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Browsing Tag


Allure of the Goblin

Good is rewarded. Evil is punished.

That’s the way things should go. There’s a sense of relief when good triumphs. A sense of justice when evil falls. It’s inherent to our nature as human beings. Herein lies the foundation of most our folklore, religions, movies, and novels.

Why do we fixate on the same patterns?

Pretty much every literary piece that humans create reflects an urge to “do good.” An acknowledgement of right and wrong. A simplification of characters into heroes and villains. And the happy ending where love, courage, and kindness prevail.

It’s comforting to fantasize about how life should be. A predictable world filled with beauty and goodness, with just a sprinkle of concentrated bad for flavor.

This notion of “good should triumph evil” governs our entire lives. It’s reflected in our feelings of unjust when good people die and bad people thrive. The just desserts of a cheating spouse humiliated, or a murderer shot in the street.

We cling so tightly to this narrative because it feels right. But it doesn’t seem to reflect reality. Life often makes no sense. It’s harsh and unpredictable. It feels unfair and unjust. Random and chaotic. A sharp contrast to the linear stories we’ve created for centuries and centuries.

But sometimes it feels just like one of those stories. Simple, beautiful, and coherent. Filled with moments of joy, bliss, harmony, and love.

Is the notion of “good and evil” folly, or is our understanding of it flawed? Should we abandon the idea, or seek to mature it? To find meaning in things that don’t scream meaning. To find truth in a world that doesn’t make sense.

The Day When Winter is Past

The story of South Korea’s national flower is a beautiful one. And boy do I love a good story. Hibiscus syriacus. The Rose of Sharon. The mugunghwa. A flower known for its beauty and tenacity. Blooming from summer to autumn. Closing its petals every evening, to burst back as the sun rises.

The word mugunghwa (무궁화) combines two words, ‘mugung’ (무궁) meaning ‘eternity’, and ‘hwa’ (화) meaning ‘flower’. This concept of eternal strength and perseverance is especially meaningful to the people of Korea, with a long history of invasion and war.

During Japan’s colonial era, the mugunghwa was chosen as Korea’s national flower. In opposition to Japan’s racial assimilation policies in annexing Korea, mugunghwas were planted throughout the nation as emblems of resistance. Symbols of the Korean people’s unwavering dream of independence. Of their unbreakable spirit.

After 35 years of pain and turmoil, Korea gained its independence from Japanese rule in 1945, following the end of World War II. Korea was agreed to be temporarily split between Soviet and US occupancy. North Korea invaded South Korea soon afterwards, beginning the Korean War, and solidifying the divide between the two nations.

It’s ironic how a country so unified against oppression, so determined for independence is now divided. The two Koreas’ cultures and economies are worlds apart now. South Korea has developed quite well, so much that most South Koreans don’t find any semblance in their Northern counterparts. The refugees who successfully escape to South Korean communities are often ostracized. Pitied and discriminated against. Despite Korea being one nation striving for autonomy just 60 years ago.

In Song of Solomon, the Rose of Sharon has incredibly beautiful and poetic elements of love and hope and unity. That central theme of unbridled love is as relevant as ever with Korea. The nation’s division. Separated families between borders. North Korea’s hostility and threats to South Korea. Lingering animosity by South Korea towards the North and Japanese.

Time heals all wounds. Or so they say. Here’s to hoping for a unified Korea. A unified world.

The day when winter is past.

my beloved speaks and says to me…
arise my love, my beautiful one,
and come away,
for behold, the winter is past;
the rain is over and gone.
the flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come.

Road to Enlightenment

The human experience is really us just trying to figure out what to do with ourselves. How to derive meaning from the world (if any), and how we can find purpose in life.

This idea is illustrated in Korean culture through the white tiger. Folklore describes the life of a tiger overcoming earthly trials and tribulations. And through that, gaining a more mature understanding of the world. As a tiger reaches enlightenment, it sheds its color and becomes white.

