Friday, February 27, 2015

Dwight Schrute and Spirituality

Ya know, Dwight Schrute, from the TV show The Office?

Well, in real life, Rainn Wilson (the actor who played him) is a real bright, creative, and introspective guy. He started a website and now a YouTube channel called SoulPancake, a place to talk about life's big questions.

And while truthfully, I haven't spent a ton of time on his site (except you should know that now Kid President is part of the SoulPancake line-up...), this is one of my favorite videos they've done:

I recently listened to a podcast interview with Rainn Wilson on Ear Biscuits.

They talked about being in the movie business, The Office, his family, and eventually, Wilson's Baha'i faith and SoulPancake project. I love Wilson's definition of spirituality:

          "Spirituality is just anything that's beyond the material. That's it. And creativity and being an artist is the main part of being spiritual. Expressing yourself and making cool shit and it's making the world awesome and being of service to people and making people laugh and uplifting their spirits and telling beautiful stories that make you remember what it is to be a human being and connecting people and building bridges and having fun along the way; like, that's spiritual. It doesn't have to go down any sentimental road or New Age road or religious road and that's the juicy stuff that we explore on Soul Pancake."

Wilson goes on to explain that spirituality is about finding community, wherever we find it:

     "People believe that religion causes much more disunity and pain in the world than it brings solace and for the most part I agree with that and it's really awful what's being done in the name of religion. It's sickening. But we have to, as a culture and as a species, not throw the baby out with the bath water because there are some spiritual truths that Muhammad brought, that Jesus brought, that the Buddha brought, that Baha'u'llah, who is the founder of the Baha'i faith, that he brought and these kind of basic truths, spiritual truths can really help heal the planet. They are a healing message of love and unity underneath all of this rancor and bullshit that you read about in the paper all the time."

I want this kind of journey.

One of "making cool shit" and "being of service" and "building bridges." And I want to have that journey regardless of what religion that leads me to. I'm quite familiar with the faith community I grew up in. I see it for its beauty and its dirt. And there's not a single religion without all of that stuff.

But I think at this time in my life, I'm far less interested in claiming a "church" or being part of a specific "religion" not because either one is bad or wrong, but because it's not the only way to find Truth.

Think how small the Universe would be to be limited to a single belief system anyway?

I'm tired of fighting.
I'm tired of arguing about whose God is right.
Or whose God is better.
I don't want to talk about creation and evolution.
Pre-marital sex.
Or climate change.
Oh, dear God don't make me talk about the climate change one. more. time.

I want to talk about what makes you come alive.
I want to hear about the most beautiful thing you've ever seen.
I want to create art and music and words that make a difference.
I want to build communities of people that love each other well.
Even if they don't agree.
In fact, especially if they don't agree.

And if that's not a little taste of heaven earth, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Things I've Learned In Korea

Today is our 18-month Korean anniversary.

And while most of the time I feel a wee bit overwhelmed with everything we don't know about Korean customs and language, today I'm remembering how much I do know about Korea. Specifically, my day-to-day life at school.

I know the timing of every stoplight and crosswalk in my neighborhood.

I know the fastest way to get from A-to-B on my bike based on the flow of traffic and the time of day.

I know that while making eye contact and smiling at people I pass on the sidewalk may be my go-to, the lack of response from people doesn't mean they are unkind. They are just Asian. It's not expected here, in fact, it's just plain kinda weird. I'm the weird one!

I know that if I stop for coffee, the barista-ladies will know my drink before I try to fumble it out in Korean. They are good like that. They just smile and take my money.

I know how late I am for school in the morning based on how many kids are still waiting at the school cross walk when I get there.

I've come to expect vendors outside the school on the mornings of school award ceremonies. They show up to sell flowers and bright, plastic-stuff to give to their kids. It only took me a half-a-dozen times to realize this is not some kind of roving carnival.

Offering the principal a drink at a school dinner

I know which hallways to avoid if I'm running late for school so that I don't bump into the principal and his disapproving looks on the way to my classroom.

I've stopped using English with my co-workers when I see them in the morning. It's just too early for them to think in another language. Yet, still we do a lot of "Hello" / "Anyoung haseyo" exchanges each switching languages when we realize the other person graciously used our own language.

I know when shy, little Yuna is about to ask me something, she smacks her lips together and sits real still at her computer until I look over. And then she looks surprised as if she's thinking, "Can she read my mind?"

I know the mornings that Jiyoung has to drive her husband to the train station in the morning. This is not a morning to ask questions or trouble her with words. Wait until lunch time.

I know that if I don't show up for "together time" after lunch where we drink tea and gab, someone will say something: "Where were you?" or "Are you sick? You must be sick." Together time is important time. Be there!

I know when I bring "American" tea to share, no one will drink, but they really wish they could to be polite. "Too strong," they say. I get it.

We have this game where we'll all be sitting in the staff room and someone will walk into the office speaking Korean and then, after they leave, they'll all turn to me and ask, "Okay, what did she say?" Then, I make my best guesses. Which have gotten surprisingly good even though I am far-from fluent in the Korean language. It's still fun.

