바둑은 자기성찰을 도와주는 아주 신기한 게임인 것 같다. 다른 비디오 게임이라던지 보드게임은 자기성찰이나 무언가 큰 교훈을 주기 보다 그냥 재미있기만 한데 바둑은 무언가가 다르다.
나는 왠지 모르게 일찍 바둑에서 포기하는 버릇이 있다. 이기고 있는대도 말이다. 이기고 있었다 (아주 미세한 차이로). 근데 도중에 몇 번 실수해 돌을 잃었다고 ‘아, 나 졌구나. 나 졌구나. 그냥 포기해야 겠구나.’ 계속 그런 생각만 하고 짜증내고 자신감을 잃어버리고 있었다. 진짜 인생 안에서도 그렇다. 잘 하고 있는데 자신감을 쉽게 잃는 타입이 아닐까. 긴 인생안에 실수, 실패, 오점 … 있는것이 당연하다.
그래도 그냥 끝까지 하기로 했다. 몇 점으로 졌는지 궁금했다. 근데 짜잔. 내가 한 2-3 돌로 이겼다.
나는 바둑판의 전체를 보는 능력이 아직 부족하고 이기고 있는지 지고 있는지 이해하는 능력도 불완벽하다. 그것이 오히려 희망이다.
나는 포기하고 있었다. 오랫동안. 하지만 포기하면 안된다. 일찍 포기하면 안된다. 끝까지 승부를 해야한다 ^^ 그냥 호기심으로 라도. 그럼 결국에 내가 이겨버리는 기적이 일어날 수도 있다. ‘그냥 여기서 포기해야 겠다’ 는 나의 심리는 나의 미숙한 심리였던 것이다.
“We can’t stay small forever. Go out there and risk it. Live for something. Challenge yourself to the most difficult, hardest things that only the bravest minds of humanity can even consider attempting. Time is ticking and not waiting for you. You won’t be alive forever.”
“We are all free to pursue whatever we deem to be valuable. Society binds us and hides us the truth so that we are more easily manipulated. The truth is, we are born free and always will be free from false expectations, judgments. What you are supposed to do or what you are supposed to be at 20, 30, 40, 50 is just an illusion, a stereotype built by others. We are whom we choose to be. Our identity is always changing and always open to change.”
“The day we decide to be different and accept that it’s okay you are different… is the day you actually start living according to your true values. That’s the day we actually start living.”
“And at the end of your life … your courage will set you apart. Your courage would have set you apart from the majority of people who have shied away, settled, never attempted, played it safe, never followed their inner voice from the spirit … your courage, your very willingness to challenge yourself … sets you apart. And we need people like that, as much as we need other people in this world.”
I wanted to share this writing as a dedication to my dear friends whom I’ve met and treasured in my life. This is in case something happens to me, knock on wood. I don’t imagine something will happen to me, if God wills it, but you never know nowadays.
I’ve been wanting to write on this topic for quite awhile, over years, and sometimes woke up in the morning with this impulse, call it inspiration, to put it down on paper. I feel it even stronger today. Often I would just tell myself, “Nobody’s really going to find it valuable, your random brain ramblings.” Even so, I couldn’t stop myself today, especially because the topic of this book is about something I hold the most important to my heart, which is our Spirit, and our spiritual life. How to live life with spiritual values, as God intended. The reason we are all here. What is the meaning of life, and this race toward evolution. And how to find our purpose, discovering your own unique purpose while here on Earth.
I think about death a lot, especially after having lost my dear sister at a young age, but especially because of the legacy she imprinted on me through the way she lived, and the mind she possessed. My mom, at age 62, perhaps has less than ten years to live, based on her deteriorating health conditions, and my father even worse. It got me thinking I will die eventually too, and what I want to leave behind for the people of the world when I do leave. It’s definitely not money or achievements or power or some great patented invention because I unfortunately have none of those things to leave behind. But I did want to share these ideas that I personally found incredibly important in life, because one never gets to discuss these ideas through conversations alone.
Honestly, I hope to continue living until I’m at least 100, haha. But in case I accidentally die or perhaps I run out of time to write later in my life, I wanted to leave this as my parting gift for those whom I had the incredible honor of meeting over the course of my life. If I’ve never met you, no worries there either. The ideas I’ve gathered here are my most important values I’ve tried to implement in my own life, and ponder, dig deeper and practice with the highest priority and intensity. Although I imagine some of these ideas will evolve in the next coming decades of my life, I wanted to share these as a starting point. Most of these ideas are up for debate, and solely my opinions and beliefs based on my studies, observations, learnings and experiences. Please do not accept them verbatim and feel free to disagree with me because just like you, I’m 100% dedicated to finding the truth behind all things, whether it’s about our spirit or even God. I do believe that for those who may have been less spiritually inclined or have spent less attention this topic in the past, you reading this will benefit your growth on this topic. It may help guide you toward a more purpose-driven life as well as help awaken and jumpstart your spiritual vision.
Even as I write this, I have a big grin on my face because I’m a weirdo who loves discussing this esoteric topic of our Spirit that none of us can fully explain. Thank you so much for deciding to pick up and read this short book. Or if you are on your laptop or mobile phone, well, thank you so much for scrolling through this.
Let’s get started.
I hope my mentioning of the word ‘God’ didn’t scare you off by now, because I do not like to be misunderstood as a fanatic theist who wants to convert atheists, agnostics or scientists into church. For the record, I do not want to convert you. I grew up around many conservative Christian sects as well as other religious groups who tend to be passionate about converting more and more into their specific religion, and not only do I disagree largely with the current behaviors of organized religion but also I don’t believe that will actually be a positive change for the world. For everyone to convert to one existing religion would not be a good enough solution in my opinion.
