Love in 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You)

Every once in a blue moon something comes along that has you so entranced, so engaged, so… moved… that it leaves you at a loss to comprehend just what is happening to you. As you try to make sense of it, it sparkles and shines with every gesture. Words issuing from it are musical pearls of poetic truth that imbue the very air with a richness never before imaginable to your dopamine-saturated mind.

Jang_Na_Ra_0Thus it is with the mysterious 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You), a show that began with (and still features) a high concentration of outlandishly garish elements that should have made it difficult to accept. Among them: Lee Geon’s absurdly big laugh, Mi Yeong’s seemingly mousy meekness, the comic-strip palette of primary and pastel colors in its repertoire of romantic comedy clichés that parade through the series one after another after another… With a profile like that, any viewer would be forgiven for anticipating a stinker in the making and duly dismissing it. Yet 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) has stolen the hearts of droves of viewers precisely because it has succeeded in presenting and articulating all its volatile theatricality with a witty poetic fluency. So it really was not very long before viewer comments on  that appeared in the first episode like “Ugh! that crazy laugh! Why does he have to do that?” had evolved into “Oh, I LOVE that laugh! Geonnie, I MISSED you!”


장혁 (Jang Hyeok) as 이건 (Lee Geon)

Viewers are enraptured. Each new exclamation about Lee Geon’s hotness is punctuated with sighs effervescing about how fanTAStic an actor Jang Hyeok is – everbody seems to agree that nobody else could have created such a convincingly  “hilarious, ridiculous and heart-fluttering” ((Interview – Jang Hyuk: “Ridiculous but heart-fluttering, is the comment I like the most”)) character. The fun starts the moment CEO Lee Geon snaps his fingers and languidly strolls onto the set of a CF shoot to personally demonstrate how the sensual appeal of his company’s shampoo should be conveyed on film. Things kick into high gear in the now (in)famous dog-ring incident where the futility of Geon’s swinging blazer offensive against Cherry the Rottweiler is ironically underscored by the title theme music from Jang Hyeok’s action blockbuster, Chuno!  Comic absurdities notwithstanding, Geon has a heart of gold. Unlike every other  chaebol prince on screen who is often bored and blunt, saturated in arrogant privilege and utterly insensible to the needs of others ((c.f. Boys Over Flowers, or “The Education of Gu Jun Pyo : a Bildungsroman”)), Lee Geon is largely attuned and responsive to the feelings of the people around him, although apparently not to his own. And as we have watched Jang Hyeok’s avatar unknowingly fall head-over-heels in love with his wife, Mi Yeong, so have we also fallen head-over-heels in love with her actor Jang Na Ra.


장나라 (Jang Na Ra) as 김미영 (Kim Mi Yeong)

Indeed, both Jang Na Ra and Jang Hyeok are positively radiant with talent and charisma, and the screen shimmers and thrums every time they have a scene together, whether the context is relaxed or tense. Jang Na Ra’s Kim Mi Yeong embodies a still gentleness that imbues her every moment on screen with astonishing depth and feeling; I have never seen an actor who could make such lightening fast micro-shifts in mood expression, inviting us into the inner life of her character, yet is also equally able to paint with loud, bright strokes when the comedy gets broad. Kim Mi Yeong’s guileless smile and soft laugh are the warm light that dispels every shadow and illuminates hope; her tremulous sorrow, whether silent behind her eyes or overflowing in anguished sobs, is simply heart-wrenching. Woe betide whosoever makes her weep!

Jang Hyeok’s Lee Geon, the ninth generation only son of the storied Jeonju Lee clan is a passionately exuberant man with a deeply evocative voice. When he is not puncturing the air with his boundless guffaw or muttering in panic over some overblown nothing, Geon’s voice descends into a deep, resonant rumble that brooks no dissent from his colleagues and subordinates at work. That resonance takes on magical qualities when he gently, quietly addresses his timid wife and seeks to encourage her – surely you remember that almost whispered, “Kim Mi Yeong-ssi… kaja” from her encounters with the shamelessly exploitative Lawyer Min? When Geon is in pain, however, his voice grows tight and forced and flat and breathless — making it difficult for you, the viewer, to bear without feeling plutonic fractures cleave your chest, or at least without shedding a commiserating tear.

FTLY_JJ_51More than a romantic comedy that just throws two arbitrary individuals together and then contrives to make them “fall in love,” Fated to Love You is a story about a man taking a bride, and then falling in love with his wife; about a woman discovering her heart, and then evolving to cherish and protect it; about the two souls learning each other. It is the story of Love discovered and cultivated in the spirited bosom of family, in the desolate heartache of loss, in the easy comfort of friendship, in the enigmatic joy of reciprocity.

As soon as I started writing about this love story, I discovered something that I did not know about myself; I don’t actually know — how to talk about Love… My approach was going to be fairly straight forward: first I was going to define my terms before launching into the heart of the matter. But when I posed the question, “What is Love?” I encountered my first roadblock.  So I thought I’d look it up because I hoped that philosophers, maybe even scientists, might help me better formulate the clearest thoughts and find the right words to use. It wasn’t long before I abandoned that avenue of research because reading about what contemporary philosophers have had to say about Love ((Helm, Bennett, “Love“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).)) feels a bit like wading through treatises on the varieties of flavor and texture in cold lima bean porridge. I had to accept that, like the effects of Fated to Love You on viewers, Love is a mystery.

And yet I think we all know Love when we see it, when we encounter it; in those varieties of states, experiences and feelings that one way or another shape our relationships and bonds with parents and siblings and children, with friends, with soul-mates, with community. I know Love, and yet I don’t know how to talk about it. This shortcoming  notwithstanding, a series of memory waves keeps washing over my mind now every time I ask, “What is Love?”, the first of these waves carrying with it the song:

Love is patient, love is kind… It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things… Love never ends. ((I Corinthians 13.1-8))

But that answers a different question: “How is Love?” The second among the memory waves saturating my mind carries with it the song:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. …
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise. ((Sonnets from the Portuguese “43”, Elizabeth Barrett Browning))

A second answer to “how“! A then another wave with fragments of yet another song:

I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved?…

… If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee…

… For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere. ((“The Good-Morrow”, John Donne))

Beautiful strains all, but still, only an answer to the question “how” is Love and “how” does it affect us. The waves and their song fragments keep coming:

… Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove… ((“Sonnet 116”, William Shakespeare))

Ah yes! Unwaveringly constant! Lovely. But… what is it?

FTLY_JJ_40Resigned, I turn to these memories — memories seeded in my mind in the amorphous daydreams of adolescence when I spent every hour of solitary liberty reading poetry — eager to hear more clearly what they were whispering to my neglectful spirit. As I follow that path, one after another, poets emerge from the byzantine folds of my mind, each offering up words, phrases, ideas that I had long ago tucked away, words recounting time and again the how of love, never the why, and certainly never the what.

And so it occurred to me that perhaps the answer I seek will not be found among philosophers and scientists, but rather among poets. If anyone could offer some insights about Love, surely it would be the very souls whose life works are dominated by that single topic above all others, even war.

Leave it to scientists to monitor the levels of oxytocin and measure the effects of dopamine on the pleasure and reward centers of the brain. Let philosophers try to quantify the ratio of investment, longing, desire and reciprocity required to distinguish the feelings and experiences of love. The volume and variety of descriptions of what we call Love that poets have bequeathed to humankind over the ages inspires the unexpected idea —which has probably already occurred to many before me— that Love is Poetry.

Love, whether a feeling, an experience, or a state of being, means moving through the world more richly… seeing its moments and creatures and things with kinder eyes… knowing suddenly that the world abounds in more beauty than I knew there could be… Love is the Sun, illuminating and warming the overcast chill of an otherwise indifferent world and all its beings, radiating the light and warmth that we feel is ours by right; without reservation, without condition. In the small galaxy that is Fated to Love You, Kim Mi Yeong is just that sun from whom those in her world draw light and warmth that they feel is theirs by right; light and warmth that she radiates without reservation, without demanding recompense.

Caritas, Agape (ἀγάπη)

The Way of Love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love in me, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith so great that I can remove mountains, but do not have love in me, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love in me, I receive no benefit.

Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not arrogant. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. It does not rejoice in injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. ((I Corinthians 13.1-8))

Others may not count this former hunter and persecutor of men a poet, but if ever a person exemplified the transformative power of unconditional Love, it is the Apostle Paul who wrote these lines to his Corinthian brothers in faith. Unconditional Love exists freely and makes no demands of those to whom it is offered; all they need do is accept it. It is not unlikely that even so, those who are so kindly treated may not recognize or acknowledge the gift and so this is Love that must often go unappreciated. Whereas Paul had to undergo a conversion before beginning to move through the world more gently, Fated to Love You offers us a soul whose innate spirit is described in this passage.

MiYeong_17_2The more we observe the tremulously delicate Mi Yeong, it dawns on us, slowly but surely, that her quiet  demeanor is not the mark of weakness we might have imagined it to be when we first met her; this little woman who is kind to everyone — in good fortune and in bad —, who puts herself at everyone’s service, is not in fact the people-pleasing push-over that those who take advantage of her generosity believe her to be. Rather, what drives Mi Yeong is the intuition to protect everybody around her in every way she can, sometimes even from themselves, even when she has to bear the burden of public scorn. Curious, isn’t it, how the same behavior that is ridiculed and exploited when she is just “temporary office worker Kim Mi Yeong” is instead praised and admired when she continues it as the “successful artist Ellie Kim”…

Kim Mi Yeong is unconditionally kind and giving because that is the least she can do to make real the kind of world she wants – a world in which kindness and generosity are consistent and unremarkable. That she can remain genuinely gracious and available even to those who have heaped abuse on her reveals a truly formidable strength and constancy. Those who are close to Mi Yeong know this about her, but they also know that the way of the world is not The Way of Love that Paul describes and so they worry about her. Among these is Daniel, another soul who takes it upon himself to become her brother and guardian against the onslaught of a cruel world.

Eros (ἔρως)

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death. ((Sonnets from the Portuguese “43”, Elizabeth Barrett Browning))

This much I did learn from my brush with the philosophers’ ruminations on Love: while Eros (erotic love) is broadly characterized as sexual desire, it is at its root different from Caritas in that it arises as a response to the merits of the object of desire. In other words, an attraction of some kind must exist. These merits can be beauty, youth, health, resourcefulness — whatever is perceived as attractive to the attracted party. The procreative ‘I wanna make babies with you’ aspect of the Eros impulse also signals that it is teleological, or goal oriented, and helps serve an important biological purpose. Whereas in the experience of Caritas one cannot articulate reasons or goals in loving, with Eros, these are much more clear. Now, there are many a poem that are far more libidinous than this ‘Sonnet from the Portuguese.’ So why quote it under Eros?

