aapi, Art, asian american, comedy, Essay, ideology

a meditation on mushrooms

my favorite pizza topping is mushroom. i like mushrooms’ sponginess. i like the earthy-alien weirdness they have as a flavor, and i like that they are not meat but feel like meat.

i saw a headline while browsing the web yesterday that said something like how mushrooms are the new “threat” to the meat industry.

mushrooms to replace meat! it’s only a threat if you have something to lose.

mushrooms are a sensible meat substitute. right before or during my monthly menstrual cycle, i eat a lot of mushrooms. the reason for this is because when a person menstruates, their iron levels drop, and mushrooms are high in iron. if you suffer from iron deficiency and are anemic, i recommend mushrooms.

as a child, i once saw my pet hamster eating soil when i let her loose in the grass. i freaked out but my dad assured me: “she’s getting iron.”

fungi grow from the earth which is chock full of iron, and therefore mushrooms are full of iron.

i accidentally overdosed on my microdose of albino shrooms this afternoon, and while stretching on my yoga mat, i caught a whiff of my feet which smelled like my yoga mat and the usual feet smell.

the fungus that grows on our feet is called “tinea pedis.” “tinea” is “ringworm” but it is not an actual worm. it’s a fungus. “pedis” is latin for “on the feet.” so athlete’s foot is caused by fungal-worms lol. the smell, however, is from bacteria.

but the smell reminded me of blue cheese, and why so many people are attracted to smelly things like blue cheese which supposedly stink like feet: mold Penicillium roqueforti which is what gives blue cheese that hue, and supposedly aids in immune health. the attraction to savory stink is a very mammalian response and connected to primal behaviors linked to eating and fucking.

truffles are usually found through the aid of sows—female pigs—who sniff out truffles because they trigger a hormonal response. the pungent savory scent of truffles remind them of a male pig’s saliva. when a pig goes hunting with her snout, she is actually looking for love and she winds up finding truffles for humans to shave onto their pasta which’ll enhance the price of that plate by an extra $15. the reason why we humans love truffles is for the same reason: we like the musky savory scent that smells similarly to pheromones. it’s similar to the reason why they put deer musk in perfumes and cologne. when we eat truffles, we’re simulating a love-response.

while continuing to stretch on my yoga mat, i realized that yeast infections are also a fungus. that fungus is called “candidiasis.” it grows not only in the vagina but also our mouths, throat, and guts. if candida enters the bloodstream, heart, brain, kidneys, or other vital organs, it can cause an infection and become deadly. how interesting how our bodies understand boundaries through infections and diseases.

about 80 different types of (currently found at this point in time) fungi grow on our bodies’ surface. how many different varieties of fungi grow inside our bodies? do the numbers of fungi vary depending on our environment? do our inner fungi have a vital function in our aliveness and, more importantly, consciousness?

are mental “illnesses” or “visions” caused by inner fungi which some people have and some people don’t?

i saw that new wes anderson film the french dispatch last night and i’m not sure but it reminds me of the editor of the paris review who also died. but when he was living, he was, supposedly, a very good and loving boss, and an eclectic character of high pedigree.

i know this only because i read a book called my korean deli which was written by a white man married to a korean american woman, and he wrote very fondly of that editor in his book because he was a writer for the paris review. when this book was first published, i was in the middle of writing my first novel deli ideology, and i remember telling the author, “you stole my book idea,” at the korea society when i met him in person, and he looked at me with terror, and i said, “i’m kidding.” but i was bitter. when a white guy writes about “his” korean deli, it’s a novelty and it becomes of a publisher or agent’s interest because it’s weird and zany. when a korean american woman writes about a korean deli, it’s just a memoir and therefore not interesting, and therefore not worthy of mainstream/white attention.

i published my novel in 2014–3 years after i read that white man’s book.

the deli i worked at definitely had a lot of fungi. the apartment i lived in during the time i worked at the deli also had fungi commonly known as “black mold” or “aspergillus niger,” which release mycotoxins that cause respiratory illness. sometimes the same black mold grows on food—fruit and bread–and when eaten, they can be harmful. aspergillus niger, however, is also the fungus that can cure infections in the throat, lung, mouth, ear, and skin in the form of penicillin v potassium. it is also used to treat sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis.

