Have you ever had an experience when you felt that you can see clearer, that scales have fallen off your eyes and you can see more detail in the world? I’ve had two such experiences before. I got the third one a couple of days ago.
The first one was when I was 17 years old. I was listening to a preacher who had come to talk to us kids at the university about his faith (I was by then already in my third year of my Liberal Arts undergrad majoring in mathematics, which means I was at the verge of getting ready to handle heavier faith-stuff relative to the usual). Because of the preacher’s message, this was impressed into me: the possibility and the rightness and the importance of being able to examine in my head, with rational tools, the essence and substance of my inherited system of faith-beliefs. That was emancipating. An awakening.
The second one was when I was already writing my doctoral dissertation in delightful Regensburg (nope, it wasn’t an ostentatious nor a well-traveled period at all, which is one of my regrets!). It was a usual cold winter morning, in my little student’s apartment. I was about to sit on the grandest seat of the house (guess where!), and, voila, I got it suddenly, an enlightenment I called it, and I even wrote a post about it in my old blog… that… there are no rules. THERE ARE NO RULES.
Before that day I was discovering zen buddhism for some time with whatever video or post I had the time to read or listen to. It’s a fascinating way of life, this consciously embracing zen, which is outside of the ‘rational.’ Nevertheless, something like a satori happened to me (oh, ah, uhuh, if you think I don’t know what I’m talking about, then I won’t be offended if you tell me).
Obviously there are rules, and I know this, and I have no problems with rules. But knowing that there are no rules [from the perspective of the ‘universe’] made sense to me. That happened as I was sitting on that grandest seat in my little apartment (haha!).
The third one was basically a couple of days ago but I got a delayed reaction — the feeling that scales have fallen off my eyes and I could see clearly — which did not happen until this morning as I was about to sit on …tada!… the grandest seat in the house (again! And to many people this is also where and when innovative thoughts suddenly dawn on them with clarity!).
This most recent ‘enlightenment’ is something personal, with several people involved, and so I cannot talk about it here just yet. Nevertheless, as I was sitting on the grandest seat this morning, I thought of having “leapt that quantum leap of realization, a fantastic escape from one understanding onto the next that wouldn’t have happened had I not insisted on pushing my perception to the extreme, and so confront the now glaring obvious… and the solutions to my recurring puzzles are finally laid bare, tantamount to being able to see the foundation of matter, the ‘strings,’ the basics of the stuff that are of Heisenberg’s uncertainty idea. The big puzzle of my life is now dissipated, puffed out, gone with the wind.”
It has liberated me, allowed me to move freely, think clearly, see better, and so act accordingly. With caution and with tentative steps. To newly found breathing space. It is envigorating.
I hope you understand what I’m saying here. It is good, these opening-of-the-eyes experiences in a non-esoteric sense. Something I can casually talk about with friends over cake and a cup of tea anytime.
Thanks for the read and the smile! Incidentally, I’m listening to traditional Japanese koto music as I write this post. Lovely music. The featured image at the top is the golden Kinkakuji Temple in Japan. Have a great day!
This post is my tribute to choosing life and heeding the wisdom of one’s elders. The featured scene is from Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends (2014). I will only speak about Kenshin and his teacher here, and then no more, except what is relevant to this post.
Kenshin was the best assassin of the past government. He had since sworn to not kill anymore, carrying a sword that has the sharp egde at the wrong side.
The new government has asked for his help to kill a rampaging ex-assassin, who is threatening the safety of the land.
Aware of his weakness after a recent duel, Kenshin asks his teacher (also called “master”) to teach him the ultimate sword tehnique of their school so that he can defeat the enemy.
His teacher agrees. They fight-train —physically, mentally, emotionally— a holistic approach.
Teacher tosses a real sword to Kenshin. It is a real fight with real swords today.
He’s figured out that he’s afraid of neither his teacher nor of death.
But his teacher has warned him that if he cannot figure out what’s wrong with him, then he will not be able to defeat the villain. Moreover, he might even die in today’s training-duel, without having learned the final technique at all.
He resolves that he will not die just yet, and fights back. After some time, he eventually slashes at Teacher and scores a point!
