Many Are Called but Few Choose to Listen

While working at my internship at DemandMedia, I met this man by the name of Bailey who worked in the lobby. He is an African-American male in his mid-forties and always wore a well-pressed grey suit and red tie–perfect for his job of greeting guests and assisting whenever he could. His nose carried a pair of circular glasses, which were slightly thick which made his eyes appear larger than they truly were. He also had a shaven head on top, with enough hair to keep him looking professional.

Whenever I entered work, Bailey would always greet me with a cordial, “Good morning sir,” never forgetting to call me sir. I could tell in his voice that his words were genuine, especially when directed toward me.

Over the course of the period that I interned at Demand Media, I would always see him 3 times a week, all when I got in at noon and when I left at five. It then started to become my ritual to just make small chat with him whenever I would see him–while others would simply choose to ignore him and go about their daily lives. We made small chat about typical things like the weather, how work was going, and how my studies were faring as well.

Before I knew it, my final day came and I told him of the news. By then we had built up a quite friendly relationship with one another, and Bailey asked me of my future plans. I told him how I was going to start working at AKMG, an online advertising agency which happened to be on Third Street (Demand Media is on Second Street). I then suddenly felt compelled to tell him about my interest in photography and how I was planning on spending more of my free time to pursue it.

I then recalled some of the black and white 4×6 photos that I had with me in my backpack, and took it out. I told him of my trip in Europe and proceeded to show him images from my trips in Europe, including pictures of the Eiffel Tower, St. Peter’s Cathedral at the Vatican, as well as other images from Korea. His eyes grew as large as dinner plates, and he held the images in his callused hands with sincerity and delicacy. I then told him if he was interested in my images, he should check out my website: www.erickimphotography.com. I then took an image, flipped it, and wrote the address on the back.

As Bailey was still gazing over my images–eyes darting back and forth as if he was trying to figure out which image he preferred the most, I told him, “Here, these are for you.” While sitting down he then slowly looked up at me and then quickly shot his head away while shaking his head and saying, “Oh no sir I could never take these–they are much too expensive and valuable.” I then replied and told him, “No–take these. This is my present from me to you.” After him refusing for a bit more, I then told him in a stern voice, “If you don’t take these images–you will be insulting me.” He then quickly paused, shuffled his feet on the ground and then repeated what I said to himself, “…If you don’t take these images–you will be insulting me” I then stacked up the photos and then handed them to him, signaling to him to take it. He then slowly accepted the images–still full of reservation.

I then felt the feeling of overflowing joy and emotion in the air and then I suddenly felt a transformation in Bailey’s face and attitude. He lowered his voice a bit and I saw his true character come out–not just the “front-stage” behavior that he was so used to giving all of the other lobby guests. With the words of a sage he told me of how what I was doing with my photography was truly a beautiful thing and that it was amazing how I was pursuing my true talents and dreams. Bailey then told me of a quote that he heard the week before which he really loved, “Many are called but few choose to listen.” He slowly repeated the words to himself several times, alternating a few words here and there as he admitted to me that he didn’t quite remember the quote. He told me that I was common in the sense that I was one of the many people who were called to be great in life, but amazing in the sense that I let myself be chosen to achieve that greatness.

As Bailey was telling me these words of wisdom, he also told me not to concentrate on his voice, but “the voice behind the voice.” He then held up a piece of tissue to illustrate his point. “Don’t listen to me, but the voice behind my voice. I am nothing merely but a vessel in which words are flowing out of. In-fact, who I am doesn’t really matter–but rather it is my message that counts. Don’t forget about your dream and strive to pursue it.”

I was truly taken-back from these words of wisdom. Somebody that I first perceived as an uneducated male whose potential in life amounted to being a lobby host was truly a wise-man in disguise. I was thoroughly impressed by his insight and clarity when it came to life and was moved with emotion. His words reverberated with me so much that I felt compelled to write this blog post after having nearly a year-long hiatus without writing.

So as you go throughout your day, your week, and the rest of your life– don’t forget that inspiration, genius, or greatness is not something that is only given to a select few. Rather, it calls all of us. It simply depends on whether we choose to listen.