MiYeong_0_Daniel_01Well, as it turns out, the most interesting idea my philosopher friends have taught me is that carnal involvement is not indispensable for this kind of love. This means that even without being driven by raw libido, Eros can thrive as long as a purpose, any purpose, is articulated. Eros is an idealistic sort of love which shapes itself in response to the merits of a belovèd whose attributes are set aloft and deemed worthy of adulation. Barrett Browning’s speaker does not enumerate any of her belovèd’s merits, but she does draw attention to the the purity and intensity of the Love she bears, a love that responds to the idealism of Eros, showing itself worthy of the belovèd.

The two best example of this chaste Eros in Fated to Love You are, curiously enough, Geon’s love for Se Ra, a woman he describes as his poetry, his muse; and Daniel’s love for Mi Yeong, a woman for whom he has been a sworn brother, a friend, and a commiserating companion in loss. Both men idealize their respective objects of affection, with Geon being the man who will do whatever Se Ra wants, and Daniel living out his role as brother and protector of his missing sister by shielding and rescuing Mi Yeong from neglect.

FTLY_SeRa_00In Geon’s mind, Se Ra is the picture of perfection framed in a misty cloud of lace and chiffon. What the viewer sees, however, is a somewhat strident, entitled, careless girl whose principal concern is for her own happiness and wellbeing. It is not until he meets and learns Mi Yeong that Geon discovers what it is like to also be loved by a companion simply and completely without condition.

To Daniel, Mi Yeong is a surrogate for the sister he lost in the  innocence of childhood. Besides coincidentally having the same name, Mi Yeong’s petite frame and seemingly fragile demeanor awaken Daniel’s protective instincts and she becomes his cause for justice and absolution. Crude though it may seem to say, Mi Yeong is to Daniel more a child, even a pet, that needs protecting. But he is not altogether blind to her innate virtues and, just as Geon had done with Se Ra, Daniel sublimates his feelings for Mi Yeong into an idealistic dream of prospective matrimonial bliss.

It bears mentioning that 16 episodes (Acts I and II) into its 20-episode run, Fated to Love You has not once shown Geon and Se Ra in an embrace more intimate than that of playful siblings, nor has Daniel ever been sufficiently compelled, or maybe just worked up the courage, to do any more than hold Mi Yeong’s hand and hug her. The story reserves the experience of carnal Eros for Geon and Mi Yeong.

FTLY_JJ_14Accidental though their first coupling is, and difficult though the beginning of their married life, the pair’s relationship evolves over time in a wave of easy friendship, joy, nascent and intensified desire, longing, loss and, finally [hopefully], reconciliation.

Beauty and the Beholder

풀 꽃 – 나태주

자세히 보아야 예쁘다
오래 보아야 사랑스럽다

너도 그렇다  ((“Grass Flower”, Na TaeJu))

Grass Flower by Na TaeJu

We have to look closely to see its loveliness
We have to gaze for a long time to discover that it is lovable

You are just like that.

When Mi Yeong enters Lee Manor as the young master’s new bride, Geon’s first, thoughtless act, born of an overblown misunderstanding, is to demand a divorce while informing her that they will go their separate ways once the baby is born. So when, a little bit later, Mi Yeong hears an apparently much-evolved Geon defend her in public against calumny, her own mother’s words issuing from his lips to show the disapproving crowd how well he has come to cherish his wife, she is by turn moved and confused because their plan to separate after the baby’s birth has not yet changed. In one of the drama’s more exquisite instances of intertextual allusion, Geon’s salve for Mi Yeong’s bruised heart echoes the words of Na TaeJu’s poem prominently featured in Jang Na Ra’s celebrated previous drama School 2013, while on stage the haegeum  player intones a melody whimsically described as “the sound of a young man’s heart thumping over a crush” in Jang Hyeok’s ratings megahit Chuno. Slowly and deliberately, so that the callous mob might understand, Geon elaborates that while it may be true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it behooves the beholder to pay attention lest he fail to recognize it. What Geon sees before him is a girl in whose heart the brightest star hangs over the widest sea; a girl more beautiful than any Bond girl makeover can manufacture. Whether it is recognizing her Beauty what first kindles his love, or whether is it his Love that first opens his eyes to her beauty, not even Socrates could say.


Can Geon know that the tears Mi Yeong sheds — as he strides across the room to whisk her away from the crude mob and then holds her close in a waltz by the river Han under a night sky adorned with fireworks — that those are not just tears of relief and gratitude, but also tears of fear that she might let herself fall into him even with the knowledge that they are destined to part and that his heart already belongs to somebody else?

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul. ((“A Noiseless Patient Spider”, Walt Whitman))

Can Geon know that even against her will, these gentle gestures he sees as mere kindness are like the gossamer threads of Whitman’s spider, cast from Geon’s unknowing core and finding anchor in Mi Yeong’s unwillingly hopeful heart? Binding them ever closer is the unseen but growing fruit of their first amorous encounter. Gaettong-ie, thus outlandishly nicknamed to ward off malevolent predator spirits and ensure good health and strength, begins to live in his mother’s and father’s entwined hearts long before he is due to be born.

Animated by a reciprocal discovery of spiritual kinship, both Geon and Mi Yeong blindly, giddily find themselves walking the tightrope spanning the chasm between one heart and another, their souls gingerly treading its taut expanse, their spirits buoyed by the rarified air they take in and exhale as they teeter between the desire to stay aloft on that thin, firm line, and the temptation to let themselves fall.

Indeed, it is not long before the other sense of Eros awakens in each of our lovers, each in their own way, as they begin to dream about the possibility of a future together:

I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then?
But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?
’Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown,
Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die. ((“The Good-Morrow”, John Donne))

Like a sunflower drawn to the Sun’s journey across the sky, folding in on itself at the onset of dusk and night’s dewey chill, and then openly rejoicing at the return of dawn, eager to gaze upon heaven’s eye again, thus Geon is enthralled by Mi Yeong, instinctively compelled to draw closer, yet rationally completely at sea. Everything about Mi Yeong resounds in his heart and time and again he has to ask her whether she is aware of what is happening to him. But she, too, is only just awakening to their new way of going through the world and neither of them has the eloquence or transparency of poets to help them bridge the chasm they are both so eager to cross.

Storge (στοργή)

“A son-in-law is also a son” ((Chuno, Episode 6; Fated to Love You (MBC), Episode 6))

FTLY_Family_02When we hear these words in Chuno, they bear the  chilling undercurrent of a threat implied by a man who wants to exploit his son-in-law’s sense of duty and filial obligation. But as it has done with its myriad allusions and clichés, Fated to Love You takes the same saying and turns it into a frame for easily the most wistfully moving relationship in the story: that between Mi Yeong’s mother and Lee Geon. Fiercely protective of her daughters, especially the gentle youngest one, Omma does not tolerate anyone who subjects her children to injury or insult, however unintentional or well meant the circumstances. So, naturally, her affection and esteem for Geon is kindled when he marries Mi Yeong immediately in order to take responsibility for the child he inadvertently conceived with her. Geon’s wholehearted involvement with Mi Yeong’s family once he decides to be a good husband to her —whether it is by  exuberantly entertaining Omma and her friends, delivering Mi Ja’s baby safely, or helping open and run the family restaurant— shows filial devotion well worthy of the privilege Mi Yeong’s mother accords him to call her “Omma.”

But three years after the rupture of his marriage, Mi Yeong’s family still remembers the pain she suffered during her brief union with Lee Geon, and that memory makes him decidedly unwelcome among them. Nevertheless, Geon continues to visit Omma regularly, albeit under the guise of being just another customer hankering for her unique Yeoul Island anchovy lettuce wraps. And Omma fascilitates the ruse, making sure to send her customers and the rest of her family away early on the nights that she knows Geonnie is coming for dinner; preparing enough of his favorite dishes from scratch; fretting over where he might be if he is late in appearing at the anticipated hour…


Omma plays along with the Geon’s ruse, noisily chiding him for showing up long after dinner time and keeping her working late; for his puerile demands for food; for his slovenly eating; all the while personally seasoning each spoonful of plain rice with the choicest bites of side dishes to ensure that he eats well and enjoys himself…

At first glance, it may seem as if Geon just goes to see Omma during the three years of Mi Yeong’s absence because of his unabated love and contrition for the wife he so coldly and wrongly sent away. But the longer we gaze upon this affectionately quarrelsome pair, the more clearly we see an example of familial love (Storge) that is truly beautiful to behold. Because even without the biological or formal ties that define family, Mi Yeong’s mother continues to be Lee Geon’s “Omma” and Lee Geon continues to be Omma’s “Adeul.” They may not be able to call each other as much — the divorce ensured that — but the ties that bind them as mother and son are as robust as they ever were (if not even more so) when these two first accepted each other as family.

Le_Soupir_Gaettong_01It is quite amusing to witness Geon and Omma’s reaction when Mi Yeong arrives to find them together like this; ever the protector of hearts, she reproachfully watches them as they  dart about sheepishly — like children caught trying to sneak candy. Mi Yeong can be forgiven for, at first, seeing only the potential danger Geon’s continued visits pose to her mother. She believes, as both Geon and Se Ra’s fictions led her to, that he simply threw her away and abandoned Gaettong-ie in order to return to his ‘true love’, and no one has yet to correct this misunderstanding. Because she knows how much the bonds of family mean to her mother, and because she knows Omma once embraced Geon as “Adeul”, Mi Yeong fears that he could, without reason or compunction, cause Omma the kind of heartache he caused her.

Mi Yeong and Geon are both tormented by the pain and guilt of losing their child and are haunted by the memory of a dream of the life that might have been, of the family they might have been. Perhaps it is because the wound is still too raw that they both remain defensive against each other, feinting and parrying whenever they meet, careful not to touch the pain directly, their barricades fortified and seemingly insurmountable.

But as it so happens, Act II of Fated to Love You closes with Mi Yeong catching Geon in the act of breaching the walls of her inner sanctum to see that bright painting encoding a mystery that only Geon knows how to decipher of her dream of love —of him— openly displayed in her private studio; catching him in the act of surreptitiously restoring the visual poetry of all her longing for a bygone happiness by returning the painting of their Gaettong-ie that might have been to the mother who lost him; discovering that he is the friend behind the veil of text messages who, though disguised, wished her well and offered love without condition, a friend who must now step into the light and be seen. When the final Act of Fated to Love You begins in Episode 17, will this mystery revealed, this poetry restored, and this light shined be able to lead Kim Mi Yeong and Lee Geon back to each other?