So I’m hoping this chapter about evolution, and why it’s so crucial, may help start our conversation toward a more harmonious route (since most conservative Chrisitians won’t bat an eye before calling evolutionists stupid and refuting all kinds of scientific evidence). I have no doubt that evolution happened and that it is a key part of why we exist today as human beings and what we must do going forward as a species.
As a side note, if you consider yourself an atheist or an agnostic, I honestly hold you in high regard as you usually tend to be the most scientific, logical and fact-based people when it comes to all this God and faith talk (for example, Richard Dawkins, whose literature influenced me greaty on the scientific aspects of gene survival and evolution). I myself used to be a vehement atheist until quite recently. Even today, I rarely go to church because I disagree strongly with many organizations who seem to care more about their profit motive rather than the actual spiritual well-being of their followers.
Instead, I’m more interested in the truth. The truth is what all those religions are clamoring for anyways, whether those religious leaders know it or not. At least that’s what I think we all want — the truth. And I believe the truth can be found in the intersection between science and God. It’s the belief that science and God were merely two sides of the same coin, and that science (including our knowledge of evolution) can explain God’s plans, and vice-versa. And as God’s plan is more and more revealed through our spirit, we understand science even more, so it’s a two-way understanding, two different lenses to look at the same objective reality.
My personal belief is that God intended evolution to be a vehicle for all life forms to converge toward some future life form. That all of this seemingly chaotic survival-of-the-fittest battle on Earth and the subsequent evolution of life since 3-4 billion years ago when we started as little microscopic organisms actually had a purpose that God originally designed. That evolution over time has always been our main goal to thrive as life and pursue as life continues to exist. As long as evolution continues, we are able to reach the eventual goal that God has intended for us as Life, and that all of this plan was already written and programmed into our DNA since the beginning of life’s existene.
The plan begins. Life’s instructions packed into DNA first travels through space and finds a hospitable planet. We start out as microbes and multiply. We adapt to the atmospheric conditions of the planet and affect the planet’s state itself making it even more hospitable. We diverge as plants and animals. The plants are then able to use power of the sun to manufacture its own food, and we animals are now happily able to eat those plants in order to evolve further as hervibores, omnivores, carnivores of the sea and the land. We animals then form our famous food chain, our circle of life, that we today are all fond of. The weak animals are eaten up by the stronger, bigger animals. The race toward domination and natural selection force us animals to become smarter, quicker, stronger. Some species like apes become more cooperative and social with bigger and bigger brains. And fast-forward to today, the highest form of intelligence arises out of those animal life forms to become us — human beings who are able to collaborate in huge groups to achieve things that no other species can possibly achieve, and understand life at a higher level. Our brains evolve to a point where we even develop the self-awareness to look inside ourselves to search for the source, the actual creator of life itself.
So what do you imagine is the next step? It must be us human beings who hold the key. All of these 4 billion years of evolution must not have been a fluke or an cosmic accident. If so, and considering the fact that we are destroying this planet’s environment at an exponential rate where it’s close to irreversible damage, I imagine the next step is actually quite grim unless we do something, and not a Disney-like happy ending where humans come out on top and everybody sings kumbaya for eternity. In fact, it might be more like a swift death, a swift end to everything we have known as life. Along with the prediction that Earth will no longer be able to support the overpopulation of humans by 2080, it seems like we are, or at least we should be, in a crisis mode. We perhaps just don’t know it yet.
You might be wondering why I’m mixing this talk of evolution with this talk of God. For me, it’s all the same. I believe evolution wants the same thing that God wants because God is the one who created the mechanism of evolution as a vehicle. So then how does our spiritual life come into all this?
It is hard to define in words what the spirit really is. One thing I’m relatively sure about is that even our desire for spiritual awakening was ingrained in our DNA just like everything else, to desire God, to desire the truth, to pine after that next part of evolution. We most likely do not need an extra brain or an extra leg or an arm in this next phase of our animal evolution; do we really need to grow 3 ft taller in height, when we are facing imminent destruction of the planet? Instead, we need the kind of spirits on Earth that can help alleviate huge problems like overpopulation, climate crisis, pollution and more, instead of continuing to contribute to those problems as the past generations of us human beings have done.
Therefore, I attribute the word “spirit” to the quality in us human beings to be able to realize the importance and urgency of our imminent problems, and to take it upon ourselves as responsible human beings to fight those problems together to uphold and protect the circle of life. And to understand that we no longer have to engage solely on the senseless, chaotic survival-of-the-fittest evolution game of natural selection to survive and reproduce as a human species (do we even need to reproduce and multiply anymore, since we are suffering from overpopulation as a species?). But rather to focus more on the truth that we really are one, that we all started as one, and that we intrinsically were always all the same, across races, across ethnicities, across cultures, across countries, across skin colors and across beliefs.
I believe that we are all just different-looking manifestations of the one and the same life energy. That we are all just different phenotypes and random iterations of DNA recombination originating out of the one and the only source of life. I could have been born as you. You could have been born as me. I could have looked like Chris. You could have looked like Lucy. The DNA that started all this, the microbes, the plants, the animals, we all went through that evolutionary journey together and are manifestations of that same life energy. We just don’t remember any of it because it was about 3-4 billion years ago, and nobody conveniently recorded it and uploaded it on YouTube for everyone to watch and realize.
