At the lowest points of my life I was saved from the bottom of the well by BTS. It may sound silly or dramatic, and while I do have a flair for it, in this case I swear I am not exaggerating. It makes me feel a bit guilty thinking of my family and friends reading this, they might feel a bit betrayed and left out. I am not accusing them of abandoning me and leaving me to flounder in my new reality of anxiety, despair and catastrophizing. But in the same way the usual coping methods were not working, the people around me weren’t working either. Their attempts at making me laugh, their usual banter, their love and care didn’t reach me. It wasn’t them, it was me. I couldn’t be reached, suffocating as I was under the blanket of negative emotions, as much as they tried to pull them off me to set me free and help me breathe, that damn blanket wouldn’t budge. And in some cases I was holding tightly to it and my fingers wouldn’t release their death grip on it. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go back to ‘normal’, or that I wanted to wallow in the emotions, it was as if I didn’t feel like I belonged out there anymore with the regular people who didn’t feel like me, and until I found a way to be around them without feeling like a weirdo, I preferred to stay cocooned in the dark.
When the world looks like shit, the whales you love are either trapped in a tank or dying, the people that look like you are being put in detention camps for the sin of asking for aid, hundreds are getting murdered at movie theaters, schools, clubs, synagogues and concerts, when women all around the world are not being heard and their rapists and molesters are given more and more power over more and more possible victims what is there to do but scream until you pop a vein? You don’t though, not out loud. You swallow it all, the sympathy pains, the impotent rage and sadness until your entire body is shaking with the vibration of that angry soundless scream. Everywhere I looked were new and fresh horrors and when people around me seemed so indifferent to it all it made me want to rage. How can you be happy? How can you feel normal? How are you not in a corner rocking yourself? Maybe they were, and they were just better than me at hiding their pain and anxiety.
Falling down the rabbit hole of the BTS worlds means you’ll inevitably learn about their journey towards growth, as individuals and as a group. When I had lost my faith in men in particular and humanity in general BTS was there to remind me of the opposite. Don’t get me wrong, they are not perfect, they are young people struggling, in pain, working hard, sweating, fighting, crying over dead loved ones, despairing over when they’ll accomplish their goals, having disagreements and sometimes just tired and fed up of each other’s bullshit… and yet they practice conscious kindness towards each other. They discuss as a group where there is room for improvement, they try and fail and try again different methods for conflict resolution and more importantly they try to improve on their own versions of themselves, looking at the past and refusing to commit the same errors.
More than anyone in BTS, Kim Namjoon exemplifies that never-ending quest of betterment of self for the benefit of himself and the world. His brain pattern can be sometimes exhausting to us mere mortals, he seems to be a hundred layers deep in philosophical curiosity about the smallest of things.
Called a philosopher who raps by Top Class, a Korean Magazine, “Joon” (to us ARMY) can be intimidatingly smart, verbose and downright intense, something that can be adorably in contrast with how damn clumsy and spastic he is (breaking everything he touches and earning the nickname of God of Destruction, eating a fortune cookie TWICE with the fortune still inside and missing 99% of handshakes he offers).
I swear I could (and have) listened to him talk for hours about the importance of art interpretation and the peace of mind to be found in a museum in a very informal and nonetheless pedagogical conversation on V-Live (a live streaming service used by BTS to connect with their fans on real time) and felt smarter and soul richer for it. AND at the same time after feeling justified on my love for him because he is so incredibly smart and admirable I can also find myself giggling five seconds after because there is something fascinating and endearing about the duality of Joon’s intense brain and his adorable dimples.
What I love the most about Joon in particular and BTS in general is that they show me in everything they do that we, as human beings, can do better. It’s something that comes naturally to some and not to others and BTS seems to be always aware that we can strive for the best, that ambition is more than the pursuit of fame and riches but you can ambitiously pursue a better version of yourself, a better version of the world. They have shown me it’s like a muscle that you can exercise and grow and train until it comes natural, like breathing. Fame and success have not jaded the men of BTS. They are constantly in conversation with each other, their music and the relationship that their words have with their fans and the world. They are aware of their power and are humbled by it and instead of seeing themselves as being above certain things because they have paid their dues, they act in every small way the complete opposite. Noblesse oblige, with power comes great responsibility and the more power they get the more they check themselves.
It is not the behavior of regular people; it is not the behavior of those who usually get power and almost always are corrupted by it. They are instead humbled by the love they receive and thankful for the doors their accomplishments have opened, always thanking someone else as if their hard work and blood, sweat and tears were not even a small fraction of the reason behind their success. I think that core humility makes them hyper aware of others.
Fake Love, one of the most popular (in the West) songs the group performs has a word that means “I” in Korean and sounds like a racist slur in English. The group made the decision to change the word when they are in concerts in America because they know how loaded the term is and they aren’t willing to even entertain the possibility of making someone uncomfortable about it.
Fans everywhere were mad, how close minded are Americans that BTS had to change their own language on their own song just to avoid insulting a bunch of ‘snowflakes’?
I could see their kindness stamped all over this simple decision. Why shouldn’t we take steps every single day to make the oppressed feel less so? It only takes smell steps, small acts of kindness that we are not obligated to do, but that enrich the world and will enrich our soul. We NEVER lose when we err on the side of kindness. If someone tells you I don’t like this term, please don’t use it around me, then don’t use it, train yourself to stop saying ‘retard’, using gay as a term for stupid, stop using gender specific terms as an insult, while you’re at it, stop insulting other people! Use the correct pronouns for individuals. Practice will make it easier.
BTS, Joon and his adorable dimples go through life constantly making decisions of radical kindness, from moment to moment. It touches me every time because I know how hard it is to be kind in the face of xenophobia and prejudice, it’s hard to stay quiet when you want to tell someone to fuck off, it’s extremely hard not to engage. I am older than all of them and have not mastered this practice AT ALL, so seeing them maneuver around it so adroitly fills me with admiration. It also fills me with hope. Because if they can we can! We can all go around practicing this, trying day by day to make the world a better place for ourselves and those around us. And yes, even for those who we might feel don’t deserve the grace of a better place. It gives me hope for humanity, it makes me want to believe in my fellow earthlings when I need that faith more than ever. It makes me want to take down the blanket and take a peak outside.