His guilt has made his fighting resolve distorted. His guilt has numbed his positive purpose for fighting, which was why he was defeated recently — his sword broken, and was not able to rescue Kamiya Kaoru also.
His fierceness in fighting will not return if he continues to be weighed down by the guilt of having killed so many people before.
He has to embrace his guilt, forgive himself, and be positively fierce again in order to defeat his enemy, who is also the enemy of the people whom Kenshin is trying to protect.
(This has something to do with his failing to rescue Kaoru. She was shouting at him to look after himself, to fight fiercely but to stay alive, but he was distracted by his fear for her safety . So, Teacher seemed to be saying that being on the defensive position, on the side of the helpless people, has somehow weakened Kenshin’s fighting prowess).
(I wish I can understand Japanese!) Teacher seemed to be saying that Kenshin has denied his life-loving fighting self—his innate positive personality, and his life’s discipline and upbringing with his Teacher—ever since he resolved not to kill anymore. Indeed, his Teacher never trained him for the purpose of killing, but so that he can protect people. However, he made choices that led him astray and caused him to kill even defenseless people. The senselessness of his deeds caused him to gamble with his life many times—fighting fiercely without regard to his own life. So now, if he can resolve his guilt and embrace again the purpose of his life’s training, then he can fight the villain and live to tell about it.
Teacher’s important lesson:YOUR LIFE IS AS WORTH AS OTHER PEOPLE’S LIVES.
Hitokiri Battousai the famous assassin passes away from existence, and in his place stands a very alive Kenshin, the life-loving defender of the weak.
Himura Kenshin and I learned something very valuable from Master today.
Domo arigato gozaimashita. (That’s a very respectful ‘thank you very much.’)
In the Old Testament, the expectation that children honor their parents comes with the understanding that parents have fulfilled their responsibilities towards their children.
This was a matter of consequence because parents were the only ones who could function as provider, protector, and educator. This honoring implied all that comes with it in the context of the familial parent-child relationship, most especially attention and deference, where parents were figures of authority in almost all aspects of life.
It was a given fact that the parents were responsible for the well-being of their children, being the primary movers for the procurement of provisions for the entire family.
This family was part of a bigger or extended family that could include everyone in the community, and that the rearing up of children was a corporate responsibility of this bigger family where everyone was interconnected with each other in personal relationships. The adults in this bigger family were responsible for their collective children. There were no other agencies that may take this responsibility away from the parents, unlike today where the state may.
The parents were answerable only to God in all their responsibilities to their children. If ever the angle of the “state’s” interference can be entertained at all, the hierarchy will be negligible because the “state” itself was answerable to God since its authority was not absolute but rather sprang from God.
The Fourth [or Fifth] Commandment [that is, the commandment to honor parents] was a reiteration of the adult children’s obligations towards their parents in view of the natural course of human life that leads all parents to aging. It was an assumption that children will eventually be the ones who will take care of their parents.
This was the natural course of life for all within the context of the bigger family, which was the same with all [the] other communities.
There was no question about whether parents deserved the honoring because had the parents been irresponsible in their duties as parents, then none in the consequent generation would have survived to later become responsible parents themselves.
It was in this context that the rabbis interpreted the commandment to honor parents, that the honoring is due by virtue of parenthood, as God had commanded it, and no other requirements were needed. It was assumed that parents deserved honoring from children. If the question would be about the honorableness of parents in the way they performed their duties, then the children’s being able to survive into mature adulthood was itself proof that the parents had fulfilled their responsibilities to their children.
The question of how to honor narcissistic parents deserves another major research altogether (uhuh, I don’t have it in my dissertation, though I certainly do want to find out, and fast ! ). What’s more important is that one has become aware of the situation, and so start from there. . . It certainly is very tough going, to be in the middle of this. . .
The Berlin File is about two North Korean agents who are a husband and wife stationed in Berlin and were set up for treason by a powerful father and son team taking advantage of the transition of governmental power in their country in order to protect their private agenda. So they worked on changing the personnel at their embassy in Berlin. The plot starts with an international deal involving the Mossad, Arabs, the CIA, and South Korea. There are bits of English, German, and Arabic in the dialogues, and the musical score as well as the action shots reminded me of the Bourne movies. But the flavor of the movie is over all akin to the South Korean films and dramas I have watched. I sort of felt at home with it, so to speak.
