Category: contemplation

Burning (Beoning) 2018

After quite a bit of searching, finally, I caught this film at the nearby Art Cinema. There was a larger crowd than I thought there’d be; half of the theater like me, were people attending alone. This is the kind of crowd I love to see such a film in, because specific reasons, possibly highly cultivated reasons, almost certainly brought them there. 

For me it was Yoo Ah In  at first, but then my reason changed. As I read more about the reception at Cannes, and the origin of the screenplay as based a short story by Haruki Murakami, I began to prepare myself for a theater experience that would be an entirely new to me. 

"Jong-su, Hae-mi and ben, strange love triangle.  A film that would have deserved the Palme d'Or."  From the site Telerama.Fr
GORGEOUS PHOTO – from the site Telerama.Fr

I love to read Murakami just for the moods he sets, and that he brings the reader so well into a sort of suspended space of no particular attachment to specific ends. This makes it hard to rest, but also very restful, because one has to go along. 

Or at least that’s my experience of reading Murakami. So when I knew that Burning was based on one of his short stories, I began to anticipate in a different way. First of all, I felt that I could read more about the film ahead of time without worrying too much over spoilers, because no spoiler can give away mood. Someone can go on and on analyzing the plot points and the elements of a story that happens, and cannot touch what I most value about Murakami.

Second, I began to prepare myself to see a different actor than the one who had drawn me there, by which I don’t mean an actor not Yoo Ah In, but I began to prepare to see a different Yoo Ah In

I did. And I admire him all the more for what I saw.

(slight spoiler ahead)

Which was a stripped-down, no-shine, Yoo Ah In. What I am reminded of by way of comparison, are conversations I’ve had with my son about modern art. There are some artists he doesn’t ‘get’ yet, because he doesn’t want to. He can’t see the complexity in the simplicity they exhibit. In many cases, this is because he hasn’t seen previous works, so there is no belief in restraint, or the difficulty that may have been at play, not to show off. 

I’m sure that this is in large part due to the Director, Chang-dong Lee,
who is obviously masterful, however I have not seen his other films. One thing for sure is that he embodies Murakami, or at least I felt so, in the long scenes especially, set in the least stereo-typically inspiring environments. I will one day own this film just go back and linger in these moments. 

Other than that, I won’t say much more for now. I noticed that Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t even have “approved quotes” for the film, which means the studio has managed to maintain a bit of mystery. I’ll respect that. ūüôā

On a lighter note. should I survey my local friends, Steven Yeun might be one of few Asian actors they know by name, along with Sandra Oh. However, having never seen The Walking Dead, I had 0 familiarity with Yeun before this film, and I’m glad for the introduction.

I was also so moved by Jeon Jong-seo‘s portrayal of the character Haemi. Just this week a brilliant journalistic story broke from the Miami Herald, which was about many Haemis. To say more would give away this string of the film, contradicting my determination above, but I may come back later.

Moon Lovers (Curtain Closure)


It is a good feeling… to find a finale subbed early in the day. Before reading anyone else’s thoughts, I can rush to this page and first give a bow of thanks for all that was right, before tempering that thanks with just a few¬†comments to show I didn’t partake¬†obliviously.

Although, I may have suspended¬†disbelief more than most. ūüėČ

What matters to me when dust has settled, is whether Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo conveyed something unique… imparted an emotional experience. And it did. The story itself was told in a substantive way that gave textures to contemplate and carry forward.


Continue reading “Moon Lovers (Curtain Closure)”


I was afraid it might happen – that opening a blog about K-dramas would shift¬†my viewing style¬†into a more scrutinizing outlook¬†– and that I would not want to write that way. I can’t tell yet, but to have delighted in Oh Hae Young Again and yet not have much to say about it, or about Beautiful Mind, which I found a great deal of value in, brings me to¬†question, “What is going on?!” Perhaps I am just thin stretched, since work for me is also writing. It can be¬†tricky¬†to erect proper boundaries.

And speaking of proper boundaries, W РTwo Worlds.


This is a fun drama full of existential questions and rather seamless effects, so it is easy to believe in these characters, and to enter their worlds as though traveling through possible layers of¬†existence. Gazing into¬†my¬†screen, in which they gaze and fall in to their¬†screens… W is a story of coming fully ALIVE.

I’m facilitating a book discussion about similar¬†questions, specifically the unraveling of one’s usual world that can¬†happen as natural course when a wider or¬†more potent context appears, throwing the former world into question. ¬†The book uses terms like ‘thawing of reality’ and doesn’t suggest overthrowing the illusion a la¬†The Matrix, but rather including what one can as perhaps differently real.

If you think about it, we do this with our¬†past selves all the time… look back with new knowledge and work to embrace the innocence, or redeem the ignorance, in order to move forward. It is the work of self¬†cultivation. Sometimes we re-cast characters whose motives weren’t apparent before, or give them alternate story lines.

Elon Musk is among those who are sure our very world is indeed a kind of sophisticated simulation, and while I’m not sure, there is something in the idea that rings true.


Update (SPOILERS):¬†Very sadly, but not quite Cheese in the Trap sadly, the show has spun its wheels in less interesting ways during the second half, leaving my mind to wander. I liked these characters and these worlds, but the story doesn’t stay with meaningful moments long enough to feel harmonious. As I write this there is one more episode, so maybe I’ll have to eat my words when they come up with some brilliant redemptive conclusion?