the fungus that grows on rye, barley, oats, and wheat is called “ergot.” it is a psychoactive fungus that apparently plagued the middle ages, and for some reason, it is only associated with terror. i guess the middle ages were rough. set and setting mean everything before a trip, and if hyper-religious christian zealots are telling everyone that their souls will burn in hell, then i think i would freak out, too.

ergot, however, can literally kill people. it causes infections and illnesses. in some cases it causes convulsions. they call this “ergotism.” but ergot has medical uses for people like me who suffer from migraines. it can also be used to regulate our serotonin which contributes to our mood, digestion, sleep, sweat, and muscles. ergot is also used to treat complications after pregnancy.

ergot causes hallucinations. the most documented forms of hallucination in the middle ages (AKA “dark ages”) are of hell. the “witches” that were hanged during the salem witch trials were able to induce hallucinations because of ergot from rye.

this is all before “set and setting” became more mainstream, i suppose. if i only knew what i knew from my childhood christian life which was that god was to be feared because of the firey pits of hell i would fall into if i did not believe in his son jesus christ as my lord and savior, i think i would assume that i was dying in hell during my ego dissolution.

psychedelic hallucinations cause “ego dissolution” sometimes referred to as “ego death.”

while i’m sure ergotism was immensely uncomfortable for folks in the dark ages, i also wonder if ergot hallucinations are what re-awakened some folks to be able to see the light and envision the future ahead of them. shortly after the dark ages came the industrial revolution.

when i was meditating today, i saw countless numbers of fan/scale/feather shaped objects streamlined and coming down in a zigzag towards me, and i thought, all it takes is for someone to monetize this, and they’ll become millionaires.

i’m sure that hallucinations from those times led to mass-production, which, unfortunately, led to a slew of other problems primarily related to labor and health, and eventually the environment. these problems still plague us. we are still in the dark ages. we are still in hell.

back to ego dissolution: the “confusion” that occurs during this process stems from your “self” being gone. all the things you/i cared so deeply about are gone.

what is your name? don’t know.

where are you from? who cares.

what is this thing i’m holding in front of you? i don’t know.

what is anything? i don’t know.

what were you saying? it doesn’t matter.

what are words? what is breath? what is number? what is sky? what is memory? what is dream? who is that? is that a person, animal, memory, object, circumstance, color, line, shape, smell, thought, accident, purpose, intention, rock, sand, pebble, waterfall? why anything? how anything? so what?

in ego dissolution, you experience hell when you try to cling onto your ego/identity/desires/worries/values. but the moment you let go (surrender) you become one with the evolution of earth and experience the Oneness that dr. bronner keeps shouting about on the sticker of that soap bottle in your bathroom and kitchen.

Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann was experimenting with ergot in the 1930s to find cures for Parkinson’s disease (the cause of convulsions may have the answer to stopping the convulsions). on april 19th, 1943, Hofmann came up with LSD-25 which he accidentally consumed and fully tripped on while biking. 4/19 is Bicycle Day–the day before 4/20.

ergot’s existence goes back to wherever and whenever ancient grains existed, including the times when christ was tripping people out with fish and bread, walking on water, turning water into wine, raising the dead, and rising from the dead. including the times when buddhists and yogis were seeing visions in their egoless meditations. including the times of surreal art which goes back to the beginning of art.

ego dissolution is a lesson from fungi to let us know that we all die and become consumed by fungi, and return to the earth. ego dissolution is about absolving fear of death. it therefore makes sense to go to the place where birth/death starts/ends in order to remind ourselves of where we come from and where we go, and that this body is a temporary vessel we borrow, and none of it matters.

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Book, korea, Korean-American, philosophy, translation

hippie thoughts on Peruvian migrants in South Korea, spirituality, capitalism, shamans and forgetting.

The pastors at Korean churches are the first-contacts with the globe, in a way.

It makes sense.

