For the writing this fortnight, I am sharing a slice of our personal journey, as we open a new studio and public cafe/event space here in Daejeon, Korea. The writing is sprinkled with drawings. These are early pencil sketches from the process of imagining what a space, built with the help of broken shipping pallets that we routinely saw thrown out on the streets here, might look like.
The writing here is generally about imagining The Possible City.
The process of imagining, and sharing what we imagine, is necessary. Of course it is. For us to get to a place that does not yet exist, we must first imagine that place.
But other half of that process, is to actually build what we have imagined. My partner and I have done a bit of that building since we met. We’ve built community gardens, remodeled old buildings into popup eco-art spaces, and opened what we dubbed the world’s slowest restaurant, twice.
In each time and place, we tried to work in ways that would move us closer to the world we believed was possible. Can we really inhabit a world that is regenerative, that does not waste, that recognizes the inherent beauty and value in all life, and that supports the well being of all humans and nature, not just those with which we agree or are tied to by social compacts?
We might not have gotten to that point—that of perfectly achieving this world we believe is possible—but with the help of other people, and this miraculous earth and universe we dwell in, we do find small moments that look like it.
In absence of these moments, we just try to keep pointed in the general direction, and make progress as best we can.
As part of that general direction, tomorrow we will open a new space in Daejeon, Korea, dubbed Corner Shop.
Alongside a small river in the old city center, the train station is a 15 minute walk from here. That walk will take you through streets lined with printing factories, alternative arts venues, and herbal medicine shops where the smell of roasted Chinese herbs regularly hangs about. Or, if you took another route, you might pass the smells of the dried fish market, Vietnamese Pho shops, or roasted pig restaurants. Yet another route might reveal bank headquarters, corporate offices, and real estate development recruiting centers.
There are many different realities and many ways of life in this part of the city. This diversity, more or less, is a sign of health.
We thought a lot these past years, about our role as human beings. We thought of how one can one properly express that truth within them—the truth which we all have within us—and yet which so often becomes blunted or otherwise distorted by the various mechanisms of society. Mechanisms like social judgements, learned biases, and the compulsory rule of seeing profit as more important than your own truth.
In the face of these I like to remember how my sister’s favorite actress, Audrey Hepburn implored us to “always be a first-rate version of yourself” rather than a second-rate version of someone else. Many people have voiced similar ideas, but Audrey’s sticks with me.
For Suhee, that first-rate version of herself comes through in her work with herbs, and for myself, through the various arts. Those are two of the occupations that help us remember how to engage our best qualities. Because we have so much respect for the acts themselves — of blending herb tea blends, of blending form and color — they are somewhat resistent in bending to these other social pressures.
In order to share this work, we decided to open a space which is both a studio/office, and also at times, a space where we invite the public into our world, through art, and through the various things that can be done with herbs. In this venture, we join with a longtime friend here who works in the cultural realm. Together, we will have our studio spaces here, and a small public space where we share the fruits of our creative work and that of others, and the tastes of the things we love the most.
I guess there is not much better way to explain what we are doing than that. We try to follow a simple recipe. Learn to be who you are. Work creatively with your hands and share the fruits of that work with others. Care for the world around you, and share with it not the things you hate, but the things you love.
With those ingridient-actions, many people have already built slices of their possible cities. You can create the possible city too, even if that possible city exists just in the space of a park bench, or your living room, or a tiny corner shop shared with friends and strangers.
If you are in Korea, feel free to stop by and say hello.
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This was lovely to read! It also gave me a lot of encouragement to keep believing in my "truth" and pushing myself in that direction. It's so true that the current society teaches us to value or prioritize profits and equalize success with measurable outcomes. I struggle with the same thoughts, and there's still a lot of unlearning and relearning to do, but seeing you and Suhee work towards your own truths has always been a beacon of light for me. Thank you for being where you are and sharing your journey with the world!
Nicely written Pat.
Congratulations on making part of your dreams a reality that will have a positive impact in the community that you enjoy living in. 😎