It would be fascinating to to understand how Seobul's presence transformed Jeju and Korea during his visit. Not only is Seogwipo (gwipo refers to eternal life) named for him, but the capital Seoul is derived from Seobul. His impact was pervasive and metaphysical. His journey to Jeju brought this remarkable Island to the attention of the world as a pristine paradise favored by divinity. His quest had such impact that his name continues to enrich the manifestation of a spiritual presence in Jeju that remains palpable.
A year ago, I knew nothing of Jeju except that one of my most inspiring graduate students was studying at NYU on leave of absence from her school in Jeju where she had been teaching for several years. The year of 2017 was a year of change, it was to be my last year of teaching at NYU as I would go on sabbatical in my final year. It would also be the final year for EXPANDED MUSIC and IMPACT, our international workshop which had just passed a decade of collaborative new multimedia creative work of international participants.
I wondered what I should do on a sabbatical as an octogenarian. My professional life had been creating and developing new programs for the department. The end of my sabbatical would mark 50 years of involvement with NYU Steinhardt Music and Performing Arts Professions that began with some exploratory discussions with Jerrold Ross in 1968. Leaping back to 1968, when my multimedia opera ROTATION premiered, I had made a commitment to education as my life pursuit, even though I would continue to make music by exploring and making music by sharing collaborative process in a number of settings. But now, as I break from academia in my final year at NYU, all options are open, if only I knew what they are.
Admittedly, as I approached my final year of IMPACT I was already exhausted from the academic year and anticipating moving out of my office and removing the accumulation of half a century. In many ways 2017 was IMPACT's most ambitious year, and the framework was more intimate. Several colleagues who had helped found IMPACT were no longer involved. But our multimedia Internet2 production BE-ING had infused tremendous creative energy among our graduate student staff. In addition we had creative new staff on the IMPACT Team, including a brilliant young man who had started as an IMPACT participant and risen over the years to visual director. From the first time I met him at IMPACT, I regarded him as a child of the new century, a true multimedia artist. This final year he returned as production coordinator. As it turned out, it may have been an even more inspiring year than our tenth-year celebration.
Yet, as we prepared for IMPACT during May 2017, I had no sense of where I would be or what I would do during a terminal sabbatical that would sever my professional activity from New York University. Clearly I sensed then, and continue to anticipate a turning point. Structurally it is to be a crucial juncture mandated by academic procedure. Spiritually it may require yet another renaissance...
How many renaissances . . .Yet, what is emerging is not like the past... the days of opportunity are not dissolving. The inward possibilities are bubbling up from the depths and taking shape. "What might be" is evolving into a vivid presence. None of this might be happening had it not been for an encounter with an unexpected stranger.
How many times
Will the silence invite me
To the feast?
I toast to festivals of years. . .
Here's to the painful isolation,
Here's to the innocence
Now lost. . .
Here's to the quiet wonder
Here's to the mystery of awe
To chaos on the edge of order . . .
The days of opportunity dissolve,
The inward possibilities remain inert,
And all that might be and might have been