The Big Picture

Now imagine the pitter patter of little toddler feet bumbling down the hallway. A baby out on a journey! Everything about that journey is glittered by the newness and amazingness of everything around us. This carpet feels funny. That wall makes a sound when I touch it. But that feeling fades with time, unfailingly, as we begin to conquer the tasks that hadn’t once seemed so easy. To maintain that amazement state we crave to conquer more and more difficult tasks. And with time our mind aligns with the way we spend our time, climbing higher on the staircase than ever before or learning how to roll forward on the floor. A wonderful process blossoms as we make our way through a system designed to both challenge and represent our desire to continue learning. But for some reason this blossom’s loss of color begins when we decide in our minds to get a job. What is a job? Is it a socially decided upon way of converting human energy into economic energy? And economic energy for the sake of what? To provide us with more presents? Presents, we all know sometimes, just don’t cut it. What we’ve always been looking for lies behind the only place one would never consider looking for. The place behind the Irises is indicated by the entrance to the now. Only in the now do presents become presence, an all becomes a one.

 

Advertisements

The Mute One and The Deaf One

I honestly can’t tell you how the idea for this blog came to me exactly. It feels like it came from my friend James because we were talking about some deep and interesting things last night, but in reality I can’t say. As soon as the idea came into my head, it felt right. So here it is:

The Mute one and the Deaf one:

For a moment, I’d like you to think about your thoughts. What are they really? Well, we can be sure that sometimes they’re words, sometimes they’re pictures, and sometimes they’re feelings. Well for the sake of this blog, lets think of them just as words. In order for there to be words, there must be a speaker. And in order for there to be one who speaks, there must also be one who listens. Right?

DeafMute

So pretend there are two people in your head, sitting next to each other in equal sized chairs. Only the Deaf one has the ability to talk. So all the “spoken” thoughts you have can be attributed to the deaf one. It does all the talking. The Mute one on the other hand, can’t talk at all. Listening is its greatest skill. As the Deaf one rambles on and on, the Mute one listens intently. So intently in fact that it always hears exactly what the deaf one means, as opposed to what it actually says. “I’m so unhappy right now! I just want this thing I have to do to go away. Ahhhhh!!!!” the Deaf one may say. In which case the Mutes one actually hears, “I am resisting the present situation right now because I’m afraid of uncertainty.” Upon hearing this, it knows that this turmoil could be put to rest if the Deaf one would only embrace uncertainty. For it also knows that only out of uncertainty can creativity thrive. It knows that every painting ever made started with a blank canvas. And yet, there is no way for the Mute one to help the Deaf one. Without the ability to speak, what can there be done?

And so this process goes on, for our entire lives. Then one day, the Deaf one notices the Mute one is there, and voices it, “Wait a minute, you’ve been here all along? You’ve been listening this whole entire time?!? Wow, you must have all the answers to my questions… Do you? Oh gosh I hope you do. I’ve been struggling for so long, everyday in fact. I just want to know the answers to my questions!!! Please can you help me? What do I need to do? Can you answer all my questions for me?” In response, the Mute one smiles from ear to ear, and simply says nothing.

A thick silence lingers, like after a heavy rain. And for the first time the Deaf one stops speaking and starts listening. Being Deaf, how could it ever have thought to listen to silence? But there, in that moment, it finally hears what the Mute one has been saying all along. As if telepathically, the Deaf one all at once understands the answer to all of its questions. The whole time, the one place it never looked was behind the question itself. The way to answer all the unanswerable questions is to never ask the question in the first place. For the first time, they sit in peace, together. Over time, they form a stronger bond, learning to communicate despite their disabilities. Soon they realize they are partners in this life and begin working together. When stress arises, they tackle it together. When negativity creeps in, they work to turn it into positive and therefore neutralize it. And when wonderful, beautiful things happen, together they revel in the silence.