Time

Time is a funny thing. It is something that doesn’t exist but we try to measure it all the time. “I don’t have enough time” as if it was something we could hold in our hand, or “I’m running out of time” as if time were like water, or “Time is money” which sees time in a system of monetary terms. Time is the most pervasive thing in our every-day lives but we rarely give it any real thought. We take time as this omnipresent entity that is eternal, which dissuades us from ever questioning it.

Does time exist? According to Elias’ article on time, he sees time a social institution in which people learn how to act and behave according to time. It is something that regulates human beings and allows our society to function in-sync. By this, members of society learn how to regular his or her behavior by the institution of time. For example, employers use time to make sure that their employees come to work on time or for teachers to expect their students to be at class at a certain time.

I am starting to believe that time doesn’t exist, as it is something imaginary made into reality by human beings. Time can be on the same level as abstract ideas such as “justice”, “equality”, and “morality” which are concepts that seem as real as the computer I am typing on, but have no physical entity. Sure we may think that time can be ratified as real by pointing to a clock, but the clock itself is merely nothing but another symbolic representation of time, governed on the rotation of the sun.

Does time exist? Well, without it human society would possibly be in disarray. Elias explains how complex the idea of time is, and that a society with time embedded into it is a sign of civilization. Imagine a world in where we didn’t have time governing our schedules. Without hours, minutes, seconds, days, months, and years, society would have a very difficult time working in sync together. Nobody would know when to pay their bills, when to pick up their kids from school, how long to stay at work, or even when to go to sleep.

Time does not exist. It is an abstract concept created by humans in order for it to be used as a tool to govern our social lives. It is not something that is tangible and we cannot hold it in our hands. We cannot measure how much or little time we have with a measuring cup. The seconds on a clock ticking away doesn’t show how time is passing, but rather how many more ticks is necessary for the sun to go down.

Once we learn that time is a human-created concept and not something that merely exists, can we assess how huge an effect that it has in our every-day lives and address how we can change its effect on us. About to graduate college? Take a year off. Don’t be worried that we are going to “run out of time” because time isn’t going anywhere. Time is not a clock with a knife, threatening you to move “forward” in your life and “progress” (whatever that may mean). Learn how to “take your time” with life. Enjoy the moments that you are with your friends, the soft sound of the rain, the smell of coffee in the morning, or the kisses that you share with your loved ones. These things are eternal and its effect on us cannot be measured. After all, we have all the time in the world.

What Should I Do with my Life?

When I first came to college, I was pressured by my family to become a doctor. After all, coming from a long lineage of doctors, it seemed almost my destiny to do the same. So when choosing my major for UCLA, I chose Biology thinking that it wouldn’t be too bad. Oh, how terribly wrong I was. I hated my first quarter at UCLA in terms of classes, and I knew that I had to change my major or else I would be doomed to misery for the rest of my college career.

I then went to the career center and looked at the huge list of majors that UCLA offered. Sociology suddenly popped out at me as being something quite interesting, as I had done much social work in the past. I then announced to my family that I was changing my major from Biology to Sociology under much fear of how my family would react. Quite to my expectations, they were pissed off and thought that I was foolish for making such a decision. I told them that the major wasn’t making me happy, and simply dismissed happiness as something not important at all to the equation.

Regardless, I stood firmly by my decision and pursued Sociology. Before I knew it, I was totally engrossed into the subject. Little by little, I started to see the world in a new way, while feeling enlightened from all the new information that I was taking in. For the first time in my life, I started to actually enjoy what I was learning in school, rather than just trying to get that A. I soon started seeing past the grades and more on what I took out of classes, and if it was relevant to my life. I actually took classes that were interesting to me, rather than classes that sounded like an easy A.

I am now a senior and having another internal conflict based on what I want to pursue in my future. Law school always sounded like a half-decent default option that I was expected to go, but suddenly the field of Sociology seemed to start calling me again. Although I have had a great undergraduate experience in the field of Sociology, I feel that I have barely scratched the surface and there is just so much more to experience and learn. Therefore, becoming a professor and dedicating my life to teaching and learning more about the world around me sounded pretty appealing.

