K-dramas and & Kill Me Heal Me: Ramble not Review

I’m not sure where to begin in giving an overview of my newly found TV appreciation. When I began watching K-dramas, I had favorites, but over time the shows have fallen into more complex categories. What to do.

The last show I loved, Kill Me Heal Me, was not on that list but is a good start, since it is one that I would recommend to any friend who doesn’t take themselves too seriously, as a fairly safe-bet. It has the addictive and fun quality of Coffee Prince, which was my very first and largely responsible for the rabbit hole I don’t wish to find my way out of yet, but is simultaneously more serious and more cartoon.

KMHM manages to be funny, sweet, and beautifully poignant nearly all the way through, while introducing 7 distinct character dimensions under the umbrella of “Cha Do Hyun”. Each character becomes quite real and deeply loveable over time, which to me seems a writing/acting collaboration miracle. It also couldn’t have worked without an equally strong actress who was able to react and respond quickly to all the antics, as well as creating her own. Nor without the eccentric family her character was given.

Everything is big: the idea, impossible to pull off well yet managed; even the tight rope poignancy that never loses its quirkiness and joy, nor its irresistible sexiness; the deeply cathartic revelations and emotions.

And so many wonderful lines, even in the music.
Kill Me Heal Me

I’ve been surprised to find that K-drama watchers are not necessarily women who like romance novels. The closest I myself get to reading a romance novel is Jane Austen, which is equally about intricate character details, subtle cruelties, and class distinctions. Even Outlander, which so many of my friends adore, I haven’t been able to finish; it just never took me sufficiently away from myself.

My hugest peeve is for a romance string to be tacked onto a project obviously after the fact, which I found to be the case with the film Interstellar recently. While others may have parsed apart the science, I took no issue with that. It was the “moral of the story” that didn’t seem necessary nor even appropriate.

So it is fair to say that I’ve spent a good deal of time analyzing my own interest in shows that can be cheesy, materialistic, and outdated with regard to gender dynamics and accepted child raising or work practices. Perhaps they get a pass for their unique-to-me cultural context, but it is more than that.

The wrist grab:
In theory, I hate these. In dramas, they hit some nice growly places. Why? Not to get too philosophical, but I’ve come to the conclusion that this has to do with the difficulty of sharing an imagination completely with another person, which is not an easy thing to do. Timing and intuition is a subtle art. It isn’t that the male is trying to excite her by grabbing and dragging her around, at least I don’t think so. Wrist grabbing in a drama is as common as a partner in the US walking out of a setting without communication, but with a clear expectation that they’ll be followed. Or maybe I’m just trying to justify my visceral reactions. : )

There is something about being able to embrace many sides of gender role multiple reality, including the one where a girl might be okay with giving reins to the assertive boy. The main thing is communication, and how that unfolds between the parties themselves.

Again, time is key. These shows almost never get physical quickly. It takes an average of 7-8 episodes before a kiss, if it happens then. And it might be a kiss on the forehead. Or cheek. In this kind of context, even holding hands can be erotic.

The wrist grab isn’t the only consistent dynamic that has caused my conscience wrestling matches. There is also an over-protectiveness I have disliked in relationship, that absolutely melts me in drama. This appears when the lover becomes micro-attentive, not to mention has the means to set aside everything to tend and fuss over small things.

Sleep watching is another thing, but I don’t need to elaborate much. It can be the sweetest or creepiest thing, depending on various factors. Most of the time it is used as a device to allow someone to share their heart without embarrassment, and the other may not actually be sleeping.

But here is an important one: overt class-based bullying:

How I wish to have seen these shows before I was married quite young, and had to contend with antiquated class dynamics. They’d been invisible to me before, or at least it never seemed all important where one came from or how many generations of family had kept well to script. My own background was not exactly bohemian, because bohemian lifestyles had more intention behind them than my family had, and I would certainly never have been chosen as a good candidate for an arranged marriage. Still, even in the US I needed better preparation for large family politics and its unique weaponry, such as ridicule, that others were well-versed in. It turns out that “fake obliviousness” was not a good strategy.

I write this with a smile, but to be honest I have far more understanding and appreciation for preserving lineage now. It never quite sank in before, what the Zen Buddhist texts I’ve studied grew out of, in terms of what a Confucian society meant and still means, and I’ve been ravenously hungry for every detail thrown my way. I find myself reading about military strategists and heroes, even down to equipment, with great fascination. Out of character for me, to say the least.

Regarding lineage, it isn’t uncommon for a character in a K-drama to remind another character not to be too bold with their lately acquired American sensibilities – which is not necessarily an insult. There is progression, but thoughtful, regarding and appreciating previous generations’ social architecture and placing a high value on filial duties and values. To find and do well in one’s place in society is an honor. “Remember that this is Korea” someone will say.