THE TAKEAWAY: I wrote this blog this way to illustrate the relationships between the thoughts we have and how to make sense of them. Everyone thinks differently, but in essence, we all have had the experiences of these internal battles. Often we don’t even recognize that they are happening. And so we have no idea why we feel the way we do. It has been said that traveling can be a catalyst for understanding these battles. “In losing yourself, you find your self.” Well the “self” that you lose is the Deaf one. When we are traveling in a new place, we are in utter awe of everything we see. We can’t apply labels to everything and assume it is something we already know. Everything is so new we are speechless. And so we are forced to listen and observe. This is the “self” that is found. This is the Mute one. However, upon returning from that trip, we often lose sight of what we’ve found. We go back to our routines, complain, and find fault in ourselves and others. The Deaf one turns up the chatter and the more talking we do, the less room there is for listening. We get so caught up in what we’re doing that we forget about  being.

Remember, we are human beings, not human doings.
So be it.

Your Life is a Reflection of You

Dear you,

As a young boy, I was extremely curious. Everything about the world around me facinated me because there seemed to be a reason for everything. There was a reason for the stop sign on the corner just the way there was a reason for the expiration date on the milk carton. For some reason or another, that made me so excited that I believe, even then, I set out to find all the reasons – the reason for everything.

Fittingly so, I learned to ask a lot of questions. I loved that behind every question, there was an answer too! How cool! All I had to do was connect the dots. And so I set out on my life’s adventure trying to connect all the dots. Well… a few days ago, I finally stopped trying; not out of exhaustion or frustration, but out of peace. That peace, is what I wanted to give you today.

Everything happens for a reason… right?

Not really.

Everything happens for many reasons. Which reason you see depends on you.

Every event in our lives thus far has had many many reasons for why it happened. I got into a car accident when I was 17 in which my younger brother and I could easily have died. I still remember the resistance of the steering wheel as it was spinning out of control. I can even remember trying to keep the car on a straight enough path to crash into the divider instead of rolling down the freeway. The car that hit us drove off. Why? Maybe the driver was taking his wife to the hospital and wasn’t thinking. Maybe he had just ended a 30 year marriage, couldn’t stand to deal with another traumatic thing, and so made the choice to drive off. Or, to pose another question, why did I survive? Maybe it’s so that I could meet my current girlfriend and one day have a child who is going to be the first president of the moon. Maybe its so that some child somewhere could see me playing basketball and decide to spend their life playing it too. Or maybe I survived so that the next day, when the man who hit us checked the newspaper, he would see that no one had actually died and he could go on living a life of service to others. One person survives, another serves…..

THE TAKEAWAY:

There are literally millions of reasons I survived – one of which you are reading right now. So which one is the real reason? Well, the answer is they all are. The only thing that is different is the person looking at the reason. We see whatever we want to see. And since wants come from inside of us, all we ever see is a reflection of what is already there. Although that may be scary or overwhelming at times, as long as that wisdom is inside you, you will always have all the answers you ever need. To those of you who read this, thank you for reading these blogs and listening to me. In doing so you have helped me to see into myself. You have helped me to see who I really am.

With great appreciation,

Chad

If we can only see what is already within us, the more you have inside of you the more you can see in others.

If we can only see what is already within us, the more you have inside of you the more you can see in others.

Full Circle

As I shuffled my way back to seat 33C on my flight home from Korea, I could feel something welling up inside me. It was as if, finally, everything was real. The lessons I had learned this year were crystallizing around me and it seemed things were getting clearer. My favorite song came on my iPod and everything felt as if it was in place. Then the thought occurred to me, I wonder who I’m going to sit next to?

