Monday, April 29, 2013

The Surreal

Merriam-Webster defines the word, surreal, as "marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream; also: unbelievable, fantastic."  Last Friday, I flew back to America, and to say that this week has been filled with a whirlwind of emotion would be quite an understatement.  I said my goodbyes to my school, my friends, my church, and the city of Gwangju.  Many of the events have been, no doubt, surreal.

My contract ended on April 25, just in time to fly into Los Angeles on April 26 to make it to the wedding of one of my best friends, Matt.  The wedding was at a small, but gorgeous church on sort of a cliff, overlooking the southern California pacific coast.  The architecture of the church was Spanish.  It was marked by traditional white Spanish stucco, and a red tile roof.  It is my favorite style of architecture, and I hope that maybe my house will one day be built in that manner.

From that spot, we were able to see almost all of Los Angeles, and where the Pacific ocean begins.  And the wedding commenced late in the afternoon as the sun was beginning to set, my favorite part of the day.  The windows of this church were large, and fully displayed the amazing view of the city and the coast.  The weather in Los Angeles, apparently, is always perfect, and this day was no different.  It was surreal

Matt's bride was Indian, and she was given sort of a traditional Indian style wedding, as the dresses of the bridesmaids, and the bride were uniquely Indian, colorful, and stunningly gorgeous.  I am one who admires well-kept traditions.  And at a wedding, regarding bridesmaids, I had never seen a set of dresses that were more beautiful.

The bride's dress was also uniquely and traditionally Indian, and white.  It was refreshingly modest.  She was absolutely stunning, and to say that the ceremony was beautiful wouldn't give it justice.  I was blessed to be a part of it.  It was surreal.

Another great thing that made the wedding special was seeing numerous old friends.  I haven't had a drink in over five years, and I have come to find out that another one of my friends, Adam, stopped drinking also.

The reception was at a place that was further up the hill from the church, so from the porch of the reception hall, you could see even more of the city of Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean.  And by the time the reception was in full swing the sun had fully set, so the view of the city was an endless field of lights as far as the eye could see.  It was surreal.

Adam and I had a moment, as we talked about the surreality of the view and the weekend.  Many of my friends still drink.  Some of them even still smoke marijuana.  And Adam said something that made me think.  He said, "I don't think that most of our friends in that reception hall who are all either drunk, stoned, or both can fully realize how surreal this moment is."

He continued,  "I've come to appreciate surreal moments such as this.  They make you feel alive.  I'm glad I quit drinking, because you can fully appreciate them in a way that you can't when you are not sober."

This week has been filled and overflowing with surreal moments.  Beginning last Sunday, I broke down, as I got up in front of my church to tell them good bye.  I also broke down when I told some of my favorite classes filled with children that I've grown to truly love that I may never see them again.  Several of my students wrote me letters in broken English explaining that they will miss me, and that they hope I have a good time in America.  My girlfriend and I broke up.  On my last day of work, I broke down as I took off my lab coat, said goodbye to the woman who helps us foreign teachers at my school, Mrs. Ahn, and my principle, Mr. Ryu, and stepped into that elevator leaving work for the last time.  The week was filled with surreality.

I've made it no secret that I am moving to Seoul.  One of my recruiters squeezed in two interviews in the morning before my flights, because it didn't take off until 6:50pm.  One of them was short, and by the book.  The other one was rather in depth, and I could tell that the director of this school was rather thorough.  She asked me a question about my teaching style.  I began to explain my style to her, which is to love my students first and foremost.  I continued by mentioning that I may never see many of my kids from my old school again.  And as I went on to explain how I really hoped that my students will remember me as a good teacher, I broke down yet again.  It was a surreal moment.  Luckily, both the people who were conducting the interview were women around whom I felt comfortable.

Many of you may think that I am this big "softie," and that may be the case, but all these moments were filled such emotion, and that interview happened when all of those surreal moments were so fresh in my mind.  I couldn't help it.  I don't think I've ever cried this much in one week.

I thank God for these surreal moments, and I don't believe I am being selfish in asking for many more.  As Adam explained, these surreal moments make us feel alive.  They enable us to appreciate life.  Luckily, Jesus says in the Bible, "Ask and you will receive.  Seek and you will find.  Knock and the door will be opened."  I believe God wants us to appreciate the life he gives us, and when we recognize that we are alive in these moments, we are able to more clearly see his work in our lives, and in our environments.