However when I told my family this decision I was once again shut down, and hard. They told me of how unreasonable it was to become a professor, how long it took, and how difficult and competitive it was. Although I did understand that there are those truths, none of them offered me their support. I then succumbed to their wishes, and decided that I would just take the LSATS and apply to law school like all of my other friends in the humanities department.

Just in the middle of this dilemma, I did the reading “What should I do with my life” and it truly opened my eyes. After just reading the experiences of a few other people facing with this ultimate question, it gave me a ton of relief knowing that I wasn’t the only person in this boat. Hearing their life stories about how they pursued their passions which led them to ultimate happiness also made a ton of sense to me.

Another question which was brought up in the reading was whether it was a better idea to earn money to support the dream, or simply to pursue the dream straight-on. If I were to become a lawyer, I probably wouldn’t earn that much money, because I would become a prosecutor or a public defender. However it would provide me with a stable job and income, while helping out the community which would bring me joy. Pursuing to be a professor, on the other hand, would be awesome because I can totally devote my life to the field of Sociology, which seems like a treasure chest full of opportunity.

However above both of these, I would definitely say my true passion is photography. I do not plan on pursuing it as a career, because I enjoy it more as an art than the commercial aspects. But on the other hand, what if I become a famous photographer and through exhibits and the sale of books, I could support myself? And perhaps in my down-time, I could help teach photography to other students? This has been another consideration too.

Although I don’t expect this course to help me in choosing my ultimate life-path, I know that it will definitely help me out. Drawing from the book “The Alchemist”, I will state the quote: “When you are pursuing your dreams, the world conspires in your favor.”

Selling Out

I was walking in the London metro to my transfer point when I heard the sweet melody of a saxophone permeate the dirty porcelain walls all around me. The sound of the saxophone sounded very inviting, especially in the likes of a city such as London. I walked toward the music, and I could hear that the sonorous sound of the saxophone was accompanied in the background by a high-tempo prerecording of the song, complete with a catchy bassline. I continued to follow the sound along the narrow bends and curves of the metro and finally found myself at the entrance of a long corridor, with people busily scuffling by.

Plastered against the wall, there was a man in his late 60’s who was busy playing his beloved instrument. His hair was grey, and neatly wrapped in a ponytail behind his head. I took a closer look at his instrument. The saxophone that he was playing looked as if it had endured many years of use, as the original luster of the golden metal was fading away, kind of like when a brand new copper penny turns rusted and discolored when subjected to moisture and time. Beside him, he had a little pull-cart which had a respectable looking amplifier with an old Sony Walkman spinning wildly.

I stood to the side and eyed the man from a distance, while absorbing the tunes that he was sharing with me, and the rest of the people in the metro. The first song that he played was “Tell me more” from Grease, a song that I am quite fond of.  When playing the song, he played with such great passion and vigor that it made me want to dance along. In fact, the man would often throw out a kick or two here and there according to the music.

I reached into my pocket and shuffled around for some spare change to give to the man. After all, he already made my day by enjoying his music and he probably has a hard  time getting by, being a street musician and all. I finally found a 50 pence coin and after contemplating if it were too much (the pound is nearly twice as much as the American dollar, thus making this 50 pence piece almost a dollar) I walked in front of the man and generously tossed in the coin into his saxophone case (which was glittering with all of these other coins that other people had contributed). I thought to myself how he must be pretty good, considering that he had a respectable amount of donations from others.

The man smiled at me and continued blowing into his saxophone, pushing out rich and substantial notes into the air. Quit enjoying his music, I stuck around for a while and made an “audio snapshot” of his music by recording with my mp3 player. I closed my eyes and could feel the music flowing through me, almost transporting me to another place. The walls around me seemed to disappear, and all that I could hear and see were the colorful waves of music flow around me. Guitar-playing street musicians are a dime a dozen, but those who play the saxophone are quite rare.

Every now and then someone would toss in a coin or two and give the man a cordial smile, as if thanking him from bringing some joy and happiness into the gloomy “dungeon” of the London metro. I stuck around for maybe five minutes, and then suddenly felt a great urge to talk to this man and find out about his music-playing history.