Life after Death
Again, this is my interpretation of the truth and my understanding. I’m sure you have your own idea about life after death, heaven vs. hell, reincarnation or none at all. But if we were to articulate our journey from the perspective of evolution of life as a whole, everything starts making more sense, whether we die or whether we live.
Some of our ancient religious teachings might all have been “correct” in some vein, perhaps comparable to looking at the same elephant in 33 different ways, everybody just looking at the same one elephant from a different angle and claiming they saw something different. For example, there’s actually lots of similarities between the Heaven vs. Hell theory and certain stories told in Hinduism and Buddhism in terms of the level of spiritual existence in the afterlife one receives in relation to how his/her life was lived during his/her time as a human being on Earth.
I do identify the most with the Buddhist concept of reincarnation, although I disagree with how it’s exactly understood. You don’t suddenly wake up as a butterfly the moment you die in your human body. Instead, like most things, this body transference takes a very, very long time. That’s why we can’t actually observe any of these magical things happening around us.
From the perspective of evolution, life never really “dies.” As long as the species is surviving, DNA keeps continuing and everything is well with the world. Although this person named Terry might die, that girl named Katie might die, and these may feel like big tragedies from a single human being’s perspective, it’s an incredibly minor event to say the least from the perspective of the billions of human population itself. Instead, it’s an expected event that somebody dies every day or some animal has died today. It is calculated that about two humans die every second somewhere in the world while four new babies are born every second. That comes out to about 150,000 deaths all over the world daily and fortunately, 385,000 new babies born daily to replenish that human headcount. From the perspective of DNA who cares about the survival, propagation and evolutionary stability of the entire species, it will look at that statistic and think, ‘okay, everything is well with humans. It’s far from going extinct and instead growing positively.’ Death, from this aspect, is quite a natural and inevitable part of the formula, perhaps already well-calculated by our creator.
But back to our individual level, what happens when Ben dies, when Jane dies, or when Terry dies? Well, I imagine there will be some funeral event, and my body will either be buried or cremated. If my body is buried, it will take some time but my body eventually rots enough for nearby microbes and insects to eat up and becomes part of the soil under my grave. If I were cremated, I am turned immediately into ashes and get blown into the air. Either way, my physical body will decompose into its most original elements back into the atmosphere, just like what any other animal goes through during decomposition. The Terry Bu as you know him will be no more, the way I lived, the way I spoke, the way I wrote, the way I laughed or sang, and everything you know about me will be a distant memory. Yes, it will be a little sad, and it will be sad for me too to say goodbye to you all.
But for me, it will also be a new beginning — a sort of reunion back with the origin of life. Terry’s life energy becomes part of the Earth and its original energy again so that other forms of new life with new, original (and perhaps better) DNA combinations can arise from it. The soil that grew around my grave will benefit from my body’s decomposition and all the microbes around that soil which ate up my cells will grow super healthy, allowing other plants and animals to thrive around it. If I had been cremated instead, whatever gases or ashes I contributed to the atmosphere hopefully become part of the air and the land or the ocean and other life forms can benefit from that too.
Either way, although the functioning of a particular life form that was once named “Terry Bu” or “John Smith” or “Michael Jackson” has completely stopped and disappeared from this Earth, it’s still not a tragedy. Well, I guess you might miss us a little but it’s still not a tragedy because we just went back to where we originally came from — Life! And new forms of life will continue to arise, just like Life has always done, to create all life since the beginning of time.
If we think about it, we came out of our mother’s womb thanks to the life energy of the world around us, thanks to the soil and the energy of the plants and the animals our parents consumed and ate. What gave us birth in the first place was, as you know, the combination of sperm and egg cells by our parents, and what initially allowed those reproductive cells to be generated in the first place was the aforementioned life energy of Earth. We synthesized those plants and animals we ate into cells, blood, and essence inside our body and organs. Thanks to Earth’s nutritious, fertile soil and the foods and livestock that are allowed to grow on that soil. So we eat from our soil and air, then we die and go back into the soil and air. Existing humans and animals eat from the soil where other life forms have died on and breathe from that same air, and then leverage all that energy to generate new reproductive cells inside our bodies. New babies are born out of those reproductive cells. And the loop continues. In ancient times, some philosophers used to call this cycle of life “Ouroboros.” This term derives from Ancient Greek οὐροβόρος, from οὐρo oura ‘tail’ plus -βορός -boros ‘-eating’. The ouroboros is often interpreted as a symbol for eternal cyclic renewal or a cycle of life, death, and rebirth; the snake’s skin-sloughing symbolizes the transmigration of souls. This below symbol is a great illustration of this loop of life — essentially we are eating “ourselves”, to continue this loop of life, designed by evolution and DNA, to sustain life.
(Doesn’t it look eerily similar to a double-helix DNA strand? It’s fascinating the symbol is attributed to ancient Greek/Egyoptian times and they definitely didn’t have microscopes for DNA back then)
A final thing I wanted to add is that once the functioning of a life form stops, like in the case when each of us dies, our usefulness as our past life form doesn’t just abruptly there. The life we lived doesn’t just end in merely decomposed solids, liquids and gases for other microbes in the physical world. My uncle used to say everything just ends in “nothing” when we die and there’s nothing to look forward to after that. I don’t believe that to be true. Whatever we left behind as “deeds”, our actions, behavior, traces and footsteps that we left on this Earth while we were alive will impact others around us for years and even possibly decades to come, based on how well each of us lived that life we were given. Like leaving an imprint, a mark on the people, friends, society and life around us. That’s what my older sister Katie did for me when she died. She still is a big part of my psyche and my spirit almost 20 years after her death, and she lives in me as long as I live. That’s the evidence of an immortal soul that doesn’t die. The kind of spirit that continues through time, long after our physical bodies have decomposed or turned into ashes.
