Thoughts on the movie “Departures”


I watched this movie with a few friends last week when everyone was snowed in during Storm Nemo. I really enjoyed the movie not only because I learned something new about Japanese culture and society and enjoyed the performances of the cast, but also because it brought up a topic that I haven’t spent very much time thinking about: death and the mortality of man.

Daigo is the protagonist who loses his job as a cellist in an orchestra. He and his wife, Mika, move to small town where Daigo finds a job preparing the dead for funerals. The first job he does involves carrying out the corpse of an old woman who had been dead for 2 weeks. He reacts so strongly to the smell and to the whole situation that the viewer can’t help but laugh. The viewer also can’t help but laugh because it breaks the discomfort: we realize that we would have reacted in the same way as Daigo. But after he sees his boss perform a few ceremonies, Daigo sees the power that preparing the dead has on the grieving family and he is captivated by this job.
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Luke 5 – Comments on the Latin

After thinking about the passage from last week (Luke 5:1-11), I decided to read through the Vulgate Latin translation. For the most part the English and Latin translations are pretty close. There were two things in the Latin that stood out to me which I would like to share.

Verse 6, “And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.”

The Latin is, “et cum hoc fecissent concluserunt piscium multitudinem copiosam rumpebatur autem rete eorum.”

What stood out to me is the Latin verb, “concluserunt.” This is the verb that we get “conclude” from. The Latin means to “close together.” What we have here is an example of usage changing over time. A very physical action that been passed down and is used now primarily in the abstract. I don’t remember the last time I used “conclude” or “conclusion” to mean something as physical an action as drawing in a catch of fish.

Verse 9, “For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken,”

The Latin, “stupor enim circumdederat eum et omnes qui cum illo erant in captura piscium quam ceperant”

The Latin translates “he was astonished” as “the astonishment/numbness surrounded him.” Above, stupor (astonishment/numbness) is the subject and eum (him) is the object. In someways I find the Latin translation to be more vivid and more captivating than the English version.

BILLUE reunited


Here we are in front of Henry Clay’s house. I found the opportunity to visit Billy in the end of December last year. It was wonderful to see him. We spent a good amount of time goofing off and making jokes at each other. We also spent a good amount of time revisiting old memories from our college days. We are in pretty different life stages now, but at the same time it feels like we never graduated from college. The only thing missing is a new music video!

One thing that I’m really thankful for this visit was the opportunity to rekindle my Latin. On the first day there, Billy was grading exams, which left me with ample time to relax, but it also gave me time to review my Latin. Now having returned home, I am still continuing with it. I’ve been trying to read the Bible in Latin, which is less stressful because I have the English translation at hand. This gives me an opportunity to build up my vocabulary and solidify my grammar. And if any questions come up, I can always ask Billy.

Luke 5 – “They began to sink”

We were looking at the Luke 5:1-11 last Wednesday in our frosh bible study. I’ve studied this passage a few times, and I wasn’t expecting to find anything new. But as with studying Scripture in a group, others often see things you don’t. One frosh was intrigued by verse 7 which reads, “They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.” She wondered what the significance of the boats sinking was.

As I was looking at the passage for some clues, I saw something change in Peter in the following verse, “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.'” Peter was in a moment of crisis. Peter recognizes that he is in the presence of someone greater than he and immediately acknowledges his sin and his unworthiness to be in Jesus’ presence. Peter calls Jesus “Lord,” which is significant because it reveals that Peter is beginning to understand something more of Jesus’ identity. What I found interesting was that during this time of internal crisis for Peter, he and the other fishermen were simultaneously experiencing a physical crisis: the boats were starting to sink.

These two crises inform each other. On the one hand, the revelation of Jesus’ identity seizes Peter, and his response shows, at least to Peter, that the spiritual reality is of more pressing concern than the physical danger he and his partners are in. On the other hand, the physical condition shows the weightiness and overflowing of God’s presence. Like the boats, mortals are unable to withstand the fullness of God. It threatens to overwhelm us and capsize us.

What I found to be exciting about this portion of the passage is the intrinsically linked nature of the physical realm and the spiritual realm. It affirms the physicality of our existence as God himself took on flesh and uses the physical world to point us to a deeper spiritual reality. It gives us a glimpse at the dynamic interaction of the seen and unseen, and hints at the fact that actions in the physical affect the spiritual and vice versa.

Word, Demons, and the Internet

I’ve been reading a book titled, The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains. It speaks about how technology shapes the way we think and how it can actually change our neurophysiology. In college, I didn’t study neuro, psych, linguistics, or sociology. The book touches on these disciplines and many more. I find it to be fascinating. While reading, it reminded me of a devotional that I wrote in the summer. So i want to share that journal entry with you.

Below is my journal entry from 22 July 2011. It’s more like a flow of thoughts than an essay. i would appreciate any feedback.


Luke 4:31-37

Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.

In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!’

‘Be quiet!’ Jesus said sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.

All the people were amazed and said to each other, ‘What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!’ And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.

I remember a friend asking me if I actually believed in demons. I thought for a bit, and I said, “Yes.” In the 5 years of being Christian, I haven’t encountered a demon, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Yet demons knew and know Jesus to be God. Maybe spiritual beings know what we fleshly beings cannot immediately discern. So again, in this passage, Jesus is teaching in the synagogue, and people are amazed by the authority he has. People are amazed, but from the commentary I read yesterday, people aren’t believing. So even with authority and Jesus’ performing of miracles, there is disbelief. But coming back to this idea of authority, what would it look like to live my life with authority? Not my own, but Christ in me?