I felt a twinge of anxiety when  I thought about how I could be stuck next to someone who snores, or will talk incessantly, but then I realized that those are all judgments, and resistance to whatever will happen **Throw em in the JAR** So I relaxed, and soon a young Chinese girl asked me if I could switch seats with her mother so they could sit together. However, her mother was in the center of a row and my long legs don’t fare well in tight spaces, so I politely said that I needed the aisle seat. Shortly thereafter her mother came over and said that she found someone else to switch seats with her and that person would be my partner for the voyage. Soon, a young Asian girl was sitting next to me, and I wasn’t sure if she was Korean or not so I leaned over and asked her in Korean if she was. She responded yes with a surprised look on her face, because I doubt she thought she would sit next to a white guy who spoke Korean. I asked her where she was going and why she was going to Canada (my flight was going through Vancouver) and she said she was going there to study abroad for one year – the only thing is, she’s in middle school. Then it all made sense to me. Here I am, sitting next to this young scared girl traveling alone, nervously fidgeting with her papers and reading a note from her mother, about to venture onto an incredible journey. All at once it made so much sense to me. I was meant to be the metaphorical bridge for her – a western person who speaks her language.

We talked for a while in Korean and I could tell that she was pretty nervous. I told her I felt the same way at first and that it would be a great trip for her. We shared stories about our reasons for traveling and I told her about how I learned the language in hopes that it would help her do the same. She was told me she couldn’t speak English at all at first but over the course of the plane ride I explained to her that I was a teacher and I could help her. Soon enough, she started using the few words she knew, and we were making progress. Then we checked our tickets and she needed to ask the flight attendant something. I brought him over and translated for her, helped her fill out her customs form, and told her what to do with it when we landed. By the end of the flight, I could tell how much more comfortable she felt and it occurred to me – How oddly coincidental was it that I would end up sitting by someone who is about to go on a similar journey to mine? She showed me pictures of her family and I showed her some pictures of me with my students. We talked about the host family she would be staying with and shared stories. As simple as it may have seemed, this was the final loose end tying off. This experience had come full circle.

Photo taken by my wonderful girlfriend

THE TAKEAWAY: When I got on the plane to come to Korea, I sat next to a Korean man whom I didn’t say a word to. I was nervous and honestly didn’t know what to do with myself. Then a year later on the plane coming home, I sit next to a young Korean girl with whom I was only able to connect with because I spoke her language. And, in that, I knew exactly what to do with myself. I have learned so many amazingly valuable things on this trip but perhaps this is the most important. I no longer worry about what I’m supposed to do or where I’m going in life because I know – to my core – that wherever I am is where I’m supposed to be. 

Opening

“Oh… Jeremy, today you have a class with some parents,” my CoTeacher told me, almost one year ago. “Really?!? What am I supposed to teach them?” I responded. “I don’t know, just talk with them.” And so it began. Every Wednesday for this past year, I would meet two of my students’ Mothers for a little English class. One of them spoke pretty well and the other could hardly understand a word I was saying. And yet, every week she kept showing up to class with this look of fear, nervousness, and distain in her eyes. “I kentuh speak Engrishi,” were the first words I ever heard her say and she said them with such low self confidence it hurt me to see it.

Quickly I realized that I wasn’t going to be teaching appositives or prepositional phrases and decided that instead of teaching them, I was just going to help them learn.  Since I was learning their language also, it made it a lot easier. I used pictures to show them that if they just continue to study a little everyday, over time, they would improve. We laughed a lot – at awkward moments and silly situations – and each week they became more and more comfortable with me. As my Korean caught up to their English level, we began to have mixed conversations about life, Korean culture, their children, and traveling the world. We shared experiences of frustration with learning language and laughed together. Whenever I was sick at home, I would receive a half English half Korean text message telling me to feel better and to cheer up. Our classes really became a highlight of our week, and I found out yesterday exactly why.

HeeJung is a 45 year old mother of two high school students, her husband is an English teacher at a prestigious high school in Seoul, and she hasn’t driven a car a day in her life. Her laugh is utterly contagious and she really shines in a group setting, that is, when she’s the one talking. Last night, her and the other two mothers from this semester took me out to a nice steak restaurant near my house to say their goodbyes. At the end of the dinner, HeeJung turned to me and mustered the courage to tell me something in Konglish (I’ve translated): One morning a few months ago, I woke up and thought something strange. I thought to myself, ‘Is Jeremy really my friend?’ At first I had many prejudices about him. He is younger than me, a man, a foreigner and my teacher. In Korea, woman are not supposed to be friends with men. In Korea, we are only friends with people of the same age. I have always been afraid of foreigners and I was always taught that my teachers were above me and cannot be friends. But that day I realized that I really do consider you a friend. Thank you for that. Thank you for always encouraging me. Now I feel like I am much more confident. Have a wonderful last month in Korea and I miss you already. 