What We Must Practice
Everything is easier said than done. Practicing what we read, practicing what you preach is the hardest part when it comes to being spiritual in my opinion. To live a spiritual life is quite difficult and requires enormous amounts of self-discipline and daily practice. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are constantly fighting against temptations and forces that hold us back from spiritual evolution on a daily basis. Either we are falling behind, staying stagnant or moving forward, perhaps similar to physical fitness or mental fitness.
But I believe that more people need to do this, and engage in this mission, in order to further the human species forward. That it really can be the most fulfilling, most meaningful way that we can live out our life and time on Earth, even without following the standard human pattern of merely surviving on Earth and hopefully having babies to pass our genes forward. Surely, you can opt for that. But I’m saying there’s another road. Instead, we can hold this spiritual mission as the beacon, as the goal that we must aspire towards. And by that I mean the greatest evolution of our Spirit that the human brain, mind and body can enable us to achieve (perhaps to the level of ancient sages who have gone before us across various religions and faiths), and to get there. To unlock the greatest genetic potential that lies in our DNA and to get there. Because if some of us do succeed in that quest, even if it’s a minority of us who go on this quest and actually make it to the end, that minority can immensely help the rest of the entirety of life on this planet, not just humans. And that minority of people, having unlocked the greatest level of spirit that God has given us, can show us and guide us as to how life is supposed to be lived and led in the remaining time we have here on Earth.
I don’t claim to know all the secrets to unlocking our spirit. I myself am just starting out as a beginner and have decades of work to do before calling myself established in the spiritual sense. But here’s some practices and paths I can suggest right now that have helped me and are widely known across faiths and religions to advance your spiritual growth.
Extending love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness to all fellow human beings, animals and life forms
Overcoming spiritual challenges, mental health challenges, life challenges and/or emotional conflicts within yourself and with other people around you
Fasting (especially an occasional extended water fast). Personally, fasting has transformed my life and my brain, due to its ability to heal dopamine equilibrium. Fasting from food allows us to get back in touch with the joy of life and subtleties of experiencing life, and enhances our senses during and after
Self-discipline, vigilance and restraint in diet and eating
It is widely known especially in Ayuerveda and traditional East Asian medicine that the types of food you eat affects your emotional, mental, physical and spiritual well-being, and how you grow in those aspects as well
Bhagavad Gita goes into this even deeper, and obviously Buddhist monks are famous for being vegetarians as they believed that certain foods caused unnecessary sexual desires to arise which prevented them from focusing on spiritual pursuits
If I were to summarize, it is generally advised to limit foods that are overly stimulating to the tongue and our senses because it is believed that over-attachment to sensual gratification in any form can take us away from the spiritual (which makes sense, considering that our Spirit essentially is the energy closely connected to the entire universe, and grows in relation to efforts to let go of the ego as much as possible, instead of being obsessed with what each of us individuals is feeling and experiencing at the moment in the time through our senses and sensual gratification)
Foods and beverages that are overly intoxicating, sweet, addictive, fatty, spicy, salty are also recommended to be limited/avoided. Overly processed foods or overly seasoned foods with preservatives are also to be limited/avoided
The main theme seems to be a healthy diversity of organic, locally-sourced foods that are in balance and harmony with the environment around us and were grown/produced in the best possible conditions
This seems to play an even bigger importance when we are talking about animal agriculture and how the cattles, chickens, and animals were fed, raised and treated before they become meat/provide dairy and end up on the dinner table
Also important is the spiritual energy of the farmers/individuals who grew or produced the actual food itself
Raw fruits and vegetables seem to be encouraged especially because they promote a healthy gut microbe balance
Reading and studying spiritual scriptures
In my opinion, many ancient spiritual scriptures are badly translated, suffer from being lost in translation and/or containing outdated information so I try to skim and dig deeper on the main crux of what the original speaker/source could have meant with that story
One example of a quite badly translated, misunderstood spiritual scripture with much outdated information is notably the Bible although it also contains tons of inspiration and beneficial gems, including direct quotes from Jesus, and the actual values behind what he used to preach
I usually find multiple issues when I try to follow a thousand different pastors and their own interpretations of what Jesus could have meant with a specific passage or King David was trying to say with a certain verse. We all have our own opinions
I also highly recommend both Bhagavad Gita and Buddhist literature, as they both are essentially ancient wisdom from sages like Buddha who used to live thousands of years ago, and we get to experience and absorb those past valuable streams of consciousness through their quotes and raise our own spiritual understanding. Again, I don’t personally agree with much of rituals, stories/myths and customs practiced by those two religions currently by its followers, but just like the Bible, when you dig deep into the founding principles, things start making more sense behind why Buddha said this or why that Guru said that.
Self-discipline and restraint in habits such as smoking, drugs, sexual behavior, addictive behaviors
Self-discipline in emotions, anger, envy, etc.
Active involvement in awakening your own unique genetic potential
I believe God gave us different genetic potential in each and everyone of us for different reasons. They include the below and are not limited to:
Intense physical exercise/challenging ourselves to unlock our highest possible human athletic capacity
Creative arts of all forms and creating/crafting something new and original into this world
Academic study, research, discovery
Learning, studying, self-development, etc.
Starting, leading, initiating new movements and ideas. Forming and strengthening social bonds, groups and organizations
Notably, I believe the act of “stretching yourself” in these ways is actually aligned with our spirit and actually God wants us to do that — to give our 100% in unlocking our potential, whether that’s physical, intellectual mental, creative, emotional or spiritual growth.
