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The Sketch of an Eternity Through the Arts

 Hana (Han Ji-min) visiting Kim Kwang-Seok Road in 2015 Korean Drama Hyde Jekyll, Me

Street mural featuring the song “The Love That Cannot be Spoken” on Kim Kwang-seok Road

Marcel Proust opined in his magnum opus In Search of Lost Time that memory is a critical wellspring of personal identity and the substance of all relationships. It is what restores a person to himself after a spell of unconsciousness ends and the only place where interpersonal bonds truly exist. Echoing these sentiments, psychological drama Hyde Jekyll, Me featured memory as a recurring theme in its story development. Memories defined the boundaries of the split personalities of its mentally unstable protagonist and gave life to romance. Losing an arm or a leg, one of the personalities pointed out, would not change his identity, but once his memory was gone, he would no longer exist. The inability to share memories thwarted relationship building, whereas the flow of them rekindled love. Should memories then be recovered and preserved through works of art, as Proust did with his 4211-page tome, on behalf of a person so that he can at least live on in people’s minds for generations after his demise?

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A Beautiful Tumor

Gu Seo-Jin (Hyun Bin) and Jang Ha-Na (Han Ji-Min) in Hyde, Jekyll, Me (2015 Korean Drama)

Hana (left) reconciling with the Robin in Seo-jin (right)

“I think, therefore I am,” proclaimed René Descartes.

The reality of our existence is a topic that has intrigued philosophers across the ages. Whereas Aristotle and his followers accorded great importance to knowledge derived from the senses, Descartes argued that the senses could deceive us even in matters that were most taken for granted. An omnipotent being, he suggested, could be manipulating our perceptions to make non-existent objects and even basic mathematical patterns feel real. The one thing we cannot doubt, though, is our act of thinking, and thinking signifies our existence.

Even so, what exactly does this existence amount to, beyond the presence of our minds?  Continue reading

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An Inaudible Chorus of Howls

Anxiety (1894) by Edvard Munch

Anxiety (1894) by Edvard Munch

Robin woke up from a five-year slumber in the body normally occupied by its host personality, a cold and strait-laced company director who swore that he would have killed him had they not been one and the same person. As an alter that formed part of their dissociative identity disorder though, he was a bubbly and free-spirited webtoon artist who went to great lengths to rescue people the host personality abandoned or would have abandoned. Exhilarated at his reawakening, he took a deep breath of the air for the first time in years, revisited the spaces and memories he left behind, and learnt that his webtoon was picked up for a drama adaptation during his absence. Then, he saw his (and the host personality’s) kindly mother and quickened his steps towards her in delight, but she, having caught news about his re-emergence, shuddered at the sight of him and took a step backwards half-apologetically instead, such that he could only stop in his tracks and greet her silently with a resigned bow. His father, whom he met next, was blunter, stating that he was not his son, his son’s twin or even the “Robin” he called himself but a mere parasite and illusion created by his true son. Throwing a bottle of pills at Robin, he ordered him to lie down as if he were dead and sleep it off.

For several nights to come, Robin strung together a blithe but tenuous life from post-evening hours begrudgingly allocated to him by the host personality, not seeing the daylight, not having a real name or identification, not being able to share his personal background freely, not comprehending the psychological threat looming ahead of him and not knowing whether he would ever wake up as himself again when he lay down to sleep. In this mirage-like existence, the one thing that kept him feeling real and alive was his palpable love for a girl.

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