Mine the Gap

During my recent trip to Australia, I traveled on the train quite often between Mittagong (where Byongchan is doing a three-month residency) and Sydney. This poem was inspired by my time on those platforms. I was struck by the different speeds at which people walked, the choice of winter or summer clothing people wore, and the various languages people spoke. Amidst all the differences, life seemed to flow smoothly. I feel lucky to take part in such flow.

Mittagong Station, Australia

We walk at our own pace.

We find comfort in our own climates.

We see through our own lenses.

We travel on our own tracks.

 

To join you on your track,

I must not only mind the gap,

I must mine it.

 

We mine the gap of our relations.

 

In the gap, our paces merge;

Our climates combine;

Our lenses blend.

 

When I mine the gap,

For even just a moment,

I walk at your pace;

I feel your climate;

I see through your lens.

 

We mine the gap for gems of understanding,

Crystals of clarity,

Minerals of truth.

 

With my mined treasure,

I walk at a slightly different pace;

I appreciate another climate;

I see a new tint through my lens.

 

I travel more lightly on my track.

Central Station, Sydney, Australia

 

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Dear people of the world who are scared

Dear people of the world who are scared of other people of the world,

I get it. It’s weird. It doesn’t make much sense. Why don’t they hold the door open for you? Why do they sit on the floor instead of on the couch? Why don’t they clean their homes the same way? Why don’t they laugh at your jokes? Why do they behave so differently? Why do they believe something you’ve never heard of? Why do they say this instead of that?

It’s weird. I get it.

I get how much you want to feel safe. I get how much you want to be part of a community that understands who you are and why you do the things you do. It’s understandable. It’s uncomfortable to have to do things differently.

You want to wake up in the morning, have your cup of coffee or tea – the way you like it – and enjoy the day as it unfolds. You hope people will hold the door open for you. You hope people will feel comfortable in your home. You hope people will laugh at your jokes. You hope people will behave the same way and share the same ideals.

I get it.

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The thing is, everyone in the world wants this. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from living in another country it’s that we all want to be understood.

I’ve also learned there are others who wonder why you hold the door open. They wonder why you can’t sit on the floor. They wonder why you clean your home the way you do. They wonder why you don’t laugh at their jokes. They wonder why you don’t believe what they believe. They wonder why you behave so differently. They wonder why you say that instead of this.

It’s weird. I get it.

We all want people to treat us in a way that’s normal. We all want to live in familiar surroundings. It just feels safer, and so much more comfortable. There’s no denying this. And there’s no shame in this either.

But here’s a question: how do you feel when you don’t think people get you? I’ll tell you what happens to me. When I feel like others don’t get me, I don’t feel safe. And when I don’t feel safe, I get defensive. And when I get defensive, I make bad decisions. I say and do things, that in hindsight, I’m not proud of.

You know what? I get why I react this way.

But you know what else? That doesn’t make it right.

We’re human. We make bad decisions everyday. But when we constantly judge someone for reacting exactly the same way we would, it’s time to check in with ourselves.

Because now I understand why we hold the door and they don’t. Now, I sometimes prefer to sit on the floor instead of on the couch. Now, I wonder why I used to clean my home the way I did. And now, I wonder why I used to laugh at those jokes.

But I still wonder about our collective beliefs. I still wonder about our collective behaviour. I still wonder why we both say this and that.

And now I almost get it: the “we” and the “they” are not so weird after all.

All good people agree,
And all good people say,
All nice people, like us, are We
And everyone else is They:
But if you cross over the sea,
Instead of over the way,
You may end by looking on We
As only a sort of They!

-Rudyard Kipling, “We and They”

We/They aren’t weird at all. In fact, we/they are all just living the life we/they know how to live, hoping that someone will understand us/them so that we/they can feel safe.


To read more on this topic, I highly recommend Tara Brach’s Trance of ‘Unreal Other’.

Fall Feedback in Images

Keimyung University, Daegu, Korea

Keimyung University's Hanuk Village

Keimyung’s HanHak Village

Keimyung Hanuk Roof Tile

Keimyung University Logo on Roof Tile

Keimyung Hanuk Village Roofs

Campus Quince

Campus Quince

Cleaning Up Hanhak Village at Keimyung

Keimyung Campus 1

Please sit - Keimyung University

C.C. or Campus Couple

As a university couple in Korea, you earn the esteemed title of Campus Couple, better known as CC.

Bubbly Shrubs

Bubbly Shrubs

Bubbly Shrubs at Keimyung

In front of the Social Sciences building

Brotherly Love

Many Korean boys/men comfortably  show friendly affection

Red on Concrete

Me & Tree Shadowed

Little Maple

Little Maple

Ginko & Motorcyle - Keimyung University

Ginkgo & Motorcycle

Ginko Tree - Keimyung University

Ginkgo

Moped - Keimyung Campus

Ivy - Keimyung University

Ivy

Path to Yougam Gwan - Keimyung University

Keimyung University

Late for Class

Keimyung University

Rock Pots

Keimyung University

Hues of Green

Keimyung University

Red on Concrete