How did Korea become this bizarre portal country that mixes up and alters established or existing politico-economic expectations (and yet, the country is, ironically, extremely obsessed with conformity)?

I was at a UC Berkeley event where Professor Erica Vogel discussed her book Migrant Conversions: Transforming Connections between Peru and South Korea.

Dr. Vogel spent many years in South Korea documenting the migrant experiences of Peruvians who immigrated there in search of capital gain.

Quite a few of her subjects wound up in Korean protestant churches, found salvation, and spiritual freedom.

Right there. Can we stop for a second there?

Peru (formerly the Inca Empire) was first invaded by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. Peru’s indigenous spirituality and religion was suppressed and Christian coloniality began to wipe out ancient modes of spirituality.

South Korea (formerly known as just Korea) first encountered Christianity in the late 19th century, then a little more impactfully during the Korean War in mid-20th century. Even prior to that, during Japanese colonization, there were short stories written about shamanism in Korea. Shamans were accused of greed from the community because they charge money for their services (which isn’t immoral but a basic necessity since that is their occupation) but this disdain for shamans did not emerge UNTIL the white Christians came to Korea. White Christian missionaries brought free food and medicine for free. On the Lord’s dime! And made shamans look completely absurd.

As Park Chung-hee’s military dictatorship brought on South Korea’s economic transformation, a part of him also waged a battle against Korean indigenous religion/spirituality for fear of it making Koreans appear wayward and uncivilized (again, compared to how WASPs would conduct themselves in a church). Literally, watch how a mudang conducts a ritual versus how a Catholic priest conducts a service…and THEN watch how a protestant Korean pastor conducts a sermon during a “revival” retreat).

Korean shamanism and indigenous spirituality isn’t gone. It’s just flocked over to other parts of the cultural realm.

South Korea now has Peruvian migrants who enter the country—this country that was once in the position of being a labor-export has now recently transformed into labor-import; “allelujah amen” cry the Korean church congregation.

As Christianity keeps gaining power and spreading (through its evangelical methods), South Korea keeps on dying; keeps on confusing; keeps on abusing; keeps on suffering.

Buddhism is still prominent but Christianity has successfully taken on its hegemonic position in the nation.

Indigenous spirituality is increasingly going forgotten, hidden, erased, lost, removed, smudged, mixed up, tossed into a pile somewhere then dragged out onto the street for the garbage truck to pick up (and where does that garbage then go?! Lord, help us. Buddha, guide us. to what “underdeveloped” country that suffers the consequences of the material greed and waste of a “developing/developed” nation completely obsessed with trends, e.g., fashion, cosmetics, media, etc.)

Korean pastors in South Korea are some of the first people who encounter migrants from other countries.

Pastors are spiritual leaders. They meet and convert the folks who come to them seeking monetary salvation.


Just as the white missionaries did for indigenous/pre-Christian Korea, present-day Koreans do onto the migrating Peruvians seeking greater financial gain/relief/stability in Korea the land of…rice? and red peppers? (placeholders until I can think of a more clever way to adapt “milk and honey”). 

Peruvian migrants find salvation in the Korean church. Some get community funding to help with their daughter’s heart surgery back in their motherland.

They attribute this to god’s work. But the fact is, wherever there is a community, there is god regardless of religious boundaries.  

Meanwhile, Koreans continue to die. They continue to suffer the plague of “first world” nations; the mental/emotional/spiritual barrenness that drive them to their own demise at their own hands. Drive them to drink. Drive them to abusing others and themselves.

Meanwhile, the country that is mostly responsible for South Korea’s Jesus-freaked state has some of its most wealthy members taking their own trips (micro-migrations/temporary retreats) to Peru in search of—get this—PERUVIAN INDIGENOUS SPIRITUALITY in the form of shamans and their psychedelic medicines.

Political scientists and economists point to the 1970s as South Korea’s economic “miracle.” I wonder what spiritual awakening was taking place during this time as well. Did any South Korean influencers/leaders take psychedelics during their travels around the world? I mean, they MUST have.

When a South Korean corporate friend of mine told me that she and her design company attended Burning Man one year for “research,” I asked if she or any of her colleagues took any psychedelics. She said, “No.” I said, “What was the point of your trip? You guys did zero research. What a waste of money.”

