Tag: creativity

Character Meme

character-collage

Bottom to top:
Etheline Tennebaum (TRT), Hana (TEP), Hang No Ra (TA), Amy (TWW)
Kim Il Ri (VL), Selkie (TSoRI), Sarah Miles (TEotA), Charlene (FS)
Momo (Momo), Lorelei (TGG), The Log Lady (TP), Mary Lennox (TSG)
Elinor (SaS), Lady Pole (JSaMN), Belle (BatB), Elphaba ( W )

Flying Dragons

Just a few episodes to go, of the best historical drama I’ve seen… a show that has been a vehicle to learn so much Korean history, and more importantly, has gotten under my skin with its surging and delving story lines and layered, duplicitous characters. How horrifyingly beautiful humanity seems, when taking in so many sides…

Bang Won’s obliterating ambition and ruthless willingness to betray anyone who presents an obstacle, coexists with a high-minded, and at least at first, softhearted calling, to take hold of and make a new world. And Yoo Ah In is an actor able to carry that role… able to allow the child, the future king, the idealistic adolescent, the ruthless prince, and everyone in between, to ebb and flow across his face.

Bang Won 2

He is not the only stellar actor in this series. SFD has transformed my impressions of an actor who plays harsh mother roles too well in other dramas, an actor who played a flat character-ed ex-boyfriend in a disappointment last year, and an actor who was ‘just okay’ as a lead after being a marvelous ensemble actor in Misaeng. It also gave a perfect opportunity to an actor I like, who isn’t always liked in general. Shin Se Kyung was the reason I was first drawn to the series, not immediately recognizing Yoo Ah In from Secret Love Affair.

Boon Yi

I love passionate takes on history, especially histories of places like Korea, which has fallen into the background of other histories (China, Japan) so often. Official writings are gleaned from not without skeptical inquiry, understanding the power dynamics of the times in which they were penned. This allows for revisiting of scenarios and flawed, majestic figures like Jung Do Jeon, the first Prime Minister of the Joseon Dynasty he co-conspired to establish.

Approaching this kind of material originally, I had hopes of gaining a better understanding of Confucianism in practice, Silhak especially, of which Jung Do Jeon was said to be the first, though unofficial, scholar. I’ve not had much luck in that regard. By the time I come to this subject matter, it is through so many other subjects, all of which have left indelible imprints, each necessary to understand the other therefore not so easy to parse apart.

Six Flying Dragons spans from the end decade or so of Goryeo, into the founding of the new country designed to be ‘for the people’, rather than for the corrupt leaders. At least in this telling, the issues of the time bear resemblance to current political discourse around inherited wealth and power, and the cycle/system which shuts out and exploits common laborers.

Sambong’s revolutionary vision (Sambong is Jung Do Jeon’s pen name) was meticulously written out and had begun to be implemented with King Taejo on the throne, before what is called the first ‘Strife of Princes’, when Lee Bang Won raises forces against Jung Do Jeon’s influence, killing he, and two of his younger brothers, one of whom was named Crown Prince. Still, Jung Do Jeon’s writings, left behind, and the vision contained within, would be the blueprint for the next 500 hundred + years.

Previously, my impressions of Lee Bang Won had been limited to the awful figure of a father shown in Tree with Deep Roots, which follows Six Flying Dragons chronologically. That drama centers on the scholarly and most highly praised of all the kings of Korea’s history, Sejong the Great, who was the third son of King Taejong (who Lee Bang Won would become), an admirer of Jung Do Jeon’s philosophy, and who created the Korean alphabet Hangul.

Had I done a little homework back then, I might have had more regard for King Taejong’s complexity, but instead had resigned him to the category of brutal dictator. SFD rights that error in spades, by giving many reasons to fall in love with his sense of righteousness early on. He had me when he asserted his desire to be not good, but just.

“I looked for you” he says to Sambong, when meeting him for the first time. “I have seen all your thoughts; my heart raced again.”

idealistic bang won

And although drunk with power as he takes the lives of his enemies, there is also the reaching in for something like prayer, somehow the sense of sacred duty as he acts, and as he accepts his actions and what may result. His willingness to act, and to accept responsibility and blame, is key to our almost understanding him.

Bang Won

I love also, when a writer is able to sneak something or someone in, and in just a few scenes, impart another entire captivating story line, as these have done with Cheok Sa Gwang.

Cheok Sa Gwang

The elegance and brutality of the fighting, the high regard for each character’s skill and dreams; rarely granting their wishes but rather giving them Roles, often of honor, within wider, overlapping landscapes.