Enlightenment is a rather weighty word. Whether you’d prefer to call it fulfillment, joy, salvation, the pursuit of happiness, we live our lives in pursuit of shared meaning. To reach some sort of conclusion. Even if that conclusion is that there’s no meaning at all.

Our lives reflect our personal truths, which affect how we interact and react to the world. What decisions we make and what values we hold most dear. In many ways, truth connects us, yet it’s so often used as a point of contention. Rather than acknowledging the common goal, we fixate on our separate paths. We hold our own conclusions as fact, despite our entire lives reflecting an evolving worldview.

In this life, we’re all looking to lose our color. This is a shared journey, with different beginnings end endings. Truth is of the utmost importance, and deserves a lifetime of honest pursuit.

Learn from one another. Edify one another. And love one another.
Find truth together.

개구리 올챙이 적 생각도 못 한다.
The frog cannot remember his time as a tadpole.

All is Vanity

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

Ecclesiastes 1:2

We can be pretty stubborn and hard-headed people. No matter how many times someone tells us the way something is, we have to determine for ourselves what it really is. We’re pioneers. We craft our own truths.

Especially as young-ins, in this new digital age of wonder, the possibilities are endless. The amount of creativity, social change, beauty, freedom that can be experienced in our lives now. Who is it for anyone to determine for us how we should live our lives?

This sentiment has been echoed through every generation. And it’s often dismissed as a youth of folly; something that will inevitably pass when the bitter truths of life sink their teeth in. But is it different this time?

Previous generations have seemed to be so caught up in preserving themselves. A lack of disregard for our environment. A lack of understanding, of empathy. Things are wrong, and they need to change.

But perhaps this is something that we all intuitively know. There are aspects of the world that are obviously broken, and in many ways, our entire lives are already scripted to act on our impulses to shape the world in how we want it to be. So why do identify such a difference between us and them? Whoever that may be.

It seems people who cling to the status quo, who resist change, are desperately holding onto the things that seem to fill the void in their lives. It gives their lives meaning, stability, comfort. In many ways, aren’t we doing the same? What are the core motivations behind the things that we want to realize in the world? Deeper than buzz words like “social justice” and “progress.”

Perhaps this isn’t such a new idea after all.

The Story of Anna May Wong

Anna May Wong was born in 1905 a second-generation Chinese American in Los Angeles. She grew up in a neighborhood just outside of Chinatown with her parents and seven other siblings. From a young age, Wong was no stranger to racism.

“We tried to walk unconcernedly home from school, always with a larger and larger crowd of our tormentors around us shouting, “Chink, Chink, Chinaman. Chink, Chink, Chinaman.” Yanking our “pigtails” as they called our straight black braids of hair. Pushing us off the sidewalk into the street. Pinching us. Slapping us…. Every day was one of torture for us.”

Chinatown was quickly becoming a hub for American film, and Wong grew fascinated with it from an early age. To the dismay of her parents, she chose to pursue a full-time acting career by the age of 16. She landed her first role at 17, and achieved international stardom by 19.

She was a natural. Her presence in films commanded attention. But despite her talent, she was always relegated to two simplistic, repetitive characters. The sly Chinese villain or the butterfly temptress. Americans loved her, but it seems they just wanted a taste of the orient. See, “orientalism.”

In very broad terms, “Orientalism” refers to the overarching tendency of the “Occident,” or the Western world, to fetishize and exoticize the “Orient” (“The East,” or civilizations and cultures spanning the Asian continent). Scholar Graham Huggan defines exoticism as an experience that “posits the lure of difference while protecting its practitioners from close involvement” — and that’s exactly what Westerners wanted: a taste of “difference,” usually in the form of an evocative song, poem, or painting, without the actual immersive and possibly challenging experience thereof.

. Sep 30, 2014.