Ego and Anti-Evolution
So what may be keeping us back from achieving all this God-intended evolution all these years? After all, if God were so perfect, he/she would have already programmed our DNA with the perfect algorithm (instructions behind the process of evolution) that would have achieved the intended purpose a long time ago. Death and Rebirth. Plants and Animals. Cycle of Ouroboros. Natural Selection. Human Intelligence. Self-Awareness. Okay, all of that worked out. But how come we didn’t progress even further than that? How come we are still “not at the end”? How come this next phase of spiritual evolution is so damn difficult? Let’s make some guesses.
First of all, I think it might be safe to assume that our DNA and the algorithm stored within DNA to deliver evolution through time and in stages were actually not perfect at all. In fact, both might have been extremely fragile. The ability of DNA to pack instructions in terms of its A-C-G-T nucleobases, as incredible and powerful as it is and said to be able to contain 3 billion letters that can fill your house with about one thousand separate 200-page books, still could have had extreme limitations. For example, DNA is famous for being prone and vulnerable to damage and frequent errors while encoding and decoding. I guess we can’t blame DNA for not being perfect, since it’s trying to deliver this incredulous phenomenon of evolution over 3.7 billion years so there’s bound to be errors during this long ass process. On a positive note, I think DNA’s biggest advantage despite its limitations was its consistent ability to create as many multiple iterations of life as possible — to be able to start over, over and over and over again. Even if one life form were to fail, or even if one entire species were to go extinct, there’s always other life forms and other species ready to pick up the pieces and keep continuing the circle of life, natural selection and so forth (Kinda similar to even if one person leaves his job abruptly at a company, there’s other people in the department more than ready to pick up the person’s position).
Another reason I see that derails our progress for spiritual evolution is the old programming left in us from our previous versions of evolution. Famously theorized by past neuroscientists is the “triune brain model” that divides our brain into 3 evolutionary stages: the Reptilian, the Mammalian and the Neocortex of current humans. Although there seem to be many issues and criticisms of the Triune Brain theory today since it was first popularized, there may definitely be something to be said about “old functional mechanisms” from a prior point in evolution still remaining in the current architecture of our current body, and this may very well be the issue that stands in our way. The forces that disrupt us from moving forward into a greater spiritual growth may actually unfortunately be the kinds of brain activity and patterns that used to keep us alive in the earlier stages of our evolutionary existence.
And in terms of those “past” forces, I blame what is often labeled as the narcissistic ego — the tendency in us animal beings to only think about ourselves, to be selfish, to be greedy, to feel like we are completely separate from anybody else, and to want to push our own agenda at all costs at the expense of everyone else’s. Not just satisfied at the point of self-confidence and self-love but over-reaching into the territory of wanting to become superior, and outcompete, outwit, outlive other people in every way. My hypothesis is that this kind of old programming left in our current human brain, which was inevitable due to the necessity for natural selection and the importance of competition in that process of natural selection, is one of the things we can blame for our brain activity often going awry. And whenever we let this egotistical lower part of our brain hijack our more important priorities, I think that’s when we see the worst of human activity that derails our evolution as a society.
One notable example I can cite is the existence of greedy business executives and corporations that seem to have no qualms about destroying the planet and our very own habitat in order to make profits in the near-future. There’s profit-motives behind animal agriculture destroying rainforests and trees to clear land for even more factory farms, when rainforests and trees are like the very lungs of the Earth protecting us with needed oxygen needed to breathe and fight worsening pollution (meanwhile, sentient livestocks are kept in horrible conditions just to turn into edible meat to be enjoyed by human appetite). There’s overfishing destroying our precious oceans, when oceans again are crucial to protect against global warming while marine creatures suffer and go extinct in rapid succession. Fossil fuel industries and businesses are still refusing to switch to renewable energy, and busy digging up more and more mines, releasing even more harmful gases in the process. GMO food companies and fast-food businesses feeding people total shit (literally poison) while claiming they are doing nothing wrong. How does that make any sense from a sensible long-term perspective as fellow human beings if the entire society were to end up being damaged by these efforts and later collapse? Instead of helping each other advance and grow, some of us are too busy ripping each other off and/or cheating each other as much as possible so that one can “get ahead” in terms of monetary profits, material comfort and wealth. I guess these businessmen and corporations simply don’t care about anything else— they only care more about their bottom line, money, money, money, now, now, now. Perhaps their mantra should be, “who cares about you, who cares about the Earth. Money will be mine.”
It doesn’t have to be some evil conglomerate or corporation to see the forces of anti-evolution in action. We can even witness it in ourselves whenever we see our worst human impulses come up. We can also witness it in our neighbors and friends. There’s limitless instances of when we let our narcissistic brain or lower brains take over and run the show. That’s when we see arrogance, excessive competition, rage, envy, greed, lust, fighting, cheating, stealing, killing, robbing, addictions and more. In all this abundant chaos, is there real possibility for us to fight all those impulses and still progress forward? Are we really able to fight all of those influences of anti-evolution, the past mechanism of our own brains holding us back, and still move forward? To discipline your spirit to withstand all the pain, discomfort and still grow? To be able to extend beyond selfish greed into compassion, from envy into admiration, from hate into love?
Well, I really don’t know.
But there’s people who did it in the past, you know. Jesus and Buddha to name a few. Insert your favorite spiritual leader from the past here ___(blank)___, and that person did it too. So that gives us a little bit of hope.
