Something old, something new
By Hyon O’Brien
As I was sitting in a pew on the last Sunday of October, barely 24 hours after arriving on American soil, I was struck by the beauty of the chapel, which is nearly 900 years old.
The chapel is part of a monastery cloister that was built from 1133 to 1141 in Sacramenia, Spain. We owe its presence in the States to the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951), who bought the buildings from the St. Bernard de Clairvaux Monastery, packed them in 11,000 wooden crates in 1925 and brought them to America. Hearst left disassembled stones in the crates, where they remained until two businessmen bought them from the Hearst family in 1952 and reassembled the cloister in North Miami Beach, Fla. This current church opened in 1964 as an Episcopal Church. It is both a functioning church and a fascinating tourist site.
Somehow this truly magnificent ancient structure brought to my mind the Victorian wedding custom of a new bride wearing something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue for good luck on her wedding ceremony. Something old signifies continuity, something new symbolizes the new chapter that is opening, something borrowed means desiring to receive the good fortunes of others, and something blue apparently reflects the wishful belief that ``marry in blue, lover be true.”
These four things are what I am hoping both for our life back in the States and for the leaders of the G20 who just wrapped up their meeting in Seoul.
Something old: I will be hanging onto my old friends and family back in Korea. I will be practicing the values of Korean culture such as being mindful of elderly people and people who are older than me, and intense loyalty to the country that produced, raised and educated me. This concept of continuity and the appreciation of the past comfort me. I hope the G20 participants could see Korea as a country of antiquity, with long-lasting sustaining culture and values, and not just as a country that strives for economic progress and global leadership in the modern day context.
Something new: I am excited to have new places to explore, new people to meet, new things to do. It seems there are unlimited things out there stirring up my curiosity and poking at my sense of wonder in this new world. I certainly will try learning Spanish while I am here. From the balcony of our apartment, I am doing something new every morning: I watch the University of Miami rowing members taking off in slim sculls into the Indian Creek. Nine people sitting in a row gliding out onto the water with such coordination is a sight to behold.
What would have been the something new for the G20 leaders? Top of the list for my wishful hope is elimination of a pecking order and coming together at a round table where all are respected not for their wealth and military power but for the non-measurable dignity of each individual nation.
Something borrowed: the first thing we borrowed here in Florida is a living room lamp from our cousin John. The idea of borrowing and a loan imply trust and also the admission of need. We need others. I know I will need much help to transplant myself in this new place.
Korea has a history of borrowing from other countries, as well as lending. It owes its start on the road to industrialization and technological advancement to the generosity of other willing countries. The global community will run well if this borrowing and lending happen with good will approach of ``let’s go together”. I hope that G20 will always maintain this attitude as an undercurrent principle. Not a winner-takes-all approach, but a win-win approach that means more benefit for all.
Something blue: I have unusual affinity to water for a person who grew up in Wonju, Gangwon Province, surrounded by Mt. Chiak and only a narrow stream of water running through the town. As I look at the sparkling bay from our balcony, the blue sky and blue water tell me this place is less polluted than the land that I left behind. I sincerely hope more care and attention go into preserving the environment in my homeland. All the progress and glitter of a country run shallow next to a damaged land and polluted water. The problem is more acute in the poorer nations of the world. The G20 leaders should bear in mind that when a part of the world goes under, all will eventually go under.
I end this piece with words from Bourke Coekran, a 19th-century American Congressman from Boston.
``There is enough for all. The earth is a generous mother; she will provide in plentiful abundance food for all her children if they will but cultivate her soil in justice and in peace."
Hyon O'Brien, a former reference librarian in the United States, has returned to Korea after 32 years of living abroad. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.