Wong played these roles for over a decade, traveling back and forth between Europe and America doing film, trying to find her place. The biggest disappointment of her career was being refused the leading role in the movie, The Good Earth. It was as a literal Chinese woman, which she lost out to the white actress Luise Rainer.

Devastated and disheartened, Wong left for China in 1936 to tour the country and visit her father who had retired to his home village. She was met with a range of reactions from complete adoration to a vehement insistence that she’s a disgrace to China. For playing such stereotypical roles.

She eventually settled back to America and made history with “The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong.” The first ever US television show starring an Asian American series lead. She had been planning to return to film in the Flower Drum Song, but she passed away before she could at the age of 56.

Anna May Wong’s story is one of heart and determination. It’s a delicate, tragic embodiment of the American Dream: making it against all odds; breaking into a system that’s set up for your failure. But Wong’s story also represents an all too relatable narrative of conflicting identity for Asian Americans. The perplexity in holding on to traditional values and embracing American culture.

It’s a story to be remembered.

Wong was a silent-film demi-star, a European phenomenon, a cultural ambassador, and a curiosity, the de facto embodiment of China, Asia, and the “Orient” at large for millions. She didn’t choose that role, but it became hers, and she labored, subtly, cleverly, persistently, to challenge what Americans thought an Asian or Asian-American should or could be — a challenge that persists today.

. Sep 30, 2014. (thanks again)

RIP Anna May Wong (1905 – 1961)

Journey of the Fool

The word materialism carries a strong connotation to it. I think of egocentric entrepreneurs, self-absorbed celebrities, corporate fat cats counting their cash (beautiful alliteration I know). The idea is comical. Like an over-exaggerated cartoon personality. A trait I would never associate with myself.

Though, the essence of materialism: identifying with anything other than intrinsic worth, is deeply rooted into our culture.

We’re flooded with superficial beauty standards, we’re driven by our need to successful and prove ourselves. There’s always something happening, something to do, to achieve. Time continues to float on by, and then we wonder where it all went.

The end results are routine. Mid-life crises at 40 years old. The impending crow’s feet, bags and dark circles. Plastic surgery and motorcycles can only ease a mind for so long. When the euphoria fades, what do we have left?

Is this it?

A simple question, and the one we’ll always have more time to think about.

The Journey of the Fool is a familiar road. It’s a path of long contemplation. It’s lined with reflection and divergent thinking. It’s messy and full of mistakes, weakness, and hope. It demands a relinquishing of control, an honest understanding that we can’t understand everything. It’s recognizing that maybe we don’t know as much we think.

Whether it’s today, tomorrow, or on our death bed, we’re forced to recognize an uncomfortable truth – that our time on this earth is short-lived. This Journey is one we all walk in time.

Dribbling Tiger, Bounce Pass Dragon

When Windfall was still just a concept, I shared it to anyone who would listen. It was this vague idea of meaningful designs and fixing people’s insecurities. An entrepreneur tore the idea apart, as any legitimate critic should, and told me that insecurity is something people get over. That yes, we all experience it when we’re young, but most of us eventually find ourselves.

Her response stuck with me. I couldn’t tell if I had issues with her criticism because of my ego, or if there was something else bugging me I just couldn’t put my finger on.

I wasn’t a popular kid growing up. I held tight to my close-knit group of friends. I couldn’t afford everything I wanted. I tried my best in school (kinda) and did pretty well. My parents were divorced, but the love was there still. I was a somewhat privileged, lower middle-class kid: the perfect star for an angsty teenage sitcom.

I wasn’t sure how to act, who to associate myself with, whether to do this or that. I tried to be a prep, skater, punk, and everything in between. It took me years to finally be me.

Needless to say I was insecure. But who isn’t insecure at the ripe old age of 14?

Ahh the glorious, prepubescent journey of self-discovery. As we delve into life and try to figure out just what in the world is going on, we wonder… how do we fit into this world? (cue /r/im14andthisisdeep) Who am I? We try to establish an identity.