For before they were torn asunder by fear and misunderstanding, Lee Geon and Kim Mi Yeong had begun to discover in each other that which we so ardently wish for [them]: a true communion of souls through the mystery and poetry and light that, for lack of a better understanding, we like to call…


Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved. ((“Sonnet 116”, William Shakespeare))


NB: This is part 2 of a three-part series on the Korean romantic comedy drama 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You). It was written and published immediately after the live broadcast of Episode 16 of the show and draws on its developments only up to episode 16.

The first installment in the series, Pragmatic Altruism vs. Noble Idiocy in 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You), draws upon the story’s development only up to Episode 12.

The third and final installment in the Fated to Love You series, The Perfection of 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) draws upon the drama in its entirety, from Episode 1-20.

I welcome your comments in the section below. You can also follow me on Twitter @CurioSerandC !

This entry was posted in (정용준) Jang Hyeok (장혁), ethics, KDrama, literature, Poetry, query and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to Love in 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You)

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  6. Nemah says:

    Dear Curio Serand aka curioser and curiosor in db

    This is just awesome. It verbalizes what I feel about Fated to Love You, but that feeling is so much more enriched by your essay, and further elaborated on by the various viewpoints you present, especially those of the poets (who I also love).
    Not as articulate as you, it is a bit difficult to find words to describe your essay, Mellifluous comes to mind, but that’s kind of lame to encapsulate the work. So I’ll just say it’s daebak!
    Thank you so much. We FTLY viewers are really blessed to have you in our midst.


    ps. I wish I could post this on db in answer to your post but somehow there is a glitch lately for my posts are uploaded but I do not see them on the screen. When I repost, the site says it is a duplicate post. I hope you can get this feedback from here.

  7. mywebfoot (@mywebfoot) says:

    Curiouser and Curiosor – I can just barely imagine the labor of love this essay must have been. (horrible pun, yes). Thank you, thank you, for elucidating all the ways in which this little drama has won me over. I never expected to love it!

    • Curio Serand says:

      I love the pun – very à propos! I never expected to love this show either. Perhaps another apt metaphor would be “Love is an accident” – you don’t see it coming and it leaves you reeling. The fallout is another story…

  8. nonski says:

    thank you so much for this post!
    i had not read something so beautiful in a long time.
    you wrote what fated to love you lovers have in their hearts
    and more but you did it with such flare and poetry
    i really love it
    may you write something more once the drama is done
    to cap this beautiful essay.

    • Curio Serand says:

      Dear nonski,

      This drama is so wonderful and inspired so much feeling that trying to find the words to convey the experience is both difficult and exhilarating – and really exciting.

      I look forward to the last four episodes and whatever they may bring with them and whatever they may inspire.


  9. ac says:

    Brilliant! Thank you! I can not imagine how many years of work and how many sleepless nights you have poured into this single blog post. I loved that you have attempted to define it courageously. Love is the sun. Love is poetry. That explains why we all delurk to write, to try to explain the intoxicating experience that is called “Fated to Love You”.

    But I think it is also your writing, it has a weird effect on me, it compels me to write and I could not stop.

    Is it okay if I express how I feel about the drama here?

    Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. But isn’t it strange that an ordinary popular culture product can trigger so many smart, heartfelt comments, deep discussions and wonderful posts such as yours? I find it amazing that this drama can be enjoyed on so many different levels: Every moment, every expression, every gesture, the raw, basic emotions displayed by our quirky characters and their simple story of finding love, the writers’ play with the famous drama troupes and cliches, the direction that knows how to be quiet most of the time, but can scream when it is needed, the masterful performances by the leads, the references to their previous works, and the whole self-referencing going on in the second half of the drama.

    But there is yet another level. Probably without intention, accidentally, the drama achieved something almost impossible. It is like a miracle, but it made most of us realize something meta: What the audience, the viewers feel towards this drama is a reflection of how characters feel towards each other. This kind of reflection, this mirroring effect often happens while watching other dramas too, but it is the first time that I become so conscious of my feelings towards a show and the strange synchronicity of it with the feelings of the main characters.

    Starting from the first few episodes, despite the ridiculous circumstances and plot, we recognized the genuineness and sincerity of the drama. We were angry at the show, when Gun was angry at Mi Young after their sudden marriage. We experienced the elation that came with the unexpected love, the euphoria, then the fear that perhaps we are expecting too much from the drama, we will not be able to let it go when it has to end. We deeply worried about the illness story line. Even the conflicting opinions on the painful breakup mirror the differing views of the characters during that episode. Some of us thought despite how painful it is, it needed to be done, while others had a hard time accepting it, telling “You do not have to be so cruel.” just like Mi Young. The next episode, just like the characters, we were almost meeting again with the show after three years, trying to understand if the change is just on the surface, or if the drama really became something else. We were still loving it deeply, but could not understand what the drama was trying to do, what its intention was. After watching the last episode, I feel more like Mi Young, confused, frustrated, a little bit betrayed. But I am hopeful for the rest of the episodes, now I want to be surprised by the drama, I want to heal my wounds, fall in love and experience that euphoria one more time. But even if the most precious, the happiest moments of the show have long past, it is okay. The characters, Lee Gun and Kim Mi Young, and their love will exist, just as my love for Fated to Love You.

    Hope my words make sense. Thank you so much for bearing with me!

    • Curio Serand says:

      Is it okay if I express how I feel about the drama here?

      Oh, yes! It is wonderful to hear about your experience. This is what I love about this medium: as longs as you can keep scrolling down, there will always be space to express yourself. Thank you for sharing so generously!

      Like you, I am quite perplexed about how the team that brought us this show is managing to pull it off. On paper, there are so many elements that should spell its doom and yet…

      The best way I can make sense of it is this: if we think of the different drama and rom-com clichés as different paint colors, then most decent shows that use them tend to use them to produce cartoon like drawings which we are happy to go along with.

      The Fated to Love You team, however, have take the very same paint colors and produced a Da Vinci painting leaving us all enthralled. As Nemah said, its daebak!

    • Curio Serand says:

      Hi AC, I was just reading your comment again and marveling at how beautifully you convey you insight about the empathy-evoking effect of the drama. Just nodding my head with a little tear streaming down one cheek going “yes, yes, that’s exactly it.”

      I truly am glad that you left this wonderful note and I believe others will be, too! 🙂

  10. @klondile says:

    Thank you so much, Curio Serand, for the invitation and sharing of a beautiful written piece! I finally got a chance to finish reading it. I wish I could verbalize and articulate my love for FTYL as well as you do. For the first time life I’m proud to say I’m addicted to something I watched! Never happened before. I stumbled upon it by accident and by episode 2 I fell in love with Gunnie and Mi Young. They embedded within my heart since then. I feel their love, happiness, pain and longings and my heart is unsettled until they are happy and together again. Credit to both Jang Hyuk and Jang Nara! Their interpretation and improvisation of Gunnie and Mi Young make the characters so endearing. They are so convincing that you can feel the love oozes from both of them. I cannot envision anyone else play the role of Gunnie and MY. Jang Hyuk is Lee Gun and Jang Nara is Mi Young.

    Once again, thanks so much!!!

    • Curio Serand says:

      I am so happy to know that you enjoyed it.

      Seriously, Jang and Jang are truly incredible in this. Before watching ep. 17 I was carrying on about the merits of the Korean version over the Taiwanese version — a topic that could take up several terabytes of data storage] — but the truth is, Jang Hyeok and Jang Nara are like twin suns around which this incredible solar system that is FTLY revolves and makes us all wonder.

      I am so in love with these two I either have no words or I could go on rambling forever…

      Anyway, I’m reposting the remarks about the T v. K version comparison below for reference…

  11. bashful says:

    Hi Curio serand! 🙂

    Thank you very much for this beautiful essay about our current favorite Korean drama.
    While reviews or opinions about K-dramas abound with enumerations of cliches and tropes, complaints about a slow plot development, lack of character development, or too much angst, you’ve generously taken time to describe and highlight the real crux of “Fated to Love You”, and that is LOVE. Thank you.

    Wow, such lovely poems! Thank you for incorporating them because they further illustrate the genius of “Fated to Love You” in portraying LOVE. Thank you also for including a clip of 1 of my favorite scenes. Wasn’t LG just adorkable after the cutie KMY shyly kissed him in the cheek?

    And how about that beautiful poem “Grass Flower by Na TaeJu”? Thank you for sharing it. Indeed, it perfectly echoes LG’s description/introduction of MY to those stuck-up guests in the charity event scene. In that scene, I thought LG has officially confessed his love for KMY. Then, there’s that subsequent scene with the fireworks and Princess Diaries’ background music which was even more romantic. How can anyone not fall in love after watching that scene?

    Lastly, I’d like to share the following lyrics of a favorite Barbara Streisand song. I find its meaning also relevant to what LG and KMY are going through in the recent episodes:

    What Matters Most – by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman

    It’s not how long we held each other’s hand
    What matters is how well we loved each other
    It’s not how far we traveled on our way
    But what we found to say
    It’s not the springs we’ve seen, but all the shades of green
    It’s not how long I held you in my arms
    What matters is how sweet the years together
    It’s not how many summer times we had to give to fall
    The early morning smiles we wistfully recall
    What matters most is that we loved at all.
    It’s not how many summer times we had to give to fall
    The laughter and the tears we gratefully recall
    What matters most is that we loved at all.

    Oh, I look forward to the remaining episodes and re-watching all of them after it’s all done!
    Snail couple, Fighting! 🙂

    • Curio Serand says:

      What beautiful song! Thank you for sharing. I went on Youtube and found a recording to listen to. Ah, Barbra!

      I just watched ep. 17 and really, the prospect of Geon being ill and Mi Yeong staying with him resonates so beautifully with this song. Thank you!

      I really don’t know whether I was always such a marshmallow or whether it is this show that has somehow made me so soft-hearted, but it seems like these days I am susceptible to just about anything. Any dried up oceans need refilling? I’m there with a ready supply of briny tears…

      And now, for Barbra!

      • bashful says:

        You’re welcome! Glad to have shared it. 🙂 I too finished watching episode 17 and just realized how the message of this song totally fits the revelations of episode 17. Praises again for the writers of FTLY. They keep delivering memorable and heartwarming scenes and dialogue lines between LG and MY. They’re awesome!

        Thanks Curio again for your beautiful and informative essay on FTLY. May the last 3 episodes bring us more beautiful expressions of love and joy.

  12. Curio Serand says:

    I really love that the Korean storytellers made this a grown-up story full of subtlety and complexity. There was so much narrative silliness and nonsense in the TW version which just made it a superficial story about the impulses and desires of really shallow characters who just went through the motions to get a reaction out of viewers.