Diversity in Spirit
I travelled to Jerusalem and Bethlehem firsthand in 2019 to see what the fabled Holy Land was like. I did thoroughly enjoy my travels there (and the amazingly delicious Middle-Eastern foods that I would never forget and still dream about obsessively), which included directly visiting holy places such as King David’s Tomb, dining hall of the Last Supper, the Mount of Beatitudes (where Jesus delivered his Sermon on the Mount), and where Jesus was born and crucified. I also was incredibly impressed by the God-loving, God-fearing communities of people I saw there, and how dedicated they were to their faith and in their spiritual attainment. I saw young women enthusiastically reciting the Torah outloud on public buses and fervent Rabbis buried deep into their old scriptures, hardly getting up from their chairs.
But even after all that, I have to admit I didn’t really find the spiritual answer I was looking for. Well, in a way, I did find one answer; I realized that just traveling to Israel isn’t going to turn me suddenly into some spiritually enlightened person. I guess my expectations were too high. But it definitely was a fruitful experience. I’ve been mulling over that experience for the past few years, and something clicked in me.
It took me awhile to realize, but I didn’t have to pay an expensive plane ticket to go all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to visit Jerusalem to try to find more spiritual meaning. This is probably cliché but God really is everywhere, everywhere where we are. There is God in each and every one of us, every adult, every child, every baby. Every pet, every dog, every cat, every rabbit, every wild bird, even every insect, every plant, every stone. Around the local park and beyond the wildest exotic locations, God is all around where life is. They do look different, smell different, and et cetera … but really underneath my very nose, God was right here. Even in seemingly random locations all over America, there are God-blessed sites of geographic beauty with awe-inspiring nature. I just had to look, see, and find it, and appreciate it.
It definitely was difficult for me when I was younger. I thought, ‘how can I ever find spiritual enlightenment anywhere around the mundane places I knew my entire life? My mom’s house in New Jersey? This overpriced apartment in dirty NYC? This random suburb in North Carolina, Connecticut, Pennsylvania or Virginia? This random mountain in Colorado?’ Looking back, they were all God-blessed, and I just didn’t know. Every single one of those places were and still are overflowing with God’s energy and spirituality. One just has to look.
It really doesn’t matter where you are, where we are, to go forth blazing on this path. Perhaps Jesus was merely one case of great spiritual enlightenment happening in that moment in time during our human history, although it definitely happened in an extremely notable manner that rippled across time (to be exact, for more than 2,000 years) and stayed in people’s hearts and memory. But as many other religions would agree, Jesus wasn’t the only instance of an extremely spiritually enlightened being that made an impact and an imprint on the rest of us. Across civilizations, across cultures, across races, across time, there has always been an iteration of those extremely notable, spiritually enlightened of the human spirit that illuminated the path for the rest of us. I strongly refuse to believe that there is only one special race or one special culture that God specifically blessed. God was everywhere where life was, and still is everywhere where life is.
This would be blasphemy to many who adhere to one religion but I try to learn from everyone. Gurus from Hinduism. Buddha and Buddhist monks. Priests and pastors from Christanity/Catholicism. Wisdom of Judaism. Wisdom from Islam. Ancient teachings from Native American cultures. I’m sure there’s many more enlightened groups and teachers I don’t even know the names of, who came, lived, disappeared and died. Gurus and prophets of the past have already commented on a similar sentiment that “there isn’t just one path to enlightment and pursuing after God’s spirit. They all just go by different names, although some of us haven’t realized that yet. The end-goal of us is the same, and there are many different ways to get there.” So we may just be arguing about “how” we get there, although at the end it may turn out we were all looking for the same thing, just in different terminology.
A good analogy perhaps is looking at the United States as a country, and its cultural identity. Many countries out there argue that their own culture is the best, or superior at one aspect or another, and show a ton of nationalistic pride, especially come Olympics season or World Cup season. We all want to think and believe that our own country, our own culture is the better one, the best one. The thinking goes ‘where we lived, and have always lived, where I am from is the best, and nothing else can come close,’ and this can give us a safe feeling of superiority, and being comfortable in that idea. And we often challenge other cultures, and try to cut them down while bolstering our own. And the U.S. particularly has an interesting perspective in terms of this kind of nationalistic pride, because it is a country not based on a single important bloodline, race or religion, but a melting pot of cultures, founded on principles of freedom and liberty, built by immigrants. So it can become quite confusing, to be honest, come Olympics season or World Cup season, whom to root for and why. For example, if you are Chinese-American, is it okay that you root for China in one of the athletic events? If I were Korean-American, is it okay that I’m rooting for Korea? Or is it better we all just root for U.S.A at all costs to win all the time, at every single event, and don’t care at all about other countries?
The United States is one example of a country that has succeeded (relatively speaking, despite decades of severe internal conflicts arising from racism and xenophobia for sure) in being a multicultural, multiethnic nation. And there’s firm belief that our strength does come indeed from its diversity, and that may be why so many people from all over the world are attracted to immigrating here. Diversity of culture, diversity of thought, diversity of idea and mind and race and religion. Not without its issues, for sure, like aforementioned. Constant in-fighting. Mistrusting each other. Racism. Discrimination. Identity issues. We are all fighting that. But generally speaking, has the diversity helped America or hurt America from advancing in sophistication as a society? If it had only held onto its own original way of life after starting out as a British colony and refused to challenge anything or any rule that came after that, it may very well have stayed as a British colony even now, mostly agricultural and purely consisting of pilgrims. Instead, it has become a unique global powerhouse and an amalgamation of diverse cultures where past rival cultures can coexist and learn from each other.