THE TAKEAWAY: After pushing my tears of joy away, we took pictures together and made our way to the door. It was the strangest feeling – so bittersweet. But as I left them I realized what this experience has taught me about life – open yourself and others will open to you. From day one I was doing my best to learn their language, and I was always positive, and encouraged them as best I could. HeeJung had especially low confidence, believing herself to be “only a housewife.” Everyday I reminded her of why she was learning English and that it can be easy and fun if she learns to see it that way. The walls that she had to knock down to let me in are enormous here in Korea. Many of those things she said simply aren’t done. But this all just goes to show that rules are made to be broken, and minds are meant to be open. So please, let’s open ourselves up to the world and maybe… just maybe… the world will open itself to us.

A good friend…

Connecting the Dots

This week’s lesson was about the story I wrote in my previous blog. After I finished telling the story in one of my Junior boy’s classes, they all sat in silence. With a serious look on my face, I leaned my back against the whiteboard and gazed without direction into the classroom of students. They stared back at me. Only their faces showed a medley of expressions. Some gazed back at me with hope in their eyes, others with confusion. But what got to me the most were those with a look of deep pessimism, because I could just tell that there in their young minds, they were about to give up on their dreams. Then, someone raised their hand.

“Teacher, what if I don’t know what I love?” He said this with a twinge of anger and sadness behind his voice.

“Here, let me show you. I’ll tell you how I got to where I am today,” I hurried over to the board, and began drawing my life’s path.

My path began when I was a little boy with a heightened awareness of emotions. Even as a four year old, my mother has told me that I would bother her whenever she looked sad, despite the fact that she would tell me she was fine. I would pull on the hem of her shirt until she told me what was wrong, and without knowing why, I felt better when she did.

All throughout school I had a lot of anger inside me. That anger came from the fact that I never knew why I was studying what they told me to study. I was forced to just accept it. So, when I got into high school, I did as little as I could. I had decided to go to a junior college where my high school grades would not matter, and from that p0int on high school was no longer a place for academics to me; it was a place to study people. I made many close friends and had deep conversations. I made mistakes and learned from them and watched others do the same. Whether I knew it or not, I was learning some invaluable lessons.

When I got to junior college, I decided to take a psychology class against my counselor’s advice. “You don’t need it at all. It will be a waste of your time,” he said to me. “That’s okay, I want to anyway.” Even then, I felt something guiding me. I used to read the textbook for that PSY 101 class for fun. I couldn’t put it down at times. I even remember going into the kitchen to share some of the things I had learned with my family. Once I had transfered to a four year university, I decided to minor in psychology against the advice of a counselor. I instantly fell deeper in love with the subject. I started reading books on the side about facial psychology, emotions, and body language. Even further still, my marketing classes included a lot of psychological lessons and college became like a playground to me.

Then, as graduation was approaching, I decided to come to Korea, against the advice of many friends and peers. “You’re crazy man. One year!? That’s a loooongggg time,” they would say. But no matter what they said, something was telling me to go. And it was the very same thing that told me not to listen to my teachers in high school, or my counselors in college. It was my heart telling me to go.

Since I have been here, all of my knowledge of psychology has been put to the test. I cannot tell you how many times I have been able to spot kids that needed someone to talk to and others that needed help and were too afraid to ask (in Korean culture, it is impolite to ask questions in class, so I have had to literally pull questions out of them). It feels as if I were meant to be here. This job has shown me the career path I am meant to take. I have been able to practice the same presentation 20 times a week. I have learned to perfect them. And that skill has given me the confidence to return to the US and, without fear, pursue a career as a public speaker.