It’s so interesting how Peruvian migrants in South Korea look to South Korea for Christian salvation and associate it with goodness when Peruvians were already colonized by Spanish Christianity centuries before Korea was.  

South Koreans are down with trends and image (hence Park Chung-hee’s suppression of shamans in the country… and what a detriment that was…! think of the money you’re missing out on with spiritual tourism from WASPy nations, Chung-hee!).

The WASP nations and their people are now turning their gaze towards the East for its spirituality, and Latin America for its spiritual medicines. In the meantime, governments of the “global South” are always striving for its economic status to mirror that of the white countries.

Don’t you see the message? There is nothing there. Economic stability = spiritual barrenness and therefore greater chaos, disillusion, confusion, sadness, emotional and mental instability, and death. South Korea should already know this. (It already knows it—just forgot it); these bodies are temporary vessels that we shed; in the end, all we have is consciousness and a desire to connect and make something new that is good and fair.

Even SK’s hang up on Confucian hierarchies. Man! There is no hierarchy! There is no taller than or shorter than, bigger than or smaller than, greater than or lesser than! There is nothing. There is nothing.

But there is something in the colors that you see at your temples. There is something in the thousand year trees in your land. There is something in the records left behind at your temples by those deep meditators—your ancestors and teachers.

And there is something beautiful in the way that Korean spiritual leaders meet these Peruvian migrant workers. Both of them need something from each other and find it. And in that sense, the Christian dogma becomes, almost, irrelevant. They are just finding each other naturally like a mother would find its child or a child would find its father. They just find each other. Across the seas and lands. Past the gates and borders. The way they find each other and meld these histories or dissolve them like sugar in warm water. Like honey in jasmine tea. I find that righteous. That is something to witness (with gratitude).

But I now want for Peruvians to re-enter their own spiritual spheres of history and find that COSMOPOLITAN GLITZY STATUS that they really truly are seeking. Man. It’s right there! You didn’t need to go anywhere! It was right there! You’re the one with all the good shit! These white spiritually lost souls are paying GOOD MONEY to go to your land! Chasing money takes us nowhere! Chasing love, life and light take us everywhere.

I want for Koreans to re-enter their own spiritual hemispheres of ancient wonder, ritual and connecting. Man. It’s RIGHT fucking there. Whenever we chase money, we only always find death, chaos and confusion. Look at us now. After accepting the…I dunno, was it Tylenol? Was it a piece of bread?…look at us after accepting those substances. What is Tylenol and a free piece of bread compared to the prayer of a shaman mother for her shaman daughter and the dreams you have of your great grandmother? What is that compared to you as parents NOT condemning or demonizing your daughter when she gets marked with her spiritual calling to be a mudang?

Why does everything need to get reduced to Jesus or Satan? What good does that ridiculous binary do in our ability to understand the ancient spiritual teachings that were already given to us a millennia ago?

It just blinds us to those words. Just covers up our ears. Turns them into a loud rumbling noise like the sound of a plane engine going off right inside your ear drum—a sound I hear sometimes as I fall asleep at night sometimes, and a sensation that I do not fear, but a sensation that Western medicine pathologizes and reduces to a “seizure” and which Christianity reduces to Satan.

Hey man! We already know what these things are. We’re already connected to the eons that our flesh and blood relatives lived. They’re all in us. Their information and memories and joys and traumas are in us. Live in us. We live them out.  

We have the knowledge. It’s just about accessing them.

We do not need to cross land and sea to get to them. They are in our skin, hair, memory, dream, chair, window, across the street at your neighbor’s house, in the sunset you look at around 5:30PM in the mountains in the late winter/early spring in the hills of wherever you are.  

It’s all there, man. It’s just about accessing it with the right keys.

The right keys are in you. They are in the whispers down below where status/image obsessed dictators drove them to. They are in the Amazonian treasures that Peruvians have known for eons already. It’s there. Just seek them out. Just like those WASPy people are just starting to discover them now, even though we ourselves have forgotten our own indigeneity.

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