Saturday, February 25, 2023
Thursday, February 23, 2023
In Korean, there are two forms of the future (that I've learned so far...). One is the definite future -- it will be a holiday tomorrow. The second is the "probable future," that is, all the things that probably will happen, like "I will go to Korea." In Korean this is said, "한극에 간 거예요," meaning it's probable I will go. I personally live in a probable future mentality and this was true long before I got to the probable future in my Korean textbook. With things that will happen in time, I often experience it like the area under the curve which comes up in calculus as an infinite series of steps. We arrive at the answer by integration of the small steps into a single number. In the real world this was most vividly illustrated for me by waiting for 12am, January 1, 2000, and the start of the new millennium. Or would we get stuck in the infinite divisions of time? I felt like the countdown to my trip was in that space/time trap. Probably I would go, but maybe not. But then, as Dr. Seuss put it so brilliantly in Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now?, "The time had come, so Marvin went." The time had come and so I went, or came, depending on how you look at it. I got to Korea.
One description of beginning language learners is that they will have trouble understanding and will make mistakes in speaking. This is certainly what is happening to me as I walk around Itaewon, the Seoul neighborhood where I am staying. People are on the kind side -- put it this way, it's not like trying to speak badly accented French in Paris. One thing about my beginner level of proficiency is that I can tackle signs, and there are lots of them. Hangul, the Korean alphabet, is, by now, nearly as invisible to me as the Latin alphabet. I rarely know what the words mean, but I can say them, at least quietly to myself. And I love the way the signs are written. Korean is composed in syllables, and signs play with syllables in an infinite variety of ways. Having only recently come to appreciate the syllable, I am delighted by this, like a baby with a mobile.
Which brings me to this encouraging sign I saw on a walk around the neighborhood, happily in English -- "No worries, Br*. It will be fine. D*. Wait. Trust."
Wednesday, February 15, 2023
Well, while I have not been in a hermitage for the past 3 years, I have not been jetting around the way I used to. And Korea is not the "Hermit Country" anymore, by any means. In fact, on the street where I'll be staying are all kinds of businesses representing the whole world, including a Converse store, Italian Optical, and Global Dentist. But in leaving one place and going to another, I do have a bit of uprooting and reconnecting to do. My spiritual director said that monks who move from one monastery to another have a "transfer of vows." One of the reasons travel is so important is that visiting another place creates connection -- new vows of concern -- with that place. We can read this in Michael Kimmelman's beautiful piece on the earthquake in Turkey, which has killed more than 40,000 at this point. He noted,
Which is to say that I am loosening my connection to my daily life here in New Jersey and settling in Seoul for three months, God willing and the creek don't rise. It will be a lot the same -- morning coffee and reading the Times. But it will also be different in ways that I don't even know yet but am curious to learn. In the heart of catastrophe, we learn how much place means to us, and teaches us both how precious home is and how deeply meaningful it is go to another place and get to meet it as well. At Girl Scout camp, we sang the song, "Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other's gold."