It’s our tendency to associate with that which we’re good at. What we naturally have an aptitude for, what we’ve been blessed with from birth, or what we believe we can push ourselves to be. Because everyone wants to be successful in life. We want to feel fulfilled.

But how grounded is our identity if it’s rooted in anything material?

I’ve been underweight my entire life. I grew up under a barrage of “wow, you are so skinny,” and it got under my skin when I was younger. Most of it wasn’t ill-natured, but it was uncomfortable still; it forced me to think on my failures and insecurities. I tried everything I could, but I just couldn’t put on the weight.

But in college, I had more resources to work with. I worked out regularly, engorged myself at the dining hall, finally seeing some results. I felt more comfortable when I looked in the mirror. My clothes were fitting better. People were noticing the change. I loved it, but I had to stop. Ironically enough, it was unhealthy. Preserving my image had become more of an obligation than a decision. I felt like I had to do this for my self-confidence; to be better.

If I had continued to work out 3 times a week. If I kept eating 5 meals a day. If I hit my goal weight and then some, it’d be a success by our world’s standards. I would have conquered my insecurities through my own hard work and efforts. Tangible results just because I wanted it bad enough. But are we solving the real issues at hand if we just succumb to our insecurities?

Our culture thrives off of the idea that, “If you feel bad about yourself, do something about it. Be who you want to be.”

Rather than evaluating why we feel this way, we accept it as fact: this will make us better, how can we get there? We give in to the idea that our worth is contingent. Contingent on our ability to meet a self-defined criteria for success.

This sentiment bleeds into every aspect of our lives. This insecurity penetrates all demographics. It’s masked by success, exposed through failures, and will inevitably triumph in time. All because we follow the world’s path to success.. only to find that it isn’t quite as fulfilling as we thought.

Is this it?

A Sense of Self

Billboard ads, music videos, online celebrities. Every form of entertainment we have, we’re not-so-subtly reminded of our ultimate standards of beauty.

It’s hard not to fall into the temptation of comparison when we’re immersed in it so deeply. To wonder how much better our lives could be if we just happened to have hit the genetic lottery. Many fall prey to it. I’m no exception. Struggling to be comfortable with who I see in the mirror every day.

In many ways, these feelings of inadequacy are purposefully drawn out in us. Marketing’s chief goal is not your personal well-being. If a company can get a product in your hand by making you feel insecure, they’ll do it and won’t blink an eye.

It’s easy to demonize corporations and their dirty business tactics and leave it at that. But is it really that simple? Aren’t we the same people who enjoy gawking over the hottest celebrities? Who follow all the pretty influencers on Instagram?

Perhaps it’s not some demonic, oppressive corporate regime manufacturing toxic standards in our culture… but rather, these are merely the natural byproducts of a culture we have created. That we choose to live by.

Father Forgive Me

In the poorest slums of our neighborhoods, you’ll find the most degenerate of people. The hustlers, the drug dealers, gang bangers, murderers, thieves. The ones who the world would be better off without… right? It’s unsettling how comfortable we are stripping people of their humanity; something akin to roaches to be exterminated.

Big KRIT is one of my favorite rappers in the game right now. Incredibly talented. Heavily slept on. If you’re into hip-hop at all, give him a listen. In an older track off his 2010 mixtape KRIT WUZ HERE, he articulates such a humbling perspective on the matter.

“It’s hard to be broke and do better. Father forgive me.”

This single line addresses so much: A sober judgment of right and wrong. Good intentions, but honest weakness. It gives just a glimpse into the realities of living in adversity.

It’s easy to assume thugs are one-dimensional. They choose these lives. They want to be crooks. This narrative is played out in every form of media imaginable. But no matter how insignificant to our own story, humans are never one-dimensional characters. Simplifying their experience, preoccupied solely with their mistakes and trespasses; it only draws us further away from genuine understanding.