These surreal moments are all around us.  They don't have to always be on top of the hill in the sunset on Redondo Beach overlooking the city.  They can be every day moments in life.  The key to seeing them is to live life with a positive mindset, and a thankful heart.  Cynicism and a complaining mentality are two things that truly blind and numb a person to them.

I pray for more of them.  And my prayer is that you would experience them also.  God bless all of you.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Thoughts on PSY's "Gentleman"

I'll be honest with you.  I can't stop listening to PSY's new song, "Gentleman."  This morning while getting ready for work, I must have replayed that youtube video at least ten times in a row, and I found myself imitating him while shaking my hips in the privacy of my apartment.  There is no doubt that his music has a certain hypnotic quality that lots of great songs have.

I heard it for the first time last Sunday, and my immediate reaction was that whatever "it" is, PSY has it.  By "it," I am referring to that certain intangible unidentifiable quality that makes a person beyond great at what they do.  And when a person has "it" everything he/she does seems to "turn to gold."  I've been drawn to this video, more so than "Gangnam Style," ever since my first viewing.

I am one who looks at anything that goes viral with skepticism, and "Gangnam Style" was no different.  I was probably one of the last people in the world to deliberately and actively enter those key words on the search bar of and view the video in it's entirety, and enjoy it.  There's no doubt that it's a cool song, and I was intentionally late in realizing that.

My opinions of PSY were based solely on my cynicism, and my artistic elitist fear of becoming a follower.  It's rather sad that that is what prevented me from simply enjoying something that is worthy of being enjoyed.  So upon my realization of his new release, I immediately went to Youtube, and checked out the song.   

I'm not fluent enough in Korean to know exactly what the words mean, but the video makes an obvious strong statement.  And that being that lots of men hold fast to obvious strong inhibitions when they are around attractive women, and in this video, PSY is rebelling against those very inhibitions.

I've heard accusations of the video being sexist, and I find that to be laughable.  It's so ridiculous that certain Americans try to inject their cancerous political correctness into anything they deem offensive.  Everything on this planet is offensive to somebody.  Americans just need to lighten up, have fun, and stop being little children who get offended over everything they perceive as negative.

Anyway, If the video for "Gentleman" is sexist, than it is just as sexist on the part of certain attractive women to expect a man to fawn over their every desire, and to expect the man to readily submit to their standards and desires without the man knowing who she actually is as a person.  Men are just as much at fault for this as women, and PSY is heroically rebelling and breaking through these inhibitions that women, many times, expect the man who is pursuing them to hold.  

As a man from the south, I am fairly familiar with chivalry.  When walking in a building or room at the same time as a lady, I usually attempt to be the one to open the door, and allow her to enter first.  I usually try to offer my arm while walking down a set of stairs with a lady.  I've offered my coat when l've heard ladies mention that they were cold.  It's a great feeling when a lady actually appreciates it, and it is a totally different feeling when she is unappreciative, and carries an ungrateful demeanor that expects such behavior.

Korea is a place that, no doubt, has an abundance of attractive ladies.  I will take it a step further in saying that there is an abundance of women who put a strong effort into maximizing their personal appearance, and I love that.  I wish more Americans applied the same effort, but unfortunately and obviously, a significantly smaller percentage do.  But nothing makes an attractive woman look more unattractive than arrogance, haughtiness, and a sense of entitlement based solely on her personal appearance, and that is the message that this video is conveying.

I'm not saying that I agree with everything that PSY is doing in this video, because there are things that he does that are downright degrading, but that is what rock n' rollers do.  They push the edge in order to maximize the shock value.  But I do agree with his message, and that is that the inhibitions that a man holds shouldn't be based on the expectations of the attractive woman that he is currently pursuing, because different women expect different things.  A man's inhibitions should be based on his personal values, belief systems, and the convictions he feels deep within his own heart.

I like PSY, and he is showing his true colors as a true artist in this video.  Although he doesn't play the guitar, although his music is electronic, and although he isn't from the west, his music and style is rock n' roll to the core.  Just like Elvis, The Rolling Stones, Guns n' Roses, and Nirvana, he is rebellious.  He is sexual.  He does things on his terms, and he doesn't seem to be a puppet for the record companies like most other artists.  And with the video and song, "Gentleman," he has shown that he is good at what he does, and that he has staying power.  I wasn't a fan when he put out "Gangnam Style," but now I am.