There’s value in diversity, there’s strength in diversity. Just like the way our universe and DNA creates biodiversity in terms of its seeds, fruits, species, animals and plants all over the world, the concept of diversity (having more than one possibility for reaching an end-goal) is so extremely crucial in the process of Life itself that it was even programmed in our very basic genetic code, to continue to create diversity as long as life continues. The Spirit was never one thing with only one way, with only one savior, through only one teacher. To pursue after the kind of Spirit, the quality of Spirit that dies for the good of his/her neighbors because of limitless love for his/her fellow human beings, that really is the very same mission that those dedicated to the path will have to undertake, and famously accomplished by Jesus Christ. But the trajectory of the path itself actually may be diverse, and we all may benefit from this diversity of possibilities. The spiritual pathway that worked out for Luke in Denver might not be similar at all to the path that worked out for Paul in North Carolina when he found God. The path that enlightened Harini in Tamil Nadu definitely does not feel the same nor look the same, as the path that enlightened Steve at a Buddhist temple in Tibet. And the path that will work out for Olivia in China will look extremely different from the one that will work out for Maria in Spain.
But when we meet, if we were all to meet and gather in one place, and talk to another, we will know instantly then, we will feel it instantly then. Even though we all started from different origins, we all will realize we are going towards the same destination. We all achieved spiritual growth in our own way, and managed to arrive. And now, we can work toward the same goal, Together. That’s the strength of our diversity. We can bring all that we have learned, and merge them together, to create the kind of elevated spiritual understanding that can only arise from combining and uniting our collective strengths and experiences. At the risk of sounding like a naïve fairytale, I truly believe that will be possible — the fusion of spiritual minds that pushes the world forward together.
I love the world. I love people. I love animals and plants. And I love God. I love the fact that I was already able to live 34 years of my life on this beautiful earth. And anything left I can do for the world, for all people, and for you, I want to do before I die. And I believe our mission is to serve God and serve the world as best as we can, as long as we can and then die with a smile on our face, knowing that we tried and lived the best we could live.
These are the beliefs and values I have decided to live by for now, and wanted to share them with you in case they help and/or if you identify with some of what I have written, and we can help each other. I’m open for correction, as long as we are both aligned with the fact that there really is just one truth. The one objective truth is that there can’t be 1,000 different creation theories, 1,000 different stories of how all this life began. There was one creation journey; we just can’t tell what it was for sure, and are arguing each other senselessly over it. I think we should work together to find it out, together.
Most of my recent spiritual growth has come thanks to the fasting experiments I undertook. When I undertook my latest 21-day, 30-day and 40-day water fasts (water-fasting is when you restrain from food and survive on water and electrolytes for an extended amount of time), I noticed my brain and mental state getting reset and focusing back intensely on this spiritual path. It’s extremely easy to “yo-yo back” and lose that spiritual state for sure, and I’ve done that a few times now. But this time, I plan to do things more strictly and differently. I intend to treasure my spiritual state. I want to continue on this powerful spiritual path, where I am more able to understand the ancient wisdom of the past, and protect the values of what ancient sages and prophets were preaching since thousands of years ago. A state where I am more able to appreciate the love and energy of the good people around me and extend warm, positive, loving energy of life to others in return. Life really is beautiful when we find our spirit, and when we are aligned with our spirit. I also think I can now identify people’s spiritual state a little more easily, and want to find other companions with this similar spiritual energy to propel my own growth.
I wish you the most loving prayers and the greatest support for your own journey. I still have a long way to go too! But we were all born to go through this together.
대학교를 졸업하고 2년정도 되었을까. 사회 초년생이었던 스물 네 살의 나는 사표를 내고 집에서 뛰쳐나와 뉴욕 맨하튼의 한복판으로 이사를 간 시절이 있었다. 지금 생각해보면 현실도피와 막무가내의 반반이었다. 전혀 장래에 대한 생각이 없이 그저 회사의 지루한 직장생활이 너무 싫어서 다 때려치우고 뛰쳐나왔다. 사무실에서 앉아 있으면 혼자 컴퓨터 모니터를 쳐다보며 ‘나 여기 있기 싫어’, ‘내가 왜 여기에 있어야 돼나’ 하면서 머리 속에서 내 인생을 욕하고 있었다. 4년동안 경영학 공부해서 겨우 취업이 된 회사의 일자리를 그렇게 포기해 버린 것은 지금 생각해보면 미성숙한 선택이었지만 그때는 아주 내 자신이 영특하고 용감하다고 생각했었다.
그래도 1년정도 저축해 두었던 월급이 있었으니 그걸로 먹고 살고 월세도 내면 어떻게든 살 수는 있을 것 같았다. 일자리가 없는 대신 웨이터 아르바이트 라도 하면서 푼돈이라도 벌고 남은 시간에 스탠드업 코미디를 연습해서 미국 예능계에 도전해보려고 마음먹고 있었다. 그게 어렸을 적 나의 터무니 없는 작전이었다. 그래도 내 꿈이었기에 도전했다.
스탠드업 코미디는 즐겁고 보람 있지만 전혀 돈이 되지 않는 예술이다. 인터넷에서 찾아보면 3-4년안에 크게 성공해서 글로벌 스타가 되는 미국 코미디언들의 이야기들이 있는데 현실은 그렇게 심플하거나 쉽지 않다. 오늘날도 밤만 되면 맨하탄의 텅텅 빈 코미디 클럽을 떠돌며 4-5명의 관객앞에서 “5분 공연” 을 하는 불쌍한 ‘코미디언 지망생(aspiring comedians)’ 들이 있다. 20대 초반부터 50대 후반까지 연령대가 다양한데 그 숫자는 아마 맨하탄만 쳐도 3000명은 넘을 것이다. 나도 그중의 하나가 되었다. 매일매일 무대위에서 노력해봐도 유명해지기는 커녕 한 두명이 웃을까 말까, 욕이나 안 먹는게 다행이었다.