To compare-&-contrast and for old time’s sake I looked up on the Bourne films, initially just thinking of re-watching them at some time maybe, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that Richard Chamberlain and Jaclyn Smith did a Bourne Identity in 1988, with a tiny part shot in Regensburg. I will take the time to watch that in full and check out how faithful it was to the Ludlum novel, as some accounts claim.
Bourne Legacy was the only sequel that I wasn’t able to watch (’til this week) despite having learned that part of it was shot in Manila, so I decided to watch it right away. I felt good when it got to the Manila part, which was nearing the end, because it was done true to the everyday street scenery. I heard Filipino distinctively being spoken, the laughter in the streets, the automobiles willy-nilly. One of my favorite actors, Lou Veloso, is there with just a tiny part and projecting a familiar Filipino aura without over-acting. It was as though what I felt while watching the Manila scenes is similar to Katsuhiko’s pleasure at seeing his face on the screen, in that very charming Japanese movie The Woodsman and the Rain. The Manila scenes reminded me of Bourne in Tangiers. So in order to compare them, especially that now it’s Cross and not Bourne in there, I decided to rewatch all the three prequels, stat. Legacy is in fact not a sequel but, in the timeline, it is at about the end of Ultimatum. There’s a short part in here shot in Seoul.
Ah, so desu ka. There’s always an exciting street chase in each film. Paris, Moscow, Goa, Tangiers, Manila, I forgot the rest. There’s always a pretty and competent female character, and Bourne/Cross consistently provides a way out for them, out of his personal business. Good for Bourne, and Cross, too. I have nothing to complain about them especially that their ruthlessness as assassins are not played up in the plots, and they never display aggression towards the non-enemy.
Yesterday Orabeoni Jung (older brother Jung) finished with his doctoral studies (that is, successfully did his Disputation, defended his dissertation) and in the course of the conversation, during the lively lunch celebration given by our Doktorvater, orabeoni’s Regensburger friend Mr. W. said he really likes action films. I had to keep quiet at that point because I didn’t want the attention to be directed to me. Slightly earlier I caught my thumb at the car door, immediately treated it with ice, and everyone had already given me sympathetic words and feelings.
Near the end of the drive home to the dormitories with Orabeoni and Mr. W. (in his car), Orabeoni was heartily thanking him for having been his “driver” the whole day to which Mr. W. jokingly responded as having been his “transporter”. Otoke? (what-to-do?) Whenever I can I have been babbling to my Korean friends about the Korean dramas and movies I’ve seen so far and so without thinking twice I blurted right away, “Orabeoni, Transporter is good, you must watch it.” (Earlier I had been recommending Berlin File to him at the lunch table since we were seated next to each other and it was easy for me to do so.) Mr. W. then added to my remark, “Yeah, and I have seen all of it.” But I couldn’t talk anymore because we were already getting out of the car. Belatedly I realized that he may also have meant the recent Transporter series on television, and not just the three films. I haven’t seen any of the ones on television because I had cut my television addiction about a year ago, and so I wouldn’t have anything to say about it after all.
Since I couldn’t do much with my sore thumb, when I got to my room I simply decided to re-watch the remaining Bourne film I haven’t gotten around to do, and then continued on to the Transporter ones.
I’d say the current action films are not much different from those since of the 70’s… they’re on the masculine prowess, attraction to the feminine, human capacity spectrum physically and mentally… Berlin File, Transporter, Bourne stories, The Saint, Hitman, and a hundred others feature the male physique glorified in ancient Greece and Rome, and the female form glorified since the advent of the popularity of corsets and eventually of the runway-hanger body shape. They’re about the alpha male unbelievably overcoming aggression that are stationed at a perimeter of decreasing radius enclosing him. Precise movements, always. Like the way Dae Gil (Jang Hyuk of Chuno) could gracefully orchestrate his disciplined mucles. Frank Martin (of Transporter) reminded me of Lee Bang Ji, Ddol Bok’s Sonsaengnim (Teacher) in Tree with Deep Roots. Aaron Cross’ (of Bourne Legacy) instant improvisations reminded me of McGyver. Simon Templar/Vincent Ferrer (Val Kilmer in The Saint, 1997) is a mathematician and a painter. Tarzan is like all of them: handsome, smart, quick, strong, sleek, and wealthy. The alpha males of the jungles of trees and of concrete, and the Janes who are at the same time weak and strong though preferably ‘complicated’ like in the way the French Inspector Tarconi (of Transporter) would want them to be.