Bang Ji

All the while (48 episodes out of 50, so far, and never losing momentum!) watching I’ve held a sense of shared values and trust, like I had with Misaeng. Blends (fact and fiction, fantasy and history, romance and trajedy), are my favorite genre; not much else makes sense.

Even the music is fittingly haunting.

And, in spite of the serious tone you might gather from these glimpses, this is also a world with warmth, love, and humor, that even allows for a character like Hwarang Warrior Gil Tae Mi.

Gil Tae Mi

And warrior Moo Hyul, the supremely tenderhearted…

Moo Hyul

It’s Okay

[spoilers]

Due to little interest in new releases, I’ve been going back to re-watch the shows that come to mind often. My re-viewing this time is It’s Okay That’s Love, a compassionate and modern story that deals with a wide-ish spectrum of mental illness. Each character has a secret try to keep hidden, from themselves mainly, but is led toward openness and uncomfortable honesty, which I would call the main hope.

Much of the drama takes place in a shared house situation, where lines between private and public knowledge are paper thin. Very little is off limits, or dealt with in a charged way, which is playfully symbolized by house members often reaching into one another’s food.  Rather, there is a refreshing matter-of-factness between people, without expectations of perfection. In some ways it is a teachy drama, but not preachy. One friend said that it actually made her a better person.

evesdropping
I do dream of a world that aspires to understand the way others are eventually understood in this fictional universe of supportive intentional networks.

In one scene, two from the shared house are eavesdropping on a lovers quarrel outside, but their act is not intrusive. The reasons are rooted in loving responsibility for one another, and expected by those eavesdropped on within the larger context. One character is a young barista with Tourette’s Syndrome, and the other an elder Chief Psychiatrist with lingering feelings from a long-over divorce; they are the best of friends.

facing myselfIn the hospital, we meet a patient kept for treatment because she keeps returning to a home where she suffers physical abuse – parents and siblings not accepting her expression of gender. She doesn’t understand why she is kept for treatment until forced to take a long look at her most recent injuries.

It is self-harm to go back into brutal situations, even a sign of suicidal tendencies. Common sense, yet I hadn’t seen that before. That particular bit of wisdom about what constitutes self-harm must mean a lot to the writer, because it appears again and again in other scenarios, including that of the main patient in the show, who dissociates due to torturous guilt and misplaced sense of responsibility.

And then, there is the honest feeling but bumpy romance at center. Missing the magic, becomes the magic.

show and tell

This is complimentary material to an autobiography I’ve been making my way through, written by a woman who calls herself a cured schizophrenic. According to medical definitions this is impossible, however writing during the early part of the book takes us into her affliction in such a raw-yet-sensible way that it is hard to doubt recovery.

Perhaps we need to change our notions of recovery altogether.

Spontaneous Mind

So this is another ramble that began to stir while I watched most of Jewel in the Palace – a fictional account of a woman believed-but-not-proven to be a true Chosun Dynasty historical figure, (her story may be made up of several other stories – similar to the tale of Fa Mulan).

Jang Geum is thought to have been the first female to have been appointed as physician to the king, her name appearing in several medical annals. This drama follows her fictionalized character from before birth, tracing intrigue around the forced poisoning of a queen that devastates the paths of both her eventual parents, through their meeting one another and her birth, their arrest and killing, onto Jang Geum’s arrival to the palace kitchen as a child student who then goes on to become a full court lady. Through dramatic ups and downs she loses her role at the palace, and encounters a female physician mentor, who sets her on the rest of her path.

[spoilers]

With 54 episodes, one can imagine that my basic summary will leave out too much, but I want to get to the most interesting thing about her, which is not that she was studious and talented, nor that she struggled and overcame incredible obstacles. It is that her character is shown to have a very spontaneous mind not limited to any role she is placed in, which reminds me of:

Thirty spokes converge upon a single hub;
it is on the hole in the center that the use of the cart hinges.
Shape clay into a vessel;

it is the space within that makes it useful.
Carve fine doors and windows,

but the room is useful in it’s emptiness.
The usefulness of what is depends on what is not
.

