Monday, January 19, 2009

From my apartment desk to my work desk -- focusing on the little things in life

After reading the tragic story about the Gaza doctor's children being killed by a shell I was feeling a little down.

A passage from Judith Butler's "Undoing Gender" came to mind,

" . . . one mourns when one accepts the fact that the loss one undergoes will be one that changes you, changes you possibly forever, and that mourning has to do with agreeing to undergo a transformation the full result of which you cannot know in advance. So there is losing, and there is the transformative effect of loss, and this latter cannot be charted or planned. I don't think, for instance, that you can invoke a Protestant ethic when it comes to loss. You can't say, "Oh, I'll go through loss this way, and that will be the result, and I'll apply myself to the task, and I'll endeavour to achieve the resolution of grief that is before me. I think one is hit by waves, and that one starts out the day with an aim, a project, a plan, and one finds oneself foiled. One finds oneself fallen. One is exhausted but does not know why. Something is larger than one's own deliberate plan or project, larger than one's own knowing. Something takes hold, but is this something coming from the self, from the outside, or from some region where the difference between the two is indeterminable? What is it that claims us at such moments, such that we are not the masters of ourselves? To what are we tied? And by what are we seized?
It may seem that one is undergoing something temporary, but it could be that in this experience something about who we are is revealed, something that delineates the ties we have to others, that shows us that those ties constitute a sense of self, compose who we are, and that when we lose them, we lose our composure in some fundamental sense: we do not know who we are or what to do."

Undoing Gender 18, Judith Butler, 2004 (my bold, my italics)

There's another Butler quote from that book about how we are "undone" by other people's words and actions. It articulates the idea that we do not live in a vacuum of isolation and it emphasizes the interconnectedness of all living things. I'll look for it later when I'm at home and have the book in my hands.

Update: I found the quote I was thinking of,

"Let's face it. We're undone by each other. And if we're not, we're missing something. If this seems so clearly the case with grief, it is only because it was already the case with desire. One does not always stay intact. It may be that one wants to, or does, but it may also be that despite one's best efforts, one is undone . . ." (Butler, 19, my bold).

I felt very 'undone' by the BBC story about the Dr Abuelaish's children being killed and the grief and loss he must be feeling right now . . .

I decided to focus on the little things in each moment as I got ready to run an errand (I needed to pay a bill) and then head to work.

When I went to turn on the water this morning . . . nothing. No toilet, no water in the taps, no water for a shower . . . it seemed like life was illustrating for me in a very minimal way what the Palestinians must be experiencing with the infrastructure of their daily lives destroyed.

I got dressed and headed out to pay the building maintenance fee and find out what was going on with the water supply.

When I first moved in I wondered why there were so many locks on the door to the apartment. To have that many locks on your door there has to be some kind of threat to your personal security . . . I wonder what happened . . .

I like to try and shift my perspective so that I don't become too complacent and static . . .

Outside I saw smoke and these two guys working on something together . . . I wonder how I would interpret this situation if I was living in another part of the world?

I had to get some money out of the ATM in a Family Mart variety store . . . on the way there I saw this guy working . . . it was pretty cold outside. I thought to myself that I'm lucky to be heading to a job where I have my own office and my own heater . . .

Lately I've been wishing that I had more money . . . but today I told myself that I have more than enough to cover the day to day "needs"--the wants can always wait.

This guy must be made of iron. He's sitting on freezing concrete while he works, wow.

Walking back into the apartment complex area I took a picture of the security booth that every apartment in Korea has. I usually think of them as "Big [Confucian] Brother" watching . . . today . . . was a little different.

The two guys were still at work. They had a fire going to stay warm.

In the administration office I realized (after understanding a few words in Korean) that the woman on the left was dealing with the water outage problem--it wasn't only my apartment, it was the whole complex of buildings.

I had a sense of security that someone knew there was a problem, and that it would be fixed soon. I felt very fortunate that I could assume something like that when tens of thousands of people don't have homes right now in Gaza.

I paid my bill and left to head to work.

A random shot of a canned coffee drink and the local neighborhood newspaper . . .

Waiting for a taxi at a Taxi Stand (you can see the silhouette of the sign here).

Inside the taxi I took some more random shots. I like the warm colors and textures in this pic.

Arriving at the university I went and picked up some breakfast at a GS 25 variety store. Many variety stores in Korea have plastic tables and chairs outside where you can sit to drink and/or eat while enjoying being outside.

At the main gates of the university I took a pic of the giant plant holders. I had noticed the night before that new stuff was being put in them . . . not sure what it is, and whether or not it's plastic--usually they put real plants or flowers in them.

Walking across campus I noticed again the unusual presence of many cars. The in-service Korean teachers have the luxury of cars whereas the students don't yet have their teaching salaries. I usually see a bizillion bikes where the cars are . . .

Only one bike was in front of the stairs today where there are usually at least 10 or more sitting.

Bicycles seem to be a big part of university culture in Korea. Students begin to attain freedom of mobility and how they use their time--the bicycle seems to be a symbol and instrument of this newly discovered freedom after graduating from the public school system where their lives are hyper-structured and controlled.

Walking up the steps to the main doors of the English education department building I came across 'the boys' (Korean teachers) having a smoke before class . . .

And again I thought of Butler's quote,

". . . one mourns when one accepts the fact that the loss one undergoes will be one that changes you, changes you possibly forever, and that mourning has to do with agreeing to undergo a transformation the full result of which you cannot know in advance . So there is a losing, and there is the transformative effect of loss, and this latter cannot be charted or planned." Undoing Gender, Judith Butler, 2004

I hope and wish that the transformation Dr Abuelaish experiences result in something positive that we cannot know right now . . . and that we will see more of his compassionate personality in the future.


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