The Thing

I realized this morning after looking into some recent events – small as they may be, a significant current that runs through my life, its great gift.
I’m studying the Korean language at Dong Guk University in Seoul with a group of 8 others from around the world. The course is very difficult, with an 80% failure rate among the non-Chinese speaking students. We’re doing this because it’s a requirement for entering the Chogye order (Korean Zen) and acquiring a long-term visa.
Into this environment the human strain – what ferments and boils to the top? There aren’t enough of a certain book to go around – the one that contains all the words we are to memorize for the semester. I’m the one that didn’t have it. After a few weeks I finally wrangled one out of a previous student, but the point – no one was willing to share theirs. What does this say of our young candidates?
But that’s not what came to me this morning. After waiting my turn to use the broom – of course I was at the end of the line – and waiting for a chance to use the mop – again – same – that I realized the pattern was long and deep – all through my life – the result of my own relinquishing, that it was the key to my liberation.
I’m not so desperate, clinging to whatever the situation presents, that I lose hold of my humanity. I’ve never been interested in THE THING. But it isn’t possible to be liberated, not cleanly. We are a tribe of winners. There is no place outside the turmoil that isn’t consistently and thoroughly dismantled. The quiet wind that blows here is all that remains.

2 thoughts on “The Thing

  1. hahna says:

    i dont know what its like there in seoul, but no one is willing to let you borrow their book? one cant take it to a kinkos type place? maybe there isnt such a thing as a kinkos where you can xerox a needed book (never lived in korea, so no clue). fellow students wont lend/share?

    such a tough world. glad that there are folks like you out there.

    im sorry about what happened to your mother as well… -hyok-jons wife hahna

    1. won il says:

      haengja life is restricted to such a degree – we aren’t allowed to leave the building. when we do exit it’s tight 9 beeline to the cafeteria, or to the large hall for yoebul, or packed into a van for 4-hour classes at Dong Guk. anything outside that is imposible – i.e. we shave our heads once a week – no one has shaving cream, they just use hand soap – no way to acquire any.. I’ve thought about a quick trip down the hill, but if any of us rebels, the whole group is punished.

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