At the end of one of his songs, he put down his sax and took a drink of water in the bottle next to him. I slowly approached him and told him that his music sounded beautiful. He looked up and thanked me for my kind comment. I then asked him how long he had been playing the sax. He replied that he had been playing the sax as long as he could remember, and that it is something that he is incredibly passionate about.

I then sheepishly asked him what his favorite song was, and if he could play it for me. He then paused for a moment, and looked at me, as if formulating his thoughts and what he wanted to say. After a moment he told me that he had a lot of favorite songs, but he wasn’t able to play them at that moment. I asked why, and he told me that he couldn’t because his favorite songs couldn’t earn him any money. He leaned in and almost whispered in my ear that his favorite music wasn’t the pop-songs that he was playing in the subway, but jazz.

Drawing his saxophone to his lips, he then spit out a series of rapid and soulful notes that felt like it was straight from his heart. He told me of how much passionate he was of jazz, and how immensely popular it was in the 70’s and 80’s. He then let me know how in the early 90’s it started to slowly fade away, and that people were soon drawn to pop-music. As a street-musician, nobody would give him any money for playing jazz, so he had to resort to playing these pop songs to make an earnest living.

I then felt terrible for this dilemma that he was in. Here this man was, playing music that he didn’t really like to earn a living. He was unable to play the music he truly loved because he couldn’t earn an honest buck off of it. Play the music you have a burning desire for and starve, or play trendy music that you don’t really like, but at least be able to put some food on the table?

There are many “starving artists” out there who are faced with this same situation everyday. Stick to the art that you love, or “sell-out” to the man so you can make a living? Believe it or not, 50-cent used to be a very respected underground rapper who would rap imaginative and well-crafted rhymes before he sold out and starting spitting out songs like “Candyshop” and started making movies. Many renaissance painters were often commissioned by rulers to paint certain images that the painters weren’t quite fond of, but had to in order to survive.

Staying true to your art or selling out? It is indeed a very sticky subject and I don’t think that there is a clear-cut answer to the problem. One side vehemently opposes the idea of “selling out” and stresses that people should stay true to his or her own art, no matter how little money they make. However the other camp fights back, saying how artists have no other choice but “sell out” in order to pay the bills and keep the electricity on at night.

I feel that both sides have legitimate claims and that the issue is not black/white, but rather it is composed of different shades of gray. It is of upmost importance to stay true to oneself and practice what one truly finds passion in, but one must also be realistic and make sure that he or she doesn’t find him or herself on the streets.

As a photographer, I find myself in the same little dilemma as well. I love my specific niche in photography (street photography) and it is one of my greatest passions, but I seriously doubt that these images that I take of strangers in the street can help me earn enough money to keep a roof over my head. Should I start selling mousepads and coffee mugs of my images in order for me to dedicate more time to shoot photos in the streets? Or do I work in a field that I find less personally-satisfying and use my little free-time to take a couple of snapshots here and there? Only God knows what will happen to me in my future, but until then I guess I will continue promoting my photography as only a “hobby” and nothing more or less. Who knows, maybe one day I will take the art-world by storm, and sell hundreds of books of my work and have a countless amount of exhibits around the world.

Well until the end of the year, hold off in buying a new calendar for the 2010 year. Who knows, you might find a special-edition “Eric Kim Photography” calendar hanging on your wall.

Photoshopped Reality

What I am about to tell you may come to you as common knowledge or a shock to you:

Everything you see in magazines, posters, advertisements is all photoshopped.

Yes, every damn magazine, poster, and advertisement has some sort of digital retouching applied to it. There is not one magazine cover which is not altered to make a person look more appealing by smoothing out their skin, cloning out their facial imperfections, and even by altering the structure of their face or body. Remember the last time you opened up a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and wondered how the skin of the models were so silky smooth and their breasts so perfectly round and perfect?

All hail Adobe® Photoshop®.