-Lao Tzu

Rather than Jang Geum being portrayed as a woman merely talented with food or good with details, she is presented as a strongly curious-minded person whose compassion feeds a wellspring of timely practical creativity. Although the options for women were indeed very limited, and far more limited than shown, this character played many roles; her vision was wider than her personal circumstances.

jewel

That is not a new angle for story telling. Many women posed as men during desperate times, or held their own in the marketplaces. Today there are still many female writers who alter their names to appear ambiguous, as a way not to throw up an automatic barrier. So several dramas have similar themes, and although the particular story angle doesn’t fit here, the devices are not entirely different. The writer is looking for a way to allow this female to come into the full dimensionality of her capacity, during a time when that was an impossibility for most people, period.

Considering that the 2003 drama is said to be the start of the Hallyu wave, I can’t help but wonder why it seems more well-rounded than many of the more recent shows. There are a several entertaining female characters here, and just one or two that are over the top who provide a good counterbalance to the sometimes too realistic tone that can drag the story down. That tone is the main reason I admit to skipping through quite a few episodes mid-way through the drama, and why I almost set it aside. But then the female physician appeared, and my interest perked again.

I missed there not being much of a romantic plot until the middle, except that the reason became clearer and clearer. Her love recognizes her devotion to her work as intrinsic to her happiness, and works to protect that. The stories of her life are painted with her talents, which make up who she is” he tells the king. In the story, the king listens.

Appreciation Practice

Warm sunlight streams

through soft applause ~

Leaves and branches.

An unidentifiable fragrance

Sallies forth ~

On cool January winds.

Inside,

Sheer white curtains

flutter ~

My thoughts too.

Figs, pears, blueberries

Fresh cream and ginger ~

Brightly green, popping peas.

Alertly sitting on cushions

of glistening rice ~

Evoking fields of water,

and occasional Drops,

of wine.

In this jeweled world

Beauty and sustenance

{like heaven and earth}

Present one feast

Moments 
suspending

hands with
 moments

Like a grand procession

Sheltered by space,

Known by attention, and

Arising in perfect time.

mandala

When out of flow, there is something left unacknowledged… neglected… something to give away. At times it is a phone call, or promise not yet followed through with (to myself or others). Maybe I’ve not gotten quiet enough for the still small voice of intuition to float up to conscious experience. I begin to ask, “Did I follow the last instruction? What WAS the last instruction?”

Elizabeth Gilbert described a similar sensation recently:

“I am writer. If I have a story in me that I’m not able to tell, things will start going wrong all over my life. If I have a story in my head and I tell it, “I’ll get to you in 2015,” that story will start to rebel, start to act out, start to claw at the walls. That’s when the shit gets dark in my world.

Because having a creative mind is something like a owning Border Terrier; It needs a job. And if you don’t give it a job, it will INVENT a job (which will involve tearing something up.) Which why I have learned over the years that if I am not actively creating something, chances are I am about to start actively destroying something.”    Elizabeth Gilbert

So, here, is my shot in the dark, for what is waiting to be seen…

Mandala

Three years later, I understood the dream mandala. It had been a gathering of distinct scenes, some illuminated. A circle of singing angels was among the bright spots, as were various work places, passageway kitchens. A grand and wide-spreading tree dug into the heart, under which refugees gathered. Yet that area was dark, awaiting resources. I leaned my face nose to nose with a small, unknown child, and felt responsible for her.

On the outskirts of the mandala was a fence, separating the scenes from a parking lot where visitors arrived – people who in some cases were intimate friends, yet couldn’t or wouldn’t, intermingle with the rest. I remember feeling that those inside of the fence would be benefited by their incorporation, but that it wasn’t the only way. A usually tired friend arrived, with long healthy hair, seeming much younger (A few months later she received a large inheritance which unburdened her deepest concerns).

I was looking for my son (a recurring happening from the time he was very young) and could get through some areas very easily but, like a labyrinth, other areas were less welcoming. I tried to climb up a set of small stone stairs and when hindered, another passage appeared, sloping down. There he was. I sat on a bench and simply watched him playing for a while.

….
I have wondered whether this is a story not to tell but to paint, but I don’t paint anymore. I gave up painting because I was mediocre and not as compelled as I have been to write. This afternoon, a cousin from a part of my family I love but am not entwined with, said that she and her parents cherish the painting I gave them… that it remains in their main living room. I couldn’t remember, although it must be a copy of the first painting, the one I lost myself in entirely as though under anesthetic, emerging with it finished and projecting a certain portal energy. The experience of that painting, more than the finished product, felt to be a taste of an entire lifetime… each stroke a particular journey, arising from previous strokes yet also from nowhere, coming together in a restful Flow.

 “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
-Vincent Van Gogh