We can’t dismiss the realities of life, and we mustn’t be afraid of what we don’t understand.

How lucky am I to even have the opportunity to dwell on these ideas? To build something. To create. To follow my dreams. How many more lost souls are pressed with the same heart of creativity and passion, but just can’t do anything because of their circumstances? And beyond the fanciful flights of creativity, but imagine those who are pressured to make difficult decisions just to survive.

The human experience is an accumulation of decisions over time based on our given choices. And some have more choices than others. I must constantly remind myself of how blessed I am for my opportunities. And to take seriously the opportunities I have at my disposal to bless others, to uplift my communities, and to impact the world.

don’t push me cause i’m close to the edge
i’m trying not to lose my head

it’s like a jungle sometimes
it makes me wonder how i keep from going under

Dance of the Butterfly

Windfall’s first collection is titled Jade Butterfly. The series revolves around the concept of mutual understanding. It’s a subject matter quite personal to me, but it also lays a solid groundwork for the ideas to come.

I’m sure my experiences as a child are quite similar to yours. Growing up with a bona fide sense of wonder; thrown into this unfamiliar world with no instruction manual. Life is a beautiful journey in which we find our own personal truths; discovering for ourselves what truly matters in life. What brings us joy?

We all share one thing in common: a longing for genuine fulfillment in our lives. We’re taught from quite a young age what will give our lives meaning. We’re flooded with tales of romantic love, rags to riches stories, perfect beauty and global fame. What will people remember me for when I die? What makes my life meaningful?

Our lives are interconnected by this mutual search for fulfillment. We are born into the world with an intrinsic sense of purpose. And no matter our race, gender, social status, we all have traversed the weary path of understanding; coming to terms with who we are. And our journeys aren’t nearly over.

We’re all one-of-a-kind, born into unique environments with unique predispositions. This context has a tremendous influence on our growth as individuals. So why are we so slow to consider the environment we’ve all grown up in? The early experiences we’ve had as children trying to find our place in the world. All culminating into the soul searching, inner turmoil, sought dreams and brokenness of the person next to us? Just like me and you.

No matter how different our brothers and sisters seem from us, we’re just playing with the cards we’ve been given.

Through maturity we gain a fresh perspective on our individual flaws and capabilities, our obstacles and opportunities. We develop an image of our ideal self and strive towards it. We strive towards something we feel like we can achieve, because deep down we all just want to be happy. We want to successfully reach our shared goal: to live fulfilling lives.

So we adjust our values accordingly. It seems our identities are finally firm and established. Maybe our soulmate never came but hey, we launched our own business! Or I may not be the prettiest daisy in the bunch, but I’m way smarter than everyone my age, who cares what I look like? We find something attainable to establish our identity in. Not just to be happy, but to keep our sanity.

But no matter how much we try to fool ourselves, it’s never right, and it’s never enough. It always seems to be something just out of reach that would make us happier.

We can’t help but identify with materialism because that’s what we’ve been fed our entire life. America in particular is wholly defined by external validation and consumerism. But if we find fulfillment in anything external, have we really come to terms with who we are deep down? If we simply find fulfillment in that which we find realizable, have we really addressed the fundamental issues?

Never stop searching for answers. Keep exploring, continue learning, stay humble, and through it all, know that you are not alone. We all question our purpose, trying to make sense of the world we live in. But that’s what unites us as human beings.

That’s what makes this wild ride all worthwhile.

Living in a culture obsessed with fame and fortune,
we seek happiness through these definitions of success.

But when we associate self-worth with anything external,
we develop an unstable, distorted perception of ourselves.
we overlook our intrinsic value and lose sight of true beauty.

Mainstream media preys on our insecurities.
leaders build us up in division and hatred.
yet they only follow a culture we maintain,
that we have created.

If we continue to let these ideals shape the lens
through which we see one another;
through which we see ourselves,
we fail to reach our God-given potential.