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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Published Twice In As Many Months

Cribbed from my Noksaek Sari site:

Noksaek Sari is proud to announce that it has officially left the internet for the first time! (That is, not counting the hours spent digging around at the garden and watching Eco-Films at Buy the Book.) Daegu Pockets has included a stepped up version of Noksaek Sari's review of the Suseong-gu Organic, mostly-Veg buffet IPPL in its January issue. Have a look:

You can download the whole magazine for free at www.daegupockets.com/pdfs/Jan2011.pdf.

Coming up in the March issue will be an article about Ecobike, the organization behind Daegu's monthly 대행진 (Grand Bike Parade). Keep your eyes peeled.

WJWD on New Year's Eve

2007: Alone in my studio watching someone ring a big bell in the giant plaza in Seoul.
2008: Clubbing around Hong-ik University in Seoul. Lots of Vodka, then fried chicken, then maybe an incident in the restroom, fighting with George about the right way home, getting lost, finally getting back to the hostel, then maybe have another incident in the restroom.
2009: Watching a big TV in the central square in Kuala Lumpur, then taking a taxi with a local to a restaurant at the top of a hill outside of town and watching 3 or 4 fireworks displays at once.
2010: Dressing up in forest garb, listening to shirtless people in baggy pants playing drums and guitar, looking at the moon, sitting in a giant circle and OMing for an hour.

Note the time on the picture: 2011/01/01 00:01 Awesome, eh?

Where am I? At a little temple on top of Namsan (Mt. Nam / South Mountain) in Gyeongju.

What was I doing there? Sitting around with friends and strangers eating rice cake soup and drinking quince tea and chanting the same Buddhist sutra - "The Great Darani" - 108 times.

How the heck did I get there? I was asking myself this same question the whole night - here's the rundown:

Not too long ago, I briefly mentioned the Vegan Potluck Gorgefest I attended for Thanksgiving. I met some really cool people there, by which I mean people who think more or less like I do about food and food politics. Many of them knew each other from a Yoga camp that had gone down sometime in October.

The VPG was such a smash hit that we decided to follow it up with a Random Vegan Smorgasboard for Christmas. Eight of us rented a "pension," which in Konglish means a vacant country house, for the reasonable price of about 90 bucks a night. We all brought backpacks full of fruits, veggies, nuts, powders, cookies, squash, noodles, teas, spices, and whatever other edibles we had on hand, along with a few computers, mp3 players, speaker sets, a dwarf Christmas tree, and of course my trusty projector. We spent two nights and three days drinking tea, enjoying fine cinema (Home Alone and the animated Grinch), playing card games, drinking wine, lazing around on the hot floor, and cooking whatever we could, which included a pumpkin/noodle/perilla powder mash, a spinach-ginger-tomato-coconut milk soup, curry, bean burgers, flat bread, crepes with blueberry jam, and homemade fig jam on toast.

On our last morning, we decided to go out for a stroll. After passing some shacks and traditional tile-roofed houses, we wound up walking through a field of completely dried out red pepper plants and then somehow found ourselves heading up a mountain path. We heard some click-clocks and a weird droning, which turned out to be coming from a lone man, reciting some sutra and syncopating on his mok-tak (Mahayana Buddhist fish-shaped wooden percussion instrument) as he made his way up. We followed him for a while, then passed him and continued to the top of the mountain, where we ran into a monk who spoke excellent English and poured us several rounds of green tea to warm us up. She invited us to stay for the Sunday service, which consisted of about an hour of chanting, a few minutes of meditation, and a short dharma talk. She commented that though some foreigners had found the temple and stayed for tea, none had ever sat through a service, and then invited us to come back the following weekend for some mega-sutra action (my words.)

So, the following Friday, a few of us caught a bus to the intercity bus terminal, then another bus to Gyeongju, then another bus to the bus stop closest to the foot of the mountain, then followed the sign to Ch'ilburam.

We arrived around 6, just as it was getting dark and just in time for a bowl of hot rice-flake soup. Promptly at 6:30, the chanting began. One prayer to the triple gem (no clue what that means), then 12 Great Dharani sutras, which took about 30 minutes. Then a 30 minute break. Then 24 Dharanis (one hour) and another half hours break. 24 more, rest. 24 more, rest. 24 more, rest. 12 more, rest, and a closing thousands eyes and hands sutra brought us to about 3:30AM. Though there was barely enough room for all of us to sit, we somehow managed to spread out and catch a few hours of rest.

We woke up again at six, had some more of the same soup, and then headed up to the top of the mountain to wait for the sunrise. The monk said a blessing, then for about twenty or thirty minutes we chanted "Gwan-se-um-bo-sal," a prayer to the Boddhisatva who is supposed to be watching over the world, protecting people and ensuring good fortune. It was a cloudy morning, but we were lucky: the clouds were floating just high enough over the mountains to the East that we were able to get a decent view of the sun on its way up:

After the sun had disappeared behind the clouds again, the monk gave another short Dharma talk. I couldn't really follow it, but it was something about how the sun wasn't really new and neither was the year but in any case it was as good a time as any to try to renew our dedication to living a kind and compassionate life. Or perhaps I'm just projecting what I would like to have heard.

Then the assistant monk insisted we get a picture of all the foreigners together, along with some of the Koreans who had been speaking English to us throughout the night.

In case you're wondering how I got the picture: the photographer, a devotee of the hermitage, posted it on the official website and sent it to me via email.

Monday, January 03, 2011

How Far E-Cards Have Come

I got Elf'd by my good friend and neighbor and top sous chef and fellow Sadhanite Suze.