Wahnsinn. Not Everyman can have the resilience of David Webb (a.k.a. Jason Bourne) and the accomplishments of sweet Dr. Emma Russell (physicist in The Saint, 1997). Not Everyman would stay sane after the behavior modifications experienced by Bourne and Cross. Not only that Bourne undergoes psychiatric crises, a memory yo-yo from brainwashing to amnesia to recovery, but Cross moreover undergoes a viral-induced evolution jump not dissimilar to what happened to the X-Men.
Although I could now chide myself at having loved all of these action films I could not help recalling that, in the academic discussions I’ve come across, this proliferation of adulation for the Tarzan-like prowess is integrated in the way the human psyche copes with the changing times. It’s an offshoot of the way the heads of families, especially in the West, perceived as emasculation, along with the rise of female independence, during the economic upheaval at about the advent of the industrial era. There’s got to be an image that the psyche can hold on to against the encroaching panic at the helplessness over the rise of the huge conglomerates and the societal havoc that result. Thus the popularity of Wild West heroes at first and then of the strong men in popular media. The way Frank Martin can leap and grab at things while falling remind me of Superman sans cape, not that it’s the cape that makes him fly.
I like these films because, well, for one, they transport me back home to where my father’s copies of Robert Ludlum et cetera paperbacks are stacked together on the shelf, with the Encyclopedia Americana and the Reader’s Digest Comprehensive Dictionary that were our school-homework staples. Wilbur Smith. Frederick Forsyth. Peter Maas. Robert Ruark. I can’t remember the others and of course I didn’t get to read all of them because I had difficulty in sustaining my interest over plots that I couldn’t visualize, the works that make up the bulk of these novels like high-profile espionage and sophisticated weaponry plus tactical language. Even so then, I did finish the first novel that my father handed over to me to spend away time with while I was not feeling well. It was William D. Wittliff’s Raggedy Man and I was only ten years old so I didn’t understand all of it (it’s about a disfigured ex-soldier coming back to secretly look over his family, so there was lot of emotional undercurrents). But I will always remember that book.
The familiarity of reading such paperbacks eventually led me to James Clavell, hence Eiji Yoshikawa’s Musashi, to one of Kobo Abe’s, one of Masuji Ibuse’s, and to several more of differing genre that included those of Edward Rutherford, Tolkien (who led me to take a peak at Irish folklore), C.S. Lewis, R. Tagore, K. Gibran, and Pearl S. Buck. Then maybe a couple each of Stephen King’s, Alice Walker’s and Maeve Binchy’s, one from Chaim Potok. Others I can’t recall anymore. Roots. On the U. S. Marines. About a tribe in prehistory Alaska, My Sister the Moon. Earlier than these there were Nancy Drew and Sweet Dreams, which led me to Agatha Christie and Mills & Boon — light ones that could be finished in a day. (I did plow through Jane Eyre, Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Anna Karenina, and attempted The Scarlet Letter. Wahnsinn. Of course I couldn’t understand them the way they should be understood because I had no idea of the pomp of Russian nobility, of the coldness of the prevalent weather there until Siberia, and of the sensibilities of the English gentry. I couldn’t appreciate their literary peculiarities. They were of worldviews at the other side of the globe.) Anyway, simply Wahnsinn. So many words eaten, not properly digested, I simply cannot remember the majority of them. They happened in another lifetime and I was a different person then. However they did teach me the love for the dictionary and hence erased my apprehension for the English language.
With which, all of them, led me to conclude later on that any other paperback fiction on action, fantasy, or love story out there will just be similar to what I’ve already come across. That cured me of fiction addiction and I wasn’t tempted to go back even after more wonderful authors came out. Of which, furthermore, I was not surprised in my conclusion that Bourne, Cross, Martin, Templar, and Tarzan are almost just the same guy. These kinds of films are made of the same stuff. I could say that there’s nothing really new in them. Seen one, seen all.