    I’m also very glad that the storytellers in this version have taken their time to take us through the pain these two are experiencing. I know that some viewers have been complaining (although I don’t know how serious they are) that it has been too slow since ep 13, since Geon and Mi Yeong’s separation and they have been clamoring for hugs and kisses and impromptu smooches and skinship – anything! I have not really understood the urgency in those cries and part of me wants to believe they were just being overly effusiveness just ’cause… Or maybe the problem is with me; all heady feeling and abstraction and little else [I actually find all the carnality on American TV rather shallow and boring]…

    Anyway, I think it is brilliant that the story is making our hearts hurt along with Geon’s and Mi Yeong’s. If the depth and magnitude of their pain echoes the the depth and magnitude of all that love they did not even know how to express verbally when they were together, imagine just how incandescent their joy will be when they find their way back to each other.

    Anyway, we know that they will find their way back to each other, and because this is a comedy, we also know that all we have to do is wait for them to find their way back to each other and ep. 17 went a long way to giving us a bend in the road. But Geon and Mi Yeong DON’T know this! Isn’t that the cruel joke of life: we live in comedies (or maybe farces) that, at their bleakest moments, feel like tragedies and we cannot see our way out of the Valley of Shadows.

    Because Geon and Mi Yeong cannot see the end, their pain seems endless to them. The genius about this show, and especially the post-separation episodes, is that it manages to MAKE us FEEL that seemingly endless pain right along with Geon and Mi Yeong even though we know it will end. And then today, with ep.17 (and 18 hard on its heels) they also make us feel the warmth of that glimmer of light that is hope, just a beat and a breath ahead of our fated couple. Just genius!

    • Curio Serand says:

      And this: reposted from “Stuck on Hyuk”
      This discussion is quite wonderful! All of it – quite wonderful! You both shed light on one Geon’s best qualities which has also become his Achilles heel; his sense of responsibility.

      Do you remember how in the first Lee family elders’ meeting, Chairman Wang tried to reassure them all by describing how “without his sense of responsibility… he is just a shell of a man.”? That declaration by the grandmother who raised him stayed with me (how could it not, after that shampoo CF performance art intro!?), and I remembered it every time Geon made a decision taking responsibility: looking after Mi Yeong in Macau; keeping the baby; marrying Mi Yeong; becoming a good husband and telling Se Ra the truth… The list goes on. He was always in the position of the decision maker, the responsibility taker, the guardian and protector – a position he most likely assumed at a very young age for his mother’s sake.

      And the poor guy saw his mother in Mi Yeong and his heart was crushed just contemplating his wife’s broken, post-collision body, let alone her broken heart from the loss of Gaettongie and, gods forbid, a broken spirit from seeing, caring for, despairing over HIS broken body and mind.

      This story has made Geon’s panic and despair so real for me that all I could do was commiserate.
      But what you say here is exactly right:

      what’s left is for Geon to realize that him making decisions on MY’s behalf has done more harm than he knows, and to acknowledge that Mi Young has a say in all this. He’s been a monumental fool, but I’m very ready to cut him some slack.

      What’s left for Geon is to realize that the wife he loves so dearly IS his companion and his partner in taking responsibility and being trustworthy; that he no longer has to do it all by himself on everybody else’s behalf; that this strange woman really IS a diamond: beautiful, yes, with the brightest star hanging over the wide, sparkling sea of her heart; and also strong beyond reckoning.

      I am glad for the impending stand-off between them. An alpha – albeit a kindly one like Geon – still has to stand up to a challenge before it can recognize, acknowledge, and accept the challenger’s greater strength enough to authorize it and rely upon it. But all’s well because we all know that Mi Yeong can outrun him!

      So let the game of wills begin!

  13. Curio Serand says:

    Response to [HanCinema’s Drama Review] “Fated to Love You” Episode 20 (final):
    As much as I appreciate the reviewer’s efforts, this write-up –about a delightfully well thought out drama– utterly ignores the substance of the work as a whole and instead fixates on the most superficial element, PLOT; this review puts too much focus on *what* happened but not on how the story is concluded and why the storytellers elected the contemplative, reflective pace that they did.

    Does it do review readers any service to catalogue a series of “should haves” and “could haves” — especially without exploring why and how the finale actually makes sense and works beautifully within the context of this entire production?

    When assessed by its own internal logic –i.e. those rules that the story writes for itself when it first introduces itself– then “Fated to Love You” is an exquisite, even flawless, comedy. It remains true to its own self-defined criteria and standards of storytelling, all the while taking on and subverting tired rom-com and drama clichés, and then reinvesting them with new, unexpected, yet intuitively resonant meaning.

    Audiences benefit greatly when they have the chance to discover this kind of substance in storytelling rather than when the hackneyed litanies about plot and pace are trotted out in “reviews” that show no evidence of actually having paid any attention to the substance of the work in question.

    It is precisely because “Fated to Love You” dares to candidly raise such difficult issues as how people experience and address the very real fear of mortality and suffering when circumstances force them to deal with those fears head on that the finale took the time to hear them talk through the choices they had made.

    It is precisely because the series was thoughtful and maintained an open forum on the subject without preaching solutions and facile resolutions that it felt and was so easy-going.

    Precisely because the characters who most directly had to confront these central problems also had to find compromises and formulate coping mechanisms that worked for them, the final episode of “Fated to Love You” had to be contemplative and reflective. There was in fact enough *material* for “Fated to Love You” to mull over for another three or for episode but it had the wisdom to economize by using the honeymoon on Jeju Island and the final picnic and fairytale scene to unpack some of it and offer a neat and hopeful conclusion rooted in the story’s internal narrative from the very beginning.

    The finale had to be an episode that gave the story a chance to show that, ‘Yes, the sun continues to rise and set and life goes on no matter how daunting tomorrow might sometimes seem. We may not find easy solutions, but we can manage our fears and choose to live the lives we do have with courage.’ The finale also took the time to show that because it IS boundless, life will also even nurture the absurd, the ridiculous, and the maudlin, and it will always offer the chance for redemption to whomever wishes it.

    I invite you to consider these articles on “Fated to Love You” written at the end of episode 12 and episode 16, respectively. A third piece is due for publication shortly:

    1) “Pragmatic Altruism vs. Noble Idiocy in 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You)”

    2) “Love in 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You)”

    • Curio Serand says:

      More notes in response to [HanCinema’s Drama Review] “Fated to Love You” Episode 20 (final) discussion:
      Allow me to clarify that I call this comedy “flawless” in terms of its internal narratological consistency. The context for my remarks is:

      “When assessed by its own internal logic –i.e. those rules that the story writes for itself when it first introduces itself– then “Fated to Love You” is an exquisite, even flawless, comedy.”

      I agree that drugging the couple in Macau on both occasions is ethically opprobrious and in fact criminal, and the drama also makes that point very loudly and very clearly through both Mi Yeong and Geon’s outraged reaction and response to Tak and Yong.

      I disagree with you that we are *supposed to laugh* at what you rightly identify as third party rape (remember that both Lee Geon and Mi Yeong are incapacitated and denied their free will by a third party). My instinctive reaction on both Macau incidents was to cringe and I have no reason to believe that I was *supposed* to laugh. If anything, I would say that I was, in fact, supposed to CRINGE.

      In terms of the internal logic of the series, “Macau Revival” is entirely consistent and serves the story’s conclusion quite effectively. As a viewer, witnessing a third party so egregiously interfere with the Snail couple’s Free Will when Lee Geon and Kim Mi Yeong have come so far in developing their ability to balance handling what [they believe] others demand of them and what they need and want for themselves — well, witnessing this kind of interference provokes my outrage and further strengthens my desire, yea need, to protect them against the meddlesome hand of outsiders.

      “Macau Revival” counts among the more disquieting of the comedy’s garish elements that I alluded to in the article on Love in “Fated to Love You,” and its very ugliness underscores how vitally important it is for third parties to stop “helping” the Snail couple. They may have needed the intervention of others to make their relationship work earlier on (e.g. Omma insisting that they marry right away, Daniel shaming Geon into behaving like a good husband, Chairman Wang sending them to prenatal parenting classes, the Lee Family Elders praising Mi Yeong’s virtues etc.). They may have needed help in reuniting (‘Lee Young Ja’ allowing Geon to talk to and support Mi Yeong anonymously, Tak and Yong proposing a collaboration with Ellie Kim, Little Dragon tricking the couple into meeting, Lawyer Kim ‘accidentally’ dropping legally confidential voice recording into Mi Yeong’s bag etc.).

      Once Mi Yeong and Geon are reunited honestly and openly and are facing each other with the courage and confidence of a healthy couple, they no longer need the *help* of others and the shameful “Macau Revival” incident is resounding proof of that – not just for them, but for the audience as well.

      As for the siblings, I found their story was handled quite deftly and economically for what it was, with enough of an opening left in it to allow for the possibility of its further development outside the scope of the viewer’s vision and well after the story’s credits had rolled.

      With that, I hope I have cleared up any misunderstanding about what I said when I called “Fated to Love You” flawless in its internal logic.

      • tasha says:

        Hi Curio Serand, im reading again your comments and Han Cinema review. For me FTLY resonates well w everyone bcos as JH said this is new family genre w comedy. How true. The fact that the messages are subtle and seemingly not threaded may have caused some confusion and mixed reaction to the delivery of this drama. The scriptwriters and director did a wonderful job of this. What you have said abt LG sense of responsibility is so true, and becos of this strong sense, it numbed him into thinking that his harsh act of pushing her away was best for her. Even the conversation he has w Gaetongi before he returns the painting to MY again shows us the sense of responsibility. What is so subtle and which you have pointed out (which i missed, thanks for pointing it) is that MY can outrun LG – wasnt this shown in episode 1? That MY in her seeming meekness, her constant thank you, im sorry, is actually a strength as hard as a diamond/gemstone. As i continue to re watch, there are so many life lessons to be learned from FTLY, and im v sure it will continue to delight many viewers. Thank you for your insights and for sharing them.

        • Curio Serand says:

          You know, I found all the conversations Geon had with Geattongie so achingly sweet I could not keep myself from crying. The idea that a person could have such a tender and constant heart, especially for a soul that was never born — is so very beautiful and so very heart-wrenching!

          And yet, despite the fact that he was never born, the character of Gaettongie was never a sad, tragic one! In fact, I remember being somewhat delighted when I saw Ellie Kim’s painting when Geon discovered it and I recognized Gaettongie as a cheeky, happy soul who just laughed with delight at everything. And I saw that because that’s how his mother saw him…

          Oh my heavens, I could go on… But I think I might just surrender to silence now and rewatch the whole thing… again! 🙂

    • chinee chua says:

      Thank you Curio Serand for tackling and providing your personal views with regards to the finale episode. I liked the part you mentioned about others so critical about plot and pacing and most specifically about the ending. You explained them very how I wanted them to be articulated. Thank goodness there’s someone like you who’s keen to recognize, appreciate and express the beauty and essence of this drama in behalf of someone like me who does not have the wit to do so. Komawo yo.

