Recently another international/transcultural adoptee approached me to add my photo to a video where he wanted to feature adoptees who speak  out publicly about their experience.  But I turned him down, because the background music he chose as a message of hope was David Bowie’s Heroes. I don’t consider myself a hero, though if others view me that way I am happy to have some role in inspiring them to work towards their own authenticity.

Also recently, another adoptee friend received some tragic and possibly terminal news and, like other adoptee friends I’ve known – tired – was not adverse to such a conclusion, but accepting, if not relieved.  I understand this.  We who have been cast about, our fates – despite all our best efforts – having a path of their own, have learned to roll with the punches.  We who have always lived with adversity as our constant companion have come to view free will and fate and the meaning of life on different terms than others.  It’s got nothing to do with being suicidal, and nothing to do with not loving life.  It just is what it is.  What else could it be?

Which got me to thinking about this movie:

The movie is fateless, (Sorstalanság in Hungarian) one of my all-time favorite movies, based on the memoirs of nobel prize winner Imre Kertesz, and stunningly, gorgeously filmed by Lajos Koltai

It’s not like any other holocaust movie ever made, because it does not focus on good vs. evil or romanticize endurance.  Its unique perspective (from the recollections of a 14 year old boy) is its place in time, and that time is the moment at hand.

And it speaks to me of one who is a survivor of sorts.  Because when faced with adversity, one does what one has to do, and one appreciates what one can, and one prevails – not out of heroism – but because we are existential and human.  It’s our life, it’s all we’ve ever known.  Adversity has hard-wired into us an acute awareness of everything others take for granted.  It changes your world view in the most essential way.  And ever after you roam the planet living an alternate reality.

What struck me about this movie was that, even after he was freed from Buchenwald, the boy can barely deal with a world so unlike his concentration camp experience.  Because that WAS his life.  Non-acceptance is not an option.  Appearing disaffected is the only recourse.  Whatever the rest of the world thinks of or imagines life there was like, it was his reality, and it forged the person he is and how he digests the world around him.

Not that being internationally/transracially adopted can compare to the horror of death camp, but the point is that your horror is our life.  How would you be had you lived our lives?  You would be fateless, that’s what.  You wouldn’t believe in destiny.  You’d just be or not be.  Smell the flowers while they are here.  Welcome death when it comes.

I encourage all people to watch this important movie, so you can understand what it is to live through trauma.  It’s not total devastation.  It’s sometimes beautiful.  Alien.  A sober and solitary journey.

7 thoughts on “fateless

  1. I’ve never seen that. I will have to.

    I am noting in recent years that the long slow cycle of depression and hope that I go through isn’t getting easier as I thought it would as I get older. Self destructiveness wins a little more often every year.

    And your eloquence and toughness helps.

    I don’t believe heroes can see themselves as such. But that doesn’t make their actions any less heroic.

  2. “I don’t believe heroes can see themselves as such. But that doesn’t make their actions any less heroic.”

    the same can be said about you, I’m sure…

  3. “You wouldn’t believe in destiny. You’d just be or not be.”

    It’s painfully and sadly ironic (maybe just plain stupid, I don’t know) that what the world tends to believe about adoption is just the opposite: that adoption IS destiny for all involved.

    Thank you for the tip about this movie, I had never heard of it.

  4. i agree with u on some points, but u seem to be resentful to koreans.i am korean too, but live in america. the probable reason that they are so mean to you is cause long before,when america prospered, korea just, well, did the opposite. they became resentful, and after they gained their freedom from japan, they were so hurt from memories of foreigners that they didnt trust basically any of them anymore. dont think of this as racist or anything. good luck ^^

  5. Anonymous.

    I’m a resulful ex-Korean.

    If Koreans “became resuntful, and after they gained their freedom from japan, they were so hurt from memories of foreigners that they didnt trust basically any of them anymore”, as you stated,
    then why is that Korea sell their own children to those they resent and they don’t trust.

  6. I think if you read my whole blog in its entirety you’d see that a lot of Korean adoptees returning really don’t deserve a reception as rotten as we get, and in my case it was exceptionally bad: ageism, racism, culturlism, job discrimination, being black-listed, the list is too long – roll those all together and that = resentment that is deserved. And I don’t do that lightly, it has to be earned, because it doesn’t feel good harboring ill feelings and I actively work at keeping them in check, which you can’t see in this blog. But you better believe I work hard at it.

    Every day I have to put a smile on my face and be nice to people who are apathetic and insensitive or just plain out mean. And EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I try to be generous and discount how they marginalize me, and be considerate to them and their circumstances, and take into account all of that history, etc., etc. Me, who was expelled/exiled. But I don’t get jack from them. I mean, think about it: there’s only one of me to deal with and yet I have to accommodate hundreds of them, so why can’t they take any pains to do even a small bit of what I have to do EVERY. SINGLE. DAY? Why can’t they be in the least bit accommodating? Someone needs to teach them that there is more to hospitality than sharing a cookie. What good is that cookie if they turn their back and send me to the corner?

    The resentment is I’m getting real damn tired of every negative Korean behavior being explained away. That’s called a cop out.

    I want Koreans to stop thinking about themselves and being sorry for themselves ALL THE DAMN TIME. You’ve never seen a PITY PARTY as big as the one that goes on in Korea. It’s a Mardis-Gras of self pity here. THAT is my biggest beef. They just can’t think of the world in any terms where they aren’t victims or capitalist conquerors. I know all about being a victim, so I know that history is no excuse to not try and fix one’s character deficits. It’s called being lame and irresponsible.

    We didn’t conquer them or abuse them. Hell, we even look just like them. We don’t deserve to be treated like anything but the human beings we are, but we are treated less than at every turn.

    I think I’m going to make a T-shirt that says


    with a big red universal “NO” slash through it, and


    written under it.

    Because it seems Koreans can’t be kind without pity, and can’t be nice without some value-added benefit, so why even try to fit in.

    Combine that with the anti-welcome and it’s enough to make anyone grouse. Two years of living in an inhospitable place does that to a person.

    And you know what else? I’m judged by them EVERY SINGLE DAY. So here at this blog, I’m the judge. And they’re guilty.

    Besides, SOMEBODY has to counter all the hype the exploiters embrace that I read on other foreigner blogs that buy into the tourist board’s hyperbole. I’m getting the total opposite experience here.

    Also, why can’t people comment in the subject-appropriate place? (pet peeve) But I do appreciate your well-wishes…

  7. Thanks, Myung-Sook!

    Logical and feels-so-good spot-on as always. I wish I had that kind of economy with words and thoughts…

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