I always thought it in the case of some figures in my life, who refuse to reflect too deeply (which limits dreaming, and gives a low ceiling to creativity) – but really all of our cases – that should we truly face our pasts, we might not be able to take it… what we didn’t know, what we might have done/not done, seem to have made and unmade with our one precious life. Impossible to fathom. Impossible to know if one might have done better, or what might have been different. The factors are just too numerous, although it is some help to think in terms of arcs of character rather than monetary or public accomplishment.
Lately S is talking about regret, that it has no place in Buddhism, but that remorse is another thing altogether. I’ve been thinking on this for a few weeks now and have come to the conclusion that regret is mental and perhaps has a ceiling, but remorse allows for grieving and release… is to be embodied and is without limit.
When I consider, full grieving has a chance of breaking down the sense of hopelessness that might come with realizing one’s mistakes and accepting one’s conscious wrongs. Sorrow allows for a kind of nourishment to the ground that may at some point, become soft for new growth, possibilities. When one truly experiences their losses, faces the shortcomings and impossibilities as contrasted with the dreams of what they may have dreamed of being, becoming, it is much harder to be a wall against others. Forgiveness becomes more than moving on or putting the past behind; forgiveness becomes the air one breathes, animates all of one’s actions, mingles other and self, rather than being made into a suppressed time bomb waiting for a trigger out of the darkness.
It is a kind of closure indeed, just not an “event” of closure.
I trust my fixations. When there is something I am drawn to strongly there is little that I’ll let divert me from pursuing that course of inquiry. Sometimes it is difficult to justify, and sometimes it is like some passive-aggressive tax I extract for not drawing stricter boundaries with other areas of life. More often it is neither of those things but rather a wind of inspiration leading into a place I couldn’t have known myself well enough to realize would be needed or liberating. This is what k-dramas have been. This is what virtual worlds were. A few relationships began this way too.
So right now, I’m re-watching a not-lauded series, again, Valid Love. It isn’t as gripping as it was the first two times when I found myself breaking apart at every other scene; instead it is a soft massage … a slow release of toxins getting at the residue of what began with much greater shock.
I have been confused as to why this drama wasn’t widely embraced, aside from the obvious, that Korean audiences tend to take a very strict view of adultery and divorce. Koreans are less separate from their society than Americans, I think, in the way of difference between growing up in a small town daily intertwined with one’s own and others’ families, as compared with growing up in a city so large that within even the same high school it is possible to change groups of friends several times without too much upheaval. My own life has been one of constant reinvention in a way that would be less possible in a smaller country more rooted in history and tradition.
Anyway, the adultery is not the main point of Valid Love, or maybe I should say that the sexual attraction that is assumed to be the point of adultery is not a main point in the drama. Rather, time is taken to go into the communication intricacies of relationships, and factors that change someone that aren’t, in fact, fully conscious choices, yet we are nonetheless responsible for. In that sense, the drama gives due to each character as operating from a softhearted intention, whether they start there or get back there eventually.
Valid Love actually requires repeated viewing. By the time I reached this third attempt, my visceral attractions to Carpenter Kim, and imaginations of Il Ri’s possible life with him going forward had lessened considerably. My impressions of Hee Tae remained consistent, and my understanding of Il Ri’s attraction toward him reminded me of my own tendencies when younger, especially as a girl whose father had disappeared, to be drawn to a steady, wise figure who might give me new roots. Those are the impressions and emotions that dominated my initial reactions (that I wrote about here: Valid Love ).
Then, already in the second viewing, Hee Soo’s story became prominent, told so poetically by the writers, bringing forward direct relatability for anyone who has felt trapped without way to tell their story, or has had to accept catastrophic loss, especially publicly. That’s a lot of us.
It took this third viewing to invest in Hee Tae’s mother’s story. She is more a potential future after all, than a previous role I might want to reconcile with, and gets to act out frustrations that most of us aren’t allowed to – frustrations that would be in bad taste and we would be expected to conceal, like looking at one’s partner after many years and finding them unattractive, repulsive in some way. In the story, she regresses to her young years and expresses those feelings, those impressions openly. What is poignant however, is not that the show gives a place for taboo feelings, but that we’ve come to know that at the root of her turning against her husband, of coming to see him as unimaginable as a partner, is not in fact his (objectively less attractive) physical appearance but the years and years of struggle and heartbreak he caused her as he relegated her to the sidelines of his attentions and showed his best sides to others.
This is a drama in which the complicated truth of things refuses to stay hidden. There is a lot of awkwardness, and scenarios that people generally wouldn’t find themselves in, but also a lot of facing those awkward scenarios head on. In my first post I talked about the moment in which Il Ri is called to the police office and is asked which man she takes responsibility for. She responds, “both.” The two men are brought together again and again while trying to find appropriate balances, and when they finally get some distance, another universe conspiracy occurs.
It feels as though we are inside the mind of this universe as she makes us continually give up judgmentalism and truly comprehend the fate of each character and relationship at her mercy. Hee Tae says at some point that hate is freedom, and using hate tries to distance himself, but he is ultimately not allowed. They are all called to rise to the occasion. To surrender.