This was something I experienced in Japan. Although we in the US can look with amazement upon so many people falling into strict order for schooling and career paths, and both admire/regard with horror, the strictness of dress codes and projected personality homogeneity when it comes to assigned roles, there is something grand about the dignity with which even simplest tasks are regarded. High creativity can emerge from those strict constraints. Visitors may remark on the absence of garbage, but it is far more than that. Ritual hasn’t been abandoned each time it has been questioned, so there remains a stream one can tap into … an unbroken transmission. No garbage, in a society aware of surroundings in equal measure to self, is a given.

The integration of times and classes isn’t easy for those experiencing it. When a wealthy family tries to buy off the poor-but-heart-of-gold love interest, as in Secret Garden, I rightly cringe and root for the underdog, but more and more I root for her only if she tries to understand… if her capacity for empathy is awake, because isn’t easy to change beliefs once we are older, even when we accept progress logically. We step forward, but maybe there remain contradictory or uncomfortable feelings, generation to generation.

It interested me to learn recently that with patients suffering from some kinds of epileptic seizures who have elected to have their hemispheres decoupled, there can be an entirely different response to the question, “Do you believe in God?” The left hemisphere might answer a sure “NO” while the right gives an equally enthusiastic “YES.”

And THIS brings my rambles back once again, to Kill Me Heal Me. The central character is suffering from Dissociated Identity Disorder, but he is close to being healthier than some who live in smaller compartments of themselves, trapped into prejudices that may be the natural effect of intellectual and psychological inflexibility.

Many of us break down to break free, and benefit from meeting persons who share like capacity. Only someone who understands can impart true validation, and in KMHM there are several free-range characters, healthy, multi-dimensional, and kind.

Loving Me

So this is that kind of story.

K-dramas and & Kill Me Heal Me: Ramble not Review

accepting the sting

In my life, I’ve caused the most damage when trying hardest not to – when avoiding some hard sentence in the moment and therefore stringing out a difficulty over time, even multiplying it. It is usually about something that Trungpa Rinpoche termed “idiot compassion” and a term I’ve learned more recently, “noble idiocy.”

We can see noble idiocy easily when played out by another: when a character in a film decides to endure their cancer diagnoses alone so that others won’t be bothered or hurt, or to cut off a loved one because they can’t be what they’ve decided that person needs (usually without consulting them), or to not stop the rabid in-law from biting because of the potential familial discomfort … that sort of thing. Sometimes there are good but misguided intentions behind it, but sometimes it is simply pride, withholding “I’m sorry” or “Thank you” while thinking that one is preserving dignity needed in the long run.

These are forms of second-arrow suffering.

The Buddhists say that any time we suffer misfortune, two arrows fly our way. The first arrow, the pain, is the actual bad event. The second arrow, the suffering, is our reaction to the bad event, the way we chose to respond emotionally. The first arrow often is unavoidable. The second arrow often is self-inflicted. -Nathan S. Collier

Although I have been one of the biggest advocates of big-picture thinking that I know (a quality that came from an aversion to the narcissistic willingness of a few key figures, to spoil whole environments just to get their surface opinions across, or to upend the lives of those around them unnecessarily easily), I’m learning this new trick of facing things head on. Which is a fine balance, because “apologize later rather than ask for permission” can be appropriate, but I still think, not so often. It might be too easy to ride the pendulum to the other side entirely.

One main issue is that we aren’t islands to ourselves; resources come from somewhere, yet not exactly in a zero-sum, fixed in a linear sense, kind of way. Rather, it is about capacity. To quote a film I saw recently: manners maketh man. Or the more familiar: to whom much is given, much is required. Together you get something like: merit maketh man. :)

A friend send along a short NYT article that struck my heart, describing the economics of attention and the way that although it may seem that if one “earns” a level of difference and privilege in society there is no harm done, actually resources aren’t that simple. Even freedom from noise, is a kind of harvest, and may not be freely given. It isn’t true that dignity and manners should be supplanted by those with the energy to push, or that money should buy something like silence or rest away from another human being in the world. We have to leave refuges. Better if we proliferate them.

For the last few days I’ve been involved in conversations that have become easily confused – in which great patience and time has been necessary. But it hasn’t been an easy sell that slowing down might equal no more time than creating and cleaning up misunderstandings. Which is a mirror of what I see of the urban environment I live in, as well as of my own mind. Why won’t I believe and fully buy into what I already know? Why won’t I trust? I’ve had so many opportunities; do I really need more practice?!


Perhaps I can just buy out of the usual patterns more often. I can be unapologetically truthful, as in, “I am unwilling to do that” instead of “I’m unable to do that.” I’d have to accept the first sting, but the idea that the world will collapse if I let my part of things unfold differently, is mostly an empty threat.

And if it does collapse, well, it wouldn’t be the first time.