Interestingly, the people were amazed by the power of his words.

Words. Words are powerful. I’m trying to figure out what it means to have Jesus be the word, the logos. In fact, words are what separate us from other creatures. Words are the means of communication. Jesus as the word is the means that God communicates to us. And from the beginning, God spoke things into existence. And as we try to figure out our existence and origins, how much of it actually is just an investigation of God?

And how different would we live if we know and act like we were and are created? If not by God, at least by our parents? We had no choice in our existence. We enter into a system, a space, a structure. What would it look like to live knowing that we are limited? Knowing that there are things beyond our comprehension?

The power of the word is the breaking forth of intention and will. It is the entrance of something new. It is an act of creation. From nothing comes forth sound, meaning, and power. The invisible made audible. The invisible made temporal. The invisible brought into existence. And the unknown is made knowable. It is the formation of reality. And it is our most ready and powerful form of creation. It actually is creation. From the invisible to the visible. From thought to spoken word. From thought to words on paper. There’s nothing else that we do that is like this. We all make something out of something else, but nothing like the ease and readiness of speech.

We inherently create. Yet it is for the sake of communication we create. Or is it the other way around? Could it be that creation inherently operates to become knowable?

Words have power because it is our creation. It is an extension of who we are. It is the means by which we are knowable. What an interesting connection between creation and knowability. Then there is the question of why are we like this? Through evolution? Through God? Which is the more satisfying?

In God’s creation, he makes himself knowable to the other. That is the basic nature of creation. If we use the word example, we speak; we create words; and in that process, we are making ourselves knowable to the other. But whether or not the other will understand, we cannot control. The burden then falls on the speaker. How far, to what lengths will he or she go to communicate clearly, such that the other will know fully? That is why Jesus is the word. He is God’s full communication. He is God’s most exact and clearest articulation of himself, of course, by and through himself. This is not to say that Jesus was created. But rather, he is like the word before it is spoken. The image of what is to be, through which things are created. So John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

A Morning Contemplation

“Come walk with me.”

The leaves fell with each step we took, a steady cascade of shimmering gold. The warmth of the color seemed to fill the entire wood, as if on this crisp November day, we were walking through radiance, engulfed by yellow, moving in pure color. He walked ahead of me. He pointed to this and to that and spoke excitedly of things on his mind. But I remained quiet. There was a question pressing on my heart, and I knew not how to ask it. I was afraid that uttering the very sounds would stop the falling leaves and chill the golden warmth of the forest. So we walked on: he, still talking, and I, trying to hold my tongue. But the question pressed forward, like a dog straining against its owner’s grip. And as suddenly as a dog lunges ahead and the leash bursts from the hand, so did I blurt, “Why did you create me?” He stopped and turned.
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Flames of white and blue, of a fire that burns but not consumes,
Swept across on surface first, but soon was through and through.
Submerged but alive, yet no breathe for the pounding heart,
Until at last I deeply draw on air that fills with life.

I gaze upon heavenly rings laid concentrically,
Embraced with visible energy, engulfed with awe and mystery.
They pulsate and speak an invitation,
“We welcome you into the Trinity.”

I wake, confused, mind enshrouded,
And clarity soon brought an anxiety: did I see
Something mortals ought not to see?

I sense a new dullness to this reality.

Story of a Dragon

once there was a well. it was a deep well that was fed by an underground stream. around it stood bent and gnarled trees, some green with foliage, others bare and broken. one night, there was a terrible storm. the skies were dark and unforgiving. rain poured down in angry torrents. lightning flashed and thunder roared. suddenly, there was a loud clap, like the striking of two large stones. the well was split into two. between the bright flashes of lightning, a small dragon emerged from the bottom of the well. it was a strange looking dragon. the body was small and frail, but on each end was a head. joined at the middle, it walked awkwardly. first staggering to the right, then to the left. in the midst of the pouring rain, it made its way under a tree.

as the days passed, it grew stronger and larger, but the left side remained small. thus it would always lead the way because it couldnt keep up if the stronger side walked in front. like this, it lived in harmony with the other. but one day, the stronger side became angry. it didnt want to be joined any longer. it was always slowed down, restrained by the weaker half. the stronger one wanted to fly, to run, to kill, to eat, without a sickly half. so one night, when the moon was shrouded behind walls of clouds, it ripped itself from the weaker half. it broke the bones, separated the flesh and ran off into the night. of course the weaker side couldnt fight back. it couldnt defend itself. so there, helpless, it lay, bleeding and slowly dying.
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Body and Form

When I was a kid learning Chinese, there were many similar looking words that often confused me. One pair was 体 vs 休. They look very similar, don’t they? One has a horizontal line on the bottom and the other doesn’t. 休 (xiū) means to rest.xiu1is a pictogram of a personperson version 1, (person version 2is more abstract version) leaning against a treetree. Doesn’t that just sound relaxing? 休 is not simplified, but 体 (tǐ), which means body or form, is.

體 is the traditional way of writing 体. You look at it and wonder, “How are they the same word?” As I have written before, the simplified form of the character isn’t completely random. There is reasoning behind the simplification. But you lose the original etymology with the switch. So let’s dig into the etymology of 體 and see what we can find.
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