Adieu Montreal

(Wrote June 13)

Il y aura bientôt, une mort. Une autre mort de moi- même. Dans une semaine, je vais partir de Montréal, et mon séjour ici finira. On peut dire que ce n’est pas grand-chose, puisque ne suis Torontois, et le voyage de Toronto à Montréal a besoin de peu de temps pour s’y rendre. Cependant il s’agit d’une mort quand même, un adieu éternel à mes expériences, à mes amis, et à toutes les petites et grandes chose auxquelles je m’habituais à Montreal à 24 ans.

La mémoire est quelque chose non-fiable, capricieuse et inconstante. Elle se souvient seulement de ce qui lui plaite, soit c’est des souvenirs heureux soit c’est des souvenirs pénibles. Pourtant même les souvenirs que la mémoire nous raconte ne sont pas fiables. À travers du brouillard d’oubli, ce n’est pas la vérité qui nous affronte, mais un passé difforme qui est toujours en muance. C’est un passé séduisant et infidèle, mais le brouillard s’épaissit et rend le passé introuvable, jusqu’à la disparition complète.

Le présent, si plein, si beau, se glisse doucement en s’éloignant, en se dissipant en morceaux insaisissables, comme le sable fin qui glisse tranquillement des mains.

(Wrote in June 17)

One by one we leave, we vanish, until I remain in a bustling city left only with the reverberations of the past, full of spectres who float around visible only to me. The world outside races on but I am left in the world of my memories, a world disintegrating.

Un adieu, un au revoir. It is a death that awaits the end of these adieus. I wait timidly, uncertain of what to express in the face of an approaching inevitability. What kind of adieu can pay homage to this death?

Every rencontre is a piece of myself left behind. And now the pieces are spread far and wide, a puzzle impossible to fit together and remake whole. I feel within a longing for fullness, a nostalgic cry that goes echoing on unanswered.


Au revoir

Pity for Man


A mankind in solidarity, humanity in one collective voice; such are seductive concepts. It brings to my mind an image of brothers and sisters of one human race, arm in arm, with differences put aside for an unending celebration of peace, love and unity on the terrestrial plane in a lifelong jubilee. The good is reciprocated with good and becomes an end to itself.

诸重佑 (제중우), these are the Chinese characters of my Korean name, translated as ‘ giving all a heavy help.’ There was once a time when I took this as a mantra, a supernatural calling, a fate decided from birth and thus accepted the inscriptions of these characters. I remember one particular scene four years ago, when I was inspired by a book titled Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood, a former executive of Microsoft and the later founder of charitable foundation ‘Room to Read.’ I told my mother that I wanted to devote my life to helping people and changing the world. It would be a meaningful life that I would lead, soaring on lofty heights looking downward towards the crass materiality of commerce and the world below (I was a commerce student at that time).

Albert Camus’ The Fall tells in second-person narration the confession of Jean-Baptiste Clement, whose life went through a vertical translation from up to down, from a former life as a virtuous lawyer defending widows and orphans (in short, noble causes) to the seedy central district in subsealevel Amsterdam as a practising “judge-penitent.” His cynical reflections of his former life recount his gradual enlightenment on the superficiality of his existence, leading to his fall. He acted for and on the vulnerable as a way of chasing summits and becoming one above reproach to a level of purity and innocence. He was an actor on a stage; his generosity to beggars and his aid to the disabled was all a play for the surrounding public, just as when he tipped his hat to a blind man after helping him cross the street. From great heights he expressed his will for domination onto the human ants crawling insignificantly below.

One of my predominant impressions of China before my actual sino-voyage was that of pity. I heard and read and saw the conditions of the majority who were not able to enjoy North American middle class privileges. From my North American heights, I looked down onto the poor Chinese people and I felt my heart reaching across the Pacific Ocean out to their poor lives, full of pity for these not-knowing people, wishing dearly to teach them something of my North American knowledge and experiences to make an impact on their poor existences, an impact that would undoubtedly be positive (after all, I was from North America, the opulent).

While living there, I found that I could not connect with my fantasized Chinese people. I could not relate with their squalor and my sympathy turned into indifference, although pity remained. In Nietzschean terms, I was the good and they were the bad. I saw one sight (which I wrote about in a previous blog post) that made even the homegrown Chinese bourgeois turn their heads for a split second in interest. It (or he or she) straddled the boundaries between the categories of human and non-human. I had five mojitos that night, not because I felt a profound disturbance about the sight, but because I enjoy drinking and wanted to get drunk and have a good time. So much for my pre-Chinese ideals. Why did I have the desire to change the world as a younger man?

In approaching man as a totality, a reified abstraction, a personal interrogation is necessary. Why am I doing this? Who am I doing this for? Is this a self-branding initiative? Do I approach man as a collection of subjects or objects? It is a continual affirmation and reaffirmation of a belief.

I still have strong feelings from time to time about (wo)man, but I realized that I do not always like (wo)men.


Note: Second time using that photo, “it” is there