I’ve been supremely fortunate…
So fortunate that writing that sentence just now caused me to pause and shed tears… so fortunate that were I able to let someone stand in my shoes for a few moments and experience the range of life’s experiences, I have all idea it might be too much for them to bear. It wouldn’t be about experiences themselves, but more about the range and distance, filled with surprising moments of wonder and awe. Sometimes I’m tempted to say that I’ve been fortunate in direct proportion to misfortune experienced early on and the love that rushed in to overcome the devastation, as Frank McCourt made light of when he wrote, “When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while.”

I’ll close out today’s practice by referencing one other news item from the week: Monica Lewinsky’s TED talk and recent entrance to Twitter/re-entrance to public life.

I’m happy to have lived to see this day. It would be hard to convince me that anyone would knowingly choose a fate such as hers, where personal humiliations are writ large in the public consciousness and one’s name becomes, seemingly irrevocably, a vulgar joke. Although many, like me, will cheer her on from the sidelines and know that “there but for Grace go I…”, most will not be willing to stop and consider her human rather than object of ridicule.

That would also take slowing down.

Many ‘things’ and ‘dynamics’ in the world deserve to be ridiculed. Monica, as a person, is not one of them.

accepting the sting

Filling Time

Have found myself at the Miami Intercontinental. The jazz is great, but too loud as a writing back drop. Rather than 10am it should be 10pm, and I should have a gin martini in my hand. Still, I have two hours. Now.

Yesterday, altruism was on my mind, the usual questions about whether there is such a thing as pure altruism; if one takes pleasure, is it not still pure? Why does that matter? Is there some difference in quality, when it comes to compassion? Steven Hawking says philosophy is dead, replaced by science, but others have said that science has been contaminated by that absorption somehow, no longer a bottom line: pure? What a strange idea. Then there is religion, mythology, history. An interesting thinker put forth the idea that Silicon Valley is the religious center of our modern age.

I don’t think we’re after progress in the same way we thought of progress before; most are too aware of the world as a whole, to go back too deeply into intense tribal thinking. Sure, there are “world events.” So we’ll see. After 9-11, I saw my country covered in flags… stuck onto all our objects, especially the cars we parade around in. I was reminded of a conversation years before, with a friend who found flags themselves disturbing. I’d been puzzled by her paranoia, then. But here it is, I thought, playing out around me everywhere. This world can change so quickly.

So what is virtue, aside from being the center of my own quest? In Buddhism, there are 6 paramitas, or virtues, that are signs of connection with the (“true, abundant, generous”) nature of mind. So in that context, virtues are the fruit of contemplation and having turned the light inward… having tapped into the “wonderfulnesses” intrinsic to (human) being.

Last week I saw the picture said to describe what we have now captured as both particle and wave simultaneously. I said to my son that it seems to represent another turning point, and he asked, “Does it wipe out quantum physics?” No, but it means, I think, that we are making room for non-dual thinking to take place as a matter of default. It seems the leap we’ve been working to make, with various forerunners having stepped in as examples over time.

Quantum physics did not wipe out the physics of Newton, because it was required to step into the second. And surely the first is still in play practically and in our theory. So quantum physics turned standard physics inside out, in a sense, like when you read a book and the culmination changes all that came before. So now there is another previously unimagined turning point, which includes the first two. Up to now, we’ve thought in terms of light and dark, good and evil, either or. It is ‘religious thinking.’ But what when we *know* that dichotomy isn’t true, isn’t necessary?

The other thing about virtue in the Buddhist sense, is that it isn’t based on the same logic as “beliefs” are. In a similar sense to what I’ve described above, beliefs are sometimes necessary components, but not the heart of the matter. A virtue, on the other hand, arises spontaneously within a particular situation that can never be duplicated enough to then make a law or belief from. All one can really do is learn to trust that spontaneous responsiveness. But that’s certainly enough.

A few years ago I was part of a discussion about non-duality. At the time it wasn’t a term I was that comfortable with. The way of discussion seemed cold when compared to my own study of ritual, community, and friendship. My quest then became how to bridge the interest with the warmth. People aren’t really benefited by lectures unless they have already tasted some pleasure in the subject matter… unless personally touched ‘beyond use’ in some way. Top-down, breaks down.

Eventually, beliefs that were okay to hold on to for a while, must be shed, or they become a tomb. They don’t need to be rejected, because that too would be unnecessary baggage, but they must be emptied of content: eaten. They become some kind of material for spontaneous responsiveness to work with.

A bloom born from nowhere, yet demanding basic tending of the possibilities, over time.

Filling Time

Appreciation Practice

Warm sunlight streams
through soft applause ~

Leaves and branches.

An unidentifiable fragrance
Sallies forth ~
On cool January winds.

Sheer white curtains
flutter ~

My thoughts too.

