia verbal de hechicería
la tristeza hecha verso no parece;

siempre el vuelo semeja una alegría;
¡y es el rosal una ascensión de espina
en tránsito a la rosa en que termina!

No más que una rosa, 1946.

Caveat: 72) 시냇물 소리의 시원함을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다

“I bow with a thankful heart and become aware of the brightness of a running brook’s sound.”

This is #72 out of a series of 108 daily Buddhist affirmations that I am attempting to translate with my hands tied behind my back (well not really that, but I’m deliberately not seeking out translations on the internet, using only dictionary and grammar).

70. 새 소리의 맑음을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다.
        “I bow with a thankful heart and become aware of the serenity of birdsong.”

71. 바람 소리의 평화로움을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다.
        “I bow with a thankful heart and become aware of the peacefulness of the wind.”

72. 시냇물 소리의 시원함을 알게되어 감사한 마음으로 절합니다.

I would read this seventy-second affirmation as: “I bow with a thankful heart and become aware of the brightness of a running brook’s sound.”

시원함 should really be something like “refreshingness,” and the source verb is oftentimes translated as “to be cool,” but I didn’t like either of these.   I chose “brightness.”  “Cool” seems especially inapt – since hot soup can be 시원하다, too.  It’s all in the effect it has on you.  The word 시원하다 has a lot of meanings, and is very common, but translating it is difficult.  It could also be “to be restful” or “to be relieved” or “to be unburdened.”  It can apply to anything: a cool drink, hot soup, a breeze, a view, a forest path, a babbling brook, a loud political speech, a torturous confession.