THE TAKEAWAY: Steve Jobs‘s Stanford commencement speech has become one of the most watched speeches of all time for a very simple reason; everyone wants to believe that someday they will be extremely successful, look back, and be able to connect the dots. Well, I may not be extremely successful in terms of money or reputation, but in my mind I could not be more happy with where I am. I no longer fear the uncertainty that the future holds. I can see how my dots connect all the way back to my childhood, and, in this week’s class, I drew those dots on the board. I showed my students how they connected to bring me to where I am now, and how someday there will be more dots added to that line. “All you need to do is follow what you love,” I told them. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The Problem with Words

Thousands of years ago, the human race had so little to communicate that grunts and hand motions were sufficient. Now, our world has become so complicated that every year we have to add new words to the dictionary just to keep everyone up to speed. From the day we are born, we are learning new words everyday and never stop to question them. In fact, when we start learning them we are so young we don’t know that there is even a question to be asked. Well today I would like to ask you that question. What are words?

Recently I have been reading a book called The Fifth Agreement by Don Migel Ruiz and in it he introduces a very interesting paradigm. He explains the story of how we learn words, and how as we grow up we simply accept the definitions of those words because the people who have come before us teach us what they mean. In essence, we agree to believe in the meaning of those words. Then, as we grow up, we get so used to defining everything around us with words that we find a word for everything… we even make them up if need be. And soon enough, we don’t even know how to think about things without words, we must define everything  in order to maintain an understanding and control of the world around us. What’s worse is that we start to define ourselves using those words, and therefore limit our minds and personalities to their definitions.

For instance, as a young boy I often wrestled with the idea of whether I was smart or not. I knew what “smart” meant, but it was so subjective. The best measurement seemed to be school grades, but I felt like they were too limiting. As my grades improved, and I started to consider myself “smart,” I then learned of all the negative social aspects of being a “smart person.” People didn’t like you as much, some people made fun of you, and you were often alienated. So, then I decided I wasn’t smart. But that too gave me trouble because I didn’t want to be stupid… I KNEW it was bad to be stupid… Right?

Eventually I found a way to define myself using other words, bigger words, and yet they still didn’t seem to satisfy me. And it wasn’t until very recently that I realized that the most important ideas and concepts do not have words for them. Take, for instance, the word “God.” If you were to ask 10,000 people all over the world what the word “God” meant you would probably get a huge variety of answers. They could range from an all-knowing all-intelligent being, to an old man with a beard in the sky, to the very essence of the energy that is within all of us. And the strangest part is that, in a way, they would all be “right.”

THE TAKEAWAY: The point I think Don Migel Ruiz is trying to make is that it is impossible to understand the truth in any form, using words. Words are just symbols people have agreed upon to represent a thought. Words are just symbols to make communication between people easier. And yet, it is often words that cause the miscommunications, arguments, and wars between those very same people. So today, I am hoping to spread an awareness of the space between words and what they represent. If we could go through our lives without obsessively using words to define everything and everyone we see, then we might just find ourselves marveling at the beauty. After all, the most beautiful things this world has to offer really should leave us speechless

Artwork by my beautifully talented girlfriend

Passion Really Does Pay Off

When I walked into my second class today, instantly I could feel the carefully cultivated positivity being sucked out of me. There was something about this freshmen girl’s class that just wasn’t right. The usual chatter that preceded every other girls’ class was missing. There was something negative in there.

Rather than succumb to it, I tried something new that I have been doing lately. When a class is in a rather bad mood, I try to be as positive as possible to sway the balance. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. So I continued with the lesson about self motivation, which was entitled “How to be a Genius” because genius is a word they are very familiar with. The results were trivial at first, then slowed down toward the end like a car running out of gas. When I had finished the lesson there were probably only seven girls actually listening, seven sleeping, and the other ten with blank looks on their faces. I was disheartened to say the least, so I decided to be honest with them.