In fact, just last week, the principal walked and we all stood up (because that's what you do when the King of the Castle walks in the room). He talked without interruption for about 3-4 minutes, waving his hands and gesturing toward the hallway with passion until, at last, he left and everyone laughed.

Everyone looked at me. I said, "I think he's angry because when you all brush your teeth after lunch, you spray the bathroom mirrors with your toothpaste and it must stop!"

They giggled. I was close. Apparently, he was upset that people were brushing their teeth while walking to the bathroom. "Unprofessional," they tell me. Oh.

I know when Mrs. Che really needs a nap. And we have the kind of relationship where I can say, "Somebody's a little cranky. Nap?" She just grins and heads to the couch.

I know that if I want to describe something to an English Language learner, I have to adjust my vocabulary to be the simplest, most commonly-known word. For example, if a light-bulb is "burnt out" I will just say it is "dead." Everything that isn't working is just dead.

I've learned that things will change. Quickly With no notice. My co-teacher, Mrs. Che is a bit forgetful. Last week, just before going on this holiday vacation, I asked her when I needed to be back at school. Assuming it would be this Monday. She looks at me with big eyes and alarm, "Bo Bo, no. Don't come to school! Did I not tell you? No school next two weeks." She pauses.  And then, apologetically, "Surprise?!"

That gal. I'm going to miss her dearly. She's being transferred to a rural school. Every teacher serves under this rotation schedule, because, as they tell me, "No one wants to teach in the countryside, so we have to rotate every four years."

So, she's going away and I'll get a new co-teacher at Nampyeong. Also, due to budget cuts, Jeremy and I will each be gaining a second school to teach at this semester. So that's new.

Speaking of new, Jeremy and I throwing all of our Korean knowledge out the window and going to Japan this weekend. Just a short trip. Four nights. But we'll tell you all about it when we get back.

Cheers and blessings,

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Two Point Seven Five

Today is our 2.75 wedding anniversary.

Call me corny, but on the 12th of every month I pause and take a moment to think about Jeremy and our marriage and our love story: where we've been, where we are, and where we are going.

And this week, thinking about marriage, I was reminded of a quote I recently heard from Brene Brown that goes something like this:

"Show me a woman who can sit with a man who is in deep vulnerability and fear, and I'll show you a woman who has some awareness of this work and has done it and most importantly, does not derive her power from that man."

"Show me a man who can sit with a woman in struggle, and just hear her as opposed to trying to fix it, I'll show you a man who is aware of his work and who doesn't derive his power from being Oz: all-knowing and all-powerful."

I can honestly say that, as I heard this, I knew in my heart of hearts that 
I am that woman 
Jeremy is that man

And that makes me feel overwhelmingly proud of our journey. To know that a fundamental truth of our story--from the beginning--has been allowing each other to be 
-or hurt

and just sitting and listening to that without trying to make it go away. 

Not because we get it right every time or we have this "marriage thing" all figured out, but because it's a theme that is often true. It's a thing we do for each other.

And oooofta...
That's a beautiful thing right there.

If you know me at all, you know I have a major crush/love/infatuation with the work of Brene Brown. And if I say, "You know that Brene Brown video..." and you say, "Wait, who is Brene Brown again?"

Well, friend. We might need to renegotiate the terms of our friendship.

No, really.

If I had to pick a theme; only one thing that has positively changed the direction of my life in the past decade, it would be this: 
vulnerability is strength 
a whole-hearted life of courage is one worth fighting for.

Brown has written several books and done a couple TED talks, but here is an RSA teaching that I watched most recently with Jeremy. It's about 20 minutes, but encapsulates well a lot of the research she's done around shame and vulnerability.

If you just can't be bothered with a FULL 20 minutes, here are two, quick little animations that illustrate two of her points on empathy and blame:


"Vulnerability is the path back to each other 
and the path to intimacy."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I Wanna Dance With Somebody // Whitney Houston (cover)

Here's a cover for your Wednesday/Thursday (Hi, America!). Now, if you're expecting the jazzy, hip-shaking tempo of Whitney Houston...

...prepare yourself. This will be different.

I would like to dedicate this song to Michael Steingas and Kylie Schnell who "inspired" me to do this cover on my birthday three years ago as we squeezed into one, too-small chair and shoulder-danced and sang our little hearts out.

I Wanna Dance With Somebody
by Whitney Houston

Clock strikes upon the hour
And the sun begins to fade
Still enough time to figure out
How to chase my blues away
I've done alright up to now
It's the light of day that shows me how
And when the night falls, loneliness calls

Oh, I wanna dance with somebody
I wanna feel the heat with somebody
Yeah, I wanna dance with somebody
With somebody who loves me

I've been in love and lost my senses
Spinning through the town
Sooner or later, the fever ends
And I wind up feeling down
I need a man who'll take a chance
On a love that burns hot enough to last
So when the night falls
My lonely heart calls

Oh, I wanna dance with somebody
I wanna feel the heat with somebody
Yeah, I wanna dance with somebody
With somebody who loves me

But seriously, let's all take a moment and watch the Queen do it. Jeremy and I got quite a few chuckles out of watching this over breakfast this morning. Oh, how show biz has changed...