  14. chinee chua says:

    Thank you Curio Serand for sharing this beautiful love letter about FATED TO LOVE YOU. I am not really into poetry but you moved my heart with your wonderful way of expressing your love for this drama.

    • Curio Serand says:

      Thank you for your note, Chinee. Dare I say that the drama moved me so deeply – with both laughter and tears – that I had to resort to poetry because I could not really find the words…

      I ordered the Director’s Cut DVD along with the script and I imagine that I will be delving into this particular drama for a long time to come.


  15. tasha says:

    Hi Curio Serand, thank you for your notes.
    I agree with your thoughts, i think this is why I’m so moved by this drama and continously go back to re watch some episodes. Also i have noticed that the re watch shows up some well executed eye and facial emotions of both the Jangs. I think if someone else had played LG, the delivery would have been so different. Jang Hyuk did a fantastic job of delivering LG as OTT, committed in his work as CEO, tender, loving, protective and somewhat self righteous character.
    Jang Nara is fabulous too, this is the 1st time I’m watching her and she has mesmerized me…her delivery of drinking the coffee to “settle” her nerves and her emotions were so well executed in episode 11 (when LG got out of hospital and asked her about her pregnancy, etc). Subtle, but well delivered emotions.
    There a lot of people who didn’t like the way Jang Hyuk played LG, and were pretty abusive in their comments – in fact when i watched shampoo scene, i was quite taken aback – this is not your typical Jaebol head. Then i watched more, and more and boy was i addicted after that.
    I love Oemoni – esp during the warm up scene, it was so funny. I think this is the only elder scene that is played like that – for sure the character who played Oemoni has been around for so long, you see her in so many dramas, but the fact that she also decided to spice it up a notch by being comical goes to show the teamwork and spirit on the set of FTLY.
    Sec Tak is so enduring and frustrating and comical, my only grouse is him in the dancing scene. To me, that filler was not required. I sincerely hope FTLY will win many awards.
    Also Curio Serand, love your writings, am going to read some of your reviews on other dramas to watch whilst waiting for the next Jang Hyuk production. Because after FTLY, all the other dramas pale in comparison. Keep up the great work.

    • Curio Serand says:

      I thank you sincerely for your visit, Tasha, and for sharing your experience! I agree whole-heartedly that Jang Na Ra is absolutely fabulous. I know that Jang Hyeok has been saying in interviews that he would not have been able to create Lee Geon as the outlandish yet lovable character that he was, for better or for worse, without Jang Na Ra. And I believe him!

      Jang Na Ra’s Mi Yeong was like the constant, stable harmonic line to Geon’s often erratic and cluelessly wild improvised tune. They went perfectly together and I really hope they make another meaningful drama together, whatever the genre!

      Ah jjang!

  16. jhusili says:

    Dear Curio,

    Your words are a testament to Fated the way Fated itself is a testament to love.

    I enjoyed reading this beyond anything else I’ve read about Fated. In the euphoria and urgency with which I lapped up the entire show, I don’t know whether I actually gave myself a chance to savour all the little details, or get hold of the big picture. I went about it a very instant-noodley way. And here you are, seated in poise, masticating in relaxation and quiet contemplation. I’m grateful you took the slow path, and were able to offer us this.

    A lot of what you say sounds so familiar. It’s something I’d begun making vague sense of already, despite the rush. But I could still hear only murmurs. Like my own mind was just a closed room full of people and I standing outside it, listening in on the conversation. To borrow Frost’s metaphor for poetry, I was able to recognise the rhythms, but who knows what the words meant anyway.

    And coming here, I feel like you opened that door for me. This has been such a refreshing read, like a broom clearing the floor of my dust coated mind. I love that you are able to make so much meaning, relate to and translate so much of the show’s beauty in your own words. You are a maestro with words. And while your ability to craft words is commendable, what good would it do if not for your soul that it clothed. So much feeling, affection, gratitude for the show and all the people involved. Wish there were more people like you out there.

    Why am I here? Why did I start watching Fated? Why are we all here, still? How was it able to create little tornadoes inside our hearts? I feel like it has a lot to do with the loneliness we’ve amassed over a lifetime, that we carry with us, everywhere we go. For me, Fated became the kind of love story that went beyond mere audience gratification. It seemed like everyone who took part in its making had contributed their own lived love experiences – meaningful and life-altering – to construct a beautiful story of what happens when a man and woman fall in love. There is something utterly pure about the way Gun and Mi-young love each other. They started their relationship after a chance meeting/mishap, and were always respectful towards one another. They also took it in their stride to be kind, helpful, the best version of themselves towards one another. Something about this distanced kindness eased so effortlessly into intimate love. Even the physical attraction began to set in long after the love itself had been firmly established. There was something so idealistic, so pure, and at once so natural about this.

    It’s old school in a way, because it’s perhaps the way my own parents and grandparents must have fallen in love. And therein I began feeling nostalgia for a show even as it was unfolding. The purity, yes. It became all that much more precious because that purity in love is also something that at least I have been hankering for all my life. I have no concrete evidence for this, but I feel the reason why it was able to touch me (and others too, clearly), is because it came out of a very genuine attempt at storytelling, a sincere tribute to the love they’ve all known to be true, real. And a kind of love that is our collective aspiration, at least.

    You know, Curio, the conversation I had with you last week where we discussed the story’s pitfalls, and I was the one to point out what I didn’t like about it. I’ve been carrying it and contemplating some of the things you said back then all this while. You said something along the lines of how you like to appreciate the story for how the storyteller has chosen to tell it. Although I may still continue to see holes in the story, even reserve my right to do so (although not for a second would I contest that the story wavered in terms of delivering consistency in the love the two characters felt for each other), what you said became all the more significant when I started to look at it not just in the context of my experiences with Fated, but with life as a whole. And then it struck me, the control freak that I am, how much of a habit it is to point out the wrongs in all things, to express my desire to change it. To play god with other people’s work and feel satisfied thus. What you said that day seeped into me slowly, and became a warm and revelatory statement which I now embrace. I wonder what kind of a person you are, have been all your life, that you are able to ease into something and appreciate it for what it is. That’s your lifelong habit, and I still have a long way to go. But I’m glad you’re around to serve as a reminder.

    And while we found a gem of a love story in Fated, I feel so much that we also found each other. While we can be called a bunch of crazy fangirls, I think Fated was able to hit a very similar spot in us. Fill up some of that empty space inside, momentarily at least. I feel instantly connected to so many of you because of this.

    I feel like there’s a lot more I want to say, a lot more I want to share, but I’m at a loss of words. I’ll be back for more, though. Looking forward to continuing our conversation. Keep writing.

    Much love,

    • Curio Serand says:

      Once again, thank you, jhu. For me, reading new comments is always like unwrapping a mystery gift – you don’t know what’s inside and it doesn’t even matter whether or not you like it; it does not matter whether the person responding to what I wrote agrees or disagrees with me. What matters is that the gift was offered with sincerity. When you can sense that —that someone is giving of themselves, sharing or themselves— then you yourself can disappear into them and become, I think, only gratitude.

      So that is what I am right now – only gratitude in the face of your generous sincerity in sharing of yourself, something which can’t be all that casual for a self-professed ‘control freak.’ 🙂 Thank you.

      I want to take the liberty of reading this again and thinking about the many, many beautiful things you have said, so I will very likely post yet another response later. For now I will just stop with thank you and assure you that yes — you (and really, all) are welcome to write as much as you like here. The medium does not really pose any limits and I am not policing lengths. Whether it is a sentence or an essay, I really do enjoy discovering other people’s experiences.

      Thank you.

      • jhusili says:

        Thank you C! Would love to read your ‘another response’ soon, to which I would gladly re-respond. But am looking even more forward to your next post! Goodluck and fighting!

        Meanwhile, will continue to wade around the dark, alluring shores of the Sea of Drama.

    • Curio Serand says:

      Hey jhu, as promised (so many moons ago), I am finally back to respond in the way I wanted to when I first read your post. Let me explain first why I could not write it up immediately then just so you have some context for the delay:

      I love thinking — logically analyzing the relationships between and among elements in a system, the components of a problem, the architecture of structures be they virtual or concrete — you name it. If there is some way of quantifying, describing or rationally expressing something, I will often find myself drawn to peek through its parts and layers if it captures my attention. If I had to give a reason for this predilection, I would say that I am curious about why that thing, that idea has captured my attention. In cases where something like that inspires new ideas or evokes unexpected feelings in me, I want to get a better sense of how it does that, which sometimes offers some insight into my favorite childhood query, “why.”

      It’s a dorky habit and I think I have learned well to govern my impulse to automatically analyze everything and, when I do end up doing it, to contextualize the activity concisely enough that the dorkiness does not interfere with others appreciating the fruits of that exercise [well, I like to tell myself I have 🙂 ]

      No doubt it is already quite obvious to you that I not only enjoy thinking through things, I also draw a great sense of assurance from the very activity, whatever the outcome. My intuitive, even instinctive reaction in the face of something new, unknown or perplexing is to set about the business of thinking it through. It is a way of going through the world that keeps me fairly content and engaged even in difficult circumstances.

      Anyway, the reason I’m explaining all this is to expose the one experience that confounds me despite this practice: feelings. Intense emotion which cannot be quantified, which generally defies description and escapes rational expression always leaves me at a loss, not just for words, but for thoughts. I won’t exaggerate and say I lose the ability to think; I just find it extremely difficult to formulate thoughts which I can then express rationally through language when I am saturated with intense emotion. So I just let myself laugh unintelligibly through mirth; I let myself weep through joy or hyperventilate through revelation; grief puts me in a separate dimension so I have been known to just stay there a while before trying to find my way back to this dimension. There is nothing unusual about these experiences nor about the way I ‘express’ them; I have just grown increasingly aware that they are not like the modes of expression I reserve for sharing rational thoughts. I know everyone experiences this and I don’t mind acknowledging the distinction my mind and soul make between thoughts and feelings and the effort they both have to make to reconcile the two.

      So when I read passages like this one here below, the imagery of the experience you describe is so wildly evocative that I rather find myself gasping:

      A lot of [this] sounds so familiar […] But I could still hear only murmurs. Like my own mind was just a closed room full of people and I standing outside it, listening in on the conversation. […] I was able to recognise the rhythms, but who knows what the words meant anyway.

      The duration of time necessary to thoroughly enjoy that moment is not predetermined, nor, as I can attest from the multiple times I’ve read this, does the evocative spark of the image diminish. I once had a rather dull teacher of epic poetry who used to end every reading assignment with the admonition that we “luxuriate” in the eloquence of Vergil’s rhetorical figures and not just skim over the plot… Well, dull though he may have been, that teacher clearly left an impression so that even as I try to describe my irrational delight over the passage above, the phrase “luxuriating in the imagery” just won’t be suppressed! [Ugh!]