But still why do I like these films? Okay, so, I guess the sound tracks are very good. The Saint and Bourne led me to Moby, of which reading up on him made me better understand his song Extreme Ways (Bourne theme song). It’s one of my favorites and once while listening to it I got really serious. It came to my mind to ask who in the world could afford to say “I’ve seen so much in so many places… So many heartaches, so many faces… So many dirty things… You couldn’t even believe” — where are these people, what are they going through, and could I ever have a very good idea of what they’re talking about… like Jason Bourne who actually retraced his path and owned up to the killing of a girl’s parents, in Moscow, thereby freeing her of the sorrow of living with the thought that her mother shot her father and afterwards commits suicide.
There it is. It’s because these films sit on the boundary between what’s possible, and the dream zone. What’s possible is the caring for children and women, at which Simon, Aaron and Jason do a better job than Frank. Templar, Cross and Bourne can argue reasonably with women without grabbing at their wrists and dragging them forcibly. Except that in the 1988 Bourne film he and Marie (R. Chamberlain & J. Smith) behave the way Frank Martin and his girls do to each other, similar to Tarzan and Jane of the first book Tarzan of the Apes. Seemingly Tarzan’s attraction to Jane overpowers him, but actually it comes out that it’s always Tarzan who has the upper hand. The dream zone is right there: power over someone and something and everything that comes along. That’s the fantasy there: that the odds don’t count. That if one just acts decisively enough, fast, then whatever it is, it is possible. However, in real life reckoning the odds do count.
More importantly on the other hand, it’s not just the odds against safely landing a car on top of a speeding train, but the odds against surviving a severe drug dependency, like Aaron Cross. Like getting free from mind manipulation and struggling at forgiveness, like David Webb. Like leading a hopeful life after so much tragedy, like Simon Templar. Like producing almost costless energy source, like Emma Russell. For Frank Martin, well, although he just cares about the money, several times he’s shown to choose ethics that value the person…
…nah, they’re not really nasty guys… they do have soft spots… But how would all these ingredients wrap up in real life? Do such persons really exist, and how many are they? It would be nicer for the world if it were so, and it doesn’t hurt to hope that it were so. That’s the dream part of it. Though, not to be blinded by the nice part, consideration must also be given to the “backgrounds” of the fellows who are “bad” in these movies, the antagonists. If the movie was about that “bad” character then that person could be very well ethically defensible, too… right? … ah, but this is already a quagmire I wouldn’t know how to navigate over… I haven’t read Fletcher’s Situation Ethics. Ajik.
… however, for the simplicity of the plots, to be palatable to the viewer who must not be scared away from watching films in the future, who the good and the bad are among the guys must be simply put across so that there’s no ambivalence at the end of the show. Schluß. Weiter. The same formula with Wonder Woman and Star Trek. Things have to be neatly wrapped up in the end so that viewers will keep coming back for that good feeling they get after every show. If I continue with this ramble it will continue onto economics, and I’m not yet ready to explore that. Ajik.
There’s nothing really new about films of the masculine-prowess genre.Remington Steele. A-Team. Knight Rider. Stingray. Misssion Impossible. McGyver. Airwolf. James Bond, of course. T J Hooker. Even of the procedural genre, like my favorite CSI: Miami reminds me of Hawaii Five-O in my childhood, and Grey’s Anatomy of Doogie Howser, M. D. But I see, though, that their charms can be found in the tiny human issues incorporated within the plots, in the decision-making parts, in the outcomes of such decisions, in the coping of crises, and in the perception of the individual viewer. This is the facet that has endeared Star Trek: The Next Generation to me. There’s always freshness found in these parts. I’ve actually learned so much from Capt. Jean Luc Picard’s team.
I’d like to think of it as similar to the atoms, at least all the naturally occurring ones, basically known to science, and they’re all just the same everywhere whether be in stars or in the bloodstream, but these few atoms neatly named in the Periodic Table of Elements are able to form the countless number of compounds existing, making up the countless variety of objects around us, in solid, liquid, and gas forms. They’re all the same intrinsically — the same protons, electrons, neutrons, and binding forces — but they do come out differently depending on the combinations and permutations of such parts.