Updated at finish:
With so much promise, W РTwo Worlds still managed to devolve at the end, rather than opening fully.  Along the way I lost what was already a frail attachment to the characters and the story line.


All Yellow

“I came along, I wrote a song for you…”

Central Park
Central Park

Just before heading home, the weather has turned brisk. After a few days of matter-of-factly moving through time, I am hit with a wave of longing and reflection. It is natural, and means that what I’m leaving has been treasured and held with delight.

Now to decide whether to try to see an exhibit, or to continue open-endedly what I began a few days ago and continued this morning – rambling through Central Park.


A Facebook group I recently joined is full of smart ladies from various backgrounds who banter and share questions. A few are even treasure hunters, following roots and branches when inspired. And unlike other groups I tested, the conversation is less about (but not entirely without) actor/actress gossip, more about angles of appreciation.


I knew this capacity about some of the women, since more than fifteen years ago we crossed paths in another curious arena – that of unschooling. Some day, I may write about that, but let it suffice for now, to say that although my family didn’t stay in that world, what we learned from that time irreversibly transformed our approach to learning, being.

It was a grand shift of perspective, to step away from the school system for a while. While not¬†staying unschoolers, we didn’t exactly leave the view. We continued to foster a deep appreciation for and trust in, natural learning.

I didn’t realize until I heard myself answer a friend, that my mind seems to process in mosaics, so that instead of coming away from a film or book or TV series with a linear impression, I tend to come away with unhinged scenes that then contrast themselves with loose scenes from other places.

It is actually the same sort of instinct I follow when I allow myself times of obsessive interest and immersion in worlds that arise and open, like my playful contemplative community, and like K-dramas.

Eventually it all comes together.

both sides now

Elizabeth Gilbert recently offered a flake of wisdom I liked, about soulmates. It is a term I try never to use, because I try never to use the word soul. She said (paraphrased) that it can be a mistake to try to make a soulmate into a life partner, describing her own life partner as supportive and comforting, in contrast to the soulmates of her life who have usually been disrupting, upsetting, intensely challenging.

Once I imagined introducing someone to my mom for the first time… how I might say, “He is me.” One doesn’t let a person like that into their heart, but rather finds them there. Like Elizabeth’s story, that person revealed a hidden side of me vividly, instigating a kind of hyper growth of character, although appearing for just a blip in time. I felt as though I had been poisoned and shattered by the experience afterward … heavy price for that intensity. I am not sure I would do it again.

I’m also not sure I had a choice in the first place.

My instinct is that a well-suited relationship can be chosen and cultivated intentionally with a person of like capacities — but I haven’t experienced that, yet. For now there are mirror fragments and deep wormhole-like fractals of such… along with an intuition of wholeness.

Tradition and Approach

When in a very friendly mind, I see that consciously chosen traditions tap something beyond beyond personal identity and agendas, which is how it felt to me over the last few days while attending a Buddhist seminar. Within all teachings there are generalities, and examples given that one takes personal exception to, so I consciously chose a way of approach – to rest the scrutinizing intellect appropriately engaged when in other contexts – to hear in a different manner.

There is support for that quieting in such a setting, and I was reminded of a scene from a book about a famous (in the west) Tibetan master, where he asked to clear the room because it was full of gossip. No person had heard a thing said aloud at all, but nonetheless the environment was full of chatter.

That’s how it is: one can drop deeper to a level of intention and something else may be going on.

So I tried to do that over the last few days, appreciating the Rinpoche’s smile lines and hearty laugh, his earnest aspirations coming forward as he pleaded for everyone to take the work of better establishing the dharma center seriously. There was a strong sense of presence in the room as he told stories, and I couldn’t help but see many others coming through his expressions, a long lineage of devoted teachers peering through his eyes at times. I may have heard the forms of these stories before, may reason that such are not very applicable in today’s world, but I chose to focus on sincerity.

What he was saying was ‘true’ in a heart-of-the-matter way… a way that blooms forth in one’s own understanding rather than being grasped at. There is merit… one of the biggest aspects of Buddhism that secular friends take issue with, and I think rightfully so.

At times it feels the work of spreading the dharma is busy and about external accomplishment – a second arrow that the dharma itself encourages us to reevaluate our loyalties to.

I can’t even explain to myself entirely, why I find such pleasure in what others I respect see as cumbersome religious trappings, and I too wrestle with hierarchies. Simultaneously, I think that although there is a rightful reaction against rigid class structures and privilege, there is such a thing as what I’ve heard called “supportive hierarchies” that can be cultivated. It benefits a child to know there is a teacher to turn to, for instance, and we are usually smart to submit to one with more expertise, be they doctor, pilot, or Compassion.

Will I attend the temple on a regular basis, take it on as my personal work? I’m not sure yet. I can’t in good conscience entirely check my scrutiny at the door… there are things I’m not comfortable with and may not want to become comfortable with, having bought in to ideologies for the sake of community earlier on.

Buddhism is highly appealing for its intellectual astuteness, yet in our time we seem too seldom to put down one thing to taste another. We want it all, all at once.

Both sides of the coin (tradition/no tradition) have value.

Practitioners can understand from their own experience that practice is helping them. No other proof is necessary