      And this:

      Why are we all here, still? How was [this story] able to create little tornadoes inside our hearts? I feel like it has a lot to do with the loneliness we’ve amassed over a lifetime, that we carry with us, everywhere we go. For me, Fated became the kind of love story that went beyond mere audience gratification. It seemed like everyone who took part in its making had contributed their own lived love experiences – meaningful and life-altering – to construct a beautiful story of what happens when a man and woman fall in love.

      It is far easier to just quote the passage with a nodding smile than to try and verbalize the nodding smile… Beside, “YES!” how else might I convey the beams of recognition radiating through me when I read that?

      And I find it quite unusual to encounter an expression that is at once eloquent and naked of how a story like this resonates with the viewer:

      I began feeling nostalgia for a show even as it was unfolding. The purity, yes. It became all that much more precious because that purity in love is also something that at least I have been hankering for all my life. I have no concrete evidence for this, but I feel the reason why it was able to touch me (and others too, clearly), is because it came out of a very genuine attempt at storytelling, a sincere tribute to the love they’ve all known to be true, real. And a kind of love that is our collective aspiration, at least.

      I think that in response to another one of your posts, I mention believing that by speaking openly, transparently, nakedly of the heart’s deepest longings, poetry affords us the luxury of playing the quietly dignified, indifferent selves that we imagine to be more appealing because we can mask just how deeply needful we are… When I read this passage, it makes my heart hurt a little because it underscores just how persistently people are forced — explicitly and implicitly — to remain ‘stoic’ or ‘act tough’ and dismiss or diminish that in us which is delicate, tender and needful; that part that recognizes and acknowledges what is delicate, tender and needful in our fellow human beings and is willing to respond to and attend to it.

      Is it a wonder that we construct unrealistic fantasies about ideal love that conform to the sterile standards of ‘service’ in which tenderness, delicacy and need have no place? How have we come to reduce Love to merely the utilitarian, transactional parameters of ‘Eros’ which is defined by ‘purpose’? I think of Lee Geon’s shame upon discovering that his tender, delicate heart needs Mi Yeong; a shame engendered by his belief that he has no right to address that need because, being ill, he does not meet the fantasy of perfection a partner ‘should’ meet and cannot therefore serve any good ‘purpose’! I think back on out recent exchange about vulnerability which reminded me of how we are conditioned to be ashamed of vulnerability because we are also conditioned by convention to equate it with weakness…

      You said [that] you like to appreciate the story for how the storyteller has chosen to tell it. [This] became all the more significant when I started to [consider] it not just in the context of my experiences with Fated, but with life as a whole.

      I think I most enjoy long, broad thoughts that have a life of their own and claim their right to come and go as they please and I simply love watching you weave the threads of conversations from another time and another place into this one. Here the evocative sparks multiply as a bygone exchange thus invoked brings dimension to the current moment and an idea reclaims the weight of its meaning from the real experiences it reflects and whose significance it illuminates.

      I wonder what kind of a person you are, have been all your life, that you are able to ease into something and appreciate it for what it is.

      I confess that these words make me smile quite broadly, and move me deeply because they describe exactly how I often think of my niece. Although she and I have the same birthday a generation apart, my sister is always observing from her child’s behavior and inclinations that the little one and I are twin souls. Despite that, I had never imagined myself in the particular way described here! That little child, who is thoroughly, delightfully present in everything she says and does, is now five years and she never ceases to make me gasp, weep, laugh and wonder. And now you make me wonder as well — about me, about her…

      Thank your for such a treat, jhu! I thoroughly enjoy reading your voice for all the reasons I think I’ve only succeeded in hinting at here. Yes. “Enjoyment” is exactly the right rational expression for the inexpressible nuances of this kind of pleasure!

      • jhusili says:

        Dear Curio,

        I hadn’t anticipated a response, let alone a response of this kind, so you can well imagine my joy at coming here and finding – this.

        I needed some time – and several rereads – to fathom the enormity of the gesture this post has been from your side. I know you don’t mind me taking the time to respond. Even though this entire response is in a way a gesture of gratitude, I want to still say it out loud. Thank you.

        I guess I’m a bit like Gunnie in this regard. We are attention seekers and do everything in our stride to get it from people. But the moment someone looks at us deeply and sincerely it unnerves us completely. We are confident of the masks we create, and revel in the attention multitudes shower on that. But there’s nothing more frightful than having even a single person pierce through these masks with a genuine gaze.

        Having peered in, and having said all these things, you first made me smile, then giggle like a little girl. Then, of course, the unease began to bubble up.

        What is this? Why are you embracing me so? Are you calling me a…poet?

        I feel like you might be. Are you? For you are describing your response upon reading my post in a way similar to how I respond to poetry. I have never been a stoic one. And the poems I’ve enjoyed the most are ones that have echoed my inner madness. And much of the readings that have touched me have done so by opening some mysterious dam within me. I’ve relied on the musicality of language to convey emotions. Poetry, whether in the experience of reading or writing, has served to liberate. And although there may be an urgency to it, a disregard for the ways of the world, there is inherent dignity in it as well. It springs from that which is the most vital part of us, what else would it be but dignified?

        I’m aware of the heart-mind dichotomy, Curio. But am wary all the same of cutting experiences into such neat halves of thoughts and feelings. Yes, your way of approaching life might be predominantly based on thoughts. But it would be a misrepresentation of who you are to say that you are not a person who feels. You’ve felt, and so you’ve helped me feel. So much. Even from the little I know of you, I can see that you come as a being entwined in both thoughts and feelings, much like myself.

        To borrow Miyoung’s words, even if we appear different, and perhaps we are, I find that we are also similar the more I learn about you. For you and I are both eager to reflect, introspect, contemplate on ourselves as much as on the world about us. Every minute happening presents opportunities for uncountable inner experiences. Our lens sure are different, but how different are we?

        Feeling may be my modus operandi, but when you used the word ‘analyse’ I felt like what I do is much the same. While you may analyse thoughts with more thoughts. It is easier for me to analyse feelings with feelings.

        Why do I enjoy reading? Everybody’s words come with a distinct melody. Style, people call it. But it’s more a collection of words, thoughts, emotions and experiences that – amassed over a lifetime – make a personalised dictionary. And so, we are able to tell very similar stories in different forms, with different rhythms. I love hearing people in their words. Whatever makes them unique, whatever makes them ordinary – all can be glimpsed in the way their rhythms unfold.

        I’ve enjoyed reading everything you’ve written so far Curio, because aside from the distinct melody of your style, you compel me to pause and think. And only upon doing that do I realise how much I actually gravitate towards it without my knowing. I cherish the thoughts you present in your write-ups. When I read your work, what I experience is no less than a marriage of your thinking mind with my feeling heart. It creates a new dimension, a new experience that, as I mentioned earlier, is oddly familiar. I’m almost relieved that I finally get to experience this wholeness as you and I collide.

        I appreciate so much for the gift of self you have given to me in the above post. In your open contemplations about your approach, and in your almost vulnerable revelation of your relationship with your niece. I am deeply touched knowing you felt comfortable enough to share such a lovely story with me. How funny, and silly too, that the context you use to excuse yourself is…you. Could anyone ask for a better gift than that?

        I now feel bad about something I wrote in the comment on Perfection in Fated. Somewhere in the middle, I’ve tried to excuse myself by calling my post an ‘ugly essay’. I think it was my way of asking for an apology for demanding so much attention from you. I see that this is a pattern in many comments I have written on DB and elsewhere – of being apologetic about being myself. As if being present means being intrusive. I feel like your time that I am taking in making you read me is undeserved. I did tell you I am a bit like Gunnie.

        At one level, I don’t want to trust your appreciation, because it is so unlike the way I’m used to thinking about myself. I find more security in pushing it away because I feel like I will only disappoint you the more you get to know me. Unworthy. That is how I, too, see myself. That is the truth I am made up of and I’m am always trying to postpone this discovery on your part.

        But I also wish I could erase that line where I call what I have to say ugly and instead allow myself to belong to another person’s life.

        It may not be so bad, right Curio? You are not a sum of all the opinions you’ve formed about yourself. I find comfort in knowing that this distorted sense of self that evolves through all our introspection may perhaps be a universal affliction. That no matter how I see myself, I may never be fully able to understand how others receive me. That however others see me is me just as much as how I see myself. And that I’ll just have to learn to trust this uncertainty, this unknowing.

        This much for today. I trust we will be connecting more dots in our future conversations.

        Much love & thank you once again, for everything.


        • Curio Serand says:

          Are you calling me a… poet? … Are you?

          My dear jhusili,

          Let me be paradoxical and say that although I can hear in your voice the language of poetry, I will not dare the discourtesy of slapping a label on you. To my ear, this voice is polyphonic: intrepid and seeking, explicitly brazen yet also wary, all at once; it sounds unafraid of declaring the truths it knows and unafraid of exploding the myths in those very same truths. It is such a beautiful voice!

          But I will not call you a poet — however flattering that may be — for what are labels but another from of masking; of imposing upon others a projection, however well-intended, of the fantasy we wish them to embody? It’s a cruel, cruel trap which I think robs everyone concerned of the freedom to explore and discover, implicitly dictating conditions about what can and cannot be done, what may or may not be done. Perhaps I’m just paranoid, but too often I’ve seen labels become traps, the glorious ones all the more bindingly so because they draw their greater power to suffocate from the bearer’s impulse to conform to the ideals associated with the label.

          Perhaps another reason I eschew labels is that in conventional cases (as with job titles, for example) the bearer’s actual motivation and works may not necessarily correspond to the general understanding of what that title is supposed to signify. So, take the label “healer,” for example: a doctor may hold an MD and be a competent practitioner, but only his motivations and how they inform his work can reveal whether the label “healer” applies to him. Conversely, a person may not hold any of the conventional titles, yet he may in fact be a healer in his motivation and works. So a ‘title holder’ or ‘label bearer’ may conform to external parameters of their label yet their actions could still be hollow.

          I guess what I’m saying is that the language of poetry resounds in your voice no matter what I, or anyone else, calls you.

          For some reason I’m reminded of Aristotle’s distinction between History and Poetry in the Poetics. Specifying that the external form (be it curated verse or unpresumptuous prose) matters not, he proceeds to enumerate how History is finite while Poetry is boundless. Where History chronicles the world “as it is,” Poetry explores the world “as it could be“; History is empirical and resigned while Poetry is speculative and aspirational. Where, I think, the two collide, is where we go seeking meaning in what we have observed of the world as it is, in what is happening or has happened. Where History binds, Poetry, as you say, liberates. We may not be able to alter the events that have occurred, but we have the ability to seek or attribute any kind of significance to it through that speculative, aspirational impulse that is the Poetry native to our hearts.

