Not so very long ago, somewhere, far down and at the center, was a chasm, yawning wide and deep. Or, maybe it was more like a cauldron, bubbling and boiling above some infernal blaze gods only know what. Fuck, I don’t know. It really defied any sort of discrete depiction in words, which I guess was at least partially the problem. I can tell you the places it was, though. That’s much easier. It pushed against the bottom of my heart. It tormented my diaphragm. It pulsated and writhed and twisted around against the outer walls of my lungs. It rumbled and roared and constricted, then erupted in shock waves that rippled outward to the ends of my fingers and toes and to the tips of my hair. It wasn’t always in the same place, but one of its favorite haunts was just inside my right breast, where it emitted an electric heat down my arm all the way to the ends of my fingernails. One dark night, as I lay in bed fearing yet another sleepless marathon to morning filled with a racing mind and encroaching terror, I attempted to communicate with it. I focused my mind’s eye on the little knot of flame and spoke directly to it. It’s okay that you’re here, I said. I won’t ignore or shout you down this time. I promise.
Behind me, many leagues down a long and forlorn road lay the ruins of a city. Years have passed since a raucous mob burst through gates once thought impenetrable and pulled down walls once thought insurmountable. In the interceding years, rains have washed the fire-blackened soot from the streets. Ravens and swallows have built nests in the partially exposed timbers of burned-out houses. Rabbits have built warrens beneath the stones of the empty square and squirrels scamper along upper ledges, gracefully bounding across the void when they encounter a collapsed facade. No people reside here anymore: they all died in a futile attempt to defend the doomed polis as torches set it ablaze, fled in terror at the destruction, or else departed in its wake to seek greener pastures elsewhere. With that description, it would certainly be easy to look upon this scene in sadness and remorse, but not so for me. Were I to travel back along that rutted road to the place I left long ago, I would not see the remains of a place once happy and vibrant, but one that was full of oppression, confusion, and heartache. I would feel neither regret nor loss, but something akin to a soaring contentment, perhaps not unlike to the sort of feeling a freeman might experience were he able to look from a place of safety upon the decrepit estate of his deposed former master. This city is not a real place, as you may have guessed by now. It is instead a metaphor for something that once existed within and held great power over me but does no longer. That thing would be my faith. Continue reading
There’s an image to which I can’t help but return. It’s one I’ve written about at least twice in the past year and it continues to be something I often contemplate. It’s an image of ruins, and I’m standing in the midst of them. Even so, to say that the ruins represent my life would be a gross exaggeration and wholly inaccurate. My life is demonstrably not in ruins. Quite the contrary, in fact: I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, and that’s not an exaggeration. In the time that has passed since I came to this country, I’ve built a life for myself according to specifications and desires all my own and, in some ways, it feels like I’ve finally started living. The picture of ruins that often comes to mind represents life before February 25, 2013, the day when my plane first set down in the Republic of Korea, one year ago this week. When I got on the plane in Dallas, I didn’t leave behind a life I ever hope to resume and that sentiment only strengthens with time.