“Do you know that I only have four more months with you here? In four months, I will leave Korea and probably never see you again!” A few of the blank faces shifted. “I know, you’re life is not fair! You work too hard, and you are expected to know what you want to do in life right now and you are still so young! I didn’t know what I actually wanted to do until I came here and I am 24 years old!” There were no blank faces anymore. “In the time I have left, I want to help you as much as I can. So, I am going to teach you everything I know. Hopefully, something will help you choose your path in life… If you don’t want to listen, that’s you’re choice. I can’t help you if you don’t want to help yourself.”

After my CoTeacher Nora finished translating, there was a long silence. I sat down on a chair in front, facing the class, rested my chin on my hand and stared back at them with the same blank face they had given me. You see, in Korea, high school is by far the most stressful time in a person’s life. These days, students spend upwards of twelve hours a day at school, and sometimes even on Saturdays. They spend all that time studying for their SAT equivalent test, the SooNung. Korea takes this test so seriously, that on the day of examination, planes are not allowed to fly during school hours so as not to disturb the children. The score then determines what majors the student is allowed to choose from.  Those majors in turn decide what universities they are allowed to apply to. And literally their ENTIRE LIFE depends on what university they get into. So, most of them are forced to decide what they want to do in life at the age of… 14? 15? 17?

The bell rang and I simply waved goodbye. Slowly they shuffled their way out of the classroom. After all of them had left, I had started cleaning up and pushing chairs in when one of the girls, who had been listening the whole time, came back into the room. Even before she spoke I could feel the determination behind her words. Her grammar wasn’t very good but I could tell what she meant simply by the order of her words. If her English were perfect, what she said would have gone a little like this:

“Teacher, I want to say thank you. Before today, I chose a dream just because when I was growing up, adults always told me I had to know my dream. But now, I know that it’s okay if I don’t know what I want to do. If I don’t get into the best university in Korea, that’s okay. Now I know that what I learn is more important that where I learn it.”

Then, she did something that is very strange in Korean culture… She reached out and gave me a quick, awkward hug, as if she had never given one before, and walked away. As soon as she had turned the corner to leave, tears welled up in my eyes… I leaned my head against the nearest wall and cried tears of joy.

You Deserve All the Credit for This

As you turn the handle and push open the front door of your house early one morning the sunlight floods in and a smile creeps onto your face. “I love sun…” You think, “Today is going to be a great day.” Smiling from ear to ear you choose your favorite song to listen to and drive off to start your day. You pull up to a stoplight near your house and look over to your right. The person in the car next to you, David, has been feeling pretty sad for the past 30 minutes or so since he received a call saying that a friend of his was in the hospital. Bright with cheer, the smile upon your face reminds David that his friend needs him right now and deserves to see one more smiling face. In that moment, the person next to you decides to take time off from work and visit a friend.

Once at the hospital, David’s friend is elated to see him. As it had turned out, the infection wasn’t as serious as doctors had originally thought and he would only have to spend a few days there for observation. But seeing a David’s smiling face made him feel that much more special. And when his family came in later that day, he had since resolved to spend more time with his wife and children because they deserved that very same feeling that David had brought him earlier; the friend whose schedule you changed with a smile.

I felt compelled to write this today because of a realization I had yesterday while looking out at a family walking together by a river.

Nothing I have ever done or will do is mine. Everything is interconnected. 

Take this blog for instance.

A year and a half ago a forward thinking friend of mine convinced me to start writing. Since then, that friend has gone on to start a business fraternity at his school and is finishing his year as President in the next few months. Throughout his time as President, he has experienced many trials and tribulations. One of which occured right around the time that I arrived in Korea. I wrote a blog about my very difficult first day at school and Jason got the chance to read it. He later told me that it nearly brought him to tears because he had been feeling the exact same frustrations with his fraternity. His actions set into motion a chain of events that would later benefit him in a great time of need.