If you want to know what that means, follow the link.

Warning: It's a little disturbing.


Sunday, January 02, 2011

When It Feels Like I Am Too Small

True or false: it's ok for one to beat a dead horse if the horse is asking for it.

Once again, a thought-provoking and inspiring post from Causabon's Book: What Does It Matter?.

When talking with friends and acquaintances, whether of like mind or not, there is question that often comes up, one which is disheartening both in its frequency and its content. The question is - surprise - what does it matter? What does it matter if I eat one less egg, plant one more tree, forego one more luxury, volunteer for one more hour, or even inspire one more person? Isn't it true that whatever good I do today will be just about cancelled out by whatever my neighbor does tomorrow or whatever Coca-Cola will do in the next two minutes*? Isn't it true that even if all 7 billion of us went organo-vegan, changed our light bulbs, abandoned fossil fuels, composted all our poo, and stopped supporting corporations, it would still be too late to save the planet as we know it? Even if we as a species just up and vanished.

Some people ask the question because they're exceedingly clever and feel it justifies them in buying and using and consuming whatever they want, or at least can afford. Maybe it does. Some people say it because they're exceedingly scared and honestly feel like no matter what they do, it won't be enough. It probably won't. Some people say it when they're just too tired of feeling like they're opposed to everything about the system they live in, when they need to give themselves a break, just for a minute, or for a bite, when they need to feel like they're not asking too much of themselves, which of course they are, and which of course they have to be. I say it most days and have said it in each way, and probably in other ways as well.

It was this sort of frustration, this thing that deep-down I hate to acknowledge but can't get away from, that pushed me from recycling to hounding others about recycling; from taking shorter (and colder) showers to eating less meat (which saves water); from eating less meat to not eating to meat to eating (almost) no animal stuff to growing and buying as much local, organic stuff as I can; from riding a bike to agreeing to volunteer with Daegu's Eco-bike group; from whatever I do now to whatever I can think up to do next.

As stated above, the problem is that the problem is** (or problems are, depending on how you want to look at it) so bad that none of these are enough. This is why I want to involve others. This is why I am trying to start Daegu Green Living. This is also one of the reasons I feel like I ought to be more involved in protests. While direct confrontation is tough for me - I'd rather quietly go about doing my best, and I'd rather go about thinking I'm an example, and I'd rather go about writing blogs, and I'd rather go about showing movies - I am coming around to the idea (thank you, Derrick Jensen***) that it really is necessary. What good is meek and modest silence in response to the wholesale slaughter of the planet and so many of its species, to the mass victimization and immiseration of entire peoples and cultures and, to the ceaseless destruction of any chance of fairness, equality, peace, or perpetuity? Shouldn't people be upset? And noisy? And nuisances? I have a friend who hates PETA for their tactics, but will going vegan ever put an end to factory farming or vivisection?

This idea - that protesting is more valuable than "merely" attempting to live a life consistent with my ideals - fills me with a certain amount of guilt (as if I needed more). Am I trying hard enough? Am I directing my energies and using my privileges in the most effective ways? Could I be doing this or that instead? Or, better, in addition? Am I a wuss? It was with these kind of thoughts as (ever-present) background noise that I found Astyk's words powerful:

"This prioritization of protest over the emergence of an ordinary, sustainable life is understandable in a society that prefers the large and shiny to the small and domestic, and that demeans daily personal actions and ways of life as unimportant. I have in much of my other work attempted to articulate the ways in which our personal actions are in fact, political and the conventional distinctions between personal and political intellectually bankrupt, and while I may have made a modest fame in doing so, I've mostly failed so far. This is problematic because it is precisely the emergence of a life worth living - and that can be lived by all the 7-9 billion people who will share our planet in the coming years that is most urgently necessary. If creating and modelling some sort of preliminary life of this sort is my project, I come to it well after Berry, and less gracefully. Still, such a vast project with so few participants can always use one more.


"This is the best that will ever be said of even our most successful efforts to preserve a world in which people can go forward - that we will fail to do enough. Despair, the logical companion of failure is part and parcel of the project - Carruth's poem, Berry's essay are both fundamentally about despair, about failure and the responsibility of those who fail. The odds are good that changing our way of life will not result in anything that we can call success on a world scale, that it is too little, too late. I don't think there's any point in denying this. Nor do I feel it is worth denying that most of the time, even if we succeed in some measure, it will feel as though we aren't doing enough, are paying too high a price, are losing the wars and all the battles. Most of all, we won't get the credit we would for marching and waving our signs, because such things emerge in part as a shorthand for the work of daily action. Without the shorthand to signal our protest, many of the unimaginative won't see it - some of us may forget to see it.

"It isn't an easy project in a world that assumes a great deal of energy and emissions, that says freedom is consumer choice and that participation is mandatory and that wealth is our goal. So when you are in the garden, when you ride your bicycle or walk, when you explain to your neighbor yet again why you don't want their lawn chemicals on your yard, when hang your laundry, when you deliver a meal to a neighbor who is ill, when you say "no, we don't do that," when you teach your children who you are and why you do the difficult thing, when you try and convince yourself that you aren't too tired, when you get up in the morning and it looks like all you've done is pointless remember this - you are doing something hard and vast and new. Without your work and courage there is no hope at all for all of those with the courage to chain themselves at the gates. Without those who chain themselves at the gates, enough people will not know what you have done. With both together, change begins."****


* If that.

** No typo.

*** Can I beg you again to read Endgame?

**** If I deleted the quotation marks, could I trick you into believing that I had written that?