Sunday, January 23, 2011

Oh, so that's what that feeling is called...

I recently read an article from the LAtimes about the feeling "han."I never heard my mom talk about this word or define what it was to me so that she would teach it to me. No, she didn't need to. Her body, her words, he face all had han deeply engrained. She was not a happy person and she passed that on to me. So when I read this article, I laughed because I recognized it to be true. It's a feeling that I have had a lot. It's the feeling that made me pursue art as an occupation. If I don't feel bad, I feel odd, like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"Scholars have called it an all-encompassing sense of bitterness, a mixture of angst, endurance and a yearning for revenge that tests a person's soul, a condition marked by deep sorrow and a sense of incompleteness that can have fatal consequences. To die because of han, experts say, is to die ofhwabyeong, or anger."

When I got in trouble as a child, I would get the wrath of my mother. The event would have been long over, but she would still be yelling about it 8 hours later and then lamenting about me to her customers, our relatives, my dad and sisters for the next week.  That is something she has passed on to me, I used to stew over the smallest, dumbest offenses. How long could I stay mad at someone for not returning a borrowed hand clutch? Forever, and for too long! Back in the day, I would make it into a dramatic offense complete with running dialogue in my head and reasons of underhandedness, when really, they just forgot! 

But my mother got a new liver and since then, I have not ever seen her get angry. I need to learn that as well. I have used anger to propel me, push me to create. But I now need to let the feeling dissipate. I see now that the feeling is a cultural  and was passed by a generation that was a byproduct of war and  a hard life. 

The article goes on to say:

"Our lives have improved dramatically over the last generation, so it has less meaning," Kim Young-sook, a grandmother of four, said as she shopped in one of the nation's most exclusive department stores. "I'm very happy these days. I no longer let han rule my life."
As he marked prices on a shipment of used vinyl records, music store owner Kim expressed a very un-han-like idea: a wish to one day be rid of his own han.
"I hope it can go away," he sighed. "But the Korean people just don't seem to have the capacity to banish what haunts them. For now, it's just a hope."
I know if my han was gone, I'd feel weird and sad about not having han anymore. But I don't want this feeling to run my life either. So I will try to let han, dissipate from anger to melacholy. Perhaps the age that has tired my mother's anger, is finding a way to tire my anger too.  Until then, "I think I han, I think I han, I think I han!"

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this, Lela. I think anger, bitterness, grudges and resentment can give way to forgiveness, acceptance, reconciliation and even love. We're all in a crazy mixed up world of wrongs perpetrated on each other, so many things lost. But somehow we discover what's really important, and share that with each other; that's the beginning of healing.

    Hope your mom is doing well with her new liver - that must have been an ordeal.