A year ago, a friend of mine named Claire was teaching here in Korea. One night I stayed up until 3am talking to her about how much she was enjoying her life in Korea. That night, I decided to come here based on her words alone. And since I’ve been teaching here, one of my students, whom I often play basketball with at lunchtime, has started studying English and playing basketball everyday. At first, he could hardly shoot the ball correctly and couldn’t communicate with me at all. Now, we talk or message each other daily, he helps me with Korean, he has ordered a Lakers jacket that he wears to school everyday, and his basketball skill has improved immensely. Claire’s decision to come to Korea set into motion a chain of events that would later benefit this young man’s life.

THE TAKEAWAY: I could go on forever with examples, but thats not my purpose here. My purpose is to hopefully bring some light into your life through this blog post. And hopefully it will encourage you to do the same for someone else. When we try to take credit for the things we have done, we are taking that credit away from everyone else who played a hand in it. Whatever you are thinking right now is a result of what has happened to you today and what you are reading right now. And what you are reading is being written by someone who was lucky enough to have two amazing parents give birth to him 24 years ago so that he could one day be sitting on a bus in Korea, looking out the window at the upward outstretched hand of a child reaching for his mother, and in that moment find the inspiration to write it for you.  

America: What’s Mine is Your’s… But Gimme My Stuff!

What would happen if one day the words my, mine, I, you, yours, his, hers, and theirs were completely deleted from the English language? I can only imagine how confusing Christmas morning would be… and public parking lots would be absolute CHAOS! Now, all jokes aside, I’d like to ask you to take a second to consider what you categorize as “mine.” I’m sure we can all think of a quick list of at least 10-15. My car, my home, my friend, my mother, my hat, my shoes, my watch, my lunch, my idea, my heart, my mind, my day…. You get the point. But it’s valuable to consider that the English language, and thereby our life perspective, is such that we apply some kind of ownership to literally everything around us. I mean, when I was a child I used to pluck leaves off of plants that I thought were pretty just because I wanted to take them with me… Only to throw them away 15 yards down the path.  Have you ever wondered how such a perspective shapes who we are? Or how it shapes the lives we live?

Well, as I have said before, I have been studying the Korean language quite hard since I arrived here in Korea. And since then, I have come to notice a very interesting difference between their language, and ours. Instead of saying something like, “Is that your pen?” Korean’s would say the equivalent of, “Pen exists?” And instead of saying “Your hat doesn’t fit my head very well,” they would say, “Hat doesn’t fit.” At first this was super confusing to me, I mean, how did anyone have any idea what was going on? Then, in a recent discussion with a Korean friend, we thought about how this country is very much like one large family. When we eat together, no one orders their own food. We order one large dish and everyone eats from that, something western cultures fittingly call “family style.” When I play basketball with my team, someone brings a bunch of big bottles of water and everyone shares. When I am on the subway, everyone stands close to one another if they need to, and bumping into one another is not an offensive gesture. No one ever says the equivalent of “my house,” even if they live alone. You just say “our house” instead.  With my family, the Brinkerhoff’s, I do all of these things. We share water and sit close to each other and share food without hesitation… and of course, we all live in our house. But outside of that house is a different story. We look at those we don’t know with hostility or naive trust. We must always keep mental stock of what is ours and theirs. And we are born into this mindset that “I must claw MY way to the top if I want to make MY life a success for ME and MY family.” Isn’t that the motto of anyone living the “American Dream?”

THE TAKEAWAY: If we live our lives constantly applying ownership to everything we think feel and touch, we will begin to see the world as something that was put here for us and us alone. But that very mindset is so limiting, so narrow, that it actually prevents us from seeing the vastness that the world has to offer. “Giving that which you wish to recieve,” hardly seems difficult to do when nothing you have is really yours. The money you make will be someone else’s someday when you spend it. The shoes you wear were at one point owned by factory workers, creative designers, rubber plantation owners, and  will one day be owned by someone else if you donate them or throw them away. So today all I’m asking is that you take a second to question what you consider to be “mine,” because if you claim too much, you might be hurting yourself in the long-run.