Or, viewing it from another direction also applies: the human dramas, or affairs/concerns, have basically been of the same stuff ever since — fear, doubt, redemption, revenge, bliss, rage, tranquility, want, need, naivety, security, passion, understanding, empathy, camaraderie, love, obsession … — and these basic ingredients are packaged in different ways and come out as the stories that are continually churned out. The action films, fiction paperbacks, and television series will never run out of customers.
Seriously, though, I don’t have a film genre that I would label as favorite. I don’t go gaga over action films as much as I don’t go gaga anymore over the Disney and Marvel ones. I treat them on the same level now. If a film can talk sensibly about the real human situation then it’s fine by me, and it could be fantasy even, either of the fairy kind or of the scientific kind, both of which I also like. However, they shouldn’t be made as lamp posts for morality and ethics because they are heavily influenced by the love for money.
Stories in the mass media could serve as societal mirrors. But I’m not coming back to my paperback fiction and television addictions anymore. I’ll be content in re-watching, in case I miss them, the American-made movies I’ve already seen. Aeon Flux. Blade. The lot. Only when there’s really lots of extra time will I then indulge in the newer ones, at several years from now. Hopefully, and more importantly, I’ll have the chance to explore those that are popular in the countries immediately surrounding mine — Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the rest nearby. Definitely I’ll go back to R. Tagore and K. Gibran, then take the time to get to know Thomas Merton side by side with the Mahatma Gandhi…
But what I’ll do now, right now, is listen to Moby while I enjoy this marinated duck that Orabeoni gave me, a Korean recipe ready for the pan. I’ve learned from Dae Jang Geum that ducks are good for the health. Ducks are also a delicacy in the Philippines…
This post was especially written as a gift to Orabeoni, who’s going home soon and I’m not sure if I’ll esver see again. It’s a sort of a memory marker for his last day as Herr Student, which is the reason for some events of the day being mentioned in this post 🙂 Congratulations, Dr. Jung! I pray for God’s blessings to your plans. Stay healthy and live well! Ganbei! Banzai!
“[I]ndividuals desperately attempt to ‘refashion’ themselves as more efficient, faster, leaner, inventive and self-actualizing than they were previously.” As the world now sees it, globalization “not only operates on a horizontal axis, universalizing the operations of multinational capital and new digital technologies across the globe; it operates also, and fundamentally, on a vertical axis, reorganizing identities, intimacies and emotions into its wake.” It appears, then, that the ability to cater to the hype of “fast changes” is being normalized not because it is how humans are but because it is the best way that global businesses can succeed.
“It is not only the descendants of Abraham who know how to honor parents. Indeed, we have not heard of a culture where people do not honor parents. Yet around the world and throughout history the way aged parents are treated by their adult children comprises a wide spectrum. Though no culture today can be categorically described as not honoring parents, the fact is that for many individuals the honoring of their parents is not placed among the priorities in their lives.
In a 2004 article in a Bible study website four factors were cited that lead to the tendency of “undermining” the honoring of parents in the U.S.A.:
1.) There is the impact of technology.
2.) Because of the rapid increase of divorce, children are often called upon to honor one parent and to despise the other.
3.) If it is possible to pin the blame for our problems on someone else, it is also easy to pin the responsibility of caring for aging parents on someone else.
Not long ago an article in an online British newspaper said of the famous actress Dame Judi Dench,
‘Judi Dench has lambasted “inhumane” care homes, suggesting families should take in elderly relatives instead. […] The sight of pensioners being left with little to keep their minds busy was, she said, particularly distressing – and a prospect that made her desperate to carry on working.’
In many countries now, the care of elderly parents, pensioners, is a situation involving many issues, such as psychological and economic. The two illustrations above may serve to show that if only a perfect way can be found then the honoring of the elderly is rather hoped to be more satisfactorily met than it is being done now. The present dissatisfaction in many parts of the world in this area somehow suggests that the act of honoring parents is a fundamental consistency of being a human.”