          Now, I fear I may have garbled things talking about the distinction my mind and soul make between thoughts and feelings. I do not, by any means, intend to cast myself as a divided being merely split between “reason /intellect” (λόγοςlogos: also “reasoned discourse”) and “emotion” (πάθος — pathos: also “suffering/experience” whence passion, compassion, sympathy, empathy…). Nor do I mean to suggest that I consider the reasoning faculty more dominant in me than the emotional experience. Rather, my intention is to describe and acknowledge how, in my  experience of the world, I have difficulty reconciling the two, especially when I wish to engage my own rational faculties in the service of intense emotional experience.

          Let me see if I can draw a clearer picture. Logos concerns contemplating and verbalizing our thoughts about the concrete observable world, whether the object be mountains, or machines or even behavior. But just because we can observe behavior, it does not follow that we can verbalize what motivates it nor faithfully convey the emotions it evokes using words. In the end, all we can talk about is what the behavior signifies and describe the disposition it expresses. We can catalogue the emotions we see expressed as a consequence of that behavior, etc.

          A smile, a giggle, a belly laugh; a tear, a moan, a scream — they are all authentic primary expressions of real emotional experiences. The moment we have to use words, they are but tertiary expression of the secondary stage, thoughts.

          I’ll take the liberty of bringing my niece into this again. When I see her smile or hear her laugh, I know that she is experiencing joy. When she wails or cowers, what I see in these expression are pain or embarrassment. I do not in any of these cases need words to understand her experience well enough to empathize and respond to it. When she was about 3 years old and fully verbally communicative, I observed something rather curious whenever someone asked her to use words to articulate her experience. The request invariably occurred when she was in some state of distress like pain, frustration or fear. Asked to use words, her wails would quiet, her tears stop flowing, her frown become less pronounced as she focused on formulating the thoughts and the words to respond to the request. Sometimes when she had finished talking, her earlier, non-rational (read pathos, and not logos) expressions of distress would reemerge. It is impossible not to be distressed when a child is in distress, yet in the midsts of all that passion, I found myself fascinated by the effect that having to engage the rational faculty, the logos, had on the child’s primary expression of emotions.

          And I know that what I have observed in her is also true of me. I also know that for me, intense emotions often overwhelm my ability to collect myself enough to formulate a clear thought, let alone find the words to properly communicate that thought. I don’t mean to force a superficial rift between thinking and feeling or insist on a heart-mind dichotomy; what you describe as “a being entwined in both thoughts and feelings” is, I think, exactly right. What I hoped to articulate when I spoke of the distinction and the gap was that I acknowledge my own inability to bring my rational faculty (logos) to bear adequately in the service of my emotional experience, especially when that experience is particularly strong.

          The best I can aspire to, in order to share, say, a smile I experience when reading something you have written, is to use words that will in turn convey to you an image or and idea that makes you smile. If the words I use are able to do that, then I need never even tell you I smiled because you will experience it directly rather than just hear about it. But I still say things like “I smiled”, “I laughed”, “I cried” — all of which is merely news; History. Where you smile and laugh and cry without my ever having described my expressions; where I find myself crying and laughing and smiling because what I am reading — without ever labeling these expressions — conveys an image or an idea that excites these primary expressions of the emotional experience — that, I believe, is where Poetry happens.

          • jhusili says:

            Oh god Curio. So much to say and simply not enough words. So we’re just going to have to stretch this over a lifetime of conversations.

            The thing about poetry and being called or not called a poet. It’s bad enough being slapped with a label. But it’s just as bad doing everything in your way to avoid being referred to as that. It isn’t flattering as much as discomforting, you know. But just for once I thought it would be okay to embrace it and sit with it, no matter the complexity of inner conflicts it gives rise to.

            At the end of the day, I wonder if it matters at all what we call ourselves. What’s important is to perhaps sense that we’re born wearing the lens of poetry, and then to see everything coloured by its beauty in the infinite littles of the everyday. And the most important – wait, most beautiful – result of this engagement is to find that it releases warm invitations for a connection. And for a moment, two random individuals are connected in a harmony of experience.

            This exchange. This is is probably what matters most in all this. & I feel grateful to be received like this by you.

            I went to a forest today Curio – to look for dalpengies but alas dalpengie season has ended even here in the real world – and I noticed that if you stand in the middle of a forest & close your eyes & open yourself, you’ll find that the entire universe is made up of sounds. Vibrations. I don’t know…people who have a craving to reconnect with these vibrations emanating from eternity to eternity, maybe that is the same thing that allures them to the rhythms and cadence of poetry.

            One of my closest friends, who writes the most beautiful poems, says she relishes poetics more than poetry. It probably gives her a wider scope of experience, but it’s still a new word for me and tastes strange in my mouth. Poetics is not as yet part of my personal vocabulary, but is that what I am gesturing towards? Where, like you suggest, it goes beyond pushing ‘poetry’ into tight boxes of genre or category. Where it is not just the written word or the spoken sound, but the entire process that is engaging. Where it encapsulates the person behind the ‘poem’ & numerous other co-creators – for when has any kind of creation, be it the birth of a flower, person, poem, idea or story, been accomplished in isolation?

            What you say about history is rather interesting. But I feel like history is also a kind of poetry, albeit slightly less melodious to our ears. It cannot ever retell what happens as it is, tainted as it will be by the historian’s perspective, by his discretion – what he chooses to include & what he leaves out. Perhaps the one big fault in history is its lack of humility, for it assumes to represent an impersonal, impartial truth, unaware of the impossibility of its pursuit.

            Poetry, more often than not, just is. A momentary truth in a person’s life that has the magical ability to resonate in others as well. One more step in the direction of that sincerity we’ve been dwelling on recently. That’s what I feel, what do you think?

            And aww, Curio, you did not garble your words. I just read aggressively, and pushed my own feelings into your words, and feel rather silly for doing so. I understand what you mean, thank you for reminding and clarifying so well yet again. It needn’t have been misunderstood. What you are saying is relatable and simple and sweet in its own way. With emotions, I welcome the primacy of experience myself. If you feel like you find difficulty vocalising or verbalising it, that’s so beautifully human. And there is nothing lacking in finding yourself unable to put your rational faculties to use here. If communication is what you wish for, then nothing like finding a smile on your face affecting and influencing the face of another. Instantly. Without the aid of words. Which is how you seem to describe your experiences of observing and responding to your niece. And eventually yourself. Aren’t we all, well most of us, like that? What I have learned in recent years is along with being immersed in the immediacy of the emotional experience, it is just as important to observe it & embrace it with equanimity. The secret to self-knowledge & self-transformation both lie in there. But how I digress. More on that later. 🙂

            And communication itself is such a funny thing Curio. So often we feel misunderstood amidst an abundance of words. & equally often there’s so much that transpires in silences. I rely heavily on silences to connect with my most intimate ones. Shared solitude – the friend I mentioned above and I call it – wherein we are offering ourselves as a space for the other to explore themselves. This has always been deeply rewarding.

            I am compelled to believe it is energies we primarily communicate with, not words. When energies are in harmony, conversations – and silences – help us connect, understand, empathise.

            It also happens to solve the problem of having so much to say and not being equipped with enough words.

            Until another time…

            Much love,

            • Curio Serand says:

              “just for once I thought it would be okay to embrace it and sit with it, no matter the complexity of inner conflicts it gives rise to.”

              I am truly sorry that I stepped on that. I did not mean to. Although I did feel a little uneasy sending that last response, I could not quite see what about my own words made me so uneasy. Upon reflection, and after reading what you say here, I can see how much I let my own phobia of labels simply dominate when I was trying to write. I have so often found myself caged in and chained by labels that one way or another proscribed the liberties I took for granted as a child that I have developed a universal aversion for them. Time and again, I found that labels affixed to my person impeded my ability to explore new things, to discover new experiences, to ask questions about things I did not know, to admit that I did not know something with confidence in the faith that whomever I addressed would help guide me.

              I was born healthy in a safe place, and raised in a fairly liberated manner that allowed me to grow up able and engaged. So free and unencumbered was my youth that when the labels started getting applied, they chaffed—and badly! Some of these labels were meant with good intention while others were not. Yet the intention made little difference to me because the well-meaning ones came with imposed expectations, the ill-intentioned with stifling prejudices and in the throes of adolescence, I found it impossible to contort sufficiently or comfortably, or hold my breath long enough without getting ill. And the aversion that developed evolved into an indiscriminate phobia of labels.

              I get around them by focusing on what people do and remarking on that, rather than designating them with labels. It helps me to consider and verbalize that someone has done a kind or generous thing rather than simply calling them ‘good,’ or that they have done a selfish and harmful thing rather than calling them ‘bad’. The same applies – in my mind – to one who, say, draws picture as opposed to ‘artist’ or one who deceives people for gain rather than ‘conman’.

              So I really did not mean to be so insensitive and I’m sorry that I was.

              But this, along with some other notions, is what brought tears to my eyes:

              “if you stand in the middle of a forest & close your eyes & open yourself, you’ll find that the entire universe is made up of sounds. Vibrations.”

              I will have to let it keep for today…

            • jhusili says:

              My dearest Curio,

              So first. This is that same friend – so dear to my heart – talking of poetry…

              Do not call yourself a poet.

              The moment you call yourself a poet, the poems will cease to knock on your door. You are a guest house, on a deserted highway, and poems are travellers, wanderers, witchbrides with their feet turned backwards, flower corpses in their hair, they are spectral, they carry grave sites in their eyes, spreading a little mayhem, leaving a little blood, they remain only as a stain on the sky. They are not looking to stay, and you, you may not possess them.

              Do not call yourself a poet. Do not deny yourself the gift of the uninvited guest.

              (note to the self)

              She puts so bluntly and beautifully what we’ve been trying to get at for the past few posts. Turning this ‘note to self’ also into a treasurable little poem.

              I agree with her. But disagree all the same, because this level of paranoia about the idea of the poet, extended into an idea of what poetry should or should not be, reveals such a self-conscious outlook. A true poet will perhaps not even realise that he or she is engaging in poetry at all. Such is my feeling. Such are my wishful aspirations. A desire to make a journey from innocence to experience to an innocence whose power is elevated by all the preceding corruption of experience.

              In a recent email, she wrote about me:

              ‘I never knew anyone who could write about not being able to write as eloquently as you.’

              & that is my entanglement with the written word. Stifling and recursive and…pointless really. Not so sure what she means about being ‘eloquent’ though. Always feel like I’m fumbling for words when there’s finally something worth talking about.