We all live in a photoshopped reality. We can’t really believe anything in our every-day lives to be “real” anymore. Whenever you see advertisements, they are always full of young, attractive, and beautiful people. When we are constantly bombarded with these images, we can’t help but think that is what the “ideal” person should look like. The reason why the multi-billion dollar diet and exercise industry thrive is because there are millions of people out there striving to look like Brad Pitt or Angelia Jolie, thinking that they are the epitome of “beauty.” People often get depressed when they grow older, as our society worships youth while shunning away anything that deviates from it. Women are starving themselves to death to lose a few inches around the waist, and men are injecting themselves with steroids to add a few inches to their biceps.

Our society is more depressed and self-loathing than ever in their quest to reach “perfection.” Regardless of how hard we might try, we can’t all have those size C-breasts or that 6-pack we all desire. Everybody is born with a different body type, with some people naturally taller, while others smaller. Others are more adept in gaining weight, while others cannot put on a pound even if they tried. In an attempt to make up for these physical inequities, we are even starting to “photoshop” our own bodies through plastic surgery, tummy tucks, botox, lipsuction, and countless other procedures to strive to be young and “beautiful” for as long as we can.

The field of cosmetic surgery is an industry which is exponentially increasing. This is not any more prevalent than in one of the cosmetic-surgery capitals of the world, Korea. Certain procedures that alter the eyes, the nose, the lips, or even the structure of the face are considered commonplace and normal in Korea. In a culture which has a huge sense of celebrity worship, people are always striving to have the same flawless and dainty features of the people they see on television. It may come to some people as a shock that when applying for jobs, you must attach your photo to your resume, to show your potential employers how you look physically. In America, this is unheard of, because employers are not supposed to discriminate their employees based on appearance, sex, or ethnicity. Although the same is supposedly true in Korea, you are much more likely to be hired if attractive and youthful-looking.

Is beauty universal or depends on what time and place you are? If people think that skinny and fit people are “naturally” more attractive than fat people, they are hugely mistaken. In the eighteenth century, having a larger waist-line was a sign of prosperity, as you had the means to feed yourself in order to gain weight, while poor people could barely put enough food on the table to get by. Although it is attractive to have a tan in America, it is much more attractive to be pale in Asia, because it is a sign that you don’t have to work outside doing menial-work where people get the most tan. Although Americans believe the huge-macho guy to be the ideal shape for a man, Koreas find more effeminate looking men to be more attractive.

So how can we come to ends with the disappointment of our physical appearances? How can we ever live with ourselves without being able to fit into those skinny jeans or be buff enough to walk on the beach with our shirts off? Well, we first should realize that everything that we see is indeed photoshopped, and that these people are not a true depiction of what “real” people look like. “Real people” have flaws such as having small eyes, crooked noses, dainty lips, large faces, wide waists, and are short in height. Although there are people out there who are more attractive than us, we cannot truly live life until we are satisfied with how we look.

Like Kanye West said, “The people highest up have the lowest self-esteem.” Even those supermodels that you see on the runway suffer from bulimia, anorexia, and depression by feeling that even they (the “epitome of beauty”) are still not good enough. Even the hugest bodybuilders always have a burning desire to get even bigger and stronger than those around them, often turning into more monsters than humans in the process.

So be happy for who you are. Don’t let magazines or the media tell you otherwise. But damn my arms are looking tiny, time to do some pushups.

*Some links to check out:

http://www.glennferon.com/portfolio1/portfolio09.html

*Update: Link sent to me by my friend Phill: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knEIM16NuPg

7-24

It’s 9:50. I am on the #16 bus heading home. On the bus, I am currently sitting on the top left seat looking at it lightly rain outside. I am sitting hunched in my seat, with my knees resting in the barrier in front of me. I feel the cool breeze from outside hitting my face. I’m in total comfort and while listening to an audiobook about Sarte, I have an unexplicable sense of peace in my heart.

Damn life is beautiful.

Its definitely htese small moments which make life so valuable. We must learn to cherish the small things in life, because thats what makes life so special and worth living. Things such like the warm and welcoming taste of coffe in the morning, the innocence of a soft peck on the cheeck, or the sweet smell in the air before it rains.