Figs, pears, blueberries
Fresh cream and ginger ~

Brightly green, popping peas.

Alertly sitting on cushions
of glistening rice ~

Evoking fields of water,
and occasional Drops,

of wine.

In this jeweled world
Beauty and sustenance
{like heaven and earth}

Present one feast

hands with

Like a grand procession

Sheltered by space,
Known by attention, and
Arising in perfect time.

Appreciation Practice

I thought; I wanted

I thought I wanted, to write about sradda, but haven’t done so. Perhaps it is percolating, or will come up along with other things.

There was a time in which I didn’t feel a thought had been sufficiently thought, until I’d written it out… a time in which writing made things come together harmoniously, synchronize, matter. It was a primary way of being part of the beauty, the aliveness of life. So what is this time then, in which before anything is written, I’m convinced it might as well not have been, and not out of any self-loathing.

Surely I know that I began writing because I’ve failed to connect with people, to have a sufficiently satisfying and what I would feel as ‘true’ conversation. Or at least failed to connect until I had connected more deeply with myself first. But these days I hardly try; I wait.

Come to think of it, it does take faith to actively wait.

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”

– T.S. Eliot

I thought; I wanted

Enlightenment 101 – 12

V and I were still seeing each other when I met S at CR Park, though he was decidedly not a park kid like D. S worked there, and kept his distance from kids like us. I watched him closely, content in his own space, circling around the fields.

To me, S was something from a fairy tale, unreal… light blonde hair which glistened as he drove the cart to mark the baseball game territories, and piercing eyes which my mother later called “evil.” I’m not even sure how we ended up together, except that signals grew stronger and stronger until one night he showed up to a party where I was sitting on the floor, wearing black spandex leggings and a borrowed Deep Purple t-shirt. He simply walked through the door, and reached out his hand. I reached back, and that was that.

The bond was inexplicable. Our back stories were so similar, and he played guitar like a magician, which I found hypnotizing. We seemed deep familiars, as though remembering rather than discovering things together, staring into eyes and endlessly playing out adventures the first night we dropped LSD. The following morning, I stood at my mother’s bedside, gazing down at her sleeping, and thought ,”If I could just impart this experience of love I’ve discovered, all would be well in the world.”


After a while in Colorado, great differences showed up… what we wanted, how we might get there. At his mother’s insistence we enrolled in EP High School, which had huge windows overlooking the mountains. We checked in with one another during study hall. I took a fascinating practical economics class and wondered why all schools didn’t teach that way.

We were interesting to people there, watched with fascination … working in diners and pizza places, staying up all night… a little like the vampires in the Twilight series, trying to blend in. It was tiring, working so much and not having warm clothes, staying out and again playing the part of girl on the sidelines, while he looked endlessly for musicians to collaborate with. My fatigue probably came from that desire – that I wanted to be his center, and one foreshadowing of our end may have been the desperation with which I tried to save two kittens, “Bonnie and Clyde,” praying intensely for them all night after they’d nearly drowned in a toilet, though I’d shown few religious inclinations to that point.

On a normal day, I walked up a mountainside to sit and think, and felt the world shift. It was subtle, a simple widening of view, but one which dwarfed the paradigm I didn’t realize I’d been holding: “the girl from the dark house at the end of the dead end street.” I just quietly knew… that the world was vast, resourceful, rich. Fear fell easily off of my shoulders. It wasn’t all up to me. This was a realization as beautiful as the early experiences of LSD had been, but clearer, and for some reason I thought it would naturally follow, that S would see differently too.

(snip/flash forward)

When my mother and sister arrived in Tennessee, S and I divided our things from the car, and I came back to Miami, yet another different me. Nothing fit. MP had lived with my mother while I was away, and felt displaced by my return, but we tried to spend time together. Through MP I met N, who gave me several large poetry books and took me to a fancy Grove Isle restaurant overlooking the ocean where, seeing that I couldn’t use the spoon with my pasta properly, he stopped using his own. We laughed it off as a small thing, but all these years later I remember his kind gesture. Mind is like that you know, that a little moment like that can weigh just as much as a so-called peak moment that others might acknowledge as significant.

Mostly I felt raw. I went through motions, not sure of what else to do. I became solitary, as I’d not been since childhood, reading the poetry books over and over again, especially a particular poem, “Renaissance” by Edna St. Vincent Millay. I began to dream of going to school… of teaching English, which seemed a funny turn for a girl who had been a fairly consistent truant.

My mother, things having come to terror with A too many times, was changing as well. Something had gotten through.

The Rest

From a corner of a room
Where my mother’s body
Lay beaten

I wrote this poem.

French doors frame
A trapped child

In an instant

Soul split
walked away
Leaving in tact

The Rest

I now return for
With a pen

[written when I was 22 and had just become a mother]

Enlightenment 101 – 12