저금해둔 돈은 1년도 안돼서 쏜살같이 사라졌다. 아르바이트 하던 곳은 꽤나 고급인 모던 한식 레스토랑이었는데 하도 오너와 웨이터 선배들에게 구박을 받고 욕을 먹어서 몇 개월 안돼서 또 뛰쳐나왔다 (이것이 나의 패턴이었다). 그것도 그런게 나는 아르바이트를 별로 해본 적이 없어서 웨이터로 일하면 뭔가가 재미있고 사무실과 다르게 사람들과 소통하며 더 활발할 줄 알았다. 활발은 개뿔. 팁으로 먹고 사는 웨이터들의 서비스 직업은 사무실보다 훨씬 더 조심해야 되고 실수하기가 쉬웠다. 접시를 떨어뜨리고 음식 오더 잘못 입력하고 손님들과 키친 스태프 사이에서 쌍방으로 구박받고 정말 펑펑 울면서 그만두었다. 우습게도 사무실에서 앉아있던 시절이 그리웠다.
때는 2012년 12월. 입김이 보이도록 춥고 하얀 눈의 흔적이 길거리에 남아있었던 겨울 저녁이었다. 백수가 된 나는 처량하게 공원을 걷고 있었다. 그래도 “뉴요커” 라는 체면은 있었기에 겉멋은 들어가지고 이사 직후에 산 비싼 가죽 크로스백에 아르마니 익스체인지의 청색 자켓을 입고 다녔던게 생각난다. 브라이언트 파크 공원의 한복판에서 행사를 하고있었다. 길거리 상인들이 각자 자리를 잡고 핫도그나 할랄 푸드등의 음식을 팔고 있었는데 냄새가 좋아서 그 쪽으로 걸어갔던게 생각난다. 브라이언트 파크의 길거리 음식점은 유난히 비싸고 외국인 관광객들 등쳐먹기로 유명해서 쥐똥만한 에피타이저 하나에 7-8불 정도는 된다. 전혀 살 생각은 없었지만 그래도 구경이라도 하려고 심심풀이로 걸어 다녔다.
중동 음식점이 하나 있었다. 40대 정도 되어보아는 중동인 아저씨가 렌즈콩 스프를 커다란 냄비 안에 끓이고 있었다. 냄새가 좋았다. 호기심 있는 얼굴로 그 음식점을 잠시 맴돌고 구경하고 있으니 그 아저씨가 손으로 “Come” 하고 제스처를 했다.
“죄송한데 진짜 돈 없는데요. (Sorry, I really don’t have money)” 라고 말했다.
“됬어. (it’s fine)” 하고 아저씨가 종이컵 안에다가 스프를 듬뿍 넣어서 건내주었다.
그냥 친절한 사람이었는지 내가 불쌍해 보였는지는 아직도 잘 모르겠다. 솔직히 말해서 그 행사 자체에 손님이 많이 없었다. 남은 스프를 그냥 어떻게 처분하려고 나한테 좀 나눠주었던 것일 수도 있다. 근데 지금 생각해보면 정말 눈물이 펑펑 나올 정도로 고마웠다. 나는 그 때 사랑과 관심에 굶주려 있었던 가보다. 하고 싶은 코미디는 전혀 풀리지도 않고 직장도 그만두고 한두달의 월세를 낼 수있 는 능력도 없어 정말 갈 길이 막막하고 내 자신이 한심하고 초라했던 시절이었다. 물론 그 아랍인 아저씨는 그런 내 사정을 알 턱이 없었다.
그래도 그 때의 따뜻한 렌즈콩 스프의 맛은 잊을 수가 없다. 익숙지 않았던 중동음식의 향기가 새로웠다. 색깔은 카레처럼 갈색과 노랑색의 조합이었다. 내가 맛있게 스프를 흡입하고 있으니까 아저씨가 작은 미소와 함께 말했다.
“이슬람교 에서는 궁핍한 사람은 도우라고 그러거든? (In Islam, we say, give freely to the needy.)”
I’ve always thought this about churches but it’s a peculiar organization filled with … profit-motive and also other motives. It’s very interesting to look deeper into what motivates people to do things the way they do there. Some people go to church to look for spiritual guidance. Some to find company to relieve their loneliness. Some to find meaning. It seems like they use a variety of techniques to get people to pay up money and supporting churches. ‘Feigning a certain type of brand image’ seems to be one of them. To pretend like they are doing a lot for the community … might be an example as well.
[5:54 PM]I have always been disappointed. It never had to be that way. Whether it’s a cult that extorts money from people promising them some spiritual awakening, or even corrupt christian churches, the leaders of those organizations seem to care very little for the followers and the people in pain who actually need help. instead, they make a living off of taking advantage of those people, convincing them A is right, or they need to do B. Or even worse, they might even pretend to be “spiritual authority” … and then just fool people into following them as spiritual leaders.
At an ideal church, or just a group that helps each other … there would be no donation necessary or money-motive whatsoever. Almost like a free-forming “meetup” group that’s open to everyone, we could just come together from all walks of life and celebrate God, spirituality, values and morality and how to strengthen ourselves spiritually.
I guess that’s too much to ask in today’s day and age of money-hungry people.
I pray that God gives us true guidance, the wisdom to tell apart the corrupted from the innocent. So that next generations will be wiser than the one currently living now. We need true churches that cares about its brothers and sisters.