Life doesn’t have to be so damn complicated. We often make it so much more confusing and convoluted than it needs to be. We try to seek all the extravagancies in life rather than enjoying ourselves in the small yet sweet moments. We have an unsatiable desire for wealth, status, and fortune which clouds our mind and judgement makes us ignore everything else.

However we must learn to detach ourselves from these fruitless desires. They never fully satisfy us, regardless if we believe they will or not. Rather, they make us feel even more empty inside.

So don’t live life in terms of everything having to be so big and grand. I rather invite you to live life through a microscope. Think about and cherish all the small things in life that we take for granted.

Next time you are sipping coffee think about it in terms of our time on the earth. Savor life. It’s good to the last drop.

Affirmation

As humans, we always strive to be recognized. We always need others to affirm our existence and that we “matter” in the world. In today’s society, everyone wants to be an individual and differentiate themselves from other people. We all are taught that it is a good thing to be “different” and “unique” and that it is something we should pride ourselves in. Therefore we always try hard to create a certain image of ourselves and maintain it by the way we walk, talk, and even dress. But in today’s world, we even smaller and less important due to the overwhelming force of the internet. We are more miserable than ever before in human history.

Before we talk about the affect of the internet in our every-day lives, let me briefly go over the idea of humans wanting to be different and unique from one another. When we were born, we were all tossed into this world. We didn’t have a choice of where we are born, what race we are, or even what we look like. We look around and for the most part, we all look the same. We all have feet, legs, torsos, arms, fingers, necks, heads, eyes, ear, and hair. Although we have slight variations such as height, weight, and physical attractiveness; all in all we are pretty much the same.

Being born into this world looking like everyone else, we strive to be different. From a young age we are socialized into thinking that being different and being a star is desired. Our society worships celebrities and rockstars. The idea of being on the stage with a million screaming fans is many of our dreams. To have the spotlight on us, and nobody else. For everyone to listen to our needs, desires, and wants. For us to matter in this huge huge world of ours.

There are many ways we can try to differentiate ourselves. Our physical appearances and attributes are unalterable (for the most part) and clothing and fashion is a quick way to “look different” from everywhere else. The clothing industry is a multi-billion dollar industry which profits from individuals trying to create a different self-image. Although people who consider themselves “anti-society” try to push themselves away from “ordinary people” by dressing in all black, with spikes, colored hair, and outrageous fashion, they end up looking like everyone else who tries to do the same. Stores such as Hot Topic thrive in business from young teenagers who try to go “against the grain.” The irony is that Hot Topic is actually owned by Abercrombie and Fitch, which shoppers at Hot Topic are usually trying to combat.

Ever since the introduction of America Online and the Internet, the world as we know it has changed dramatically. Suddenly the internet has suddenly made the huge world a much smaller place, by linking nations from all over the world together in one cyber-domain. And now with the internet, we have the need to please even more people. We try to personalize everything as much on our accounts on Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and even our Google homepages. We pride ourselves in being different, but the internet has made it incredibly difficult to be “unique”.  But regardless, we want to be affirmed and recognized as being different and special, so we constantly try our hardest to stand out and shine.

But this has caused a lot of dissatisfaction and a feeling of emptiness in the world. We constantly try to add people on Myspace to feel more important by having the omst friends. On Facebook, we constantly write on each other’s walls, upload photos, and write witty status updates to hope to get a ton of “notifications” in our inboxes. We constantly twitter every thought that crosses our mind in hopes of getting more and more “followers.” We constantly blog in hoping to get more and more page hits. Through the internet, we measure our self-worth by numbers. The more friends, notifications, comments, followers, or hits we have, the better.

Therefore, we must re-focus our attention on quality, rather than quantity. Who cares if you have 1000 friends on Facebook if none of them knows your birthday without looking at your profile? Who cares if you have 1000 comments on your blog if they are only commenting because you give them a comment? Who cares if you have a 1000 followers on Twitter if you aren’t close to any of them?

So what I am trying to say is simplify your lives. Re-focus your attention on intimate relationships, rather than the very impersonal world of the internet. Trying to get the most Myspace friends is as fruitless as trying to count all the stars in the sky. It is something that you might try your entire life but will never succeed. Sometimes in life, less is more.