              Oh Curio, while I’ve ‘labelled’ (whoops!) your apology redundant and refused to take it, you’ve tossed another gem of an idea my way so what else can I say but thank you. Yet again.

              So boundaries, huh? Whether they be mental or physical, always leave me baffled.
              Boundaries are false. And I hanker for truth. Boundaries and I do not friends make. So I’ll always be pushing around, testing limits, transgressing. A bit of a rebel, I guess. It’s not intentional as much as people think it is. Boundaries have just come in the way of the natural self. Boundless. Nameless that we are.

              It is the height of contrivance to erect boundaries to support a collective falsity. Nation. Identity. Normalcy. Intelligence. Good. These ideas cut through us, deeply wounding innocent, innumerable possibilities that lie within.

              Labels are a way of trying to tame the untameable. Of trying to force order into something inherently chaotic. Of painting an illusion of finality over the uncertain, of pinning the unknown.

              What comes to mind when I think of the word ‘human’? Exploration. Adventure. Connection. Seeking. Learning. Growing. Evolving. We are all little seeds. But most of us remain unwatered.

              I’m reminded of Plato’s allegory of the cave right now, little as I may know of it.

              My aunts, upon hearing some of my transparent thoughts, bitterly proclaim, “It’s because of all those books you read when you were young.” They don’t want me around their children, influencing them with my dangerous ideas. They also don’t want to believe my thoughts could have come from me, tied to them in blood that I am. By now you must have figured out how much of an oddball I am in my immediate environment. Who knows where I belong? It is only when I have entered the depth of an untamed forest and felt its profound silence reverberate in me that I have truly felt at home.

              Here I’m also reminded of an insightful & rather comforting quote by J Krishnamurti – “It is no indication of good health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

              What is a profoundly sick society? Or how does it get to the point of such excessive sickness? Society itself is such an elusive term. It is everyone and no one. Society is a term that affords a complete divorce from responsibility. Everyone is at fault and nobody is to blame. Society is addicted equally to escapism and scapegoatism. I think people who find themselves at the margins often struggle with labels, with being confined within boundaries containing reductive notions. They can also easily become scapegoats.

              My thoughts are wandering a lot today and I hope you don’t mind the higgledy-piggledy nature of today’s response. I can sense an energy soar in me and feel like I’m engaging in rhetoric rather than an intimate conversation. I need to stop getting carried away. I don’t want to miss out on an opportunity for genuine connection.

              So…labels make us uncomfortable, they certainly don’t contain the truth. & often, we reject labels. But rejection is just a reflection of an internal clinging, an unconscious identification with that same thing we so vehemently abhor, don’t you think? Otherwise why feel that need?

              I have grown up rejecting, trying to renegotiate my relationship with my world. A rebel. Unpleasant. Tiring. Annoying. Fearsome. That is how it has seen me. But there has always been more to say than there have been words. There is always more to be known than we are offered. & there is always more to be experienced than we are allowed.

              Only very recently, though, have I come to realise that even this rebellion needs to turn inward. The only thing I must rebel against is my own ego. And the labels I must be most cautious of are the ones I put on myself. It is impossible to try and undo what the outer world does to you, others are out of our hands. And they’re nearly not as harmless as the illusions of self we feed ourselves. Only we can take ourselves further from our truth. Which thrusts the responsibility of taking ourselves closer to our truth to…ourselves. And that is perhaps what I like to call my life’s work?

              This much for today. Talking to you makes me feel like I belong.

              Much, much love,

  17. gasenadi says:

    감사함니다 once more, Curio. I relished your thoughts in “Pragmatic Altruism…” and devoured this one on Love. Am looking forward to the third installment.

    Since the start of my kdrama addiction Chuno has held first place in my heart. Nothing had EVER, in my decades of tv and movie consumption, moved me like that series. I had become a die-hard, cynical viewer of documentaries, having tired of corporate media’s offerings. Until someone recommended a list of kdramas. The rest is history. Chuno was the earth-shattering masterpiece that had me crying, in public, days after its finale with just the thought any one of its unforgettable characters. Chuno made me grieve for the human condition. No other drama has since challenged its position.

    Except this one.

    I’ve watched two recent dramas since finishing FTLY, but with the underlying urge to surrender and just rewatch it already! As with Chuno, I’m moved to tears recalling the LOVE manifested in FTLY in all its aspects, as you so aptly express. A part of me does not want to “go there” – rewatch, buy the Director’s cut, etc – for fear of actually “dethroning” Chuno from first-place. But another, braver part, must rewatch FTLY again and again to do it justice.

    Thank you for your eloquence in describing FTLY. It deserves it.

    • Curio Serand says:

      Oh Gasenadi! What delectable dilemma you face! To rewatch FTLY or not to rewatch FTLY? Does it feel as much a privilege as it sounds? 🙂
      I completely understand the desire to protect Chuno‘s primacy in you heart. I love this:

      Chuno was the earth-shattering masterpiece that had me crying, in public, days after its finale with just the thought of any one of its unforgettable characters. Chuno made me grieve for the human condition.

      Nothing can compare to a first love. And I suspect that encountering something that awakens in us the same experiences that the first love did is probably somewhat scary because it feels like we’re being unfaithful when we should be constant.

      I remember the first time I experienced the kind of profound, boundless empathy you describe with KDrama. In my case it may have occurred more gradually over several stories. Anyway, I had only ever experienced it while reading books, never while watching any other film or television – not American, not European, not African, not Bollywood, not Spanish telenovelas. True, there were occasionally riveting stories to be found in those places, but for me it was only as a ‘passive’ viewer.

      KDrama proved completely different: to borrow your words, the experience was “earth-shattering” and a tragedy would have me “crying [openly] days after its finale,” a comedy or a happily concluded melodrama would have me basking in the warm radiance of its joy. KDrama reminded me that television did not have to be the medium for mere spectacle; it could be the place where we discovered storytellers who were truly talented and cared enough to engage in subtle and difficult questions about the human condition.

      My friends and I started this blog as a place to explore theoretical issues in a concrete way — mathematics, music, ethics, you name it. I am not at all surprised that the most meaningful means by which I found to explore ethical questions in a concrete context is through KDrama!

      I am finishing up the third piece on FTLY at the moment and I have to say that even I am rather surprised at how it is turning out. I will tweet a link when I’m done.

      • tasha says:

        Dear Curio, believe it or not, i am now re watching FTLY for the 2nd time. The 1st re watch was whilst waiting for all episodes to complete. Yea, im once crazy fan of FTLY and i thought i wld not enjoy it as much 2nd time round. Well, wrong as FTLY is an absolutely charming, real, innocent, warm fuzzy rom com.

        There are many instances in which comparisons are made to real life and other rom coms but i must say this is the most real rom com for me. Unlike Winter Sonata and the fuzzy traditional rom com, FTLY gives you a roller coaster feeling (LG’s words) but it gives hope, acknowledgement, family values and to appreciate the support your friends, family and colleagues.

        It shows that love may not be expressed in OTT way (as in fireworks) all the time, but that the daily gestures of appreciation and words of thank you, I’m sorry is what builds true love. I have said it before and I say it again. FTLY through JH and JN, directors, script writers have certainly changed the traditional rom com and set the standard for a new classic. Yes, the cliches are used and the amensia/illness/jaebol vs nobody, etc is there, but yet the delivery of it all is a masterpiece.

        • Curio Serand says:

          Heheheh! Shall we call Fated to Love You “the romantic comedy that launched a thousand reruns”? Well, individual, personal reruns, anyway!

          I have a confession to make (although I think I may already have confessed elsewhere): I was already rewatching each episode several times from day 1! I did not mean to, but by the third episode, it was all I could do to tide me over until the next episode and the next week and before I knew it, I found myself repeating each pair of episodes everyday for six days while waiting for Wednesday to arrive. Crazy, I know!

          Ordinarily, I don’t retrace my steps with shows or films. Although there are a few other series I have watched repeatedly, it has usually been after having first seen them all the way through and then, either by chance or for some specific reasons, found myself returning to them.

          Among those I’ve repeated or actually developed the habit* of rewatching are

          • Jumong* (believe it or not, I’ve seen it all the way though seven times, and counting!)
          • Tae Wang Sa Shin Gi (maybe three or four times)
          • Winter Sonata (twice or thrice — I had a thing for Bae Yong Joon)
          • Hwang Jin Yi (three times — story of a brilliant artist brilliantly told)
          • The Painter of the Wind(four times — another story of a brilliant artist brilliantly told)
          • Tree With Deep Roots (I can’t get enough)
          • Chuno (…nor of this…)
          • Midas (…apparently I had a thing for Jang Hyuk as well even before Lee Geon…)
          • You’re Beautiful ( multiple times — such wonderfully heartwarming, cheesy silliness!)
          • Boys Over Flowers (three, maybe four times — more delectable, yet profoundly meaningful silliness)
          • Snow Queen (three times —unbreak my heart!)
          • Secret Garden* (I’ve lost count because now I just have it on a loop whenever I’m working or doing chores around the house — but apparently the thing I have for Hyeon Bin surpasses reason…)

          Gosh, this list is actually rather long! It’s a wonder I get anything else done! I don’t even know why I went into such detail… But hey, life is short so it can’t be bad to celebrate the beautiful things in it, right!?

          Anyway, I do hope you enjoy your rewatch! Now that I’ve finished the third essay on Fated to Love You, I look forward to watching it again all the way through again from the beginning. But I think I’ll wait for the DVD I ordered to arrive before I rewatch; give things a chance to settle and approach it with a fresh perspective after some time away.

  18. Hajra says:

    I always looked to Dramabeans to help me make emotional sense of what I’m seeing. But the depths you have described, how slowly you unraveled and clarified love, it’s eye opening. It goes beyond helping me deeply understand FTLY, it has helped me understand the different loves we experience in our lives. And for that I’m vastly grateful to you.

    • Hajra says:

      Since watching FTLY, which was my first Jang Hyuk drama, I’m on a spree of watching his dramas and films. Thank You and Beautiful Mind really moved me. If you could write something that gives deeper insight into them, specially BM, it would be amazing.

      • Curio Serand says:

        Oh, I would love to, someday! Beautiful Mind definitely had me hooked on a very intense roller coaster. I loved how they set up the story with such extreme character types and even more how they brought the two seemingly incompatible leads together through the main theme of the story: empathy.

        Just responding to you comment makes me want to delve deeper into it, so I hope I get the chance to do so soon. Cheers!

    • Curio Serand says:

      I’m so glad that you enjoyed reading my musings. FTLY does such a fantastic job of engaging and inspiring readers that it is *still* a joy to watch it again and discover new delights!

  19. Pingback: The Perfection of 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) | Sea of Drama Inkwell

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